Hypertellurians is an easy to pick up roleplaying game that is fast and simple to play, while providing plenty of depth for engaging character development and story.
The players portray the Hypertellurians: adventuring the length and breadth of the Ultracosm, in retro science fantasy style. Take control of one of six archetypes, and choose or create a unique concept by layering on fun, inventive, and story-driving powers.
Read on for the online version, or pick the game up in hardcover or PDF formats.
Try Hypertellurians if you like:
- fast and daring gameplay,
- quick character generation,
- compelling character powers,
- natural language rules,
- and science fantasy adventures in the future of old!
Hypertellurians is a stand-alone roleplaying game system, but it is compatible enough with most old and modern fantasy adventure games for the GM to convert modules from those systems on the fly.
Enjoy this lavishly illustrated game, redolent with adventure, and play as cursed shapeshifter, the walking dead, a pilot from a different time, a galvanic war machine, a bratty princess, an excitable half pony, an alien color, or so much more.
Easy and fast rules
The core mechanic of Hypertellurians is straightforward and applies anytime the outcome of an action is unclear, or where failure would lead to interesting consequences.
Deep and meaningful character options
The game is simple to play, with a plethora of options for players to create and develop their characters.
Link adventures of all types
Hypertellurians is perfect for stringing together adventures of different types and tones in one campaign. The characters have the means and a reason to travel the length, breadth, and yes, depth of the Ultracosm—all the infinite worlds, planes, dimensions, universes, and timelines you can imagine.
Swords and sandals meets ray punk
In older science fiction, you often fight sword-wielding monsters in desert landscapes, while cruising in your levitating sand ships. These are the worlds of Hypertellurians.
Natural language rules
Many aspects of the game are intentionally left open to interpretation. Decide together what makes for the best experience.
Drive the narrative
Go with the most interesting option. No rolls where failure would avoid the adventure (a.k.a perception rolls).
Equipment is key
The characters will pick up any number of useful, marvelous, and magic items during their adventures. Many of these are very powerful or have impressive effects. The character's nature is determined in large part by the equipment they carry, and with limited inventory slots, it's important to manage it well.
Magic for all who dare
Spells and rituals exist largely in the form of spell tomes. Such a tome occupies 1 inventory slot and contains 1 single spell (exceptions exist of course). Anyone who wields the tome and can read it out aloud can cast this spell.
As a Hypertellurian, your character is a creature of unusual ability, and usually of equally unusual origin and nature as well. To begin playing, choose an archetype and a concept, and you're good to go. Each archetype comes with a selection of existing concepts to get you started right away. If you prefer, you can of course create your own from scratch, or swap out individual elements from a concept.
Anatomy of a character
Other than the archetype, there are three main parts that make up your character.
These include your character's 3 abilities (Brawn, Agility, and Mind), affinities and buffers in any of these, Defense, Drive, and Weakness.
These include the 2 starting powers you get from your archetype, up to 3 minor powers you gain from your concept's starting advances, and any powers from advances you acquire throughout the game.
You have a number of equipment slots equal to your Brawn score. All items in these slots are quick and easy to reach. If you carry more than that you're encumbered—the GM will decide what that means in any given scene
Standard character generation
- Choose an archetype.
- Choose a concept from that archetype.
- Give your character a name.
Create a character from scratch
If you'd rather invent a whole concept of your own, use these guidelines. Picking an existing concept is the fastest way to start, but experienced players may wish to have more control over the various aspects of their character. In this case the procedure is as follows.
- Choose an archetype.
- Note down the starting archetype powers.
- Determine your ability scores, via one of the following methods. Derive the modifier for each by subtracting 10 from the score. a. Quick. Assign the values 9, 10, 13 to the abilities as desired. b. Default. Distribute 32 points between the abilities, with a minimum of 8 and maximum of 13 in each. c. Risky. Roll 1d6+1d4+4 for each ability. In order, if you’re feeling particularly frisky.
- Assign a 1-point affinity to an ability of your choosing.
- Choose an additional 3 minor advances.
- Choose a Drive. Each Drive gives a starting item.
- Choose a Weakness, whether rational or irrational. This is a roleplaying cue, and a signal to the GM about the sorts of trouble you'd enjoy your character getting into.
- Add a set of clothing (1 slot), a coin purse with 50 gold coins (1 slot), and 1 or 2 items relevant to your character, to be agreed upon with the GM.
- Name your character.
What motivates your character, what is their moral core, and what pushes them onward in the face of mortal danger? This is your character's Drive. Each Drive comes with roleplaying hints and and a relevant starting item. Of course you can add your own Drives, using the list below for inspiration.
Naturally, anything can happen in a roleplaying game, and it's perfectly reasonable for your character's Drive to change during play. In that case simply adopt the new Drive, but don't automatically gain the starting item.
Magic is everywhere and it is your heart's desire to study and command it, whether it's for altruistic reasons or not. You start with a random spell tome and a wizard-like weapon, like a dagger or staff, or the jawbone of a lion.
Wisdom, understanding, and compassion are at the heart of the human condition, and achieving them is the highest goal. You start with a book of aphorisms, at least one of which is generally relevant and useful to a given situation once per session.
The Ultracosm is nothing short of miraculous and unpredictable, and exploring it is the one true path in life. Broadening one's horizons is best achieved through experiencing the untold wonders the worlds have to offer. You start with an eldritch compass that always points to the nearest source of Wonder.
You trust in a power greater than yourself, and share its goals. You might live by a strict belief system, and although your actions may not always live up to its ideals, you accept its punishments and rewards in this or another life. You start with a holy or unholy relic that grants a random spell, like a spell tome, and a book detailing the faith's philosophy.
Just as the Ultracosm is full of wonders, so it is full of powerful, dark, occult knowledge, if one knows where to look. Such power always comes with a terrible price, either for you or others, but you know that it is worth it. You start with a random dark spell tome and a minor mutation, such as webbed toes, goat eyes, or ectrodactyly.
All tellurians are innately born with a sense of right and wrong, but many are conditioned via their surroundings or upbringings to develop this sense one way or another. You are possessed of a pure sense of justice, and it guides you in all things. You start with a brutal or excruciating weapon to punish the wicked, and a bag of alms for the poor and innocent.
One can never tell what the Ultracosm throws at you, but that doesn't mean that you stand alone. Unwavering loyalty to your companions, friends, family, or superiors is the only thing between order and total chaos. You start with a many-pocketed coat that—once per session—has exactly what you need to give a companion in need a second chance out of a pickle.
There are two types of people in the Ultracosm: those who give orders and those who take them or suffer under them. Never (again?) will you be the latter. Power is everything, and only those who possess it can choose to use it for good or ill. You start with an outfit or implement befitting your station that gives you +3 to an ability score of your choosing once per session, for 1 scene.
You were grievously wronged and have made it your life's work to seek your wrong-doer and make them suffer for it. Revenge is a bright and dangerous flame that keeps you warm when others give up. You start with a memento of your wrong-doer, and, if applicable, their victim. Once per session, when you fail a save that would compromise your revenge, clutch the memento and succeed at the save instead.
Everything and everyone has a price, and you aim to be wealthy enough to acquire whatever your heart desires, whether it be for comfort or influence. You start with an extra 500 gp, and friends in expensive places throughout the Ultracosm, whom you might be able to occasionally call upon for favors.
In Hypertellurians characters gain advancements for Wonder spent. Wonder is a currency shared by the player characters, discovered during adventures, and spent for performing wondrous actions. At the end of each session, look at the total Wonder spent. Each character gains one (or possibly more) advance, based on the total number spent, as summarized on the table below. The table repeats every 100 Wonder, so once you reach 110, use the 10 row, etc.
Remember that Wonder is communal, so the numbers refer to totals. In other words, it doesn't matter who spends it. Just keep track of total Wonder gained, and total Wonder spent.
|Wonder spent||Advances gained|
Whenever a character gains an advance they can pick one of the following, depending on the advance gained.
- Raise an ability score that is currently 12 or lower by 1 point.
- Gain a 1 point affinity on an ability where you currently do not have one.
- Gain a 2 point Brawn, Agility, or Mind buffer, or increase your existing buffer in that ability by 2.
- Gain a new minor archetype power.
- Gain a new minor cosm power.
- Raise an ability score that is currently 14 or lower by 1 point.
- Raise an existing 1 point affinity to a 2 point affinity.
- Gain a 4 point Brawn, Agility, or Mind buffer, or increase your existing buffer in that ability by 4.
- Gain a new medium archetype power.
- Gain a new medium cosm power.
- Raise an ability score that is currently 17 or lower by 1 point.
- Raise an existing 2 point affinity to a 3 point affinity.
- Gain a 8 point Brawn, Agility, or Mind buffer, or increase your existing buffer in that ability by 8.
- Gain a new major archetype power.
- Gain a new major cosm power.
If you need to convert your character's power into the level equivalent, for example to convert a spell from another game, simply divide the total Wonder spent by 10. A character with 80 points spent, would therefore be roughly akin to an 8th level character. This assumes a level progression that goes up to 20.
You are a creature from another planet or another world, with highly unusual physiology. Maybe you look vaguely human, or maybe your appearance immediately sets you apart. Your abilities and mores are unlike anything the creatures of this world have ever seen.
The powers of the Alien focus on manipulating matter and interacting with the empirical world in interesting ways.
Aquatic being in search of a new habitable planet for species. Its own ocean world is dying.
Abilities: Brawn 10, Agility 13, Mind 9. 1-point affinity in Agility.
Weakness: Shrivels and dies if not regularly submerged in water.
Advances: Minor cosm power—Bioluminescent, Medium cosm power*—Deep Lungs, Minor cosm power—Well Adjusted (water). Equipment: Aquarium suit (1 slot, light armor, glows softly on demand), folding trident (1 slot, medium weapon, 1d6 damage, long), seashell pouch with pearls worth 100 gp (1 slot), handheld suitability scanner (1 slot).
- Normally a medium power is out of the reach of a starting character, but we’re making an exception here because it’s perfect for the concept.
Permanent manifestation of AI librarian. Like a humanoid shape pressing itself into a rubber sheet, but in 3 dimensions, and the sheet is the physical world.
Abilities: Brawn 9, Agility 10, Mind 13. 1-point affinity in Brawn.
Weakness: Lack of empirical experience has made you sheepish and shy.
Advances: Minor cosm power—Breadth of Ages, Minor cosm power—Color Out of Space, Minor archetype power—Probe.
Equipment: Voluminous hooded robes of blending in most of the time (1 slot), tome of index (1 slot, medium spell, 1d4 Mind damage to cast, 50% chance of knowing where to find something), universal credit chip (1 slot, vast credit limit, rarely accepted).
Accidental survivor of unfathomably ancient triad; sacrificial progenitors of the human species. Returned to assess if the thusly flawed creation experiment is worth completing.
Abilities: Brawn 10, Agility 9, Mind 13. 1-point affinity in Mind.
Weakness: Considers life only in cold, rational numbers.
Advances: Minor archetype power—Acid Blood (incompatible, nay hostile, on a molecular level), Minor archetype power—Spore Communication, Minor archetype power—Zap.
Equipment: Ancient looking robes (1 slot), crystalline body (2 slots, medium armor), memory bank (1 slot, recalls knowledge of eons past), 50 gp of precious stones, ominous staff (1 slot, medium weapon, 1d6 damage, long, parry).
Level Playing Field
Literally, to an extent. You can lower or raise small, natural landscapes, such as small hills, ponds, or even parts of an incline. You do this by reducing the space between atoms forming the structure, by magic, or by whatever means is appropriate to your character.
As an action, with a successful Mind check, you can affect a structure within a short distance. The difficulty of the check ranges from 5 to 20, depending on the material. The GM will tell you before you use the power.
You take Mind damage equal to the largest of the height/depth or width dimension of the affected landscape in meters. For example, to flatten a hill that is 3 meters high and 5 meters wide, you would need to succeed at an Mind check, and take 5 points of Mind damage.
If you fail the Mind check, the affected landscape will instead alter in interesting ways.
By expanding the density of your body’s molecules (or some other voodoo or magic), you can co-inhabit the same space as other matter for short periods of time. This allows you to walk through walls, or to stay still but essentially become insubstantial. For each 1 meter that you travel out of phase, you take 1 point of Mind damage. Alternatively, you may remain insubstantial and immobile for 1 round (approximately 6 seconds) per point of Mind damage.
If you become insubstantial for shorter times or smaller distances, you will still take 1 point of Mind damage.
Your blood is an extremely potent acid, capable of corroding almost any substance on contact with alarming speed. It is pressurized within your body, and thus spurts out violently when you are wounded. This deals 1d4 acid damage to a close attacker, unless they succeed at an opposed Agility check.
You may choose to wound yourself in order to drip acid onto surfaces. The amount required—and Brawn damage this inflicts on you—varies with the size of the surface you are attempting to corrode.
Manifest the Bifrost
An impossible thin, rainbow hued surface emanates out in front of you, at a rate of 20m per minute. Surprisingly, this bridge can take almost any load, so long as it is carefully applied and suitably distributed. Thus, a group of people slowly walking over it is fine, but even dropping a spoon on it will cause it to shatter. The bridge can be made as long as desired, but it must start and end on a solid surface, and you must have a good idea of the end point. It's always 1 meter wide.
You insert your feelers into an unconscious or helpless target, or else place your fleshy sensors on their head, or whatever the cool aliens do these days to probe into the minds of others. You immediately see flashes of recent memories. You can try and probe deeper and access specific memories, but doing so hurts the target and strains yourself. Take 1d4 Mind damage and inflict 1d6 psychic damage on the target for each specific memory you seek to access, then make an opposed Mind check. If you succeed you see and hear the memory as the target remembers it.
You send a trail of soporific spores toward a target within a short distance. As an action, make an opposed Mind check. If you succeed, the target falls into a light slumber, for the duration of the scene, or until woken.
If the target is larger than a human, or otherwise seriously weird, you make the check at disadvantage.
As an action, and at a cost of 1 Brawn damage, you exude a trail of near-invisible spores towards a creature within a short distance. You can communicate feelings and basic concepts or assertions through the spore network. This works both ways, and lasts for a scene.
Choose an extremity. It counts as a natural weapon that can emit an arc of corrupted or condensed space, as a ranged attack, at a target up to a short distance away. It deals 1d6 psychic damage.
In a process that takes about a minute, you may fold an object you can hold in one hand into a higher dimension. This reduces your Mind score by 1. You may repeat the process for other objects, each time spending the required time, and reducing your Mind score by 1.
As an action, you may reach into this dimension to recover one of the displaced objects, regardless of your physical location, at which point your Mind score recovers 1 point.
With great effort, you can use your Phase power along with all the willing creatures you touch. The Mind damage you take—per meter or minute—is equal to the number of creatures that you're including plus 1 (for yourself).
With a few minutes' concentration and some physical discomfort, you can take on the semblance of another humanoid species, provided their number of limbs and such roughly match yours. At the same time you also rearrange your inner organs to mimic their oral communication ones. The semblance is not perfect; you're unlikely to pass as a specific person, and the masquerade doesn't hold up to close scrutiny, but you can easily fit into a crowd.
Do whatever you think makes sense for your species to create, fertilize, and produce some form of egg. Then stash it away somewhere safe. The egg (though not necessarily the progeny it contains) automatically has the Acid Blood power, but it is otherwise helpless and can be destroyed with reasonable force.
