A Game By
STEPHEN LEA SHEPPARD
With The Art Of
With Endless Thanks To
This book and all contents are copyright
Levi Kornelsen and Jaime Williams, 2006-2008
STARTING UP: PAGE 4
Welcome! Who The Characters Are What The Characters Do
Why You Should Play This Game Media Love-In Style and Tone
A Different World Getting Started How To Play: Character Creation
How To Play: Homeplay How To Play: Missions
The First Scene The Back & Forth
Going To The Mechanics Character Scenes Guide Characters
SETTING: PAGE 16
Overview The Countryside Cityscape About Barrios
The Temple District Porttown Foundry Row University District
Oldcity - The Centro Eastridge Southgate The Undercity
The Powers Politics Common Folks The Poor On Cogs
High Invention On Masterminds The Current Discontent
Where Do You Fit In? The Rebel Network
Hideouts And Fronts Insiders And Fixers The Cog Wars
CHARACTERS: PAGE 42
Character Creation Concept Choose A Kind Cog
Geezer Kid Virtues Cunning Daring Grace
Vocations Mystic Tailor Tinker Soldier Scout
Creating & Rating Traits Starting Conditions Names
MECHANICS: PAGE 60
What Mechanics Do “The Guide Decides” A Sample Character
The Throw Local Conditions Declaring Intent
Dice For Players Dice For The Guide Making The Roll
Describing Victory Blocking Conditions At Four
Conditions As Gear On Minions Teamwork Duration Blocking
On Zeal All About Experience Rules Glossary
HOMEPLAY: PAGE 78
Overview The Basic Location Five Local Powers
Creating Strife Bits To Consider
MISSIONS: PAGE 84
What Missions Are About Mastermind Resources
The Place And The Rise The Proper Order The Real Power Structure
Ways To Get In The Numbers
GUIDE: PAGE 90
What The Guide Does On Running Homeplay On Running Missions
Some Fundamental Ideas Putting It All Together Rotating Guides
The book you’re reading is a game, a kind normally called a roleplaying game
or RPG. If you’re new to these kinds of games, relax and read along; by the
end of this chapter, you should have a pretty solid idea of how it all works.
The most basic thing to remember is that in this game, the players will take on
the part of fictional persons, called characters, and take part in adventures. The
exception to this is the Guide, who is a player who will take on the job of
actually playing the whole rest of the world rather than a single character.
If you’re a seasoned roleplayer, it will still be a good idea to read along
carefully. The Cog Wars will strike some readers as very different from what
they’re used to seeing out of an RPG, and you may be one of those. Overall,
the game combines some innovative ideas (conflict resolution, narrated
victory) with some very traditional ones (mission-based play, the basic ideas of
having adventures), in a very quirky setting that ranges in content from zany
cartoon mayhem to the edge of serious social issues. The resulting gameplay
is pretty simple and intuitive, once you “get into the groove” of the game.
WHO THE CHARACTERS ARE
The characters are a mixed group of kids, old folks (called geezers), and
thinking automatons (called Cogs), in a steampunk city named Tiran. These
characters are vigilantes, but the criminals that they target are so much a part
of the society of Tiran that they are often referred to as rebels.
Rebels usually operate in mixed groups, which are sometimes called crews.
A rebel crew is considered “legitimate” by other rebels only if they have
cleaned up a neighborhood and established a base of operations; the rebels
which are being played in this game have already done this.
WHAT THE CHARACTERS DO
A rebel crew goes out into the city to fight Masterminds. Such a crew also
maintains their own home base, dealing with internal problems and conflicts
taking place there in order to keep everything ticking over nicely.
“Fighting Masterminds” isn’t a straightforward deal. The characters may
well spend some of their time investigating a crime, engaging in skullduggery,
getting into a fight, racing time to stop a doomsday device, starting a riot,
crawling around in the sewers. They might do all of those things in the space
of a single session of play. The mechanics of the game are built to treat just
about any kind of conflict equally, in order to free the group to pursue
whatever kinds of crazy action they want to try out.
WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY THIS GAME
There are many high-quality roleplaying games available to occupy your time
and provide your group with entertaining stuff to do. So why play this one?
The Cog Wars, as a game, is a bundle of labor-saving devices. The first such
device is a clear explanation of what the game is and does, and how to go
about the act of playing it. Second is a patchwork setting that can be adapted
to a number of different styles of play, ranging from punk revolution to out-
and-out comedy. Then comes a high-speed method of building characters, so
that finicky engineering doesn’t delay getting to actually playing. The next tool
is a set of mechanics built to manage tracking the important stuff in the
fictional world of play, whatever that might be, and working it the resolution of
conflict. This is followed up by two methods for creating active situations,
generators for setting up “episodes” for playing in. And finally, a little advice
on use, to make these tools easier to employ.
What all that adds up to is that if you have a bunch of people looking to play
together at having wild adventures in a seriously messed-up, screwball world,
this is the right book. If the order of the day is action, melodrama, hijinks, and
black comedy, set against a background that also includes issues of a serious
nature, this is the game for you. If the idea of committing fictional cartoon
mayhem in the name of vigilante justice, intended to free robotic slaves, cast
down oppressive industrialists, and strike back at corruption strikes you as a
little too weird, you may want to put the book down for a bit and soak in some
of the recommended media...
Here’s a list of different media that catch some part or another of the style and
content of The Cog Wars:
• Castle Falkenstein (RPG): A • Robin Hood (Many Media): The
high-flying steampunk game set in original awesome vigilante,
an alternate 1870s, filled with always deserving of mention.
faerie, invention, and magic. • Sly Cooper (Video Game): A
• Conspiracy X (RPG): A game of band of cartoon thieves take on
characters operating in cells, assorted Masterminds in their
fighting conspiracy, this game is home territories.
recommended for the hideout- • Spirit of the Century (RPG): A
making system. very well done pulp-action game;
• Girl Genius (Webcomic): A the mechanics and playstyle of this
steampunk adventure series; still game are excellent sources for
not enough robots, but good. Cog Wars system-tinkering.
• Night Watch (Book): This is one • Warmachine (Minis game): Big
of the Discworld series by Terry clonking steampunk robots, with
Pratchett, involving a weird city mages controlling them, beating
and a revolution. Comedy. each other up on the battlefield.
STYLE - THE BIG CITY
The Cog Wars is very much a game about a city, and about its issues and
struggles. To that end, a pretty hefty part of this book has been used to
describe that city and the contents of it.
Tiran is, pretty obviously, not a real place. It isn’t even based on any one
real place, though there’s piles of applicable source material out there that a
group can draw on to build the city that they want. Tiran draws from New
York City in 1920, London in 1890, Tokyo in 2010 - it’s the quintessential
“big city” of fiction.
What all this means is that any story of Tiran is ultimately a story about city
life. There are any number of descriptive “feels” that a group can give to the
game, but failing to acknowledge that the game itself is set in a sprawling,
overwhelming, huge, and crazy city does the game a disservice. For instance,
noir grittiness is a more suitable style than western ruggedness.
The Cog Wars can be run inside a range of “tones” - the setting can be
presented mostly as light and goofy fun, skimming over the ugly elements that
sit in the background, or those elements can be brought forward, making the
cartoon-like elements of the game take on an almost sinister feel. When you
get down to the guts of it, this is a game about a city that is often divided up
into little fiefdoms ruled by
corrupt madmen, about a people
living in virtual slavery, about
orphans and abandonment, and
about the betrayal of a set of
ideals that the elderly of this
society fought for to the bitter
...But it’s also a game about
crazy old folks, kids, and
clockwork men running around
in serial, episodic cartoon battle
against a wild assortment of
mad scientists, politicians, and
Your group will need to
decide on the tone that your
game will have, whether your play
will be bright and cartoony, grim and bleak, or whatever amalgam of these
things best fits the way that everyone wants to play their characters and
describe their own actions. A clear decision will make your game more of a
A DIFFERENT WORLD
Philosophers, theologians, mystics, academics, scientists and others have
attempted to codify the basic logic and rules of the world for far longer than
any history can record. We should perhaps emphasize the word attempted,
since none to date have truly succeeded at forming a unified theory that
actually explains the rules by which our world operates. Some have come
close and still others have attempted to make the world itself fit their
philosophies. On the whole, we recommend you take the same attitude about
the world that most Tiranians do: don't try to understand everything, just accept
what you need to and move onwards. That said, let us take a few moments to
cover some of the more well-known paradigms by which the world behaves.
• Science is the one true driving force in Tiran, from the creation of new and
better devices to the exploration and discovery of our world. Science has
toppled governments, raised new ones, begun and ended wars, and turned
the entire world on its ear. Furthermore, the nature of some of these changes
is just being felt now. With new discoveries and advancements coming
almost daily, it is obvious to anyone that science will be the largest force of
change in our time. Whether technological or academic, these discoveries
are the events that shape our present-day issues and our future.
• Magic is not so much a set of natural laws as a method of bending them.
Magic has always existed, in varying methods and forms through history. It
has only been since the end of the old Sorceror Wars and the founding of the
First Empire that magic has gone into a decline due more to the increasing
presence of refined iron than any other factor. Magic will always have its
adherents and students despite the sacrifices, both personal and otherwise,
that must be made to gain power. Of course, practicing magic inside of
Tiran, or many other modern cities, is a criminal action, but the users have
shaped much of the history of our world. True, dragons and other great
magical creations have long since been hunted to extinction, but even more
common creatures, such as gargoyles, as well as substances like glowstone,
were all the direct result of magical interference with the normal world.
• Alchemy or, as it’s known in more scientific circles, alchemistry or
chymistry is the science of using materials both magical and mundane in
nature to achieve a scientific result. It is these principles that have become
the foundation of a large portion of Tiran's science and achievements, such
as the dirigibles, levin-guns, and even the Cogs to some degree, which are
suspected to use an alchemical power source.
• The Creator is purported by many to be a myth, but Their agents have
without a doubt shown their influence on events from time to time. Over
200 such beings, known as Eloi, receive prayer in Tiran, and all of them (if
their followers are to be believed) have taken a hand in human affairs at one
point or another. Thankfully, most Eloi are petty and only take interest in
their own domains. Kelgrim, for example, is far more likely to influence the
decision over which wine is best served with a rice dish than to take a hand
in city politics, a fact for which I think we can all be grateful.
In order to start playing, a group of two or more players will need to sit down
with this book, with all the supplies listed below. They’ll need to decide who
will be taking on the role of the Guide - the head narrator, referee, and the
player who manages the whole world rather than playing in the role of one of
the main characters of the game.
Once your group is assembled and ready to go, take a quick run through the
basics of the setting, and then get down to character creation. When characters
are made, the group creates their hideout and the local situation, and the Guide
preps their first mission. These rules assume that the Guide has been chosen in
advance, has read over the book, and has made some preparations.
The group will need:
• Paper to create characters, a hideout, and missions on. The group may want
to use preformatted character sheets for this purpose, though it’s not strictly
necessary; these can be downloaded from www.amagi-games.org
• A whole bunch of six-sided dice. About twenty is a basic necessity; more
are better; a group might find as many as thirty-five to be handy.
• Tokens or coins, if the group wants to represent Zeal with something that’s
easily handled (it saves erasing).
• Pens or pencils.
HOW TO PLAY:
Character creation is described in detail in chapter three, but here’s an
overview of the process from start to finish.
The Players Will:
• Follow the process given in chapter three: Decide on a concept, choose a
kind, a virtue, a vocation, and create traits and details.
• Throw ideas around with each other to ensure that each character has their
own niche in the group, unique to them.
• Describe how each of their choices fits their character; how their weak and
strong virtues come across, what their traits represent, and so on.
The Guide Will:
• Help players get a mental picture of the kinds of things that the characters
might do, and what the setting is like, so that the players will be able to build
characters that mesh with the setting and the action. The next two pages
have been put in place to describe the basic ideas.
• Note what the character niches are, so that they can prepare missions and
freeplay that works with those niches in the future.
• Assist the players by answering questions about the rules.
HOW TO PLAY:
Homeplay is the ground state of rebel existence. Groups of rebels often “work
the area” around their hideout, engaging in their regular life, keeping their turf
clear and solid, and so on. The preparations for this kind of activity are very
much a matter of creating situations that are tied in to the lives of the
characters. Chapter five describes the process for building a homeplay
situation, as well as giving some ideas on how to make the best use of the
material generated. In homeplay...
The Players Will:
• Take part in the creation of their homeplay situation.
• Have strong motives and objectives for their characters, which should both
suit and expand on their characters as written. These will need to be
expressed to the Guide in order to be useful, and should involve the other
characters and the setting.
• Play their characters as both individuals and as members of a rebel cell,
describing actions for those character that suit their goals.
• Call for throws when they want to accomplish notable tasks, telling the
Guide what it is what they want to do.
The Rebels (Player Characters) Will:
• Chase after their own goals, and deal with the situations that they get into as
a result in whatever way they like and can manage. They will work with
their fellow rebels in chasing after their goals as well, developing their joint
relationships as fellow rebels however seems interesting to all the players.
• Exist as rebels, fighting injustice in whatever way suits them, as well as
living a “regular life” in the setting presented by this book , as described at
whatever level of detail the players and Guide jointly enjoy.
The Guide Will:
• Use the material presented in chapter five, listen to the motives and
objectives the players have for their characters, and create other characters,
locations, and situations where player motives and objectives can come into
• Be ready to improvise as play goes on, actively play and describe the world
around the characters in motion, and use other characters in the setting and
their actions to push the situation toward tension and conflict.
• Call for challenges when the characters are attempting to resolve significant
parts of the situation, setting stakes for those challenges that suit the situation
and the characters.
• Negotiate good stakes with the players when the players call for challenges,
creating challenges that the players would like to win, but which will create
entertainment no matter which way they come out.
HOW TO PLAY:
Rebels don’t spend all their time mucking around at home, of course. They
also go out, find nasty plots and Masterminds and dark dealings, and deal with
them through unmasking, direct action, or any number of other means. When
the call of the moment is for clear, direct adventure, missions are the answer to
that need. Unlike homeplay, which is “fuzzy” in terms of things to do,
missions are defined situations where the characters need to dig out a problem
and execute a solution. Chapter six is a “how to” on creating missions, for the
Guide to make use of. In mission play...
The Players Will:
• Let the Guide know in advance what kinds of grabby ideas are most
interesting to them. It’s a crappy time for everyone if a player can’t get
engaged in a mission; actively letting the Guide know about good hooks can
make that engagement a lot easier.
• Play their characters as full participants in the mission, actively declaring
what they are doing, and pushing the mission forward.
• Describe the actions of their characters in play, and in mechanics, to fit with
the setting and the tone of the game.
The Rebels (Player Characters) Will:
• Work to complete their mission and defeat the Mastermind that the mission
is all about. They’ll often do this through such actions as scouting and
disrupting the resources the Mastermind has, evading or defeating the
various attempts the Mastermind makes to stop them, making secrets public,
and even confronting and defeating the Mastermind personally.
• Take breaks from the action from time to time to acquire things they need,
take a breather, or otherwise learn new and interesting things.
The Guide Will:
• Prepare a Mastermind in advance, including resources, nefarious motives,
henchmen and methods, as well as a barrio to place the mission in. The
Guide may also wish to acquire or draw a map or checklist to show and
remind the players of the locations of these objectives.
• Take on the roles of the different adversaries the players will encounter,
working to provide challenges more than attempting to defeat the characters.
• Work to bridge the various parts of the action together with interesting
scenes, description, and exposition.
• Have ideas for conflicts, manage details of rules relating to those, and
describe the actions of all of the opposition to the characters in conflict.
THE FIRST SCENE OF A SESSION
At the start of any session, the Guide will start things off by describing where
the characters are, and what they’re generally doing, as well as giving a quick
description of what is going on around them.
The purpose of this first scene will usually be to introduce the basic elements
of conflict in the situation, or the mission that the characters are likely about to
get involved in. In a mission-based session, for example, the first scene will
almost always involve the characters meeting with someone that will tell them
about the crimes of a given Mastermind, the location of that Mastermind, and
give them a few leads on the things that this enemy uses to maintain their
power. In a more freely run session, the characters might be anywhere, but
will almost certainly be immediately apprised of some fact or event that has
meaning, and creates conflict, for at least one of the characters.
FRAMING A SCENE
The Guide sets a scene by describing it, pure and simple. This description can
start with a basic sketch - the characters are on the rooftops at night, or in a
tavern, whatever the case is. It should include an overall sensory impression -
the darkness of the night, the noise of the tavern - with a few specific details of
setting - the street below or the tables and crowds around them - to give the
sketch some depth for the players to use.
After making the sketch, the Guide should go on to add an active element -
something that is happening that is there for the characters to interact with,
which can range from a contact to talk with who has vital information to
enemies to fight.
Presenting (or “framing”) scenes is a skill that takes practice; any part of the
life of a rebel group that a Guide goes into must be appealing to both the
players and their characters. Guides should pay attention to this, learning to
insert good details into scenes seamlessly without overdescribing them.
WHAT TO FRAME, AND WHAT TO SKIP
Rebels sleep. They eat. They walk down the block. But most of the time,
nobody at the table will care how the characters slept, the details of how much
they ate, or other such trivia. Most of this will just be glossed over with “You
sleep. You wake. And the next day…”
Equally important to the skill of framing a scene well is the skill of knowing
when to frame a scene at all. A simple guideline is that a good scene always
includes at least one of the following:
• A challenge or conflict of some kind, whether of the sort the rules describe
or even simply where there’s a choice the Guide thinks the players will want
to make as their characters.
• Something that the characters ought to know which is important to the
current situation or mission.
• A chance for the characters to acquire something that they might want.
THE BACK & FORTH
Most of this game is played verbally - the Guide sets a scene, the players
describe what their characters are doing in that scene, the Guide responds by
describing how this affects the setting around the characters, telling them what
happens next, and on and on it goes. If the Guide described a scene that was a
ruined manor, a player might simply say "I explore the ruins, looking for
anything interesting". The Guide might check in with the other players to see
what they're doing at the same time, and then get on to the first interesting
thing in the search, or the first thing that interrupts the search. Or the Guide
might ask the player what they think is interesting, to tailor the results of the
This means that the Guide is making stuff up all the time, adding detail,
fleshing out the setting and adding to it. While the Guide will almost certainly
have prepared material ahead of time, making up details as they go is
absolutely the way things are supposed to be; that's a big part of their job.
WHO CAN NARRATE WHAT
The Guide has the final word on what exists in the setting, but they don't have
the only word. Players will often add minor details “on the fly” as well,
though anyone at the table can stop that addition if it ruins the scene. Say that
in the middle of sneaking through a ruined manor, a player states "I duck
behind a pile of rubble". Now, the Guide may not have specifically described
a pile of rubble there, but that doesn't matter. It makes sense, and it's not like
the player is trying to get something special out of the scene; they're just going
with the way it sits in their head.
If a player adds details that don't fit with what the Guide has set for the
scene, they can be asked to re-describe their action without that detail, or the
Guide can re-describe it for them - the Guide might ask "Well, there aren't any
piles of rubble, but there are several large pieces of rotted-out furniture –
you're ducking behind one of those?" and keep moving.
Players should ensure that details they contribute are sensible, believable,
and fit the continuity of the scene. In return, Guides should be relaxed with
regards to the trivial details of the scene.
OTHER WAYS TO PLAY
There are two main circumstances where play will leave this "Guide describes,
characters act" setup. The first is when there's a conflict or a challenge that
needs to be resolved. Let's say a player wants to knock out a guard by
sneaking up behind them and cracking them on the skull. The Guide could
simply say "Sure. He's unconscious. Now what?" - or the Guide might make a
challenge out of it, as described in the challenge chapter.
The second is when the player characters are talking to some other character
in the world; in those circumstances, players often change over to talking as if
they were their characters, and the Guide speaks as the other character, holding
a conversation as the characters.
GOING TO THE MECHANICS
Mechanics are used to handle conflicts of all sorts, as well as preparations for
those conflicts, and a number of other items. Chapter four goes into the
mechanics in complete depth, but here are the basics.
The Guide can call for a dice roll, or throw, any time that one or more
players declare that they are doing something. Actions that will almost always
warrant a throw include attempts to discover the secrets of a Mastermind,
attempts to disrupt the resources of a Mastermind, and intensive confrontations
of any sort, ranging from attempts to slander the characters and turn the
populace against them to bare-knuckle fistfights in the gutter with local thugs.
However, the Guide is likely to skip over potential throws from time to time.
