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Your character is one of five heroic archetypes: warrior, thief, sorceror, prophet, or monk. You will embellish that archetype using Specialties and Fields to create a unique character.

When you create your character, think about what kind of a hero you wish to play. Some things about your character you’ll choose. Others, you’ll roll randomly using dice.

  1. As a group, decide on goals for the game and choose your character’s motivation.
  2. Choose a moral code for your character.
  3. Choose an archetype: a warrior, thief, sorceror, prophet, or monk. You might also choose a specialty now, but you don’t have to. A specialty is some special ability that your character has, such as having a familiar or being an Elf. Some specialties have ability requirements. If yours does, remember that in the next step. You may have to settle on a different specialty for now.
  4. Roll dice to find your character’s six abilities: strength, agility, endurance, wisdom, intelligence, charisma.
  5. Read the checklist for your character’s archetype. It will help with the next few items.
  6. Write down your character’s first level mojo.
  7. Apply your character’s specialty, writing down any special abilities or restrictions it gives your character.
  8. Choose your character’s initial fields and skills, if any.
  9. Choose your character’s skills in their native culture.
  10. Mark your character’s field bonus in the fighting art.
  11. Write down your character’s survival and verve.
  12. Write down your character’s movement.
  13. Apply your character’s age. You may get a few extra skills if your character is older.
  14. Calculate your character’s reactions.
  15. Write down your character’s attack and defense bonuses (or penalties).
  16. Write down your character’s carry. This is how many items they can carry at one time.
  17. Write down your character’s starting money—your character’s archetypal ability, in silver coins.
  18. Describe your character: what does your character look like, what is their background, why are they adventuring, which other characters does your character know, and why?

If you haven’t done so yet, you may wish to read The Order of the Astronomers for one idea of the kinds of things that can happen in a Gods & Monsters game.

Why are we playing this game?

The first thing you’ll want to do is talk with your friends and decide what the game will be about. You don’t need to get into details—your Adventure Guide will handle the details—but you’ll need to all be on the same page. For example, you might decide that this game will be about the quest for knowledge, small-town heroes make good, black sheep redeem themselves, or military squabbling among nations.

Your game can be about a plot, such as “city resists invasion” or about a style, such as “old-style dungeon crawl”.

It should take five to fifteen minutes to talk about this. Once you’ve got the basic idea for the game down, there are three things you’ll want to talk about as a group, and choose as a group: your motivation, your moral codes, and your archetypes.


Take a sheet of paper. On the back, write “motivation”. Take a minute or two to think about your character’s motivation for adventuring. Your motivation helps to drive your character forward into the abandoned castle, ruined mansion, or underground dungeon.

Talk about your motivation with the other players. A written motivation helps to ensure that all players are on the same page, and helps to guide you as you create your character.

Even though ________________________________, I will explore the ruins because ____________________________________.

Something wants to keep you on the farm or in the family business. Whether it’s dad, responsibility, fear, or lack of confidence, something wants to keep you from standing out, to be normal. That goes in the “even though” section.

Your motivation overcomes that. It can be an abstract idea or a specific object that your character strives to own, possess, or somehow acquire. Your motivation might, for example, be some form of knowledge, power, heroism, wealth, contentment, family, revenge, war, glory, peace, fulfillment, love, solace, redemption, or adventure.

Your motivation must drive your character to adventure with the other characters. It should in some way drive the character to action, “even though” the average person would never do something so fraught with peril.

Even though my mother wants me to stay on the farm, I will explore the ruins because I want to see the world.

Even though I want to marry my childhood sweetheart, I will explore the ruins because we need money to build a home.

Even though there are safer ways to make a fortune, I will explore the ruins because I want it all now.

You can change your motivation at any time, but it must always provide a justification for adventuring in ruins.

Adventure Guide

If you haven’t yet done so, you’ll need to choose one member of the group to be the Adventure Guide. The Adventure Guide will not create a hero of their own. The Guide will create the adventures that challenge the heroes. The Guide will act the part of most of the non-player characters, and the fortunes and fates that the characters meet. They will represent the world in which the heroes find adventure. The player chosen as the Guide should read the Adventure Guide’s Handbook for more information about being an Adventure Guide.

Moral Codes

There is a lot more about moral code later in the book; it has its own section, and you’ll want to read it. A character’s moral code is their morality in the Gods & Monsters fantasy world. Good characters are honest, Evil characters are selfish, Chaotic characters value personal freedom, and Ordered characters value community well-being.

Player characters should almost always be Good if they have a moral code. They can be only good, or they can be Chaotic Good or Ordered Good. As a group, you may wish to decide whether you want Chaotic or Ordered characters, or a mix. This will depend on the goals of the game and what the game is about. Player characters can’t be evil.

Archetypes and Specialties

It’s always a good idea to talk about the archetypes you’re going to want in your group, so that you know who wants to play which archetype and you know which of the mental archetypes (sorceror, prophet, and monk) are available.

If there are four players, one is the Adventure Guide, one will play a warrior, one will play a thief, and one will play a mental archetype.

If there are only three players, one player character must be a physical archetype, and one must be a mental archetype.

If there are five players, the fifth player can play a warrior, a thief, or one of the remaining mental archetypes (but not the same one already being played). If there are six or seven players, the extra players can choose any archetype that isn’t already being played by two players.

Some archetypes won’t be available in your game. The physical archetypes, warrior and thief, are always available. But of the mental archetypes, often only one or two will be available. You’ll want to discuss this as a group: what kind of magic do you want to encounter?

In some fantasy worlds, only one of the magical archetypes will be available. In others, two or three will be available, but some will be extremely rare. It’s up to you as a group what kind of world your characters live in.

