Welcome to Icosa.
Here, mutant vagabonds stalk subterranean ruins of chrome for power beyond reckoning. Here, armored knights pilot roaring biplanes for gold and glory. Here, wizards roll polyhedrons and strive to understand the rules of the reality in which they live.
By chance or by design, yours is the unlucky fortune to be born into a world forsaken by its Gods and nearing its end. But this is your story, and stories are not written about those who wither and surrender under the callous decree of fate before they have had their say.
So fight—fight! against the dying light. Fight against the final pen-strokes of history. If you must live in this time, live as much as you can.
This site is meant to serve as a free preview of the full version of the game and as a convenient reference for players and referees. As a preview/reference, this site omits many examples and artworks for the sake of conciseness.
The Icosa RPG is a work in progress, and all content found here is subject to change.
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THE WORLD OF ICOSA
The world is dying.
The Gods have Abandoned it for their homes behind the sky.
The world is languishing.
Civilization after civilization rises and crumbles to dust.
The world is Cursed.
The ruins and artifacts make us sick and change us.
But they also bring us power.
Icosa is a world near the end of its existence. The better part of all that will ever be has already come to pass, and the ruins of countless eons before are scattered throughout the world like bones on the settled seafloor. But life goes on in this world, and one can even find a certain strange beauty in its dogged tenacity. After all, there is still some time—time enough, perhaps, to build a better world in which to ride out the final days.
According to legend, the Gods—or the Outsiders, as they are more commonly known—vanished from the world long ago in an apocalypse called the Departure. The once-great civilization of Icosa was cast to ruin.
They say that before the Departure, in the Age of Attendance, anything was possible. Humans lived for centuries, traveled to other worlds, and created unfathomably beautiful works of art. Now, in the Age of Abandonment, the scattered few civilizations that still stand cling desperately to survival.
A Curse ravages the world—the legacy of the Outsiders. It twists the land and its people into strange new shapes. Wizards and priests cast dice to commune with divinity. Warlords and kings spill rivers of blood for scraps of territory. Ruiners trespass in the realms of the ancients in search of relics of the Mystery, the magical force that once allowed humanity to work miracles under the supervision of the Outsiders.
The world is dark, wild, vast, and empty. But there is light in the darkness, order in the chaos, and substance in the nothingness for those with the will to draw it forth.
This is but the barest introduction to the world of Icosa. The full version of the Icosa RPG contains a wealth of knowledge on the true nature of the world, its history, its cosmology, and the Outsiders, as well as 20 unique regions to explore, countless spells and artifacts to wield, and beautiful full-color art.
Iurd is a remote, humid, swampy region dominated by the sprawling delta of the Great Divider, the river that bisects the western continent of the known world. Although the region is nominally ruled by the city-state of Iurd, the greater part of the territory is unpatrolled and ungoverned, home only to vast mangrove forests, primordial fens, and remote hill tribes. Although its forsaken vistas belie its grandiose history, Iurd is believed by some to have been the site of the ancient capital of the world-spanning empire of the Outsiders during the bygone Age of Attendance.
Despite (or perhaps because of) Iurd’s abundance of toxic and Curse-ridden detritus, it is home to an astonishingly dense and diverse ecosystem of flora, fauna, and fungi. Naturalists who have described the ecology of Iurd typically divide the region into its dry, windswept highlands and its swampy lowlands.
The highlands of Iurd feature hills of dry, sometimes sandy soil. Over the centuries, the land has been ravaged by strong winds and acid rains, which dissolve and poison the soil and wash its nutrients down into the lowland valleys and swamps. As a result, the hills are largely barren, although hardy, gnarled trees, windswept shrubs, and pale grasses do grow in certain places.
Few herbivores are capable of digesting the tough, toxic vegetation that grows in the highlands. The largest and most common of them is the unibex, sometimes known as the Iurdic unicorn due to the singular long, straight horn of the male. These goat relatives scale the hills and crags in search of their strange fare; the female uses her shorter, spade-like horn to dig up roots and tubers, which are shared among the harem of the male. The male, who does not engage in foraging, instead uses his massive horn to fence with rivals for the rights to territory and mates. The unibex has been independently domesticated by both the hill tribes and the people of the lowlands, and several domesticated morphs exist, each specialized for the production of either wool, meat, or milk; in all cases, the horns of the males are disbudded at birth.
The only large predator in the highlands is the hell bat, a large, carnivorous bat that preys upon the unibex, typically grabbing them with their well-developed talons and dragging them off of sheer drops, where they fall to their death. The hell bats hunt day and night and have been known to fly away with small children and even attack adults in times of famine.
Overland travel in the highlands of Iurd is dangerous, not least because of the pitmaws. These insectoid creatures create patches of unstable land in the grit and sand and lie in wait for animals and people to become mired in their trap. They then suck down the sand, and their prey along with it. Those caught in the gut of a pitmaw are doomed to be ground up and dissolved over the course of several weeks—legends say the victims of pitmaws sometimes die of starvation before they can be digested.
The lowlands of Iurd are home to a much denser web of life. Naturalists speculate that the bizarre niche-assignment observable in the lowlands is the result of a curious event that occurred long ago, before the natural sciences had been reborn. According to Yelich’s Saprotrophic Vacuum Hypothesis, an unknown event (presumably an arcane catastrophe) wiped out the dominant fungi and bacteria responsible for the decomposition of lignin, the material of which bark is composed. This resulted in a long period during which most woody plant life did not decompose, as there were no organisms capable of breaking it down. Over time, new organisms filled the vacant niche—most notably, a particular symbiotic unit of fungus and bacterium called slush. The great piles and deep layers of dead wood slowly began to be consumed, resulting in the formation of gigantic mounds of slush that still fester today in the mangrove forests and alkali fens. These slush piles now constitute a significant portion of the base of the food chain in the Iurdic lowlands. Travelers should be warned—although the slush is vital to the life of the ecosystem, it also produces a noxious gas that has a tendency to pool in low-lying places, such as at the bottoms of valleys and in caves.
Many herbivores feast upon the nutritious slurry of partially-decayed wood and slush, but the most prominent of them is the spadetooth. The massive spadetooth uses its oversized lower incisors to scoop vast amounts of the slurry into its mouth. The spadetooth’s feeding process is thought to be partially responsible for the very slow rate of decomposition within the slush piles. Nevertheless, the slush piles shrink each year, and it is unclear what will become of these creatures when their primary food source is gone.
Where there are grazers, there will nearly always be carnivores to prey upon them. Such is the role of the muck terror, a large reptile that lurks in the piles and pools of slush, waiting for spadetooths and other slush-eaters to approach before snapping at their legs and throats with its powerful jaws. Although the muck terror is not immune to the toxic emissions of the slush piles, it survives for extended periods within the squirming mass by dint of the enormous air sacs beneath its skin.
The muck terrors are not the only predators that ply the toxic delta of Iurd, however. The most abundant of the swampland’s numerous ambush predators are the sluggers, a kind of gregarious, tree-dwelling mollusk. These creatures congregate in the wetland understory, waiting for vulnerable prey to pass below. Using their aerodynamic shells and an instinctual ability to calculate trajectory, they hurl themselves at their prey in great numbers, bringing their quarry down through concussions and broken bones. The sluggers then swarm over their fallen prey and consume it by secreting digestive juices and lapping up the resultant slurry.
The most feared of all the creatures that hunt the Iurdic delta is undoubtedly the red devil. This enormous cousin of the humble bat emerges at dusk to stalk the swamps and fens by echolocation. Although it lacks the leathery wings of its airborne kin, the red devil is still a formidable predator, pouncing upon and trapping its prey in a nigh-inescapable “finger cage” and rending its victim with horrid tooth and claw.
In the outlying areas beyond the rivers and deltas of Iurd, a wholly distinct ecosystem has emerged around the fens that have separated from the dominant riparian biosphere. The deep ponds are home to enormous toads and gargantuan insects. Although it spends its life hidden from human observers, one of the most striking organisms in the Iurdic fens is the lilytop, a gigantic, long-necked reptile that makes its home underwater. Its massive body treads the heavily sedimented floors of the brackish ponds, but its long neck extends to the surface of the water, where its enormous, lily pad-like crest serves as a base of operations for the great amphibians that lie in wait for their prey—the oversized insects of the Iurdic wetlands. The lilytops feast on the annual smorgasbord of freshly-laid insect larva on the surface of the ponds and remain in a state of torpor for the rest of the year. In return for a safe hunting ground, the gigantic toads clean the lilytops of parasites and defend them from predators.
On the southern coast, where the Great Divider meets the Gulf of Ghosts, the ecosystem is dominated by relatives of the common bats of Iurd. Naturalists are unsure of what forces pressed the birds out of their ecological niche, but it is theorized that the native bats of the river delta assumed their roles through adaptive radiation. Salt skimmers scoop up surface fish with their massive lower jaws; chirospreys snatch breaching tuna from the air; aerospears dive to depths of up to twenty feet in pursuit of shoals of fleet fish.
The ecology of Iurd is curious and not well studied. Its instability renders it an exciting target for scientists hailing from as far north as Kampennen. Due to the widespread belief that the saprotrophic base of the Iurdic food web is sure to result in a destabilization in the near future once the ancient reserves of fallen trees are consumed, there is never a shortage of naturalists investigating, sketching, and describing the weird biosphere of Iurd.
According to legend, Iurd was once the capital of the Most Superior of the Heavenly Provinces of Icosa. The unbelievable density of ruins from the Age of Attendance that lie languishing and crumbling in the sunken mires of Iurd seems to testify to the truth of these myths. Truly, nowhere else in Icosa, except perhaps in Necropolis, can such a concentration of advanced, ruined architecture be found.
Few archaeological reports of any significance exist, as the population of explorers willing to traverse the treacherous swamps of Iurd is curiously small. The daring few who have trudged through the murk and lived to tell the tale write of astonishingly gigantic superstructures, mystifying architectures of inscrutable purpose, and a startling abundance of shrines, temples, and others sites of religious significance. Their findings seem to evidence the monumental significance of Iurd as a site of worship and governance in ancient times.
In a manuscript titled On the Linguistic Origins of the Common Tongue and Its Inheritance from the Ancient Empire of Iurd, the linguist Ryuiwo of Iurd makes an argument for Iurd as the ancient capital of a world-spanning empire during the ancient Age of Attendance. The argument goes that, given the similarities between the language spoken in present-day Iurd and the disparate, yet mutually intelligible, languages understood as “Common” throughout the rest of the world, all of these languages must have had a common ancestor. This is supported by the fact that “Common,” or “Low Iurdic,” as it is called in Iurd, has no linguistic relationship with any other known language. In his paper, Ryuiwo argues for Iurd as a point of origin for the common tongue on the grounds of a thorough reverse-engineering of the various dialects of Common in accordance with linguistic shifts in pronunciation, morphology, and vocabulary, as attested by various historical texts. According to Ryuiwo, the other languages spoken throughout the known world are either sectarian tongues that have evolved into popular languages, ancestral tongues that reemerged after the imposition of the Imperial language, or deliberately constructed languages designed to exclusivize national or ethnic membership in contrast to the accessible common tongue.
In the intervening years since the Departure, Iurd has utterly abandoned its former grandeur—now it lies in ruin, its people eking out a living in the shadows of the wreckage of the prior age. Although it is a poor region, its basic unit of currency, the vozin, is extremely powerful, as it contains traces of the exotic metals brought to Icosa from beyond the sky—from the throne-worlds of the Outsiders.
The people of Iurd are surrounded by unignorable remnants of the past—sprawling ruins and magnificent towers jut from their sunken foundations in the mire, slowly being devoured by the acidic, corrosive rain endemic to the region. Unfortunately, the better part of the most obvious ruins have been picked clean by agents of the Sunset Cartel, the Last Church, the Green Baron, and other pilferers. Those who seek to capitalize on the rich concentration of ruins must test their mettle in the Sunken Lands.
The Sunken Lands is the name that the people of Iurd give to the endless miles of crumbling, moldering cities that lie deep in the treacherous swamps. The better part of the territory of Iurd is unfit for settled habitation, being utterly and hopelessly swampy, consigned to the tumultuous whims of the violent tides. Nevertheless, the abundance of ruins shows that this was not always the case. The vast, unsettled swathes of the river delta play host to monumental ruins, each assuredly rife with treasure uncountable. However, the dangers of the Iurdic flora and fauna, the roving hill tribes, and the toxic ecology guard the wealth of the ancients from all but the most intrepid of explorers.
But most Iurds are not explorers; rather, they are farmers. The land in Iurd is not conducive to the cultivation of a great variety of crops. However, a certain herb—lithium weed—grows well in the flooded paddies of the low country. Prized by the Vothans, the Damonians, and the Kaph Satraps as a power source for their arcana, lithium weed is the premier cash crop of Iurd. The peasant class, responsible for cultivating the weed, is kept in poverty by the unregulated, predatory business practices of landlords and agricultural merchants.
In addition to the quasi-slavery of lithium weed sharecroppers, slavery of the Accursed is legal and popular in Iurd. Although there are many free Accursed, they face astonishing prejudice, the likes of which is rarely seen in other parts of the world. This is likely connected with the fact that the Last Church has a significant presence in Iurd.
The Last Church is an ancient and powerful religious institution that traces its origins to the Age of Attendance, when the Outsiders ruled Icosa. They despise the robotic Irthmade and the Accursed, who are sometimes referred to as the abhuman. Iurd is a region is of great ecclesiastical importance to the Last Church, as it is thought to have once been the seat of the world-spanning empire of the Outsiders during the Age of Attendance. The Iurdic See, also called the Holy See, is the most sacred of all of the Sees, governed by the Pontiff itself.
The people of the Iurdic lowlands live in caution, and sometimes in fear, of the hill tribes of Iurd. Little is known of the diverse peoples that live among the battered ruins and sandy hilltops of the Iurdic highlands. Some of the tribes are known to be intelligent and amicable. Within the patrolled territory of the City of Iurd, most of the hill tribes are indistinguishable from the residents of the civilized river valley, and some of the clans are even thought to be human. Farther beyond the reaches of civilization, the outlying tribes are composed of beings that are something else. Iurdic folktales hint at blood rituals and strange, moonlit rites. Stories of abductions, raids, and even warfare are common throughout the delta. Travelers are bidden to beware of the highlands—they are advised to travel through the dense swamps and fens, for the perils of the wilderness are preferable to the brutality of those who live above.
THE CITY OF IURD
The region of Iurd is named after its capital, a squalid city hunched in the shadow of a great ruin of the Age of Attendance. Although the megastructures of the city and the outlying countryside attest to the former greatness of Iurd, the contemporary settlement is a sorry sight. The buildings are nestled in the shelter of a half-shattered dome of some glass-like material—perhaps the shell of an enormous, forsaken arcology. Whatever the case, it is still sound enough to protect the people of Iurd from the sizzling acid rain that belches forth from the sky in the wet season.
The population of Iurd mostly consists of Accursed of some form or another. However, this majority status does not protect them from discrimination from the humans of Iurd. While the Accursed have little sense of unity among themselves, making it difficult to effect any organized resistance, they are perceived as a unity by the prejudiced humans of the region, which makes it all the easier to oppress them. Of course, not all of the humans of Iurd are prejudiced, and there are Accursed who wield significant power in the city. Alas, most of the powerful humans do scorn the Accursed, and those few Accursed who hold positions of power are more than willing to step on others of their own Kind to maintain their status.
As in the Empire of Damos, the government of Iurd is heavily influenced by the Last Church. However, in Iurd, the Church’s control is virtually absolute. Iurd is a true theocracy. It is governed by a council of powerful merchants and landowners chaired by the Archbishop of the City of Iurd. This holy chancellor is vested with the authority to make unilateral decisions on behalf of the Iurdic people; the council serves as a board of advisors. This council meets in the Sovereign Cathedral, an ancient house of worship constructed in the architectural style of Age-of-Attendance-era Iurd.
THE SUNSET CARTEL
The Sunset Cartel is the largest and most powerful purveyor of the drug known as magic, torch, or blue—the narcotic substance derived from arcane fuel sources—on the continent. Their position in Iurd and their access to powered boats allows them to move product up the Great Divider to the Middleveldt, Halacen, Kampennen, Eldol, and Damos, as well as across the Gulf of Ghosts to Xixli and Kaph. It is rumored that they even supply magic to some of the northern tribes of Eqo.
The Last Church fights vigorously to keep magic out of Damos, as even casual usage can cause the user to suffer the effects of the Curse. It is not easy to battle the Sunset Cartel, however, as the mountains of gold they have gained in their illicit business has allowed them to equip themselves with all manner of exotic and arcane weaponry and defenses. This, combined with their clever guerilla tactics and lack of a known headquarters, makes striking against them nearly impossible. Their experience tinkering and tampering with arcana in order to extract magic has also rendered them well-versed in arcana, and their most senior members are formidable foes indeed.