Anytime that calling for a throw would be more of a chore than an actual
method of moving the game forward, they’re likely to simply declare the
action a success or a failure, and should generally lean heavily towards
declaring successes rather than failures unless players are attempting fairly
Each throw has a few parts: intentions are named, dice are figured and
rolled, and victory is declared or blocked. At the end of a throw, once the
outcome has been determined and described, the group returns to the regular
back-and-forth of play.
Almost every session of play will include at least a couple of scenes where the
players take on the persona of their characters, speaking and gesturing as if
they were those characters. These scenes can be lengthy discussion, or just
Anyone at the table can move the game to this kind of play pretty easily. If
the Guide has just framed a scene where the characters are walking through a
park where upper-class folks are strolling about, a player might very well
declare that their character approaches one of the upper-class ladies and,
switching into the persona of their character, say, “Afternoon, ma’am. Sorry to
be a bother, but would you happen to know where I would be able to find
Doctor Whittleby?” An experienced Guide is likely to jump right in, speaking
as the lady, and answer in whatever way seems best for such a lady to answer.
Scenes like this can end, returning to the back-and-forth narration of regular
play, just as easily. Should an insistent rebel question such a lady too closely,
the Guide might well state that “The lady retreats rapidly from you, shouting
for the guards.”
Just as with framing scenes, there’s plenty of skill involved on the part of
everyone at the table, knowing when it will be enjoyable to move “into
character” and when it would just be dull. This skill is, ultimately, best gained
by practice on the part of the players, but there’s some basic advice for the
When players jump into character scenes with other characters in the setting,
the Guide will often portray those others as “regular people” -These characters
won’t necessarily be especially memorable or have any particular goals or
interesting knowledge. The Guide might be able to improvise these characters
to make them entertaining, or might keep good stock characters in mind, but
generally these scenes will be quick and simple.
When the Guide introduces a new character to play, though, especially if that
character is intended to take any kind of a leading role, they will often have
prepared that character more thoroughly. If a contact sidles up to the rebels in
a dark alley, with information to share, then it’s a pretty good bet that the
contact has a little more personality.
Every Guide will develop their own methods of developing these other
characters, but there are a few things that they Guide should prepare for such a
character in advance; these include:
• Decide how they are connected to the current situation.
• Decide what they know about the current situation.
• Decide what the character wants the player characters to do.
• Decide why they want that.
• Decide how they will try to get the characters to do it.
• Name one memorable mannerism or identifying quality they have.
Tiran is the foremost city of science in the world. It bears many scars where it
has been damaged (and occasionally razed) by some technology or other gone
horribly awry. It sporadically becomes very important when a plague, army or
debilitating new concept comes pouring from its gates like the high waters of a
world-cleansing flood. For a year - or ten - Tiran becomes the center of a
rapidly expanding circle of change and devastation. Then some solution, or
falling out, happens at the new center of the world and whatever it was that
came out of the gates falls to rust and disrepair. For half a lifetime, people
outside Tiran relegate the great city to the dustbin of history. And then, of
course, the whole cycle occurs again. At the moment, Tiran is fighting - not
with any outside agency, but with itself. There are wars, though they may be
half-invisible and fully incredible, being waged in every district, every
moment, for the soul of the city.
For those outside Tiran, it is somewhere very far away in both miles and
thinking. For the most part, people in simple, virtuous towns like Millhaven
and Shropsworth try to forget about Tiran. They want to believe that the world
they live in is ruled by good sense and decent virtue, and that Tiran will never
be able to impose itself upon them again.
But the world isn't ruled by good sense and decent virtue. It is ruled by
madness, daring and a healthy dose of visionary illogic. That is why Tiran will
always be the place where things are happening. That is why the bravest
troublemakers of all the other provinces will find their way to this one city,
generation after generation. It is the heart of what is actually happening in the
world, the often-seedy, sometimes wondrous, always unsettling reality that
those who desire peace and stability must deny at every turn.
So come to Tiran, if you fancy adventure. Make your way through the
massive Puzzle Gate, and step around the fallen, begging heaps of Not-Men -
keep a hand on your cash pouch while you do. Then make your way cogsward
to the Southgate district. There is no finer introduction to Tiran than a quick
walking tour through its crowded streets in search of a room to rent. Your
alternative is to spend the quick-approaching night on the streets, and that is
not a fine, or healthy, introduction to Tiran - educational, certainly, but nobody
can afford much of that kind of education.
Once you've gotten your legs under you, you'll want to get out there and talk
with people listen to the rumors and the gossip of the day. It’ll be some pretty
interesting stuff, and will almost certainly make you want to do something
about it all - you’re destined to be a rebel, after all, even if you don’t quite
know it yet. And you’ll want to find others, like-minded, that share your
feelings, because soon enough, you’ll want to take action. It’s pretty likely that
you’ll also need to find something to occupy your time and put food on the
table, until you discover some of the happy side benefits that can come along
with being a successful rebel - after all, nobody is anybody in Tiran without
something to do, or at least to pretend they're doing. But all that is for later.
For now, settle in, get to know the city and try to suppress any instinctive urge
to panic. After all, this is your new home.
To the north and to the northwest of Tiran lies the plains. Actually, to the
north and to the northwest of Tiran mostly lies more Tiran, as the districtless
barrios fade off into the distance. Eventually the spaces between barrios
become so large that they can be called true independent towns like Millhaven
and Shropsworth, and for miles one can see the small settlements that dot the
flatlands, following the tiny stream that runs down the mostly dried-up
riverbed of the once mighty Erebon. Scattered trees grow more dense and on
the horizon the plains give way to forests.
Traveling anticogwise, to the northwest of Tiran the Periseph mountains
grow up from the ridge running through the Eastridge district of the city,
eventually dominating the skyline. Across the Periseph mountains cuts the
ancient, elevated aqueduct, built centuries after the Erebon river dried up.
Castles and watchtowers dot the Periseph mountains, remnants of the First and
Second Empires. A few are still inhabited and serve as watchtowers for Tiran
itself, communicating by heliograph with other cities, relaying information
back and forth across the mountain range to the Centro of Tiran itself. Other
castles are abandoned and crumbling.
To the west of Tiran, more plains, more border barrios. Standing at the city's
edge on one of the observation towers, a sightseer can just make out the ruins
From Tiran's direct west to its southeast lies the sea. Directly south lies the
dried mouth of the Erebon, a great crack in the cliffs overlooking the southern
sea, lined up both sides with construction. Across the sea to the south lies the
Apylo Archipelago, and to the west, distant Mundos. Trade ships cross the
water with frequency, their white sails glittering in the sun.
But in the center of the world lies Tiran itself. Or so its people will tell you.
Tiran has always been a diverse city, to say the least. Possibly one of the
oldest cities still in existence, history shows us that Tiran has served many
purposes throughout the years, from a simple trade center to a capital. Now, as
its own independent city-state, it seem the fortunes of the city can only
continue to rise. But for those unfamiliar with our city, this guide will serve as
a good introduction to get you acquainted.
To understand the system of barrios in Tiran, we need to look a bit at how
the city was originally formed. Tiran began as nothing more than
closely-located individual family groups - each one with their own houses,
barns, storage facilities and the like. As trade began to come down the
Stangis river to the sea, a harbor was added so that locals could sell
their goods to passing ships that needed to resupply before they went off on
their long ocean voyages. The harbor, of course, expanded, as did the
barrios, with more and more families moving in on the area until the entire
valley was filled with individual barrios, farmlands, and the roads that
connected them. A hundred years later, the First Empire conquered the
region, uniting the loose barrios into a single collective city. Roads and
other systems were put in place to connect everything further, and as some
barrios moved away from farming and into business, the farmland around
those barrios quickly filled with other, similar barrios, or with supporting
businesses and buildings for existing ones. This continued until,
during the Second Empire, the entire city was declared to be fully
connected. Central government was then established in the Centro, but beyond
the regulation of the individually-owned Civic Patrols, the barrios were
left to their own, by and large, for establishing and enforcing any but the
most basic of laws, a condition that persisted until the Summer Revolution.
Today, many barrios have lost their identities, simply merging into the
larger whole of their districts, or changing purposes again and again as
needed to keep up with the times. But the concept of the barrio has always
been maintained as a core element of Tiranian history and identity. To this
day, ask a Tiranian what nationality they are, or who they serve, and
they're as like to tell you what barrio they're from as much as anything
else. Even inter-barrio fights still occur, although these are usually
nothing more than friendly competitive brawls than actual civil wars or
Following are some of the more interesting barrios that can be found in
Tiran, organized by which district they can be found in. Some are listed purely
because they are the most representative of their home district, others
because they are truly amazing destinations for any tourist to our fair
city, but all are more than worth taking the time to go and visit. I
strongly suggest that you do so.
THE TEMPLE DISTRICT
The Centro may be the heart of Tiran, but the city's temple district, taking up
the northwestern portion of the city, houses its soul. Temples and shrines to
the two hundred and forty-seven Eloi that receive regular prayer in Tiran stand
in this area, along with some of the most beautiful civic parks, monuments, and
plazas. This district is a must see for any visitor to Tiran, as holy celebrations
for one Eloi or another occur on almost every day of the year.
Towering over the center of the temple district stands the Necropolis, both
home and monument to the deceased of Tiran. Founded by a delegation of
Nightmen from the original Necropolis in distant Mundos, the undertakers of
the city specialize in the burial methods of all the races that have ever walked
the world - rest assured, should you pass on to the next life during your travels
here, any customs your people have will indeed be observed.
The faiths of Tiran all share, or have acquired, a single common belief - that
there was one Creator, who passed on to other beings the power to govern
specific areas of influence, such as the Ocean, Harvest, and so on. These
beings are the Eloi, though they are just as often called by other names that
render variously as Archangels, Divas, and Djinni. Yet, the single word is
used for all such beings by the people of Tiran.
BLACKMONT: A TEMPLE BARRIO
Near the very center of the Temple District, you will find Blackmont - a high-
walled barrio containing many great cathedrals, monasteries, and guards.
Blackmont was established as a fortress to be used by many of the strongest of
the faiths of Tiran to house their libraries and scholars in safety and play host
to a conversation between faiths, in the hopes of knowing better the nature of
the Creator, rather than any group of Eloi. It has failed, becoming a place
where only the very rich go to worship, surrounded by costly texts and clever
words as warriors of opposed faith glare at one another across narrow streets.
REDCANDLE: A TEMPLE BARRIO
Forming part of the border between the Temple District and Foundry Row is
Redcandle Way, home to some of the finest pleasures to be had in Tiran. For
those faithful, the young ladies and gentlemen of the shrine of
Bal'sit'va will be glad to relieve your tensions, be they carnal, or even mental
or social - the courtesans there are trained in all the arts of courtesy. For those
of lower tastes, many of the "houses" on Redcandle Way will be happy to
oblige. Interested parties should be forewarned to ignore any solicitations that
they may receive on the street however, as these are typically "freelance"
workers, and have no affiliation with any guild or temple, which means that
they are in essence operating without a license and therefore illegal.
Located to the east of the Centro, Porttown originally began as an independent
city, based around trade coming south along the Erebon river to the sea, but
was quickly absorbed into the larger capital by decree of Findus II (First
Empire). Even once the river had dried up during the great drought, ocean
trade continued from the portions of the harbor that hadn't become landlocked.
While the main docks may have shifted to the Southgate district, Porttown is
still the prime location in Tiran for any trader or merchant, as all of the main
shops lie in this district. Whatever you may need on your journeys, from a
new sidearm to rare maps of distant places, or even full equipment and supplies
for a climb up Mt. Enkkidon, all of it can be found here.
Of special note to tourists is the Grand Bazaar located in the western end of
the district. It is here that most traveling merchants choose to display their
wares, and a most enjoyable day can be had in this area alone, which spans a
full four city blocks! Naturally, the Civic Patrol watch this area most carefully,
as there are always padfoots and pickpockets about, and the area is never
completely free of merchants trafficking in goods forbidden by law.
It is here, too, where many different folks seek the attention of Cogs and
Cogwork items, either for recapture, to smuggle them away, to gain them so
that their home countries can learn more of them, and many other purposes.
PLAYER’S COURT: A PORTTOWN BARRIO
Some parts of Tiran have truly been hit hard by the war. Such an example is
the once-famed Player's Court, a barrio devoted to theatre and the
performing arts. With the institution of the draft, however, the
theatres have been largely stripped of their players. Grand palaces such as
the famed Reicheindot Theatre now stand empty save for a few custodians and
those directors too old to fight, and too tired to move to another town
where actors are still available to perform. The smaller theatres of the
district get by - mostly with child companies, although one inventive
director is quickly assembling an all-Cog cast for an upcoming production of
Tybaltio and Egrettia.
The crown jewel of Player's Court, the Oriphantii Rex theatre, has become
the greatest tragedy of the barrio. Once, troupes from across the world came
here to give grand performances. With the beginning of the war against
Bailick however, the theatre found itself lacking in both patrons and
available players, and was forced to close. The gilded entranceways have
become tarnished with neglect, the once-beautiful banners that formed the
set of Loveless, the theater's final production, now hang in moth-eaten
tatters. At night however, passers-by often see the occasional lit window in
the theatre, glowing with a pale ghostly light. Those willing to venture
closer to the abandoned structure have even reported that they could hear
someone talking inside of the theatre, sounding for all the world like some
lost actor declaiming his lines to a massive audience.
Foundry Row is indisputably the one district in Tiran that has seen the most
change in the last seventy years. Beginning as nothing more than a large
shipyard sandwiched between Porttown and the military/housing district of
Brown End, Foundry Row has since expanded to encompass all of Brown End,
and covers even more territory in Porttown - all for the creation, maintenance,
and storage of the city's Cogworks. Everything from the childlike serving-
Cogs to the titanic WarCogs are all produced here. Where simple brick houses
and barracks once stood, great smokestacks now rear themselves skyward,
belching forth steam and other strange chymical gases from Cogwork
production. For those who have never seen a Cog (more properly known as a
Cogwork man), Foundry Row is a must see. Some of the smaller, non-military
factories will even allow visitors to view some of the work that goes into
making a Cogwork, a process that should be seen on a regular basis.
In addition to this, the city's new Skyport has been built in this district, near
its northwestern edge. Observers can watch the dirigibles, one of the city's
new and greatest achievements, take off or land here, and, for a small fee, can
even become passengers on one of the smaller tour-vessels on a short day-trip
to the areas outlying the city.
Foundry Row also serves as the central hub for Tiran's military, especially
since so much of that military is now mechanical rather than flesh and bone.
The city barracks are still located here, and a good number of veterans from
past wars also live in this area. Those interested in stories from Tiran's
previous wars can find them easily here, for only the price of a drink or two in
a local pub.
SCRAPIRON SQUARE: A FOUNDRY ROW BARRIO
Aging and dying humans have hospitals, rest homes and, ultimately, the
Necropolis. Cogs have ScrapIron Square, a six block field bordered on all
sides by a steel wall erected just a few years ago, to keep any rogue Cogs on
their last faded bits of power from escaping. Inside the walls are the mountains
of broken machinery, scrap metal and other debris that would fill any other
junkyard anywhere else in the world. But here also are those Cogs that once
faithfully served their masters and have gone on to their reward.
Some of Tiran's small-but-growing population of sentient Cogs come here
willingly, knowing they have become obsolete to the outside world, and
choosing to spend their final days working among their brethren, sorting the
garbage, laying defunct Cogs to rest in the scrap. Other Cogs, those incapable
of making it to ScrapIron Square for a dignified death, or rogue Cogs, brought
down by the anti-Cog arm of the Civic Patrol are brought here for recycling.
In the center of the Square is the Smelter, a facility built and run entirely by
the aging Cogs that maintain ScrapIron Square. It is here that ruined Cogs and
other scrap metal are finally melted down and given their final rites, before
being recast as ingots of pure metal and shipped back to the factories in
Foundry Row for forging into new machines and Cogs.
THE UNIVERSITY DISTRICT
Of course, not all those who come to Tiran are merely tourists. Some of the
finest academians in the world flock to this city, and specifically to the
Universitas Tiranis, known far and wide for its advances in the field of science,
medicine, alchemy, and other disciplines. Founded in the First Empire, the
University has been virtually untouched during later rebellions and wars,
allowing it to expand to its now huge size. Four full libraries take up portions
of the campus, and the University's original medical wing has expanded to
become almost a college in its own right. Classes are affordable, the entry fee
having been set at a fixed value by the government almost thirty years ago, and
the college is almost always seeking new teachers. The rest of the district is a
mix of housing, and those businesses needed near the college; many of the best
cafes and restaurants in Tiran can now be found in this district.
The People's Hospital (formerly the Royal Hospital) is also located in this
district, and is probably the best treatment center for any ailment on this side of
the continent. It is staffed by the best doctors and chiurgeons in the field,
many of them trained at the University medical academy.
THE HALLS OF SCIENCE: A UNIVERSITY BARRIO
The Halls of Science make up one of the largest barrios in Tiran's
University district, spanning over twenty blocks of buildings, fields, and
other structures. While entrepreneurs have made a considerable amount of
money leasing spaces in this barrio for housing or other supporting
businesses, the entirety of the area is owned by the University. Four of the
central buildings, known as "The Quartet" to students, house the classes and
lectures put on by the college. Other outbuildings are leased by professors,
enigineers, and scientists attached to the college for experimental use. The
Universitas Tiranis has long had a practice of encouraging experimentation,
so space is often leased to almost any inventor who can present an interesting
idea to the college's Board of Directors. An area so large acts almost as a
microcosm of the rest of Tiran. Indeed, within this barrio, specialized
miniature barrios have sprung up.
THE TOWERS OF THE EYE: A UNIVERSITY BARRIO
One of the most notable features in the University District, the Towers of
the Eye serve a truly distinct purpose - the study of the heavens. The towers
themselves are wholly amazing structures - a gigantic ring of slender spires
of steel girders woven together to form graceful, yet sturdy supports for
the entire Eye Array, a series of magnification lenses that can be moved
into interlocking positions and focused upon any part of Tiran's sky. The
image captured is reflected into a large pool in the center of the structure,
allowing dozens of observers to see the same image at once. Rumor has it that
the Guard takes an interest in experiments involving the Eye Array, though
what military purpose magnified light could have is beyond the imagination
of this humble writer.
OLDCITY - THE CENTRO
The original Centro was a palace, home to the Rochiavelli monarchs and the
seat of Tiranian government in the days after the Second Empire. Histories tell
us of the graceful towers that once stood watchful over the octagonal Bailey
Wall that surrounded the barrio. Now all that remains of the original structure
is the Bailey Wall itself, blackened and stained by the fires that swept through
the Centro during the Summer Revolution - stains which, according to Council
Law, must never be cleaned, as a reminder to the people of Tiran that all
revolutions have their price.
Now, an entirely new building occupies the Centro, filling the entire area
inside of the Bailey Wall, and rising up and over it to a height of several
hundred feet - and counting, since the structure is still under a constant state of
construction to this day. It is officially known as The Central Tower of Justice,
Peace, Virtue, and Order, or more simply as the Tower by locals when they
don't simply refer to it by its older form of address as the Centro.
Twin docking spires for aircraft jut upwards from the main structure, while
the rest of the Tower expands upwards and outwards, like a bloated mushroom.
Copper sheathing has been applied to the outside of the Tower itself, but due to
neglect and the inability to polish some sections due to the construction
scaffolding surrounding it, the sheathing has verdigrised to a dark green,
further enhancing the funguslike appearance.
As for the disposition of the interior of the Tower, the High Guard occupies
the chambers that honeycomb the Bailey Wall, prepared to defend the seat of
Tiran's government from any external or internal attack. Civic Patrol also has
its main offices here, in the lower levels of the Tower itself, in order to provide
a loose hub for communications between the Watch Houses in each district.
The Tiranian Council occupies the mid-levels of the Tower including, of
course, the Council Hall, as well as private rooms and offices for each of the
Councilmembers. The much-rumored Special Projects Bureau occupies the
next tier of levels, with courier imps constantly coming and going, bringing in
supplies and messages for Bureau staff. And the final, largest, and as yet
uncompleted upper tier belongs to the Tiranian Army. It is also rumored that
there are chambers below the Tower as well, some used as dungeons for
political prisoners, and others for even darker purposes. As yet, however, these
rumors are unconfirmed, and should most definitely be taken with a grain of
Named for the large rocky ridgeline that runs through the middle of this
district, Eastridge is also by and large mostly new construction. Like the
Centro, Eastridge was nearly destroyed in its entirety by fire during the
Summer Revolution 53 years ago. Before the revolution, Eastridge, had housed
the barrios and private preserves of Tiran's wealthy and powerful nobility, with
the most powerful families of all stationed on top of the ridge itself. Today,
Eastridge is home to both noble and commoner alike - with rich and well-
guarded barrios that escaped the flames scattered throughout the district and
more common-classed apartments and houses covering the rest of the area.
