A group of women fight back against a fantasy medieval society that systemically wrongs them.
You were murdered in a previous life. Until you reach your personal catharsis, you will not escape the circle of reincarnation. But you possess and
have mastered command a powerful instrument, and you have found others like you. Together you rage against the abominable machine.
Content Warning: Due to its very nature, the game inevitably deals with the themes of misogyny, sexism, and ignorance. How deeply your group wishes to engage with these depends on the tone you choose; we provide three suggestions below. It also means that the GM will be portraying characters who embody these themes, but you don’t need to feel too bad for them, since these characters will soon get what’s coming to them.
The game also deals with death, and its myriad horrid medieval fantasy manifestations. Yet its echo both drives and empowers the player characters and guides them towards catharsis.
Work in Progress: This game is a work in progress, and nothing is set in stone. It is currently being playtested.
- Just for fun. Our trauma is personal—we’re in it for the action and the loot.
- Like a medieval A-Team. You find and help others stuck in systemic injustice.
- Dismantle society. There is no redemption, a clean slate is the only option.
Pick a unique occult instrument, then choose one of its powers. You unlock more powers through advancement.
A curious and ornate anthology, full of secrets.
- The Book of Names. You know everyone’s true name.
- The Book of Cautionary Tales. You are perceived as the subject of a cautionary tale to people when they meet you for the very first time.
- The Book of Light. You have dominion over existing light.
- The Book of Paranormal Romance. Everyone comes with strings attached. You know the dark secret of romanceable others.
- The Syllabus of the Human Condition. Knows whether another’s ignorance is wilful, and thus hard to change, or nurtured, awaiting only reasoning and proof.
Painted yellow, inscribed with magical names and sigils in violet.
- Control air in subtle but very precise ways.
- Roll to evacuate air from lungs of touched creature, if applicable.
- Compress air to form strong winds, roll to stop average sized creatures from approaching you.
- Form air into sudden gust, launching you and friends a long distance, or roll to launch group of creatures.
- Break through the glass ceiling. You may add any number of death or catharsis dice to your rolls and to those where you help others.
A tattoo of the sigil of the devil  in red ink, which binds the devil to you, and which occasionally drips blood.
- Temporarily convince people that rocks are coins.
- Make a person see you as whomever they want you to be.
- Dance with your sisters in the witching hour and fly on brooms for the rest of the night.
- Entertain crowds, keeping their focus on you.
- Transform into a man for a few hours, and have doors open to you, but mask your insecurities with unfounded bravado.
The Eight of Swords
A tarot card depicting a bound and blindfolded woman standing amid eight swords.
- Ignore 1 combat difficulty die.
- Summon any perceived blade to you; roll if it is held.
- Sing to your blade to make it fly and spin at will.
- Embody the Eight. Become bound and blindfolded and surrounded by eight sharp swords. Rope, blindfold, and swords evaporate the next morning.
- Manifest another’s fear into a deadly blade. Once they use it, both disappear.
A dazzling ruby on a silver chain.
- You are extremely lovable.
- Roll to make a person’s heart skip a beat. They’re suddenly very surprised, excited, or nervous.
- Morality is a scale, and for any given person you know how to stretch it in either direction.
- Roll to make two creatures’ hearts stop: one that you choose, and one that the GM chooses that you can’t see right now.
- Kiss another, and gift them a dream that will open their eyes to their prejudices.
A thirty centimeter rod of your making and design.
- Advance or rewind any object or plant along its expected timeline. Roll if it is equipped or if your action is likely to cause harm.
- Make a person experience a startling déja-vu.
- Make an unattended object disappear in a puff of smoke.
- Time is an illusion. Make a person do something much faster or slower than usual, roll if they’re unwilling.
- Draw greed and lust of power from another by shaping it into a greasy, black goblin that attacks immediately and is as powerful as the drives it represents.
You were murdered or lynched in a horrible way. Draw a death and keep it secret. Choose or invent three words pertaining to it. These are your death dice, and you may bet one on a roll related to the relevant word.
Your initial death started a loop of reincarnations that you can only escape by achieving your personal catharsis, but it is known to one of your companions, not you.
- Hanged. Rope, Dangle, Air, Wait, Drop, Heavy.
- Beheaded. Sharp, Speed, Eyes, Sword, Block, Wood.
- Burnt at the stake. Fire, Spectacle, Screams, Chains, Curse, Sorcery.
- Crucified. Pain, Exhibition, Endurance, Solitude, Iron, Air.
- Chased off a cliff by angry mob. Falling, Fear, Running, Desperate, Heights, Mob.
- Stoned to death. Anger, Crowd, Slow, Throwing, Stone, Pleading.
- Impaled. Spear, Battle, Blood, Puppet, Fear, Stuck.
- Flayed. Anguish, Muscle, Bleeding, Sharp, Time, Tied.
- Drowned. Water, Breath, Calm, Rope, Cage, Weight.
- Beaten by lynch mob. Wrath, Weak, Accusation, Mania, Clubs, Long.
