Flexible Reaction Rolls

Reaction rolls are one of my very favorite set of rules. They're quick, easy, and help me to come up with more interesting stuff than I might on my own. I use them as a general purpose social sub-system, though not nearly to the same extent as Courtney Campbell in his excellent On the Non-Player Character. Instead, I use them more as an oracle when I'm unsure of how the NPCs would react. With Fellhold being an urban game, social interaction is even more of a big deal than I like for it to be in dungeon or wilderness games, so I've been thinking about them a lot recently.

It was while trying to figure out how best to track PC's reputations with different factions that I hit on the core idea below: the PC(s) and the NPC(s) each "bring" a die to the roll. A couple years back, Logan Knight suggested I move reaction rolls up and down die steps (so, say, 2d4, 1d4+1d6, 2d6, 1d6+1d8, and so forth). Then the other week I read Mateo Diaz's post, which introduced me to the idea of having different sources for the two dice. What you see below is what I came up with based on all that. As always, let me know anything that doesn't work or could be better.

Underground Scene by Eric Koch

Reaction Rolls
Reaction rolls are hugely useful for an urban game, given the high number of social interactions. 

Context is very important for reaction rolls in Fellhold, and you will need to use some judgement in interpreting rolls. Guests at a dinner party are much less likely to attack on sight than a wild troll in a dungeon. The table below gives some guidance for common situations.
2 or less
Worst Possible
Pretty Bad
Willing to Deal
Pretty Good
Best Friends!
Best Possible

Two-Sided Reaction Rolls
All reaction rolls are made with two dice - d6s by default. Each side brings one die to the roll. The die for the player character(s) will be based on their demeanor and approach, while the die for the NPC(s) will be based on their disposition and prejudices, including how they feel about the factions the PCs belong to. Adjust the roll using the spokesman’s CHA modifier.

The game master determines both die sizes, but the PC die should be based on what steps the PCs are or aren’t taking to make a certain sort of impression - acting threatening or friendly? Somewhere they belong or not? Well dressed or filthy? Asking clarifying questions is a good idea here.

Die Steps for Reaction Dice
For both sides of the reaction roll, dice can step up or down from a d4 (the worst) to d12 (the best). 

The NPC’s die size is up to the game master’s discretion, but some common situations are covered below.
From a hostile faction: down one step
From a friendly faction: up one step
From a faction you belong to: up two steps
In hostile turf: down one step
On friendly turf: up one step

Multiple Reaction Rolls
Reaction rolls are helpful any time you need to gauge how an NPC feels about something, not just when first meeting the PCs, so some interactions will have multiple rolls. In such interactions, you may adjust one or both of the dice depending on how the encounter is going.

Example: the PCs meet a group of Pickers deep underground, you initially roll 2d6 because neither group is doing anything particularly helpful or harming and you get a 7. The Pickers begin speaking with the PC group, who try to overawe them with talk of how fierce they are. Pickers aren’t much impressed by this kind of thing, so when the PCs demand the Pickers hand over 50% of what they’ve found so far, you adjust the PC die down to a d4 and roll to see what they think of the offer, getting a 10, amazingly. The Pickers Laugh and say no way, but they like the stones on these guys. For further interaction, you bump it back up to 2d6. 

Player Character Races in Fellhold

I've put together an eclectic set of PC races for my Fellhold setting, but I'm pretty happy with them. I've tried to follow Arnold's advice to avoid passive modifiers that lead to builds, but man, after decades of that being the way races get distinguished, it's hard to get around.  Let me know what you think, and especially if you see anything that doesn't quite work. All art by the awesome Eric Koch.

  • Crabmen were inspired by Yoon-Suin, but I've taken them in a very different direction. Artsy-fartsy merchants and intelligentsia
  • Fiends are like the Kami in Princess Monoke, but they want your soul. 
  • Half Dwarves are the descendants of humans and dwarves interbreeding, and take on traits that you might find associated with dwarves or halflings in other settings. Most of them are bitter about their lost glory and are in the mafia
  • Humans are humans, but in this cosmopolitan city, they're the most adept at getting along with all the strange shit. 
  • Ratmen are basically Skaven, but instead of being riven by internal factionalism and backbiting, they have the strongest mono-culture in town, are matriarchal, and happen to be the best cooks
  • Tieflings have fiend blood. Yes, I need to find a name that isn't WOTC copyright. Everybody thinks they're sexy and clever and untrustworthy, but they mostly roll their eyes at that.
  • I haven't decided whether Draugr (full or partial undead from selling parts of your soul) should be a PC race or something that can just happen to PCs if they sell bits of their souls - right now I'm leaning towards the latter

PC Races in Fellhold

Game Master Note
The races presented below are the default for Fellhold. Depending on how you place Fellhold in the world, you may have some changes. You might allow other races not included here or restrict some of these.