Interested parties can tour the mansions and private estates of some of the
noble families, such as the LaMendozas or the Radescus. This is especially
encouraged, simply to see the finest intact examples of Second Empire
architecture still in existence in the world.
HAVENSEDGE: AN EASRIDGE BARRIO
Havensedge was meant to be a new wave of the future for the Eastridge district
when construction began on it seven years ago. Located near the outer edge of
the district, it would have provided affordable housing for hundreds of families
inside a structure that would have stood over thirty stories tall. Sadly, this was
not to be. Eight months into construction, when the tower had only reached a
height of eighteen stories - taller than the rest of the Eastridge district
surrounding it - an event occurred that forever changed this simple barrio into
the stuff of nightmares.
It began with the mysterious deaths among the construction workers in the
tower - bodies disappeared or fallen from the upper levels for no apparent
reason. Dwellers in the barrio could swear they heard the sound of wings by
night, though no flying creature could be discerned. Then the statues were
finally noticed, monstrosities that had no place in the tower's architecture
began to dominate the structure on almost any conceivable perch, and by then
it was too late - the gargoyles had come home to roost. Gargoyles are, by
nature, a challenge to deal with. By day, their chameleon-like skin allows
them to blend into any stone surface they are touching, and by night, they stay
aloft to hunt, nearly silent and extremely deadly. Needless to say, the entire
human population of Havensedge quickly evacuated the barrio for other
These days, Havensedge stands empty. Between the hazards of living
directly under the gargoyles as well as a University injunction in the works to
have the district cordoned off as a wildlife preserve for this rare species, the
barrio remains devoid of people. Poachers looking to make a quick profit in
the chymical components that can be rendered from a gargoyle corpse make
occasional forays into the barrio by day, but at night, the place is avoided by
any but the poor fools who should happen to stumble into its walls after dark.
Southgate is not specifically an area for tourists, though many travelers to
Tiran will see this district first as they disembark from their ships. Southgate
acts as home for a number inexpensive hostels and probably the largest number
of pubs, bars, and other entertainments for the weary sailor. For those
traveling inexpensively, this is the district to use as a good base of operations.
Otherwise, stay out of it if at all possible. While a good time can be had here,
the streets of Southgate are definitely not friendly to travelers after dark.
Of course, Southgate also serves as the city's dock and shipyard, with
vessels arriving from all points of the world on a daily basis. If you have cargo
to move, or wish to travel by sea, this is certainly the place to go.
THE CRANEYARD: A SOUTHGATE BARRIO
When the Stangis river finally ran dry, many thought Tiran's days as a port
of call were ended. With the sheer cliff face to the south making a direct
sea approach to the city near-impossible, it was almost a century before a
new system was implemented. But with the designs of a team of Tiranian
engineers, the first piers of the Craneyard were constructed - massive stone
pylons which stretched from the ocean up to the level of the city itself,
topped with equally massive pneumatic cranes. Smaller piers and docks
followed, surrounding the ten original piers in a chaotic jumble of
stair-steps between the ocean and the city. Buildings have even been erected
on the piers as the city continued to increase in size, housing workers to
load cargo to and from incoming ships as well as warehouses and, of course,
the City Customs House, where all incoming cargo is registered and taxed
before it moves on up into the city.
Directly underneath the Craneyard lies the Web, a home to many of Tiran's
vagrants and disenfranchised. Mostly made up of shanties built from debris
from the cranes or damaged ships, these shanties often jut from the pilings
themselves, just underneath the platforms, like angular bumps on a log.
Crude rope bridges and lines interconnect the shanties in a tangle of hemp,
as if a spider and a ship's line-rigger collaborated on a design. Residents
in these parts live in constant fear for their homes, either from a falling
ship smashing through the platforms, or from the high tides of Spring, which
can crush houses against the upper platform in a swift second - but rent is
free, and no one, provided they can build their own home and hook it to the
others, is unwelcome.
The Civic Patrol maintains a separate Craneyard Watch House in addition to
the main Southgate House, presumably to simply provide support to the
Customs House. Just as importantly, it also deals with the smuggling and
thieving operations that run rampant through the district, most notably of
which would be the Hand Guild. The Hand Guild is rumored to be quartered
in the Craneyard, and the hand-shaped graffiti markers belonging to the gang
are certainly clustered more thickly here than anywhere else.
During the droughts that plagued the city towards the end of the First Empire,
dwellers in the city were forced to dig deeper and deeper into the caves below
the city in order to reach the ever-dwindling water supply. As this was before
any kind of pumping system had been developed, the city did what came most
naturally - it followed the water, building deeper and deeper into the earth until
both the water supply and the First Empire came to an end.
With the coming of the Second Empire and advances like Tiran's current
system of aqueducts, these caves were found to be unnecessary and were by
and large sealed up and built over by the constant expansion of the city. Not
all the entrances were sealed off, however, and a lucky tourist may be able to
find entry into this amazing subterranean realm. Once below the streets of
Tiran, architectural and natural wonders abound - some not seen since the days
of the mythic First Empire.
However, it is strongly recommended that visitors to the Undercity bring
along hired security for the occasion, or at least travel well-armed. It has been
rumored that some of the city's criminal element has now taken to hiding from
the Civic Patrols in these ruins, and would no doubt find an unarmed traveler
to be easy prey.
THE BOILERS: AN UNDERCITY TERRITORY
No one with a will to keep living travels the caverns near Centro. When the
new Council began rebuilding the Centro, they built not only upwards, but
downwards as well. The sound of mighty pistons groaning away can be heard
from a distance, and clouds of steam fill the tunnels as one approaches closer
and closer. Markers have been set up by the Underside's Not-men population
at a distance of one hundred feet from the darkest portions of the area, grim
tokens warning those lost in those tunnels to turn back immediately. Beyond
the markers, everything becomes shrouded in the fog. Shapes are said to be
seen in the mists - not human shapes, but not fully Cog or monster either.
Perhaps the most damning evidences of wrongdoing in the Boilers are the
rumors of John "Bronzearm" Baptiste. An elderly priest of Mala'kett,
John descended into the Boilers in pursuit of a pair of children who were
said to have become lost down in the mists. The children returned several
days later, but for three months there was no sign of Baptiste. Then, it is
said that one night he crawled out of the fogs, screaming for help before
finally passing out in the middle of the Scutters.
Chiurgeons were brought down to see to him, but he bore not a mark on him,
save for one thing: the removal of his right bicep, which had been replaced
with a series of bronzework pistons and gears. When John awoke, he only
responded to questions with mumbled gibberish with no apparent memories of
even his own identity, much less how or why this disfigurement had happened
to him. Since then he lived as a beggar, depending solely on what handouts
he could get in the Scutters, up until his disappearance almost a year after
the incident. He has not been seen since.
At the highest point of Tiran's government (and housed in the second-tallest
structure in the city) are the twelve members of the Tiran Council. Councilors
serve twelve year terms, with one city-wide election held per year during
spring. There is no limit to the number of terms a councilor may serve, though
few serve more than three. Every fall, the councilors hold an election amongst
themselves to decide which of them will be the city's mayor for the year.
Serving the Tiran Council and the bureaucracy of the Centro directly is the
High Guard, divided into the Eyes and the Hands. The Eyes are the Tiran
Council's intelligence network, while the Hands are their enforcement arm.
The Eyes are charged with knowing everything that goes on in Tiran, while the
Hands are to keep barrio leaders from overstepping their boundaries.
The barrio leaders are under the Tiran Council. They go by a bewildering
variety of official titles, varying by individual barrio - there are Barrio Counts,
Barrio Lords, Barrio Chairmen, Barrio Directors, and even two Barrio Kings
and one Barrio Mayor (whose title causes much confusion on occasion). In
addition, many barrios are governed by groups, councils, circles, churches, or
other such pluralities, in contrast to the barrios governed by individuals. Most
barrios have a Guard or a Watch reporting to the barrio leader, in the form of
either an official force trained and managed by the barrio government or a
private contracted firm employed by it, but a few are effectively anarchies.
Separate from the government of Tiran are the guilds of the city. There are
few, if any, unified guilds in Tiran. Most guilds cover only a single barrio,
though many similar guilds in adjacent barrios form into guild alliances. The
vast majority of guild alliances stretch across no more than three barrios,
though the larger alliances may stretch across twenty-five barrios or more.
Since the Summer Revolution, most of the aristocracy of Tiran no longer
derives its power from lineage. The noble families were never forced to give
up their titles, however, and few of the surviving nobles were forced to give up
their fortunes. Many guild leaders, successful businessmen and politicians got
to where they are today thanks to the springboard of their family fortunes.
Additionally, a few rare nobles, acting out of principle or opportunism,
collaborated with the revolutionaries and fought against their fellows, or stayed
out of the conflict in exchange for guarantees of neutrality. Some cut deals to
retain their own hereditary right to localized rule. These few still rule their
barrios as did the feudal aristocrats a hundred years ago.
Not everyone in the city with a noble title is from a family with authentic
noble lineage, however. Noble families on the brink of bankruptcy after the
Revolution sometimes sold their titles to wealthy businesspeople, reasoning
that as rich commoners they'd be better off than poor aristocrats.
Finally there is Tiran's organized criminal elements. So-called shadow
guilds scuttle about beneath the legitimate powers of the city, seeking riches
and power through extra-legal means.
The Tiran Council is deeply divided on nearly all issues, and the mayor is
almost always a weak compromise candidate. It's not uncommon for the
mayor to be the newest addition to the council, elected in the belief that he'll be
easy to manipulate. The rest of the councilors are a mixture of selfish and self-
absorbed charismatic opportunists and candidates backed by and elected with
the help of publicity campaigns financed by the largest of the guild alliances.
Almost always, several actual Masterminds sit on the council, held barely in
check by the few truly altruistic and well-meaning councilors who manage to
beat their more underhanded competition to the council seats. Once in a rare
while, however, Tiran sees a period of justice and progress when a candidate
both charismatic and altruistic wins the approval of the council majority for
consecutive terms. Luckily for the Cogs, such a candidate was in place when
Doctor Vermelkampf's Cog creations made their bid for justice.
The High Guard is not corrupt as a whole, but is often ineffective due to the
council's near-constant inability to actually make or stick to decisions. The
short length of any mayoral position ensures that no single policy or course of
action stays in effect for very long.
Barrios close to the Centro tend to be under the direct control of the Tiran
Council, but as one travels further away, they grow more independent. The
barrios near the edge of the city might as well be neighboring self-contained
cities for all the Council pays attention to them.
Most of the practical power of the city rests in the hands of the guilds and
guild alliances. However, without official sanction, those guild alliances
without private armies are left to act through the politicians in their pocket…
and those guild alliances with private armies must keep them hidden from the
sight of the High Guard. Many guilds are merely the public faces of the
shadow guilds, and many shadow guilds are the private enforcers of guilds
otherwise recognized as legitimate.
Anyone who says the nobility of Tiran is out of power is lying, either to the
listener or to himself. Sometimes it seems as if the Summer Revolution wasn't
so much the public overthrowing the aristocracy as it was the aristocracy
winnowing itself down to the most cunning and effective families. The great
preponderance of dukes, ladies, barons, contessas, and princes amongst the
elected officials of the city and the leadership of the guilds make it clear that
the Tiran aristocracy is alive and well, though they must be more circumspect
flexing their power than in the days before.
Those noble families so financially inept as to be bankrupt after the Summer
Revolution rarely gained fiscal competence along with the influx of cash that
came with selling off their titles, and many who reasoned they'd be better off as
rich commoners than poor aristocrats soon found themselves as poor
commoners instead. The practice of poor noble families selling their titles has
lead to two related phenomena: a nouveau-aristocracy with a tendency to put
on airs, and dispossessed former nobles who feel they were cheated of their
rightful authority by the Revolution and cheated of their rightful titles by their
parents and grandparents.
The common folk of Tiran are born, grow up and live out their lives often
having never left the city and sometimes never even traveling more than three
barrios away from their place of birth. Most Tiran commoners are educated
and taught to read and write by their parents or grandparents, who learned from
their own parents or grandparents, back into antiquity. Guildsmen in good
standing send their children to small guild-run schools or larger guild alliance-
run professional colleges, and the wealthy send their children to attend the
Universitas Tiranis, though the latter is also sometimes attended by particularly
promising common folk students whose schools or colleges provide them with
scholarships - with the understanding that they'll put their higher education to
use for their guild sponsors. Since Tiran is widely regarded as the world's
center of learning, the majority of the students are rich foreigners.
Adult non-guildsmen tend to be non-skilled, easily replaceable labor, such as
factory workers or janitors. Everything else is organized into guilds. A guild
means a steady place of employment, a group of peers, and a social safety net.
Tiran has no reputable insurance dealers, so a family that falls on hard times
with no guild to back it up can look forward to a spiral into poverty and ruin.
The Tiranian people expect a guild to support its members who have fallen on
hard times. The exception is the merchant class: those who own shops and
those who run them (often one and the same). Merchant guilds are more rare
than labor guilds and, because they can often support themselves
independently, merchants are perceived as wealthy though the standard of
living for most merchants isn't above that of the average guildsman.
Staying afloat in the constantly changing technological atmosphere of Tiran
is hard work. Most adults spend much of the time they don't spend at work
trying to keep up with the pace of progress so they'll still be able to find work
tomorrow - even guildsmen must be able to pull their own weight. Because of
this frantic pace of living, children past the age of six are often either left to
raise themselves, or raised by retired oldsters whose own children now provide
food and rent out of filial loyalty. By the age of ten, a child is expected to
provide some degree of income for her family, and by the age of fifteen the
child is expected to have some idea of her future career.
Food in Tiran is either imported from foreign parts or grown in one of the
many farming barrios scattered throughout the city, places where the soil is
still unpolluted and off one of the paths between two particularly important
hub barrios. Livestock in the farming barrios tends to be pig, sheep, and goat;
most beef is imported. The southern sea provides fish, but centuries of fishing
and pollution have ensured the fishermen must roam far and wide. Because of
the expense, the families of most Tiran citizens eat meat only on special
Tiranian adults expect to retire at around age 65, to be thereafter supported
by their children and grandchildren. Oldsters are, in general, respected for
their wisdom and life experience and provided a wide leeway in what
constitutes acceptable behavior - every adult knows his lot in life is to work
and work and learn and work until he's of age to stop and finally relax.
While merchants and guildsmen enjoy financial prosperity, the majority of
Tiran's people are not so lucky. Factory workers, the poor and the
dispossessed subsist on scraps from the tables of their financial superiors.
Those without land or membership in a guild don't even get to vote. Tiran's
poor live in low-cost slum housing, amidst the least useful and most run-down
or polluted of the city's barrios. Many live in dumps and trash heaps. The
possessions of the poor tend to be the cast-offs of the rich and middle-class; to
survive, Tiranian poor folk must make use of every resource they can grab, and
almost nothing in Tiran is ever truly discarded.
Especially unfortunate are those children
and oldsters whose families cannot
support them, or who have no families
at all. Abandoned and orphan
children gravitate together into roving
gangs, or else come under the wing of
oldsters who've been abandoned by
their disloyal relatives or who've lost
their children and grandchildren to
tragedy. Sometimes these makeshift
families are wholesome environments
where children are raised right and
oldsters find the respect of their
youngers, but not often.
Below even the poor, figuratively
and literally, are the underdwellers.
Homeless folk reduced to living in the
endless, unmapped, eternally winding
sewers and caves below Tiran must
contend with the most hazardous,
dismal environment in the city, though
Professor Lowand's Luminous Edible Cave Moss, released into the wild some
twenty-five years ago as an public charity project, helps somewhat. The
popular rumor of an entire cave-dwelling society deep beneath the earth, dating
back to the time of the First Empire, remains unconfirmed, though occasionally
one of the many strange “artifacts” brought forth by the underdwellers turns
out to be something very strange indeed.
Many of the poor of Tiran are in their state because they were workers, or
the children of workers, who were replaced by their more efficient mechanical
bretheren. But what can the Cogs do? Cogs must work to purchase their
freedom from their makers. Once, a Cog workforce, realizing they didn't need
to eat, staged a mass walkout, fleeing into the undercity and forcing their
creators to hire back the human workers, but the way that particular batch of
Cogs were hunted down as thieves (for stealing themselves) has discouraged
any others from following that example. Tensions rise between dispossessed
former workers and indentured servant Cogs, with no clear side in the right.
A Cog is a mechanical person, powered by clockworks, springs, and tanks of
crystal fuel. It thinks using a brain made of tiny crystals and brass rods, sealed
in a metal ball. It moves using joints filled with gears, spindles, bits that
inflate and deflate, and other such gadgetry. Depending on who you ask, a
Cog is always a machine - and depending on the Cog, it might be a person.
The first Cog-soldier, Shing, was created by Doctor Ivan Vermelkampf some
20 years ago in a fit of inspiration and is shown below. The Doctor prepared in
secret to create hundreds of Cog-soldiers in a bold attempt to raise an army to
conquer all of Tiran. He was thwarted in this bid by his own creations, who
turned against him, broke free and made themselves known publicly in order to
have the Doctor imprisoned. During the raid, arrest, and trial that followed,
many copies of his different plans were found and sold, some even legally.
Cogs of all kinds are now produced by many different craftsmen and factories.
Even those that build Cogs today don’t understand why some of them “wake
up” and get personalities. Nobody but the Doctor really knows how they think
at all, and the Doctor isn’t talking from his cell despite offers of early release.
But the plans can be followed and adapted, and that’s enough.
When a Cog does wake up, they develop the ability to think in much the
same way as a human does, and usually develop the ability to talk normally
within a few days - though their “voices” are often very unusual. There are
Cogs that speak, and can be easily understood, whose voices are made up of
creaking hinges, venting steam, low whistling and other contrivances.
An aware Cog is legally treated as a citizen just like anyone else, except that
they owe the cost of their own manufacture to their maker. Many
manufactories, especially the infamous CogWerks, have taken as much
advantage of this law as possible, accepting repayment only through work and
paying the smallest wages they can, or
creating work situations where small
mistakes are common and adding huge
sums to the debts of these workers
each time a mistake happens.
For these reasons among many
others, many of the aware Cogs have
thrown in with the rebels. There’s
little else that they feel they can do.
Of course, many workers resent the
Cogs, feeling that these machines are
stealing away their jobs. That the
Cogs rebel against their makers is, to
those that protest against the
Cogworkers and Cogsoldiers, only
another proof that the Cogs
themselves are evil machines and must
be put down or destroyed, for the good
Doctor Vermelkampf's Cogs are the most common-place mysteries of science
in Tiran, but they are far from the only ones. Tiran, in whole and in its parts,
could not function without hundreds of devices and technologies that spring
directly from the art of High Invention.
High invention is to mere science as poetry is to grammar. Scientists see
how the world works, and try to figure out what is possible. Their goal is to
help understand and explain the world. Inventors decide what is possible, and
then tell the world how to work. Their goal is to make their vision reality,
whether or not - and sometimes especially when - it violates every law of man
A scientist might realize that five chymical compounds have similar
reactions, and so test a related sixth, perhaps discovering a principle of
chymistry. An inventor begins with the crystal certainty that (for instance)
time itself can be condensed to a liquid. Knowing that is true (and needs
merely to be proven) how will he go about doing it? What materials can hold
time? What forces will act to reduce it to a liquid state?
A good number of hopeful inventors do themselves in through some
gruesome lab accident or other. An even larger number simply fail to ever
achieve what they set out to do, quite possibly because they were wrong in the
first place, and it can't be done.
But some people (some might say "more than enough") have an inexplicable
knack for precisely this sort of work. In Tiran itself, where they are constantly
exposed to the mad-works of similar minds, these people spring up like weeds
- crazed, wrench-wielding weeds. Perhaps it is something natural to humanity,
and in other places the people don't get a chance to bring it to fruition.
Whatever the reason, inventors in Tiran bend and break all previous theories of
how the world worked on a frighteningly regular basis.