- Committed forever to asylum. Patience, Prison, Derangement, Routine, Powerless, Hysteria.
- Escaped. Luck, Impersonate, Fake, Secret, Identity, Oddity.
Draw a catharsis and keep it secret. Choose or invent three words pertaining to it. These are your catharsis dice, and you may bet one on a roll that relates to the relevant word.
The catharsis will free one of your companions (GM assigns you one, so that everyone is covered). Your character should strive to fulfill it.
- Relive the death. Relive, Cycle, Complete, Death, Life, Choice.
- Forgive those who wronged them. Forgive, Release, Terms, Fresh, Amends, Spiritual.
- Avenge the death. Revenge, Pain, Punishment, Rage, Drive, Past.
- Misanthropy. Hate, Human, Flaws, End, Conflagration, Absurd.
- Compassion. Love, Understanding, Break, Elevate, Empathy, Kindness.
- Exonerate them. Lies, Accusation, Fact, Truth, Proof, Bare.
- Rewrite their history. History, Martyr, Astonish, Sainte, Heaven, Fabricate.
- Talk with a friend. Discussion, Open, Vulnerable, Detail, Insight, Spark.
You are of humble origin, and have few possessions. This is the lack of silver spoon in your mouth at birth. You have an outfit, your instrument, and any two reasonable items of your choice. A modest pouch of silver coins, for example.
When a challenge has an uncertain and meaningful outcome, the GM may ask you to roll. Any such roll is an abstraction for the whole challenge (this is most visible when the challenge is a fight). You roll one or more d12s, and take the best as your result. If the challenge is particularly difficult, it might subtract one or more dice.
- Start with 1d12
- Add an appropriate d12 death die, if you wish—it may become spent
- Add an appropriate d12 catharsis die, if you wish—it may become spent
- This is the glass ceiling; if you wish to add more dice, a friend has to proffer a death or catharsis die (max one of each per friend)
- Subtract a number of dice if the challenge is particularly difficult (GM decides)
- If none left, the challenge is impossible to overcome
- Take the best result
- 1–4: Setback. All death and catharsis dice used in the roll are spent. You cannot try again, and have to circumvent or flee the challenge, and maybe also take a condition. The challenge (or enemy) dictates the condition.
- In combat: You are defeated, take a condition.
- 5–8: Effort. All death and catharsis dice used in the roll are spent. You may retry.
- In combat: Stale-mate. Take a condition, and flee or fight again.
- 9–12: Success. Additionally, recharge one spent death or catharsis die, either one of yours or one of a character that participated in the roll.
- In combat: You are victorious, the enemy flees, submits, or dies.
Conditions and Recovery
Conditions are inflicted by failed challenges, and each challenge, monster, or enemy comes with its own list of conditions it might inflict. They may be physical, mental, or other.
- Each condition subtracts a die from all rolls.
- Soon this means you need to stick together to overcome challenges.
- Conditions require appropriate, sensible treatment and time to remove.
Spent death and catharsis dice recover in one of two ways:
- A success on a challenge roll recover any one dice for one character who participated.
- A good night’s sleep restore’s one spent death and one spent catharsis die.
More about Challenges
The roll is an abstraction for a whole scene. Thus you generally have only one roll per character per challenge or fight, less if some of the characters help others by providing dice.
- The GM describes the intent and likely actions, outcomes, and conditions. The in-game explanation for this is slight prescience on the part of the characters due to their reincarnations.
- E.g. Minotaur breaks through the door, will smash beams, gore, and throw folks about
- The players describe the type of actions their characters will take, including helping someone else by offering a death and/or a catharsis dice to them.
- E.g. Distract to allow Eight of Swords to shine, run and hide, use fire from chandeliers with Rope death dice.
- All player characters involved in the scene roll, even those who are trying to stay out of it, if that in itself is not a given.
- E.g. Trying to flee or hide from an opponent requires a roll too. Being far away from the challenge does not.
The first time you take a condition in a session, you gain an advancement, and may pick a new instrument power. Learning from pain, has ever been an early lesson.
Where is the starter adventure? What am I supposed to do with this without a starter adventure?!
A 4–5 session starter adventure is coming soon, and will be equally free. It's being playtested right now!
Will this game and adventure become available as a printed book and/or PDF?
Yes, no, maybe, probably, we'll see. But I don't have any timescale on this, as we're concentrating on finishing the Fantastology at the moment.
What inspired this?
This came from an awesome game of Good Society I played with Jana, who's also playtesting this. I love how Good Society characters are made up of sheets that fit together and how they have a randomly picked, secret desire. Combined this made for really fun and surprising characters that I would not have otherwise chosen. Also, it was fun playing a scoundrel because it was foisted on me, so it was totally not my fault.
System Crashers is my version of emergent characters. So far it's a lot of fun.
What do I do with the "Embody the Eight" Power?
You might consider it a fancy "summon a bunch of swords and rope" spell. But that's just a starting point: go wild with your ideas.
Gendered language. ↩︎
See Grimorium Verum. ↩︎