Sometimes the world will dictate what magic is available. If you’re adventuring in a Burroughsian world, you’ll need monks so as to have psychic powers in the game. If you’re adventuring in ancient Greece, you’ll want prophets, and perhaps sorcerors.


Throughout this game you will have scores, levels, and other numbers that describe your character’s prowess and competence. The higher these numbers are, the more often your character will be successful at whatever the number describes.

The reason that higher numbers are better is that whenever your character does something at which there is a chance of failure, you roll a d20 and compare the number on that die to one of those scores. If the die comes up lower than the score or equal to the score, your character succeeds at the task.

For example, you might decide your character is going to climb a rope thirty feet into a tower. The Adventure Guide tells you it requires a strength roll. You’ll roll d20 and if the die comes up less than or equal to your character’s strength, your character successfully climbed the rope. If your character has a 13 strength and you roll 11, you’ve succeeded by 2. If you roll 18, you’ve failed by five.

Sometimes there will be modifiers. For example, if the rope is slippery the Adventure Guide may say that this is a difficult task and give you a penalty to the roll. If you have a skill for climbing, that skill might give you a bonus for climbing the rope.

When circumstances, such as that the rope is slippery, affect your character’s chance of success, you won’t always know what that penalty (or bonus) is. Sometimes it will become obvious once you attempt the action. Other times it will not. If you bid mojo on a failed roll, and your bid succeeds, you will know exactly what the modifier was, because you will spend that much mojo on your success.

Ability Scores

On the front of your character sheet, make a space for your charisma, intelligence, wisdom, endurance, agility, and strength. These are your six ability scores. Each score ranges from 3 to 18.

Roll 4d6 six times, throwing out the lowest die in each case, to generate six numbers from 3 to 18. For example, rolling 2, 6, 4, and 3 will result in 13: we throw out the lowest number, the ‘two’. Six, four, and three added together give us thirteen.

Once you’ve rolled your six numbers, assign the numbers as desired to each ability.

At least one ability score must be nine or higher in order to choose an archetype. Any player can, after they roll, choose to throw out all of their rolls and instead use 15, 13, 12, 10, 8, and 7 as their rolls.

Physical Abilities


Agility is the character’s manual dexterity and overall speed. Running, acrobatics, and musical instruments all demand high agility. The agile character can move quickly and surely.


Endurance is sort of a character’s long term strength. It is the ability to keep going, physically, as everyone else drops out of the race. It is the ability to stand against harm, disease, and discomfort. Characters with high endurance will tend to endure adversity longer and get sick less often, and be able to withstand the rigors of battle for longer periods of time.


Strength is the character’s ability to lift, to bend, and to break things. The higher their strength, the more they than can lift. Characters with higher strength will be more powerful in battle, able to defeat their foes more quickly.

Mental abilities


Charisma measures leadership, self-confidence, and interpersonal skills (noticing how to act and react to others). Charisma is not physical appearance, although flaws that would cause ugliness in less charismatic individuals may add character to the charismatic individual.

Charisma is not popularity. It is a measure of a character’s facility in interacting with others. A character with a high charisma is better able to perceive social constructs and the intricacies of interpersonal situations, and can, but does not have to, use this to be liked better. A character with a high charisma doesn’t have to be popular. It’s their choice, or at least more their choice than if they have a low charisma. Any character can try to be popular, hated, respected, or feared. A character with high charisma will be more successful at the attempt. A character with a low charisma who does lots of popular things might very well be liked by most people—even though the character would prefer to strike fear in the hearts of men. And their popularity will be fickle, because their popularity is not under their control.

Like the other abilities, charisma has a lot bundled up with it, and leadership is the next biggest chunk of charisma. A character with a high charisma is not only better able to get their commands obeyed, they are more competent at being in command. Some may command through fear, others through respect, but the best commanders in the field have been highly charismatic, even to the point that some are not just respected but loved by the enemy population.


Intelligence is a character’s learning ability and ability to assimilate knowledge and remember facts. Characters with a high intelligence will tend to know more and learn new things faster. They will take all the facts at hand and rationally sift through them to find a course of action that they believe is best. A character with high intelligence is likely to be more curious than a character of low intelligence.


Wisdom is the ability to make moral decisions—to tell good from evil. Wisdom is also the courage of one’s convictions. It not only helps your character determine the right thing to do, it also gives your character the courage to perform the right act and follow your character’s moral code.

Wisdom is also common sense, especially where common sense conflicts with learned knowledge. Wisdom might also be considered intuition. A character with a high wisdom can make good decisions without necessarily thinking logically through all the facts at hand. The wise decision will be the right thing to do, but not necessarily the most efficient or advantageous.

Ability Modifiers

Often, a roll or score will use abilities to modify the number associated with the roll or score. The ability can be a “major” contributor to the number or a “minor” contributor to the number.

Ability Major Minor Special
1 -5 -3  
2 -4 -2  
3 -3 -2  
4-5 -2 -1 1
6 -1   1
7-8 -1   2
9-10     2
11     3
12-13 +1   3
14 +1   4
15-16 +2 +1 4
17 +3 +2 4
18 +4 +2 5
19 +5 +2 5
20 +6 +3 5
21 +7 +3 6
22 +8 +3 6
+1 +1 +1/3 Score/3.5

In this table, any number with a ‘dash’ is a penalty to the action: it must always hinder. A number with a ‘+’ is a bonus to the action: it must always help. So, if Tony, playing Toromeen, needs to make a roll less than or equal to 6, modified by endurance (major) and by charisma (minor), this will be 6 with a bonus of 2 (from his endurance of 15) and a penalty of 0 (from his charisma of 8). So Tony needs to roll 8 or less for Toromeen to succeed at this particular task.