Some, all, or none of the following rumors might be true:
|1||Somewhere in the endless mires and swamps of Iurd is said to rest the sunken terrestrial palace of the Elder God Vozhno, who once ruled over a great swathe of the continent during the Age of Attendance. These tales are regarded as mere myth, as the palace has been doggedly sought but never found.|
|2||A Demon called Greenslade is said to reside somewhere deep in the Iurdic estuary. In orthodox theology, Greenslade betrayed the Outsiders shortly before the Departure, attacking them with terrible, deicidal weapons and inciting humans to bite the hand that had fed them for eons.|
|3||The Empire of Damos is moving to annex Iurd, and the Archbishop plans to allow this to happen. Rumors of Damonian aggression have long circulated among the Iurdic people, and the Accursed are becoming incensed at the prospect of suddenly becoming citizens of a nation in which their existence is seen as a plague.|
|4||The Green Knights of the Verdant Keep have once again been spotted in the Sunken Lands, their Vothan aeroglaives howling in the night. They must be searching for some powerful piece of arcana or untouched tomb of the old world.|
|5||The Archbishop of the City of Iurd has created a standing martial force, the duty of which is to drive the Accursed out of the city and hang any that remain.|
|6||The Archbishop of the City of Iurd has not been executing the doctrine of the Last Church in good faith. He has allowed the Curse and the Accursed to run rampant in his diocese. Is he incompetent, or is he protecting the Accursed as much as he can from the greater part of the persecution they would otherwise face? In either case, the Last Church may soon replace him.|
|7||Glowing things have been crawling onto the shore from the Gulf of Ghosts. Their haunting songs can be heard for miles across the Sunken Lands. Although vaguely humanoid in shape, they seem animalistic in their behavior. The Archbishop has commissioned a task force to investigate and possibly combat the pelagic visitors.|
|8||The Sunset Cartel seeks to tighten their grip on Iurd, potentially transforming it into the capital of their drug empire. Officials, including council members, have been turning up dead, and some are speculating that they were assassinated by agents of the Cartel.|
HOW TO PLAY
THE CORE MECHANIC
Use the tabs at the top of the page to navigate to the advanced rules—Exploration, Violence, Characters, Equipment, Magic, and Running the Game
This game requires a minimum of two players. One player prepares and presents the world of Icosa, with all of its characters, locations, and mysteries. This player is called the Interpreter. The other players each control a single character within the world.
The game is played in conversation. The Interpreter establishes a situation for the players. The players describe how their characters respond. The Interpreter describes the situation that results from the players’ actions. And so on, evermore.
But not everything can be so simple, for danger hangs above the world of Icosa as a threatening blade, eager to fall at any moment. Often, characters will need to try difficult things, and they may fail. When uncertainty arises within the conversation, the players must do as the wizards, oracles, and hierophants of Icosa have done for generations: consult the polyhedrons.
Although the Outsiders have gone, most believe that their power still crosses the black gulf between Icosa and the twinkling Godhomes beyond the firmament. There, from their cataclysmic thrones, the Outsiders observe and adjudicate with irreproachable wisdom. It is held in many traditions of the Mystery that the Outsiders may, peradventure, counsel the faithful through the oracular movements of cast dice.
The most important aspect of the core mechanic is that it is only activated in a very specific situation. The core mechanic comes into play only when an action taken by a character is difficult or risky and when the outcome of the situation will have a meaningful impact on the story. The dice are sacred, and they should be invoked only when common sense cannot do the job.
In the world of Icosa, stats, skills, and other things are represented by dice ranging in rank from D4 to D12.
When a character takes an action the outcome of which is uncertain and narratively significant, they choose a relevant skill or stat and roll the associated die, hoping for a result equal to or greater than the target number.
The target is usually 4, but the Interpreter can adjust it if they see fit.
Dice explode, meaning that if a roll returns its maximum value, the die is rolled again, and the result is added. This can happen forever, but it probably won't. Rolls that use multiple dice only explode if all of the dice return their maximum value. Rolls on tables don't explode.
If the check succeeds, the character gets what they want, more or less. If the check fails, the Interpreter determines what happens.
Checks can also result in a critical success. The target for a critical success is 12. If the result of a check is greater than or equal to 12, the Interpreter will describe how the attempt spectacularly exceeded all expectations. In combat, this results in an attack dealing double the damage or triggering some other dazzling bonus effect. In other scenarios, the Interpreter and the player should decide on a boon together—perhaps while attempting to disarm the anti-ontological landmine, the party’s technician discovers a valuable treasure within.
If a character has no relevant skill, they roll a D4 twice and take the worse of the two results. After making an unskilled check, a character can define a proto-skill and begin training it (see Character Advancement).
A character opposing an action rolls the die associated with the skill or stat with which they are opposing the action. The result of this roll serves as the target for the roll of the character attempting the opposed action.
ADVANTAGE AND DISADVANTAGE
Advantage means rolling twice and taking the better of the two results. Disadvantage is the opposite. For example, unskilled checks are checks made at disadvantage.
BEING & TIME
Things that take a while, like travel and resting, use major turns. There are 6 major turns of equal length in a day, representing dawn, morning, midday, afternoon, evening, and night.
The following are some actions characters might take during a major turn.
The party chooses a direction and travels a number of miles equal to the speed of their slowest member. The speed of a typical encumbered character is 5; the speed of a typical unencumbered character is 10.
If a party travels for more than 2 major turns without resting, characters must make a CON check or else suffer a CON Wound representing exhaustion (see Damage & Recovery). Irthmade characters are not subject to exhaustion.
The party may increase its speed by 50%, but all individuals traveling on foot, including animals but excluding Irthmade, must make a CON check or else suffer a CON Wound representing exhaustion. Vehicles traveling at increased speed consume 50% more fuel.
The party’s speed may be reduced by 50% when traveling through terrain inimical to its mode of transportation.
If it is possible that the party might become lost, a member of the party should act as a navigator, making a check with a relevant skill. If the check fails, the party realizes they have spent the turn traveling in a random, incorrect direction. A successful skill check reorients the party. Maps and competent directions confer advantage to these checks.
Characters may explore their surroundings to locate points of interest. Everyone who explores can make a skill or ATN check.
Characters may attempt to gather food while the party is halted. Each character who succeeds on a relevant skill check obtains 1 day’s rations.
REST OR SLEEP
Characters who rest recover D4 Life, or 2D4 Life if tended to by a skilled healer.
Characters resting at full Life may recover from a single Wound by successfully checking the appropriate stat. Alternatively, a skilled healer can make the check with their healing skill instead.
Resting recharges the rotes of casters.
Sleeping is the same as resting, but characters recover 2D4 Life, or 3D4 if tended to by a skilled healer. Characters who have not slept after 4 consecutive major turns suffer a Wound representing exhaustion.
It is sometimes possible for characters to rest or sleep while traveling, but only if they are traveling in the most comfortable of conditions. Traveling rests are not permitted when walking or riding or when traveling in a non-enclosed vehicle in inclement weather.
Note that Irthmade do not need to sleep, and they cannot recover by resting or sleeping.
TRAIN OR STUDY
To train or study, the character must have access to some means of improvement, such as a book, a mentor, or a project to tinker with. At the end of the turn, the character marks an experience point on a relevant skill.
As a general rule, a single book or project can only be studied once, and a mentor can only train a character up to their own skill level.
Training or studying while traveling may be possible depending on the context; for example, a character could read while riding in an autocarriage, but they could not easily practice climbing while traveling on horseback.
Minor turns are shorter periods used, for instance, when exploring dense forests or hypogean ruins. Depending on the context, the party may act as a unit or as individuals. Actions that might be taken in a minor turn include moving from one room to another, picking a lock, or exploring a small glade in the forest.
Every major or minor turn, after characters have stated what they intend to do, the Interpreter rolls for Events.
|3||Misfortune||Rations consumed by rot weevils; horse lamed; torches burned out; character infested with parasite|
|4–5||Potential Misfortune||A storm brews; the autocarriage’s engine is sputtering; the spores grow thicker in the corridor|
|6||Encounter||A traveling salesman; a warband of lapines; a glowing brain floating ahead; a wounded knight in the pit|
|7–8||Potential Encounter||Recent tracks; a smoldering fire; nearby voices; a rank smell|
|9–14||Nothing||The characters walk on, perhaps daydreaming about what they are going to spend all their treasure on|
|15–16||Discover Resource||Food or water; treasure; spelunking materials; a cool sword; a potential ally|
|17–18||Discover Point of Interest||A hamlet in the hillocks; an oasis in the desert; a ruin amidst the fungal wastes|
The Curse is a constant threat.
On the first major turn of each day, the Interpreter will call upon each character to make a CON check against the Curse. The check is modified by secret factors known only to the Interpreter. On a failure, the character must roll a D20 on the Curse Effects Table; this check can never be modified in any way (see Running the Game).
To avoid the Curse, characters should keep an eye on the apparent health of living things nearby—some say this is a good indicator of its presence. Travelers without advanced detection methods sometimes carry small animals in cages with them; the creatures succumb to the effects of the Curse quickly, providing the owner with a warning system.
Methods of protecting oneself against the Curse are controversial, as many believe it is doled out irrevocably by the Outsiders. Some, however, place stock in facemasks and respirators, tonics, and protective garments. Characters should ask others and conduct their own research to determine what—if anything— really works, and what is merely superstition.
In certain conditions, such as extreme temperatures or terrible weather, the Interpreter may require checks each turn on pain of damage or Wounds. This damage can represent physical exhaustion or psychological fatigue. Preparing for adventures through perilous country and packing wisely can save characters from this danger.
In addition, as the result of failed rolls or foolish character actions (such as wading through stagnant water with an open wound), characters may contract parasites, diseases, infections, and other nasty conditions. Common sense, medicine, and competent healers are essential resources for adventurers.
Characters are assumed to eat and drink throughout the day. On the first major turn of each day, all characters who need to eat mark off 1 days’ rations. Animals can graze in environments similar to their natural habitats.
Characters who fail to consume sufficient rations begin to starve, taking a Wound from starvation or dehydration each day.
Sometimes, the initial disposition of creatures or non-player characters towards the party will be obvious or pre-planned. In the case of unexpected encounters, this may not be the case. Upon first encountering a stranger or a group of strangers, the character that is to represent the group should roll a reaction check (2D6).
|Negative||Somewhat Negative||Neutral||Somewhat Positive||Positive|
Negotiations use opposed checks. The character attempting to get something from the non-player character, whether it be a favor, some information, or a better price, rolls a relevant skill. The non-player character “defends” with their ATN or a relevant skill of their own. A success means the non-player character is convinced; a failure may mean that their disposition toward the character worsens.
This same procedure can be used for lying to a non-player character. When a player suspects that a non-player character is lying to them, they may, if they choose, roll ATN or a relevant skill to detect the lie.
A character can attempt to ingratiate themselves with a non-player character by offering something to them—a gift or a compliment, perhaps—and making a relevant skill check against the non-player character’s ATN. If the check fails, the non-player character is unimpressed; if the check succeeds, the character makes subsequent social rolls with the non-player character with advantage (this effect will go away should the relationship sour).
SURPRISE & ENCOUNTER DISTANCE
Often, the terms of an engagement will already be clear from the narrative context. For unexpected encounters, such as those that arise from Events, it may be necessary to determine surprise and encounter distance.
For encounter distance, roll a D10 and multiply it by 100 feet outdoors or 10 feet indoors.
At the beginning of a combat, if neither side is surprised, a representative of each side rolls a D20. Whoever rolls the highest goes first. In case of a tie, roll again.
Combat takes place in violence turns. In a single violence turn, a character has a movement and an action, although some special abilities my modify this.
After they have taken their turn, the character with initiative must pass it to any other character who has not yet acted—friend or foe. Once all characters have had the opportunity to act, the last character to act decides who will act first in the next cycle and passes initiative to them; they cannot choose an ally.
At a character’s option, they may choose to hold their action. When a character chooses to hold their action, they must define the action they wish to take and a specific trigger for the action. If the trigger does not occur, neither does the action. A character can reassess when they have initiative once again and either take a different action or continue to hold the same action.
MOVEMENT & DISTANCE
Range is abstract. The ranges used in combat are close, near, far, and distant. These ranges can also be used to represent areas. Anything beyond distant is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
|Close||Small||Within a few feet of arm's reach; 5 or 6 feet|
|Near||Medium||Close enough to speak with; up to about 30 feet|
|Far||Large||Close enough to shout to; a couple hundred feet|
|Distant||Huge||Quite a way off; up to 500 feet or so|
Characters can interact with things at close range without moving significantly. A character can use their movement to move somewhere near and still retain their action. A character can sacrifice their action to move somewhere far. To move somewhere distant in one violence turn requires sacrificing one’s action and successfully checking a relevant skill.
At the Interpreter's discretion, moving over difficult terrain (such as rubble, thick brush, or piled bodies) may impose a check for movement or increase the target number of a check that would already be incurred.
An action can be virtually anything—healing, casting a spell, and of course, attacking. Players are encouraged to describe what their character does without looking at any pre-written list of actions and then determine how to use the rules to resolve the situation, using common sense, creativity, and the core mechanic to figure out how an action should work.
Below, some of the most common combat actions are explored. This list is by no means exhaustive, and players should feel free to try anything they think might work in combat. For information on magical attacks and spellcasting, see Magic.
Melee attacks use opposed checks. The attacker makes a check with a relevant skill, and the defender checks a relevant skill to block or avoid the attack. The result of the defender’s roll is the target for the attacker’s roll; as such, the attacker wins in the event of a tie. If the attacker’s check succeeds, their attack lands and they can deal damage to their target.
All weapons have a damage die or dice that determines how much damage the weapon deals to its target’s Life on a successful hit. Unarmed strikes deal D4 damage. Other melee attacks, such as pushing an opponent off a ledge, deal damage situationally. The Interpreter determines situational damage.
When one side is more numerous than the other, the weaker side is said to be outnumbered. When a group of attacking characters outnumber a foe, they gain a +1 bonus to their melee skill check and their damage rolls for each additional assailant beyond the first. Large groups of enemies are very dangerous.
If a combatant wishes to direct an attack at a specific part of their opponent’s body, they make their check at disadvantage.
Targeted strikes can be used to strike at a vital area, like the head, in which case the attack deals double damage. Targeted strikes against other body parts may have other narrative effects.
Targeted strikes can also be used to attack unarmored parts of an opponent’s body or chinks in their armor; if the attack is successful, the target is treated as if they are unarmored for the purposes of calculating the damage of the attack.
Ranged attacks are rolls against the default target, 4. In close-quarters combat, the target of the ranged attack makes a defensive roll, just as they would in melee combat, and the result of that roll serves as the target. If the ranged attack succeeds, the attacker deals damage based on their weapon.
There are a number of factors that could increase the target number of a ranged attack.
First, it is possible to direct an attack toward a particular part of a target. This is known as a called shot. Shooting a limb can cripple it, causing a target to drop what they are holding or fall over. Shooting a vital area deals double damage. Shooting some other part may have other effects as determined by the Interpreter. These called shots are difficult, and they modify the target of the shot.
Additionally, targets may be harder to hit with ranged attacks if they are in cover, including the cover of darkness. This difficulty is also represented through adjusting the target number of the shot.
Finally, shooting from a moving platform, like a car or a plane, will cause the target to increase.
As with any check, the Interpreter is free to adjust the target as they see fit. The following table provides some examples of common target adjustments for ranged attacks.
|Partial Cover (including fog etc.)||+2|
|Very Low Light||+2|
|Called Shot: Limb||+1|
|Called Shot: Vital||+3|
A character may elect to spend their entire action taking careful aim at a target. If they fire at that target on their next turn, they will roll with advantage.
On a result of 1 for a ranged attack, if there is a reasonable chance that a missile might hit someone other than the intended target, the missile hits a random alternative target instead.
Psychological attacks use opposed checks. The attacker makes a check with a relevant skill. The defender checks their ATN or a relevant skill. If the attacker’s roll succeeds, they deal damage equal to the result of their roll. This damage ignores armor.
If the difference between the successful attack roll and the defense roll is four or greater, the defender will respond in some narrative way to the psychological attack. If they were intimidated, they will flee or surrender. If they were taunted, they will attack in a rash, uncalculated, and exploitable manner, making their roll at disadvantage.
A defending character checks a relevant skill against a target of 4. If successful, the character they defended gains advantage on any check they make to oppose a melee attack until the defending character’s next turn. At their option, a defending character can choose to redirect an attack meant for the person they are defending toward themselves. In addition, all ranged attacks coming from the direction in which the character is defending hit them instead. Standing in defense of an object simply results in an opposed check or regular combat.
COUP DE GRACE
A completely helpless target, such as one that is bound, unconscious, or unarmed and in total surrender, may be killed or knocked unconscious as an action with no roll required.
Non-player characters make morale checks to determine if they will flee or surrender under certain circumstances. Non-player characters make morale checks at the beginning of combat if they are facing overwhelming odds (e.g., outnumbered more than 2 to 1), when they take their first casualty, when they lose half their forces, and when a leader is killed. Morale checks are ATN checks against a target of 4. Groups always make a single roll, and they use the ATN die of a leader if one is present. Lone combatants make morale checks when they lose half their max Life. Note that these rules apply to enemies and henchmen aligned with the party.
DAMAGE & RECOVERY
In the world of Icosa, damage is somewhat abstract—it is anything that reduces a character’s Life. Since Life is an abstract measurement of a character’s overall life-force—their spirit, their sanity, their will to live, their physical body—many things can affect it. Low morale, illness, and inclement weather can wear down characters and make them susceptible to more acute moments of danger. The Interpreter may inflict damage to represent fatigue, fear, and other things that don’t cause damage in some other games. Remember that Life is more than how much of a beating a character can take—it represents their will to go on.
WOUNDS & DEATH
When a player-character is reduced to zero Life, they roll a D20 and consult the Wound Table that corresponds to the kind of damage they just took.
Every time a character takes further damage at zero Life, they roll on the appropriate Wound Table and receive another Wound. A character can sustain three Wounds. All Wounds count toward this total. If a character would receive another Wound while they already have three, they are out of the action. They may not necessarily die if it wouldn't make sense in context, but they are rendered narratively inert and will not be able to continue adventuring.
Most non-player characters with which the players engage in combat will have their fate decided by the Interpreter when they reach zero Life. However, important non-player characters, as defined by the Interpreter, will follow the same rules as player-characters, receiving Wounds and so on.
Optional Rule: System Shock
If a character ever takes 12 damage or more from a single source at one time, they must immediately check either CON or ATN (depending on the source of the damage) against a target of 4. If they fail this check, they are out of the action as described above.
Healing checks may only be made shortly after damage is taken—no more than a full day later. A character with a relevant skill may check their skill against a target of 4. If successful, the character they are healing regains Life equal to the result of the roll. A given healer may only attempt this check once per subject.
HEALING THROUGH REST
Characters mainly heal over time. When a character spends a turn resting, they regain D4 Life, or 2D4 if tended to by a skilled healer. When a character spends a turn sleeping, they regain 2D4 Life, or 3D4 if tended to by a skilled healer. Irthmade characters cannot recover in this way.