Generally speaking, if you want to stress the weirdness of Fellhold, start out with only human PCs and let players choose new races as they’re meaningfully found in play. Crabmen just don’t feel that weird if your buddy sitting next to you is one of them. On the other hand, if you want to stress the cosmopolitan, urban feel of Fellhold, allow all of the races below (or even more) - this will give a feeling that Crabmen are just another sort of folk you’re likely to run into daily. 

General Rules
Each race below includes a brief, general description of the race and its characteristics along with any special boons or banes that come with being a member of that race. Note also that race will be a factor in some other areas of the game not covered here, such as the ability to progress in, or even join, some of the factions of the city, the sorts of stereotypes NPCs will hold about you, and so forth.

Player Character Race Descriptions

Despite their large, hulking appearance and natural armor, crabmen tend towards philosophical and artistic temperaments. They make up a large number of the sages of the city, and of course their enormously wealthy Merchant Houses are known to all. Generally, crabmen are extremely cooperative with members of their own family, especially their own birthing group, and have a hard time helping out or even caring about anyone outside of it. Many crabmen have gotten around this through fairly widespread “adoption” of friends and business partners.

Crabmen’s natural exo-skeleton means that their unarmored AC is 2 better than a human’s. Armor is much harder to make for crabmen, as it is not much in demand by them and must be made larger, so any armor costs 2x the normal cost. Their reactions to anyone not in their “family” will tend towards apathy and ignoring them. Crabmen receive advantage on any rolls related to intellectual or artistic pursuits besides magic (study, crafting, and so forth). Their large size and rigid bodies means that they will have difficulty squeezing into some tight spaces, or in situations that require great flexibility.

Fiends are the warped and wicked results of the godsdeath. They vary greatly in both power and form from minor animalistic sprites of rocks and saplings to mighty humanoid powers worshiped as gods. A player character fiend is far more powerful than many of these minor beings, but is still pretty far down the ladder. Fiends thrive on souls and worship, and most turn all of their doing towards those goals.

Every fiend must have a stead, a place or thing that it is bound to. The fiend cannot move farther away from it than its level in miles (or level in districts, if more useful). Steads can be carried with fiends of the PC’s size and power, but if a  stead is destroyed, the fiend truly dies. If otherwise killed, the fiend will reform at its stead in 1d4 urbancrawl turns (weeks). If a fiend swears an oath or signs a contract, it cannot willingly break that deal (but of course, the word of the deal, not necessarily the spirit). Fiends can also be summoned, compelled, and bound as NPC fiends. Fiends must have a Use Name, Greater Name, and True Name.

Half Dwarves
Half Dwarves are the mixed descendants of the original dwarf settlers of Fellhold and humans. They have become a stable race of their own, but still stubbornly refer to themselves as true dwarves, claiming the inheritance of the Dwarven Great Kingdom as theirs by right. Their society is organized by huge extended families, run by Forefathers and Foremothers, the Fathers and Mothers of member families, and so on. Formerly the masters of trade and craft in the city, their wealth has been surpassed by the Crabmen, and they are eternally bitter for it. 

Half Dwarves are extremely hardy and gain advantage on any and all saves against poison, drugs, or disease and ignore their first pip of exhaustion in a day. Their reactions to crabmen will be generally negative, unless they know the person well and have come to like them. Their small size means both that they can more easily slip into tight spaces, but also that large foes can more easily knock them down, pick them up, or otherwise use brute force.

Humans are both the most numerous race within Fellhold and the least represented in its most powerful groups, unless you include the undead Witch Kings as still being “human”.  Descended from every culture ever conquered by the Dwarves or the Witch Kings, humans are a varied lot made up of many groups, each with their own distinct look, belief, and way of living. 

Humans by need have come to understand and live with wildly different groups of people of every race, and so reaction rolls with new or otherwise unknown people will always be one step higher when dealing with a human. Humans are also a remarkably stubborn race, and so may re-roll one failed saving throw to avoid death once per day.

Ratmen are one of the most insular races, living as one unified clan under the rule of their Queen and their Fiend God. Despite being seen as sneaky and not to be trusted by most other races, they are also regarded as the finest cooks in all of Fellhold, and most people don’t believe the rumors that they don’t care too much what or who goes into the cookpot. 

Unless a player chooses otherwise, all Ratmen are presumed to belong to the Ratmen Clan faction to begin with. Ratmen are especially lithe and stealthy, and so receive advantage on any rolls where they are attempting to sneak. Their AC against ranged weapons is improved by one due to their keen senses and quick wits. Any other race besides fiends will have their reaction rolls reduced by one step unless they know the ratman from before. Their small size also means that their maximum hit points are one lower per hit die than normal (minimum of 1). 

The descendants of the other races with the addition of fiend blood, tieflings are not quite a distinct society of their own, but instead largely integrate themselves into others, usually that of their mortal kin. That being said, they have some ties to one another, and others view them as a distinct group. They are regarded as sexy, clever, untrustworthy, and ambitious, but they tend to roll their eyes at this. How much of their look they get from their fiendish forebearers varies widely, with some having nubby little horns under their hair or a small tail, while others could pass for fiends themselves.