The “Special” column is used mostly for attributes which get bonuses based merely on the existence of an ability. For example, a character’s carry is modified by their endurance on the special column.

Character Archetypes

An archetype is the character’s role in the story. It is not the character’s profession or vocation. The character might well have been a smith, miner, or scholar before becoming involved in the adventure. Their community will probably still consider them a smith, miner, or scholar. But their role in the story is warrior, thief, sorceror, prophet, or monk.

Archetypes apply to the adventurers and to major non-player characters. Most other characters are just their jobs, and have no archetype.

There are five archetypes, each associated with one of the six ability scores and one of the six reactions.

Character Archetype Archetypal Ability Archetypal Reaction Verve Contributor Fighting Art
Warrior: Strength Fortitude Intelligence 1
Thief: Agility Evasion Wisdom  
Sorceror: Intelligence Reason Charisma  
Prophet: Wisdom Willpower Strength  
Monk: Charisma Perception Endurance  

As your character increases in level, their archetypal reaction will improve faster than their other reactions.

  • The character must have an ability score of at least 9 in their archetypal ability to become that archetype.
  • Warriors begin the game with Fighting Art at +1 to the field. Everyone else begins with Fighting Art at zero.
  • A character’s verve is affected by their archetypal ability and their verve contributor.

After you go through your archetype’s checklist, you’ll also gain some initial resources for your character, such as skills and money.


Warriors fight and make war. Their goals may be to avoid fights and make peace, but the skills they use to do this are the fighting arts and their battlefield prowess.

Create your first level warrior

A warrior must have a strength of at least 9. Your warrior begins the game with five survival points modified by endurance as a major contributor, and five verve points modified by strength and intelligence as minor contributors.

Your warrior has the Fighting Arts field at +1. Within the Fighting Arts, you have the unarmed combat and weapon fluency skills.

Choose one specialty. Choose a moral code if you wish. Choose your character’s motivation.

Determine any other statistics you need to know about your character, such as reactions, defense, age, height, weight, movement, and carry.

You have starting money equal to your strength.

If you have not already done so, create a backstory for your character.

Warrior combat pool

Warriors can use their attack bonuses for more than improving their attack roll. They can also use it to avoid being hit or to hit more than one target at a time. A warrior may move up to twice level attack bonuses into a general combat pool. A 3rd level warrior could move all three of their fighting art bonuses into their combat pool, as well as up to three other attack bonuses (such as attacking from higher ground or attacking an unaware opponent).

Combat Bonus Use Cost
(+1 to attack) (1)
+1 to damage 1
+1 to defense 1
+1 to throw off surprise 1
+3 to combat movement 1
1 additional attack 4
+1 to quickdraw 1

Warriors may save points across rounds, as long as the total combat points saved and moved in one round never exceed twice their level. A second level warrior might save their two points due to level in order to have four points every other round and gain an extra attack every other round. Saved points are lost when combat ends.

Combat pool points are allocated each round, and apply to all attacks that round. If a ninth level warrior applies four points to gain an additional attack, two points to increase damage, and leaves an attack bonus of three, the damage bonus and attack bonus apply to both attacks that round.

The bonus to throw off surprise does not apply to the original surprise roll, since the character wasn’t in combat then.

Unarmed combat damage

Combat bonus points applied to damage with unarmed combat styles (such as simple unarmed combat or martial arts combat) do not directly increase damage. They increase the size of the die used for damage. For each damage bonus, the die is increased along the damage progression chart, starting from d2 or d3 to d4, from d4 to d6, d6 to d8, d8 to d10, or d10 to d12. Beyond d12, damage bonuses are applied as normal: modifiers to the damage rolled on the dice.

Fighting Arts

Warriors begin the game with the Fighting Art field at +1. They have the Fighting Art skills unarmed combat and weapon fluency.


The sorceror is a student of the arcane sciences. Whether through intense study, bargain with strange powers, or natural aptitude, the sorceror can control magical energies and shape these energies to the sorceror’s will. The sorceror’s spells create, control, and change the natural world. The sorceror is always seeking new spells to advance their knowledge and power.

Create your first level sorceror

A sorceror must have an intelligence of at least 9. Your sorceror begins the game with five survival points modified by endurance as a major contributor, and five verve points modified by intelligence and charisma as minor contributors.

Choose one specialty. Choose a moral code if you wish. Choose your character’s motivation.

Determine any other statistics you need to know about your character, such as reactions, defense, age, height, weight, movement, and carry.

You have starting money equal to your intelligence.

If you have not already done so, create a backstory for your character.

Number of Memorized Spells

Sorcerors must memorize spells before they can use them. The sorceror starts at level one with one spell slot. At each level advancement, they gain a number of slots equal to their new level. A second level sorceror will have three slots (one plus two), a 3rd level sorceror will have six slots (one, plus two, plus three).

Each spell uses level slots. A first level sorceror may memorize one first level spell. A second level sorceror could memorize three first level spells (three spell slots), or one second level spell and one first level spell.

The sorceror gains a bonus to their total spell slots according to their intelligence as a major contributor.

For example, a first level sorceror with a 17 intelligence gains a bonus of three to their total spell slots, for a total of four spell slots. At second level, a sorceror with a 17 intelligence will have six spell slots, and could memorize six first level spells, four first level spells and one second level spell, two first level spells and two second level spells, or three second level spells.

Mnemonic Magic

Magic in Gods & Monsters is mnemonic. Mnemonic sorcerors keep a spell book with all of their spells in it. In order to cast a spell, the mnemonic sorceror must first memorize the spell by impressing the spell formula into their mind. Once a memorized spell is used, it is gone and cannot be used again until it is impressed again. However, a Mnemonic sorceror may understand any number of spells and have as many spells in their spellbook as they can pay for, steal, or find. Mnemonic casters are limited only in the number of spells they may have impressed at one time.