When a (non-Irthmade) character spends a major turn resting or sleeping at maximum Life, they may attempt to recover from a single Wound by checking the stat associated with the Wound.
Alternatively, a character with a relevant healing-oriented skill can check with their skill to treat the injured player in lieu of a CON or ATN check.
For more information on resting and sleeping, see Exploration.
RECOVERY FOR IRTHMADE
Irthmade characters do not recover in the normal way. They must be repaired by a mechanically skilled character and they must have access to the requisite tools and materials. A successful skill check restores all of the Irthmade character’s Life provided there is time enough to do the work, as determined by the Interpreter. Irthmade characters recover from Wounds by replacing the damaged component with a substitute part. This also requires a successful skill check, time, and tools.
|1||Mortal wound; the character is dead, or will be by the end of the encounter|
|2||Loss of appendage|
|3||Loss of hand, foot, or equivalent|
|4–5||Loss of eye or equivalent|
|6–8||Loss of finger, toe, or equivalent|
|9||Permanent loss of a sense|
|10–11||Concussion, damaged core processor, or equivalent; disadvantage to rolls concerning mental faculties|
|12–14||Disfiguring scars; disadvantage to social rolls with characters who care about such things|
|15–16||Internal damage; disadvantage to physical rolls|
|20||Shaken; lose next turn; doesn't count as a Wound|
|1||Mind-death; the character reaches their breaking point|
|2–4||Heart attack or circuit overload; drop to 1 Life, incapacitated until stabilized by skilled healer or other means|
|5||Disassociation; passively perform random activities for D4 violence turns or 1 minor turn or until someone breaks the spell|
|6–10||Psychological disorder; work with Interpreter to determine an appropriate effect, e.g. claustrophobia, paranoia|
|11–12||Terror; disadvantage on all rolls|
|13–14||Faint; fall unconscious for D4 violence turns or 1 minor turn|
|15–16||Panic; flee blindly for D4 violence turns or 1 minor turn|
|17–20||Shaken; lose next turn; doesn't count as a Wound|
Vehicular and mounted combat is more abstract than combat on foot. This is primarily due to the greater speeds involved—keeping track of where everyone is at all times is much more difficult at high speed, especially in three dimensions, as in the case of aerial combat. Instead, each violence turn should be seen as a series of attempted maneuvers—the operators are trying their best to get into an advantageous position where they can make their move, be it attacking, maneuvering, or disengaging. A failed roll may mean that the attack missed, or it may indicate that the attacker simply was not able to position themselves to make an attack in the first place.
Characters have an action on their turn. An action can be anything—attacking an enemy, performing a risky maneuver, or narratively repositioning a vehicle.
In combat, characters can make actions related to riding their mount or operating their vehicle on their turn in the normal fashion. For instance, a character riding a horse can attempt to steer it into a gully where it will be difficult to fire, and the pilot of a plane can attempt a maneuver to disengage from a dogfight. However, if a mounted character or a character operating a vehicle wishes to take an action unrelated to riding or operating the vehicle, such as firing a gun from horseback or attempting to repair an instrument panel, they do so at disadvantage (unless they have the Distracted Driving signature). This represents the difficulty of splitting one’s attention between the task and the operation of the vehicle.
Some vehicles have built-in weaponry designed to be used by the operator, like a nose-mounted machine gun on a plane or landship. In this situation, the operator can use their action to attack with the built-in weapon using their relevant skill. This counts as an action related to operating the vehicle, and thus does not incur disadvantage.
Specifically in the case of aerial dogfights, unlike with typical ranged attacks on foot, an airplane that is the target of a ranged attack may make an opposed check to avoid the attack.
Maneuvers are risky actions undertaken when operating a vehicle, such as going over jumps, flying through canyons, power diving, and more. Sometimes, maneuvers are used to avoid obstacles or react to sudden danger, in which case a simple check of the relevant skill is called for. Other times, maneuvers may be used offensively or defensively. Maneuvers may be used to disengage from combat or force an enemy into an undesirable position. These maneuvers use opposed checks. Players are encouraged to come up with their own maneuvers, and the Interpreter is encouraged to reward creativity with mechanical and narrative boons. For instance, a pilot may attempt to force another pilot into a tailspin. If the enemy pilot fails their Piloting skill check, they may go out of control. Below, a handful of example maneuvers are explored.
When disengaging from a vehicular or mounted combat, the disengaging character must make an opposed check with their operation skill; if they succeed, they disengage, but if they fail, they must choose between remaining in the combat or disengaging and granting their foe a free hit.
Maneuvers of this type aim to force an enemy into an undesirable or dangerous situation. For example, in mounted combat, the character may harry the opposing rider with rapid swings of her cutlass in order to make him divert his course into a thicket. To give another example, a pilot may rapidly climb in the hopes that the slower plane pursuing him will give chase and stall, causing the enemy pilot to suffer disadvantage next round. These situations are created and executed in collaboration between the players and the Interpreter. Typically, they use an opposed check between the two characters.
Maneuvers of this type aim to place the character or an ally in an advantageous position for their next action. These use a simple check of the relevant skill. If successful, the character or their ally obtains the agreed-upon narrative or mechanical boon for their next action. For example, a pilot may perform a risky maneuver in order to give their gunner a perfect shot (for which they will roll with advantage). Later, that pilot may perform a power dive to gain tremendous speed, which will grant them advantage on their next piloting skill check.
GOING OUT OF CONTROL
Failing a skill roll made to perform a maneuver or operate a vehicle under duress or in combat may, at the Interpreter's discretion, result in the vehicle going out of control. When a vehicle is out of control, the operator must spend the entirety of their next turn attempting to regain control of the vehicle by making a successful skill check. If they fail, the vehicle remains out of control until their next turn, when they can attempt to regain control again.
When a vehicle is out of control, if it makes sense, it has a 1 in 10 chance of crashing each turn.
CRASHING, BAILING OUT & BEING UNSEATED
Crashing does damage to the vehicle, the operator, and all passengers as ruled by the Interpreter. Bailing out, on the other hand, only damages the bailer.
Moreover, if a character is hit while riding a mount or an open vehicle, like a motorcycle or aeroglaive, they must immediately make a relevant skill check or be unseated, falling to the ground and taking damage as determined by the Interpreter based on the speed and height of the fall.
Obviously, mounts have Life and are subject to damage and death like any other living thing. But vehicles also have Life. When a player-vehicle is damaged at zero Life, it sustains a Wound. It can sustain up to 3 Wounds—the fourth Wound is the “death blow.”
Vehicle Life can be restored by a successful check of a relevant skill. If the character repairing the vehicle has access to tools and at least a major turn in which to work, they can restore Life equal to the result of their skill check. Wounds require a successful repair-oriented skill check, a full day (or six major turns), and requisite replacement parts to repair. Some important or powerful vehicles controlled by the Interpreter may also be able to sustain Wounds before being destroyed.
|1||Engine; vehicle will become immobile in D4 violence turns or 1 minor turn|
|2–5||Control System; rolls made to maneuver the vehicle are made at disadvantage|
|6||Driveshaft/Propeller; vehicle gains the property slow; vehicles of similar speed gain advantage on actions taken against the vehicle|
|7–10||Fuel Tank; vehicle loses 3 units of fuel each violence turn|
|11–12||Instruments; vehicle's instruments stop functioning|
|13–15||Weapon; one of the vehicle's weapons is broken; if vehicle has no weapons, roll again|
|16–17||Passenger; a random passenger is hit instead, taking damage equal to the damage dealt to the vehicle; vehicle does not sustain a Wound|
|18–20||Axel/Drive Sprocket/Wing; vehicle goes out of control; rolls to regain control are made at disadvantage|
The world is full of things to explore; however, meaning in Icosa comes from how the characters interpret their experiences and how they impact one another. Just as the world shapes the characters, so too do the characters shape the world. Just as the characters are influenced by the experiences, personalities, and interests of their players, so too might the players be influenced by the characters. Love them. Learn from them. Mourn them when they perish. And then create a new one.
PIECES OF A CHARACTER
Aside from the souls of the players, characters are also made up of other, more tangible traits. They are presented here in the order in which they are determined during character creation.
A character’s kind is the type of lifeform they are.
Humans are scions of a prior age, unchanged by the Curse.
The Accursed are beings that have been warped by the legacy of the Outsiders, often in spectacular (and terrifying) ways.
The Irthmade are beings of living metal created by the Outsiders in the Age of Attendance.
Depending on their character’s kind, players will be able to make certain important decisions about them and receive special bonuses and abilities.
A character’s stats represent their fundamental attributes. There are three stats: Constitution, Attunement, and Life.
A character’s skills are the areas of expertise they have developed throughout their life. Skills are freeform—there is no master list from which to choose. The creation of a character’s skills constitutes the formulation of their character concept and the role they will play within their group.
Characters also have signatures that grant them powerful ways of manipulating the narrative and the game’s mechanics. Most characters start with one signature and gain a new one each time they level up.
A character’s homeland determines what languages they speak and allows them to choose a bonus skill. A single homeland—the sunken, ruin-laden land of Iurd—is included in this free reference version.
A character’s kit is their collection of equipment, supplies, vehicles, magic artifacts, and more.
A character’s kind is the type of lifeform they are.
Humans are scions of a prior age, unchanged by the Curse.
The Accursed are beings that have been warped by the legacy of the Outsiders, often in spectacular (and terrifying) ways.
The Irthmade are beings of living metal created by the Outsiders in the Age of Attendance.
Depending on their character’s kind, players will be able to make certain important decisions about them and receive special bonuses and abilities.
Use the buttons above to explore the different Kinds.
Humans trace their ancestry to the first peoples to ever walk Icosa. In bygone eons, their ancestors were the masters of the world, taming its wildernesses and shaping it to their purposes. The Arrival of the Outsiders marked the end of human supremacy. In the Age of Attendance, these Gods guided the world as they saw fit through their divine intelligence and heavenly designs. Now, in the present Age of Abandonment, even though the Gods have gone, humanity can no longer be said to rule Icosa. No, in fact, humanity is fighting a losing battle merely to survive.
While the ancestors of the humans once crowded Icosa from sea to sea and pole to pole, their numbers have dwindled to mere millions. Their communities are spread across the world, each with vastly different cultures and appearances. Some humans hold great prejudice toward the variform Accursed, especially in regions where the Last Church wields significant power. However, others are more tolerant, accepting the Accursed and treating them as equals. The same can be said for their feelings on the Irthmade, although many humans don’t know the difference between the Irthmade and the lesser “thinking machines.”
Humans are characterized by adaptability and resistance to the Curse; somehow, some underlying quality within them has allowed them to resist its warping effects.
THE HUMAN CHARACTER
+3 maximum Life
Gain an additional signature OR advance a stat by one die rank
Gain advantage on checks made to resist the effects of the Curse
Gain advantage on checks made to resist the effects of magic
The people of Icosa attribute all manner of hardship, disease, and misfortune to the Curse, but the word Accursed is reserved only for those who have been permanently, fundamentally changed by its influence. The Accursed, also known as Cursebearers, are lifeforms who have been cleft from the rest of their ancestry by the sharp knife of the Curse. While all Accursed are thought to descend from the natural creatures of Icosa, the Curse has altered them to such an extreme that they are often unrecognizable as members of their ancestral species.
The word Accursed is a sweeping categorization imposed by the Unchanged, as humans and other natural creatures are sometimes known to the Accursed. The Accursed have nothing in common with one another save for the cause of their condition, and camaraderie between individuals is possible but never assumed. The ranks of the Accursed include people who could pass for human, as well as spine-tingling abominations that demand a liberal definition of the word lifeform.
The Curse is capricious. Even human parents can have Accursed progeny, and the offspring of an Accursed—if they are able to reproduce at all—is likely to be a totally different sort of creature. Many Accursed are lonely creatures, the only ones of their kind. However, there are stable Accursed bloodlines; entirely new animal and plant species owe their existence to the Curse, and some kindred Accursed have developed societies with their own demonyms, cultures, and traditions.
Those Accursed who share a resemblance to human beings, either through shared ancestry or convergent evolution, are often called demi-humans. Many tribes and civilizations of demi-humans reject the notion that they are Accursed at all, rather claiming that they were created alongside humanity in the forgotten past of the world. Alas, in the eyes of many of the Unchanged, these proud peoples—the Mezzonians, the Orairians, the Ixians—can never be anything more than filthy Accursed.
Accursed characters face a number of challenges in the world of Icosa. Aside from the unusual lives they are often forced to lead, there is a severe stigma regarding the Accursed in many parts of the world. According to the Last Church, an ancient, evangelical institution that traces its history back to the Age of Attendance, the Curse is inflicted punitively by the Outsiders as punishment for sinful acts and thoughts. Many fear that association with the Accursed could draw the ire of the Outsiders, and some even believe that the punishment, persecution, or eradication of the Accursed is the will of the Gods. Even those who do not believe that the Curse represents divine judgement often avoid the Accursed for fear of contracting the Curse like a disease. Virtually every Accursed must reckon with this reality at some point in their life. The most fortunate find communities of other Accursed, or communities where the Unchanged and the Accursed live in harmony. The majority do not. The Irthmade tend to be more charitable to the Accursed than are humans, largely because they cannot be Changed by the Curse. However, some still look upon the Accursed with pity, disgust, or contempt.
The transformations brought on by the Curse are known as Aspects of the Curse. Many are born Accursed, and others develop Aspects of the Curse later in life. Most Aspects are death sentences—deformities so severe as to render survival impossible. However, sometimes, the effects are restrained enough to allow the Accursed to go on living. And very rarely, these Aspects can grant extraordinary abilities.
THE ACCURSED CHARACTER
Choose up to 2 beneficial Aspects of the Curse
(Optional) Choose a negative Aspect of the Curse and either gain an additional positive Aspect OR advance a stat by one die rank
This list is merely a starting point—a brief collection of ideas. There are limitless Aspects, and players are encouraged to create their own in collaboration with their Interpreter.
An (x) indicates a negative Aspect.
Your blood is an acid that can damage metal. Any metal splashed by the blood is damaged—your group will determine what this means in practice. Additionally, any armor the blood splashes is badly damaged, losing 3 points of its armor value until it can be repaired. When your blood is drawn in combat, such as when you are struck with a sword, roll D6. On a 5 or 6, your blood splashes your opponent. On a 4, your blood splashes both your opponent and yourself. On a 3 or 2, the blood splashes a bystander or a nearby object. On a 1, the blood splashes only you. You are immune to the damage, but your armor is not.
If there is a limit to the changes the Curse can effect, it is not known, and in some parts of the world, creatures with the bodies of beasts and the minds of men are not unheard of. Think of an animal. Gain one of its trademark abilities, but also define a limitation based on its physiology.
You have the ability to become amorphous like an amoeba. Squeeze through tight spaces.
Light bones and long feathers provide you with the gift of flight. However, the presence of wings means the absence of hands.
Your fine motor skills know no bounds. Roll with advantage when attempting tasks related to fine manual dexterity.
You can produce light from a part of your body at will. It is roughly as bright as a torch. What does the light look like? Whence does it originate?
You may have been born without eyes, or perhaps they were taken by the Curse later in life, clouded over with pulsating cataracts or shriveled away to nothing. If you take this Aspect at character creation, your character has learned to make their way in the world by leveraging their other senses. However, they may be unable to perform certain tasks that are explicitly reliant upon sight. If you gain this Aspect over the course of play, your character will take time to adapt to their blindness. Adapting to blindness takes much training and practice. Until then, always roll with disadvantage whenever an action would require eyesight.
Regrow lost limbs; recover an extra D4 of Life when resting; must be contained in some shell, such as armor or full-body wrappings, or else be reduced to a slow-moving sludge.
You can sense the presence of the Curse. How does the Curse present itself to your senses? Many who can sense the Curse or who possess artifacts that allow them to do so report vibrant light, low humming, and a coppery taste as telltale signs of its presence. You have also noticed that the signs of the Curse are present around artifacts purported to be magical in nature.
You possess a non-debilitating physical deformity of the face or body that makes you grotesque to some. Collaborate with your Interpreter to figure out what it is. You may suffer disadvantage to certain social rolls at the Interpreter's discretion.
Your skin color is noticeably unnatural, immediately identifying you as Accursed.
Your vocal chords and evolved sense of hearing allow you to mentally map your surroundings in any conditions, although you must make noise to do so.
Your capacity is tripled, and most tests of raw physical strength are trivial to you. The Interpreter will only ask you to roll for the most monumental of feats. (The Interpreter adjudicates what constitutes a monumental feat.) When you score a hit with a melee weapon, roll a D8 and add it to your damage. However, rolls made to hit targets smaller than an average human are made at disadvantage. Be aware that you may find your prodigious size limiting in some respects—you will be highly conspicuous and perhaps unable to fit in certain buildings and vehicles. Riding a standard horse is out of the question.
You gain an extra arm. This arm is codominant with your dominant arm, and it can take an action each violence turn. You may take this Aspect more than once.
You have more than the usual number of eyes, which most people agree is two. Define the positioning of the extra eyes. A ring of eyes around the head might mean no one can sneak up on you. Extra eyes on the front might give you advantage on aim-related rolls. Eyes on other parts of the body could have even stranger effects. Beware—people may be put off.
Aside from the other myriad effects that may arise from this condition, you may roll two checks when your mental acuity would be tested, such as when you are psychically or psychologically attacked. If one check succeeds, you may carry on as normal (although your other head may be affected).
The power of the Curse can damn even the trees, flowers, and vines to a sapient existence. Since the time before time, your ancestors were unique in utter self-sufficiency, requiring only the sun to produce their food. As long as you have access to a bright light and a source of water, you do not need to consume rations. If you spend an entire day resting in direct sunlight, regain all Life. If a day passes without access to at least an hour’s worth of natural light, you begin to starve like any other creature.
