If you are following the progress of Beyond Dread Portals, the upcoming game of post-D&D Multi-dimensional Fantasy Adventuring by Paul Mitchener, Mitch is running the following game at Furnace in October.
The Wizard’s Staff
By Paul Mitchener
Ys. A folded dimension filled with a vast city ruled by the undead Autarch and his vampiric agents. A city where the guilds and noble houses which once governed the city are fierce rivals, the Autarch stirring up the strife so his own rule goes unchallenged. Ys has portals to several different worlds, and is the capital of an empire with territories on each.
Nespo. A dead world, full of undead monsters where Ysian army and Guild of the Arcane has a tenuous presence. Explorations in the wrong places awoke the Autarch sixty years ago, and Ys has been his ever since.
You. You’re a group from the Guild of Explorers with a treasure map, seeking a magical staff which once belonged to a wizard who came remarkably close to defeating the Autarch. A staff which still, it is said, contains much of his power. You’re being paid very well to retrieve the staff, but when the time comes, if you succeed, if the rumours are true, will you give it up?
Today I jump right in and look at the system that powers the game.
Beyond D20, The System
A D20 fantasy system, significantly more straightforward than D20 D&D.
The basic rule: Roll d20 add modifiers over a target number.
Modifiers can come from
Skill Rank (for Skill Tests)
Attack bonus (for combat)
So for example
Organo the Sly, a 5th Level Expert, doing a flying tumble over a large number of Mage-Guards of the Arcane Guild, rolls d20 with +5 for her Skill Rank, +8 for her background of being a member of a travelling circus and +3 for her Dexterity Modifier, for a whopping + 16 in total.
If Hargvard the Brute, a 5th level Warrior, is trying to do the same thing he doesn’t have any backgrounds that help acrobatics, so he would only get a + 1 from his Dex modifier. As a result, his player is far more likely to barge through the group of warriors, which allows Hargvard to bring in his background as a street thug and skills as a warrior into play for a much higher modifier.
The target number is assigned by the Referee and starts at 10, +5 for each complication involved in the test. Rolls can be opposed, so the target number can be a d20 roll generated by the opposition. So, in the above example, the Referee could roll a skill test for the Guards collectively and use the result as the target number.
Finally, if you can bring into play one of your character’s drives, which are written on the character sheet as short descriptions of what motivates the character, you get to roll twice picking the more favourable roll. However, if you fail, despite rolling twice, you land your character at great risk.
So in the above example, Organo’s player invokes her drive of “To live life to the full” and the Referee warns them that if Organo fails she will end up tumbling gracefully right into the middle of the crowd of Mage-Guards ready to pound her with their poleaxes.
Your character also has special class-based abilities. Such as fighting styles for warriors, spell casting and magic for magicians, various tricks of the trade for Experts. Some of these are expected D&D abilities, and some are from the setting.
Spell casting uses a familiar spell list, but casters have Magic Points, so it’s not the usual fire and forget system. All the spells from regular D&D that break a magic point system, such as Sleep and Charm Person, have either been removed or rewritten to fit in.
This is the first of a two-part “Beyond Dread Portals in a Nutshell”, looking at the setting. Part 2 (coming tomorrow) looks at the system.
If you’ve not come across mention of Beyond Dread Portals before, its a completely self-contained game by Paul Mitchener, a burgeoning powerhouse of British RPG writing (partial credits Hunters of Alexandria, Age of Arthur, Starfall, Mythic Britain: Logres). Currently standing at 250+ pages sans art-work this is Dr Mitch’s post-D&D take on multidimensional fantasy adventure gaming.
Hoping to Kickstart this one, once I’ve cleared the decks of some outstanding work, probably either by the end of this year or at the start of next year. I’ve got a full draft of the game, which initially started off as Paul’s homage to Planescape, but mutated into its own thing. It’s a large fantasy setting, where a magical city-state of Ys sits at the centre of an empire of other worlds connected by magic portals (hence the title). Its also a ruleset – which I’m tagging as post-D&D. It takes D&D as its starting point and then cuts and adds to it to make the ruleset match the setting. The nearest analogy is I can make if that second wave of AD&D 1st edition settings (Planescape, Dark Sun, Ravenloft etc.) had been self-contained games with modified D&D based rulesets. Bear in mind Paul also takes into consideration 30 years of games design on top of that, although he does so in a way that isn’t jarring to the starting point.
So here’s a quick look at the setting: The Empire of Ys
What is the Empire of Ys?
Ys is a city on a ringworld. Although it has well-defined districts, these magically shift and change from time to time. It used to be human ruled Empire which aggressively conquered and colonised other worlds, using magical portals (the Dread Portals of the game’s title). Recently, Ys was invaded by the undead mega-fiend the Autarch, who now sits uncaring in the imperial palace, occasionally enforcing its will through the Guilds and the Noble Families, but otherwise allowing the empire to function as it did before without much interference.