Should some disaster befall you and whisk you out of this world or mortal realm, your egg hatches, and a mini you emerges, hungry and confused, but with all your memories and powers. It grows to full size within a week. At that point you may procreate anew, but not before.
Your saliva is toxic to most lifeforms, and has a paralytic effect on them. You can coalesce some of it and spit it at an enemy up to a short distance away. This inflicts 1d4 Brawn damage to you, and takes an action. Make a ranged attack. If you succeed, they are blinded and immobilized until they succeed at an opposed Agility check, which they can attempt at the end of each turn.
One With The Spores
You can disperse into a cloud of near-invisible spores that fills an area up to a short distance in diameter. You are fully aware of everything that happens within it, and can choose any one point within it as the origin of any of your powers.
If you posses Spore Communication, using it is now free, and includes all creatures within the area, though you may exclude any. If you possess Sleep Spores, they also affect all creatures you wish, within the area, and you have advantage on the check.
Only magical effects can harm you in this form, but even then the attacker has to become aware of you first.
You are a near perfect killing and survival machine. Your body heat matches the ambient temperature, and you are odorless. You can run across walls and ceilings as easily as floors. You see perfectly via a form of galvanic impulses, even in total darkness, and can spot lifeforms through walls up to a short distance away. Your Brawn bonus is doubled for attacks, and if applicable because of other powers, also for damage.
You lose the ability to speak, except through any spores or spells. Your primary drive becomes the propagation of your species and the ultimate destruction of all lifeforms that could pose a threat to them.
You are the embodiment of the human beast, the monster at the heart of cautionary children’s and adults’ tales alike. This archetype encompasses all humanoids with bestial features, origins, or tendencies; whether they are permanently on display, or emerge only periodically.
Perhaps you are the leader of the most vicious gnoll pack that ever stalked the deserts, the original werewolf, the only orc to ever complete all 6 semesters at the Whitewater Abjuratorium, or a cursed empress, half woman, half goat.
The powers of Beast focus on fast movement, spirits, and rage.
Unremarkable bailiff by day, werewolf or shapeshifting druid by night. Exposed and chased out of town. Survived daring escape through the king's forest.
Abilities: Brawn 10, Agility 13, Mind 9. 1-point affinity in Brawn.
Weakness: Fear of pitchforks, torches, and mobs.
Advances: Minor archetype power—Sensefull (smell). Minor cosm power—Terrible Curse (silver, sanctity), Minor archetype power—Terrify.
Equipment: Loose merchant class outfit (1 slot, respectable), truncheon (1 slot, light weapon, 1d4 damage, blunt), fully notarized letter of office (1 slot), satchel with collected dues (1 slot, 150 gp).
Humble origins as a brood mother, but perseverance and stubbornness, combined with entrepreneurial spirit eventually led to running a successful brothel. Until the incident.
Abilities: Brawn 9, Agility 12, Mind 11. 1-point affinity in Agility.
Weakness: Easily offended.
Advances: Minor cosm power—A Midnight Dreary, Minor archetype power—Fall with Grace, Minor archetype power—Sensefull (smell opportunities).
Equipment: Luxurious lingerie under sheer dress (1 slot), knuckle duster (1 slot, light weapon, 1d2 damage, brutal), pretty but fake jewelry (1 slot), little black book of contacts (1 slot, both former clients and prostitutes).
Wild half-stallion turned classical actor, turned student of natural philosophy. Secret penchant for the dark arts.
Abilities: Brawn 11, Agility 9, Mind 12. 1-point affinity in Mind.
Drive: Forbidden knowledge.
Weakness: Easily distracted and fascinated by art, beauty, and untamed nature.
Advances: Minor cosm power—Amateur Surgery, Minor cosm power—Different Down There, Minor cosm power—Tellurian of Unusual Size (large).
Equipment: Stylish coat and tails, matching hat (1 slot, so many pockets), wand of telekinesis (1 slot, works on books only), gold pouch with 50 gp (1 slot), monocle of minute studying (1 slot), book of explicit drawings (1 slot).
Let’s face it, at heart you’re an animal, with animalistic tendencies and desires, despite your best efforts to dress yourself up in humanity. This can range from specialized cleaning rituals to extreme sniffing, or improbable contortions. Sometimes, however, it can feel great to let the inner animal off the leash and just go full frenzy.
Going berserk is a free action that can be done once per session, at which point any damage to your Brawn and Agility is wiped away, though you take 1d4 Mind damage. This state of primal rage lasts for a scene, and when it’s over you have great difficulty remembering what happened during it. While feral, your thoughts can generally be summarised as: fight, flight, or mate. All your attacks deal an extra 1d6 damage. Occasionally you may also have trouble separating friend from foe.
Natural Born Killer
Nature, evolution, or perhaps dark magick, has gifted you with a natural weapon. Choose an option below, or agree something similar with your GM.
- A light weapon, such as vicious claws (1d6 damage; attached)
- A medium weapon, such as a maw of dangerous teeth (1d8 damage; attached)
- A heavy weapon, such as a massive tail (1d8 damage; attached, blunt)
Fall with Grace
Whenever you fall, you can orient yourself to land on your feet, so long as you're conscious and physically able to do so. Not only does it look cool, you also only take half damage from the fall, if it was a short distance or less.
Feral and Furious
While in a Feral Mind rage, all your attacks deal an additional 1d8 damage instead of 1d6.
Funneled Feral Mind
During your rage, you retain a certain amount of focus, and almost never mistake friend for foe.
One of your natural weapons' damage die increases by 1 step; from d6 to d8, or from d8 to d10. This can be taken multiple times, each time for a different natural weapon.
You can add an additional weapon, as per Natural Born Killer. This can be taken multiple times, within reason.
One of your basic senses is heightened, or you gain an extraordinary sense, like echolocation. While this heightened sense is overall beneficial, it can also sometimes be a liability, such as heightened hearing in a clamorous environment.
By reaching deep into the beast within you, you can let out a terrifying roar that shakes all that can hear it, and strikes fear into the hearts of those also witnessing it. As an action, roll 1d4. You take that much Mind damage, as do all who hear you. Additionally, those who can also see you must make a Mind check against your Brawn or lose their next 1d4+1 actions to cowering or running away.
You can protect companions from both effects by demonstrating your power to them in advance; henceforth they will be immune to it for as long as you wish.
Exploit Terminal Velocity
If you fall such that you reach terminal velocity, you can use your Fall with Grace power to reduce the falling damage to a flat 1d6. Perhaps you do it by increasing your wind resistance, or by calling upon air spirits.
Fast and Furious
Your speed is unparalleled, and unless there is a good reason, you can almost certainly outrun other creatures of a similar size and physiology to you. In combat, you may move a long distance as a single action, if you take 1d4 Agility damage.
Host a Spirit
The worlds of the Ultracosm are awash with liminal life, effluviant energies, and more. You just call them spirits. Spend a minute meditating, to coax a nearby spirit into your body, for a scene. This inflicts 1d4 Agility damage, as the spirit attempts to acclimatise to your body.
While so merged, you gain glimpses of the spirit's memory or recent experiences, and vice-versa, though you cannot communicate with each other in the traditional sense. You gain an additional power, depending on the nature of the spirit, according to the GM's discretion (unless you can make an excellent case for a specific one), such as:
- extra strength (double your Brawn modifier),
- strong olfactory, or other, sense.
Huffing and Puffing
Your monstrous bellow is enough to flatten small structures, and send close enemies flying. As an action, take 1d4 Brawn damage, and make an opposed Brawn check with each close enemy or structure (the GM will set the difficulty of structures) you wish to affect.
A successful check against an enemy sends them flying back a short distance, deals them 2d6 damage, and generally leaves them prone. Affected structures crumble and fall down.
When you take this advance, you shrug off your current form, enter a state of chrysalis for a period of a few days, and emerge a different, improved beast. As a result, you choose a new Beast concept, and you may replace any of your advances with new ones of the same level (except for this one, of course), and you may distribute 4 points among your abilities.
You may take this advance multiple times, each time emerging as a new Beast form.
You may enter your Feral Mind rage once per scene instead of session, taking no Mind damage, and retain full control during it, as well as memory afterwards.
You can walk with the spirits, in the places between worlds. For 1d6 Mind damage, you can, as an action, enter another plane of existence for a scene, before reappearing where you started. For an additional 1d4 Brawn damage, you may retain a sensory link to your plane of origin, and also re-appear anywhere you wish within sight.
You are not made from flesh and bones; or if you are, the flesh is synthetic and sutured together, and the bones are metal. Or maybe you’re the world’s first perfect android, indistinguishable on the outside from live humans. Perhaps you are the most vicious and successful golem from a world in perpetual war.
The powers of the Construct focus what powers it, and how it can use that energy in different ways, as well as recording and relaying back events.
Created as a foot soldier for a forgotten war. Sole survivor of an attack on their aethercraft, which left them orbiting a desolate world. Took up experimenting on corpses of the fleshy crew members to pass the time.
Abilities: Brawn 12, Agility 9, Mind 11. 1-point affinity in Mind.
Drive: Arcane knowledge.
Weakness: Grinding noises only kept in check by oiling.
Advances: Minor cosm power—Amateur Surgery, Minor cosm power—At Arm’s Dibranchiate Length (multi-jointed arms), Minor archetype power—Insight.
Equipment: Bronze exoskeleton (2 slots, medium armor, attached), detachable rotary saw for hand (1 slot, medium weapon, 1d8 damage), bag of spare parts (2 slots), well stocked physician's bag (1 slot).
Flesh golem poet
Unholy creation, assembled by a desperate soul, in a misguided attempt to replace their true love. Long spiral into depression after many failed suicide attempts, until discovery of art as nourishment for body and flesh.
Abilities: Brawn 13, Agility 9, Mind 10. 1-point affinity in Brawn.
Weakness: Inferiority complex, bouts of violence.
Advances: Minor archetype power—Improved Batteries, Minor cosm power—Indefatigable, Minor archetype power—Kinship.
Equipment: Body as weapon (2 slots, medium armor, attached; medium weapon, 1d6 damage, attached, blunt), sturdy dark outfit with long mantle and high collar (1 slot), ink and quill and parchments (1 slot), book of spectral poetry (1 slot), stolen chronometer (1 slot, worth 50 gp, or more if repaired).
Someone somewhere, somewhen created the prototype for the perfect android. Indistinguishable from their biological counterpart in all but the tiniest details, flawless in mind and body—except for the incurable Drive.
Abilities: Brawn 11, Agility 11, Mind 11. 1-point affinity in Agility.
Weakness: Temperamental—roll 1d4 at the start of each session or scene for your temperament. 1 - sanguine, 2 - choleric, 3 - melancholic, 4 - phlegmatic.
Advances: Minor archetype power—Capture the Moment, Minor cosm power—Hard Knocks (melee), Minor archetype power—Lifelike.
Equipment: Perfect body (1 slot, light armor, attached; rapid cosmetic repairing), perfect mind (1 slot, attached; recall pithy quote for any situation), perfect soul (1 slot, attached; exceptionally charming, lover not fighter), internal storage (2 slots, attached, acts as concealed 5-slot bag), sharp suit (1 slot).
You're different from the average meatbag. You don't eat, you are energized by your internal batteries (or energy source), whatever shape they may take. You don't sleep, but you power down to recharge—a night's recharging brings your batteries back to normal. You don't breathe, but use atmospheric ventilation. And you don't tire, provided your batteries have charge left.
Your batteries can store charges equal to half your Brawn score, rounded down. Use up 1 charge to:
- eschew a regular recharging power down session for the night,
- close down the hatches and stop ventilation for a few hours,
- as an action, reduce your Brawn damage by 1.
If you run out of charges, you power down. If the GM feels generous or other players particularly ingenious, they can maybe jury rig something together to power you for a brief period of time.
By accumulating and focussing your energy, you can release a galvanic burst at a close creature. For each action spent accumulating, your discharge pool gains 1d6. If your accumulation actions are spaced out by more than 1 other action, or you choose not to discharge after all, the gathered energy harmlessly redistributes across your body. On the other hand, if you take any trauma in a round you spent accumulating, the energy dissipates uncontrollably, dealing your discharge pool in damage to yourself and everyone close.
At any point after collecting at least 1 die in your discharge pool, you can unleash its crippling power at one or more close targets, as a free action. Make an Agility check against their defense; if you miss, the energy might do interesting things to the scenery. The accumulated dice can be spread across valid targets or concentrated on one. For each action spent accumulating, you take 1 point of Brawn damage at the moment of discharge.
For example: You spent 3 actions accumulating, spaced out with one movement action in between each. The last move action puts you right next to 3 opponents, and you unleash the discharge, deciding to deal 1d6 damage to each of them. You take 3 points of Brawn damage. You could have instead decided to deal 3d6 damage to one opponent, or 2d6 to one and 1d6 to another.
Capture the Moment
For 1 battery charge, you can save a moment—a blink of an eye—in your internal memory and in perpetuity perfectly recall everything you saw, including any text that was in your field of vision, such as a page of a book, or scrawlings on a wall.
The amount of charges you can store increases by 2, up to a maximum of your Brawn score. You can take this advance multiple times.
Your sight is special, and lets you see things other people can’t. Perhaps your eyes are pure technomancy, or possessed of a mysterious magic. Either way, the spectrum of light that they recognize is enhanced, which among other things means that sometimes you perceive things that were perhaps not meant to be glimpsed. Additionally, you see clearly twice the distance of regular humans, and need far less light to move about confidently in the dim.
You have an innate connection to other constructed entities you touch. You can feel if they're happy or sad, and you can either assume the same feeling yourself, or copy your current feeling onto them.
You can generally pass as a Tellurian. Only special scrutiny will reveal your Construct nature.
Instead of accumulating galvanic energy for a Sudden Discharge, you can load your skin with it, making you highly dangerous to touch. As an action, chose a number of battery charges to invest. For each charge invested a creature touching you (directly, or with a metal object) takes 1d4 damage. You stay loaded for a scene.
Part of the Whole
Mutability is key to survival. In the spirit of this adage, you can detach one of your limbs—such as a forearm—as an action and send it off on a mission. While detached, your Brawn score is reduced by 3: this is the amount of damage the limb can take before breaking down. The limb also breaks down if it's ever more than a long distance away from you. Once reattached, your Brawn is restored by 3, minus any damage the limb has suffered in the meantime.
If you close your eyes and concentrate, you can see and hear through the limb, albeit in a fuzzy, distorted kind of way. The limb crawls, rolls, or slides, but slowly. It takes 2 actions for it to move a short distance, unless, you know, it's rolling downhill, or falling.
Your Insight allows you to see through 1cm of metal, 10 cm of stone, per action and battery charge spent. Adjust distances for other materials accordingly.
You can project a saved moment or scene from your internal memory into the world in the form of a shaky, monochromatic, semi-translucent hologram or eldritch light picture. You can project it at a close distance, but it always clearly emanates from you. This costs 1 battery charge for a still moment, or 2 charges for a scene with sound and movement.
Blaze of Glory
Desperate times require heroic, desperate measures. If your batteries are at most at half capacity, you can blow all of your charges in one action and supercharge. For the rest of the scene, your Brawn score counts as double. This likely makes you extremely dangerous, and much more resistant to physical damage.