Once per day, you can emit one of the following types of gases:
Characters in a near radius who are not in a state of arousal (e.g., in combat) make a CON check. On failure, they fall asleep within a few moments. They can be woken from this sleep just like any other.
Characters in a near radius make a CON check. On failure, they take D4 damage each violence turn that they remain in the gas. You are not affected. The gas lasts for a number of violence turns equal to your level.
Characters in a near radius make an ATN check. On failure, gain advantage on social rolls with them.
Create a smokescreen that obscures sight in a near area around you, causing everyone to make vision-related checks at disadvantage for a number of violence turns equal to your level.
You can breathe underwater.
GLOWING WEAK SPOT (x)
You have an obviously exposed vital area. Define what and where it is. Suffer double damage when attacked here.
HEIGHTENED SENSITIVITY (x)
If you take more than 6 points of damage from a single attack or event, make an ATN check. On failure, you are overwhelmed with pain and you forfeit your next turn.
Each time your blood is drawn (e.g., cut with a blade), make a CON check. On failure, bleed for 1 damage each violence turn or D4 damage each minor turn until the wound can be stymied.
HORNS / ANTLERS
Weapons that cannot be disarmed, although they are highly conspicuous. (D6 damage.)
Your cells continuously replace themselves. You do not age.
In darkness, you can see by judging the disparity between the temperatures of objects. Anything that gives off heat will be obvious to you. Light in the visible spectrum spoils your infra-vision.
Roll with advantage to resist psychological manipulation (e.g., intimidation, Psyche magic).
Like a porcupine, your body is covered in quills. When an enemy tries to grapple you, they suffer D4 damage. In addition, you can forcefully expel these quills from your body once per day. Treat it as an attack with a close area of effect, rolling CON to attack. Any enemies hit suffer D4 damage. This behavior is deeply ingrained, reflexive; it does not count as an action.
You can modify your body’s total weight to become lighter than air. You can alter the speed of your ascent and descent, but otherwise, you cannot control the movement without some auxiliary means. You also cannot carry more than a few pounds with you.
Once per day, alter your skin to take on the appearance of a specific, similar creature you have seen. You can change the color and texture of your skin, the color of your hair, and slightly adjust the placement of your facial features. You cannot change your eye color or mimic minor blemishes.
You can breathe air. You are assumed to have lungs by default. Gaining this Aspect when you do not have lungs results in gaining an extra set, granting advantage to rolls related to endurance and respiratory capacity. This Aspect would be useful to those who have selected the Marine ancestry.
Yours is the pelagic, the deep, the primordial, as evidenced by your gills and glistening skin. Gain D12 swimming. You can also breathe underwater... only underwater.
MATERIAL WEAKNESS (x)
You are weak to a certain substance. Define it. It cannot be ludicrously rare. Examples include: pure iron, salt, emerald, wine, honey, etc. Suffer disadvantage to all rolls when the substance is nearby. Suffer double damage if you are attacked with the substance.
MENTAL FRAILTY (x)
Suffer disadvantage on all rolls made to resist psychological damage or damage from Psyche magic.
Gain 5 Life. Your bones cannot be broken. If they otherwise would be as a consequence of some event, you instead get off scot-free.
MISSING ARM (x)
You suffer all the logical consequences of having one less arm. You may start with a rudimentary prosthetic, such as a hook, but suffer disadvantage on all checks requiring the limb. Certain tasks may be impossible.
MISSING LEG (x)
You suffer all the logical consequences of having one less leg. You may start with a rudimentary prosthetic, such as a peg leg, but suffer disadvantage on all checks requiring the limb. Certain tasks may be impossible.
One half sleeps while the other is awake—you needn’t lose consciousness to sleep, but you must be in a restful state. That is, you cannot sleep while fighting or walking.
You can feed on the dead and decaying to regain Life. When you spend a major turn to absorb the nutrients of a decaying lifeform, recover Life by rolling a number of D4 equal to your level.
Gain 2 points of intrinsic armor each time you take this Aspect. This armor cannot be sacrificed to absorb damage with the Fortress signature.
You are inclined to be active at night and sleep during the day. Make all rolls with disadvantage after a day of failing to adhere to your circadian rhythm.
Roll with advantage on all rolls made to recall information.
Your skin is like marble, your eyes pale pink. Bright light is extremely painful for you. Sudden spikes in light level will stun you, causing you to lose your next turn if you fail an ATN check. Extremely bright light from a nearby source causes D4 damage for each turn you are exposed. Spending more than a few minutes in direct sunlight without protection causes D4 damage for each subsequent violence turn or minor turn and inflicts disadvantage on all rolls.
You naturally emit a pleasant perfume that puts otherwise-neutral creatures at ease. What is the smell, and where does it come from?
You eat twice as much and roll with disadvantage to resist the cold, but you roll with advantage to resist the effects of venoms, poisons, and diseases. You are also immune to the effects of intoxicants—sorry!
You can regrow lost limbs.
SAIL / LARGE EARS
Gain advantage on rolls made to resist the effects of heat.
Gain advantage on rolls related to tests of raw strength. When you score a hit in melee combat, roll CON and add it to your melee damage.
You can move objects you can see with your mind. You can lift up to 10 lbs and move the controlled objects at a speed of roughly 10 mph. Each time you level up, you can move an additional 20 lbs and move objects 5 mph faster, to a maximum of 170 lbs. and 50 mph.
Your sight is supernaturally keen. You can make out minute details on even the most distant targets. You do not suffer disadvantages when making ranged attacks against distant targets with weapons with a range of far.
Roll with advantage to resist the effects of the cold.
UNPLEASANT ODOR (x)
You give off a strong odor that most would consider disagreeable. Perhaps it comes from a mutation in your sweat glands. Or is it the stench of rotting flesh? What is the smell, and where does it come from?
Feathered or leathery wings grant you the gift of flight, but these appendages replace your arms.
A miscellaneous, neutral Aspect with no mechanical effects. Naturally, they may have significant narrative effects. For example: long, sticky tongue; prehensile tail; translucent skin; etc.
In the Age of Attendance, the Outsiders used their cosmic power to create many great works. Among the most impressive and mystifying were the Irthmade, so called because their bodies are made from steel and rare metals from deep within the earth. These bodies of chrome, iron, and bronze were crafted as vessels for artificial minds—thinking, dreaming minds that only the genius of an Outsider could create.
They were made to serve many purposes. Some were sapient databases. Others were designed for tasks too menial for the Gods or too punishing for their mortal servants. Still others were machines of war.
During and after the events of the Departure, most of the Irthmade were annihilated. Of those that remained, many were lost due to mechanical failure, or their minds were corrupted, or they were cannibalized for scrap by desperate humans and Accursed. The few Irthmade that still walk, roll, or hover over the desolation of Icosa have no memory of the Age of Attendance. No mind could remember a tale so long—as new memories form, the old ones are swept away.
Many view the Irthmade with scorn, not considering them true living things. This distrust is not helped by the fact that very few Irthmade have survived the years with their artificial minds intact. Most wander the wasteland aimlessly, and some are incredibly dangerous, attacking on sight. To the people of Icosa, there is little difference between these mad Irthmade and the ancient, hostile robots that can still be found in the wildest places of the world.
The Irthmade are often targets for opportunistic brigands given that they are essentially living artifacts. All Irthmade derive their lifeforce from a source known to many as the Invincible Summer. Unlike other remnants of the Before, they never seem to wane in need of charge. The Irthmade seem to be artifacts that never run out of power; the Invincible Summer provides for them in dearth and in excess. As such, the hallowed core of an Irthmade is an artifact most precious. Many an Irthmade has met an untimely end at the hands of hungry ruiners, their body melted down and their artificial mind and arcane power source sold for a pretty penny.
Irthmade characters enjoy many benefits that their organic counterparts do not. Irthmade characters don’t need to sleep, nor do they tire—they have been known to cross oceans, treading the seabed in pursuit of forgotten directives, ignorant to the intercedence of time.
The Irthmade are immune to many effects of the Curse—they can be damaged by it, but they can never develop Aspects of the Curse. In fact, they are immune to all diseases, and they do not age.
Irthmade characters start with the ability to speak the language Steel Cant, a language that every Irthmade knows, even if they have forgotten that they know it. The harsh mechanical sounds of the language cannot be replicated by the mouths of humans and demi-humans, but they may learn to understand and write in it.
All Irthmade have a Frame, which is the fundamental structure that houses the artificial mind. By default, Frames have 5 hardpoints, each of which can support 1 Module. Irthmade characters can find and assimilate new mechanisms into their bodies as Modules, but attaching them requires a skilled technician.
Irthmade cannot recover from resting. In order to regain Life and recover from Wounds, Irthmade must be repaired by a skilled technician with the appropriate tools and materials. While this means that recovery can be more difficult for Irthmade characters, it also means that they have the opportunity to completely replace lost parts, or even upgrade them.
THE IRTHMADE CHARACTER
Choose 1 Frame
Choose 3 Modules
Cannot receive Aspects of the Curse
Start with an extra, mechanically-oriented skill at D6
Cannot recover from damage or Wounds by resting; must be repaired
Do not age, sleep, or eat; immune to disease and poison
Never suffer Wounds from exhaustion
Start with the ability to speak Steel Cant
This Irthmade is shaped like a human. They can do many of the things humans can do. They start with six hardpoints.
This Irthmade is conveyed on swift wheels. In combat, moving somewhere far over flat ground does not cost their action, and they can sacrifice their action to move somewhere distant.
This Irthmade trundles along on heavy treads. They are never adversely affected by difficult terrain.
This Irthmade is a hovering, person-sized, geometric shape created in the image of the Hedrons. They can move through the air in any direction at the speed of a regular human. They can communicate via an internal speaker. They start with an extra module.
Translucent like an apparition, this Irthmade’s physical form is actually composed of a dense swarm of miniscule Irthmade Frames with a shared mind. They can alter their form at will and filter through small holes and coarse meshes.
Players that choose this option may define their own frame in collaboration with their Interpreter if allowed to do so.
AMMUNITION MANUFACTURING SUITE
An ancient forge and foundry smolders within you. You can produce up to 3 rounds of ammunition per day.
Silicoid skin and smooth animatronics allow you to pass for a human until subjected to scrutiny; can only be taken by Irthmade with a Humanoid Frame.
You are able to capture an audio record of anything you can hear and play it back at a later time.
Your built-in suite of culinary implements allows you to cook excellent food from standard rations; no check required. Anyone who consumes your food during a rest gains advantage on their next check.
Spending an action to analyze a living target you can see reveals detailed information about them; you can see their stats and Life.
Gain advantage on checks made to recall information.
You can transform your appendages into any simple, mundane tool (e.g., hammers, screwdrivers).
Gain 4 points of intrinsic armor.
INHERENT MELEE WEAPON
One of your limbs is a melee module that cannot be dropped. Define the weapon. It has a range of close. Attacking with this weapon requires a relevant skill. For damage, use your CON die.
INHERENT RANGED WEAPON
One of your limbs is a ranged module that cannot be dropped and never needs to be reloaded (although it can run out of ammunition). Define the weapon. It has a range of near and far. Attacking with this weapon requires a relevant skill. For damage, use your CON die. The weapon starts with 10 rounds of the appropriate ammunition.
A hands-free light source; can be as dim as a candle or as bright as a flashbulb.
Spending an action to analyze a mechanical target you can see (Irthmade, airplane, etc.) reveals detailed information about it; you can see its stats and Life.
Your segmented body can swivel in any direction with extreme speed. You may attack twice per violence turn, and you do not suffer the effects of being outnumbered.
If you are able to connect your wires and diodes to an individual, you will be able to detect if they are lying or telling the truth.
Your capacity is doubled. The storage module can only be opened by you, or by brute force.
Gain advantage on aim-related checks.
Sprays fire at close range; can be used to set things alight or attack. Attacking with the torch requires a relevant skill; for damage, use your CON die. A target struck with the flame has a 1 in 6 chance of catching alight, in which case they will burn for D4 damage every violence turn for D4 turns. Can attack up to three enemies if they are close together.
You were created to serve a particular purpose. Choose a trade (e.g., blacksmithing, construction); gain advantage on checks associated with that trade.
You speak by broadcasting to a radio that is a part of your body. You can also broadcast to and receive signals from other radios within a range of about 50 miles.
You are able to capture a visual record of anything you can see and play it back at a later time.
You possess wings, allowing you to glide.
Stats are foundational attributes innate to all beings. There are three stats: Constitution, Attunement, and Life.
Constitution, or CON, represents vitality, health, and strength—in short, one’s physical power. A character’s CON impacts how likely a character is to survive poison and disease, how hard they are to kill, how quickly they can jump out of danger, and more. A character’s CON also determines their capacity—how much they can carry (see Equipment).
Attunement, or ATN, represents resolve, intellect, and awareness—in short, one’s mental power. A character’s ATN dictates how resistant they are to psychological trauma, how perceptive they are of their surroundings, how hard they can push themselves in adverse situations, and more.
Constitution and Attunement are each represented by a die ranging in rank from D4 to D12. Players will often be called upon by their Interpreter to roll the die corresponding to the rank of one of their stats in order to determine the outcome of an uncertain situation. Resisting the warping effects of the Curse, diving out of the crushing shadow of a collapsing stone tower, and keeping one’s wits after learning knowledge not meant for their kind—all of these could be cause to roll the dice. The player rolls the corresponding die with the goal of meeting or exceeding a certain target, usually 4.
Use skills when the activity in question is the result of study or training; use stats when the activity is something anyone can do.
These categorizations are very broad, and can be interpreted in many different ways. For instance, a low-ATN character could be quite intelligent but exceptionally imperceptive due to always having their head in the clouds. A high-CON character could be as hardy and tough as they come without necessarily being all that strong.
Life is a character’s most precious resource. It represents a character’s stamina, sanity, and overall spirit. As such, cutting words can harm Life as much as a cutting blade. It is good to avoid letting one’s Life drop to zero.
Life is a derived stat calculated by adding the number of sides of the dice representing a character’s CON and ATN and then adding any Life gained from special abilities.
At Level 1, both CON and ATN have a rank of D4. Players have 2 points to invest in their character’s stats, each point increasing the rank of CON or ATN by one die-type or increasing Life by 5.
Skills are the techniques, trades, arts, and areas of expertise characters gain throughout their life. There is no pre-written list of skills—there are a limitless number. In Icosa, players create their character’s skills as they see fit. They might be based on a field of study, a trade or profession, a martial art, or anything else. Like stats, each skill is governed by a die ranging in rank from D4 to D12.
When a character attempts to do something difficult that requires knowledge, practice, or technique, the Interpreter will ask them to choose a relevant skill and roll the corresponding die with the goal of meeting or exceeding a certain target—usually 4. If a character has no relevant skill, they make an unskilled check, rolling D4 at disadvantage. The Interpreter reserves the power to rule that an exceptionally difficult task requiring significant expertise (e.g., performing brain surgery) is not possible without a relevant skill.
Skills can be whatever the player wants, but the best skills are those that are both broad and specific at the same time—that is, they have a wide variety of applications, but they are derived from a very particular source. Creating skills like this will allow characters to use a single skill in many ways, and it also helps deepen the character’s backstory and connection to the world.
Moreover, if a skill is narrowly and explicitly relevant to the task at hand, the skill roll is made with advantage; this powerful bonus should be applied judiciously by the Interpreter, reserved only for situations that perfectly align with the skill.
Characters start with one of the following four skill configurations:
1 skill at D6, 2 skills at D4
2 skills at D6
1 skill at D8, 1 skill at D4
1 skill at D10
|1||Aileron Errant||Flying planes, working on planes, talking shop about planes|
|2||Black Hand Monk||Engine maintenance, precision smithing, recalling histories of the Deep Past|
|3||Captain||Tactics, barking orders, boosting morale, loving it when a plan comes together|
|4||Cat Burglar||Lockpicking, sneaking around, laying in the sun, scratching people's hands|
|5||Circus Performer||Acrobatics, contortion, performance, doing dangerous things with animals|
|6||Damonian Infantryman||Shooting guns and swinging swords, digging trenches, dealing with shell shock|
|7||Desperado||Riding horses, stealing horses, shooting pistols, cheating at cards, drinking rye whiskey|
|8||Eldol Ranger||Hunting, tracking, climbing trees, shooting rifles, birdcalls|
|9||Iurdic Mycologist||Mushroom hunting, resisting toxins, interpreting hallucinogenic experiences|
|10||Kraenesian Scholar||Handling ancient books, recalling histories of the known world, writing grants|
|11||Polyhedron Sage||Prophesying, recalling theology, knowing a little about a lot|
|12||Savvy Diplomat||Knowing cultural mores, schmoozing dignitaries, detecting poison|
|13||Scoundrel||Smuggling, gambling, smooth-talking, seduction, shooting from the hip|
|14||Siege Engineer||Designing and building big, dangerous things|
|15||Sous Chef||Culinary arts, ordering inferiors around, chopping things, multi-tasking|
|16||Spy||Stealth, disguise, sabotage, "knowing a guy," drinking dry martinis|
|17||Survivalist||Trapping, fishing, camouflage, navigation, building fires|
|18||Synth Minstrel||Performing, keeping a beat, playing riffs that make people's faces pucker|
|19||Wheelman||Operating vehicles, planning routes, picking the tunes|
|20||Witch||Botany, making herbal medicines, living in the woods, being spooky|
Signatures are significant, often character-defining traits and abilities that allow characters to manipulate the narrative and the game’s mechanics in powerful ways. When creating a character, players choose one signature unless their character is a human, in which case they choose two. Each time they level up, they gain a new one. Some signatures can be chosen multiple times.
The following list of signatures is divided into several categories for ease of reference. A "+" indicates a signature that can be taken more than once. Players should feel free to create their own signatures in collaboration with their Interpreter using the ones provided for reference.
Do Not Go Gently: When you die in melee combat, deal your maximum damage one last time to the enemy of your choice.
Hard to Kill: You can sustain 4 Wounds before perishing instead of 3.