Tieflings’ fiendish blood makes them resistant to magic, so they gain advantage on any saves against magic. Their mysterious allure also allows them, once per week, to have an immediate Charm Person effect on anyone who makes a neutral or better reaction roll toward them. This effect lasts for a number of days equal to the tiefling’s level, but they might actually become your friend in the meantime. Also due to their fiendish blood, if a Tiefling’s true name is used in making a deal or contract, they cannot willingly violate that deal. Also, having fiendish blood themselves, they cannot believe strongly enough in another fiend to receive any benefits from magic gained by worship of fiends. 

Money & Equipment in Fellhold

I don't know about you, but I find coming up with equipment lists a huge pain in the ass. Coming up with starting equipment packages? Even harder. So why don't I just use one of the perfectly serviceable equipment lists already out there? Because I definitely buy into the thought that equipment lists are a great way to convey implicit setting and approaches to the game. So I bit the bullet and cranked the below out. It could definitely use some work, and the equipment packs owe a great deal to Brendan's excellent OD&D ones

Any and all thoughts on how to spice this up are welcome, but I'm especially looking to make an evocative random item table so that everybody gets at least one interesting but not-obviously-useful piece of kit.

Coins of Fellhold
Fellhold has three kinds of coins, issued by the Soul Banks based on the Soul Standard (theoretically, you can take your coins into a bank and demand the current market rate for bottled souls in exchange for your cash, but why would you want to?)

Copper Pennings: The common coin used in most business in Fellhold - a triangle about an inch on a side with a hole in the middle. One copper penning equals one experience point. (CP)
Silver Skillings: 100 Copper Pennings make up one Silver Skilling, so they are used for settling contracts and loans, day to day business between merchants, and the like. A thin, rectangular piece of silver, both sides show fine old-dwarven knotwork.  (SP)
Gold Marks: Worth 100 Silver Skillings, Marks are rarely seen outside of large business deals or the hoards of the wealthy. These fat gold hexagons have a raised outer lip and show a leering devil face on one side and the mark of the bank that stamped it on the other.

Starting Cash & Gear
Player characters begin with 3d6x10 CP, or else can roll for a starting equipment pack by class. Either of these can be supplemented by loans as seen shown below. All characters begin with a backpack, blanket, a waterskin, three helpings of pack food, one torch, and a tinder box.

Taking Out Loans
During character creation, PCs may take out one or more loans to secure additional gear. To do so, create a random specialist NPC - this is the PCs creditor. The PC receives a loan of 3d6x10 copper pieces to be used however they see fit. Assign the PC a d4 Loan Usage die. For every week that goes by that the PC does not pay their loan, roll the die. On a maximum result, step the die up one step. The PC can move the Loan Die down one step by paying the original loan amount. If it every reaches a d10, their creditor has lost patience and sends out goons to collect.

If you wish to make finding the right place to buy goods as much a part of your game as where to fence adventuring loot, you may create a seller using the Merchant Table in the Specialist NPCs section for each category of gear below. Adjust prices accordingly. The first seller generated carries the entire category of gear. If a player wants to buy something at character generation, they must use the first seller generated - but if players are unhappy with this particular seller, they may search out others by using urbancrawl actions during play. Every new seller has a 50% chance of carrying each item when visited (this can change on future visits, or items can be special ordered for a fee). Every new seller should be added to the game master’s list of NPCs and placed in a neighborhood.

Equipment Packs 
To speed up character creation, players can elect to roll for a starting equipment pack rather than “shopping” with starting money. This method is especially recommended for new players and when adding a new character to an existing game. Specific items can be substituted with the Game Master’s permission. Players can also step down one or more steps and take 10 CP per step down. All characters begin with a backpack, blanket, a waterskin, three helpings of pack food, one torch, and a tinder box. To generate an equipment pack, roll 3d6 and look in the column for your class. 