At the end of the scene, it’s reckoning time. The good news is that any Brawn damage you took over and above your regular score does not suddenly carry over to Agility, but any trauma incurred remains. It’s time to check your reserves. Make a target 10 Mind check. If you succeed, you manage to somehow find yourself with 1 charge left; explain how. If you fail, you power down.
Like Shaky Projection, but the projection looks real for all intents and purposes, unless the witness or witnesses have a valid reason to disbelieve it. Furthermore, it no longer visibly emanates from you.
For an extra battery charge, you can project up to a short distance away, to a spot you can see.
Save the Scene
For 2 battery charges, you can commit both visual and auditory elements of a whole scene (up to a minute or so) to internal memory, for perpetuity.
Sudden Ranged Discharge
Your Sudden Discharge power increases its range from "close distance" to "short distance."
Unexpected Part of the Whole
Instead of manually detaching a limb via your Part of the Whole power, you can now shoot it off, though it stays connected via a chain or other rope-like thing, like a strand of spider silk. Treat it like a ranged attack. It deals 1d6 damage, and has the knockback and ranged weapon tags, and optionally blunt. You can reel it back in as an action, as long as nothing bad happened to the chain in the meantime, of course.
You might of course find other uses for a limb on a chain. I'm sure the fingers could form a hook or something before you fire your forearm off, for example.
Violent Part of the Whole
Your Unexpected Part of the Whole does 1d8 damage and gains the brutal tag.
Your Sudden Discharge power, and Sudden Ranged Discharge if you possess it, is now likely lethal to all but the hardiest of creatures (or sceneries.) The discharge die type increases to d12, and you can accumulate 2d12 per action spent charging. The Brawn damage remains 1 per accumulation action.
As an action, you can manifest a semi-solid illusion, up to a short distance to a place you can see. The illusion must be comprised of elements you have saved in your internal memory, but those elements can be added, subtracted, and multiplied. For example, if you had saved memories of horses and vampires, you could add them to create a vampire centaur illusion.
The illusion acts in a repeating loop defined at the moment of manifestation, unless you spend an action to control it, at which point it can do anything, or say anything you would like it to, so long as it adheres to the addition, subtraction, multiplication rules above.
The power costs 1 battery charge per 2 cubic meters and lasts for a scene.
You died, but it didn’t stick. Maybe you died from the plague but have inexplicably returned from the grave to eat your loved ones, or maybe you are so ancient as to not even remember your previous life. The first vampire, or the feared and powerful lich perhaps? Either way, what remains of your body is dead flesh, probably slowly decaying.
The powers of the Revenant focus around undeath, the undead, and horror.
Leaving the crumbling castle of caustic memories for the distractions of the New World.
Abilities: Brawn 10, Agility 13, Mind 9. 1-point affinity in Brawn.
Weakness: Compulsion to count tiny, spilled objects.
Advances: Minor cosm power—Byronic, Minor archetype power—Death Becomes You, Minor cosm power—Terrible Curse (fire, sunlight).
Equipment: Dated noble's outfit (1 slot; lends itself to blending into shadows), jewelry worth 200gp (1 slot), family sword (1 slot, medium, 1d8), locket with portrait of dead spouse (1 slot; 50/50 chance of inducing rage or melancholy), loyal undead wolf (1 slot).
Former smuggler or sailor, returned from the depths of the sea for a purpose unknown.
Abilities: Brawn 13, Agility 10, Mind 9. 1-point affinity in Brawn.
Weakness: Fear of running water.
Advances: Minor cosm power—Indefatigable, Minor cosm power—Magnificent Mucus Membrane, Minor archetype power—Unholy Sustenance.
Equipment: Permanently wet sailor's outfit (1 slot), pouch with 50gp worth of pieces of eight (1 slot), cutlass (1 slot, medium, 1d6, on-going), sack of illicit goods (1 slot), waterlogged book of erotic poetry (1 slot, saucy).
Animated skeleton warrior, long abandoned and forgotten by its creator, finally but tentatively leaving its post in the crypt.
Abilities: Brawn 12, Agility 11, Mind 9. 1-point affinity in Brawn.
Weakness: Bones held together by unknown magicks, less reliable in their old age.
Advances: Minor archetype power—Ghul Touch, Minor cosm power—Hard Knocks (ranged), Minor archetype power—Pestilent.
Equipment: Scraps of armor (2 slots, medium armor, 2 points), spear (1 slot, medium weapon, 1d6, long, throwing), shield with long forgotten crest (2 slots, medium shield), sack of bones from old collapsed colleagues and random trinkets (2 slots; 25% chance of containing any given tiny, mundane knickknack).
You are drawn to a negative emotion like despair, fear, or greed, or a concept like innocence, or heroism. Choose one. You can sense it in your general surroundings, and you can sense when you are getting closer, though you cannot pinpoint it until you see the source. You are powerfully attracted to the emotion and wish nothing more than to relieve the source of it, though you have no special means to do this.
You do not eat, breathe, or sleep (though you can fall unconscious). Depending on the state of your body and organs, you may or may not be able to even attempt it. Similarly, you feel no pain—and unless you still possess skin, you feel no physical sensations at all. Furthermore, you are immune to damage from exhaustion. You simply never tire.
On the other hand, this lack of sleep takes its toll mentally, over time. You are far more likely to develop obsessions and phobias, and very old unliving have generally picked up several already. You start with 1 additional weakness, like a fear, irrational or otherwise.
Death Becomes You
Unlike most Revenants, whose physical form slowly decays and just generally goes all gross, you are, and forever remain, astonishingly beautiful. On the outside at least. Nothing can mar your perfect visage either, it always reverts to its beauty.
You know a ritual that bathes an area up to the size of a house in an unholy aura. Enacting the ritual requires you to spend time there. Within the aura you heal 1 point of damage each round, and once per session you may automatically succeed at a check of your choice.
Once per session, if you succeed at an Agility check against the target's defense, you paralyze them with fear for the remainder of the scene—providing they can sensibly be frightened by you.
You may exude a cloud or a glob of pestilence or pure darkness from your decaying body over a close target. With a successful Agility check against their defense, you deal 2d6 poison or psychic damage (choose once). It also deals 1d4 Brawn damage to yourself as you vomit up or exhale precious bodily fluids, gases, or essence.
If you are determined to empty your physical vessel of its toxin, you can deal 2d6 damage to all close enemies with your Pestilent power, instead of just one, at a cost of 1d6 Brawn damage to yourself. Once you do this, you may not do it again for the remainder of the scene.
Profane Semblance of Life
You temporarily instill life back into an small entity, no larger than a goat, or a shrubbery. It takes an action, you must touch the entity, and you take 1d4 Brawn damage. It then lurches to a brief—one scene—replica of life, replete with hideous, ungodly pain and wailing or bleating (if physically possible), before returning to death. Again, if physically possible, you might briefly question the entity.
You can focus your Pestilent power to affect 1 target up to a short distance away.
The Thing at the Doorstep
Innately charming, or perhaps quietly intimidating—either way, your requests are hard to resist. Once you are inside a dwelling, the owner or people in charge, find it difficult to refuse any reasonable request of yours. Free food? You got it! A round of drinks for you and your friends? Coming right up! "Won't you please let me off with a warning this time, captain? — Oh ok, but just this once!"
The catch? Well, you can't enter unless invited by them.
The mere touch of the targets of your Drawn power is exhilarating, but it is the special quality you're drawn to in them that you seek above all else. Specifically, you seek to remove and consume it.
If they are willing, or unable to resist, you may draw it from them as an action. This immediately heals all your Brawn damage, and gives you the equivalent of a 3-point magical armor for the rest of the scene.
You can disassemble yourself, be disassembled, into your components parts, and reassemble, or be reassembled, at a later date. Either way the process takes about a minute, and is fairly disconcerting to watch.
Taking 1d6 Mind damage, you disassemble into a swarm of small, harmless climbing or flying creatures instead. They cannot fight but do not provoke attacks of opportunity either. They are immune to all but magical damage. If they take any, you immediately reassemble. For each 10 minutes in swarm form, you take another 1d6 Mind damage.
Taking some of the dark force that anchors your dead body to this realm, and whispering dark blasphemies, you instill an ephemeral mockery of life into the corpse of another creature, up to the size of a human.
You can do this once per session, for the duration of 1 scene, at a cost of 1d6 Brawn damage to yourself.
The corpse lurches back to a grotesque facsimile of life, with jagged movements, and unnerving sounds. It follows your every command, to the best of its unthinking abilities. The GM will have the stats for the unholy creature.
You can enthrall a close creature who has no reason to think of you as a threat. If you succeed at an opposed Mind check, they are beguiled for the rest of the scene, and will do anything for you that they would not consider suicidal or directly against their beliefs. If the target does not find you at least the slightest bit attractive, your check is at disadvantage.
The Quick and the Dead
Death calls you, and you can answer. You are always aware when people in your general vicinity (let's say up to 100 meters)—whether you see them or not—are at death's door, as well as when they terminally lay off their mortal coil.
Should you wish, you may instantly appear near such a dying or just deceased person. So long as it is hauntingly creepy or freaky for you to do so, and you stomach 1d4 Agility damage. Whether you then help them along into the afterlife, or pull them back from the precipice (if you have the means) is of course up to you.
The subjects of your Drawn power are struck with immobilizing fear the moment you lock eyes with them. Even attempting to break this condition requires you to touch or harm the target, at which point they can make an opposed Mind check. If successful, the condition is broken, and they are immune to the gaze for the rest of the scene. Even if unsuccessful, the attempt to break the fear inflicts 1d6 psychic damage.
You can usually only lock eyes with one entity at a time.
You are insubstantial, translucent, and nothing from the mortal realm can touch you (nor you it), except perhaps the most dedicated magics. You float, though never more than a few meters of the ground. You can become perfectly invisible and soundless. Your voices carries back into the mortal realm in a haunting, distorted and distant sounding way.
If you wish, you can manifest in a quasi physical form for a scene, to manipulate objects. This is strenuous though, and inflicts 1d4 Mind damage.
When you first become a ghost, and subsequently after manifesting, all the gear you wear or carry turns ghostly too. And while you can't hit things unless you manifest, your mind bullets and other whatnots of course continue to function.
Your perseverance is such that as long as even a sliver of your body remains, you may grow a full body back, skin, hair and all, though it will start decaying again as normal. This process takes anywhere from a day (to regrow a limb) to a week (to regrow from a knuckle bone to full body.)
Some revenants take to keeping a piece of them hidden, should calamity befall their regular body.
You are permanently surrounded by an aura of pestilence. Plants shrivel within this visibly foul cloud, and objects age unnaturally fast, becoming brittle. All unprepared close creatures roll with disadvantage within it. You may suppress the aura for a scene, at a cost of 1d4 Brawn to you.
Furthermore, all your other pestilent powers deal double damage, and their cost to you is reduced by 1 die type (1d4 becomes 1).
The Royal archetype represents individuals in places of power. Sometimes hereditary, sometimes acquired through other means. The Royal is usually well educated in etiquette, the arts of warfare, their people's history, and other subjects oft reserved for the wealthy.
You are the disgraced conqueror king, the most beautiful princess in all the lands, the warmongering general of the greatest army that ever lived, or perhaps the emperor's bastard daughter in hiding. You are used to dealing with people, and you have a lordly presence.
The powers of the Royal focus around the might and responsibilities of nobility, restoration, and enabling others.
Tried and sentenced for a grisly crime (unjustly?) after a lengthy, peaceful rule. Saved moments before the execution, and whisked into exile for safety.
Abilities: Brawn 9, Agility 10, Mind 13. 1-point affinity in Mind.
Weakness: Unable to let go of luxuries and style.
Advances: Minor archetype power—Bestow Favor, Minor archetype power—Cunning Idea, Minor archetype power—Silken Sway.
Equipment: Sumptuous gown with corset and boots marred by the years in the dungeon (1 slot, light armor; still looks impressive), stolen silver glaive (1 slot, heavy weapon, exhausting, forceful, long), ruby necklace (1 slot; 100 gp), ancient family signet ring (1 slot; crest possibly recognizable).
Genie without a lamp
Timeless and magical in nature, former adviser to elemental kings and queens.
Abilities: Brawn 9, Agility 11, Mind 12. 1-point affinity in Mind.
Drive: Arcane knowledge.
Weakness: Fear of imprisonment.
Advances: Minor cosm power—Different Down There, Minor archetype power—Spoken Like You Mean It, Minor cosm power—Vox Furore Dei.
Equipment: Brightly-colored hooded robes of looking swish (1 slot), curved ceremonial dagger (1 slot, light weapon, 1d4 damage), heart of Vox Dei Magnus (1 slot, attached; as the medium power, but costs are double).
Mercenary warrior of great renown of many famous battles throughout the Ultracosm. Called upon by the ultra rich or wealthy when failure is not an option. Until failure happened.
Abilities: Brawn 12, Agility 9, Mind 11. 1-point affinity in Brawn.
Weakness: Post traumatic stress disorder.
Advances: Minor cosm power—Hard Knocks (melee), Minor archetype power—Lead the Charge, Minor archetype power—Signature Weapon (warhammer).
Equipment: Intimidating half-plate armor (2 slots, medium armor, spiked), warhammer (1 slot, medium weapon, 1d6 damage, backswing, blunt), demon-faced shield (2 slots, medium shield, deflecting), pouch with 50 gp (1 slot), ledger of names (1 slot; employers, armies, battles, and men lost).
Your training has made moving and behaving with perfect grace and poise second nature, and your clothing will never hinder you. This often leaves a favorable impression on the people you meet, and it also means your movement never provokes attacks of opportunity, including from long weapons.
By appealing to the virtue of your mission, your companions’ heroic defiance of all odds, or the myriad wonders experienced, you lift everyone’s morale. Once per session, your party gains 4 Wonder points, and all allies who heard the speech, including yourself, heal 3d4 damage. This takes at least 2 actions.
Once per session, you may ask your suitor or target to undertake a voluntary contract and perform a task on your behalf.
The nature of this task can vary widely, but might include protecting you from harm, putting themselves between you and the monster, retrieving that beautiful flower from the top of that windy cliff, and so on. In return, you bestow your favor upon them, sometimes symbolized further by a kiss or a token, say, a scarf. If that weren’t enough already, this favor immediately heals the target of Nd6 damage (spread between abilities as the target wishes), where N is the total Mind damage you take for your selflessness.
Should the target fail to complete the task this session, they take Nd6 Mind damage.
You had access to martial training beyond the reach of most people, and learned how to make the most of protective gear. Light armor absorbs 2 points of damage for you, instead of 1.
You shout a quick piece of strategic advice to an ally. Forego one of your actions, and give an immediate action to an ally who can see, hear, and understand you.
Lead the Charge
If you perform the charge wondrous action, your close allies can do the same on their next turn for the price of 1 Wonder, instead of the normal 2.
You are just so darn charming or pretty that you can win people over by giving a passionate heartfelt speech. Most people will join your cause (or maybe believe they’ve fallen in love with you) if it’s reasonable, but particularly stubborn, or hostile people will require a successful opposed Mind check. The speech takes a few minutes, requires an audience of course, your presence, and that the audience understand you. Because it’s an exhausting task even for you, such a speech does you 1 Brawn damage.
An audience thusly won over will stay with you, and work towards the advertised cause, for a scene.
Whenever you are clad in a significant amount of satin, you are brimming with confidence. This makes you especially hard to intimidate, frighten, or put down.