Hardy: Gain advantage on checks made to resist poison, disease, extreme temperatures, etc. Does not apply to the Curse.
Stable Bloodline: Never receive new Aspects of the Curse.
‘Tis But A Scratch: When you are Wounded in battle, you do not suffer the mechanical effects of the Wound until the battle is over. You still suffer the fictional effects, of course.
Immune: Gain advantage on checks made to resist the effects of the Curse.
Armored: Worn armor does not contribute its EV to your encumbrance.
Pack Mule: Your capacity is increased by 50%.
+Vigorous: Increase max Life by 5.
+Flurry of Blows: On your turn, you can make an extra melee attack.
+Smite: Once per encounter, after calculating the total damage done by a successful melee attack, double it. You can choose this signature once more to triple the damage.
+Good Odds: Each time you take this skill, it takes two more foes to outnumber you.
Fortress: Sacrifice a shield or a piece of armor to absorb all the damage from an attack.
Mighty Blow: When the damage die or dice of your melee weapon yields the highest possible value, you cripple or sever a body part or send your foe flying.
Cleave: When you dispatch a foe, you may immediately roll damage and apply it to another close foe. This effect can chain as long as you continue to dispatch foes as part of this action.
Brute: Any time you deal damage with a melee attack, check CON and add the result to your damage.
+Pugilist: Each time you take this signature, add +D4 to the damage of unarmed attacks.
Hidden Wound: Once per level, you may reveal that you have been badly wounded, immediately dropping to zero Life and taking a Wound of your choice. Automatically succeed on your next attack roll and deal double damage.
+Trigger Finger: Make an extra ranged attack each violence turn. If the weapon has a RoF of 2 or 3, simply roll one more attack—not 2 or 3.
Sharpshooter: Any time you deal damage with a ranged attack, check ATN and add the result to your damage.
Deadeye: No target adjustment for called shots against limbs; target adjustment for called shots against vitals reduced to +1.
Quick Loader: Reloading doesn’t require an action.
Steady Hands: No penalty for firing from unsteady or moving platforms.
Always Ready: Gain advantage when rolling for initiative.
Anti-air: When you would be hit by a missile attack, check CON. The target is the damage of the attack. If successful, you catch it, knock it away, cut it in half, etc. and take no damage.
Vengeful: When a foe damages you, gain advantage on your next attack against that foe and add D4 damage.
+Unencumbered: Each time you take this signature, gain +4 intrinsic armor if you are wearing no other armor.
Frenzy: When the character attacks the same target for two consecutive actions, they add +D4 to their damage. This effect can stack for a bonus of up to 3D4 damage. This effect continues so long as the character is attacking the same target continuously.
Reinvigorate: Once per encounter, check CON and regain that much Life. This does not require an action.
Spot Weakness: Check ATN (target 4) to determine a foe’s vulnerability. All attacks the exploit this weakness deal +D4 damage if successful. Using this signature does not require an action.
Resolve: Once per encounter, when you are damaged, check ATN. If the roll is higher than the damage, ignore it. If the roll fails, you may attempt to use this ability on subsequent hits until it is successful, at which point the ability is exhausted until the next encounter.
Will to Power: At any time, sacrifice 4 Life to apply advantage to your next roll.
Sage: Gain advantage on checks made to recall lore or share wisdom.
Strategist: Check ATN (target 4) to devise a plan. If the check is successful, characters gain advantage on the next check they make directly related to executing the plan.
Healer: Gain advantage on healing-related checks.
Quick Learner: Mark skills twice for each failure.
Leader: Characters gain 5 temporary Life when fighting alongside you. This extra Life disappears after combat.
Striking: Gain advantage on social and psychological checks when you leverage your physical appearance. You may be extraordinarily beautiful, or you may be extraordinarily terrifying.
Bard: Make a check to write an inspiring song or poem about a specific hardship your band of adventurers has faced—traveling through a maelstrom, persevering through impossible odds, barely escaping with your lives. If you perform this work well for the party the next time they face a very similar situation, everyone gains advantage on their next check.
First Impression: Roll an extra die when making a reaction roll and throw out the lowest one.
Inspiring Presence: Your henchmen never flee or surrender unless you tell them to.
+Secure: Gain 4 PAV (armor against psychological damage and damage from Psyche magic).
Prepared: Once per day, produce any common, inexpensive item you need—you’ve been saving it.
Zen: When you meditate during a major turn, gain advantage on a subsequent check of your choice.
Cautious: Make your D20 check with advantage when you use an artifact.
Navigator: You never get lost, and you make exploration checks with advantage.
Perceptive: In encounters, you can only be surprised on a roll of 1.
Burglar: The character rolls with advantage on actions involving theft, breaking and entering, and other larcenous deeds.
Shadow: The character rolls with advantage on actions involving sneaking around, avoiding detection, and other stealthy deeds.
Lucky: Once per day, re-roll any check (yours or someone else’s).
Distracted Driving: Taking an action and operating a vehicle (or riding a mount) in the same turn does not incur disadvantage.
Inoculated: Gain advantage when resisting the effects of magic.
Initiated to The Mystery: You have uncommon knowledge of Arcana and the works of the Gods. Gain access to Mysterious Signatures. Proceed to Magic to complete your character.
(Only usable by characters initiated to The Mystery)
+Gain a New Spell: Gain a new spell in a domain you are familiar with.
+Gain a New Domain: Gain a spellcasting skill for a different domain of magic.
+Capacitor: Use your rote an additional time each day.
Arcanist: Gain advantage when making a checks to recall lore about magic and the Outsiders.
Artificer: Gain the ability to create scrolls—devices that can store one of your spells to be used by you or anyone else. Check your spellcasting skill. This procedure takes a week for each level of the spell.
Well-versed: Upon seeing a magic item for the first time, make a check with a relevant skill to instantly identify it.
Empower: Gain the option to intentionally cast the empowered version of a spell. Doing so instantly exhausts it.
Prudent: Roll your D20 with advantage when you use an artifact. Results of 1 on spellcasting rolls do not trigger a magic catastrophe.
Occultist: At the caster’s option, they can cause their spell effects to be produced silently and/or invisibly.
Aside from being an important part of nearly any backstory, a character’s homeland determines the languages they speak and allows them to take a region-specific skill.
Each region includes a list of languages and a list of skills characteristic of the region. Players may choose a single skill from the list provided by their region and take it at D6 rank, or roll a D6 and take a random skill.
Characters can also choose any language from the list provided by their region, and if their ATN die is a D8 or higher, they may choose two languages.
All player-characters start with the ability to speak Low Iurdic (the most common tongue). All Irthmade characters also start with the ability to speak Steel Cant.
Although only a single homeland is presented in this free reference version, in the full version, beginning players can choose from 10 homelands, and experienced players can work with the Interpreter to create a character from anywhere in the world.
Below is a sample homeland: the sunken, ruin-laden land of Iurd.
IURD: RUIN OF THE ETERNAL EMPIRE
Iurd is a region in the south of the western continent of Icosa, dominated by the estuary of the Great Divider. According to myth, it was once home to the capital of the infinite empire of the Outsiders during the Age of Attendance. However, most of the accessible ruins were plundered centuries ago, and those that remain lie deep in the dangerous backcountry or sunken into the toxic marshes and swamps. Although there are many Accursed here, they face great prejudice and are often kept as slaves. The Last Church, an ancient religious order that venerates the Outsiders, has imposed a theocratic government upon Iurd. For further information on Iurd, see Sample Region: Iurd.
|6||Wilderness Lore (Wetlands)|
|Old High Iurdic|
The entirety of a character’s gear is known as their kit. A character’s kit is a significant part of who they are. The things a person carries tell a story of what that person has done, where they have been, and where they plan to go. Their travels are written in the chips in their blade, the dents in their armor, and the dirt on their clothes.
Characters start with clothing (if they want to). This clothing can be anything, and should be described. It cannot confer mechanical benefits.
Characters also start with four days’ rations, each day with an encumbrance value (EV) of 1, for a total of 4.
Characters also start with 10 points to spend on gear.
Make sure to note down all of the attributes of your kit, including damage dice, EV, and properties. For more information on item properties and encumbrance, see Equipment.
Note that the items in the following tables are mean to represent archetypes; for instance, a “short sword” could represent a gladius, a kukri, or a wakizashi.
Any of the items in these bundles can be purchased individually for 1 point.
|Light Ruiner's Kit||Backpack (EV 0), torch (EV 1), 50' rope (EV 1), tinderbox (EV 0), bedroll (EV 1)||3||2|
|Heavy Ruiner's Kit||Backpack (EV 0), lantern (EV 1), 50' rope (EV 1), tinderbox (EV 0), first-aid kit (EV 0), shovel (EV 1), grapnel (EV 1), flask of oil (EV 0), bedroll (EV 1), tent (EV 1)||6||4|
|Artist's Implements||Paints, brushes, papers, and charcoal packed into a foldable easel; could represent other forms of art, like cooking||1||2|
|Doctor's Bag||Bandages, alcohol, needle and thread, scalpel, hypodermic needle, common medicine, other tools of healing||1||2|
|Mechanic's Toolbox||A heavy chest full of wrenches, screwdrivers, ratchets, and other such things||2||2|
|Reveler's Pack||Backpack (EV 0), 20 smokes (EV 0), bottle of alcohol (EV 1), 3 greenweed smokes (EV 0), philter of acid (EV 0), 100 coin (EV 1), 3 days' rations (EV 1 each)||5||3|
|Scholar's Satchel||Bag (EV 0), 2 books on subjects of your choice (EV 1 each), blank scroll (EV 0), quill and ink (EV 0), set of polyhedrons (EV 0)||2||2|
|Thief's Tools||Lockpicking equipment carried on a handy belt, plus a collapsible 10' pole (EV 1)||1||2|
|Wanderer's Kit||Backpack (EV 0), lantern (EV 1), tinderbox (EV 0), first-aid kit (EV 0), bedroll (EV 1), tent (EV 1), compass (EV 0), telescope (EV 1), musical instrument (EV 2)||6||3|
|Short sword||2D4||close, sometimes thrust||1||2|
|Longsword||2D4||close, sometimes thrust||2||3|
|Greatsword||2D6||close, 2-handed, AP 1||3||4|
|Hand axe||D6||close, AP 2||1||2|
|Battle-axe||D12||close, 2-handed, AP 4||4||4|
|Mace/Club||D6||close, AP 4||2||2|
|Warhammer||D10||close, versatile, AP 7||2||3|
|Quarterstaff||D6||close, 2-handed, AP 1||2||1|
|Spear/Pike||2D4||close, thrust, reach, versatile, AP 2||2||3|
|Halberd/Poleaxe||2D4||close, thrust, reach, versatile, AP 6||4||5|
|Flail||D8||ignores shield, AP 4||2||3|
|Throwing Knife (x10)||D4||thrown, disadvantage in melee combat||0||1|
|Javelin (x5)||D8||thrown, near, far, disadvantage in melee combat||1||2|
|Sling||D6||near, AP 2||0||1|
|Short bow||D8||near, 2-handed, AP 2||1||2|
|Longbow||D10||near, far, 2-handed, AP 6||2||4|
|Crossbow||2D6||near, far, 2-handed, reload, capacity 1, AP 6||2||4|
|Hand Cannon||D12||close, near, reload, capacity 1, AP 7, loud||1||4|
|Musket||D12||near, far, reload, capacity 1, AP 7, loud||2||5|
|Arrows/Bolts (x10)||—||—||1/10 shots||1|
|Lead Balls (x10)||—||—||1/10 shots||1|
|Scope||—||Fire at targets outside range without disadvantage||0||2|
|Sheath or holster||—||Allows a specific weapon to be carried on-hand||0||1|
|Beast of Burden||Any animal meant for carrying loads rather than riding; CON D10, ATN D4, Life 12, speed 6, capacity 15||2|
|Small Cart||A modest cart meant to be pulled by an animal; speed 12, capacity 30||3|
|Mount||An animal trained to be ridden; CON D8, ATN D4, Life 10, speed 20, capacity 4 with rider/10 without rider||4|
|Henchman||A hired hand with a D6 skill of your choice; requires 2 coin per day; D6 CON, D6 ATN, Life 10||4|
|Pet||A creature of animal intelligence that is bonded to you through tacit, mutual understanding; describe it and give it a D6 skill of your choice; D6 CON, D4 ATN, 6 Life||4|
The Interpreter may forbid starting with these items. Some of these items require multiple characters to pool their points in order to afford them. Vehicles start with 10 units of fuel.
|Revolver||D12||near, reload, capacity 6, AP 7, loud||1||6|
|Shotgun||D12 (+D4 if close)||close, near, 2-handed, reload, capacity 2, AP 10, loud||2||7|
|Rifle||2D8||near, far, 2-handed, reload, capacity 7, AP 10, loud||2||7|
|SMG||D8||RoF 3, near, 2-handed, reload, capacity 12, AP 8, loud||2||8|
|LMG||D12||RoF 2, near, far, 2-handed, reload, capacity 18, AP 10, loud||4||8|
|Revolver rounds (x10)||—||—||1/20 shots||2|
|Shotgun shells (x10)||—||—||1/10 shots||2|
|Rifle rounds (x10)||—||—||1/20 shots||2|
|S/LMG rounds (x10)||—||—||1/5 shots||2|
|Blessed Mask||AV 3, MAV 3, EV 4; some say the heavy metal of this mask protects against the Curse||6|
|Blessed Cuirass||AV 4, MAV 4, EV 5; some say the heavy metal of this cuirass protects against the Curse||7|
|Powered Gauntlets||AV3, EV 3; +D4 damage to melee attacks||7|
|Weightless Breastplate||AV 4; EV 0||6|
|Autocarriage||speed 40, capacity 20, Life 20, E 25, 4 seats||15|
|Skitterbike||speed 80, capacity 2, Life 12, E 40, 1 seat||10|
|Landship||speed 80, capacity 40, Life 20, AV 20, E 12, 6 seats, sturdy, ATV||25|
|Biplane||speed 400, capacity 10, Life 20, E 10, 2 seats||10|
|Attendant||artifact, light source 20' radius, orbital, does not require D20 roll to use, EV 0||5|
|Gamma Blade||artifact, 2D4 damage, +D4 magic damage, ignores armor, close, versatile, charge 5, EV 2||10|
|Phase Blaster||artifact, 2D4 damage, +D4 magic damage, ignores armor, near, far, charge 3, EV 1||10|
|Circlet of Serenity||artifact, MAV 6, PAV 12, passive, does not require D20 roll to use, EV 0||7|
|Radio Transceiver||EV 1||4|
Characters advance by improving their kit, training their skills, and leveling up.
This may seem obvious, but it bears mentioning because a character’s kit is an important part of who they are and what role they serve in their group. The artifacts of the Outsiders range in power from petty curiosities to godly relics of world-shaking power. Additionally, mighty machines painstakingly restored or replicated from earlier ages, such as airplanes and machine guns, can be character-defining. Characters should build their kit to their strengths and look out for opportunities to find, purchase, or create new items to suit them.
IMPROVING AND GAINING SKILLS
Failure is the greatest teacher. Characters improve their skills by attempting actions and failing. When a character tries to use a skill and fails, the skill accumulates an experience point. When that skill has accumulated a number of experience points equal to the number of faces of the next die rank, the character can spend those points to upgrade the skill. The skill is then represented by the next die-type.
Characters gain new skills by trying to do things they are unskilled in. When a character tries to do something difficult that they have no skill in, they roll D4 at disadvantage, which is called making an unskilled check. Afterwards, if the player so chooses, they can define a new "proto-skill" related to what they did and write it down. The next time they make an unskilled check to attempt an action related to the proto-skill, whether they succeed or fail, the proto-skill accumulates an experience point. When the skill has accumulated four experience points, the character gains that skill at D4 rank. Thereafter, it is improved through failure in the manner described above.
Characters level up when they survive an incredible adventure, undergo intense character development, or impact the world in a meaningful way. The types of events that can cause a character to level up are left to each group to decide, but they should be relatively consistent within a single game world.
When a character levels up, they gain a new signature. In addition, at levels 3, 6, and 9, a character can improve a stat by one rank OR increase their total Life by 5. Generally speaking, by the time a character makes it to level 9 (an epic achievement) they are almost ready to retire. They’ve been through a lot and ought to be left to live out the rest of their days in peace. The player’s next character might be their old character’s offspring, squire, or heir.
Optional Rule: Flashpoint Leveling
At the group’s discretion, a character who has just undergone an event of extreme character development or who is moments away from achieving a major goal—so close they can taste it—may level up even in the midst of battle. When this occurs, they immediately go through the procedure of leveling up as described above AND regain all Life.
Magic is rare, dangerous, and poorly understood. The other tabs in this section are meant only for the eyes of the wizards, shamans, and priests who meddle in the power of the Outsiders at their own peril.
If you are not initiated in the ways of the Mystery, all you need to know is that magic is incredibly treacherous. Wherever magic can be found, there is always a chance for catastrophe.
|1||Artifact destroyed or spell unusable until repaired|
|2–10||Afflicted by the Curse; roll on Curse Effects Table|
|11||D10 damage from lacerations, burns, or other sources|
|12–14||D6 damage from lacerations, burns, or other sources|
|15||D4 damage from lacerations, burns, or other sources|
|16||Draw unwanted attention|
|17||Magic affects random ally|
|18–19||Nearby artifacts go haywire, malfunctioning and discharging|
|20||Temporary disability for 1 day|
Wizard, priest, sorcerer, shaman, dream-seer—whatever you call yourself, you have been blessed or cursed, through fate or careful study, with deep knowledge of the ancient magic of the Outsiders. To other denizens of Icosa, the Mystery is an esoteric and dangerous wisdom better left alone. To you, it is a fascination, a calling, an art. You tap into the unequaled power of the Gods themselves, weaving and shaping it to manipulate the world around you. You are a conduit, a beacon of power, a knower of unknown things.
You are also a liar.