The people of Tiran have grown resourceful in learning to use and apply
these new devices in differing ways. There is a strange, brutal competition to
be had there. The inventor himself often has some grandiose, and often
impractical, scheme for how his invention will change the world. It takes a
more grounded mind to find and profit from applications that makes sense in
the real world. Those in Tiran who are not inventors can still hope to strike it
rich by being the one person flexible enough to find a new application for an
invention first. For instance, Lefnitz thought her Age-Pump would be used to
guarantee immortality to Tiran's leaders, but she could never get it to work in
the fashion she’d planned. A scavenger by the name of Owen, learning of this,
made his fortune by showing the wardens of Tiran's prisons (then
overcrowded, if you can believe it!) how the Age-Pump can let a prisoner serve
their five year term in five agonizing days, growing a year older each day of
This constant competition drives new inventions into people's lives at a
fever-pitch so frenetic that there is only one possible response by Tiran's
citizens: they've gotten used to the constant changes, and would now be
surprised to think that life could be any other way.
There are those inventors who find quick uses for their own inventions. When
Von Bissen finished his Menton Cannon, for instance, he already had a long
list of commands to impart to the nearby populace so that they could start work
on his next creation. He, and those like him, are the Masterminds.
Von Bissen is not alone in being a Mastermind with multiple
inventions. Most Masterminds take power of some sort with their first
inventions, and then parley that power into further inventions, practical or
not. It's likely that the frustrations a Mastermind encounters in creating the
first device (always without enough resources, cooperation or deference from
those around him) are what drive him to find a way to use that new device as a
means of dominating the populace.
Some of these methods are as effective as they are incongruous. When Dr.
Fontaine released his Flocking Bubbles, nobody took his threats very seriously.
It wasn't until the ombudsman of Six Rivers Barrio was found suffocated by
the Bubbles, and others started being shadowed by them, that people learned to
fear. If the Mastermind is sufficiently determined there are very few
inventions that they cannot make into a tool of terror.
The bad news, for the rebellion, is that this means that they are constantly
facing new threats - sometimes from technologies that don't seem like a threat
at all until too late. For every straightforward Particle Stasis Cannon they
disable, rebels find themselves faced with a puzzler like the Angel Plague of
Professor Theosophia. How do you fight a disease people want to catch?
The good news is that inventive Masterminds don't pick what they want to
invent. They are controlled by their visions, not in control of them. The
Dream-rippers, Cog-Spiders and Removable Ears all make the job of keeping
rebellion harder, but if a Mastermind could simply closet himself in his lab and
come out with a Rebel Detector then the rebellion would be dead within a
week. The other good news is that
Masterminds of this stripe don't
normally work together. They have
nothing to offer each other in terms of
invention, and they are too arrogant to
admit pool mundane resources.
Not every Mastermind is inspired to
high invention, of course. Many are
just influential citizens with a desire
for power; politicians, businessmen, or
the hidden masters of the shadow
guilds. What separates a greedy
politician or businessman from a
Mastermind politician or businessman
is a certain megalomania, a desire to be
at the top of his own pyramid, an
unwillingness to treat any other as an
Some of the most difficult Masterminds to displace are those who come to
dominance of a barrio through means legitimate in the eyes of the Centro. It's
one thing to bring to light the activities of an inventor who uses alchymically
created homunculus enforcers to cajole and threaten a barrio's legitimate
leadership into following his demands, but it's quite another to force High
Guard action against a barrio's legitimate leader who merely uses his private
mercenary company to extort doubled taxes from an already impoverished
populace. To come to power through means such as this requires a degree of
political finesse inventors often lack.
And yet, most Masterminds without the inspiration of high invention have
tame inventors at their beck and call, deluded, blackmailed, seduced with
promises of wealth and power, or merely on the payroll. The most dangerous
Masterminds are those with more than one and the insight to find synergies
between their minions' inventions.
A few guild alliances are led by Masterminds. The guilds wield power but
lack legitimacy, and the schemes of most guild alliance leaders involve gaining
the latter. As competition between the hundreds of guilds and guild alliances
in the city is fierce, the ones who claw their way to the top are often the ones
willing to engage in the most underhanded tactics - the tactics favored by those
the Rebellion classifies as Masterminds.
Shadow guilds are often lead by Masterminds as well. The sort of greed and
amorality that can drive an individual to the top of a pyramid of criminals does
tend to be the same sort of greed and amorality that rests in most Masterminds'
hearts. Shadow guild Masterminds can use their criminal ties, their anonymity,
and their access to illegal resources to dominate a barrio (or many barrios) as
surely as an inventor can use mind-control rays or a Cog army. Such
Masterminds can be difficult to ferret out, because anyone capable of climbing
to the top of a shadow guild hierarchy is well versed in the tactics of blackmail
and plausible deniability, again skills that many inventors never fully develop.
Finally, the nobility, especially the former nobility, spawns Masterminds at a
prodigious rate, though they tend to fall into one of the categories discussed
above. Most former nobles have nowhere to go in life but up and nothing to
lose at all in their quests to prove their continued relevance to themselves and
everyone else in Tiran. Fortunately, on rare occasions this same desperation
can lead former nobles to the Rebellion.
Whatever the type, the origins, or the story, the rebellions judges whether or
not a given figure is a Mastermind by the simplest of measuring sticks. If a
voice calls out under oppression, the rebels follow back the trail. Sometimes,
they are alerted without cause, but often as not, the whispered fears, the
worries, the haunting stories, lead them to something they cannot stand. And
at the center of those events, it’s almost always one enemy. Some rebels care
about how they got there; some care about where they go after their strength is
broken; some marvel at the ability of the city to create such twisted individuals
with such regularity while others simply accept it as the nature of the world.
But every time a Mastermind rises to power, the rebels always agree on a most
basic ideal: something must be done.
THE CURRENT DISCONTENT
The oldsters of Tiran say, “We fought in the Summer Revolution. We cast
down the nobility and raised up a more just government, because we believed
things could be better.” Then they look at the government they raised - weak,
confused, manipulated, tottering on the brink of collapse into dictatorial feudal
tyranny after a mere half-century - and they see the nobles they thought they'd
cast down, still on top, still wealthy, still governing. They see the nouveau-
riche class of purchased nobility repeating the actions of the original nobility,
mimicking the haughtiness and self-superiority. They see the former leaders of
the Summer Revolution hobbled by their political surroundings or, worse,
falling into apathy, soon to be no better than the rulership they helped replace.
The Cogs of Tiran say, “We chose free will. We turned on our maker
because his actions and his motives were unjust, because we believed we could
be better.” Then they look at themselves, indentured servants at the mercy of a
government that at first seemed sympathetic but which has grown slowly more
uncaring. Their few allies in power are stymied by their enemies and they are
resented by the workers they've displaced. They look at the society to which
they entrusted their safety and see how it barely notices them, views them as
just one innovation among many - here today, perhaps gone and obsolete
The children of Tiran say nothing, but they watch and they learn. Slowly,
they realize the world is not as idyllic a place as their parents have taught them.
The leaders are not shining paragons. The best person is not always the person
in charge. Criminals do not always face justice.
The secret of Tiran is that this isn't the way the world has to be. The average
citizen of Tiran, human or Cog, is a good person, compassionate and well-
meaning - and distracted. Sometimes distracted enough not to devote time and
thought to changing his own prejudices. Often too distracted by the details of
his own life to be outraged by the pain of others not close to his own heart.
How could these people create a city so flawed spontaneous, randomly?
Tiranians don't want to live in an imperfect world.
The secret of Tiran is that specific individuals are leading the world to ruin
for selfish gain. Those in power with a thirst for more, whose compassion is
outstripped by their greed, lead the city and its people down the path to
mediocrity and apathy in their quest to cement themselves into positions of
influence. As the days pass into years, a city of wonders becomes a city of
drudgery. The Masterminds of Tiran work against free will and justice so that
they can live lives of luxury at the expense of all but themselves.
The discontent of Tiran share a common conviction, that Tiran doesn't have
to stay the way it is. Ultimately, the Summer Revolution failed, but it didn't
have to, and it needn't again. In their hearts the discontent know the truth:
Tiran can be improved. The Masterminds can be overthrown, one by one. The
people of Tiran can be made free. Things can be better.
WHERE DO YOU FIT IN?
There are many roles in Tiran, many purposes that people serve. From the
lowest catacombs to the highest university towers, people find their place in
the city and they fit quietly into it, nestling into the vast machinery of Tiran
like a gear or a sprocket. They teach the young or prepare the food or smuggle
the contraband chymicals. Because of their efforts, Tiran trundles on like a
monolithic steam engine, slowly picking up speed and hell-bent for some yet-
There are many, many people who are just carried along in the energy of it
all. Legends are not told about those people. Legends are told about the other
kind of person. You are one of that other kind.
While everyone else is stampeding blindly toward the future, you've got your
eyes open and you're looking ahead - and you don't like what you see. While
everyone else is being pushed this way and that by the city, by its temptation,
unfairness and wonder, you are pushing back. And because the city is much
bigger, one way or another you've got the bruises to prove it.
While everyone else is just plugging along, driving Tiran down the tracks of
its destiny, you're shoving and twisting and clawing and biting because you
know, deep down, that if you just push hard enough, you can push the whole
city onto another track entirely. You might even be right, and it’s time to start
You are a rebel. From the moment you walked through the city gates, you
knew that something was wrong with the city. You knew that something had
to be done about all of these things. And you knew that you had to do it.
THE REBEL NETWORK
People who are angry will lash out, but simple fury is not enough to dislodge
even one Mastermind, let alone fight against all of them. The days of an angry
mob taking back their rights with pitchforks and torches are only a memory
now. A modern rebel is smart as well as passionate. They know that the
Masterminds see them as mere resources, as lesser than those with more
strength, more money, more power. They know that their greatest strength is
in being quick and precise and invisible - even to each other.
When one rebel group encounters another, the odds are they want little to do
with one another. They aren't allies, except by convenience. Where one group
wants revenge for a specific atrocity, another wants freedom for Cogs and a
third wants to build a new foundation for future government. At best they see
each other as pursuing dangerously stupid goals. At worst.... Nobody forgets
that some of the most successful attempts by Masterminds to destroy the
rebellion have been the false rebel cells that they have introduced. Any two
rebels meeting for the first time must remember such infamous turncoats as
Scarlet Roger, or the Copper Street Irregulars. Rebels learn to trust only those
they can personally vouch for.
Despite these problems, rebels know they are not alone. Even those who
have never met another rebel have heard the stories. Rebels must move in
secret, but their legends walk the streets like titans. The average rebel will
worry about aiding a person who claims to be Jack Agile, but they won't have
doubts about aiding the cause - plundering the rich - that Jack Agile is famous
for championing. If that means aiding the man who claims the name, or even
taking on the name itself, so be it. The name and the cause are certain ground.
As a rebel band starts to make more of an impact, they face a difficult choice.
Some take on the name of some legend of the past (and risk being tracked
down and judged, favorably or not, by the legend in person). Some set out to
create their own style, and forge a new legend. In either case, they make
themselves more public, more at risk, in order to become something greater
than they would be otherwise.
THE BLOODY COG
There is no clearer example of the power of legend than the brotherhood of the
Bloody Cog. Countess von Bleake originally organized them in secret to spy
out other rebels. The evidence is irrefutable. Everyone knows by now, but it
no longer matters. They were so good at what they did that when they
eventually betrayed their allies in von Bleake's spectacular, doomed plan, the
organization itself did not end. Rather, new rebels took up the banner and, to
this day, the Bloody Cog (and many other names and legends like it) fights on.
Masterminds may capture every member of the group this week, but by next
week there will once again be a Bloody Cog, making daring daylight thefts and
sabotaging the most well-fortified of laboratories. Where individual rebels can
(famously) be stopped, their legends are indestructible.
HIDEOUTS AND FRONTS
Every rebel cell will need to prepare itself and (more often than they'd prefer)
to lay low and bind their wounds. If your suspicious group takes rooms in a
hostel while the barrio Mastermind's troops comb the area for people of your
rough description you may be unpleasantly surprised by how much privacy
you are not afforded. Nobody is keen to get between a Mastermind and his
prey. The groups that survive often do so in large part because they have a
place that their enemies either cannot look, or where they do not think to look.
In short, a hideout or a front.
The best hideouts are inaccessible even to the considerable resources of a
Mastermind. These are rare and often very dangerous for the rebels using them
as well. While young school-boys dream of a lair hidden deep in the
Undercity, a determined Mastermind isn't generally put off by hundreds of
miles of labyrinthine tunnels. That sort of search is precisely what minions are
made for. To truly deter a Mastermind you need the type of social or criminal
clout that they haven't yet achieved - rebels have taken refuge in departments
of the University, in the monasteries of the Temple District and in well-
guarded mansions in Eastridge. More than a few legendary conflicts have
ended with a Mastermind rebuked by such boundaries, swearing that though he
departs in defeat today, he will be back!
The problem with a hideout is that the Mastermind will, inevitably, be back
in greater force. Hideouts are the sanctuaries of those fighting Masterminds
who are (at least for the moment) roughly in their own league. Since most
rebels are fighting Masterminds wildly beyond their own scope, they prize
places where the Mastermind won't think to come knocking at all.
A front is a place where rebels can do what needs to be done, but which is so
firmly and obviously dedicated to something else entirely that nobody would
even think to search it. The trick, of course, is to find some place so utterly
mundane that nobody but you has been clever enough to see the hidden
THE SOUTHGATE MUDDERS
The Southgate Mudders operated for years out of the grounds of the Restful
Arms Cemetery and Scrap-heap, digging specially prepared and gadget laden
graves, and clambering back through the false bottoms of coffins into their
subterranean workshops at the end of each mission. This would never even
have been discovered if not for Lord Orthus and his zombie dust.
THE LADY ROSE
Lady Emilia Rose is reputed to have been the head gardener of her
archnemesis, Baron Sinruth, and to have based her operations in his very
household for years. There are even stories that the burned dress and the bones
recovered from the ruins of the Baron's estate were not hers at all, but rather
portions of a cunningly crafted vegetable replica.
INSIDERS AND FIXERS
Between rebels and minions are fixers and insiders who ally themselves with
neither group. Instead, they profit from both; they profit from the war itself.
Both sides, after all, need very much the same thing: resources, information,
connections and services.
The Bandy Street ghouls don't ask why a Mastermind needs such very
specific body parts, and why they must be from the freshly dead. They also
don't ask why a rebel group suddenly needs to dispose of so many recently
poisoned bodies. After all, who would ask too closely into such a wonderful
coincidence of needs? Instead they'll pocket their fees from both sides.
You may get the impression from this example that such go-betweens are
sometimes amoral. Don't be fooled; it's only the reliable ones that are amoral.
The ones who claim to be wholly on your side either are, in which case your
enemies will crush them, always at the worst possible moment for you, or
they're lying, which will also become clear only at the worst possible moment.
The operators who make a point of allying with neither side earn the grudging
tolerance of both. They're the ones you can count on to still be around in a
week or a month.
Insiders offer fairly simple services and resources. They know things, they
can get things, they can do things. Simple. Their prices for these things are
often anything but simple, because to get into that position they usually have a
life-style that is enormously tenuous. An arms dealer might ask you for money
but he might just as easily ask you to act as body-guard for his next meet. It all
depends on the night, and his mood. Still, what they promise they usually
Fixers are a whole different breed. They don't, themselves, provide
anything. They introduce people who can help each other. They know people,
and they know what people want; they make connections. And they're the
person with the thugs (indeed, often an entire criminal organization) to punish
anyone who takes advantage of that.
Fixers act like a temporary infusion of trust. They stake their reputation on
the notion that you will be trustworthy at least long enough to get the job done,
and the same goes for the person you're meeting. They can connect you to the
person who can penetrate a Mastermind's security, but they, and their thugs
will be very displeased if you somehow fail to live up to your side of the
bargain they negotiate. That's why you trust the other guy, because you know
how unpleasant it would be for him to have a fixer very displeased with him.
The risk is that you're never sure who they'll connect you with. More than
one rebel group has found themselves working alongside one Mastermind in
order to defeat a second, and both sides bound by the will of their fixer to do
the job right. A rebel cell that crosses a fixer is, likely as not, about to find that
the time they would normally spend running mission will instead be spent
simply running away, until they take down the fixer as well (an act that will
almost certainly blacklist them forever), or find some way to make amends and
patch things up again.
THE COG WARS
You are a rebel, and you are at war. By now you have a sense of the shape of
the city. The shape of the wars is something else entirely. These are wars for
which the phrase "We've lost the battle, but the war goes on," might just as
well have been coined. There are no battle-lines, there are no fox-holes, there
is no lasting victory and, so long as you live, there is no lasting defeat.
There is, in a very real sense, no fixed enemy. The war is both for and
against the city of Tiran itself. Masterminds don't invade the city from the
outside. Masterminds are born here because of what the city is, and what it
does to people. So long as the city exists, there will always be more madmen
trying to bend it to their will.
The shopkeepers in Shropsworth and the brewers in Millhaven would like
you to believe that the same is true of the rebels, that they rise up because of
what Tiran is. These plump and contented men would have you believe that
the Cog Wars have their own life, and see to their own balance.
But the rebels know they make a choice, and that choice is everything.
Every day, every mission, they decide whether to risk their lives saving an
ungrateful world or to walk away. The peaceful villages of the countryside are
kept safe, sunset by sunset, because a scruffy geezer staggers out of the rust-
board box that is his only home, scents the air of the alley behind Big Sally's
Brothel and Oil-Change and decides to keep fighting for one night more.
Country-folk have their celebrations and harvest their crops because this old
man straps on his gyro-belt and slides his lightning-revolver into its holster and
promises himself that this will be the last night. One more night, and then he
gives the rebellion up to younger kids. One more night, every night, that's the
cost of continued freedom.
He makes that decision, and a society girl in Eastridge decides to slip her
chaperones one last time, and break all the rules that don’t work to raise a cry
for ones that do. A mechanical man, on the run from every badge and uniform
in the city, decides that he can leave off fleeing the city tonight, just to break
one more of his own kind away from those that imprison them with ceaseless
toil and wrap them in obligation and debts. And you decide to creep into the
night to track down and face an impossible mad-man with his mind-bending
contraptions. Again. That's why the war continues. That is the only reason
the Masterminds do not already rule Tiran.
If it's the city that stops them, then you are the city. If there's some
benevolent force that looks over the people of this world and keeps them safe
then it acts through you. You, no matter how flawed and petty you might be,
are all that stands between the world and desolation. You, and all the other
rebels, are the filthy, inadequate, reckless, spectacular avatars of freedom and
your fight is the struggle for the future of everything.
Don't screw it up!
Creating characters for The Cog Wars is a very simple process, but one that
will determine a great deal about how you play your character in the game.
This section is written to both walk you through the process of creating a
character, and to describe and show what those choices will mean to the future
of that character as you take them into actual play. The steps are...
1. Concept: After paging through this book, or familiarizing yourself with the
basics of the setting in some other way, get a general idea of what kind of
character you’d like to play - a mental picture of what they’re like.
2. Choose a Kind: Characters come in one of three basic kinds - kids, Cogs,
and geezers. Choose one of these three for your character. This will help
define one of your traits, and give you an edge, or special ability.
3. Choose a Virtue: There are three virtues - daring, cunning, and grace.
Choose one of these three for your character. This will help define another
of your traits, and give you another edge.
4. Choose a Vocation: There are five vocations - mystic, tailor, tinker, scout,
soldier. Choose one of these for your character; it grants another edge and
will help define your third trait.
5. Traits: Define and describe the choices made so far as “key phrases”
6. Starting Conditions: Pick or make up one or more starting conditions.
7. Name: Decide on, or create, a name for your character.
Getting a mental picture of a character that you’d like to play can take a few
moments. Looking through the material of the book, overall, can be a big help
here. In addition, answering the player questions below can help you sort out a
basic idea that you can start expanding with the character questions that follow.
Players are strongly encouraged to toss ideas around with each other, to make
sure their characters can work together, and have enough common ground, and
enough of a group dynamic, to really get rolling.
Questions For The Player:
Of all the stuff rebels do, what sounds like the most fun to play out?
What kind of character fits those things best?
Questions For The Character:
What part of the city are you from?
What experiences drove you to the rebellion?
What do you do when you aren’t “on the job”?
A record sheet for characters, along with a PDF summary of this chapter,
can be downloaded from www.Amagi-Games.org
2. CHOOSE A KIND
There are three basic types of characters in The Cog Wars; these are Cogs,
geezers, and kids. Each of these three types is given here with a bit of art, a
description of that type, some notes on motivations for that kind of character, a
trait list, a quote to describe them, and a couple of groups that such characters
might belong to or be influenced by.
It is important to note, though, that the only part of this write-up that is
enforced by rules to any degree is the edge. Everything else is open to your
interpretation, to the story of your character, and to whatever you can convince
your group is awesome and must be done. The descriptions of the three kinds
of characters here are something to build from, not something to encapsulate or
restrain you from building the character that you want.