Choose a single, noble type of weapon. You were trained with that weapon by the most cunning instructors in your realm. When fighting with your signature weapon, you add your Mind bonus to all damage you deal with it.
Your words of encouragement sway an ally to greater chances of success. An ally who can hear and understand you may add 1d4 to the result of their next d20 check, provided the check is made the same scene. This action is taxing for you however, inflicting 1 Brawn damage to you.
Spoken Like You Mean It
Your Rallying Speech heals an extra 1d4 damage. This advance may be taken up to 3 times.
If you posses the Heartbreaker power, its psychic damage increases to 2d8.
Your training with medium armors is unmatched, and these pieces of equipment absorb 3 points of damage for you, instead of 2.
Sometimes it falls to you to choose the lesser of two evils, and to order a course of action, knowing it will have dire consequences later. Once per session, you may choose an ally and give them advice or an order. That ally automatically succeeds at their current task, but their action will create a complication that will come back to haunt the party later—ideally the next session.
Whether it's affairs of the state, the heart, or war, it's all about strategy, and you know never to go into a conflict unprepared.
At the beginning of the session, roll 3d20 and note their results. At any point during the session you may replace a result of any d20 roll with one of the noted results. Then cross that result out from your noted ones.
You can really pour your heart into a speech and take things to a more literal level. You speak a heart wrenching phrase as an action. This strenuous activity does you 1d6 Brawn damage, and breaks a little bit of the hearts of any close enemies who can hear, understand, and see you. They all take 1d8 psychic damage, while you might consider making a swift exit.
You royal status grants your privileges, but also responsibilities. As you fulfill the image the public has of a noble in your position, you gain one of the following merits of your choice for the duration of the scene: +2 defense, +2 armor, +1d4 damage, or +2 to 1 ability score. If you continue to act accordingly, you may continue to choose—and stack—merits, up to a maximum of 4 choices total.
You trained since childhood with the finest plate and ceremonial armors. All heavy armors absorb 4 damage for you, instead of 3, and lose the exhausting tag.
You become magic. All your attacks have the magic tag. Further, you possess true love's kiss, or the magic touch. When all other means fail, perhaps you are the key. For example, you can break magical curses, if you succeed at a Mind check against the curse's creator or a GM-set difficulty. Each attempt inflicts 1d6 Mind damage to you.
A person who's curse was thusly lifted by you, is—at your discretion—extremely likely to:
- fall in love with you,
- declare that they owe you a life debt,
- swear unwavering fealty to you.
Terrible Midas Touch
Every discrete thing you touch, up to the size of a human, turns to gold. A rose becomes gold almost immediately; a life-size statue takes 1 minute.
If you wish to touch unwilling creatures, you must make a melee attack roll against them. Should this succeed, they must make a Brawn test against your Mind at the beginning of their next turn. If they fail it, they are reduced to 1 action and regular turns, and fully become gold after 1 minute. Else, if they succeed, they are reduced to 1 action and regular turns for the scene, but escape the curse with but their skin having taken on a golden sheen.
Wearing gloves may avoid the golden touch, assuming they are of good quality, and not worn thin. Nothing protects without fail.
You may rid yourself of this power by finding the river Pactolus and washing your hands in it. At that point anything you turned gold reverts if you submerge it in this river.
Charge an ally or your party with a quest, divine or otherwise, or arrange a scene together with the GM that imparts a quest upon you and your party. The objective must be achievable within the next 2 to 3 sessions. Until the quest has been completed, or abandoned, each player rolls their first check in a scene with advantage, so long as the scene furthers their quest.
Design a treasure together with the GM, which can be found at the quest's apex, with a reasonable chance of success. That is, it is likely guarded by enemies or traps, but it must be achievable.
Only one quest may be active at a given time, and only one quest may be undertaken per adventure, by a given party or ally.
You are out of time or place, come from far away, with different knowledge and equipment. Perhaps you are the astronaut who piloted the experimental spacecraft that got sucked into a wormhole, got flung into the far future of another world, and crash-landed on the Purple Planet. Perhaps you are your nation’s secret mad professor, tasked with fusing the magicks of John Dee with science.
Your powers focus on wonder, knowledge, and dangerous remnants of your origin.
Experienced astronaut who flew an experimental spacecraft through a wormhole and stranded in the far reaches of the Ultracosm.
Abilities: Brawn 11, Agility 9, Mind 12. 1-point affinity in Brawn.
Weakness: Must always play the hero.
Advances: Minor archetype power—Beloved, Minor archetype power—Ray Emitter, Minor archetype power—Wonders Never Cease.
Equipment: Temperature controlled space suit (1 slot, light armor), nozzled container of pressurized and condensed vapor (2 slots), loin cloth or mini skirt of showing off abs (1 slot), picture of family or friends left behind (1 slot).
Occult totalitarian femme fatale
Loyal researcher and enforcer for a powerful tyrant, with a penchant for the occult. Combined the technomancy of the time with a forbidden summoning ritual, and got flung through time, space, and cosmoses.
Abilities: Brawn 9, Agility 11, Mind 12. 1-point affinity in Agility.
Drive: Forbidden knowledge.
Weakness: Cruel, allergies to common foods.
Advances: Minor cosm power—Breadth of Ages, Minor archetype power—Improved Ray Emitter, Minor archetype power—Ray Emitter.
Equipment: Sleek and sexy uniform (1 slot, easily ripped), riding crop (1 slot, light weapon, 1d2 damage, excruciating), purse with 50 gp and lipstick (1 slot), half-decoded grimoire of demon summoning (1 slot).
Average teenage school girl with a magical awakening in a scene of stress and danger. Ray emitter as crystal in forehead band.
Abilities: Brawn 9, Agility 13, Mind 10. 1-point affinity in Mind.
Weakness: Always believes in the best of everyone.
Advances: Minor archetype power—Beloved, Minor cosm power—Hasty Hands, Minor archetype power—Ray Emitter.
Equipment: Stylish school uniform (1 slot; makes you look innocent), cute handbag with 50 gp and hair accessories (1 slot), collapsible bo staff (1 slot, medium weapon, 1d6 damage, long parry), seemingly endless ribbon (1 slot).
You are the protagonist of the story, and the world does revolve around you, to a point. While you are far from invincible, the villains tend to explain that little bit more of their dastardly plan to you than strictly necessary. The traps you encounter give you that extra chance at avoidance, and you’ve never seen a prison from which you could not escape. And when calamity tragically does befall you, you be sure to remind the GM about your favored status.
From your training and education, you are versed in history, science (pseudo- or otherwise), and engineering, and perhaps the occult. Once per session you may ask the GM a question about the current situation, and the answer will provide with you with a definite advantage, though not necessarily the knowledge or direct means to enact it. Drinking optional.
You have a knack for befriending people. When encountering new people or civilizations, they have a tendency to be friendlier to you and your allies than they might be to other outsiders.
Remind the GM about this when necessary, but don't pout if a tribe of cannibals throws you in a storage camp rather than eat you outright, like they might have done to non-beloved characters.
Alternatively, you may take the Intimidating version of this power, where new people are always somewhat afraid and cowed by you.
Improved Ray Emitter
Provided you have a Ray Emitter, it gains the brutal and destructive tags.
You possess an advanced, hand-held ray emitter, a very dangerous weapon (light weapon; 1d6; magic, ranged). Perhaps it was standard issue where you came from, perhaps you acquired it through other means. This ray emitter is keyed to you in some way (perhaps locked to your DNA), and will not work for other people.
If you lose it, you can cobble together a new one from spare parts you might have, but it will definitely be bulkier than the original.
Your Ultrasuit has a set of tiny rockets that can propel you about to some extent, when you've turned your gravitational pull way down. If you use this thrust for any length of time though, or in a concentrated burst, they'll run themselves dry and will need recharging (overnight, or otherwise.)
The Stars Are Right
That planetary alignment the cultists are waiting for? It's now! That cosmological event that only happens once a millenium? It's today! That time when the god star Ariella descended from the heavens? It's happening again!
All sorts can be achieved when the stars are right. Just not too often. Like maybe, once an adventure. Unless your story is really good.
You possess an advanced suit from your homeworld or timeline. While it doesn't protect you against attacks, it does to some extent shield you from inclement atmospheric influences. It also allows you to adjust your gravitational exertion, making you either light as a feather, or heavy as an anvil.
Most important of all though, it shows off your great physique or curves, and is super swish. Probably shiny or stripey too.
Wonders Never Cease
It's one thing experiencing the wonders of the Ultracosm, but it's yet another experiencing them in your presence. Whenever your party gains Wonder, add 1 to the Wonder gained.
You have a sixth sense for spotting the wonders of the Ultracosm. Once per session, describe such a wonder at a relevant juncture of the adventure. It should be within sight, accessible, but not without danger. Gain Wonder relevant to how fitting your description is for the tone of the current world.
Your ray emitter's damage increases to 1d8, and it gains an alternate fire mode, which deals 1d6 damage with the spread tag.
Solve It With Science
Once per session, when confronted with a problem outside of combat, explain to the GM and the party how you solve it with pseudo-science or technobabble, with nothing but your knowledge and available resources. If you manage to do so while staying within the tone of retro futurism and science fantasy, without referencing real-world physics and terms, and it is entertaining enough, it automatically succeeds.
Take Me to Your Leader
Once per session. They cannot refuse unless it's truly impossible for them to take you, or, like, they don't have a leader.
You have finally accomplished what seemed impossible, and successfully discovered, assembled, or otherwise enacted an opportunity for you to return to your home world and/or your own timeline.
You have a choice to make: take the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or eschew it forever and remain here and retire with your lover or lovers. Either way, it is the end of the story for this character, but it is a glorious one.
If you return home, the next character you create starts with an extra 4 ability points, 2 extra minor advances, and 1 extra medium advance.
If you remain but retire, your party members are so moved and invigorated by your example, that they may immediately raise 2 stats of their choice by 1 point (above and beyond any limits), and the party gains 10 Wonder.
You build a rocket, or some sort of space/aether craft. It's probably the culmination of years of research, work, and adventure, but it's finally done. This ship can easily fit your whole party and then some. It's strong enough to withstand any atmospheric, void, or aetheric conditions you can throw at it. And those are manifold, because—and explain by what means—it can travel beyond worlds, throughout the Ultracosm. All you have to do is pick up some relevant fuel or power on occasion.
On top of all that, the vehicle has 3 of the following properties, and you may add more as minor advances:
- can shrink to the size of a small treasure chest,
- is heavily armored,
- has a mounted obliterator level ray emitter,
- can become invisible,
- can be controlled remotely.
Anything that is not an archetype specific power is a cosm power. These are open to all characters, regardless of archetype, when they are entitled to a relevant advance (including the 3 free minor advances for new characters).
Some of the powers may at first glance seem weird to take later in a character's career. For example, Different Down There, states that a character has something else instead of legs. Hypertellurians is a game that likes to do away with many limitations, so if a player would like to take that advance later in their adventuring career, the GM and player are encouraged to work together to create a story that makes this plausible. How about some loss of limbs combined with amateur surgery or mysticisms, for instance?
Unless a power specifies otherwise, it can only be taken once.
A Midnight Dreary
Been wronged? Tired of only being able to get your own back in person? Well then do we have something for you: curses! We have three, tried and tested plans to suit your needs! Dramatically curse a target that can see and understand you, and chose an option below:
- The target has recurrent nightmares in which you play a part (like reminding them to repent). They don't get a good night's rest and find it hard to concentrate during the day.
- The target forgets a mundane skill (how to drink without making a mess, or how to tie their shoelaces) and cannot relearn it no matter how hard they try.
- The target gains a harmless, irrational fear, like crying babies, or spoons.
How to break the curse? Love's true kiss? Add a fun clause in during the cursing. Oh, and hey, you'll need to succeed at an opposed Mind check against the target, and take 1d4 Mind damage yourself. Cursing doesn't come easy or cheap.
You make do with what you've got in difficult situations. It may not be pretty, but it might mean the difference between life and death. Remove physical trauma with time, some equipment, and a successful Mind roll against a difficulty based on the trauma, determined by the GM.
At Arm's Dibranchiate Length
Arms with hands, and hands with opposable thumbs, that's what it's all about, right? Not for you: long, curling, prehensile tentacles, possessed of facile finesse, are your arms. Or maybe just one arm, if you can't quite give up hands completely. If you wish, you can have a technomancy or body horror version instead.
You can emit a soft glow, comparable to a torch, at will.
Breadth of Ages
You are possessed of vast skill. Perhaps your unnaturally long life has seen governments fall, heroes pass into legend, or mountains getting washed into the sea. Perhaps a parasitical conscience fragment is lodged in your mind. Or maybe your spine is fused with a half functioning AI crystal.
Become an expert on a topic of your choosing, and the weakness that you are unhealthily obsessed with it.
You are dark and mysterious, perhaps moody. You are of course handsome or beautiful, what with that rugged chin or those piercing eyes. Also you are deep, and often come up with very profound observations. Many people find these qualities irresistible, and as such, if it’s even remotely feasible, you can rustle up a group of sycophants or groupies who would do almost anything to be near you, touch you, or smell you. Or get a lock of your hair.
Color Out of Space
Your skin, or outermost membrane, can change color, pattern, and texture, in a most chameleonic fashion, and near perfectly match your surroundings. It takes a few minutes and 1 point of Brawn damage. Oh, but your gear doesn't change with you. Better get used to ambushing in the buff.
Different Down There
You know how, when most most people look down, they see their two legs? With you, not so much. Perhaps it’s the lower body of a mountain goat, an enormous snake, or heck, a spider. It makes you fast and stable. And either great at climbing, or not so much (looking at you, horse; but you’re extra fast). You have advantage on checks suited to your mutant propulsion system.
Your literally forked tongue allows to say two things at once. Beyond exceptional innuendo, you can potentially speak two languages at once, or even speak two spells at once. In the latter case you need to be able to cast at least one of them without its spell tome—if you've learned it, for example—as the tongue does not give you the ability to juggle multiple mammoth magic tomes at the same time.
Your swings, powers, or projectiles hit harder than average. Choose one of the following.
- Add half your positive Brawn modifier to melee damage, rounded up.
- Add half your positive Brawn modifier to thrown damage, rounded up.
- Add half your positive Agility modifier to ranged damage, rounded up.
- Add half your positive Brawn or Agility modifier (use whichever ability you rolled to attack) to melee damage with light weapons, rounded up.
- Add half your positive Mind modifier to damage from your powers (such as Pestilence or Zap), rounded up.
- Add half your positive Mind modifier to the damage of all spells and rituals that you cast, rounded up.
This power can be taken multiple times, each time for a different choice.
You can move your hands so fast it’s like a blur. Pocketing unattended objects can only be detected by the most alert of observers. Additionally, you may make two attacks with a light weapon as a single combat action; however, this is straining, so if you do so and miss with either attack, you take 1d4 Agility damage. You are also fidgety.
You are tough to weary with heavy armor or weapons, rambling poetry, or mind numbingly dull tasks. When you miss in combat in heavy armor, or with a heavy weapon, the damage you take is reduced from 1d4 to 1 Brawn, respectively.