It takes two minutes times the level of the spell to impress the spell into the sorceror’s mind. The mnemonic sorceror must prepare for memorizing spells by first meditating ten minutes. For example, a sorceror memorizing two first level spells and one 3rd level spell will require twenty minutes total (ten minutes preparation, and five times two minutes for the number of spell levels).

Sorcerors may not memorize spells that are higher level than the sorceror or higher level than the sorceror’s intelligence.

During mediation, spells may be erased from memory to make room for a new spell. Memorizing spells costs one verve, plus the number of spells memorized during that meditation. Sorcerors must have their spellbooks to impress a spell in that book.

Casting a spell costs one verve, and after casting a spell it is no longer memorized.


Mnemonic sorcerors always begin the game with Inscription in their spellbook. Mark that down now. During your first level, you will use mojo to further fill your character’s spellbook.

Spellbooks have a bulk of one, plus .05 per spell level of all spells in the book.


The prophet is one favored or chosen by a god, demigod, or pantheon. Their patron’s favor comes in the form of spiritual aid. These spirits can be used to heal, aid, and protect worshippers, conquer unbelievers, and sometimes even to convince unbelievers to become believers. Prophets must have a moral code.

Create your first level prophet

A prophet must have a wisdom of at least 9. Your prophet begins the game with five survival points modified by endurance as a major contributor, and five verve points modified by wisdom and strength as minor contributors.

Choose one specialty. Choose a moral code. Choose your character’s motivation.

Choose the pantheon, deity, or power that has favored your prophet.

Determine any other statistics, such as reactions, defense, age, height, weight, movement, and carry.

You have starting money equal to your wisdom.

If you have not already done so, create a backstory for your character.


Prophets call upon the spirits of their Gods and hold these spirits until they need to manifest the spirit’s divine power. The prophet must spend twenty minutes in prayer, plus two minutes for each spirit level, when calling spirits. Calling spirits costs one verve, plus one verve for every spirit called. The prophet must have their holy symbol. The prophet prays for the spirits they want, though their deity may provide other spirits; if their god is angered, the prophet may receive no spirits until they atone for their transgression.

The prophet may hold a number of spirits according to the spirit’s calling cost and the caster’s level. A spirit’s calling cost is its level. A first-level prophet has one calling point. At each level advancement, the prophet gains level calling points. A second level prophet will have three calling points, a 3rd level prophet will have six, and so on. A spirit may not be dismissed without manifesting its power.

A prophet cannot call any spirit of higher level than the prophet’s own level, nor of higher level than the prophet’s wisdom. Prophets gain a bonus to spirit calling points according to wisdom as a major contributor.

Each spirit may create one show of divine power. It costs one verve to manifest a spirit’s power.

Spirit types

Each deity and pantheon has a specific sphere of influence. Prophets of Poseidon might call on the spirits of wind and sea. Prophets of Ares the spirits of war, and so on. Spirits have levels that denote the strength of the spirit.

Every prophet can use the prophet spirit type, and has access to four other spirit types. The player and Guide should choose, based on the character’s deity, which spirit types the prophet can access. The player should choose their four spirit types as they need them, during their first level of experience.

Within their sphere of influence, a spirit can manifest numerous powers. A first level Charm spirit, for example, could manifest the powers of Command, Animal Companion, Remove Fear, and any other first level charm manifestations. A second level Charm spirit could manifest those powers, as well as Enthrall, Hold Person, and any other second level charm manifestations. Where a spirit’s manifestation varies with level, the variation is by the spirit’s level, not the prophet’s.

Burning spirits

Prophets can use spirits to protect themselves and their friends if the spirit is relevant. Relevance can be complementary or oppositional. For example, a prophet might use a water spirit to protect against fire or magical fire, or drowning or watery rebuke. After any failed reaction roll, the prophet can choose to burn one of their relevant spirits. The spirit gives the target a bonus of the spirit’s level on the failed reaction roll. If the reaction still fails, the spirit’s level reduces any damage taken by its level, and by the prophet’s wisdom as a major contributor.

The prophet can burn a spirit to protect anyone within their combat movement as long as the prophet can in any way reach that person.

Burning a spirit costs no verve, and doesn’t use up an action or movement. Prophet spirits are always relevant.


Prophets may be limited in armor or weapon use, depending on the requirements of their religion or order. Some prophets will have special restrictions placed on them at ordination or at their calling, or at other important points in their service to their deity or deities.

Religious symbols

Religions use icons to symbolize the power or cause of their deities. There will be one symbol which is most commonly carried. For Christians, there is the cross, symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. Some Christians also carry the rosary, to remember and invoke the mother of their god. For ancient Egyptians, it might have been the ankh. For Druids, the mistletoe or holly. Prophets of Thor might carry a hammer, prophets of Ra a sun-like disc. The prophet will use this holy symbol to perform the rites of their sect. Where a spirit manifestation mentions a focus but does not describe this focus, it is the prophet’s holy symbol. These symbols must always be blessed by their deity or an authorized representative of their deity, such as another prophet. If you lose yours, you’ll probably have to adventure to replace it.


The monk is a master of the powers of the mind, deeply in tune with their own mental and intellectual abilities. Monks train in psychic powers by studying psychic fields and gaining psychic skills within those fields. Examples of monks in modern fiction include Valentine Michael Smith, Kwai Chang Caine, the Jedi of Star Wars, Stephen King’s Charlene McGee and his Gunslinger, and Marvel Comics’ Professor X. In the World of Highland, the Sentar Sentasi of the Kilir are monks. Many monks in modern fiction also have the Multiple Archetype speciality.