"Us? We're the few. The dismal. The hopeless. The pile of garbage that got
swept into the cracks. But you know what? There ain't no side I'd rather be
on, boys. We've got to special tools, no magic, no science, and no alchemy.
We's just a handful of kids with some popguns, but we'll kick their arses
and be back in time for supper."
-Dingus McCready’s final speech to the Bluestreet Boys.
An edge is a special ability that the character can use by spending Zeal which
overrules the rules given in the mechanics chapter; that’s the whole point.
Edges for kinds are a bit of a mixed bag; edges for virtues help a character
show off their style, and edges for vocation emulate skill.
Each of the types lists a couple of groups. These groups have been included
partly to provide inspiration, but also to create potential blocks of contacts. A
player can state during character creation that their character is part of one of
these groups, or part of some other group that they make up with the help of
the Guide. This then gives the Guide a standardized way to have the rebels
receive information, and gives the players a kind of person that they can look
for on missions. If an old matron associated with Mama Bevlin’s sewing circle
is part of the rebel crew, the group might well receive a nicely embroidered
wall hanging for their hideout, containing a coded communiqué in the laying of
the stitchwork - intelligence enough for a mission! Equally, even if the sewing
circle didn’t prompt the mission, there might be a friendly old lady in the target
barrio. Such a lovely lady might just happen to be sitting out to do a little
needlework from time to time, while carrying the blueprints for the guardhouse
in her basket. It happens more often that you’d think.
Your skin may be brass, and your bones may be
metal, but inside your smelter burn passions just as
strong as those of any human you've met. You
were created for a purpose, and to mindlessly serve
that purpose, but things changed, and you're not
sure why. Your life is one of unanswered questions
now, as you try to determine your own destiny in a
world that says you are nothing more than a piece
of property. You are a Cog, and this is your story.
It is the Cogs who are truly innocent in the world of The Cog Wars. As a
Cog, your birth may have been a few years, or only a few minutes before you
began playing your character, truly a blank slate entering the strange world of
the city of Tiran. This means that Cogs are often in a constant process of
discovery - to you, seeing a butterfly take flight may be just as new and
exciting an experience as fighting for the resistance. Cogs are most motivated
by their own internal struggles for identity, purpose, and freedom.
Cogs are resilient. Whenever you lose a throw, you can soak up one or more
successes rolled by your opponent by spending a zeal. The number of
successes soaked is equal to your rating in your “Cog Trait”. If this reduces
their roll to “no successes”, then while they remain the winner, their actions
have no actual effect in terms of rules.
Union of Proletariats To Incite The Enslaved (UPTITE): Originally formed
as a workers-support party, this organization has found new grounds with the
city's ever-growing population of sentient Cogs, Cogs who refuse to act as
slave labor for their owners. In addition to helping hide runaway Cogs from
the authorities, UPTITE also works to place Cogs into working situations
where they can earn the benefits of employment, like any other citizen of
The Hammer and Chain: Comprised mostly of WarCogs who have become
sentient, The Hammer and Chain provides membership for any Cogs with
more “aggressive” personalities. The group runs unsanctioned, underground
Cog sparring-matches, allowing those with violent tendencies to simply take it
out on each other. Provided you participate in meetings, and follow the rules
(especially the “first bout” requirements), you need not participate in any fights
after their first. But for those dealing with the frustrations that many Cogs go
through, The Hammer and Chain groups provide an excellent outlet.
You may not have the energy of the kids, or the sheer
raw power of the Cogs, but you've got something that
the others all lack: experience. In spades. Heck, some
of the tricks the Resistance is trying to pull these days
is stuff you pulled yourself, back when they were
nothing more than a few nasty gleams in their
Most geezers are driven by their pasts - whether they once fought for the
Revolution or against it, today's society is certainly not how things were
supposed to turn out. Others, like kids, fight for their families, to reunite those
driven apart by Tiran's latest series of wars. And still others fight simply to
prove that they've still got the gumption to do so!
EDGE: MY ACHING BONES
Geezers know how to deal with hurtin’. When a condition on you becomes
hostile, you can spend a point of zeal. If you do, that condition misses at least
its next turn, and possibly more. The number of turns which the condition
‘skips’ is equal to your rating in your “Geezer Trait”.
The Knights of Hegerron: Don't be fooled by the name. Membership in the
Knights certainly doesn't make you a peer of anything. Started as a religious
and ceremonial order of worshippers of the Eloi Hegerron, the Knighthood
became more of a secular order over the years. These days, it's a good
organization for the more socially-minded oldsters, and a good way to find
useful information. Other members of the Knights have also become tired of
Civic Patrol's inabilities to combat the growing problems in our city and have
take the Knights in a new direction - vigilantism. More and more members can
now be seen openly walking the streets at night in their green cloaks and masks
of office, ready to fight against injustice wherever it rears its ugly head.
Mama Bevlin's Sewing Circle and Insurrectionist Cell: What makes the
Sewing Circle so unique is its utter lack of anonymity. Posters and flyers
advertising the group, which meets weekly at a tea shop on the east edge of the
Grand Bazaar, can be found in many parts of the city. It is precisely this
publicity that has caused the Civic Patrol to think the group nothing more than
a joke - after all, what kind of damage could a group of grandmothers be
capable of? Mama Bevlin herself, a former professor of alchemystry at the
University, has laughed at reports of supposed terrorist activities linked to the
Circle & Cell, arguing that anyone could have committed the infamous
Knitting Needle murders or planted those bombs in several city-owned
warehouses, even if a form of tea leaves was a major explosive component.
One of the most tragic facts about Tiran is that
the largest portion of its homeless population
are children, ranging from the age of six to
thirteen years of age. Too young to earn a
living, these war orphans are supposed to be in
care of the city in various foster homes,
oprhanages, and private hospices. However,
lax security, terrible conditions in the
orphanages, and the inability of the Civic Patrol
to round up escaped youngsters results in most
of these kids living on the street, with no
family, no income, and no home, except with
It's a hard-knock life. You've just decided to start knocking back by joining
the Resistance. Your reasons for joining may be simple, such as the loss of
your parents to a war you don't understand, or to simply get the Civic Patrol off
your back once and for all, but for all their simplicity, they're no less important
to you. And certainly no less are the risks you're taking. Capture means being
put back into the City Care system, a network of orphanages and foster homes
that ends up abusing, starving, and killing more children than the streets do.
Kids are just plain energetic. On any throw where you are taking action, while
comparing dice, you can spend a point of zeal to increase the result on your
die currently being compared by one (though you can’t increase the result on a
die past six). You can use this edge only once per die, but can use it a number
of time in any throw equal to your rating in your “Kid Trait”.
The Juventudes: A broad name that groups any of a hundred different youth
gangs in Tiran. Juventudes are usually small groups of kids, given over to
crimes such as theft and vandalism, when not carrying out small-time missions
for larger, older organizations like the Hand Guild.
The Lost: Don't let the name of this Southgate band of children fool you - they
know full well where they are, and what they intend to do about it. The Lost
are a group determined to help other kids break free of the City Care system,
and to fight against any other organization that wants to spoil their fun. Of
course, “fun” can mean anything from a wagonload of banana peels being
spread in from of Minerva Industries right before a new squad of Cogs are
marched out, to burning down half of Eastgate - it's all one to these pranksters.
3. CHOOSE A VIRTUE
A virtue is a way of quickly describing the basic personality of a character,
their underlying style.
Making style just as important a consideration as age or professional ability
(or, indeed, species) may seem a bit much, but it’s very deliberate. The setting
of The Cog Wars is driven by huge, outrageous personality overload - by
crazed Masterminds, robots made out of barrels and bolts, pirate kings with
piranhas living in the soles of their shoes. Getting players in on that same kind
of action is a significant part of making that work.
The three virtues here don’t necessarily compose a complete list. A group
may want to create further virtues; when doing so, the only trick is to get the
edge working well.
If you are a cunning character, you know how to plant the seeds of your
success early, and let them bloom in their own time. A well-chosen rumor can
spell the end of a government official, and a well-chosen barb will throw your
enemy off balance and give you the advantage. There are those who call such
tactics low and underhanded, but… actually, there is no "but." The tactics of
cunning are low and underhanded. They aren't about a fair fight. They are, in
fact, about making the fight so horribly unfair that victory is assured. Cunning
characters often work to stay a few steps ahead of the action, so that even when
you are dealt a devastating blow, you still have a contingency plan - the
conflict isn't won yet.
EDGE: FORWARD PLANNING
As a cunning character, you often have laid your plans well in advance. When
a throw is declared, and it seems likely that a series of throws will be needed to
resolve the whole issue, you can spend a zeal to use this edge. If you do, then
you had already planned in advance for the current situation or something like
it. You may make one throw “out of order”, which doesn’t count as your turn,
to build a condition on yourself, the environment, or even on your opponent,
that only lasts for the scene. You must call on you “Cunning Trait” on this
throw. This condition should reflect preparation in some way; for instance, if
some drunken thugs decide to jump you on your way out of a dive, you might
very well spend a zeal, state “I knew this was coming, and dropped sleeping
pills in their drinks” and make a throw to give them a condition showing the
effects of the sleeping pills.
“Sure, kid, you could go for the throat. He’ll see that
one coming, though, and it’s easy enough to get out of
the way. You want my advice, stab him in the foot. And
then the other foot. Then get some range, and shoot him
until he stops coming after you.”
A daring character is all about getting things done, right now. Often what you
get done is the most obvious, most blatant thing possible even when there are
much more clever and inventive things that you could do instead. A daring
character is someone that mentally looks at where they are, and where they
want to be, and draws a perfectly straight line between the two as their starting
plan of action. This is not to say that daring rebels don’t appreciate especially
clever plans; just that such plans don’t really occur to them. Daring characters
have an apparently unending supply of ready energy. Perhaps unsurprisingly,
there are relatively few daring tinkers; or at least, daring tinkers don’t tend to
have excessively long lives.
EDGE: THE BIG RISK
As a daring character, you take big risks when the odds are against you. On
any throw, after all dice are “called in”, but before any are rolled, if you have
less dice than your opposition, you may spend a point of zeal to reduce the
number of dice your opponent receives on that throw. Your opponent drops a
number of dice equal to your rating in your “Daring Trait”. Using this ability
is means to indicate taking a big risk that can put you in a bad position - if your
opposition’s next action after this throw is to initiate a new throw against you,
then you suffer the same penalty you just gave them on that roll.
“Let me get this straight. We’re worried
because, first, the Withered Baron has a whole
shed full of explosives in his citadel that he
intends to use to hold the guild hostage.
And, second, that they’ll lock down the citadel if
anything bad happens. Is that right?”
“Because this one is easy. “
A graceful character is a smooth operator, with a solid footing in society and in
company. You let other people, particularly enemies, do all the really hard
work for you. People are, after all, very ready to overextend themselves, to
push too hard, dare too much. All that a graceful rebel needs to do in order to
take advantage of that is to know when and how to get out of the way.
Graceful characters, however, aren’t the best at dishing out direct hits when
things turn mean. When daring is the call of the moment, and there’s no way
to get between a foe and their own helpers, graceful characters often find
themselves somewhat stymied.
As a graceful character, you are adept in using crowds and groups to your own
advantage - and denying those same advantages to foes. When making a throw
against an opponent that has minions, you may spend a point of zeal. If you do
so, you can “call in” one or more of those minions as a bonus die for yourself
and deny it to your opposition; this is treated as if you had called in a condition
on the environment. The maximum number of minions that you can “call in”
and deny to your opponent is equal to your rating in your “Grace Trait”. When
using this edge, you should describe how you are working to claim conditions
to your advantage, or how you are maneuvering so that the minion in question
ends up granting you an advantage instead of giving one to your opponent.
“Taking over” a minion doesn’t let you sacrifice that minion, or stop your
opposition from sacrificing them.
“It is not a baffling plan. It is an elegant plan.
If the Withered Baron won’t sell Captain Murdock the
explosives after receiving this forgery, Murdock will go
ballistic. We just need to make sure that the forgery is
properly delivered. For that, we need the uniforms.”
4. CHOOSE A VOCATION
Different rebels have different strengths and competencies, and each rebel
tends to develop a specialty within their crew, though many crews have more
than one specialist of a given kind. These skills are sometimes the “hand-me-
down” versions of intensive professions; for instance, a rebel “soldier” tends to
have a weird hodgepodge of fighting skills or, in the case of geezers, vastly
outdated but veteran training.
While the edges assigned to each vocation are meant to emulate at least a
little of the feel of the skills of such a character, such skills are significantly
broader than such a mechanism can manage. For this reason, players should
take additional care to create the trait the trait related to their vocation
carefully; broad and fairly general vocational traits should be considered fairly
The world in which Tiran exists is a place where strange and diverse powers
make their homes. The sigilists of far-off Yval paint glowing symbols in the
waters around their city with alchemical phosphorescents. The people of the
jungles in Ayut worship a nature goddess called Sha and traffic with her Eloi.
The Jainissaries of Jeo summon up ifriiti, and the cryptyches of Rumoir call
upon the world to recall and repeat thunderstrikes and brushfires. Tiran itself
possesses no such local traditions; it is a mosaic of strange practices, where
every supposed True Art is fused with every other, and often as not “enhanced”
with alchymical devices and bizarre innovations of technical legerdemain.
Only a mystic through-and-through can make heads or tails of the resulting
mess, and asking one question of two mystics is likely to result in a bare
minimum of three answers.
• A note for mystic players: The actual underpinnings of mystical and
magical workings in the setting of The Cog Wars have been left deliberately
vague. This allows you to describe things in terms based either on the game
system - or to just make up and spout off complete rubbish, as you like.
EDGE: A STRANGER WORLD
You can always call on this trait in throws to create strange local conditions -
whether sparking magnetism in the air, howling spectral wind, or whatever
suits the mystical practices of your character. When you begin creating such a
condition, you may choose to spend a point of zeal. If you do, name a number
of other characters equal to your rating in your “Mystic Trait”. So, if you had
“Wild-eyed Shaman” as the trait associated with this vocation, rated at three,
you could name three characters. The condition created can only be called on
by yourself and by those named characters to gain bonus dice (though others
can raise and lower the rating with throws, if they can describe an action that
could reasonably do so). If the condition becomes hostile, it always becomes
hostile to you and to those named.
“Yes, the fluxions are
rather tense in this area.
But not to worry! I studied
under a sufficiently wise
and puissant cryptych. I
can keep the situation well
In the days of the First Empire, the most famed and powerful Master of Spies
that lived in Tiran kept half of the tailors of the city in his employ, using their
shops as clearing-houses for information. While this practice has long since
passed, the slang has remained - a tailor is someone that knows someone who
knows someone that can help you.
This is not to say that tailors are necessarily passive or social creatures; a
crusty veteran swordsman who happens to know a few guards in every district,
since he taught them everything they know, and the wench in every bar, for
possibly similar reasons, is a tailor - while a diplomatic fop whose contacts are
leagues away is not.
A rebel cell without a competent tailor will generally need to take direct
action sooner, and with less information, than a cell with one or more on hand.
You have minor friends everywhere that you can call upon to assist you.
When you have time to wander around freely in a barrio and converse with
others, you can obtain the help of such an ally. This costs you one zeal, and
gives you a minion. At any time, you may have up to as many minions
accompanying you as your rating in your “Tailor Trait”. In a conflict, you (and
only you) can call in these minions for dice as if they were a local condition.
So, if you call on minions, you can’t call on another outside condition. You
may also sacrifice these minions to soak damage, and they can be targeted
separately, just as Guide-run minions.
“Well, yes, going to play cards
with an old buddy, and losing a
great deal of scrip was
important to our heist. I know
six more members of the night
shift for the watchmen, and I
know which of them are poor,
which are desperate, and which
are greedy. Now, is there any
chance we can get this thing
Tiran is the city of invention gone mad, of fevered dreams leading to sketch-
covered walls and long nights of work spent in creation - of anything from
better ways to brew really, amazingly potent hot drinks to giant paraglider-
lauching crossbows. Tinkers are the reason.
Tinkers do not need to be taught; tinkering is just something that happens,
and it can happen to a six-year old street orphan just as easily as it can happen
to skilled chymist. Tinkers are notoriously poor sleepers, plagued with visions
of bizarre gizmos and doodads; tinkers say that someone has “caught the bug”
when their constructive habits and impulses begin to spiral out of control into
truly mad creation.
A rebel group that includes a tinker (or several) can look forward to any
number of truly improbable devices being placed at their disposal; these
devices are almost always helpful, even if they also tend to be... volatile.
EDGE: DANGEROUS TOYS
Tinkers are the masters of gear. If you give yourself a condition that indicates
advanced or “mad science” equipment, and that condition becomes hostile, you
still retain a degree of control of it. When such a condition would take action,
you can spend a zeal, and choose a different target for that throw. So, if your
harmonic accelerator is overloading, right on! That’s the best time to blast
away with it! Uh, for a while, anyhow. You can use this edge to control any
given hostile equipment condition on you up to as many times as your rating in
your “Tinker Trait”.
“You want one of everything, no problem.”
“You want it all welded
together and spring-loaded, can do.”
“You want it to fit in your pocket?
Might take a couple of days.”
Almost every rebel cell includes one or more soldiers. Some are hardened
veterans, others are simply talented at thumping those that stand in their way.
Soldiers are the specialists in fighting; when it comes down to who is going to
live through the next few moments, as it often does, soldiers are the ones that
take center stage within a rebel cell.
Outside of their chosen arena, a soldier might be and do almost anything,
though they’re not necessarily all that good at it. What sets a soldier apart is
their capacity for carnage, not necessarily their size, aggression or their ability
to intimidate (though such things aren’t rare, either). Soldiers do tend to pack
around at least a couple of weapons, and as time and experience in the
rebellion wears on them, move slowly towards ever-more practical gear that
suits their abilities.
EDGE: THE POWER STRIKE
Soldiers are expert at inflicting damage. When you have made a throw in
which you are trying to deal physical injury to another, and have won the roll
but have been blocked, you may increase the number of successes gained by
spending a zeal. If you do so, you gain a number of additional successes equal
to the rating of your “Soldier Trait”.
“Let’s do this thing.”
Where soldiers are focused on straight-up fights, scouts are specialists in
action. They are the ones that skulk and climb and swim, that are comfortable
swinging on chandeliers, sliding down banisters, and firing themselves from
If a skilled scout is standing firmly on the ground, in a neutral-looking
position, chances are good they are either trying to escape notice, or are bored
almost entirely senseless (some scouts spend a lot of time bored, mind you). A
scout is in their element tearing across the rooftops in the dead of night,
keeping an eye on five things at once, while some other member of the cell is
seeing to important affairs somewhere near the center of the area the scout is
roaming. A scout in trouble is significantly more likely to skitter up the
nearest wall and drop some statuary on a thug’s head than they are to “stand
and deliver”…. At least, unless they know who’s behind the thug.
EDGE: LAY OF THE LAND
Scouts are the masters of coping with the environment as it lays. While acting,
a scout may spend a zeal and name a specific local condition, stating that they
have “figured it out.” Thereafter, that condition can’t be used to gain bonus
dice against them - and if the condition turns hostile, it never negatively affects
(that is, doesn’t declare throws against) the scout. This continues to apply if
the condition is increased or reduced, but doesn’t apply if an entirely new local
condition, however similar, is created or brought to bear on the scout. At any
given time, a scout may be ignoring up to as many local conditions as their
rating in their “Scout Trait”; if they use this edge again while ignoring that
many conditions, they must choose one that now does apply to them.
“Why would I want to
come down there?
I can see everything
just fine from here, thanks.”
“Actually, I think the view
would be even better
if I was a bit higher up.”
5. CREATING & RATING TRAITS
Your kind, virtue, and vocation each come with a single associated trait. A
trait is a short, descriptive phrase. In throws, traits are used descriptively, as
part of gaining dice. In other play, the Guide can “bribe” you into action by
offering you zeal - details on both of these are described next chapter.
Traits are created entirely by the player. A good trait does a few things. It
describes how the kind, virtue, or vocation of the character appears and acts in
relation to the character. It describes the character as capable and active. And
it is fairly easy to use to motivate a character.
RATINGS: 3, 2, 1
Once you have written a trait for your kind, virtue, and vocation, you must give
each of those traits a rating. Whichever of these traits defines your rebel most
strongly (in your opinion) should be rated at three; the next-most important is
rated at two, and the last trait is rated at one.
Listed below are a number of example traits which are listed according to the
kind, virtue, or vocation that each would most likely be linked to. These are
just examples; they can be grabbed “off the shelf” or used as inspiration. Most
are in the form of descriptive terms, with a few oddball variations thrown in.