Magnificent Mucus Membrane
Decide whether you’re permanently slimy, or excrete it on demand. Either way it covers all of your skin, and comes in multiple hues. The membrane makes you extremely slippery, for good or for ill. Once per session you can bottle up some of the mucus. It has different effects on different species when consumed. Roll on the following table the first time a new species tries it. Henceforth the result will always apply to them.
- Revitalize: Restore 1d8+1 ability points
- Moment of Time: Gain an extra 2 combat actions this regular turn
- Curious: Attract stinging insects and ghosts until thoroughly digested
- Toxic: Do nothing but vomit uncontrollably for 2d10 minutes
You can launch a great charge or jump in one action, up to your Agility in meters horizontally, or half that vertically, at a cost of 1 Agility and 1 Brawn. In combat, you can jump or charge a long distance in one action.
Perhaps it’s your superhuman thighs or weird alien physiology, or even your technomancy boots. Either way, if you so wish, you can make an attack or a shove at the end of the charge, as your next action.
If it’s an attack, deal an extra 1d4 damage, and unless the target somehow shrugs that off, or is way bigger than you, they also fall prone. If it’s a shove, do an opposed Brawn check with advantage. If you succeed, you shove them back a dramatically appropriate distance, and unless they’re super sturdy, they also fall prone.
Murder of Crows
You have a super creepy but extremely loyal, little bird friend. The bird almost seems to be able to read your mind. It doesn't do much, besides creeping people out, unless you feed it an eyeball. Once per session, after being thusly fed, the bird gathers a large group of similarly creepy avians. Enough to cover your vicinity in shadows, make a hell of a racket, and scare the shit out of people.
Chose another character. You have trained with them extensively, or share some other bond. When you both use a shield in combat, each shield's defense bonus is doubled, as long as you're close to one another.
You can take this advance multiple times, picking another character each time. The shield's defense bonus is doubled for all involved.
Should your bonded character die, it will take a sensible amount of time to bond with another.
You have a mystical or technocratical sidekick that you can summon to you as an action once per session. Maybe the sidekick is a holographic projection from your chronometer, or maybe it’s the ghost of your deceased paige. Perhaps it’s a pile of bones you carry around and animate, or perhaps it’s a floating sphere detaching from the back of your neck. Either way, it sticks around for the scene, and provides advantage on all of your checks. It can also perform a desired task (such as fetching something, or infiltrating and unlocking something).
Learn a minor spell or ritual that you have discovered, so that you may henceforth use it without its tome. This can be taken multiple times.
Tellurian of Unusual Size
You are either exceptionally small or intimidatingly large or tall; way beyond the expected margin for your species. Not smaller than 30 cm or larger than 3 meters (tall or as diameter) though. Apart from the usual benefits and drawbacks this might bring, if you happen to possess natural weapons, and go big, they do damage of a die type higher than normal.
For some unknown reason, once out of their sight, many people tend to forget you exist, and more often than not, written accounts detailing you and your actions lose credibility quickly.
Your existence is a burden and you wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. To outsiders your powers look glamorous but you know them to be a crippling curse. They just don’t understand.
Choose two things from the following list that you are especially vulnerable to: silver, fire, sunlight, water, sanctity, iron. Weapons made of this substance always deal maximum damage to you. Continued exposure to it deals 1d8 damage per minute. In either case it’s extremely painful and you avoid it as much as you can.
The curse has made you supernaturally tough though: at the beginning of each scene, you heal 1d8 Brawn and Agility damage. Anytime you take damage from one of your vulnerabilities, this regeneration is suspended for 1 hour.
Vox Furore Dei
Your voice possesses a divine or otherworldly might, and it can compel reality. With but a thunderous word you lash out at an enemy and lacerate them, up to a long distance away, so long as they can hear you. Make an opposed Mind check. If you succeed, take 1 Mind damage to inflict 1d4 psychic damage, and—if it makes sense for their size and physiology—they drop to their knees.
You’re a product of your environment. Choose one, on the more extreme end, like scorching deserts, mountainous colds, or the void of space, or such. Its natural conditions don’t affect you like it does non-natives. You’ll still wear a coat on the mountain, but you don’t get winded from the thin air. Similarly, you might minimize exposed skin in deserts, but you remain mentally and emotionally stable, and don’t immediately hallucinate when you need to ration your water.
Being at home in such environments means you’re often uncomfortable in other ones.
With a little time and the right components, you can combine technomancy with sinew and bones.
Naturally glib, you can talk your way out of almost anything, even physical damage. Once per scene when you would take damage, instead lose gold or treasure of at least the damage times 10 in value. Explain how you’re managing this feat.
Breath of the Mud People
You can soften a patch of stone or rock, or other natural mineral, turning it into a yielding, muddy area. It takes an action to do so, and it costs 1 point of Brawn per 1 meter diameter sphere you wish to affect. It stays soft for a scene, and then slowly returns to its natural state.
You can hold your breath a hell of a long time, like earth whales, or deep sea pearl divers from Organtsa Minor. But more than that, the capacity of your lungs is so astonishing that inhaling the sorts of toxins that might lay a regular person flat, has only a much diminished effect on you (think ¼ damage, or sleepy instead of asleep). It’s simply too diluted in those cavernous organs of yours (actual size of organs not affected).
If you can hold whatever you’ve inhaled in, you’re free to breathe it out at a later date onto close targets.
Finally, your yodeling skills are profound.
Divorced from Gravity
You are not married to gravity like regular people. You are equally at home on any surface whether it be a floor, wall or ceiling. Although you are still paying maintenance, so you don’t float.
Your Hard Knocks improve. Choose one for which you already have Hard Knocks.
- Add your full Brawn modifier to melee damage.
- Add your full Brawn modifier to thrown damage.
- Add your full Agility modifier to ranged damage.
- Add your full Brawn or Agility modifier (use whichever ability you rolled to attack) to melee damage with light weapons.
- Add your full Mind modifier to damage from your powers (such as Pestilence or Zap.)
- Add your full Mind modifier to the damage of all spells and rituals that you cast.
This power can be taken multiple times, each time for a different choice.
You can use your Hasty Hands power without taking Agility damage.
Life of the Party
You are the life and the life force of your party. They would be lost without you, but they probably don’t even realize it. Once per session, when an ally you can see would receive physical trauma, you can instead take 1d6 Mind damage, and gain 2 Wonder.
Additionally, also once per session, when an ally you can see would receive critical trauma, you may opt to instead take 3d6 Mind damage, and immediately heal them back up to a minimum of 1 point in each ability score. It’s a miracle, but they must never know it was you.
Performing an attack or a shove at the end of your Mighty Launch powered jump is now a free action. If you critically succeed at it, gain 1 Wonder.
You have completed your spellbook, and managed to transfer a number of minor spells or rituals from their respective tomes into a single one of your making. Choose a number of minor spell or ritual tomes you own to transcribe up to your Mind modifier plus 2. This newly crafted spellbook only takes up a single inventory slot. Because it is a condensed version of spells from other sources, written in a very personal script, you are the only one capable of using it for spellcasting.
This advance can be taken multiple times, each time creating a new book.
Learn a medium spell or ritual that you have discovered, so that you may henceforth use it without its tome. This can be taken multiple times.
Mystical and mysterious energies constantly run throughout the entire Ultracosm and you are somehow tapped into them. You understand that nothing is gained and nothing is ever lost, it is merely shifted from somewhere to elsewhere. Except, you can intercept it and use it for your own gain.
As an action, spend 1 or more Brawn to heal 1d6 ability points per Brawn spent on a target you touch. As you do so, plants shrivel and die, objects age and become brittle. The area affected is vaguely relative to the amount healed.
Vox Dei Magnus
With a greater investment of your own spirit, you can alter small details about the world around you with your Vox Furore Dei power. That door over there? Look again, it’s unlocked after all, or maybe its hinges are brittle. That potion bottle? You must be mistaken, it’s still full. This power takes an action and costs Mind damage pertinent to the size of the change you’re trying to affect (1d4 for a refill, 1d12 for a repaired bridge, as examples.)
It is rumored that the divinity within you could be unleashed, perhaps leading to apotheosis?
Your Harder Knocks improve. Choose one for which you already have Harder Knocks.
- Add double your Brawn modifier to melee damage.
- Add double your Brawn modifier to thrown damage.
- Add double your Agility modifier to ranged damage.
- Add double your Brawn or Agility modifier (use whichever ability you rolled to attack) to melee damage with light weapons.
- Add double your Mind modifier to damage from your powers (such as Pestilence or Zap.)
- Add double your Mind modifier to the damage of all spells and rituals that you cast.
This power can be taken multiple times, each time for a different choice.
Learn a major power or ritual that you have discovered, so that you may henceforth use it without its tome. This can be taken multiple times.
Playing the game
Core resolution mechanic
Your character has 3 abilities: Brawn, Agility, and Mind (BAM). Brawn represents your physical toughness, your endurance, and your strength. Agility refers to your speed, your precision, and your dexterity. Mind is your cunning, force of will, and education. These abilities have a score, which is a value generally between 5 and 15. From their score, a modifier is derived, which is equal to the score minus 10. For example, a character with a Brawn score of 13 has a Brawn modifier of +3, while a character with a Mind score of 8 has a Mind modifier of -2.
When a situation calls for a check, you roll a d20 and add the relevant ability's modifier. If your result is equal to or higher than the target number, you succeed. The target number is set by the GM, and depends on the difficulty of the task you're trying to achieve. In the case of combat, where you're trying to hit an opponent, the target number is equal to the opponent's Defense score, which is their Agility score plus any applicable modifiers, such as from a shield, protective magics, or impediments.
If the text calls for an opposed check, the target number is equal to the target's relevant ability score.
Advantage and disadvantage
These are the main ways to change the odds on your checks. If you have advantage on a check, you roll 2d20 and take the best result, and if you have disadvantage you roll 2d20 and take the worst result. There are a variety of ways to gain advantage or suffer disadvantage, as described below.
As an exceptional character, you are resistant to certain types of damage. This is represented by a 1, 2, or 3 point affinity in one or more abilities. Whenever you take damage to an ability you have an affinity for—regardless of source—first reduce the damage by the value of your affinity before applying it to the ability.
Hypertellurians is a game about exploring the endless worlds of the Ultracosm. These places are filled with awe-inspiring places, creatures and vistas. When the characters encounter such things, they gain Wonder commensurate to the phenomenon discovered. This communal pool of Wonder can then be used to perform wondrous actions that no normal person would be able to do.
Wonder spent is also the means by which characters advance in power; see Advancement above.
Wondrous actions cost Wonder, and whenever a player wants to make use of them they require unanimous consent from the other players. In return, they can achieve results regular actions cannot, and can make a great difference in fast turns especially.
Wondrous combat actions
- Brutal blow. Your attack gains the brutal tag. If it already had it, it instead deals an extra 1d4 damage. [2 Wonder]
- Called shot. Target a specific location for appropriate, extra effect, as determined by the GM. [2 Wonder]
- Charge. Move a short distance and attack. If the attack hits, deal an extra 1d4 points of damage. [2 Wonder]
- Sprint. Move a long distance. [2 Wonder]
Wondrous general actions
- Manifest memory. Reach through the Ultracosm and physically manifest a relevant, experienced memory for 1 scene. The specific effects are determined by the manifestation, but should be wildly beneficial. [6 Wonder]
- Marvelous adaptation. Draw upon the raw potential of the Ultracosm. Become an expert on a topic of your choice for a scene. [3 Wonder]
- Push fate. Re-roll a roll you have just made. If the original roll was made with advantage, re-roll with advantage too. If it was made with disadvantage, re-roll without disadvantage. The Ultracosm remembers your actions, and if the re-roll alters the original outcome, it will add a complication into your future. [6 Wonder]
- Recall memory. Remember and recount an extraordinary experience. Roll with advantage on the next action, which is executed as part of this one. [3 Wonder]
Critical successes and failures
When a d20 roll comes up with a natural 1, the attempted action automatically fails, and can engender further, unforeseen consequences. However, a natural 20 is always an automatic success. In combat it means your attack deals maximum damage, and outside of combat a critical success can mean extra reward or effect.
Distance and positioning
Hypertellurians uses 3 rough units of distance: close, short, and long. People and things are close if they can be reached in a handful of steps. A short distance requires a combat action to traverse. Outside of combat it’s probably around 10 meters. A long distance requires 2 combat actions to cover. Anything beyond that is specified numerically.
In combat, it's easy to track positioning in terms of relative distance in those categories.
Combat is generally initiated by the action of a player or enemy character. Thereafter, combat is executed in rounds.
A combat round is made up of 3 parts: fast turns, regular turns, and the end of the round. A character can decide to either take a fast or regular turn, and this decision is made anew each round. A character taking a fast turn can use 1 action only, whereas a character taking a regular turn gets to use 2 actions. Taking a fast turn is also referred to as “acting fast”.
Player characters who wish to take a fast turn go first, in any order they agree among them. If there is disagreement, the character with the highest Agility score goes first. Then, once all players taking a fast turn have acted, enemies who wish to take a fast turn act.
Next, all remaining player characters take their regular turns—with their full 2 actions—in any order, and finally the remaining enemies—if any—take their regular turns.
Then it's the end of the round, and a new one begins.
Fast turns are great candidates for wondrous actions, since they let you act before the enemy.
Trivial things like talking, drawing a weapon, opening an unlocked door, don't cost any actions. They can be done as part of the turn for free, within reason.
|1||Player characters who act fast take 1 action each|
|2||Enemies acting fast take 1 action each|
|3||Player characters taking a regular turn take 2 actions each|
|4||Enemies taking a regular turn take 2 actions each|
|5||End of the round|
- Make an attack with a weapon
- Move a short distance
- Disengage without provoking an attack of opportunity
- Retrieve and drink a potion
- Perform a special maneuver
- Use a power with an activation time of 1 action
- Stand up from prone
The above list is not exhaustive, nor are your character’s powers and weapons a restrictive set of actions! Improvise! Be creative! This is a roleplaying game, and the only limit is your imagination (and the GM’s fair and impartial rulings).
Don’t forget to use the terrain to your advantage. Engineer hazardous situations for your foes. Strip them of their assets and powers. Control the battlefield and emerge victorious!
Unlike in some RPGs, you don't gain experience points for defeating enemies, so it's a perfectly sensible tactic to try and avoid combat, circumvent enemies, or at the very least never engage in combat without having swayed the odds in your favor. Strive for advantage.
An attack roll is simply a type of opposed roll. Your target number is your opponent's Defense value. For melee attacks, add your Brawn modifier, for ranged ones your Agility modifier.
For attacks with light weapons, you can choose between your Brawn or Agility modifier. Attack powers will specify which ability to use.
The Defense value is equal to the Agility score, plus any bonuses from shields, spells or powers.
Attacks of opportunity
The following actions provoke attacks of opportunity. An attack of opportunity is a single melee attack.
- Moving away from an armed, close combatant
- Moving past a close combatant
- Standing up from prone
- Any other action that leaves the character particularly vulnerable
- Moving into a flanking position gives you an attack of opportunity
When an opponent’s hit points reach 0 but your attack would do additional damage, that damage carries over to a close opponent of your choice whom you could also have hit with your attack roll. For example, if you fight a cluster of three nearby thugs with identical statistics, each with 5 hp, and you successfully hit the first for a whopping 12 damage, you would kill your target, deal the remaining 7 to the second thug, and because that was also enough to kill him, the third one would take the remaining 2 damage.