The other worlds are:
A fallen colony world, whose portal is officially closed. A dark world of endless caverns, rich in minerals and metals (which initially drew the Ysians) but inhabited by monsters (which is why they left).
A well-established colony, the source of much of Ys’s food, controlled by playing off rival Kingdoms against each other.
At first contact a dead desert world full of ancient ruins rich with treasure. This is the world the undead Autarch came from.
Another colony world dominated by two factions, The Empire of the Lion and the Three Kingdoms.
An ocean world dotted with islands.
There is a system of Guilds that run various functions of the Empire.
The Guild of the Arcane.
The Temples of the Six.
The Guilds of Headsman (Assassins).
The Society of Crafters.
The League of Explorers, who mount expeditions through the portals to the other worlds. All the player characters are members of this Guild by default, as well as one other.
The Black Rose. A merchants’ league.
The Steel Hand. An organisation of thugs, enforcers, bodyguards, general henchmen.
The Emerald Hand. Once a diplomatic and spy service, now stripped of its powers by the Autarch it appears a motley crew of knowledge-hungry scholars and performers.
The Five Noble Families:
The Acarni – as their name suggests they consider themselves to have a monopoly on magical matters. They are decadent powermongers who pretty much run the Guild of the Arcane.
The Lantari. Followers of the Goddess of Love and War they are practical and militaristic. They have a close association with the Army.
The Solari. Some say they are a house in deep decline after the banishment of their patron goddess Solaria (or Dawn) by the Autarch. Other say they are just plotting in the shadows.
The Telani. A rich house of merchants who prosper through the activities of the Black Rose.
The Valerii. Sinister and Machiavellian, they openly back the Autarch.
Overall the setting is a fantasy renaissance setting, where instead of ocean-borne trade the city-state of Ys profits from its business with the worlds it is in contact with through the magical portals. Without the regular edicts of the human Empire and the vague but fearful orders that occasionally come from Autarch, there is much political infighting between the Guilds and their agents. There is a patronage system, and the player characters like everyone else will have a patron who will help them in return for support.
Our upcoming release of Paul Mitchener’s Dimension Hopping Fantasy Adventure game, Beyond Dread Portals, now has a cover courtesy of Jon Hodgson.
Hoping to Kickstart this one, once I’ve cleared the decks of some outstanding work, probably either by the end of this year or at the start of next year.
I’ve got a full draft of the game, which initially started off as Paul’s homage to Planescape, but mutated into its own thing. It’s a large fantasy setting, where a magical city-state of Ys sits at the centre of an empire of other worlds connected by magic portals (hence the title). Its also a ruleset – which I’m tagging as post-D&D. It takes D&D as its starting point and then cuts and adds to it to make the ruleset match the setting. The nearest analogy is I can make if that second wave of AD&D 1st edition settings (Planescape, Dark Sun, Ravenloft etc.) had been self-contained games with modified D&D based rulesets. Bear in mind Paul also takes into consideration 30 years of games design on top of that, although he does so in a way that isn’t jarring to the starting point.
So in short, I’ve got a cover for this 260-page beast, which is when things start getting real and beyond the point of no return.
Expect more updates and previews over the coming months 🙂
Dragonmeet, the annual games day held in London this year on Saturday Dec 3rd, is nearly upon us. It’s being co-sponsored by Lamentations of the Flame Princess as well as Chaosium and there are many UK OSR publishers attending as well as us:
First off is the return of Mythic Rome by Pete Nash, originally released as an BRP version which won a Silver Ennies, in a time when the Ennies were dominated by D&D product, updated for Mythras with brand new art as a lovely hardback. It covers Rome from its foundation to the end of the Republic. If you want to run games inspired by Steven Saylor’s Sub Rosa series or HBO Rome this is the book to get.
And because Pete and Loz love you and want you to try out Mythras for the next couple of months they are going to putting out standalone adventures compatible with both Mythras and the free Mythras Imperative. The first one is a Sci-Fi (they’ve already taken Mythras in that direction with their Luther Arkwright book and check out M-Space by Frostbyte Books) called A Gift From Shamash ( in pdf via drivethrurpg.com and in print from Lulu ).
Crypts of Indormancy for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and other OSR games funded recently and everything is on track for November release according the latest backers report. Keep an eye out for its release, it will be a good ‘un 😉
Grogmeet happened in my home city of Manchester….and I completely missed it. My excuse being a I was already signed heavy weekend of family fun, but hoping that this becomes a regular thing 🙂 Here’s a quick highlights movie they made.
Finally not strictly OSR (because its for 5Th Ed) but Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle Earth hit the shops this week, and I bagsied a copy. I must confess I usually by C7’s Tolkien stuff for the gorgeous art, and this book keeps up that tradition using the same smooth colourful layout with lashings of fantastic colour illustrations, but from a quick skim its a seamless version of 5ed blended with Tolkien flavour and the unique rules that made the One Ring so special ported over. Looking forward to picking up the companion Loremaster’s Guide when it comes out. This one has a special place in many UK Grognards heart’s because Tolkien was very much part of growing up in the UK, for example many people read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as part of their English education at school, and even though there wasn’t an official D&D adaptation many people played the game with a strong Tolkien flavour. So 30 years on its very heartwarming to finally see an licensed adaptation for D&D and see it get so right.