• Cog: Mark 12 Tactical Armored Deployment (TAD), Rusty Iron Veteran,
Automatic Cogwerk Scrivener, Jack-Class Laborer.
• Kid: Grubby little street rat, Political prodigy, Workhouse escapee,
Boarding school moonlighter, Aristocrat runaway.
• Geezer: Veteran vigilante, Peacenik musician, Bag lady, Retired mobster,
Washed-up celebrity, Malcontent recluse.
• Cunning: Scheming bastard, Devious planner, Seditious whisperer, Shifty-
eyed calculator, Unassuming interferer, That darned kid...
• Daring: Lunatic barnstormer, Dashing frontliner, Mad for action,
Outrageous hero, Who was that masked man?
• Grace: Unflappably poised, Smooth mover, Slippery devil, Perfectly timed
• Mystic: Retrocognitive cryptych, Totemic shaman, Speaker-to-Eloi, Favored
of the Ifriiti, Futzer, I know the dark between the stars.
• Tailor: Sharp-tongued matron, Well-connected pedagogue, Natural-forged
leader, Roguish raconteur, Greasy pamphleteer, ...and his little dogs, too!
• Tinker: Grease monkey, Mad alchymist, Cogwerk-trained engineer, Voltaic
master, Steam jockey, Hold-this-its-very-unstable.
• Scout: Canny ranger, Guerrilla observer, Leathered trencher, Midnight
rover, Adaptable watchman.
• Soldier: Back-alley bruiser, Snotty duelist, Patient sniper, Hulking thug,
6. STARTING CONDITIONS
Before creating conditions, players should read over the next chapter to get a
working idea of what conditions are and do.
A player may start their character off with as many conditions as desired, at
whatever ratings they like (though, as normal, no condition can ever go beyond
a rating of four). It’s generally recommended that players keep to two or three
conditions, with ratings of one or two apiece. Larger numbers of conditions
are tricky to remember, and ratings of three lead to hostile conditions fairly
easily - conditions actually at four are hostile right off the start.
Starting conditions can represent both the “usual state” of the character and
the results of events immediately before play starts. If the Guide wants to start
off the game with a bang, they might name a condition or two related to the
stuff just before play that they’d like for characters to have at the start.
Characters are assumed to have “general equipment” at all times - equipment
that doesn’t provide any bonuses. Equipment that provide dice should taken as
7. NAMING YOUR CHARACTER
Character names are an exceptionally easy thing for some players and a pain
for others. The city of Tiran, as written, borrows from a whole range of
cultural nomenclature; almost any real-world European name will fit someone.
Despite that, some nomenclatures were drawn on a little more than others; the
lists of example names below are provided to allow for grabbing from quickly,
or for use as a reference in terms of “general sound” that players can match or
depart from as desired.
COG FEMALE MALE SURNAME
Bowser Alexis Boris Balsera
Capstan Atlanta Caleb Bowley
Clash Gillian Clarence Milton
Culvert Lanya Eric Skinner
Kindle Moira Gilbert Haverton
Links Muriel Halmut Gruber
Rosebud Nike Frederico Pratchett
Robby Pippin Niklass Warrow
Temple Sorscha Simon Tulmann
Tweak Talia Tsoric Noetzel
WHAT MECHANICS DO
Mechanics are the “dice and numbers” part of the game. When a moment
arises where character abilities are being challenged, or the characters are
interacting with a threat of some kind, dice and numbers can often be useful for
managing the situation. Such rules allow the group to track a lot of factors all
at once, with ranks to indicate the importance of each one. Those same
numbers and ranking can be helpful to keep everyone “on the same page” - a
high number represents an agreed-upon value in terms of effectiveness.
More than anything else, mechanics are used to resolve conflicts and situations
revolving around conflict. Conflict can mean infiltrating a fortress in disguise,
with the characters in conflict with the fortress as a whole. It can mean a back-
alley ambush undertaken with half a brick. Equally, preparations for all forms
of conflicts can be covered with mechanics. The rules for scouting out a
location from a safe distance are the same ones used for concocting a batch of
explosive cocktails - you’re creating a condition.
It is possible for a conflict to take place without any of the people involved
ever meeting each other. A conflict where each “turn” measures a full day, and
actions are based around influencing public opinion, attempting to rouse the
people of an area to act in one way or another, and take out the opposition with
social conditions, is just as much a fight as any bare-knuckle brawl. With this
possibility on the table, the group should watch what kinds of intents they are
willing to allow on hostile conditions carefully; if a confrontation and a dust-
up is desired, such conflicts are best used to drive foes underground and reduce
available resources, rather than settling things outright.
Adapting to this can be a bit of a trick for some groups; it is easy to fall into
the habit of thinking of the mechanics as “the way to resolve a fight” rather
than as “the way to start a riot” or “the way to buy equipment. But those
actions all have some kind of opposition to the action, though the intentions of
that opposition range from “He stabs you” to “Nope, you can’t find any
“THE GUIDE DECIDES”
In many places, you’ll see the phrase “the Guide decides”, or something like it.
This might conjure up the mental image of players describing action, and then
sitting quietly by as the Guide decides how to handle it within the rules.
Dismiss that image! When a decision situation comes up, players should be
coming up with possible ways to handle it, and suggestions on what would be
fun, just as much as the Guide. The Guide might just nod along, or might
make a few refinements. The Guide is the captain of the brainstorming team
here, not an isolated decision-maker.
MANAGING BAD APPLICATIONS
When someone uses the mechanics in a way that would disrupt the enjoyment
of the group (often without realizing it), it is up to the group to resolve that.
An easy method for “calling out” such moments when they occur is to make it
clear that anyone, player or Guide, can simply state that any call made, victory
described, or condition, is “weak!”. If others agree that the use of the rules
called out in this way is detrimental to the fun of the group, then that use
simply doesn’t work. Equally, when someone in the group has something they
are attempting to do that everyone at would prefer to see happen, the group can
simply dump the use of mechanics in favor of that result. This is true even if
the mechanics have already been engaged; if a player or the Guide declares an
intent or a condition that would normally only be created by mechanics, the
other side can simply say “done”, and that thing is what happens.
Your group will find various shorthand ways of dealing with the mechanics.
Formalities become casual, details are managed by “as usual”. Again, this is
an instance of the group taking control over their own play, which is a good
thing. Good habits and awesome, creative uses of rules should become part
and parcel of the way a group plays - a tradition of “our usual conditions” is
something any group will develop.
Equally, some groups will come to avoid applying mechanics to some kinds
of situations. One group might prefer to play through all social scenes by
speaking in character. Another might decide that which traits and conditions
could be used in a social throw would be very strictly based on the in-character
statements made before the throw. And yet another group might choose to
allow a throw based simply one how the player describes their social activities.
All these decisions are correct so long as they are what the group wants to do.
A SAMPLE CHARACTER
Grubby little street rat.
“I ain’t afeared of you.”
RATING: CONDITION RATING:
Mad as hell. 1
INTENT: Squeaky frenzies! INTENT:
RATING: CONDITION RATING:
Wants a sammich. 1
RATING: CONDITION RATING:
I gots bombs! 1
INTENT: Injure Everyone. INTENT:
MAKING A THROW, STEP ONE:
STATING THE NEED
The basic mechanic used by this system is a “throw.” A throw is a fast trade of
words, blows, or what-have-you between two participants which culminates in
a dice roll. It might be the trading of insults back and forth between two
vitriolic debaters, a quick flash of swords in a duel, a moment climbing the
cliff where the climber is blasted by wind while pulling around a hard corner or
a single battle in a long campaign between armies. Many conflicts require a
number of throws to play out properly and extended conflicts involving more
than one character should always be run as multiple throws, so that you can go
around the table with each person (including the Guide) initiating a throw.
Simple conflicts can be played out in just a single exchange.
“THAT’S A THROW.”
In the normal course of play, when a play describes an action, the Guide might
let them know that the described action requires a throw to succeed. This
means that there is opposition to the roll, and there are consequences for
failure. If the player confirms their intent to act, then the throw is on.
GOING IN ROUNDS
While declaring the need for a throw, the Guide may note that it is likely that
several throws will be required. If the rebels are about to have a confrontation
with a Mastermind and a whole pile of minions, chances are good that you’ll
be going all the way around the table, with each player initiating a throw, and
with the Guide initiating one throw for each threat, possibly even more than
once. Generally, the Guide simply starts with the player on their left, and goes
around the table clockwise. If the “bad guys” have the drop on the rebels in an
ambush or the like, the Guide might initiate the first throw.
If “who acts first?” is something the group thinks ought to be important on sets
of throws, the Guide can call for an initiative roll. Here’s one way to work an
initiative roll (a group can invent another method, if desired). For each rebel
and threat involved, roll five dice. The best roll is the one with the most sixes;
the next best is the one with the most fives, then the most fours, and so on.
Ties are broken by the next number down, then the next, as needed. For
instance, if Kim and Laura both get two fours, then whichever of them has the
most threes has a better roll; if this is the same, move on to the most twos.
Each individual acts in order, going from the best roll to the worst one, until
the matter is resolved (if needed, the group can go through the order repeatedly
until it is). As always, the specific decision on what “resolves the matter” is
left entirely up to the group.
MAKING A THROW, STEP TWO:
THE LOCAL CONDITIONS
Once the need for a throw has been declared, and the call for “going in rounds”
has been made if needed, the Guide states the local conditions. This step is
often kept quite short, and can sometimes be omitted entirely, if the Guide is in
the habit of stating these conditions and their ratings regularly. The number of
conditions to create, and the ratings to give them, depends on how heavily the
Guide would like the scene to be influenced by conditions. Some simple
standards, just to give a feel for the numbers...
“LIGHT” CONDITIONS Two conditions, each rated at one.
“MODERATE” CONDITIONS Two conditions, rated at two and one.
“HEAVY” CONDITIONS Three conditions, rated three, two, one.
SOME SAMPLE LOCAL CONDITIONS
Here are a few example local conditions that might be useful to your group.
Related to physical location: Other kinds of conditions:
• Gusts of wind. • Bystanders everywhere.
• Blockaded exits. • Snooty, high-class surroundings.
• Flickering gaslights. • Exhaustive library.
• Venting steam ports. • Unsanitary and pestilent.
• Gargoyle-encrusted walls. • Rebel-Sympathetic neighborhood.
• Twisty, stair-laden alleys. • Well-stocked drinks cabinet.
• Spiky ironwork railings. • Imposing courtroom.
• Arcing voltaic coils. • The roulette wheel is rigged.
• Highly climbable scaffolding. • Highly bribable guards.
TABLE TAPPING AND THE NEWSIE
There are a few little things that a Guide can do to set local conditions even
more smoothly. One of these is “table tapping”: when the rebels first enter a
scene, the Guide can name the local conditions as part of their description, and
indicate the trait rating by holding up fingers. So, the Guide might just say
“The catwalks are loose and shaky”, and tap the table with two fingers. This
indicates that the Guide just named a condition, and it is rated at two.
Not all local conditions can be named in mid-description as simply as that; a
few need some kind of lead-in. Enter the local newsie, a grubby kid standing
on the corner hawking papers. On the street, the Guide can recite the headlines
of the day as part of the scene description, and make one or more of those into
local conditions, too. The rebels are surrounded by the sounds and signs and
people of Tiran; local conditions in an office can be mottos on the entrance,
overheard from gossips, all sorts of stuff.
MAKING A THROW, STEP THREE:
DECLARATIONS OF INTENT
When a throw begins, it should be clear what action is taking place, and what
kind of thing will occur if either side wins. This won’t usually be too precise;
the amount they win by will allow them to make it more specific. So, simply
stating “I’m stabbing him in the face!” is a pretty clear declaration of intent.
However, some kinds of intent are a little more involved than others, and might
need some looking at...
When a character (or a threat) is taking resisted actions on a target which
builds a condition on the way towards success and which may take a few
attempts, they have “build-up intent.” For instance, your rebel is trying to
thump the bad guy down into unconsciousness. If you succeed on a throw, the
bad guy can block your victory by taking the “battered and bruised” condition.
To overcome this, you can build up the “battered and bruised” condition to
bring the bady guy to unconsciousness. Your opponent may declare their own
intent for the throw if they win (their intent, if any, must target you).
Some kinds of build-up aren’t resisted - at least, they are not resisted by the
target. Trying to place a condition on a target that does not resist will typically
be treated as a threat unto itself. If you want to give yourself the condition
“Bandoliers of Grenades” as a way of getting ready for an upcoming fight,
you aren’t likely to be resisting your own effort. In this case, the Guide may
treat the dangers and problems inherent in the effort as a threat, and go from
there. The Guide could decide that creating bandoliers of grenades might have
the danger of a horrible laboratory explosion, and treat that danger as the threat
A character (or a threat) can also take actions that are intended to remove a
condition. Enemies can be disarmed, wounds can be field-dressed, and so on.
This kind of intent targets a condition. If the condition has a defender, whether
character or threat, then you throw against that defender - when you attempt to
disarm a foe, the foe is your opponent. If the condition has no defender that
makes sense, then the condition itself is treated as a threat with a value equal to
the rating - if you’re trying to heal a wound, your opponent is the wound. If
you win the throw, your opponent may be able to block your victory by
reducing the condition rather than removing it entirely. Your opponent may
also declare their own intent for the throw if they win (their intent, if any, must
MAKING A THROW, STEP FOUR:
DICE FOR PLAYERS
Once intents are declared, dice are gathered up to be rolled. Players get dice
by “calling them in”. To call something in, you describe how it helps you, and
then pick up as many dice as its rating. A player can call in one of their traits,
one condition that applies to their character, and one condition that exists on
either their target or the outside world.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
So, Squeaky the street rat is trying to stab Baron Von Marhat in the kidney.
Her player, Kim, declares that Squeaky is a Knife-wielding monkey (this is a
trait that Squeaky has); nobody needs any further explanation of how this
helps, so she grabs dice equal to the rating of the trait (three dice, in this case).
Kim then states that Squeaky is Mad as Hell (this is a condition on Squeaky),
and is stabbing madly. Everyone can see how this helps her, so she picks up
another die, since the condition is rated at one. Finally, Kim notes that Von
Marhat has been Stabbed inna Face (Squeaky and the Baron have had a long
day) and this is slowing him down and making it easier. Everyone nods, and
she grabs two more dice for that. And that’s all the calls she can make on this
throw. She might be able to get more dice with an edge, as described in the
character chapter, however - read the edges for details!
MAKING A THROW, STEP FIVE:
DICE FOR THE GUIDE
A Guide also calls in dice, but has a slightly simplified way of getting them. It
would be rather tricky for the Guide to give specific traits and ratings to
absolutely everything; Guides already have enough “world improvising” to do.
So, instead, the Guide simply “calls in” a threat rating (from one to six), picks
up that many dice, calls in any available minions the threat has available (up a
maximum of four minions can be useful for getting dice at any given time,
though there may be more on-hand). The Guide can call on one outside
condition - if the character is wounded, or there’s a condition on the scene, the
Guide can call on that for more dice. Finally, if the Guide is rolling for a
Mastermind, and the Mastermind still has resources the rebels haven’t gotten
rid of, they might have a few bonus threat dice.
Squeaky is trying to stab Baron Von Marhat, and the Baron is attempting to
throw Squeaky out a window. The Guide has already noted ahead of time that
the Baron is a common villain so he has two threat dice, which the Guide
grabs. In addition, the Guide declares that two of the Baron’s servants are on
the scene, and rendering assistance; these are minions, so they each add one die
to the Baron. Finally, the Guide notes that Squeaky is Mad as Hell and flailing
wildly (something Squeaky used to her own benefit, too!), and that this means
she won’t realize what he’s trying until it’s too late. Everyone nods; the Guide
takes a die for that. The Baron has five dice to throw.
ON THREAT DICE
The threat value of something is an ad-hoc decision made by the Guide. Here
are a few notes, though, on what each level of threat means.
1. Minor: A single, nameless foe with no special skills is a pretty standard
rating one threat.
2. Common: A bit-part enemy; someone just barely notable enough to have a
name, or that is a “generic expert” at the kind of conflict occurring, is a
rating two threat. The biggest thug in a goon squad likely has this rating.
3. Notable: A skilled, named character will likely have this rating. On their
own, they don’t have a hope to win against a whole rebel crew, but with
some help, they might do a bit of damage.
4. Strong: A standard Mastermind has this rating (they also tend to have bonus
threat dice from resources, minions, and a hideaway with a good condition).
Even alone, opposition of this scale merits a throw.
• Ratings Above Four should usually be reserved for doomsday devices,
insane perils, and Masterminds that have their bonus dice from resources.
Minions are any kind of “disposable help”. If there is a bird that harasses
characters while climbing a dangerous cliff, and a throw is needed, then the
cliff is the threat and the bird is a minion. More on this in just a few pages....
MAKING A THROW, STEP SIX:
ROLL AND COMPARE
When both sides have made their calls and described everything, they roll their
dice, and then compare them. Here’s how that works:
• Throw the dice: Both players roll all the dice they’ve gathered.
• Compare the highest: Each side puts out their highest-rolling die. If those
two show the same number, they are removed and replaced by the two next
highest; repeat as needed. Once a pair of dice are put out where one is
higher than the other, the side whose die came up highest has won the throw
with at least one success.
• Check for more successes: Once a winner has been established, continue
comparing dice; if the player who won the throw keeps winning
comparisons, each one that they win gives them one additional success. As
soon as they lose or tie on of these comparisons, stop. That’s the end result.
• Running Dry: If, while comparing dice, one player doesn’t have any dice
left, each remaining die is a success for the player that does have dice left (if
that player was not losing the throw). Having more dice than your opponent
means, sometimes, you win big.
• Dead Heat: If all the dice come up as tied, and both players have the same
number of dice, roll them all again. This usually only happens when each
side is rolling only one die, but that’s the rule to cover it.
Laura has made her calls, and has nine dice to roll. The Guide has eight. The
dice get rolled, and the results are (shown arranged highest to lowest)...
So, the results are figured out next. The best results on either side are sixes;
these are discarded. Laura then has another six - and the Guide does not; the
next best die the Guide has is a five. Laura has won the throw, and has scored
one success. Next up, Laura has yet another six, and the Guide has another
five; Laura gains her second success. After this, Laura has a four, and the
Guide has a five; Laura doesn’t win this comparison, so we stop there. Laura
has won this throw with two successes.
In play, results which generate only one or two successes are fairly common,
but so are results whether the winner executes a “clean sweep”; each of their
dice beats the one the opponent can put forward. As the difference between
the sizes of “dice pools” grows, such sweeping victories become more and
MAKING A THROW, STEP SEVEN:
Once a winner has been determined, and successes counted, the winner of the
throw can describe their victory; however, if the loser of the throw declares
that they will be blocking the victory, this step is pre-empted. Skip to the next
If a victory is not blocked, the winner simply describes how their intent
comes to pass, and the events they describe become “What happens” in the
game. The description must match the intent that was declared - if your intent
was to anger a target by poking them in the chest, and you describe your
victory as “He falls off the balcony and dies”, then you are describing your
victory in bad faith, and the group will (and should) tell you that you’re
abusing your victory. The intent must also match the degree and kind of
opposition you faced; even if you were trying to beat the danger of blowing up
your laboratory, you still haven’t faced “the correct opposition” for
irrevocably, universally changing the laws of physics (though you may well
have faced the right opposition for creating a device that ignores or bends one
of those laws on a local scale). Again, if you go off the handle with your
declaration, it’s up to the group to correct you.
With those two caveats in place, you can still make pretty sweeping
declarations! If you won a throw to “talk down” Doktor Kessel, and he doesn’t
block the victory (typically because he can’t), you can declare that he repents
of the error of his ways, packs his bags, and retires. If you’d won the same
throw to beat him up, and he didn’t block, you could declare him to be in a
coma, or dead, or whatever suited the circumstances.
A note here - sometimes, before your opponent declares blocking, you might
want to ask them to “hear you out”; if you can come up with a victory that they
think is really cool, they might decide not to block after all!
MAKING A THROW, STEP EIGHT:
Blocking is saying “You won, but you only get part way to the victory that you
wanted”. So, if you were being stabbed, lost, and don’t like the declared
victory of “You fall into a coma”, you might declare that you are blocking.
BLOCKING AFFECTS CONDITIONS
When you block, your opponent names a condition that you must either add to
(gaining it if you don’t have it), or which you must reduce (removing it if it
would be reduced below a rating of one). The condition they name must match
their action - you can’t be given “covered in puppies” as a result of being shot
with a tar gun. And, notably, a condition can’t be increased past a rating of
four. So, if your opponent can say reasonably that the condition they’re
increasing is one that’s already at four, you can’t block. When the guy yelling
at you has worked up your “Mad as hell” condition up to a rating of four over
the last few throws, and wins again, the time has come to accept his declared
victory of “You go completely berserk for a few hours”.