Not all conflicts are solved through combat or running away. Sometimes the pen (or the oratory prowess) is mightier than the sword. A compelling roleplaying moment and a successful opposed Mind check can inflict Mind damage to an opponent, as their resolution, and perhaps their very world view, starts to falter. It would not be unreasonable for a particularly cutting argument to even inflict mental trauma. All within reason, of course.
Damage, death, and dying
Damage is recorded against abilities. Whenever an ability takes damage, first subtract the value of any affinity on that ability from the damage taken. When the damage to an ability equals or exceeds the ability's score plus any buffer points, roll for trauma. For Brawn or Agility, roll on the Physical trauma table; for Mind, on the Mental trauma one. When the damage equals or exceeds a second ability score plus any buffer, roll on the Critical trauma table instead.
Ability modifiers are always derived from the ability's score, and are unaffected by any damage the ability might currently have.
Damage rolls over from one ability to the next, in this order: Brawn → Agility → Mind → Brawn → … That means, for example, that any damage on Mind that exceeds your Mind score (plus Buffer) carries over to Brawn. When damage carries over in this way, any affinity on the ability it carries over onto does not apply—the affinity was already subtracted on the targeted ability.
The most common type of damage is physical, which affects a character’s Brawn first, and an opponent’s hit points. Psychic damage affects a character’s Mind, and an opponent’s hit points, but their regular protections (like armor) are likely useless against it.
There are other types of damage, such as poison, acid, fire, and many more. These may or may not affect protections or have additional effects—do what makes sense, e.g. acid eats through metal (slowly) and a poisonous cloud cares nothing for armor (unless the armor happens to be airtight).
Beyond the mundane damage types above, you will also encounter magic damage. Unlike mundane damage, magic damage overcomes any protections (such as armor), unless these protections are magical themselves.
Magical defenses might furthermore protect against psychic damage, whereas mundane ones will definitely not.
The damage that the GM announces may not be the final amount that you mark against your character’s ability or abilities. There are multiple ways to reduce the damage:
- Armored: subtract the value of the armor from the damage
- Relevant Affinity: subtract the value of the affinity from the damage
- Power: You may have a power or spell that can reduce damage
For physical damage, an armored combatant can subtract the value of the armor from the damage taken, before they consider any affinity. The GM should rule when armor applies and when not. For example, it should apply when falling into a spiked pit, but it does not protect when engulfed in flames.
These are extra points in a given ability above and beyond its score that can take damage without triggering trauma. You can gain these buffers through advances or powers.
For example, a character with a Brawn of 13 and a brawn buffer of 2, only rolls for trauma once they hit 15 Brawn damage, instead of 13. Buffers get replenished just like regular damage (see Healing.)
A good night’s rest, or the equivalent, quiet down-time removes all ability damage, though not necessarily the effects of trauma. Furthermore, many powers, spells, rituals, and items in the game affect your character’s health.
When you receive healing, you can, in general, decide how to spread it among the damage to your abilities. When you do so, it's advantageous to spread it in such a way as to take you furthest away from trauma.
- Knocked out. Fall unconscious until healed or the end of the current scene.
- Immobilized. Your primary locomotive functions have been compromised. You likely fall prone, and you are unable to take any move actions until all your ability damage has healed.
- Badly injured. Until all of your Brawn and Agility damage is healed, you have disadvantage on all checks.
- Disarmed. A weapon you were holding flies out of your hand and lands a short distance away, behind the enemy line, or in a random direction. If you weren’t holding a weapon, another possession goes flying instead.
- Numbed. One of your extremities—such as a hand or an ear—goes numb for a scene.
- Gash. You receive a deep open wound, which has a 50% chance of contracting an interesting disease, and needs quick medical attention, or that chance rises to 100%.
- Tired. Until you have a good night’s rest, you cannot use any heavy weapons, or perform any particularly tiring activities.
- Bruised. You've taken a knocking and it shows.
- Knocked out. Fall unconscious until healed or the end of the current scene.
- Confused. Attack an ally who recently confused, angered, or fed you, on your next turn.
- Stunned. You are utterly perplexed, and your opponents may disengage without provoking attacks of opportunity. You cannot take any actions. At the end of each round, you may attempt a Mind check to end this trauma.
- Panicked. You can’t take this. You do your best to escape this scene and will take no further part in it.
- Convinced. One of your core beliefs has been challenged, and you're temporarily accepting its inverse.
- Shaken. You can’t focus on what you’re doing. For the remainder of the scene or the next 10 minutes, you cannot activate any powers that cost you Mind damage to use.
- Vexed. You are angry and fight with fury more than cunning. For the rest of the scene or the next 10 minutes, you cannot use any positive weapon or armor tags.
- Embarrassed. Something out of character has occurred—explain what. It leaves you annoyed with yourself for a time.
- Death. The end.
- Irrevocably fatal injury. Death after dramatic delay.
- Badly maimed. Loss of 2 major limbs, or 1 major and 2 minor limbs. Unconsciousness. Or: Psychotic. Gain life-altering insanity.
- Crippled forevermore. Brawn and Agility are capped at 13. Or: Afflicted. Mind is capped at 13.
- False alarm? Death, but returned to life after terrible bargain with deity or demon.
- Close one. Loss of 2 minor limbs. Screaming. Or gurgling, if one of the limbs was the tongue.
Equipment & inventory
Hypertellurians uses slots to abstract away how much a character can carry. A character has inventory slots equal to their Brawn score, and most items cost 1 inventory slot to carry. Particularly small items can often be combined into 1 slot, given a pouch or pocket—see the aside about bags, and use your judgement. Heavy or bulky items, such as heavy armor, may take up multiple slots.
The inventory slots represent the items a character can comfortably carry on their person. Carrying more than that is certainly possible, but then they're encumbered, which makes them slow and easy to tire—adjudicate the exact effects of this sensibly in any given situation.
The player is encouraged to plan their character's inventory before an adventure, and leave unnecessary items in a safe place. If the character expects to find lots of loot, it might behoove them to hire henchmen for carrying stuff, or a pack mule/entity.
Items like weapons and armor, but also potentially spells and powers, are characterized by tags. These tags confer a special rule upon the item.
All weapons fit into one of 3 categories.
- Light weapons: 1 attack per combat action, with—optionally—Agility instead of Brawn for melee attacks.
- Medium weapons: 1 attack per combat action.
- Heavy weapons: 1 attack per combat action. Exhausting.
Armor & shields
Armor reduces the damage taken from physical attacks by the value specified. It stacks with Brawn and Agility affinities, but it does not protect against damage to Mind.
Shields, on the other hand, give a bonus to your defense score, making you harder to it.
- Light armor: 1-point damage reduction, 1 slot.
- Medium armor: 2-point damage reduction, 2 slots.
- Heavy armor: 3-point damage reduction. Exhausting. 3 slots.
- Light shield: +1 bonus to defense. 1 slot.
- Medium shield: +2 bonus to defense. 2 slots.
- Heavy shield: +3 bonus to defense. 4 slots.
- Armor piercing: Ignore non-magical armors.
- Attached: Cannot be disarmed by regular means.
- Backswing: When you miss with this weapon, gain advantage on the next attack roll this round.
- Blunt: Opponent’s armor counts as 1 point lower.
- Brutal: Roll for damage twice, take the best result.
- Destructive: On a critical success, renders opponent’s non-magical shield or armor (defender’s choice) useless for the remainder of the scene.
- Excruciating: If the attack deals damage, the target loses one of their actions to pain next turn.
- Exhausting: Take 1d4 Brawn damage when you miss with this weapon.
- Fated: On a miss, still deal half your attack ability modifier in damage (rounded up, minimum 1)
- Forceful: Add an extra damage die each additional time you attack with this weapon in this round. Resets to its starting damage die at the end of the round.
- Long: Whenever an opponent moves to engage you, you get a free attack of opportunity against them, unless they also wield a long weapon.
- Knockback: On a critical hit, knock the target prone or a back a short distance (your choice), if it makes physical sense.
- Magic: This weapon ignores non-magical armors, and can affect entities that cannot be harmed by mundane effects.
- One-shot: Once used, this weapon is destroyed.
- Ongoing: Take 1 damage (ignoring affinities) at the beginning of each round, until healed or bandaged.
- Parry: Use an action to gain +5 to your defense score until the beginning of your next turn.
- Precise: +1 to your attack roll.
- Ranged: This weapon can be used to shoot at a target a short or long distance away.
- Reload: Once used, an action must be spent to reload it before it can be used again.
- Spread: This weapon’s damage affects all targets close to the point of impact.
- Throwing: Can be used both as melee or ranged weapon, up to a short distance.
- Unreliable: When you miss with an attack with this weapon, it cannot be used for the remainder of the combat.
- Attached: Super hard to take off safely.
- Bulky: Light or medium armor only—is exhausting like heavy armor.
- Comfortable: Heavy armor only—does not cause exhaustion.
- Concealable: Can be worn under regular clothing.
- Deflecting: When the damage from an attack or power would be reduced to 0 because of the armor, optionally transfer the original damage onto a close target instead.
- Exhausting: Take 1d4 Brawn damage when one of your melee attacks misses.
- Fragile: Once it has prevented 1 or more points of damage, this armor cannot be used anymore for the remainder of the combat.
- Magic: Reduces damage from magic sources.
- Noisy: This armor is particularly noisy.
- Reflecting: When the damage from an attack or power would be reduced to 0 because of the armor, optionally transfer the original damage back onto the attacker instead.
- Spiked: Can be used as a medium weapon that deals 1d6 damage. Automatically damages bare-fisted attackers and the like.
- Black powder pistol: 1d8 (light, destructive, ranged, reload, unreliable)
- Dagger: 1d4 (light, throwing)
- Flash bomb: 1d4 psychic (light, one-shot, spread, throwing)
- Needles of Thanic: 1 (light, magic, excruciating, ongoing, one-shot, throwing)
- Rapier/Sword cane: 1d6 (light, medium, precise)
- Scorpion-tail-mounted Eye of Nofre-Neter: 1d4 psychic (light, magic, ranged, spread, unreliable)
- Stiletto: 1d4 (light, armor piercing)
- Wet fire: 1d4 (light, armour piercing, throwing, one-shot, ongoing)
- Whip: 1d2 (light, excruciating, long)
- Bo staff: 1d6 (medium, long, parry)
- Crossbow: 1d8 (medium, armor piercing, brutal, precise, reload)
- Flail: 1d6 (medium, backswing)
- Longbow: 1d8 (medium, armor piercing)
- Longsword: 1d8 (medium)
- Spear: 1d6 (medium, long, throwing)
- Warhammer: 1d6 (medium, backswing, blunt)
- Glaive: 1d8 (heavy, forceful, long)
- Greatmaul: 1d10 (heavy, backswing, knockback)
- Greatsword: 1d12 (heavy)
- Halberd: 1d10 (heavy, long)
- Spiked maul: 1d10 (heavy, backswing, brutal)
Tips for players
It is not the GM's duty to make a game fun, but rather it is the duty of all players and the GM together to make it fun. Here are some tips gathered over time to facilitate that. Some are more specific to this game, but most of them apply to all roleplaying games.
- Adventure drive. Give your character a reason to go on adventures and risk their life. If you would like to play a sedentary tulip farmer, Hypertellurians is probably not the game for you. In this game, the Drive characteristic is designed for just this purpose.
- Setting and tone buy-in. Everything about your character should support the setting and tone of the game, from their name, to their behavior. If you play a horror game, your character should be able to be frightened, for example, and have a name appropriate to the setting. In a Hypertellurians game, use language that you might have found in pulp magazines of the mid 20th century. Say ray emitter instead of laser, automaton or auto-ambulaton instead of robot, and aether ship instead of space cruiser.
- Support other players' character concepts. To make a game immersive, a GM should play towards the strengths of a character's concept—by not making them roll unnecessarily for actions that they should excel at, for example. As a player, you can do much the same to support a concept. It's as simple as turning to the character that represents an area of expertise for help, instead of trying to do it all alone. Ask your mage when it comes to ancient writing, tell your suave people expert how sharp they look today, interact seriously with the character roleplaying loss. This doesn't take away from the game's fun, but truly adds to it.
- Playing the leader. Not every group needs one, but some players enjoy taking on a leading role. That doesn't mean they should hog the spotlight. On the contrary, a good leader delegates and defers to the trusted experts they have surrounded themself with, i.e. the other characters in the party. When you're the leader, always ask advice from the character who is the domain expert for a given situation. Together with the previous tip, this makes for solid and engaging narratives.
- Failure is fun. The GM should only make you roll when failure is interesting. Therefore it drives the story along by definition. Don't think in terms setbacks, but in terms of unexpected complications, probably opening doors to new wonders.
- Signal intent. Because a roleplaying game is a cooperative exercise, it's also down to you to let your GM know about the kinds of situations you enjoy, and the kinds of trouble you'd enjoy getting your character into. Use your weakness characteristic to help with this!
- The answer may not be on the character sheet. Your character is more than the sum of the values from their character sheet, and the sheet should not be treated like an exclusive menu of actions your character can perform. Use it as inspiration, of course, but also look to the environment, to NPCs, to creative use of your powers, and not least to your own ingenuity. Don't be afraid to find new, unorthodox uses for your equipment or your powers. The rules use natural language as much as possible for this very reason.
- Don't ask for permission, or character knowledge. If you ask whether your character is able to do something, notice something, or know something, you are setting your GM up to make you roll for the answer. Instead, assume ability, permission, or knowledge where it would be appropriate for your character. Your GM will tell you if you overreach.
- Violence may not be the answer. When you run around with swords, photic axes, and eldritch spell tomes, it's tempting to think of every encounter as a battle to win. And while some certainly will be, don't be shy about circumventing danger, or returning to it later, or engineering a peaceful solution. Or tipping off the town guard.
- Take actions and risks. Don't wait for adventure to come to you, and while formulating a cunning plan of action can be fun, don't spend too long on it, lest a player Leeroy Jenkins it. Trust that the GM will make the consequences of your actions interesting, one way or another.
- Focus. Give the game your attention, not your phone (unless you're looking up a power, perhaps). It is a disservice to the GM and the other players to busy yourself with such distractions. If the game is not fun for you, talk about it together, and see how that can be resolved.
- Talk to one another. Talk about what works and what doesn't in a game, whether any subjects were broached that made someone uncomfortable, whether anyone was made made to feel unwelcome, or anything really. Remember that this is a game, and everyone is here to have fun. The first point of call for any issue should always be to talk it out, out of character.
Running the game
Combat should generally not be the default option, and characters heading into a fight without a clear advantage should expect a hard time. Encourage player creativity.
This game’s aim is not to provide rules for every possible situation. When something comes into question, simply go with what makes the most sense. Try and remain consistent with your rulings, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to go back and change something if you discover problems with it later.
Unless directly told otherwise, always round down.
Who rolls the damage or healing dice, and all at once or individually? Totally your call. Powers generally don’t state the specifics for these things, so use whatever works best for everyone.
Wonder & advancement
Wonder is at the heart of the game; wondrous actions let the player characters achieve extraordinary feats, and instantly shift situations and scenes in very different directions. When all hope seems lost, a character might be saved by a clever Manifest Memory wondrous action.
With this in mind, the dangers you can throw at the characters can be wilder than in more traditional fantasy adventure games. It also means that there is no precise way (or desire) to balance encounters against party level.