Or at least, you are mistaken. You possess no innate magic powers. Magic is the sole domain of the Outsiders, and all that remains on Icosa is the detritus they left behind. Magic-users derive their incredible abilities from these mighty relics and their intimate knowledge of them.
Those who claim to possess innate magical power exist in a state of mutually-assured destruction with all other members of their class. The respect, fear, and deference they enjoy as a result of their self-styled sorcery would all come crashing down were they exposed by another scholar of the Mystery. The risk of calling out another wizard is the tacit understanding that they could do the same to you. It is best to closely guard the true source of your power—the uninitiated will never understand.
THE MAGIC-USING CHARACTER
There is no real difference between the things magic users call “spells” and the magic artifacts that any mortal can find and use. The distinction is that magic users operate on a much higher level of understanding than some common ruiner brandishing a thousand-year-old cerebral demolisher. A magic user may not know all the secrets of these great works of the Gods, but they know enough to tinker, take apart, reverse engineer, and recombine. They derive their spells from artifacts that they have carefully incorporated into their kit in such a way that they are functionally innate parts of who they are.
Mechanically, spells function differently from the artifacts used by common ruiners. Most importantly, the Interpreter cannot take them away except in cases prescribed by rules specific to spellcasters.
Magic-using characters also gain access to the Mysterious signatures, signatures only available to magic-using characters. They may select from these when they level up, but they do not have to.
Finally, magic-using characters start with the required material components for their chosen spells, if applicable.
CHOOSING DOMAINS & SPELLS
Choosing the signature Initiated to the Mystery grants the magic-using character a D4 spellcasting skill at character creation. The spellcasting skill must be related to a particular domain, such as Annihilation Spellcasting. The magic user can only learn spells in their chosen domain, and they can only learn spells of a level equal to or lesser than their own. The magic-using character starts with one spell and three glamours. For a list of spells, see Spells.
At the player’s option, at character creation, they may create and upgrade additional spellcasting skills for the following costs in Life:
2 Life: Upgrade any spellcasting skill to D6 from D4
3 Life: Upgrade any spellcasting skill to D8 from D6
5 Life: Gain additional domain, along with a spell and a D4 spellcasting skill
|Annihilation||Concerned with destruction|
|Restoration||Concerned with restoring, healing, and repairing|
|Manipulation||Concerned with influencing the physical world|
|Knowledge||Concerned with divination and learning secret things|
|Psyche||Concerned with observing and influencing minds|
|Meta-magic||Concerned with manipulating magic itself|
All magic-using characters start with a special spell, called a rote. This rote is what allows them to repeatedly restore magic power to the artifacts they have assimilated into their identity. Each magic-using character creates their own rote. Be creative.
The rote can be used once per day to restore the use of a single spell that has been exhausted or to restore full charge to a single artifact. The rote does not require a spellcasting roll.
When a character casts a spell, the spellcasting skill is rolled (target 4). A success means the spell is cast. A failure means that, while the spell is still cast, it is also exhausted—it cannot be used again until it is recharged with the rote. If the die returns its highest possible value (e.g., a 6 on a D6), the empowered version of the spell is cast. If the die returns a 1, a magic catastrophe occurs (see Magic). This mechanic represents the capricious nature of the Mystery and the vain folly of shaping it to one’s own whims.
GAINING NEW SPELLS
Magic-users gain new spells by leveling up and choosing the Gain a New Spell signature. Wizards are assumed to be constantly tinkering with an abstract collection of minor magic items and components, always working on their next spell. Choosing this signature represents having a eureka! moment and finishing the project they have been working on.
Wizards can also assimilate artifacts into their kit and transform them into spells. The effects of a successfully assimilated spell, and what it takes to assimilate it, should be determined by the Interpreter and the magic-using character in collaboration. Needless to say, the effect should be related to the effect of the artifact.
EQUIPMENT & ENCUMBRANCE
The items a character carries fall into one of two categories: on-hand or stored.
On-hand items are items that are either literally carried in a character’s hands or are carried in such a way that they can be retrieved in an instant, such as a sheathed sword or a set of dice in a vest pocket. Any item in a pocket, on a belt, in a sheath or holster, or in a character’s hands is on-hand.
A character can have as many on-hand items as their kit would reasonably allow. That is, procuring an extra sheathe allows a character to have an extra sword on-hand, and a character that wears a coat with many pockets can have more small items on-hand than can a naked warrior.
Players should be prepared to justify their on-hand items to the Interpreter if queried about their placement—a knife may be tucked into a belt, but a battle-axe may not.
Stored items are items that are not so easily retrieved, such as anything carried in or strapped to a backpack, as well as the character’s armor. These items take an action to retrieve if play is occurring in violence turns.
Naturally, characters can have items in their kit that are not on their person, such as a horse or any items stored on said horse. In this example, the items contribute to the horse’s capacity but are not taken into account when determining the character’s encumbrance.
Items have an encumbrance value (EV) that represents their weight, size, and unwieldiness. Large objects tend to have high EVs, but even small objects can have high EVs if they are heavy enough. Some very small and light items have an EV of zero.
Characters can comfortably carry items with a total EV equal to their capacity, which is given by the number of sides of their CON die.
There are three levels of encumbrance: unencumbered, encumbered, and over-encumbered.
Unencumbered characters suffer no penalties and move faster when traveling (see Exploration).
Characters will likely spend most of their time encumbered. A character is encumbered when they are carrying items with a total EV greater than their capacity. Characters carrying backpacks full of adventuring supplies are likely to be encumbered. Being encumbered affects traveling speed. It also imposes disadvantage on any checks involving speedy or graceful movement or strenuous action, including combat, running, climbing, and other such things. It does not take an action to shed a backpack before a fight.
Characters become over-encumbered when they are carrying items with a total EV in excess of twice their capacity. In addition to the penalties imposed by encumbrance, over-encumbered characters must succeed on a CON or relevant skill check each major turn or minor turn or else suffer D4 damage due to strain and fatigue.
Properties are fictional descriptors that give information about an item and what it can do. Similar to skills, a property can be anything. Although they are freeform, they can be very important in determining how a situation will play out. A wagon with the property sturdy probably won’t just lose a wheel if it hits a pothole. The Interpreter may sometimes impose advantage or disadvantage on certain rolls or adjust target numbers as a result of an item’s properties.
Artifacts are items of immense power created either by the Outsiders themselves or by their chosen craftspeople under their instruction and supervision. Some say that the most brilliant and reclusive wizards are yet able to create magic items even in our degenerate Age of Abandonment. Highly complicated and mysterious, artifacts are powered by the mystical, radiant power of the Outsiders known to the people of Icosa as the Mystery, or simply, magic.
Many artifacts have a charge, which describes how many times they can be used. Some artifacts have the property self-charging—for these artifacts, the number given by their charge indicates how many times they can be used per day. Depleted artifacts without the self-charging property must be recharged through the use of magic or by somehow draining the charge from another artifact or arcane power source.
Artifacts that do not have an obvious use or interface should be identified before use, because there is a chance that something bad will happen otherwise. When a character attempts to use an unidentified magic item, they roll a D4. On a result of 1, a magic catastrophe occurs (see Magic); on a 4, it actually works as intended; otherwise, the character has failed to discern the mechanism of the object and nothing happens.
Those wise in the ways of the Mystery are capable of identifying magic items so that they can be used without (undue) hazard. Characters can spend a major turn studying an artifact. When they do so, they make a check with some skill related to the Mystery. On a success, they identify it. On a failure, the problem requires further study. On a 1, a magic catastrophe occurs as a result of the character’s experimentations. The Interpreter may rule that certain artifacts require multiple successes in order to be identified.
Even when an artifact is identified, it is still incredibly dangerous. Every time a character uses an artifact, they roll a D20. On a 20, something good happens—the Interpreter will decide what. On a 1, a magic catastrophe occurs.
Certain pieces of protective gear have a quality called, appropriately, armor. A character’s armor value (AV) is equal to the combined armor of all the gear they are currently using. When a character wearing armor is physically damaged, the damage they take is reduced by an amount equal to their AV. Any extra damage not absorbed by the armor is applied to the character’s Life.
Protective gear is classified as either head armor, body armor, arm armor, or leg armor—characters can wear one of each kind at a time.
Blessed armor provides an additional value called magic armor value (MAV). This number functions exactly the same as armor value except that it applies only to damage taken from magic. Magic damage with the property ignores armor does not ignore blessed armor.
Psychic armor provides an additional value called psychic armor value (PAV). This number functions exactly the same as normal armor except that it applies only to damage taken from mental attacks and Psyche magic. Psychological and Psyche magic damage with the property ignores armor does not ignore psychic armor.
Some ranged weapons have a capacity, which determines how much ammunition they can hold at a time. When they are empty, they must be reloaded, which consumes an action.
Ignores Armor / Armor Piercing
Weapons that ignore armor apply damage directly to a target’s Life, bypassing their armor value (AV). Armor-piercing (AP) weapons ignore a certain amount of their target’s AV. For instance, a weapon with the property armor-piercing 4 ignores 4 points of AV—that is, the weapon treats a foe with AV 5 as if they had an AV of 1.
These weapons make a loud sound when used. They will typically alert nearby enemies. When fired in an enclosed space, such as in a dungeon, anyone near may be subject to D4 damage, avoidable with an ATN check. Taking certain precautions, such as sticking wax in one’s ears, can negate this effect.
Rate of Fire
Some weapons, such as automatic firearms, have a rate of fire (RoF) property. These extremely powerful weapons allow the user to attempt to shoot multiple times per action. For instance, a weapon with a RoF of 3 allows its user to make 3 ranged attacks in a single action. These may all be directed at the same target or at different targets, but they must all be made at once; that is, one cannot shoot, move, and shoot two more times.
A character with a RoF weapon can also engage in suppressive fire. This is done by expending at least 3 ammunition and rolling a relevant skill. If successful, the character applies disadvantage to a group of foes in a near area of effect for their next action. Characters may expend 5 ammunition to make this roll with advantage.
Weapons with this property can always attack first against a hostile creature moving into range. They can also attack through the front line of the party if the attacker is stuck behind their allies, for instance, in a narrow corridor.
Weapons with this property can be used in a targeted attack against an armored opponent to attack a chink in their armor. The attack roll is made at disadvantage, but if successful, treats the target as unarmored for the purpose of calculating damage.
Weapons with the versatile property can be wielded in one or two hands. Wielding a weapon with one hand leaves a hand free to hold a shield, cast a spell, or do something else. Wielding a weapon with two hands grants an additional D4 damage die to account for the greater degree of control and force made possible by two hands.
For short periods, such as in encounters, creatures and riders can move significantly faster than most characters on foot; for travel purposes, mounted characters move only slightly faster than those on foot, as mounts are presumed to be walking most of the time and stopping for breaks.
Vehicles consume fuel and have Life. Fuel is represented by efficiency (E). A vehicle’s E is how many miles it can travel on a single unit of fuel.
To determine how many units of fuel to mark off, divide the miles traveled by the vehicle’s E. Always round up when marking off fuel. At the Interpreter’s discretion, vehicles may not consume fuel when used only briefly—such as for a quick drive around town. However, if the vehicle is very low on fuel, it may run out as the result of a failed die roll.
When vehicles spend a turn traveling faster than their comfortable traveling speed, they consume 50% more fuel.
Wagons, Barges, etc.
These modes of transportation are tools that allow the characters to carry things beyond what they or their beasts of burden could tote alone. Not true vehicles, these modes of transportation do not have Life. Rather, their integrity is an aspect of the fiction, able to be manipulated by the Interpreter as a result of world events and failed die rolls.
All modes of transportation have a speed. The speed is equal to how many miles the conveyance can travel in a turn. In chases, a vehicle with a speed that is at least 50% greater than that of its opponent makes checks to catch it at advantage. If the speed is 100% greater or more, no check is required.
Transports have a capacity that determines the maximum EV they can carry.
Backpacks, Belts, Sheaths & Holsters
These items allow characters to carry more items than they otherwise could. Sheaths and holsters allow characters to have more weapons on-hand, rather than stored, without having to actually carry them in their hands. Some small weapons can be kept in pockets or tucked into belts, but an adventurer will have a difficult time doing so with a longsword. Each is made for a particular sort of weapon.
Ammunition belts allow characters to carry large amounts of ammunition on-hand that would be difficult to justify otherwise (quivers do the same for arrows).
Potion belts and tool belts allow characters to carry extra potions and tools on-hand.
If a character has a book relevant to a problem and they have time to flip through its pages, they can make a related roll at advantage. Books can also be used to train skills.
This category includes narcotics, hallucinogens, and medicines. All drugs have their own special effects. Some drugs are addictive. When using a drug, a character checks their ATN against the standard target of 4. If they fail, they become addicted. When a character goes a day without a drug to which they are addicted, they must roll ATN. If they fail, they suffer disadvantage to all rolls until they get their fix. Recovering from addiction takes time, effort, and support.
In many games, light sources have a finite amount of time they can burn before they run out of fuel. In this game, light sources last until they are lost, extinguished, or consumed by the narrative effects of a player’s actions or as the negative consequence of a failed roll. The ever-present threat of becoming stranded in the darkness is another tool in the Interpreter's kit to raise the stakes and heighten tension when rolls fail.
how to play
RUNNING THE GAME
TURN BACK, RUINER!
The information contained here is meant only for the eyes of the Interpreter.
how to play
RUNNING THE GAME
Almost all of the information needed to run the game is accessible to the players. The information in this section concerns the secrets that the Interpreter must keep from the players, at least at first, to achieve the authentic Icosa experience.
THE DEEP LORE
The full version of the Icosa RPG contains a wealth of knowledge on the true nature of the world, its history, its cosmology, and the Outsiders. This site does not.
As the Interpreter, to begin playing the game, it is only necessary to know the following truths.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MAGIC
THE GODS ARE ALIENS
THE CURSE AND "MAGIC" ARE ONE AND THE SAME
The Curse is the name that the people of Icosa give to the radiation that emanates from the hyper-advanced technology of the Outsiders (although they do not know it as such). Those afflicted by the Curse—that is, the Accursed—are creatures who have had their genetic makeup warped and their evolution dynamized by its strange, radioactive power.
Characters are typically exposed to the Curse as a result of the effects of spells and artifacts or exposure to artifacts and Accursed places.
Recall that characters must roll a D20 whenever they use an artifact; a roll of 1 indicates a Magic Catastrophe and a roll of 20 indicates that something unexpected and beneficial occurs—you decide what that is.
Recall also that on the first major turn of each day, all characters must make a CON check to resist the effects of the Curse. The target of this check is usually 2 rather than the standard target of 4. That is, any roll higher than a 1 succeeds. However, the check is modified by the following factors:
-1 per artifact carried
-1 if in an especially Accursed location
-1 per level of experience if character is a magic-user
-1 if character spent the day in proximity to an Irthmade (-1 per Irthmade)
+1 if character is wearing blessed armor (armor with MAV)
+1 if a character is wearing a significant amount of any heavy metal
+1 if the character typically covers their whole body from head to toe
You are also entitled to call for a check to resist the Curse at any time that it makes sense to you, such as whenever the characters enter an extremely Accursed location, like a chthonic ruin.
THE CURSE EFFECTS TABLE
|1||Develop an Aspect of the Curse||Treat as a result of 2|
|2||Internal Bleeding; character takes D10 damage and begins bleeding from nose, ears, mouth, even eyes; lasts D4 days||Major Structural or Component Damage; D10 damage|
|3–4||Severe Burns or Sloughing of Skin; D8 damage; leaves scars that may result in disadvantage to social checks until sufficiently healed||Internal Components Partially Melted; D8 damage|
|5–6||Debilitating Nausea; D6 damage; character experiences bouts of vomiting for D4 days, possibly vomiting blood; disadvantage to physical rolls for the duration||Wires Fused; D6 damage|
|7–9||Serious Weakness, Pain, and Disorientation; D4 damage; may be accompanied by a minor effect, such as temporary hair loss||Sensitive Instruments Disrupted; D4 damage|
|10+||Mild Weakness, Disorientation, and Confusion; roll with disadvantage for the rest of the day||Likewise|
THE POWERS OF THE INTERPRETER
When the polyhedrons are rolled, it is your responsibility to interpret them justly and logically. There are not rules for every possible situation, and when no rule prescribes the outcome of a die roll, you must decide what happens. When the dice indicate success, the procedure is simple—the character achieves what they wanted. Describe it with a dramatic flourish and push the action forward.
When a character fails a roll, you must determine exactly what occurs by taking into account all aspects of the present scenario. It is up to you whether failing to climb a wall means that the character was unable to find purchase or that they fell when they were halfway up, taking damage. In general terms, a failed roll allows you to use one of your Powers. The Powers are designed to keep the action moving forward. Rather than simply resulting in a failure to perform the intended action, every time a roll is failed, the tension should heighten or the character’s situation should become worse.
The Interpreter has three basic Powers, each with a wide variety of applications. The Interpreter’s Powers are as follows:
1. Heighten Tension
2. Deplete Resources
3. Offer a Choice
Heighten Tension can be interpreted in many ways. While heightening tension does not immediately harm the characters, it can create situations which are much worse. Heighten Tension can be considered the "set-up" Power.
One surefire way to heighten the tension is to introduce more enemies. Treachery is also an excellent way to heighten tension. Betrayal or desertion by allies and henchmen can be a devastating blow.
Changing the environment can be a powerful means of heightening the tension. The weather may suddenly turn violent. A wall could begin collapsing. A rope bridge might snap. Changing the environment can turn a static battle into a dynamic and lively scene in which characters must constantly react to the dangerous, living world around them.
Ruiners live and die by their kits. Running out of torches deep in a dark ruin can spell death. Running out of food or fuel in the middle of a desert is equally deadly. Robbing the characters of an artifact or an exotic item is very harsh, but sometimes warranted. This crushing application of Deplete Resources should be used judiciously, as a punishment for grievous failures or when the danger to the item had already been established, such as through the Heighten Tension Power. Deplete Resources can be considered the "execution" Power.