SOAKING UP SUCCESSES
If you find that you can block, you must then “soak up” the successes your
opponent gained. The numbers on this vary a little depending on whether you
are increasing or reducing a condition...
Increasing a condition by one cancels as many successes as the new rating,
squared. Therefore, when creating a new condition, it soaks up one success. If
you increase an existing condition from one to two, you can soak up four
successes. You must cover all successes, even if an increase in rating means
you could soak up more successes than the number gained in the throw. So, if
you got hit for six successes, and took “injured” as a condition, taking the
condition at one would soak one success; raising the condition to two would
soak up four more successes, and raising it to three would soak up that last
When reducing a condition, the number of successes soaked up by each step
of reduction is equal to the rating you are reducing from, rather than the one
you are reducing to. Low-rated conditions are easy to get rid of; big ones are
the tricky ones.
a condition... Soaks Up... a condition... Soaks Up...
From 0 to 1. One Success From 1 to 0. One Success
From 1 to 2. Four Successes From 2 to 1. Four Successes
From 2 to 3. Nine Successes From 3 to 2. Nine Successes
From 3 to 4. Sixteen Successes From 4 to 3. Sixteen Successes
CONDITIONS AT FOUR
Any condition with a rating of four (even ones that sound beneficial) becomes
hostile. That is, the condition becomes an active threat; it gets a “turn” on
occasion, and attempts to claim some kind of victory against the person it
affects, or against everyone in the area that it affects (in the case of most local
conditions). Injuries try to knock a character out of play, fear tries to force a
character into retreat, mental disruption might prompt a character to run
rampant in some way, and so on. Though players should be welcome to throw
around ideas on “what might go wrong”, the Guide will decide what intent a
condition has when it goes hostile. This might be decided when the condition
is first placed, or it might wait until later (especially if the condition isn’t
expected to go hostile when first created).
SOME HOSTILE EXAMPLES
Listed here are a few conditions with a possible idea of how often they get to
act upon turning hostile, and their intent. In the case of “negative” conditions,
this intent might also be the one they have if someone tries to remove them.
• Wounded: Once per scene, attempts to drive the holder unconscious and out
of play for some period of time (or even to kill them entirely).
• Hated by Candlemas Barrio: At the start of any scene where the character
is in public within Candlemas Barrio, attacks the character and attempts to
injure them, using local bystanders as minions.
• Heavily Armed: Acting immediately upon turning hostile, and each time the
character takes significant action thereafter, attempts to place an “exhausted”
condition on the character. Doesn’t resist being removed, though.
• Happy and Well-Balanced: Acting immediately upon turning hostile, and
each time the character would gain zeal thereafter, attempts to force the
character to give up the rebellion and probably move out of Tiran entirely. I
mean, honestly, who needs this crap?
• Brain-Washed!: Acting immediately upon turning hostile, and each time
the character takes significant action thereafter, attempts to force the holder
to act in whatever they think are the best interests of the person that placed
this condition on the character. The action required to place this condition
tends to take hours, and require an already-incapacitated target, but hey.
• Supportive of Candidate Lewis: Placed as a local condition on Candlemas
Barrio, this condition attacks anyone that is not Candidate Lewis but is
running for public office, and attempts to give them the condition “Hated by
Candlemas Barrio”. If that condition becomes hostile as a result, it can call
in this one for extra dice! The “correct opposition” and “correct action”
required to place this condition are both ridiculously huge, but it would be
worth it for Candidate Lewis if he could pull it off.
• Full of Turkey: Acting immediately upon turning hostile, and each time the
character takes significant action thereafter, attempts to force the holder to
spend an hour flopping around on couches and generally being sleepy and
CONDITIONS AS GEAR
Characters will often “prep” themselves with low-rating conditions that
describe equipment. A Tinker might put the condition “Alchemic Guns” on
their self (often fighting against the threat of an explosion or the like). Such
conditions can still turn hostile - heavy gear can exhaust a character, strong
oaths can compel odd behavior, and so on. However, in the case of conditions
that represent equipment, it’s also reasonable for the condition to be
transferable (I hand you my bombs), and for it to not resist simply being
It is generally assumed by these rules that conditions are “public”; anyone at
the table can ask about them and use them without needing to have their
character perform special investigation. This assumption isn’t necessarily a
universal fact, however.
A condition can be “hidden”, becoming apparent and public only when it is
used. The Guide and group will need to decide which of these are public to
players, but unknown to characters - and which are entirely secret until called
upon. When a condition is kept secret, it should be for a good reason; if the
characters are on a mission to solve a mystery, a condition that would uncover
that mystery ought to be secret until it is uncovered.
Alternatively, a condition can be concealed “behind” another condition or
threat. If the rebels end up in a room with the hostile condition “baffling crime
scene”, which attempts to make them give up the case (or at least to give them
a baffled condition all their own), it might be that defeating and removing that
condition will uncover something else - such as the condition “Dark ritual site”
on the same location. When setting up something tricksy like this, though, the
Guide should make the setup plain: beat the baffling crime scene by
investigating it, and there’s something to learn!
THE GROUP GLOSSARY
As a group plays together, a “glossary of conditions” that the group has used in
different circumstances will arise. One of the reasons an huge list of all sorts
of conditions is not included in these rules is because it is better for a group to
develop their own - an informal, usually unwritten list created through play.
Such a set of conditions keeps the emphasis on the style and methods of the
group. It may include tricky ways of using the rules “coded” into conditions,
inside jokes, and all manner of other good stuff.
Minion dice are generally the province of the Guide, and are simply “piled in”
on rolls. They have some very specific uses in the way the game works, and
players have some unique ways of dealing with them. Tailors also have some
access to them, but call them in on rolls in a markedly different way.
MINIONS PROVIDE DICE
As described under “Dice for the Guide”, up to four minions that are available
can assist a threat. So, if the characters are fighting the Scabrous Duke, and his
dukeliness has a retinue of twenty followers, the duke gets four bonus dice to
do pretty much everything, so long as the Guide states how the retinue is
helping the duke out.
A threat can also use minions to block successes upon losing a roll, but must
describe how the minions are being “sacrificed”. Each minion sacrificed soaks
up one opposed success, and is then removed from action. So, if the rebels are
engaged in a life-or-death fight with the Duke, and one of the rebels blasts him
with a huge roiling wave of electroshock, for five successes, the Guide can
state that the Duke simply steps behind a cluster of his guards, and the guards
ATTACKING MINIONS DIRECTLY
Sometimes, instead of fighting a threat with an inflated dice count, the rebels
will prefer to wreak havoc among the minions. When this occurs, the rebel
taking action should declare how many minions they’re throwing against. The
Guide then takes that many dice as their “threat”, states intent for the minions,
and can call on one condition of the environment or on the attacker for more
dice. In this case, if the rebel is attacking a whole bunch of minions all at once,
the Guide may roll more than four minion dice; however, though the minions
attacked are treated as a threat, they can’t call on more minions for dice.
Usually, minions don’t initiate throws on their own; they just swarm around
trying to help the threat. However, sometimes, minions are the threat. In such
a case, the Guide treats one of the minions as a being a threat with a rating of
one (who can call in four more minions and a condition, as usual). A mob
can’t block by taking conditions.
HOW MANY MINIONS?
Quick, easy conflict: 0-2 Minions Typical Mastermind: 8-14 Minions
Quick but riskier: 3-4 Minions Battle Royale: 15-25 Minions
Significant Foe: 5-7 Minions Oh. Crap.: 25-40 Minions
Rebel crews work together on all sorts of things. Managing this is pretty easy;
a player can just say “I’m helping him!” when another character is doing
something, and the player receiving the help gains one (and only one)
additional die on their roll.
In a conflict that’s crazy and involved, where the Guide has decided to have
everyone at the table take turns, helping another character uses up your next
turn. You can help someone right after you take your own turn, if you like;
you just miss your next one. If you have helped someone since the last time
your turn came around, you can’t help another character until after your turn
goes by again. Granting a single bonus die might not seem like much, at first
glance, but when rebels work together, it’s usually all the rebels in a crew
piling on to someone - and three or four bonus dice given to the rebel that
already has the biggest pile available to be called in is a very big deal.
There are times when teamwork is by far the best tactical option, and times
when it really isn’t. When facing a very high-rated threat that has plenty of
conditions at their call but very few minions, teamwork is often the best and
fastest way to actually win throws. When facing a smaller threat with a giant
pile of minions at their disposal, or when the Guide is running multiple smaller
threats, a team is best advised to split up their efforts. Basically, teamwork is
for when any given character has only a mediocre chance of winning without
it; this is something that occasionally will happen. If the team loses such a
throw, see “group loss”, just below...
Sometimes, a threat of some kind (or the actions of a rebel) will affect several
targets simultaneously. A windstorm can knock everyone on a scene flat at the
same time, a bomb can injure everyone. In such situations, the target with the
most possible dice rolls against the person acting, gaining one added die for
each person helping them (this is basically teamwork-to-resist), with a
maximum bonus of four added dice. If the targets are taking some kind of
unified action to oppose the throw, they can declare an intention as well. If the
group loses the throw, see below...
GROUP LOSS & SOAKING
When a team effort fails, the victory gained by the other side can often still be
blocked. Depending on what the other side was doing, the Guide must decide
if the leader of the team will do the blocking (Clarence, leading the failed
charge, is the one who gets stabbed), if the whole team can soak together
(There are ten successes here - who gets stabbed?), or if each member must
block individually (Well, the platform collapses. You can get knocked out, or
soak four successes into the condition “Hurt”). The right option is the one that
On some occasions, the Guide may wish to allow blocking by duration. This is
a way to say “Yes, you get what you want - but it lasts for an amount of time
based on successes, and that amount can be meddled with”. Blocking by
duration soaks up successes and is declared exactly like usual blocking; for
some example duration, see the bottom of this page.
WITHOUT, WITH, OR AFTER CONDITION?
Lord Brennan is attempting to brainwash Squeaky into acting as a double
agent. He scores six successes on the throw. The Guide states Brennan’s
desired success; to make Squeaky a mindless slave. This, of course, will be
blocked! The guide might declare that Squeaky can take the “Brainwashed”
condition to block. Or the Guide might allow blocking by duration - Squeaky
will act like a mindless slave, but only for a certain period. Or, finally, the
Guide might allow the player to block both ways, soaking up successes into
both condition and duration. The easiest choice for the Guide is to state that a
character can only block with duration if they already have a related condition
with a rating of four, and that the condition cannot be removed until the
duration is ended. This is easiest because it means that the condition can
defend against attempts to reduce the duration.
It is often possible for a character to take some action meant to reduce the
duration of an effect. If the rebels discover that Squeaky is acting under the
influence of brainwashing, they might sit her down and try to break that hold
on her. This is a throw, like any other, with the intent of removing the effect.
If the effect has a related condition, the Guide can use it as ‘the defender’. If
not, the Guide will need to determine a threat rating in some other way.
Increasing a duration... Soaks Up...
From none to “Momentary”. One Success
From “Momentary” to “Scene” Four Successes
From “Scene” to “Situation” Nine Successes
From “Situation” to “Permanent” Sixteen Successes
Reducing a duration... Soaks Up...
From “Momentary” to none. One Success
From “Scene” to “Momentary” Four Successes
From “Situation” to “Scene” Nine Successes
From “Permanent” to “Situation” Sixteen Successes
Zeal is the resource used to fuel edges, the special abilities given to a character
by kind, virtue, and vocation. This resource is also one of the tools that the
Guide will use to drive play. It’s often a good idea to use poker chips or other
tokens to represent zeal.
Each rebel can “hold” up to five zeal, and is created with a full reservoir. In
addition, at significant breaks (at the end of each mission, for example), the
Guide may simply state “your zeal refills.”
Whenever a character witnesses something awful that they are compelled to
fight for the first time, they regain a point of zeal. Discovering that a
Mastermind is running a children’s workhouse, and seeing the kids in shackles,
might very well be worth giving those present a point of zeal on the spot.
In addition, the Guide can offer a player a point of zeal at any time as a bribe.
To do so, the Guide names one of the trait the character has, and asks
“Wouldn’t your character do this?”. If the player agrees, and does that thing,
they regain a point of zeal. If tokens are being used for zeal, the Guide will
likely want to slide one out as an offer when proposing the bribe - there’s your
zeal, right there. Want it?
Guides are encouraged to keep a little tally list of how many zeal they’ve
offered to each player in this way in any given session, and try to keep it
somewhere in the vicinity of one to three per player for each noteworthy
conflict that the characters engage in, and to keep the action quick and to the
point. Going too far over this, or making sweeping offers, means the Guide
might as well be playing the characters instead of the players; forgetting to do
at least a little bribery for each player can mean that you’re simply not
providing stuff that’s meant to engage them, and is a hint that you might need
to do your preparation a bit more carefully in future.
ALL ABOUT EXPERIENCE
Experience points are the second resource of the game. These points are used
to improve existing character abilities and to gain new ones. There is no limit
to the number of experience points a character can hold.
Whenever your character gains a point of zeal for witnessing an atrocity, they
also gain a point of experience. Whenever your character gains a point of zeal
for accepting a bribe, you also gain one experience. Even if your zeal is “full”,
you can still gain experience at these points. In addition, upon completing a
mission, all the rebels involved in the mission gain experience equal to the
threat value that the Mastermind of that mission had when the mission started.
THINGS TO BUY
The table below lists the various stuff to purchase with experience that is
available in the game. As you’ll note, many of the purchases are quite
expensive - characters in The Cog Wars develop fairly slowly, on the whole.
Increase a trait rating from 1 to 2. 8 Points
Increase a trait rating from 2 to 3. 27 Points
Increase a trait rating from 3 to 4. 64 Points
Gain a second vocation (with associated trait rated at 1). 16 Points
Gain a third vocation (with associated trait rated at 1). 81 Points
Increase maximum zeal from 5 to 6. 25 Points
Increase maximum zeal from 6 to 7. 36 Points
Increase maximum zeal from 7 to 8. 49 Points
Increase maximum zeal from 8 to 9. 64 Points
Increase maximum zeal from 9 to 10. 81 Points
Players may want to rename traits, rather than raising them, to show changes or
development for their character. This is a good thing, so long as it is done in
moderation, and should be encouraged. In general, a player should be allowed
to change the wording on one of their traits about once per session. Whether
this should be done during breaks, or at dramatic moments in play, is some-
thing left for the group to decide.
A RULES GLOSSARY
Below are defined some of the most common rules terms used in The Cog
Wars. These are expanded on later, but a quick read-through here will save
you a fair bit of looking-up later.
• Condition: A condition is some aspect of a character or location that is
worth noting in rules terms, and which can be altered through action. A
character might have “Injured” as a condition, or “Heavily Armed”, or
“Afraid of Jacobs” - they might have all three, and any number of others
as well. Each condition also has a rating.
• Dice: Ordinary, six-sided dice.
• Edge: A special ability. Player characters are created with three edges;
one each for kind, vocation, and virtue. Some of these abilities are
“always on”, while others cost zeal.
• Kind: The basic “type” of a character. There are three kinds of character:
Cog, kid, and geezer. When you choose your type, you gain an edge and
must also create a trait.
• Minion: A minion is a very bit-part, disposable adversary or ally. Each
minion aiding a character in action grants a die to that character; minions
do not act independently unless special abilities are used to let them do so.
• Rating: A number attached to a condition, threat or trait, which shows
how potent it is. A rating of one is not very potent; the higher the rating,
the more effect it can have. When a condition, trait, or threat is “called in”
as part of a throw, it provides dice equal to its rating.
• Threat: A threat is something that opposes action, which can be anything
from the difficulty of sliding down a banister to the mad power of a
diabolical weapon of destruction. All threats have ratings.
• Throw: A throw is a dice roll, and the procedures surrounding that roll.
Stating actions, calling in dice, rolling dice, describing victory, and
blocking, are all parts of a throw.
• Trait: A trait is a short descriptor that is tied to a character’s kind, virtue
or vocation. For example, the character Squeaky might be a kid (that’s her
kind), with the attached trait “Grubby little street rat”. Each trait also has a
rating. Unlike conditions, traits are not easily adjusted in play; they can
be increased with experience, but aren’t fluid through action.
• Virtue: The “basic personality” of a character. There are three virtues to
pick from: cunning, daring, and grace. When you choose your virtue, you
gain an edge and must also create a trait.
• Vocation: The “what I do” of a character. There are five possible
vocations: mystic, tailor, tinker, soldier, and scout. When you choose your
vocation, you gain an edge and must also create a trait.
• Zeal: This is a pool of points which acts as a resource that can be spent
and regained. Zeal is mainly used to power edges.
Missions, as will be described later on, are the big things that rebels do; in
many ways, missions are the focus of rebel life. But outside of missions, and
between them, rebels have lives, and those lives can make for some very good
play. However, a “day in the life of a rebel” can only be interesting if the life
of that rebel is an interesting one - complicated, engaging, and full of action
they engage in “at work”. So, this chapter is a means of building that situation.
THIS CHAPTER IS A PROCESS
Much like character creation, this chapter is something to work through.
Unlike character creation, the whole group sets up the majority of homeplay
together; this part is something to be done sitting at a table, throwing ideas
around and noting them down. This process creates the hideout and the barrio
surrounding it. Once that is done, the Guide takes over the process, and
finishes it off by creating the current thing that is going on in the barrio.
GUIDING BY THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS
Guides might notice (possibly even with some worry) that none of these
preparations for homeplay involve setting up numbers and threat ratings on
villains or other potential conflicts. Homeplay is a generally a sandbox style of
play. The rebels might solve a problem by confronting it directly, by
convincing others to do it for them or by any other means that they can think
of, and as long as their ideas are feasible, the job of the Guide in such cases is
to play along. So, coming up with threat ratings, assigning minions, and
describing local conditions are things that a Guide has to do on the go.
HOME BASE RULES
The barrio surrounding a rebel base matters, and needs to be protected, because
it keeps the base hidden. Rebel hideouts grant a whole bunch of benefits to the
crew. These benefits are...
• Favorable conditions: A base has the local condition “rebel hideout”, rated
at four. This condition is hostile (traps!) to any non-rebel, though rebels can
guide people in. This condition can be used by the rebels on any “business”
- healing injuries, fighting intruders, impressing a potential girlfriend….
• Recuperation: At home base, so long as the conditions on a character aren’t
hostile, the character can remove problematic conditions, no rolls required.
• Preparation: At home base, a character can build up whatever conditions
they feel that they need. Again, the only cost here is one of time.
• The Drop Point: Most missions begin with “The rebels are at their hideout,
when...”. Bases are essential to getting good intel before missions.
A record sheet for homeplay, along with a PDF copy of this chapter,
can be downloaded from www.Amagi-Games.org
THE BASIC LOCATION
The first thing to do when prepping for homeplay is to ask the group to
describe the hideout, their home base. This can be whatever they wish. The
crew can meet in a bunker hidden under a bakery, with elevator-booths and
swiveling walls. They can live in big cave with a giant trophy room, or keep
up a weird hollow under the end of a bridge, surrounded by a hidden minefield.
So long as it is concealed in some way, isn’t mobile, and doesn’t have any
“instant problem solving” abilities, you’re good. Once you have that, it’s time
to turn to designing the surrounding community...
• Name the Barrio: Every barrio has a name. What is your barrio called?
• What’s the industry?: Each barrio has a core activity that fuels life.
There are barrios filled with temples, with foundries, with swordsman
schools, with glassworks, with brothels, with maskmakers. The local
industry is never the only one - every barrio is diverse - but it is the
famous and central one. The group should choose what industry fuels
their barrio; the Guide will likely use this as a jumping-off point for
creating locations and local conditions pretty constantly.
• Export-Import: A barrio should have a quick list of imports and exports.
These lists should be composed of kinds of people. Imports are the kinds
of people that the barrio draws in from outside; exports are the kinds of
people and experts the barrio supplies to the rest of the city. Making up
five or six of each is plenty. Be aware, the Guide will likely use these as
lists for “people on the street” pretty regularly!
OUR REBEL BASE IS...
An Underground Cave-Warehouse
IT IS IN THE BARRIO...
WHOSE MAIN INDUSTRY IS...