Ghost Wrangler
Homeless, Knife, Hammer, Iron Spikes, Lard
Homeless, Knife, Beer (1 qt), Candle, Bell, Ball Bearings
Homeless, Blackjack, Rope (50’), Grappling Hook
Homeless, Knife, Pipe, Seaweed, Bell
Homeless, Knife, Cigar, Cat
Poor, Knife, Cigarettes
Poor, Knife, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Bell
Poor, Knife, Blackjack, Mirror, Chalk, Dice, Cards
Poor, Knife, Crow
Poor, Knife, Chicken
Poor, Knife, Caltrops, Shovel
Poor, Knife, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Bell, Ball Bearings
Poor, Knife, Black Jack, Lard, Crowbar
Poor, Knife, Pipe, Seaweed, Candle, Chalk, 2 CP
Poor, Knife, Cigar, Cat
Comfortable, Knife
Poor, Hand Axe, Dice, Chalk, Mirror, Pipe, Playing Cards
Poor, Knife, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Bell, Disguise Kit
Poor, Knife, Rope, Grappling Hook, Bell
Poor, Knife, Pipe, Seaweed, Crow, Candle, Chalk, 2 CP
Poor, Knife, Cooking Kit, Chicken, Chalk, Playing Cards, Candle, 1 CP
Comfortable, Knife, Crow
Poor, Tomahawk, Knife, Hammer, Iron Spikes, Oil Flask
Poor, Knife, Tomahawk, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Bell, Ball Bearings
Poor, Knife, Throwing Knives, Ladder 
Poor, Knife, Club, Pipe, Seaweed, Crow, Candle, Chalk, 2 CP
Poor, Knife, Cat, Chicken, Acid
Comfortable, Sword
Poor, Spear, Knife, Sledgehammer
Poor, Knife, Tomahawk, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Bell, Disguise Kit
Poor, Knife, Ball Bearings, Caltrops, Sack, Lard, Candle, Chalk, Playing Cards, Dice
Poor, Knife, Club, Pipe, Seaweed, Crow, Coffee, Candle, Chalk, 2 CP 
Poor, Knife, Cigar, Cat, Chicken, Acid
Comfortable, Sword, Crow
Poor, Sword, Tomahawk, Hammer, Iron Spikes, Bucket
Poor, Sword, Tomahawk, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Bell, Coffee
Poor, Knife, Brass Knuckles, Hand Axe, Caltrops, Crowbar
Poor, Knife, Club, Pipe, Seaweed, Galdrabok (extra), Candle, Chalk, 2 CP 
Poor, Knife, Blackjack, Disguise Kit, Acid, Cooking Kit
Comfortable, Knife, Pack Goat
Poor, Sword, Tomahawk, Sledgehammer, Crowbar, Cigarettes
Poor, Sword, Tomahawk, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Bell, Coffee, Ball Bearings
Poor, Knife, Throwing Knives, Rope (50’), Grappling Hook, Ball Bearings, Dice, Chalk, Playing Cards, Candle
Comfortable, Knife, Club, Pipe, Seaweed, Crow, Candle, Chalk, 2 CP 
Comfortable, Knife, Cat, Cooking Kit 
Comfortable, Knife, Pack Goat, Sack
Poor, Warhammer, Knife, Pick Axe, Bucket, Coffee, Cigarettes
Poor, Sword, Tomahawk, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Bell, Coffee, Disguise Kit
Poor, Bow, Knife, Arrows, Caltrops, Rope (50’), Grappling Hook, Ladder
Comfortable, Knife, Club, Pipe, Seaweed, Coffee, Crow, Candle, Chalk, 2 CP 
Comfortable, Knife, Cooking Kit, Chicken, Acid, Lard
Comfortable, Knife, Pack Crab
Poor, Hand Axe, Shield, 2x Oil Flasks, Cigarettes
Poor, Sword, Tomahawk, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Bell, Coffee, Disguise Kit, Ball Bearings
Poor, Sword, Knife, Throwing Knives, Disguise Kit, Dice, Cards, Chalk, Mirror, 5 CP
Comfortable, Knife, Club, Pipe, Seaweed, Coffee, Crow, Candle, Chalk, 2 CP 
Comfortable, Knife, Cooking Kit, Chicken, Disguise Kit, Cigar, Lard
Comfortable, Tomahawk, Pack Crab
Poor, Sword, Shield, Bow, Arrows, Oil Flask
Poor, Sword, Tomahawk, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Bell, Coffee, Ball Bearings, Dog
Poor, Bow, Sword, Knife, Arrows, Rope (50’), Grappling Hook, Crowbar
Comfortable, Knife, Club, Pipe, Seaweed, Galdrabok (extra), Candle, Chalk, 2 CP 
Comfortable, Knife, Cooking Kit, Disguise Kit, Chicken, Cat, Cigar, Lard
Comfortable, Sword, Pack Crab
Poor, Spear, Shield, Throwing Knives
Poor, Sword, Tomahawk, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Bell, Coffee, Dog, Disguise Kit
Poor, Knife, Blasting Stick, Fuse, Ladder, Rope (50’), Bell
Comfortable, Knife, Club, Pipe, Seaweed, Galdrabok (extra), Crow, Candle, Chalk, 2 CP 
Comfortable, Light Armor, Knife, Lard
Comfortable, Light Armor, Tomahawk, 5 CP
Poor, Light Armor, War Shovel, Oil Flask
Poor, Light Armor, Sword, Tomahawk, Beer (1 Qt), Candle
Poor, Light Armor, Bow, Arrows, Knife, Sack
Comfortable, Light Armor, Knife, Pipe, Seaweed
Comfortable, Light Armor, Knife, Cooking Kit
Comfortable, Light Armor, Sword, 5 CP
Poor, Light Armor, Bow, Arrows, Knife, Caltrops, Cigarettes
Poor, Light Armor, Sword, Tomahawk, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Ball Bearings
Poor, Light Armor, Sword, Knife, Tomahawk, Dice, Cards, Mirror, Chalk
Comfortable, Light Armor, Knife, Pipe, Seaweed, Crow
Comfortable, Light Armor, Knife, Cooking Kit, Chicken
Comfortable, Light Armor, Sword, Knife, 5 CP
Poor, Light Armor, Spear, Throwing Knives, Lard 
Poor, Light Armor, Sword, Tomahawk, Beer (1 Qt), Candle, Disguise Kit
Poor, Light Armor, Sword, Bow, Knife, Arrows, Disguise Kit
Comfortable, Light Armor, Knife, Pipe, Seaweed, Crow, Candle, Chalk, 2 CP
Comfortable, Light Armor, Knife, Cooking Kit, Chicken, Cat
Comfortable, Light Armor, Knife, Pack Goat, 5 CP
Comfortable, Light Armor, Sword, Knife, Hammer, Iron Spikes 
Comfortable, Light Armor, Sword, Tomahawk, Beer (1 Qt), Candle
Comfortable, Light Armor, Bow, Arrows, Knife, Lantern, Oil Flask, Rope (50’)
Comfortable, Light Armor, Knife, Pipe, Seaweed, Crow, Coffee, Candle, Chalk, 2 CP
Comfortable, Light Armor, Knife, Cooking Kit, Chicken, Cat, Cigar