However, because of this, and because Wonder is tied to character advancement, there are three things the GM should keep in mind:
- Hand out Wonder regularly. Describe the amazing locations, creatures, and actions, the characters come across, and underline the situation by handing out appropriate amounts of Wonder. Don't be afraid to award Wonder for cool or funny player interactions either.
- The Recall Memory wondrous action gives advantage on a check. And advantage is the prime method for increasing a character’s odds of success, so the player will strive for it often, and that’s ok.
- Aim for around 10 points of Wonder per session. Every 10 Wonder spent gives the players an advance for their character, and getting an advance at the end of each session is particularly satisfying. Handing out 2–3 Wonder for discovering a new creature, or 4–7 for an awesome location works well, but you'll soon get a rhythm for what works best for your game.
With a slotted inventory system, the amount of slots a reward takes up determines how valuable it is, on top of any other intrinsic value. Coins and gems can go into a single “coin pouch” slot within reason, for example. Armor and weapons add up quickly. And for a wizardly character, their collection of spell tomes might soon strain against the low number of slots due to their likely unfavored Brawn score. Therefore a spell tome containing more than one spell is a much greater treasure. The same is true of any item that might award additional slots, such as a bag of holding. However, such items should probably be avoided, in favor of carts, or henchmen, the more traditional methods of dealing with loot. When slot management is trivialized, it becomes a chore rather than a fun subsystem that encourages meaningful loot choices and quick potion quaffing.
Think of the inventory slots system also as a preparation step before the adventure, where the player determines what their character brings along and what they leave at home.
Gold and gems remain a viable reward, even in a game spanning multiple worlds of varying cultures and technological advancements. But in order to retain value, you should introduce either an easy means converting the various denominations into local currencies, or have your merchants accept all of them. Or you might use a trading hub, perhaps in your framing device’s base of operations, for example.
Creating non player characters and monsters
The health of a player character is determined by the damage to their 3 ability scores, and any trauma they have accumulated. For NPCs and monsters on the other hand, such detailed bookkeeping is unnecessary. Instead, consider all actors other than the player characters to have a pool of hit points. When it reaches 0, they die. Psychic damage targets hit points too, but automatically bypasses armor.
Having detailed statistics for an opponent or NPC is far less important in Hypertellurians than giving them memorable behavior. Most of the time, hit dice, and a descriptive sentence or two, is plenty to adequately run interactions with an NPC, or a fight with a monster. Similarly, the Hypertellurian archetypes are for player characters only—other creatures and people encountered do not necessarily fit into these neat categorizations.
If you would like to write out an adversary in more detail, consider the following sample NPCs and monsters as a suggested statblock, but you are of course encouraged to use whatever works best for your game.
Woke up after dying and burnt their decaying flesh off until but a skeleton—missing a digit—remained, so that they might finally be whomever they like.
HD 3; hp 9; Defense 10; Armor 4; Attack +3. [Use this modifier for all types of rolls. It's generally equal to the HD. If the person is much better at one thing than another, add the modifier for that here too.]
Strength: Unnerving, plant-and-resolve-shriveling gaze; untiring. [Play this as you will. If in doubt call for an opposed check of sorts.]
Weakness: Abhors small, furry animals. [Roleplaying or story cue.]
Drive: Explore, experience, be whatever I want to be. [This informs the NPC's plans and goals.]
Secret: Plays-With-Time was cursed with undeath. So long as their digit remains buried in an unhallowed grave, they can never truly die. [Adventure seed.]
Equipment: Nun's habit (Mother Superior Yvania), priest frock (Monseigneur Petraud), glaive (heavy weapon, 1d8 damage, exhausting, forceful, long), ancient chain shirt (medium armor, concealable).
Countess Elizabeth Bathory
With power comes privilege, and that privilege was to bathe in the blood of virgins, prolonging life, and improving skin and spirit.
HD 5; hp 15; Defense 13; Armor 1; Attack +5.
Strength: Admonishing, bewitching, and manipulating people. Outliving enemies.
Weakness: Hunted by her former, much abused vassals, who finally overthrew her.
Drive: Find a new place to rule and satisfy carnal indulgences.
Secret: Access to a huge network of safe houses, cultivated over many years, all stocked with fineries, a copper bathtub, and servants willing to fight and die for her. But she would give it all up for true immortality.
Equipment: Gem-studded whale-bone corset (light armor), expensive crimson gown and shoes, 4 vials of virgin blood, folding razor (light weapon, 1d4 damage, ongoing).
Jona Thorne, barkeep
Impressive sideburns, a snazzy waistcoat, mace-like forearms, and wit as sharp as shark's teeth are the bare minimum to make it in the tavern trade.
HD 1; hp 3; Defense 11; Armor 0; Attack +1.
Strength: Spinning yarns, polishing glasses to a shine, remembering details about people, personal grooming.
Weakness: Slow reflexes, and far fewer true friends than he'd like.
Drive: Continue growing tavern patronage by any means, such as pretending to be a former warrior and mercenary, and retire early and rich.
Secret: Jona would do anything for gold, and has insinuated himself into two morally opposite cults or tax unions at once.
Equipment: Tavern, battleaxe that allegedly slew the giant Thrimir (medium weapon, 1d8 damage, backswing).
Vile Skin of King Balaam Balan
A dry, shriveled husk with patches of coarse hair, easily mistaken for a collection of animal skin shreds. Anything it rests on ages at 10 times the normal rate. It is utterly indestructible, but otherwise inert in this form. However, the last person to touch it is visited by twisted dreams for 8 days in a row.
The dreams feature either a three-headed king with flaming eyes and the tail of a serpent, or a ram-headed woman riding a bear. Each promises perfect answers on things past, present or future, and the gift of invisibility, if the dreamer flays their own skin and replaces it with this one.
- Resisting: Requires a Mind 12 save each night and accumulating 4 or more successes before the 8 days are over. [Mind 12 is just shorthand for a Mind check with a target number of 12.]
- Flaying: A hideous procedure over several hours imparting the Badly Injured trauma until the new skin is donned.
- Donning: Once shouldered, the skin becomes whole and transforms the wearer into the avatar of Balaam.
- Removing: Traditional methods include immersing in holy water for a day or killing the wearer. Make up your own too.
Avatar of Balaam. HD 10; hp 40; Defense 9; Armor 3 (magical); Attack +10.
- Bull-headed gore attack (1d8 damage, brutal, destructive, magic)
- Voice of man: declare doom (Mind 15 save, or suffer 3d6 psychic damage from immediately fulfilled prophecy)
- Voice of woman: forge bond (heal willing creature of 1d8+10 damage and you become their closest friend for 1 scene)
- Legerity of the ram (climb absolutely anything)
- Become invisible
- Brilliance and wit (as Mind 18)
- Summon bear
Creature from the Lagoon
Humanoid amphibian monstrosity bent on destroying the people from whose rage it was created.
HD 2; hp 6; Defense 11; Armor 1 (attached); Attack +2 (advantage against creators).
- Elicit screams of terror (Mind 12 save or be stunned, screaming for 1 round; on first sight only)
- Powerful claws (1d6 damage, excruciating)
- Fast and agile swimmer
A demon in the form of a man, with a griffin's wings, flying through the void of the aether, or hunting in the winds of desert planets.
HD 4; hp 12; Defense 12; Armor 2 (attached, spiked); Attack +8. [This creature is fairly weak, but its attacks are terrifyingly powerful.]
- Drown with sand (or similar; 1d6 damage, armor-piercing, ongoing, Brawn 14 save to stop ongoing)
- Sink ship (up to galleon, automatic, over 10 minutes unless interrupted)
- Wings of a griffin (fly fast and perfectly, at least long distance in 1 action)
- Command winds and the sea
Creating spells and rituals
In Hypertellurians, spells come in the form of spell tomes, where 1 tome generally contains 1 spell, and takes up 1 inventory slot. All characters can use spell tomes, provided they are capable and willing to pay the casting costs associated with the spells. While all spells are different, many involve the caster taking Mind damage as part of the casting. Casting a spell requires wielding the spell tome in question, or else, having learned the spell via one of the Study powers.
To create a new spell, consider the following points.
- Spell or ritual? A spell is generally quick to cast, and will inflict ability damage, whereas a ritual takes a longer time, might involve multiple people, and often costs above and beyond ability damage.
- Minor, medium, or major? The difference here is in the casting cost, and the extent to which the spell or ritual changes the world around the caster. There is no restriction or requirement on the caster with regards to spell categorization, save their willingness (and ability) to pay the casting cost. A rough guideline might be as follows:
- Minor spell or ritual: 1d4 ability damage to cast; temporary, contained effect.
- Medium spell or ritual: 1d6 ability damage to cast; temporary effect over a larger area, or long-lasting effect over a contained area.
- Major spell or ritual: 1d8 ability damage or more to cast; wildly powerful effect, possibly changing a large area irrevocably.
- Spell utility. A Hypertellurians character is likely to have a limited repertoire of spells, since they take up inventory space. As such, each spell should be interesting and useful in a variety of ways. Avoid spells that simply deal damage—there are weapons (magical or otherwise) for that already. Instead, allow for a generous amount of interpretation of the spell effects.
Sample spells and rituals
Circle of Protection (medium spell)
Supernatural creatures of hit dice less than or equal to the caster’s Mind score may not cross the circle boundary. A number of people equal to the caster's Mind score may shelter within the circle. The circle must be immobile and drawn prior to casting as an action, with chalk or salt. Keeping the circle active costs 1 Mind damage and one concentration action per round.
Clandestine Cache (medium ritual)
This spell enchants an object to make it especially difficult to locate with anything but mundane senses. Spells and sensors alike typically cannot locate the item at all, but it would be plain to see by anyone simply looking at it. The spell persists until the item is touched or moved. However, items can be stashed on a vehicle and remain hidden unless its position on the vehicle is changed.
It takes 1 hour to cast the ritual, and lasts for 1 week. It inflicts 1d6 Agility damage on the caster or casters.
Curse of Torment (medium spell, 1d6 Mind)
Casting this spell lays a curse on a target within short range. For the duration of the spell all damage the target takes gains the excruciating tag. Each time the target loses an action because of this spell they may make an opposed Mind check to end the curse.
Customary Countenance (minor spell, 1d4 Mind, 1 scene)
This spell covers the caster and their possessions in an illusion that makes them look like a typical, even stereotypical, example of the disguise they are adopting. Whilst they cannot look like a specific individual, they do look so typical that they often pass without notice if their behavior is appropriate. The details of the illusion are very much determined by the collective perception of the locality the spell is cast in.
Enumerate (minor spell)
Take 1 Mind damage to cast this spell as 1 action. You instantly know the count of the number of stated things in a given area that you can see. The stated thing must be one word and the given area must be unambiguous lest the spell fail.
Fold Space (medium spell)
If you succeed at a target 10 Mind check, you can, as an action, teleport to an open space you can see within 2d6 meters per d4 Mind damage you elect to take. On a critical failure, something interesting happens to you while you spend the action outside regular spacetime, before re-emerging where you started.
Geisticulation (minor spell, 1d4 Agility)
Move unattended objects within long range as if a poltergeist were animating them. The casting of this spell involves very bold and obvious arm movements. Go on as long as you concentrate and gesticulate (1 action per round), but it is imprecise and any sort of attack with it will be at disadvantage. Critical fails will furthermore be suitably interesting.
Lightning Trap (medium spell)
You can cast this spell as a reaction, and take 1d4+1 Mind damage. A damaging area of effect spell is halted as soon as it's cast. A fireball is frozen in the earliest stages of explosion, when it is the size of an egg. A lightning bolt is just a neon light frozen down the hallway. This stasis lasts as long as the caster doesn't move at all, beyond blinking and breathing.
Light Legion (major spell, 1d10+1 Mind damage, 1 scene)
Steal the sun’s native people to serve you or fight for you; if the sun has no natives in this cosm, the spell turns the sun’s light into shining golden warriors. Either way, this extinguishes the sun for the duration.
Mind Muscle (1 slot, medium spell, 1 scene)
Reduce your Mind score by up to 5 points, and increase both your Brawn and Agility by the same amount. At the end of the scene, make a target 10 Mind check. Failure: take 1d10 Mind damage, then your Mind score returns to normal. Success: your Mind score returns to normal.
Mouse Time (medium spell, 1 scene)
Hold a mouse in your hands. As an action, if you succeed at an opposed Mind check, you take 1d4 Mind damage, and you shrink to mouse size, and the mouse grows to your size. This spell also works on things that are merely mouse-sized.
Pass without Thought (minor spell, 1d4 Agility, 1 scene)
This spell makes the caster invisible as long as they do nothing to draw attention to themselves and end each turn in close proximity to another individual. Thus they could join a guard patrol and follow them into a castle but could not walk across the drawbridge alone. This spell cannot be cast whilst being observed by anyone seeking the character.
Reverie Reveal (medium ritual)
This ritual allows you to enter the dreams of another creature. Spend an hour brewing a special sleeping concoction. This costs 100 gold pieces in materials, and requires a little something from the target sleeper, such as a strand of hair, or a nail clipping.
Drink the concoction and fall asleep, and enter their dreams when they next snooze. While there you may remain hidden at the edges to learn about what occupies their mind, or interact with them, perhaps even implanting suggestions. At your discretion, you may frighten them and cause them to jolt awake suddenly.
When you wake after this ritual, your ability scores are not healed as they normally would.
Scuttle (minor spell, 1d4 Agility, 1 scene)
Your clothes and hair animate to carry you. You can move at full speed in any orientation, and you can freely rotate as you move. For instance, you could run while standing on your head, holding a torch, and turning counterclockwise. You can lie on your side and, while flipping end over end, move backwards. This effect does not allow you to climb up walls, but you can climb ladders or rope at twice your usual speed.
Stretch Passage (medium spell)
Pick a point you can see in a passage or hallway. The passage stretches out from that point becoming longer and non-Euclidean. It effectively becomes 10 meters longer for every d4 points of Mind damage you’re willing to take.
Stir the Air (minor spell, 1 Mind, 1 scene)
Cast as an action on a close, willing target that you can see. You create a light breeze in a 2 meter radius sphere centered on the target, which moves with them. The breeze clears away odors and dust, scatters lightweight objects such as papers, extinguishes candles, and causes larger flames to flicker and dance. The target also gets a +2 bonus to their Defense score for the duration.
Summon Barbas, Son of Corson, King of the West (major ritual)
This occult ritual takes 8 hours to complete, requires the blood sacrifice of a living creature, and a secret hitherto never spoken out aloud. It inflicts 4d4 Mind damage, which can be split among any active and willing participants. Make a Mind check with a target number befitting the value of the sacrifice and the secret as judged by the GM. On a success you summon Barbas, who appears in the guise of a great lion, though at your request may change shape into a man. He answers truly on hidden or secret things, causes and heals diseases, teaches mechanical arts, and changes men into other shapes.
Swap Constitution (medium spell)
If you succeed at an opposed Mind check, you can swap the damage to your abilities with that of another creature you can see. The total damage you currently suffer disappears and is applied to the target, in order of Brawn, Agility, Mind, or directly to their hit points, as appropriate. Any damage they suffered is simultaneously applied to your abilities, again in the same order.