Dealing damage to characters falls under this Power. Remember that Life is a resource like any other, an abstract measure of a character’s overall vitality and willpower, so damage can be used to represent fatigue from things like hunger, thirst, and exposure.
Damage from miscellaneous sources can be judged via the ranks of dice. The D4 can represent minor damage from cuts and bruises, inclement weather, and minor illnesses, and the D12 can represent major damage from explosions, falling rocks, and body-ravaging diseases.
Non-player characters, such as mounts and henchmen, can be outright killed by this Power. The sad truth is that the party’s allies are essentially resources, and they are pawns for the Interpreter to manipulate.
OFFER A CHOICE
This Power allows the Interpreter to place a character in a situation where they must make a difficult choice between two possible outcomes. Perhaps the character must choose to save their trusty henchman or their artifact sword. Perhaps they are told that forcing their way through the magic field will result in D8 Curse damage and a roll on the Curse Effects table. This Power places the ball in the player’s court and allows them to choose how the story will play out.
The most important tool of an Interpreter is an active, vivid, and improvisatory imagination. You may prepare as much or as little for your players as you like, but rest assured, they will always do things you don’t expect. You will always be forced to invent things on the fly—answers to strange questions, names for creatures, even creatures in their entirety. That’s okay—all that matters is that you adhere to the core mechanic, the Interpreter Powers, and the spirit of the setting.
The Interpreter should encourage players to take risks and play creatively. “Yes, and” and “No, but” should be ever in your vocabulary. A large part of your job is to keep the action moving forward—this is why the Interpreter’s Powers revolve around changing the scenario. Within reason, be amenable to player requests. Let them make weird plans and try to execute them. Let them invent pieces of lore if they don’t conflict with your canon. If a player asks if there is a chandelier in the banquet hall of the airship, say yes—chances are, they are planning to do something cool with it.
THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS
Be detail-oriented. Give your characters things in the environment to interact with, little items to take along, hints about the secrets of the adventure. Give characters unique personalities and quirks. Describe each enemy distinctly—not only does that make the game feel more real, it also makes combat easier to understand; “the fifth Smyrian” is not as clear as “the Smyrian with part of its skull growing out through its head.” The so-called Theater of the Mind can be hard to keep track of, especially when the Interpreter doesn’t describe the scene in sufficient detail. Quite often, encounters take place in an “endless white room” in the players’ minds. The more detail you can supply about the situation, the more immersive it will be, and the more the players can utilize the environment to do interesting things.
By the same token, you must be clear about the danger involved in a scenario. Players should have a reasonable idea of the risk they are taking on before they attempt an action. If you are explicit regarding consequences, you have more freedom to disregard the mechanics, which is good. The mechanics are only there for when common sense fails. If you warn a player that a fall from too high up on that wall might result in a broken bone, then when they fall, you can break their leg. One of the best moves to make as an Interpreter is to Offer a Choice to the players at some cost or risk. It establishes an option and a consequence—no uncertainty means no dice.
KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS
As the Interpreter, you should be an expert on the player-characters. It is good practice to keep your own copy of each character sheet so that you can quickly reference their kits, skills, and abilities. Placing characters in situations where they can creatively use their abilities is the heart of an interesting and satisfying game. It is also of the utmost importance to be aware of the artifacts a character possesses for the purposes of adjudicating the effects of the Curse.
FOOLS AND THEIR MONEY
The Interpreter is also responsible for the solemn duty of separating characters from their money. Determining how much treasure the characters should acquire, and how quickly, is a personal matter; it depends on what kind of game your group wants to play. Some groups prefer to live lavishly, spending freely and living the high life in between expeditions. Other groups enjoy the struggle of making barely enough money to stay afloat. In general, most ruiners are motivated by a lack of any other prospect—who would take up this life if they didn’t have to? These fellows live from expedition to expedition, living as well as they dare until the money runs out and they are forced out into the wilds once more. Only the most deranged ruiners adventure for the fun of it, risking life and limb at every turn. Whatever the case, it is important to manage the outflow of treasure as well as the inflow. If the characters have nothing to spend money on, they will begin to question the point of their dangerous lifestyle. There should always be a carrot at the end of the stick—an aileron is selling his plane for a king’s ransom; a shopkeep is auctioning an artifact sword; a sorcerer has agreed to transfer the mind of the party’s dead dog into an Irthmade body for an exorbitant sum. Of course, characters must also pay for goods and accommodations, such as food, ammunition, and shelter. Beyond this, send thieves their way—they are, after all, obvious targets.
The items listed here are to be understood as archetypes; a short-sword could be a gladius, a kukri, or a wakizashi. Furthermore, the prices are averages—the costs of goods varies wildly across regions according to culture and availability.
|Short sword||2D4||close, sometimes thrust||1||95|
|Longsword||2D4||close, sometimes thrust, versatile||2||285|
|Greatsword||2D6||close, 2-handed, AP 1||3||380|
|Hand axe||D6||close, AP 2||1||12|
|Battle-axe||D12||close, 2-handed, AP 4||4||390|
|Mace/Club||D6||close, AP 4||2||80|
|Warhammer||D10||close, versatile, AP 7||2||245|
|Quarterstaff||D6||close, 2-handed, AP 1||2||12|
|Spear/Pike||2D4||close, thrust, reach, versatile, AP 2||2||65|
|Halberd/Poleaxe||2D4||close, thrust, reach, versatile, AP 6||4||300|
|Flail||D8||ignores shield, AP 4||2||165|
|Throwing Knife||D4||thrown, disadvantage in melee combat||0||10|
|Javelin||D8||thrown, near, far, disadvantage in melee combat||1||10|
|Sling||D6||near, AP 2||0||5|
|Short bow||D8||near, 2-handed, AP 2||1||35|
|Longbow||D10||near, far, 2-handed, AP 6||2||70|
|Crossbow||2D6||near, far, 2-handed, reload, capacity 1, AP 6||2||95|
|Hand Cannon||D12||close, near, reload, capacity 1, AP 7, loud||1||600|
|Musket||D12||near, far, reload, capacity 1, AP 7, loud||2||700|
|Revolver||D12||near, reload, capacity 6, AP 7, loud||1||925|
|Shotgun||D12 (+D4 if close)||close, near, 2-handed, reload, capacity 2, AP 10, loud||2||985|
|Rifle||2D8||near, far, 2-handed, reload, capacity 7, AP 10, loud||2||1,050|
|SMG||D8||RoF 3, near, 2-handed, reload, capacity 12, AP 8, loud||2||2,095|
|LMG||D12||RoF 2, near, far, 2-handed, reload, capacity 18, AP 10, loud||4||2,955|
|Lead Balls||—||—||1/10 shots||2/shot|
|Revolver rounds||—||—||1/20 shots||15/shot|
|Shotgun shells||—||—||1/10 shots||20/shot|
|Rifle rounds||—||—||1/20 shots||25/shot|
|S/LMG rounds||—||—||1/5 shots||30/shots|
|Scope||—||Fire at targets outside range without disadvantage||0||200|
|Sheath or holster||—||Allows a specific weapon to be carried on-hand||0||20|
|Small Cart||A wooden, two-wheeled cart for carrying supplies or treasure; speed 12, capacity 30||40|
|Large Wagon||A wooden, four-wheeled wagon for carrying supplies or treasure; speed 10, capacity 50||85|
|Mount||An animal trained to be ridden; speed 20, capacity 4 with rider/10 without rider||90|
|Beast of Burden||A hardy animal trained to carry heavy loads; speed 6, capacity 15||55|
|Porter||A fellow willing to carry your supplies for pay; speed 6, capacity 10||2/day|
|Autocarriage||A slow, ponderous iron wagon that moves under its own power; speed 40, capacity 20, Life 20, E 25, 4 seats||6,785|
|Landship||A heavily armored vehicle that crawls on treads. Equipped with a swiveling cannon (3D10 damage, capacity 1); speed 80, capacity 40, Life 20, AV 20, E12, 6 seats, sturdy, ATV||9,855|
|Biplane||A two-seater biplane of wood and fabric; speed 400, capacity 10, Life 20, E 10, 2 seats||10,800|
|Antitoxin||A remedy for common poisons||0||15|
|Backpack||Allows for the storage of items||0||8|
|Bandages||Used to stabilize wounded characters||0||2|
|Blanket||Many potential uses—notably, staying cozy||1||3|
|Candle||A source of light, and a source of wax||0||2|
|Chains (20')||Stronger than rope; conductive||2||10|
|Small Chest||When a sack doesn't cut it||2||13|
|Compass||You know your cardinal directions, right?||0||15|
|Simple Drum||Boom boom boom!||1||12|
|Flask of Oil||Fuel source; can also be thrown—wink||0||4|
|Grapnel||Useful on its own; best combined with rope||1||7|
|Horn/Whistle||For when you need something loud||0||2|
|Ink||Can't write with just a quill||0||3|
|Ladder||Easy to climb; hard to fit in a backpack||3||6|
|Lantern||Torch not fancy enough for you?||1||6|
|Makeup||For disguise, seduction, and feeling good||0||20|
|Manacles||For connecting two things—often wrists||1||5|
|Mirror||For seeing 'round corners and narcissism||1||10|
|Painkillers||+10 temporary Life; addictive||0||25|
|Paper||The applications are uncountable||0||1|
|Pole||Good for poking around||2||1|
|Quill||Not bad for writing||0||1|
|Rope (50')||Climb rope, tie rope, jump rope||1||5|
|Sack/Pouch||Good for carrying or concealing things||0||2|
|Shovel||Could have uses besides digging||1||3|
|Stakes||Hold doors open or shut; affix ropes to stuff||1||1|
|Telescope||Make distant things seem close||1||10|
|Tent||Keeps the rain out||1||5|
|Torch||Often lit on fire||1||1|
|A Day's Rations||Includes a waterskin and a mess kit||1||3|
|Ultimate Sandwich||Just a really good sandwich; advantage to next check||1||3|
|Wine||Advantage on next social check with whoever you share it with; addictive||1||3|
|Smokes (hand-rolled)||Takes the edge off; addictive, 20 uses||0||5|
|Smokes (pre-rolled)||Prized as status symbols; everyone hates you; addictive, 1 use||0||20|
|Greenweed||For your next intellect-based roll, flip a coin; if heads, roll with advantage; if tails, disadvantage||0||5|
|Acid||A small portion of an exotic elixir; effects vary wildly||0||30|
The spells listed in the tabs above should be treated as examples—the potential of magic is nearly limitless, and spellcasters work tirelessly to create new spells by tweaking and combining artifacts in unique ways. Magic-using characters are encouraged to customize these spells by replacing elements of their flavor to fit their character concept—for instance, there is no reason why Proton Pulse cannot be retooled as an Ice Bolt spell. All that is required is to change the name and description and possibly tweak some of the mechanics in collaboration with the Interpreter.
Note that all spells (save glamours) have an empowered form, and some spells are reversible. Reversible spells can be reversed at will by the caster, but empowered spells are only cast as the result of a 20 on the spellcasting D20 roll. Casters with the Empowered signature can cast the empowered versions of spells at will, but doing so exhausts the spell until it is recharged with the rote.
This site includes only the first level spells of each domain. The full version of the game contains many more.
Glamours are minor spells that can be cast as often as the magic-using character desires. They do not require a roll unless they are being used under duress, as in combat. In this case, the caster should treat the glamour as any other spell. To cast it, they roll their strongest spellcasting skill die. Casters start with their choice of three glamours.
Verbal Component: A hissing sound
Effect: Surreptitiously deployed atomic momentum adjustors allow the caster to moderately raise or lower the temperature of an object that they touch, such as a drink, or a small portion of someone’s skin. The caster can raise the temperature to about 120 F or lower it to about 30 F. The effect lasts only an instant, after which the object begins to slowly return to ambient temperature.
Somatic Component: The caster twists their hand as if cranking up a dial
Effect: Sonic resonators pick up the vibrations of the caster’s vocal chords and greatly increase the amplitude of their waveforms, allowing them to speak a sentence in a loud, booming voice that can be heard up to a mile away.
Somatic Component: The caster passes one hand over the other
Effect: Light printers embedded in the caster’s glove allow them to create a convincing tiny, hard-light hologram of a simple object in the palm of their hand. The object is solid to the touch, but dissolves after 10 minutes.
Somatic Component: The caster brushes a hand across their stomach
Effect: A sub-psychic signal is sent to the gustatory cortex of the target’s mind from the cerebral cycler beneath the caster’s robes. For the next hour, the target (or targets—up to 100 characters can be affected) will perceive the flavor of certain objects differently. The caster must decide exactly what objects they wish to “flavor” and what the new flavor will be when they cast the glamour. Objects can be made to taste spoiled, sour, salty, sweet, or delicious. As the effect is hallucinatory, the actual objects are not changed at all. The effect lasts for an hour.
Verbal Component: “Zippo”
Effect: A simple molecular combustor produces a small flame at the tip of a finger or in the palm of the hand. It is an ordinary flame in all respects—it is not especially hot or bright, but it can heat things or set things alight if used like an ordinary lighter.
Verbal Component: A long, low exhalation
Effect: An ancient Hand-Maid suite installed in the caster’s gauntlet allows them to clean, polish, soil, or tarnish an object no greater than the size of a blanket through the removal or addition of grime at a molecular level.
Somatic Component: The caster makes a flamboyant gesture
Effect: Using a miniature, hidden pyrotechnics tool, the caster creates a small theatrical effect, such as a small puff of smoke or a shimmering light. The caster chooses their single, signature effect when they take the glamour. Even in the Age of Abandonment, this is considered a fascinating parlor trick at most.
Somatic Component: The caster mimes the action of sewing
Effect: Invoking a Hand-Maid suite installed in the caster’s gauntlet, the caster mends very minor damage to a small, mundane object, such as a threadbare shirt or a ripped tent.
Somatic Component: “Richter”
Effect: Low-powered seismic oscillators in the caster’s shoes cause the ground to shake slightly and harmlessly in a nearby area for a moment or two. May cause windows to rattle and lights to flicker. Good for spooking simple folk.
Verbal Component: A sharp scratching sound, like a quill on parchment
Effect: Through the use of a tool that was once commonplace in the Age of Attendance, a nanoScribe, the caster can cause writing or a mark or symbol to appear on an object.
Annihilation is the domain concerned with the destruction of matter—including lifeforms. These spells are characterized by raw destructive potential and killing power. While this is not the only domain that can deal damage, it is the most specialized for the task.
LEVEL 1 ANNIHILATION SPELLS
Somatic Component: The caster thrusts their elbow toward the ground to "load" the spell, then points at the target
Effect: Electron energizers embedded in the caster’s gloves fire a bright, highly-charged particle through the air at incredible speed with unfailing accuracy. Each projectile does D4 damage (ignores armor). They never miss. At levels 3, 5, 7, and 9, gain the ability to fire an additional particle. They can be directed toward the same target or different targets.
Empowered (Proton Salvo): Fire double the number of particles.
Somatic Component: The caster reaches into the air to “grab” the bolt and hurls it forward
Effect: Using a host of electron energizers wired in series, the caster summons a single, crackling bolt of hard-light from the ether and hurls it toward a foe. The lance does D8 damage and ignores armor. The target is allowed a CON check (or relevant skill check) to avoid the brunt of the spell and take half damage.
Empowered (Heavy Laser Lance): The lance does D12 damage and ignores armor.
Somatic Component: The caster thrusts an arm toward their opponent
Effect: Pressure punchers send a violent shockwave toward the target, knocking them backward. The shockwave deals D4 damage and the target must succeed on a CON check (or relevant skill check) or else be hurled backward through the air.
Empowered (Mach Wave): The shockwave deals D8 damage and fires in a cone, affecting multiple enemies. Enemies who fail their checks are hurled violently away to a distance of about 15 feet, possibly suffering contextual damage.
RYUICHI'S THOUSAND KNIVES
Verbal and Material Components: A few syllables uttered through a vocoder
Effect: A sacred melody aligns the particles in the air and draws out their latent energy. A number of orbs of light appear above the caster’s shoulders. Each of these orbs begins emitting dozens of inch-long hard-light needles in a cone. This spell affects multiple characters in front of the caster to a range of near. The spell can be maintained as long as the caster concentrates on it. The Knives do D4 damage per violence turn and ignore armor. Each violence turn that the spell is maintained, the damage die increases by one rank to a maximum of D12. Targets are allowed a CON check (or relevant skill check) to avoid the brunt of the spell and take half damage. Those faced with this spell are advised to exit the range of the spell before it is too late.
Empowered (Ryuichi’s Thousand Knives – Remix): The damage die increases by two ranks per combat round that the spell is maintained (to a maximum of D12), and damage rolls are doubled. The damage ignores armor.
Somatic Component: The caster extends both arms straight forward and locks their elbows
Effect: Acid jets on the caster’s wrists fire a highly corrosive substance in a straight line. The target must make a CON check (or relevant skill check) or else a random piece of their armor is destroyed.
Empowered (Advanced Corrosion): If the target fails their check, all of their armor is destroyed.
Verbal Component: A series of ancient, whispered syllables
Effect: The caster removes the lead covering from a ring of powerfully Accursed material on the palm of their glove and grasps their foe. The Curse surges through their body for a brief moment. The enemy must succeed on a CON check against The Curse or else roll on the Curse Effects table. The target opposes this attack just as they would oppose any other melee attack.
Empowered (Wicked Accursed Grasp): The target takes D6 damage (ignores armor) and must make their CON check at disadvantage.
Higher-level Annihilation spells include Molecular Cleaver, Mortal Fog, Void Blast, and Nuke.
The Restoration domain is concerned with returning things to their proper condition. It encompasses the healing of organic tissue, the mending of broken things, and the curing of ailments. In addition to empowered forms, Restoration spells can be reversed, lending a dangerous edge to this domain.
LEVEL 1 RESTORATION SPELLS
HEAL MINOR INJURIES
Somatic Component: Laying hands on the target
Effect:The caster emits generates a field of collagen precursors and granulation matrices over the afflicted area. The caster restores D4 Life to a target.