Equipment List
The lists below give a good flavor of what adventurous types might be most interested in buying in Fellhold, but just about anything can be had in the vast city. Talk to the Game Master about anything you’d like to buy that you don’t see below. All characters begin with a backpack, blanket, a waterskin, three helpings of pack food, one torch, and a tinder box.

Homeless (0) Free
Poor (d4) 20 CP
Comfortable (d6) 50 CP
Luxurious (d8) 1000 CP

Axe, Hand (Cleave) 30 CP
Axe, Lumberjack (Heavy) 40 CP
Axe, Tomahawk (Ranged, Light) 20 CP
Blackjack (Close, Light, Knockout) 5 CP
Blunderbuss (Firearm, Spread) 200 CP
Bow (Ranged) 30 CP
Brass Knuckles (Close, Knockout) 20 CP
Club (Knockout) 10 CP
Knife/Dagger (Close) 10 CP
Musket (Ranged, Firearm) 240 CP
Pistol (Ranged, Reactive, Firearm) 160 CP
Spear (Reach) 40 CP
Sword (Smooth) 30 CP
Throwing Knives/Stars (Close, Ranged, Light) 30 CP
War Shovel (Reach, Heavy) 50 CP
Warcrow (Crush, Cleave) 60 CP
Warhammer (Crush) 40 CP

Light (AC 7) 75 CP
Medium (AC 5) 500 CP
Heavy (AC 3) 1500 CP
Shield (-1 AC, Sunder) 50 CP

Acid (vial) 20 CP
Arrows (per usage die) 5 CP
Ball Bearings 10 CP
Barrel 20 CP
Bell 5 CP
Blanket 2 CP
Blasting Stick 50 CP
Block and Tackle 10 CP
Bucket 5 CP
Caltrops 10 CP
Camp Blanket 5 CP
Candle 2 CP
Cards, Playing 1 CP
Chain, 10’ 5 CP
Chalk 1 CP
Cooking Kit 15 CP
Crowbar 10 CP
Dice 1 CP
Disguise Kit 20 CP
Fuse (1 usage die) 30 CP
Galdrabok 30 CP
Grappling Hook 10 CP
Hammer 10 CP
Iron Spikes 5 CP
Ladder, 10’ 10 CP
Lantern 20 CP
Mirror 2 CP
Oil Flask 5 CP
Pack 30 CP
Pickaxe 10 CP
Pipe 5 CP
Pole, 10’ 2 CP
Rope, 50’ 15 CP
Sack 10 CP
Shot & Powder (1 usage die) 10 CP
Shovel 10 CP
Sledgehammer 10 CP
Thieve’s Tools 30 CP
Tinder Box 5 CP
Torch 5 CP
Water Skin, quart 2 CP
Wheelbarrow 40 CP

Food, Drink, and Drugs
Beer, pint 3 CP
Lard, quart 5 CP
Pack Food, Meal 15 CP
Roasted Coffee Beans 10 CP
Seaweed Cigar 10 CP
Seaweed Cigarettes (per usage die) 10 CP
Seaweed, Loose (per usage die) 10 CP
Whiskey, quart 40 CP

Cat 10 CP
Chicken 10 CP
Crab, Pack 60 CP
Crow 10 CP
Dog 30 CP
Goat, Pack 40 CP
Pig 30 CP 

The Soul Economy in Fellhold

So, back when I first started rebooting my home campaign setting from a Tentpole Megadungeon generic D&D world that owed a lot to Dwimmermount and into something a little funkier, one of the ideas I hit upon was that the economy would be based on souls. I didn't really know what that meant, but it seemed cool, so I ran with it. Well, after lots of reading and thinking and coming up with other parts of the world, it finally clicked together into something that makes some (warped, D&D, in-game) sense. To sweeten the deal, I've included some awesome art that my co-creator Eric Koch has done so far. 