Create your first level monk

A monk requires a charisma of at least 9. Your monk begins the game with five survival points modified by endurance as a major contributor, and five verve points modified by charisma and endurance as minor contributors.

Choose one specialty. Choose a moral code if you wish. Choose your character’s motivation.

Determine any other statistics you need to know about your character, such as reactions, defense, age, height, weight, movement, and carry.

You have starting money equal to your charisma.

If you have not already done so, make up a backstory for your character.

Using psychic fields

There are five psychic fields, each with a variety of available skills. Monks start the game with one psychic field at +0. They gain three field bonuses or skills within that field, modified by charisma as a major contributor.

Psychic Field Ability Roll Skills
Corporeal Art Charisma Healing, Self-Control, Morphinesis
Dimensional Science Intelligence Sensitive, Dimensional Shift, Temporal Shift
Psychokinetic Craft Wisdom Pyrokinesis, Telekinesis
Spiritual Art Charisma Sensitive, Spirit Host, Spirit Summons, Spirit Travel
Telepathic Art Charisma Catalyst, Domination, Empathy, Illusion, Telepathy

To use a psychic power, the player must make an ability roll as noted above, with their field bonus as a bonus (as normal for fields and skills, unless used as part of the character’s psychic pool). Psychic skills also use up the character’s verve. Verve costs are per round (or per use) and are listed in Arcane Lore .

Psychic pool

Monks have a psychic pool with level points in it. This pool can be re-allotted every round if the character has any effects that last more than a round. The monk can also transfer the field bonus of the psychic skill they’re currently using into their psychic pool.

The monk’s psychic pool lets them increase effects and add techniques. See the description of the psychic field and skill in Arcane Lore for the effects and techniques that can be applied. They can also use their pool to increase their chance of success: each point used to increase their success chance gives them a bonus of one to their ability roll.

For example, if the character has Telepathic Art +4 and is level 2, they have six points to play with for telepathic skills. The player might place three levels in range, one level in targets, and two levels in penalize reaction to attempt to read the mind of a single opponent up to six yards away. The target will have a penalty of 2 to any reaction rolls against having their mind read and the monk will need to roll against their charisma with no bonus to successfully read the target’s mind.


Thieves are masters of stealth, pilfering, and misdirection. Some thieves may specialize in one area or another, but all rely on their agility and cunning. Thieves are not always criminals: they are also scouts, con men, and spies.

Create your first level thief

A thief must have an agility of at least 9. Your thief begins the game with five survival points modified by endurance as a major contributor, and five verve points modified by agility and wisdom as minor contributors.

Choose one specialty. Choose a moral code if you wish. Choose your character’s motivation.

Determine any other statistics, such as reactions, defense, age, height, weight, movement, and carry.

You have starting money equal to your agility.

If you have not already done so, create a backstory for your character.

Thieving fields

The thief fields are open only to thieves. Starting thieves have three thief fields at +1, with one initial skill each. They may spend mojo as normal to improve their bonuses and add fields and skills.

Burglary Science: Locks & traps, Search

Impersonation Art: Acting, Disguise, Forgery

Memory Science: Cram, Understand languages

Misdirection Science: Camouflage, Conceal item, Prestidigitation

Murder Craft: Backstab, Poison

Thief Culture: Bribery, Criminal contacts, Thieves’ cant, Underworld etiquette

Scaling Craft: Climb walls, Tightrope

Stealth Art: Hide, Silence, Pick pockets

Fighting Arts

Thieves begin the game with the Fighting Art skill basic weapons.

Moral code

Characters can choose to follow a moral code, or they can remain unaligned. Unless you are playing a prophet, you do not have to choose a moral code. Moral codes are required for certain specialties and may provide benefits (or penalties) in special situations.

There are two parts to a moral code: Order vs. Chaos, and Good vs. Evil. There are eight moral codes: Ordered Good, Ordered, Ordered Evil, Chaotic Good, Chaotic, Chaotic Evil, Good, and Evil.

The character may choose between Order and Chaos, or remain neutral to that part of the code, and the character may choose between Good and Evil, or remain neutral to that part of the code. A character who cares for neither order nor personal freedom may remain unaligned toward the order and chaos part of the code, but still be good, for example.

Unaligned characters—characters who have no moral code—don’t see the world in terms of moral choices, and probably avoid them for as long as possible. Such characters simply don’t pay attention to the great questions and live day to day.

Order vs. Chaos

Order vs. Chaos is the choice of following order or anarchy. Order is concerned with order, law, and community. Ordered characters promote hierarchy and establish consistent rules. Chaos is concerned with individuality, personal responsibility, and rights. Chaotic characters eschew an established hierarchy.

The Chaotic character believes that the individual is paramount. The Ordered character believes that society is paramount. An Ordered character will be willing to sacrifice individuals to save the group; a Chaotic character will be more willing to put the group in danger to save an individual. Ordered individuals believe that the common good is more important than any individual’s well-being.

To an Ordered individual, authority is its own justification. Once authority is established, authority can create other authorities. To the Chaotic individual, authority must be earned, on an individual basis and according to the situation: the most appropriate person is looked to for counsel and guidance according to the needs of the situation. To an Ordered person, it may look like a Chaotic person does not follow orders. But give them an order worth following, and they will follow it.

Ordered individuals will say that when there are clear rules to be followed and a clear hierarchy, problems stand out. They are easy to see, and easier to fix than they otherwise would be in a chaotic mess. Chaotics, while they are not against freely arisen order are against imposed order, order that does not develop freely from the individual.

As an example from American history, the Constitution is Order. The Bill of Rights is Chaos. The American Constitution sets down the order of the society. The Bill of Rights says that none of that order may override individual rights. Many of the teachings of Lao-Tzu in the Tao-Te-Ching are chaotic, where Confucianism is often on the extreme end of order. It is hard to find a better description of the beliefs of the Chaotic moral code than “The more regulations, the poorer the people will become. The greater the government’s power, the more unruly the nation will become. The more laws, the more frequently evil deeds will occur.”