Empowered (Empowered Heal Minor Injuries): Double the Life restored to the target.
Reverse (Inflict Minor Injuries): The caster deals D4 damage to an organic target (ignores armor). The target can oppose this attack like any melee attack.
Empowered Reverse (Empowered Inflict Minor Injuries): Double the damage dealt to the target.
Somatic Component: Laying hands on the target
Effect: The caster sends a number of ancient and strange elixirs—potassium iodide, Prussian blue, DTPA—into the body of the afflicted. These bind with the Accursed energy within and allow the victim to pass it in their waste. The caster touches an organic character and cures them of any effects of The Curse they are currently experiencing by the end of the day. This spell cannot remove Aspects of The Curse.
Empowered (Greater Cleanse): This spell can reverse an Aspect of the Curse, causing it to vanish within a week.
Reverse (Curse): The caster touches a character and causes them to roll on the Curse Effects table. The target can oppose this attack like any melee attack. The target is granted a CON check against The Curse to avoid this effect. The target is the caster’s spellcasting roll.
Empowered Reverse (Greater Curse): The CON check to avoid the Curse is made at disadvantage, no matter the target’s resistances.
Somatic Component: Mimicking tying a knot
Effect: The caster restores the broken bonds between the parts of an object through the use of an invisible molecular reorganizer ray. The caster fixes a broken simple, mundane item or restores D4 Life to an inorganic character.
Empowered (Greater Mend): Double the Life restored to an inorganic target.
Reverse (Break): Break a simple, mundane item or deal D4 damage to an inorganic character (ignores armor). The target is allowed a CON check against The Curse to resist this effect. The target is the caster’s spellcasting roll.
Empowered Reverse (Greater Break): Double the damage dealt to the inorganic target. CON checks made to resist the spell are made at disadvantage, regardless of the target’s resistances.
Material Component: Distilled water cast into the air
Effect: A shimmering company of nano-urges executes a preservation protocol on the target, eradicating bacteria, disintegrating unwholesome sections, and printing supplemental molecules to replace them. The caster restores spoiled, contaminated, or poisoned food and drink to a fresh and wholesome state. About twenty pounds of food can be affected per casting.
Empowered (Greater Purify): Double the amount of food can be purified.
Reverse (Spoil): The caster spoils up to twenty pounds of food and drink such that any who consume it will become debilitatingly sick for D4 days, suffering disadvantage to all stat and skill rolls and being unable to recover Life through resting.
Empowered Reverse (Greater Spoil): Double the amount of food can be spoiled. Those who consume this food are sick for D8 days.
Higher-level Restoriation spells include Animate Dead, Resurrect, and Create Irthmade, all of which are reversible.
Manipulation is perhaps the most diverse domain of magic, concerned with altering the physical world. Once upon a time, all other domains were sub-disciplines of Manipulation. As they became more specialized, they split apart.
LEVEL 1 MANIPULATION SPELLS
Material Component: A small spark or flame
Effect: Atomic agitators rapidly accelerate the movement of the elements within the targeted metal. When this spell is cast, a metal object of the caster’s choice heats to a malleable temperature, as if in a blacksmith’s forge. Any creature in contact with the object must make a CON check to quickly drop or remove it, otherwise receiving D6 damage in the form of burns if the object is touching bare skin. If the creature is unable or unwilling to remove themselves from the object, they receive D6 damage for each turn they remain in contact with it. The damage may ignore armor under certain circumstances, such as if the item affected is the character’s armor. The spell’s duration is 1 violence turn per level of the caster, or until the caster terminates the spell.
Empowered (Bellows): The metal is heated enough to melt it entirely. The damage dealt becomes D8, and certain items, like armor, will melt into the body of the creature wearing it. They will be unable to remove it and suffer damage for the duration of the spell.
Material Component: A small sample of the element to be manipulated
Effect: Powerful Aang fields bend to the caster’s will the elements that make up the chosen substance. This spell allows the caster to manipulate a certain amount of a chosen substance—water, air, soil, metal, etc. The substance must be chosen when the caster first learns the spell. The spell can be taken multiple times to gain the ability to manipulate other substances. The caster can change its shape and density and move it telekinetically. They can only move it a near distance away, and they can only move it at the speed at which they could carry it. For each level of the caster, they can move 1 cubic meter of the substance.
Empowered (True Bending): The caster can move twice as much of the substance as normal, and they can move it through the air at roughly 60 miles per hour.
Material Component: A small spark or flame or a piece of cold metal
Range: Self / Touch
Effect: A thin film of advanced caloric regulation material swiftly coats the caster’s skin. The caster or their chosen target becomes immune to all but the hottest and coldest temperatures. For exceptionally severe temperatures, the recipient of the effect of the spell may make a CON roll at advantage to take no damage from the effects. On a failure, they take half damage. The caster can affect a number of targets equal to the caster’s level. The effect lasts for a major turn per level of the caster.
Empowered (Impervious): The recipients of the spell’s affects are rendered completely immune to all temperature extremes.
Somatic Component: Mimicking the turning of a key
Effect: Probing mechanism defeaters invade the lock and expand to fit its unique construction. This spell causes any mundanely locked threshold barrier (doors, gates, chests) to unlock, and if the caster wishes, open. To unlock a magical lock, the spellcasting roll must surpass the level of the caster or the result of the spellcasting roll that effected the magical lock.
Empowered (Breach): This spell explosively blows apart any door or chest that stands in its way.
Reverse (Lock): This spell magically locks any existing lock. The lock can only be bypassed by dispelling the magic or breaking the locked object.
Empowered Reverse (Chaste Lock): Checks made to dispel the magical lock or otherwise bypass it are made at disadvantage, regardless of the character’s resistances.
Somatic Component: The caster flares their fingers in the direction that the light is to be produced
Effect: A photon emitter in the caster’s gauntlet blazes to life. This spell creates a light roughly equivalent to a lantern that lasts as long as the caster maintains it. It casts light in a near radius. The spell must be attached to something, such as a point on the ground or the caster’s hand.
Empowered (Greater Light): The light can be adjusted at will between the flickering of a match and the blinding luminescence of a floodlight, potentially blinding enemies (CON check vs spellcasting roll).
Reverse (Photon Subtractor): This spell causes supernatural darkness to fall in a near radius, extinguishing light sources and blocking ambient light.
Empowered Reverse (Photon Eliminator): Utter darkness reigns. Nothing can see here, for not a single fragment of the visible spectrum can penetrate the field of darkness. The effect extends to a far radius.
Somatic Component: Thrusting the hands toward the ground
Effect: Concussive mach waves blast forth, creating an equal force in the opposite direction. This spell allows the caster to hurl themselves in any direction up to a far distance away.
Empowered (Flea-leg): The caster can hurl themselves somewhere distant.
Material Component: A small lump of metal
Effect: This spell allows the caster to temporarily increase or decrease the mass of an object by 50%.
Empowered (Greater Alter Mass): The mass can be decreased to nearly nothing or increased by 100%.
Somatic Component: Thrusting the arm forward
Effect: The caster can telekinetically apply a push to an object as strong as if they had pushed it themselves. The force is strong enough to knock a human target off their feet if they fail a CON or relevant skill roll.
Empowered (Force Push): The force can be much powerful—for example, pushing a human target somewhere near.
Material Component: A strand of red thread
Effect: The caster establishes a recall point at the position at which they are currently standing. When the spell is activated, which can be done at any time and does not require an action, they instantly return to the point.
Empowered (Total Recall): The recall point remains after the spell is activated, and the caster can recall to it as many times as they wish.
Higher-level Manipulation spells include Confusion Matrix, Kate's Cloudbust, and Time Stop.
Knowledge is the domain concerned with acquiring information not accessible by mortal senses. Since the dawn of the Age of Abandonment, clerics of the Last Church and heathen wizards alike have petitioned the Outsiders for wisdom by rolling the sacred polyhedrons and interpreting their results.
LEVEL 1 KNOWLEDGE SPELLS
Somatic Component: The caster passes their hand over their eyes, closing them, then reopens them
Effect: Ancient Rosetta processors analyze the text and cross-reference it with an exhaustive database of all known languages from Icosa and beyond. The caster gains the ability to read and understand any single text or auditory message, regardless of language.
Empowered (Close Reading): The caster gains additional insight into the person who wrote it, the conditions under which it was written, the time period in which it was written, etc.
Material Component: A salt crystal, crushed in the hand and then scattered
Effect: The caster places a drop of the substance into a chemical analysis philter. The caster immediately knows whether or not an object or substance contains contaminants, disease-causing bacteria, poison, or any other harmful element.
Empowered (Retrace): Also reveal the exact nature of the contaminant and a hint about how it came to be there.
Material and Somatic Components: A set of dice, rolled
Effect: The caster attunes their polyhedrons to the failing signals of the distant Outsiders and casts them across the ground. The caster may ask the Interpreter whether a specific action taken by the group in the immediate future—say, five minutes—will be to the group’s advantage or disadvantage, generally speaking.
Empowered (Oracle): The Interpreter will also tell the caster why the action might be advantageous or disadvantageous.
Higher-level Knowledge spells include Speak with Dead, Scry, Pathfind, and Eye of Icosatron.
Psyche magic is considered by many to be the most heinous of all domains of magic—even more so than Annihilation. A person’s mind is everything they are, the sum of their experiences, quirks, personalities. To rob someone of control of their mind is a terrible crime. But for some, the ends justify the means.
LEVEL 1 PSYCHE SPELLS
Verbal Component: Words of encouragement (or discouragement)
Effect: The caster stimulates the target’s mind, causing endorphins and adrenaline to course through their body in unnatural levels. This spell grants the caster or their target advantage on their next roll.
Empowered (Inspiration): The target gains advantage on their next three rolls.
Reverse (Psyche Out): The target suffers disadvantage on their next roll. The target can make an ATN check (or relevant skill check) against the caster’s spellcasting roll to resist this effect. This roll is not made at disadvantage.
Empowered Reverse (Desperation): The target suffers disadvantage on their next three rolls. ATN checks against this spell are made at disadvantage, regardless of the target’s resistances.
Somatic Component: The caster blinks three times in quick succession
Effect: The caster emits synthetic superstimulating pheromones that invade the target’s mind, weaken their barriers, and disrupt their judgement. The target of this spell will treat with the caster as if they were a trusted acquaintance. The target is allowed an ATN check (or a check with a relevant skill) to resist the effects; the target is the caster’s spellcasting roll. On a success, there is no effect. Certain creatures may be aware that a mental infiltration was attempted on a successful ATN roll.
Empowered (Ingratiate): The target treats the caster as a close friend for whom they would go far out of their way to help.
Material Component: A refracting lens
Effect: The caster places a remote nanoclamp on the target’s optical nerve, introducing a single instance of fabricated visual information every one thousandth of a second. This spell causes the caster to appear blurry in the vision of a chosen target, shifting rapidly from side to side. This effectively causes the target to be at disadvantage to hit the caster. The effect lasts for a number of violence turns equal to the caster’s level, or 1 minor turn per 3 levels.
Empowered (Mass Blur): The caster can target D4 creatures per level of the caster.
Somatic Component: The caster performs the gesture
Effect: The caster overstimulates the target’s empathetic response system, causing them to subconsciously mimic the caster’s actions. The caster psychically causes a target to perform a minor gesture, such as nodding or shaking the head, smiling, winking, or giving a thumbs up. This does not affect anything about the target’s mental state beyond causing them to perform the gesture, although they are not immediately aware that they have performed the gesture unless they are made aware by its consequences. On a successful ATN check (or relevant skill check) against the caster’s spellcasting roll, they do not perform the gesture.
Empowered (Ventriloquism): The target can be influenced to speak a short sentence of the caster’s choice.
Somatic Component: The caster places a cupped hand near their lips
Effect: The caster stores auditory information in a infra-dimensional capacitor and beams it to the target’s auditory cortex. The caster transmits a short message directly to the mind of a target they can see. The target may mentally respond with a short sentence immediately after receiving the message if they wish, but a moment afterwards, the connection is severed.
Empowered (Broadcast): The caster can transmit the message to as many targets as they choose within eyesight.
Material Component: A gemstone of any kind
Effect: The caster infiltrates the target’s mind with a microscopic swarm of intelligent nanobots that strategically activates certain parts of the brain to elicit counterfeit sensory experiences. The caster can create a simple illusion. The illusion can only affect one sense, which the caster must choose at the time of casting. For instance, they may create an illusion of the image of a guitar, but the guitar cannot make sound. The illusion cannot be anything extremely complex (although complexity can be faked, as in the case of a pocket-watch with no internal gears) or anything larger than a person. The illusion lasts for a number of minutes equal to the caster’s level. Any observer who suspects that the effect may be an illusion is allowed an ATN check (or a check with a relevant skill); the target is the caster’s spellcasting roll. On a success, they determine that the effect is not real.
Empowered (Greater Illusion): The illusion can affect two senses.
Somatic Component: The caster reaches toward the target and clenches their fist as if gripping it
Effect: The caster delivers an overwhelming flood of meaningless inputs to the target’s cerebellum, rendering it unable to execute its function of controlling the body’s movement. This spell causes a person to be unable to move, as if held in place. The spell lasts as long as the caster wills it to. The target can make an ATN check (or a check with a relevant skill) to resist this effect, and can make a check each subsequent violence turn or minor turn to escape; the target is the caster’s spellcasting roll.
Empowered (Trawl): The caster can Hold a number of targets equal to their level
Material Component: A scrap of wool
Range: Within Hearing
Effect: By means of an axon stint, the caster intercepts recalled memories before they can be consciously processed and covered with deception. The caster can detect whether or not a statement just uttered was a lie.
Empowered (Inquisit): The caster learns the truth, in detail.
Reverse (Undetectable Lie): The caster’s next statement seems true beyond the shadow of a doubt. It is only detectable as a lie through the use of the Detect Lie spell, in which case an opposed check between the spellcasting rolls of the two casters takes place.
Empowered Reverse (Perfect Lie): None of the caster’s lies can be detected by any means for the remainder of the interaction.
Somatic Component: The caster briefly covers their eyes with their hands
Effect: The caster becomes invisible to a specified target for a number of violence turns equal to the caster’s level or a number of minor turns equal to ½ the caster’s level.
Empowered (Mass Selective Blindness): The caster becomes invisible to a number of targets equal to their level + D4.
Higher-level Psyche spells include Jepsen's Emotion, Random Forest, Mind Lance, and Guillotine.
Meta-magic is concerned with manipulating The Mystery itself. It is the most experimental, avant-garde domain, the purview of cutting-edge researches and of the Last Church itself.
LEVEL 1 META-MAGIC SPELLS
Somatic Component: Passing the hand over the eyes, closing them, and opening them again
Effect: The photoanalysis plates embedded in the caster’s eyes are activated and calibrated to detect the characteristic particulate matter of The Mystery. When this spell is cast on an object, area, or character, the caster will be made aware of whether the target is radiating magic of some kind.
Empowered (Arcane Insight): The spell reveals the level of the magic and its domain.
Somatic Component: Creating the shapes of the sacred polyhedrons with one’s fingers in ascending order
Effect: The caster absorbs and condenses background magic from the very air around them and infuses it into depleted artifacts. This spell allows the caster to restore full charge to a number of artifacts or spells equal to their level. The artifacts must be recharged at the same time—any “extra charges” not spent are lost.
Empowered (Supercharge): The recharged artifacts are supercharged—their magic effects are empowered on their next use. Spells have established empowered effects; it will be up to the Interpreter to determine what this means for each individual artifact.
Higher-level Meta-magic spells include Counterspell, Ubercast, and Create Artifact.
The Icosa RPG began as a homebrew setting that migrated from system to system over the course of many years of play. No system was perfectly suited to its eccentricates, and gradually, pages upon pages of alterations and added rules accumulated. Eventually, the creators got fed up and decided to make their own system from scratch.
The Icosa RPG is inspired first and foremost by the beauty of the incongruity between fantasy and science-fiction elements when they meet in the same world. Icosa seeks to capture the fun and strangeness of a world that appears, on its surface, to be medieval fantasy but is in fact a far-future post-post-apocalypse.
The Icosa RPG also draws inspiration from the works of Jean Giraud (Moebius), Hayao Miyazaki, Frank Frazetta, John Harris, Jack Vance, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Larry McMurtry, among others, as well as classical and early modern history, theology, philosophy, and the synthwave genre of music.
Besides being a standalone game, the Icosa RPG is for anyone who wants to cannibalize any of its parts for their own game worlds. The basic rules of this game can be used independently of the setting with minor modifications. Likewise, the setting can be imported, in whole or in part, into any system.
THE ROAD AHEAD
The Icosa RPG will be released as a full system and setting book at some point in the future. At the time of this writing, most of the text is done, but there is much to be done in terms of artwork and layout.
The full game will include the core rules, along with further elaboration and more examples than what is presented on this website. Furthermore, it will contain a setting book detailing a fully realized world with over 20 unique regions and plenty of blank space on the map to fill in with your own worldbuilding. It will also be fully illustrated with the work of several talented artists.
After the full version of the game is completed and released, the creators intend to support the game indefinitely by regularly releasing adventure modules that will take players to the most dangerous and exciting reaches of the world and reveal elements of its cosmic lore.
The eponymous Passerine is an author, editor, artist, and birdwatcher living somewhere in the Middle West of the United States. The art and text on this site, with all their imperfections, are the work of Passerine.
However, the work of Studio Passerine comprises contributions from a number of talented artists, writers, and thinkers, including Samuel Butler, Balo Scott, Jeremiah Scott, John Bouman, Emily Sloan, Hayden Knisley, Jake Schmidt, Nicklas Wright, Colin Pietron, and Soleil Smith. Each of these individuals has contributed immeasurably, either through artwork, ideas, or playtesting.
HOW TO SUPPORT
To support the ongoing development of this game, spread the word and consider supporting on Patreon. We are deeply thankful to our patrons for supporting the project along the way; all patrons will be acknowledged in the final version of the game.