Brief Word on How We Got to Now
Far back in dimly remembered times, the Dwarves arose as the first mighty kingdom and took over all the peoples of the lands they could reach. After tens of hundreds of years of dwarven overlordship, nomads of the steppe swept over the empire and made it their own with the help of dark sorcery. These witch kings took on much of the Dwarven culture, liking what they found, but they kept their magical ways, lengthening their lives through many means. After many, many kings, a group of them enacted a ritual to give them unending life - of a sort. The ritual worked, creating the mighty Lich Kings, but so great was their work that it killed the gods. The world turned wrong after that, and eventually the kings and the remnants of their folk had nowhere to run but to a far flung outpost on the edge of the world across the sea - Fellhold.

Birth of the Fiends
When the gods were murdered, their blood fell to earth - pure, concentrated soulstuff, stronger and more fearsome than anything tied to a mortal body. Where it struck, the dumb things of the world - sticks, rocks, beasts, and birds, and so forth - took on the twisted mockery of a soul. Some tiny and petty, others mighty and awful. So were born the fiends. 

The Closing of the Underworld
Something in the liches’ ritual or its aftermath closed our world to the underworld, and the souls of the dead were left to wander around this world unseen and unfelt but by those with the power to do so. Fellhold is wholly full of ghosts. 

Souls and Soulstuff
It is well known that souls are made up of many parts, each its own bit of the whole man or woman. All of these bits are made of soulstuff, the same stuff that godsblood and fiends are made of. Like energy or matter, soulstuff cannot be created or destroyed, but it can change form and state and be moved around. When someone dies, some bits of their soul hang together and become a ghost - others pass on to family or back into the wider world.

The Bits of the Soul
1. Lyke - The Body 
2. Hame - Shape, Seeming
3. Ond - Breath
4. Hugh - Will and Wits
5. Myne - Memory 
6. Wode - Inspiration
7. Hamingja - Luck, Might
8. Fetch - Guardian/Magical Spirit

When someone dies, they lose their Lyke and their Ond, and most of the time lose their Wode, Hamingja, and Fetch. The Hamingja most times passes to close kin, children if the dead had them. Sometimes the fetch goes along to a child, but more often goes out into the world on its own, and rarely finds its way into fiendhood of its own. The wode most often fades back into the world, to be mixed with that of others and taken up by new life, just as the flesh is in the world we can touch.

So, when folks die, they are left with some bit of their Hame, their Hugh, and their Myne. Of these, Myne is far the strongest. Over time, ghosts lose more and more of their Hugh and their Hame, becoming lost, confused, and vague, but their Myne ties them to those things most weighty in their life - often home or kin, but betimes hatred and death. Ghosts sometimes fade together to strengthen the bits that go together - so, your many dead forefathers and foremothers might all fade into a vague set of ancestor spirits. Others are so tied to their homes or other steads that they’ll become a part of the soul of the place - very old and well loved (or hated) buildings have a strong character.

Bottling Ghosts
At some time in the past, someone clever came up with a way to put ghosts into bottles. When done well, using the right kind of glass, these bottles stop the bleeding away of a ghost’s soulstuff over time - at least so far as anyone can tell since ghosts have been bottled. So, ghosts who are bottled get to keep their selves, and can come out sometimes, like when the great grandkids come over. The rest of the time it’s awfully lonesome, though. At least unbottled ghosts have each other to see and talk to.

Fiends and Souls
The souls of living beings belong to them, fair and square - they take no thought in how readily they call upon the different bits of their soul, nor even feel any difference between them. For fiends it is otherwise. Fiends are squatters on their own souls, and their soulstuff comes from the dead mess of the godsblood. Some started with more, others less, but all hunger and thirst for as much soulstuff as they can get - always more. Soulstuff, though, cannot be eaten, drunk, or taken - only given or lost. Over the years, fiends have tried many ways to get what they yearn for, some combing the unseen world for the leavings of fled Wode or Ond, others eating the flesh of the dead, until they found something truly deep: they gain the same strength from owning a soul as from taking it into their own soulstuff. 