Good vs. Evil

Good vs. Evil is the choice between caring for the well-being of others for their own sake, and of pure self-interest, of caring only for one’s self or a close circle of friends, whose friendship may well only last as long as it is useful. A good character is likely to keep their word to others, and value others’ friendships and lives. An evil character is likely to keep their word only if there’s something in it for them or they feel like it, and will value others only insofar as others are useful to them. Good is generous of their own time, wealth, and skills. Evil is selfish of their own resources, though they may be generous with the resources of others.

Good characters might be willing to die for the lives of others. Evil characters are very unlikely to do so. Evil is manipulative. Evil characters see others as tools for their own advancement. Evil characters will see their actions as pragmatic, but their pragmatism is a short-term pragmatism.

Player characters may not be evil.

Combined moral codes

Ordered Good promotes order, law, and community to enhance the well-being of everyone in the community.

Ordered Evil uses order, law, and social hierarchies to enhance one’s own well-being, standing, power, and wealth at the expense of others.

Chaotic Good promotes personal responsibility and civil rights to enhance the freedom and well-being of all individuals.

Chaotic Evil uses the self-centered manipulation of others to fulfill the character’s own immediate desires.

Moral code examples

Order and Good are usually easier to understand than Chaos and Evil. A good example of Chaotic (or possibly Chaotic Good) in fiction is Alan Moore’s hero “V” in “V for Vendetta”, a character who believes that anarchy is the best thing for the well-being of others. Such a character might well hold, with Rousseau, that people are inherently pure but become corrupted by civilization.

Good examples of evil moral codes may be found in Eddison’s “The Worm Ouroboros”. Lord Corund of Witchland is Ordered Evil. He works strictly within the confines of Order, and will not deviate from that order. He has a sense of hierarchy that he will not break merely to win battles against a hated enemy, even when his most trusted advisor recommends doing so. When he is assigned a lesser overlordship in Pixyland because the government believes him most suited to govern the newly-vanquished country, he accepts. He does not jockey for the overlordship of more desired lands as others within the court of Witchland do.

Lord Gro, his most trusted advisor, is an example of Chaotic Evil. He cares only for what will bring him and his close circle of friends greater reward. When Corund calls the lords of Demonland to parley, Gro recommends ambushing them; when Corund refuses because one does not do that to royalty, Gro encourages a lesser warrior to do so.

The Kingdoms of Witchland and Demonland are Ordered Evil and Chaotic, respectively. Witchland fosters a strict hierarchy within which advancement is possible. Personal power is gained only insofar as the individual advances the cause of the state, and only insofar as that individual’s promotion also advances the cause of the state. Demonland fosters a state wherein individual glory rules. Individuals who perform well on their own will gain power, regardless of whether such is good for Demonland and its peoples as a whole.

The classic example of an Ordered character is the bureaucrat who cares nothing for whether their actions are good or evil, but merely whether the paperwork is filled out and the schedule met. However, a good example of a person devoted solely to Order, regardless of Good or Evil is d’Artagnan in “The Man in the Iron Mask” by Alexander Dumas. In that book, d’Artagnan is devoted to the preservation of the monarchy, and much of the book is about the conflict between that devotion and d’Artagnan’s own friends. In that book, Athos would tend toward Ordered Good and Aramis toward Ordered Evil. Both promote Order, but Athos for a greater good and Aramis for personal gain at the expense even of his friends. Athos is an honorable man. Aramis will do anything to establish an Ordered society—with himself in control. He is always trying to twist his words so that listeners hear something other than what he is saying, and is willing to outright lie if it will further the cause of Order. Porthos is neither Ordered nor Chaotic, but simply Good. He tries to keep his word, and he tries to do the right thing, regardless of royalty or personal freedoms.

Conflicting codes

Occasionally the two moral sides will conflict. An Ordered Good character might have to make the choice between something that is more Order or more Good. Different characters will come to different decisions. Different characters will have different commitments to their moral codes and to each part of their moral code.

A character may align themselves to a moral code, but fail to live up to the ideals of that code. The Guide will decide the implications of that failure (and the implications of success) in following a moral code. In some games, a moral code will be a divine choice. In other games, Order and Chaos, Good and Evil will be part of the unseen structure—or lack thereof—of reality. Your first level character is likely to be completely unaware of this when you make their choice to follow or not follow a moral code.

Persons of opposing moral codes may have trouble getting along under some circumstances. Those following Order and those following Chaos are more likely to put their philosophical differences aside than those following Good vs. those following Evil. Organizational enmities, however, are more likely to be built across the abyss of Order and Chaos. Even in the early days of the United States, with its multiple-personality constitution, the followers of Order and the followers of Chaos fought bitterly in public. The Chaotics called the Ordered “monarchists” and the Ordered called the Chaotics “guillotinists”.

Sometimes, people with the same moral code will also find themselves in conflict. Moral codes are neither secret societies nor guilds. Lower-level characters will not even know that their choice means anything more than basic morals. In general, characters who are good will find it difficult to battle other characters who are good without significant moral quandaries. This also applies to war. Evil characters and unaligned characters will generally not care about the morality of who they make war with. Evil characters might use moral conflicts as a tactical advantage; unaligned characters don’t think in terms of morality.

First level mojo

Starting characters have 12 mojo, modified by their archetypal ability as a major contributor.

Players can trade mojo for resources throughout their first level. Mojo are resource points within the game. Players may use mojo for any purpose listed in the rest of the rules, such as affecting archetypal die rolls. But when their character is first level they can also use mojo for things that non-starting characters can’t, and in some cases can use it for things that non-starting characters can but at a lower cost.