Synapse Split (minor spell)
Punish a target you see, up to a long distance away, with a potentially deadly attack that deals them 1d4+1 psychic damage per 1d4 Mind damage you elect to take. Somewhere in the Ultracosm, someone immediately experiences a déja-vu. But the chances of that being a mighty sorcerer now coming to get you are very small, I'm sure.
Turn Around, Bright Eyes (minor spell)
If you succeed on an opposed Mind check against a target within a short distance, they are instantaneously turned around in the opposite direction, without breaking any momentum. You take Mind damage based on the target's size and velocity, e.g. 1d4 for a sleeping cat, 1d10 for a tellurian running at full speed.
Creating mundane and magic items
In a game such as this one, where inventory space comes at a premium, every item counts, and therefore every item should be interesting and open the game to exciting stories each time it is used. Whether the item is "magic" in the traditional sense of roleplaying games is less important, but the item should be "magical" in the sense of compelling, and unusual, and loaded with story potential.
Sample mundane and magic items
Abacus of Arit Mahr Theek
A calculation engine and advanced thinking machine that helps enormously with all manner of calculations. Also used to speed up repetitive cognitive processes and dreary bureaucracy.
Force Field Feldspar
Small, polished gemstone set into a belt buckle, amulet, or ring. Gives a warm, fuzzy feeling while worn, and has the following powers. You may substitute battery charges with 1d4+1 Brawn damage to yourself per charge.
- Small Shield: Use 1 action and spend 1 battery charge to activate a shimmering force field around you, giving you +2 Defense for 1 scene.
- Big Shield: Use 2 actions and spend 2 battery charges to activate a shimmering force field around you, giving you +5 Defense for 1 scene.
- Extend Shield: Use 1 action and spend 1 battery charge to grow an active field into a 2m diameter sphere, allowing others to benefit from it.
- Exploding Shield: Use a free action and spend any number of battery charges to make it explode outward for 1d4+1 lightning damage per charge on all close things.
Ring of X-ray Vision
Allows you to see through flesh and other soft materials at will, and sometimes at random, desired or not. A limited amount of depth control can be exerted, though frankly it won’t let you diagnose third liver failure unless you’re an expert on Hanarungian physiology and mating rituals, for example.
The Sinister Spoon
A wooden spoon with an ornately carved handle and three powers. Firstly, when used to stir a cauldron, whatever it’s brewing is more potent: ambiguous stews taste better and are more nutritious, potions and poisons are more efficacious, water is purified. Secondly, it allows the user to taste any liquid without harm and immediately determines its qualities. This could be anything from poison to lava. Lastly, the spoon simply cannot be harmed by any liquid. However, the first two powers only work if the spoon is held in the left hand, and simple divinations to determine the properties of the spoon may not reveal this.
The Redolent Relatus Ruby
An enormous, multi-faceted ruby, which has been the envy of kings and paupers alike. It has traveled through the Ultracosm and collected so many stories, and will continue to collect more. The problem is: the stories wish to escape, and sometimes they do. Stories like...
- The sultan of Abullah's fourth wife was a tiger in wizard's skin, and he knew it.
- Maginas Morrowstorm enters a new cosm whenever he dies, but his corpse is left behind.
- Jule Asimah is the only person never to break under Queen Katarih's interrogators, due to being from a race of entities existing simultaneously across all cosms.
- Young farmer Kamille tricked the tax collector with apples painted gold and got away with it.
- All royals are stars and come from the heavens. Eventually they have to return, or else, convince someone else to go in their stead.
- The Redolent Relatus Ruby once replaced the eye of the dragon Soyuz, but like all dragons it turned to stone when it accidentally ate a non-virgin sacrifice.
Staff of Secrets (medium weapon; 1d6 damage; long, magic, parry)
Black wood. Starts straight, but becomes more gnarled each time a secret is whispered into it.
- Action. 1 Mind. Opposed Mind check. Success: Know what an observed creature—whose language you understand—desires or fears (your choice) most right now.
- Action. Whisper a secret into the staff to let another secret loose, which causes discord among an observed couple or group of people, who can understand your language, over the course of a scene. 1 in 6 chance of unforeseen consequences (violence, repressed love coming to the fore, etc.)
If the staff is ever broken, it explodes in a burst of realization, dealing 3d6 psychic damage to everyone within a short distance.
Super Comfy Boots
Sometimes something just fits like a second skin, and you can't imagine being without it. It's like that with these boots. Whenever you get into a situation where exceedingly good boots could even remotely help, remind the GM of this, and things will improve for you.
But it goes beyond unimaginable comfort—though they really have that—and they look the part as well. That a pair of boots be this stylish and this comfortable at once is almost unfair.
Somewhere in the Ultracosm there is a spirit of justice of some sort, whose sole job it is to hunt down and eliminate these unfair imbalances, with wild prejudice. They're coming for you and your boots, but luckily they've got a bunch of stops to make beforehand.
Telemann Telescopic Sabre (light weapon; 1d4 psychic damage; attached, magic)
Extending blade, built-in or as a bracelet, which vibrates with complex hyper-rhythms, attacking an enemy's superior temporal gyrus and lateral sulcus directly. Deaf creatures are immune. Wielder often finds themselves humming experimental, baroque tunes.
This desiccated heart still beats once an hour. Anyone holding it knows of its inherent malefic power and hears its dark whispers. When placed on the ground, it desecrates the area around it until it is moved. This allows a Revenant to activate their desecrate power without a ritual if they remain adjacent to it.
If you happen to hold it when it beats, you sometimes get flash of a black, desolate landscape dotted with the unfulfilled desires of fallen clergymen, and a horrifying tugging.
Woolgather Homing Necklace
This necklace, if worn when you fall asleep, is with you in your dreams. When you wake, you do so at the current, physical location of the necklace, even if it was since moved.
If you use the Reverie Reveal spell, and convince the other dreamer to wear it, they will instead wake at the necklace's current, physical location.
One thing all Hypertellurians games should have in common is a means and a reason of crossing between worlds, of traveling from one dimension of the Ultracosm to another. This can become the overarching framing device for your campaign, and the individual adventures in the various worlds can be sourced from any number of existing games from your RPG library, from freely available adventures, or, of course, your own imagination.
Here’s a handy table of framing devices to get your creative juices flowing.
|#||The characters are...||traveling the Ultracosm to...||via...|
|1||escaped prisoners||collect magic items for their benefactor who broke them out of their various prisons||portals in the benefactor's demesne, the Root of Worlds|
|2||members of the Battle Sisters of the Merciful Sepulchre||spread the holy word||the ritually powered, Mobile Battle Shrine|
|3||mercenaries||rid it of evil in whatever form it comes||ancient, wrist-mounted artifacts that only work when brought together|
|4||perpetual students of a wizard school||unlock the secrets of existence||powerful rituals|
|5||exiles from different worlds||test their mettle||a tome detailing the weak spots in the fabric of space and time between dimensions|
|6||a group of poets, epicureans, and bon-vivants||sample each single one of its delights||an incomprehensible but marvelous metal sphere, portaling them seemingly at random|
|7||identical souls, but from different worlds or times||escape the relentless evil that follows them||predetermined ultracosmic breaches|
|8||slaves||satisfy their owner's whims||astral projection|
|9||evil overlords||expand their empire||a fortress of steel and spikes powered by the lamentations of its prisoners|
|10||spoilt princes and princesses||win a dare||their father's purloined magical carriage|
Hypertellurians is easy to run with existing modules from all sorts of roleplaying games. Using the guidelines from the previous sections, you should be able to convert NPCs, monsters, spells, and items on the fly. Consider these additional suggestions.
- You can center monster conversions around their hit dice (HD). Use the HD as their attack bonus, and set their hit points (HP) to their HD times 3 (or 4 if they're supposed to be particularly tough). Give them 1–3 points of armor if appropriate, and a Defense between 8 (slow, big, or otherwise easy to hit) and 13 (tiny, fast, or otherwise exceptionally agile). Turn any signature abilities they have into an equivalent power.
- NPCs and monsters don't take damage from using their powers or spells. They're generally not around long enough to worry about that sort of thing.
- Many games feature an over-abundance of damaging spells. See if taking their name more literally might make them more interesting, or if you can add some conditions to it. At the same time take away any unnecessary restrictions, but add an element of unpredictability. For example, lighting bolt requiring two separate conductive (by a fantasy understanding of conductive) surfaces to arc between, and wildly arcing out if possible.
- Lean towards interesting, somewhat open-ended spell effects rather than simple numerical damage dealers.
- The story is far more important than the statistics. If the players trust you to be on their side, they will trust you with unbalanced encounters, NPCs, items, and spells, because they know failure will make the story more, not less, interesting.
Tips for GMs
What follows is a collection of tips assembled over years of roleplaying, over countless playtesting sessions for Hypertellurians, and from numerous blogs posts, social media entries, and podcasts, distilled into a small, non-exhaustive table.
- Be a fan of the players and their characters. Yes, it's your job to make life difficult and interesting for the characters. You want them to succeed in general, but you also want them to work for it. Be enthusiastic about their successes and plans, and understanding of their disappointments.
- Use the right language. Hypertellurians is billed as "science fantasy in the future of old", "swords and sandals meets raypunk", and "swords, sorcery, and rayguns". That means it's important that you keep a consistent tone, by referring to things in the way they were in the stories in the old pulp magazines, and in retro-futurism. Avoid modern names for technology at all costs, and use weird synonyms instead, and don't be afraid to make words up (looking at you, Ultranaut, Ultracosm, and hey, Hypertellurians).
- Hand out Wonder. Wonder is already covered in its own section above, but it bears repeating since it is essential to the Hypertellurians experience.
- Keep up the narrative. Don’t wait too long for your characters to figure out cryptic clues. If you don’t want to reveal the answer to a mystery directly, keep up the pace by throwing in an unexpected complication instead. Pacing is important; you don’t have to string action after action, but when you see your players getting distracted from the game, throw them a curveball. Putting the characters into dangerous positions is your job, just make sure they’re fair and can result in exciting character rewards or development and fun at the table.
- Don't hide the adventure. Having the players roll to see if they spot the adventure sucks (death to Perception checks). Just tell your characters what they see and keep quiet about things that should surprise them. The only time to ask for a roll is if they’re explicitly searching for something that is actively trying to remain hidden. And even then, ask yourself if it would derail the fun if the thing stayed hidden. If yes, don’t roll, just have the most observant character—or the player who has interacted least so far in the session—spot it.
- Fail forward. Don’t stop your adventure in its tracks because of a failed roll. Add an extra complication instead. If you do this right, your players will actually look forward to failing rolls. For example: Your characters are running towards an aether ship that’s about to launch, and you ask for Agility checks to jump onboard in time. One of them fails the roll. Instead of leaving them stranded, they make the jump but one of the pursuers manages to grab onto their ankle, and now they have company. Or else, leave the character stranded but show how they’re taken captive by the pursuers, so the party comes back later. And when they do, perhaps they discover that the captive character has in fact become the new king of their erstwhile pursuers. An easy way to remember to fail forward, is to say “let’s see how well you do” when asking for a roll, instead of “let’s see if you succeed”.
- Say yes. Nothing is more disheartening to a player than telling them their character can’t attempt (!) to do something. Ask yourself why you’d want to stop them from doing something. Are they trying to powergame, cheat, or take the fun from other players? If not, let them do it. And even if it’s something you think their character shouldn’t be able to do, or should have consequences, remember the two amazing aces up your sleeves: “Yes, and…” and “Yes, but.”
- Know your players and their characters, and make everything about them. Weave their back- or origin stories into your adventures, and have mysteries be related to them or their friends or families, or the items they have looted so far. Give a starting character a mysterious heirloom item and make it central to one of the adventure. Cycle your character focus so that no player feels left out. Know their character’s powers and engineer situations where those powers can become useful. Only you know whether your players prefer fights, roleplaying discussions with NPCs, or solving mysteries. Create scenes that satisfy as many of these as possible. And create scenes that are fun for you too!
- Delight in emergent gameplay. Sure, you might have come up with an amazing plot twist, an intricate web of intrigue, or an amazing adventure location. And for some reason, the game has evolved into a different direction. This is great, and it means the players are engaged. Don't worry about your lovingly sculpted mind creations—you can re-use those later.
- Be informative. You don't have to give players precise odds or exact outcomes for all rolls, but they should be aware of the range of possible outcomes—especially for failure—so that they may make informed decisions for their characters.
- Ask questions. The nature of roleplaying games means that you cannot prepare for all eventualities. If you find yourself stuck, turn the question onto the players instead. Lace the question with a hint, a core idea, and let the players flesh out the answer. Let's say they open a door to a room where your hastily scribbled notes only say "bridge over lava". Ask the players this: "Beyond the rickety rope bridge over the lava, your characters are immediately aware of the extreme danger this room presents. What additional elements make it so dangerous?" Asking questions is fantastic all-round tool whenever you need more detail, or a more personal answer. Ask either the group as a whole, or individual players in turn.
- Delegate roles sometimes. There may be times when you need a bit of breathing space. Perhaps you're already roleplaying two NPCs, and the characters engage a third. In such cases, you might want to ask players about how one or more of the NPCs might react to the given question or situation, or even get one of them to temporarily roleplay an NPC. The same is true when the story focuses on one of the characters for a bit. Instead of the other players twiddling their thumbs, have them join in in the form of NPCs, monsters, or environment details (who wants to play the mischievous geyser?).
- Watch player planning carefully. You’ve set out a goal and your players have taken the bait, and are setting out to plan how to achieve it. An hour later, they’re still discussing the pros and cons on their various strategies. Sound familiar? Avoid bringing the game to a standstill, or your atmosphere dissipate by unnecessarily long or involved planning. Interject phrases like “you’ll never know until you try," or "go and see,” and “from your past experience, you think you’re up to this.” If necessary, force a decision onto a likely character: “Your Royal has never let you down with these kinds of strategic decisions, you should follow her lead.” And if all else fails, liven things up by throwing in a random encounter or complication.
This game was created out of the author’s desire to create a campaign where the players would visit vastly different worlds, as exemplified by diverse adventure modules from his vast collection. When the search for an applicable game system to use across these divergent modules failed to come up with a amenable option, it was time to create his own. Or perhaps it was an itch that this long-time GM needed to scratch at any rate.
So when it become time to start, what better way than to steal all his favorite bits from his favorite systems? With that in mind, this game would not exist without these excellent games and their authors that have preceded it, as well as the countless incredible blog and Google+/Discord/MeWe posts this awesome hobby has sired. In utterly no particular order:
- Dungeons & Dragons, in all its incarnations
- Dungeon Crawl Classics
- Lamentations of the Flame Princess
- The Black Hack
- 13th Age
- Bluebeard’s Bride
- Shadow of the Demon Lord
- Dungeon World and other PbtA games
- Forbidden Lands
- Ultraviolet Grasslands
The tone of the game has been heavily influenced by these artists, movies, and stories:
- Frank Frazetta
- Roger Dean
- Clyde Caldwell
- Julie Bell & Boris Vallejo
- Philippe Caza
- Norman Saunders
- Allan Anderson
- Conan, the Barbarian
- Buck Rogers
- John Carter of Mars
- Devin Townsend
For visual inspiration, consider the author’s ever evolving Pinterest board.
Lastly, the game has had tremendous input and invaluable playtesting from my long-standing gaming group, consisting of David Fuller, Jonathan Broadley, Chris Coleman, James Mapp, and Neal Knowles, and tireless support from my wife Karen.