The Rise of Soul Banks
Some fiends took note of the bottling of ghosts and the lore of soul ownership and thought up something truly clever. They saw that they could own bottled souls and get everything they wanted. Overtime, further cleverness came about: learning that holding a loan as collateral counts as “owning”, that the bits of the soul could be bottled on their own, and that ownership can be shared without breaking up the soul - only the shares of ownership. And so what started as piles of ghost bottles squirreled away in dark holes grew into great shared vaults, which grew into huge joint stock businesses that now back all of the ebb and flow of commerce in the great city. 

A Quick Word on Worship and Magic
Worship and Magic both involve efforts of the Hugh, though magic also needs to draw on the Hamingja. Worshipping and making magic create a kind of energy from these bits of the soul - not pulling away the actual substance, but made by it, like heat or sound coming from a place of friction. Such "heat and sound" can then pass energy into other soulstuff, strengthening it without enlarging it. So some fiends seek out the worship of living beings, and others make deals with mighty wizards as other ways to gain strength beyond owning souls.

Selling Your Soul
All of this means that the folk of Fellhold have many ways they can “sell their soul”, whether they want to set up a will to be bottled and kept safe upon their natural death, or if they reckon they don’t need their Luck as much as they need to make this month’s rent, all the way up to signing on to a stint as a draug thrall, bottling their soul in the meantime and loaning out their Lyke, Hame, and Ond to work for others. 

Souls and Coins

So, when you put all of this together, you have a thing that is very worthwhile to some and somewhat worthwhile to everyone (bottled souls), that takes a fairly fixed amount of work to make (a life). You can’t spend that thing day to day, however, so you need something else. Over time, the banks took over from the Witch Kings in minting coins, each a token worth some tiny bit of a one of the souls in their vault. If you truly wished, you could take a pile of coins, go into your bank, and walk out with bottled ghosts, maybe to seek a better payout at a neighboring bank - but day to day, almost no one does this. So souls work the way that gold used to work for bank notes and pre-fiat currencies in our own world - the underlying asset that the money gets its worth from.  

Russell House Rules Core

Click for PDF

I decided to put together the core of my personal house rules after years of collecting, tweaking, and trying out various DIY D&D approaches. The notion with these rules was to boil it down to only the things that will be true in just about every campaign I might want to run, rather than trying to capture all of the cool setting-specific rules I might change up. I managed to compress all of that down into six A5 spreads, including character generation, which I'm pretty proud of.

What's not in here? Campaign-specific stuff including equipment lists, monster lists, detailed treasure lists, sanity rules, that kind of thing. I'm planning on all of that being modular as I move forward, which helped drive some of my decision-making in which rules to include.

Which gets to the last point: there is shockingly little that is original here. I've mostly cobbled together the ideas of people cleverer than myself, detailed below.

You can get the pdf of the rules here, or you can read the rules in blog form (no sweet spreads or art deco style, though) below.

D100 D&Dables from Princess Mononoke

Okay, so this one isn't too hard, since you could pretty much just run Mononoke as a D&D game, but I was watching Mononoke and taking notes on gods/spirits/demons anyway, so I figured I'd go ahead and slap this bad boy together. Enjoy!