Once your character reaches their second level, you may no longer use mojo to acquire equipment and money, nor may you use the discounted mojo rates for resources.

When a player uses mojo to gain something for their character, it is assumed that the character always had the resource in question; it only became relevant at the time the mojo was spent. If the course of play has made it impossible to assume this, then the resource cannot be acquired in this manner.

The same rules for gaining bonuses to die rolls when spending mojo to gain skills apply to discounted first level mojo. This means that it can be advantageous to wait until they’re needed to choose fields and skills. If you buy the skill or improve the field at the same time that you make the skill roll, you gain the mojo spent as a bonus to that roll. Also, if you bid mojo on a skill roll, and that mojo is enough to improve the field bonus you used (or to buy the field or a skill within it), then you do.


Whether farmer’s son or princess of the kingdom, player characters have no income. They have no money beyond what the game gives them. Some specialties, such as nobility, allot characters more money, and characters will find hidden treasure during their adventures.

Beginning characters can decide during an adventure that they had acquired equipment, as long as they have the money to spend on it. They can also trade mojo for money, to purchase or have purchased equipment. Each mojo is worth thirty silver coins.

Fields and skills

Players can trade two mojo for one field at +1; this includes one initial skill within that field. They can use mojo to gain extra skills within a field or to increase a field bonus: one mojo gives one additional skill or one field bonus.

Players may spend mojo to gain Fighting Art skills but not to increase their Fighting Art field bonus. The Fighting Art field bonus is tied to their archetype level. Players may not use mojo to gain the restricted Fighting Art skills of the warrior or thief archetype.

Psychic fields

Monks may purchase new fields, field bonuses, and skills at discounted rates as normal. Psychic techniques cost 1 mojo during the character’s first level. The technique applies to all skills within their field.


Sorcerors must use their beginning mojo to purchase first-level spells. Each spell costs one mojo. For these spells, the player need only pay mojo. The spells are assumed to have already been in their spellbook, and no ink costs are necessary.

On paying mojo for a spell, the player may choose to have their sorceror have already memorized the spell, if the memorization slots were left available at the last meditation or by replacing unused spells as if this spell had been memorized to begin with.

Skills and specialties


The basic fantasy archetypes can be modified and enhanced through specialties. A specialty can turn a thief into an assassin, or a sorceror into a wu jen. Look in Arcane Lore for a list of pre-created specialties.

At first level, the character has one specialty.

Some specialties have requirements: the character must have a minimum ability score, or must follow a specific moral code, or must not follow a specific moral code. Some specialties also have prerequisites: earlier specialties that must be taken first.

Fields and skills

When a player wants their character to perform a dangerous or difficult task, they’ll roll against one of their character’s abilities or reactions. To help them succeed, characters can learn skills. When a character is skilled at a task, their player gains a bonus on any rolls to perform that task.

Each skill must be part of a field of knowledge. Fields are major areas, such as War Craft, Language Science, or Gambling Art. The character gains the field’s bonus when using any skill within that field. For example, a character with Gambling Art at +3 might have the skills Carousing and Poker. Whenever the player makes a roll where Carousing or Poker skills are applicable, they get a bonus of 3 on that roll.

In a way, having Gambling Art +3 is like being a 3rd level gambler.

Characters who have high mental abilities begin the game with a number of fields equal to intelligence as a major contributor and wisdom and charisma as minor contributors. The fields are at +1 and have one skill within them.

If the character has low mental abilities, a negative total can be ignored unless the character is old enough to have extra skills. Older characters will need to first overcome this negative number before gaining extra skills.

The Arcane Lore Lorebook contains a detailed list of fields, and skills within those fields, which you can choose from or roll randomly from, but you can also come up with your own fields and skills, subject to the approval of the Adventure Guide.

Native Culture

Your character automatically has the field Native Culture at +2, with the skills Native Language and one Etiquette from local subcultures. For example, a nobleman might choose Court Etiquette; a farmer Backwoods Etiquette, or a thief Underworld Etiquette.

You may move your character’s Native Language skill into the Languages field if you have it. Your Native Culture field bonus remains +2.

The Fighting Art

Warriors begin the game with Fighting Art at +1. Monks, prophets, sorcerors, and thieves begin the game with Fighting Art at +0.

Non-warrior archetypes are limited in the weapon skills they may choose. Thieves may choose any simple or basic weapon as a skill; and the others any simple weapon.

Simple weapons are small hand-held weapons such as the dagger, knife, or sling. Basic weapons are weapons such as spears, short swords, crossbows, and martial arts. Exactly what constitutes a basic weapon or a simple weapon will depend on the game world, but suggestions are given on the weapons table.

Prophets may have other restrictions according to their religion or sect.

When in combat, your character will get their Fighting Art field bonus as long as they are using a weapon they’re skilled with. If they are using a weapon they’re not skilled with, and if it’s a weapon they can never learn they’ll have an additional penalty of two to attack.

Players may not use mojo to increase their character’s Fighting Art field bonus. Their bonus goes up as their character increases in level.

The weapon fluency skill is only available to warriors, and all warriors have it. Weapon fluency allows warriors to learn any weapon skill, and to use their full Fighting Art bonus with weapons they aren’t skilled in, at a penalty of two to attack.

The skill basic weapons is only available to thieves (who automatically have it) and those with the appropriate specialty. This skill allows thieves to learn basic weapon skills—more weapons than prophets, sorcerors, and monks, but fewer than warriors.

A few good numbers


Survival is the ability of your character to survive damaging events. A sword hit, a fall from a large height, a punch in the face, all reduce your character’s survival points. If your character’s survival drops to zero or below, your character risks unconsciousness and death.