Adventures in Middle Earth by Cubicle 7, I has it my precious!!!!
What D101 is up to?
I’m currently busy getting the adventures for the Crypts and Things Kickstarter together. Tombs of the Necromancer is getting some clean up work done, some extra bits by author Paul Mitchener, and Life and Death Zarth Edition is getting new art and layout. Its neck and neck which one will get released first. Blood of the Dragon/The Dark Path (new) and Fort Boneguard (new) are all getting put together along with a new scenario, The Lost City of the God Emperor, into one book called Under Dark Spires. Tournaments of Madness and Death is quietly trundling along.
I’ve got me nose in a good book 🙂
David M.Wright who did the art for the main rule book is signed up to do the art for the adventures. David recently got his rulebook and was dead chuffed with it 🙂
“C&T encapsulates pretty much everything I love about classic 80’s RPG fantasy (which was all around when I was growing up as a lad), but with all the naff stuff removed! It’s a 100% pure Sword & Sorcery game. There are Barbarians, Warriors, Sorcerers and Thieves, all pitted against an ever expanding assortment of monsters, amorphous Hell-Spawed demonic crypt dwelling conglomerations, and the like (none of your wishy-washy elves, gnomes, and sappy fairies here!). There is Blood, there is Fire, there is Magic, Muscle, Mist, and Steel! : )”
Oh and to keep us going until the adventures land I’m putting a C&T fanzine together called “From the Shroud”, a little A5 affair that currently has a couple of articles by me and a small introductory scenario called “The Secret of Skull Hill”, that I’m hoping will be on sale at Dragonmeet. If you are interested in contributing get in touch via email@example.com. The deadline for submissions is tight however, this coming Sunday 20th November.
I’m also starting the playtest of Beyond Dread Portals (the new name of Paul Mitchener’s Empire of Ys ) this week, which will run into early next year with an aim of getting out in the first half of next year.
In non-fantasy-land I’m putting wrapping up the last bits of writing on the River of Heaven Companion, so that should be out early 2017 🙂
Remember my reporting on this UK OSR Update is only as good as my attention span on G+, so if I’ve missed anything just point it out in the comments below.
Dragon Warriors the classic British Fantasy game that was originally published in six gamebook format books in the 80s and is currently published by Serpent King Games in big book format is on Bundle of Holding. This is a classic FRP game that for many UK gamers was their first
Romance of the Perilous Land by Scott Malthouse a British Medieval inspired game with various bits from all editions of D&D blended together is out on pay what you want via Drivethrourpg.com
On the D101 Front…..
Crypts and Things is almost finalised. The final draft pdf is with the backers and the final production quaility pdf should be with them by this coming Friday. General release of printed book and pdf mid to end of September via DriveThruRpg.com
Beyond Dread Portals, Paul Mitchener’s love letter to AD&D 2ed and Planescape has reached 1st draft. If you fancy playtesting it or peer reviewing, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Its official Dr Mitch (aka Paul Mitchener) is an RPG Writing Machine.
In between top sekret work of for other publishers (and another seminal piece for D101 that I’m keeping the lid on for the moment) he’s submitted, the Empire of Ys
This is his tribute to D&D, which is inspired by a love of Planescape and a style of play that revolves around exploration for the Empire of the title and the machinations of the movers and shakers of the setting rather than simple dungeon crawling. Its a self contained game of 12 chapters, 201 pages,including a starter adventure (but bear in mind you start at 3rd Level). Overall its got enough character of its own for me (and you) to give it time amongst all the D&D love letters out there.
Date of release, certainly not until the behemoth that is Crypts & Things is out, so cautiously early next year.
There will be a playtest, I will do a call in a couple of months once I’ve done my editorial pass 😉
Empire of Ys is a roleplaying game of worlds-spanning fantasy. The rules are built up from an Old School core based on loosely on the world’s first fantasy roleplaying game, but heavily tailored to fit the setting.
At the centre is the city of Ys, a corrupt and baroque fantasy city occupying a folded dimension of its own. Magical gateways created by the Guild of the Arcane link Ys to other worlds. On some these worlds the city has set up permanent colonies. Ysian raiders, traders and explorers reach further afield. The heart of Ys is rotten. Its overlord, the Autarch, is literally a monster. His immediate underlings, his Agents, sow discord in the city, and can hunt and feed on the city’s less prominent citizens with no fear of punishment. He leaves the apparatus of government and the rule of law to crumble and divides the power structures in the city among conflicted guilds, ensuring that no-one can depose him.
Yet to the adventurous and unscrupulous, Ys presents opportunities as well as dangers. Perhaps a few heroes can even make a difference to the city and its empire as a whole. Welcome to Ys!