D100 D&Dables from Princess Mononoke

1 Giant beasts guarding a magical forest
2 Writhey wormy oily corruption infesting a beast
3 A demon that makes everything around it wither and die
4 A demon cloaked in a halo of shadow
5 Something vile possessing a naturespirit
6 A custom to address unknown spirit beings with respect, even if evil
7 A demon that targets the weak/defenseless
8 A corrupting touch that spreads and causes death
9 Bleeding out the corrupting sludge, it dissolves and dissipates
10 A curse that makes you stronger and more deadly, but slowly kills you
11 A mark of a demon with a mind of its own that yearns for violence
12 A curse that makes powerful negative emotions visible as snakey ghost things
13 A Nameless god of rage and hate
14 A monster that will rot incredibly quickly if killed
15 A powerful beast hurls a Death curse
16 Iron is a bane to spirit creatures
17 A small shrine at a beautiful miniature waterfall
18 A land filled with Angry ghosts
19 Warriors massacring a village
20 Giant beasts
21 The Deer God
22 The Spirit of the Forest
23 A girl rasied by wolves
24 A warrior with a minimalist clay mask and animal furs
25 A Giant Wolf God with two tails
26 Tiny funny little tree spirits with rattling heads
27 Minor spirits that demand respect or will lead you astray
28 A tree that is the mother of dozens of spirits
29 Footprints that attract bugs and other small living things
30 A huge deer with a humanish face and tons of antlers
31 A Giant Angry boar attacking warriors armed with flaming arrows
32 A Stampede of giant angry boars
33 The blood of the deer god can heal any wound
34 Glowing eyed ape spirits that want to eat people to take their strength
35 Tiny spirits that look like bugs all over the place
36 A sacred island where it is said you can leave someone with an offering to be healed by a god
37 Ghostly extinct animals flying around
38 Thousands of little spirits greet a returning god
39 A god that takes different from by night and day
40 A huge, giant gelatinous humanoid figure with swirly designs all over its body trailing a mane of goopy stuff
41 Life springing up and dying remarkably quickly in the footsteps of a god
42 An aged, blind, and decrepit boar god
43 A Nature god of both life and death
44 A wounded god afraid to die, being corrupted into a demon
45 A curse that tears your soul apart before killing you
46 Spirits that grow small and stupid over time
47 Boars covered in swirly patterns of mud warpaint
48 A delusional, dying god followed by his enemies
49 A god coughing up blood and being overcome by goopy corruption and going mad
50 A goopy demon is bigger on the inside than the outside
51 A god killed by a new weapon
52 A dead god leaking goopy godstuff that turns into a black ooze seeping the life from all it touches
53 All of the spirits in a forest have fallen dead
54 A headless, amorphous god that can’t hold its form seeking its head
55 The head of a god in an iron box
56 A ruler offers a massive reward for the head of a god
57 Tides of life-sucking godstuff flowing over the mountains
58 A deadly plague pursues a group running with the head of a god
59 A disaster that can only be averted by returning the head of a god
60 A town destroyed by a fallen god
61 A reborn forest in the blood of a dead god
62 Riding Elk
63 An exotically dressed outsider from a culture thought extinct
64 A preternaturally skilled archer
65 A Primitive Flame Thrower
66 A warrior in face paint and primitive jewelry, face covered in blood
67 An industrial fortress on a steep island surrounded by palisades and stakes
68 A primitive, human-powered industrial works
69 Extremely skilled Leper craftsmen
70 A primitive warrior on an assassination mission
71 A huge forge that must not be allowed to go out for a town's livelihood
72 Umbrellas to catch arrows
73 A charge stopped by a small group armed with guns
74 Warrior monks with guns
75 A town run by a formidable woman who will do anything for the outcast and powerless in society
76 An unscrupulous monk who is scheming to get a massive reward from an emperor
77 Burning noxious smoke to confound the sense of smell of beasts
78 Rock grenades to defend a high place
79 Buried land mines on a battlefield
80 A town defended by women and lepers with superior weapons
81 A huge forge burning down
82 The last village of a dying people, deep in the forest
83 An old man in a watchtower has spotted a dire threat
84 A town run by former brothel workers
85 A lord's army besieging an economically important town
86 A shipment of badly needed food attacked by wild beasts
87 A village wise woman who can read fate by casting stones
88 A brave prince, cursed to die and cast out of his village
89 A shrine built on to the side of a mountain
90 A pool where gods gather to heal or die
91 A smart alecky woman and her hapless husband
92 A young couple, one dedicated to civilization, the other to nature
93 A new, compact gun, suitable for women and smaller people
94 Hunters that coat themselves in blood and wear skins to mask their scent
95 A leader, wounded almost to death, makes peace with her enemies
96 A monastary, local lord, and village leader all squabble over a natural resource
97 A village battles the inhabitants of a magic forest to mine the land
98 A duel between a town's leader and a crazed druid
99 A dim-witted, short tempered, but extremely loyal chief of the guard
100 A destroyed town, determined to rebuild

By Our Powers Combined: Fellhold has an Artist!

I am very excited to announce that the Fellhold project now has an official artist! The talented and gracious Eric Koch has signed on as the better half of this DIY monstrosity. You can check out his stuff here at his tumblr. So far he has been a joy to work with, and while I plan on greedily hogging all of his RPG-related art time for the next year or so, if after that you're in need of pictures, I highly recommend him.

So far, we've been focusing on concept work, making sure we're on the same page with what some of the weirder stuff in Fellhold looks like. If you've never had someone else produce a piece of work for something that has heretofore only been in your head or words on a screen, let me tell you that it is electrifying.

Anyway, enough of my words, let's get to the good part: some of Eric's concepts. First off, we have some crabmen, who are close to their final look, the first a fighter, and the second a wealthy merchant:

Flippin' Sweet
This second guy is actually a little more typical for a crabman - most are merchants and intellectuals
Next up, we have the very first thing Eric drew, when we were still discussing whether or not to work together as a sort of "here's what I can do" piece. It's his take on a half dwarf (not a literal child of human and dwarf, but instead an entire fairly stabilized race descended from dwarves and humans). While the clothes are probably a bit more medieval than we'll go for in the end, the look is spot on.

I love this guy's gruff face
Finally, we have two early concepts on the star of Fellhold, the city itself. Eric wasn't super happy with the second of these, but I thought it was pretty darn great. Both have done a better job capturing the weird fusion of architectural styles I'm shooting for than anything I've been able to put together.

Isn't that rad? Look especially at that tall building in the mid ground

Eric didn't like this one for artistic reasons, but I think the architectural details are darn near perfect

This week, Eric's starting to take on some demon concepts (hinted at by that fella in the arch above). In other words, lots more exciting things to come!

(Oh, and I'm still cracking away at the words and tables parts, more of that coming to the blog soon).