At first level, player characters have five survival points. Survival points are modified by endurance as a major contributor.


Warrior Thief Sorceror Prophet Monk
Intelligence Wisdom Charisma Strength Endurance

Verve is the ability of your character to look cool in the face of harm that results from archetypal actions. Whenever a character loses survival for an archetypal activity, the player may instead choose to have some or all of the damage come from verve. For example, warriors use verve in combat, thieves use it after failing to climb a wall, and monks after a failed perception roll.

At first level, player characters have five verve, modified by their archetypal ability and their verve ability as minor contributors.

When the chance of success is governed by the character’s archetypal ability or archetypal reaction or by one of the character’s specialties, damage resulting from that action comes from verve first, then from survival. Some characters will also use verve when they perform archetypal actions such as casting spells.


The character’s Movement rating is 10, with agility as a major contributor and strength as a minor contributor.

A character’s movement determines their reach in combat, and how fast they can travel on foot.


Your character’s starting age may be rolled as 15 plus d6 or chosen by you. If your character begins the game at age 20 or older, they will receive a greater number of skills or field bonuses in one or more of their fields. If the character has low mental abilities, such that their starting field count is negative, their bonus is reduced by that number. For example, a character with a 4 intelligence, a 15 charisma, and a 10 wisdom has negative 1 starting fields. The character would have to start at 30 years or older to gain age-related skills and field bonuses.

Older Than: 20 30 50 80 120 170 230 300 380 470
Bonus 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


When your character takes the initiative to act, you’ll make an ability roll. When your character reacts to something or might sense something, you’ll make a reaction roll. For example, when characters are faced with imminent danger, players will often have the opportunity to react and avoid or mitigate that danger.

Reactions start at 4, modified by the character’s scores in the major and minor contributors to that reaction. They gain a bonus of one to their archetypal reaction.

Reaction Major Ability Minor Ability Archetype Psychic Power Uses
Health Endurance Strength None Corporeal Health dangers, poisons, diseases
Fortitude Strength Endurance Warriors Psychokinetic Wide-effect attacks, standing firm
Willpower Wisdom Charisma Prophets Spiritual Mind control, temptations, faith
Evasion Agility Intelligence Thieves Dimensional Dodging or avoiding individual attacks
Reason Intelligence Wisdom Sorcerors   Recalling events, learning new things
Perception Charisma Agility Monks Telepathic Seeing hidden things

Reactions improve as the character becomes more experienced.

Here, for example, are Sam Stevens’ reactions, both as a first level thief, and later at fifth level, with two levels in thief and three levels in warrior (she has the Multiple Archetypes specialty). You’ll see that at fifth level her reactions are higher. Her fortitude has improved most, because she has three levels as a warrior.

Reaction Thief 1 Thief 2/Warrior 3
Health 5 7
Fortitude 4 8
Willpower 4 6
Evasion 6 8
Reason 4 6
Perception 5 7

If a wizard attempts to take control of Sam’s mind, and Sam needs to make a willpower roll to avoid it, a d20 roll of 4 or less will let Sam avoid the spell when she is first level; and a d20 roll of 6 or less will let her avoid it when she is fifth level.

Defense and attack bonuses

Defense is the character’s agility as a major contributor.

Close combat attack bonus is the character’s strength as a minor contributor. Damage bonus is strength as a major contributor.

Missile combat attack bonus is the character’s agility as a minor contributor. Damage bonus for thrown weapons is the character’s strength as a minor contributor. Thrown weapon range penalties are reduced by the character’s strength as a minor contributor.

Propelled weapons do not gain a damage or range bonus unless the weapon is specially designed for the character’s strength. Penalties, however, will apply.


Your character’s carry measures how many items they can carry during an adventure. Your character can carry up to half strength items, modified by endurance as a special contributor. Each item your character carries must have a bulk less than or equal to their strength.

An item’s bulk combines weight in pounds with the difficulty of carrying that weight. A bulky, light item may have the same bulk as a compact, heavy item. An item meant for swinging (such as a weapon) will almost certainly have a greater bulk than a similarly-shaped item meant solely for carrying. Items meant for wear will have a far greater bulk carried than worn. An item’s bulk is rarely less than its weight, but can be more than its weight if the item is unwieldy.

If your character needs to carry an item with too much bulk, you can use extra carry points to do so, but each extra carry point gives your character a penalty of one to movement, to attack rolls, and to any agility-based rolls.

Characters can use containers, such as pouches, sacks, sheaths, and backpacks, to reduce the number of items they carry. Normal clothing does not count against the number of carried items when worn.

For example, Sam Stevens has a fourteen endurance and an eleven strength. She can carry up to ten items; each item must have a bulk of eleven or less. If she carries a tent (bulk 40) her movement and rolls are reduced by 3, because she will need to use four of her carry points just on that one item.

Items meant to be worn well, such as armor and backpacks, can use two carry points instead of one with no penalty. Weapons or other items used two-handed (such as sacks) can also use two Carry points with no penalty.

Sam Stevens could use a battleaxe (bulk 20) with no penalty by using it with both hands. If she tried to use a great sword, however, its bulk 24 would give her a penalty of one while using it two-handed.

Height and weight

In a game of poking and prodding, height and weight can be important numbers. Players choose their character’s height and weight or roll them randomly. If random, characters have a base height of 54 inches and a base weight of 48 pounds.

Vary the base by rolling 5d6. Add the 5d6 roll to the character’s height, and add endurance as a minor contributor and strength as a major contributor.

Modify the dice total by endurance as a major contributor and strength as a minor contributor. Then multiply by seven and add this to the character’s weight. But if you already know your character’s height and weight, there is no need to roll randomly.