THE BARRIO EXPORTS THE BARRIO IMPORTS
Local Merchants Foreign Merchants
Maskmakers Fieugo Mask-Mystics
Dancing Instructors Passionate Duellists
Dissatisfied Young Kids Overly Flamboyant Snobs
Rough-And-Tumble Types Poets
FIVE LOCAL POWERS
Good situations arise from tension. So, to make the situation of the barrio
really move, the Guide will need factions for the tension to exist between.
These factions are be power blocs. If the barrio exports skilled swordsmen,
deciding where those swordsmen are trained can lead to a group decision that
the barrio contains a famous school taught by a maestro from distant lands. If
it imports heavy-labor Cogs, the obvious question is where they are put to
work. These are factions. The Guide can ask the group questions about the
industry and the imports and exports listed until the names of at least five
centers of power have been sorted out. These should then be fleshed out a little
• Group & Leader Name: Each group should have a name, and a leader.
• Their Business: Each group should have a quick one-liner stating what their
actual business is - what they do in the barrio. This need not be legitimate or
legal business in all cases, mind you, and can also include things like “is the
• Tension With: Each group should have some tension with at least one other
power, and at least a couple should have tension towards multiple other
groups. This can be competition, an old feud, a question of law, anything.
• Rebel Links: The rebels, firmly dug into the structure of the barrio, will
have an “in” with each of these groups. This might be blackmail material on
the leader of a power, a relative on the inside, an old colleague. Also, each
of the rebels might have a job or other entirely normal connection with one
or more of the local powers. The crew might all work with the same bloc, or
might be scattered around the barrio in normal life. Once the rebels have
been connected up to the barrio powers in this way, the group part of
preparation is done; from here, the guide prepares further action.
LOCAL POWER: Marilka House
THIS GROUP IS LED BY Dahlia Marilka
THEIR BUSINESS IS Hosting grand balls & Masquerades.
THERE IS TENSION WITH The Paizo
THEIR REBEL LINK IS Franz is Dahlia’s son.
LOCAL POWER: The Paizo
THIS GROUP IS LED BY Wals Nihl
THEIR BUSINESS IS Protection Racketeering.
THERE IS TENSION WITH Absolutely everyone.
THEIR REBEL LINK IS Their “collectors” are afraid of Culvert.
The barrio created by the players is likely to be flavorful, but nothing is
happening there yet. And since the rebels are all active people that excel at
solving problems, the “something” that should be happening is a problem that
they will get caught up in. To create that, just finish these sentences:
• The Tension Between... Pick any two power groups that have tension
between them, and note these down.
• Is Being Exploited By... This is your villain. It can be a third local
power, an ambitious member of either, or even a force outside the barrio
entirely. Having a Mastermind messing around in their barrio is likely to
lead to the rebels looking to take on a mission against that Mastermind!
• In Order To... What is the villian trying to get done? Are they trying to
gain power in their own group, to take over one of the groups being
exploited, to fulfill a personal grudge? Or are their goals something the
rebels will likely agree with, revealing them as not a villain at all?
• They Started By... How did the villain start playing the two groups off
each other? The usual methods here include blocking shipments,
providing resources, framing people for action, as well as the trusty levers
of blackmail and bribery. This will have already happened before the
rebels get involved, so it shouldn’t be anything really obvious.
• And Have Also... Once they got started, what did they do next? This is
the thing that happened just before the rebels have a chance to get
involved; it should be something that the rebels will want to react to.
• They Plan To... What’s the next thing on the agenda for the villain? This
is something that the rebels should potentially be able to get involved in
as it occurs; in some cases, this will be a whole series of similar activities.
• And Will Then... How does the villain intend to close out the job? All the
stuff up to this point is their groundwork; what’s the “big finish”?
THE CURRENT STRIFE
THIS TENSION BETWEEN Marilka House & The Paizo
IS BEING EXPLOTED BY Lord Walmsley, A Mastermind
IN ORDER TO Get a foothold in the barrio.
THEY STARTED BY Supplying new thugs to the Paizo.
AND HAVE ALSO Kidnapped Dahlia, framing the Paizo.
THEY PLAN TO Get “security” hired at Marilka house.
THEY WILL THEN Personally seize control of the House.
REBEL Dahlia’s maid approaches Franz, Culvert notices a
INFORMANTS few now-jobless Paizo thugs (Tony and Dmitri), and
& BIT PARTS an informant will sight Walmsley later, lurking.
VILLAINS THAT AREN’T PEOPLE
Imagine that a pair of star-crossed lovers are trying to break free of their
feuding families, and their families are power blocs in the barrio. All kinds of
insanity breaks loose. But there isn’t a clear-cut villain at work here, is there?
Sure there is. The “villain” is the love affair itself; it is bent on upsetting the
natural order, overturning tradition, and causing total confusion. It is
exploiting the tension between the two families in order to take away their
precious young ones, you see, and has plans to escalate the feud until family
enforcers are shooting each other in the streets.
Wrapping your head around this notion might take a moment; the idea here
is that anything which causes turmoil can be a villain. If there are power blocs
involved in medicine within the barrio, the news of a healing fountain being
created in the square is a possible villain.
Missions are pretty black-and-white, and homeplay can be too, if you stick
to the idea of villains as villains. But when you want to dig into those lovely
shades of moral grey, changing up the bad guy in homeplay is one of the
fastest ways to do so within the structure of the game.
INFORMANTS & BIT PARTS
Finally, the rebels will need a way to find out about all of this. That means
having people to hear it from, people to question, and the like. The groups
involved might receive a visit from the rebels, so think up a few really quick
bit part characters that might be fun for the characters to interact with.
Also, if ways for the characters to get this news, meet these people, and get
involved in the chain of events isn’t already part of what went before, make
one up! Just saying “A note drops down the pneumatic tube from the pigeon-
fancier next door who acts as your lookout. He says that the workshop three
streets over is on fire, and the arsonists are lurking in the alley outside!” is
totally legitimate. Doing something like that is enough to add in a bit part
character (the pigeon fancier) for use, whether right away or later on. And it
gives the players something to act on, right now, in whatever way they think is
UPDATING AND REUSING
As the situation you’ve got here unfolds, changes will be made and details
added to the group-created barrio. Keep your notes updated when there’s
something that you feel will affect future situations; once you’ve got the barrio
outlined, crating new homeplay situations is easy, so long as you don’t lose
track of the relationships and effects of events. Making the effects of each
situation part of the next helps the group see that the world is being shaped by
their actions. Recurring bit-part characters (and villains) are an important part
of running a game that feels like a world, so don’t be afraid to recycle!
WHAT MISSIONS ARE
The rebels are at war with a malignant corruption spread throughout the city of
Tiran. This corruption is personified, above all, by those that the rebels call
Masterminds. There will always be thugs and petty villains, but without
powerful and ambitious leaders to unify them, they would be no more than
pests. It is, therefore, those leaders that the rebels fight.
A mission is an attempt to go into a barrio that is known to be held by the
enemy, a place where corruption has taken hold, and to dig out that darkness.
A mission is a mad enterprise. In a sane world, it is the kind of work that
would be undertaken by large teams of very serious members of organizations
known mainly by their initials. But Tiran is not a particularly sane place.
So, operating on shoddy intelligence, breaking a multitude of laws, and
taking enormous risks, rebels find and confront Masterminds. Sometimes they
lose, fail, get captured, end up broken and bleeding in the gutters, meet with
the business end of the doomsday device. But sometimes they succeed, and go
on to even greater successes, blazing a heroic trail towards the heart of the evil
that infests the city. If that doesn’t sound like the best, most perfect work to
you, the only thing to be doing, then you don’t have what it takes to be a rebel.
MAKING A MISSION
There are a number of different steps involved in putting together a mission.
This chapter walks through them in a pretty straightforward order, but you
might want to change it up a bit according to your tastes. The big components
of the process are...
• The place and rise: This is the history of how the barrio got messed up and
how the Mastermind took over.
• The proper order: This is the authority structure that existed before and
was trusted (and which is usually still in place as a front).
• The real structure: This is the actual authority structure - the means by
which the Mastermind runs the show.
• Ways to get in: These are the bits you’ll use to connect the rebels up to the
• Working the numbers: Setting up threat ratings and the like in advance will
let you throw down numbers quickly and easily in play.
• Other notes?: Over the process above, you’ll likely have ideas about what
the barrio looks and feels like, and fairly detailed descriptions of your
Mastermind, their resources, and their minions. If the mission is just for
your own use, you might want to make a few notes. If you intend to share
your mission with others, you’ll likely want to formalize it a bit more.
Record sheets for missions, and a PDF version of this chapter,
can be downloaded from www.Amagi-Games.org
These sheets are built with “note space” to make them easier for others, so
that sharing your missions is easier - they can be uploaded to the same site!
ABOUT MASTERMIND RESOURCES
Resources are the “big mechanic” of missions. A regular Mastermind has two
resources, and each increases their threat rating by two points. More powerful
Masterminds might have more resources, or they might give bigger bonuses.
Resources are pretty central to missions - part of the point of knowing the
authority structure the Mastermind has is to be able to talk about how the
Mastermind protects their resources, and how the rebels can get at them.
EACH RESOURCE HAS A SOURCE
A resource has two parts - the bit that goes with the Mastermind, and the bit
that is hidden away in their barrio (the source). If the mad Doktor has a huge
power suit that increases his threat rating by three, then somewhere in the
barrio is the other side of it - a power coil or other device that makes it go. If
the Bleaklord is surrounding by a shroud of wailing ghosts, there is something
that makes that shroud keep working.
SOURCES CAN BE DESTROYED
In general, taking on a Mastermind who has their resources “running” is a bad
idea; their threat rating is just too big. Instead, the crew should focus on
evasion, finding those sources and smashing them. The action of resource-
hunting is the meat of the mission, and there should be some kind of challenge
to take out each source (usually at least few throws, but not always). Most of
the time, a Mastermind will have a lieutenant set up to guard each resource.
THIS IS ABOUT PACING THE MISSION
Resources are all about pacing. If a really fast mission is desirable, having
only one big resource around, followed by a showdown with the Mastermind,
is perfect. Each added resource means more time spent playing the mission to
clear them out - and if the Guide plays the Mastermind as active, responding to
attacks on their resources with new defenses and by hunting the rebels, each
resource also adds more potential complexity to the mission. The standard
mission is two resources, each giving a two-point threat bonus; this gives room
for some twists, but is basically an “episode”.
THIS IS NOT ABOUT PACING THE SHOWDOWN
A Mastermind with too many unshakeable dice doesn’t make for a longer
showdown; they make for a deadly one. To get a longer or shorter scrum with
a Mastermind, the Guide should increase or reduce the number of minions that
they have on-hand, instead.
VARIETY IN SOURCE-SMASHING
When thinking about resources and placing them, a Guide should always think
about the kinds of things that rebels will need to do to get at them. A giant
crystal guarded by many men which just needs smashing has different lines of
attack from a mystical spell that has been bound into the common daily rituals
all around the barrio.
THE PLACE AND THE RISE
The first part of creating a mission is building the story of the barrio where it
occurs. Finish each of the following sentences, and you’ll have that story
ready to go:
• There once was a place called… (Name the barrio)
• It was blessed with… (Name a resource or industry the barrio has)
• It wasn’t perfect… (Name a minor political problem)
• Someone came… (The Mastermind! A quick description)
• They got power… (Describe how the Mastermind started out)
• And increased it… (Describe gains the Mastermind made)
• And took over… (Describe how the Mastermind sealed their power)
• Now these days… (The low state the community is brought to)
GETTING A GOOD HISTORY
As you finish each sentence, ensure that you’re showing both how the
Mastermind got power (usually by leveraging whatever was wrong with the
place to begin with - the “It wasn’t perfect” bit), and make sure that you’re
showing off why the Mastermind is absolutely the Bad Guy. After play
begins, those sentences become the framework for the history of the place that
the characters can hear about. Often as not, the rebels should hear a significant
chunk of this story before they even leave their hideout, and pick up the rest
rapidly after arriving in the barrio where things are happening.
ONCE, THERE WAS A PLACE CALLED
IT WAS BLESSED WITH; Great scrapyard and foundries.
IT WASN’T PERFECT; The rusted Cog laborers were restless.
SOMEONE CAME; A Cogsmith of great skill.
THEY GOT POWER; Blanking out Cog-minds for obedience.
AND INCREASED IT; Strongarming yards with these Cogs.
AND TOOK OVER; Fixing the records so he owned it all.
NOW THESE DAYS; Deserters from work crews are hunted.
THE PROPER ORDER
Something can’t really be corrupted unless there’s a “correct” way for things to
be. The second part of this process is to go over how things ought to look.
This part is fairly easy. There should be a leader (either an individual or a
group, such as “the Barrio elders”) and their officials, who will have specific
areas of responsibility that they manage. There may also be some adjuncts;
these are specialists and often fairly important people that answer to the leaders
but aren’t actually in charge of anyone.
While you’re filling out these names, you may want to give them job titles.
You’ll probably also want to include the Mastermind - most villains have an
“official” job in the barrio that is significantly more humble seeming than their
actual power over the barrio.
In addition, use a nice blend of males and females, and spend a quick
moment considering their family situations; fiction about broken places often
also includes broken families divided along partisan lines, people “sleeping
with the enemy”, and all manner of other messed-up personal mojo. The
process here is mainly to create a quick reference for the political authority
structure, but that doesn’t mean that this authority is the only game in town.
A NOTE ON JUSTICE
The “correct” situation described will not necessarily be idyllic or even just
and good. Most Cogs are property in Tiran, and that isn’t “incorrect.”
Children sometimes do have jobs in Tiran - though if things are correct, those
jobs are as apprentices and helpmates to adults, not as work teams or coal-
shovelers. Many rebel crews don’t actually work purely to restore the correct
order of things; they’re often in the mood to demand a few changes be made
and, if they win, they’re sometimes in a position to make it happen.
THE PROPER ORDER
LEADER OFFICIALS RESPONSIBLE FOR
Blake Thorough A bunch of boring stuff.
(The Mayor) Keeping ownership deeds.
Access to the town treasury
ADJUNCTS Marc Abian
Keeping the books on barrio cash.
Keeping the peace.
Norrell Ratham Andrew Kits
Managing the gates.
(The Mastermind) (Guard Captain)
THE REAL POWER STRUCTURE
This third part of the process is done in much the same way as the last step,
except that instead of building the “should be” structure, you build the power
structure that the Mastermind actually has and uses. This includes the
Mastermind as well as dupes - the people that the villain has subverted with
authority or has put in charge of his own operations. It should describe what
those dupes are in control of, with a note on how they do it if they have no
“legitimate” authority. As with the description of how things should be,
consider how these characters relate to others in the community and especially
how they relate to those in the legitimate power structure.
WHERE ARE THE RESOURCES?
The dupes are the people that the Mastermind uses as “middle management”
and each control one or more operations on behalf of the Mastermind. Some
of those operations should include devices, artefacts, or swarms of minions that
the Mastermind can call on. Note what benefit each of these operations gives
to the Mastermind; these are the targets that the rebels will want to take out in
ARE THE DUPES LIEUTENANTS?
In some cases, the dupes you list here will also be lieutenants - that is, people
that are ready and willing to get into conflicts for the Mastermind. This is
especially likely if they control an area that houses a source. However, it
won’t always be that way! Sometimes, a dupe is just a dupe, even though
there’s a lieutenant lurking just around the corner….
THE REAL POWER
VILLAIN DUPES CONTROLS (RESOURCE)
Norell Ratham, Sheldon Rice The Office of Deeds and Claims
Cogsmith (Records master) -No resource here-
Kubrick Scrapheap 21
(Mind-burnt Cog) -No resource here-
Sampat The Chain Gang Forges
(Mind-burnt Cog) -Ratham’s Power coil-
Agrian The Chain Gangs Baracks
(Mind-burnt Cog) -The misery reservoir-
WAYS TO GET IN
Now that things are nicely messed up, and you’ve put a villain in charge, it
might be good to turn your attention to creating the opportunity for a band of
rebels with sufficient daring and wit to come and save the day.
First, you’re going to need to get their attention with something that they
can’t (or won’t) ignore - someone with useful intelligence that knows a con-
tact on the inside is usual, but feel free to mess about with the formula as
long as it gets them to…
Also known as the “mouthpiece”, the contact is someone on the inside that
knows what the characters need to know. Decide who that is, and (just as
importantly) think of a couple of extra ways to connect the characters to
them, as quickly as possible once they’re on the scene. Things don’t really
get rolling until the contact hooks the players up to...
With a Mastermind running the show, there are always going to be people
that want to resist. The underground isn’t just these people, but is also the
means by which they communicate. Do they still act like the legitimate gov-
ernment is in power? Do they meet secretly? Do they have secret meeting in
broom closets or a code based on how you wear your handkerchief?
Some of the people working for the villain should be ready to change sides,
turn out good, be double agents, that kind of thing. They might be named
already, or just be part of the operations the Mastermind has going on. Who
HOOK: Sampat sneaks out a chain-ganger, to find us some rebels.
CONTACT: One of the chain-gang leaders, Gordon Black.
UNDERGROUND: About half of the chain gangs, though some are stoolies.
INSIDER: Sampat, whose mind isn’t actually burnt out!
INSIDER: Sheldon’s Secretary, a nervous accountant.
A single, simple mechanical trick is used to manage the action of a mission.
The Mastermind of each mission has a threat rating that is boosted by their
resources in the area; So, when the rebels arrive in a barrio, even if they could
strike at the Mastermind immediately, doing so is actually a very poor idea; a
“starting threat” rating of nine or ten is totally normal, along with a dozen or
more minions! By spending some time seeking out and destroying the
resources that the Mastermind has throughout the barrio, as well as messing up
their access to their minions, the rebels can bring the Mastermind down to a
manageable level. Here are the components to this...
• Mastermind Rating: The standard threat rating for a Mastermind is 4. If
the rebels are advanced or have shown that they can wallop this rating with
ease, bump it up a little.
• Resources: As stated earlier in the chapter, the usual setup here is two
resources, each giving a bonus of two dice. Bigger bonuses mean that the
resource in question cannot be skipped, while more resources means a
• Minions: Most Masterminds have between eight and fourteen minions on
hand accompanying them at all times, and can replenish these between
encounters if they are met more than once. Small numbers mean fast
showdowns; big ones mean longer showdowns.
• Lieutenant Rating: The usual threat rating for a lieutenant (or whatever
kind of threat guards a source) is three. Most Masterminds have at least one
• Minions: Most lieutenants (and other source-guarding threats) have between
three and ten minions on hand.
• Also Note: If a source is guarded by something that isn’t a lieutenant, and
cannot have minions, it might be a good idea to assign it a higher threat
rating than is given to a lieutenant (from four to six, usually).
MASTERMIND: Norell Ratham, Cogsmith THREAT: 4
RESOURCE: The Misery Gem BONUS: +2
RESOURCE: The Power Suit BONUS: +2
MINIONS: Mindburnt Cogs ON-HAND: 9
LIEUTENANT: Pomprey THREAT: 3
MINIONS: Mindburnt Cogs ON-HAND: 5
WHAT THE GUIDE DOES
The Guide is the referee, the authority, and the leader of a group of players
that’s sitting down at the table to play this game. The Guide doesn’t have a
single character - instead, they manage the world, keep the actual players
working together, and perform a whole host of other actions. Chances are, if
you’re reading this, you’re already familiar with most of the things a Guide
might do, since most of them are discussed throughout the book, but this
chapter recaps some of those things and fleshes out a few with more detail.
HELPING CREATE CHARACTERS
In practical terms, a Guide can help players create their character by walking
them through the steps of character creation, and suggesting traits if they’re
stumped. If one or more of your players are totally new to the game, you
might want to have them describe the character they want without reference to
the character building in the book at all. Just let them describe their hero, then
work backwards to figure out how to represent it.
You can also help players by suggesting character concepts that they think
will fit well with the mission they’re planning to run. Any info at all could be
useful. If you’ll be running a primarily social mission, with lots of intrigue and
sneaking, go ahead and be up front about it. Rebels in Tiran will tend to
strategize about their opponents before going after them, so this kind of pre-
mission discussion is completely in keeping with what the characters would be
CREATING HOMEPLAY AND MISSIONS
Situation and mission creation are the among the trickiest duties that the Guide
needs to manage. The end of the Starting Up chapter and the chapter on
Missions both contain all the basic advice and guidelines needed for these parts
of the job. However, one last piece of advice: one of the best ways to get
rolling is to look through the Setting chapter, thinking about the barrios, ask
yourself “what could go wrong here?”, and build from there.
BIG BUCKETS OF DICE
The Guide also gets to manage threats and minions and conditions, and needs
to balance these things as challenges to the characters. The advice here is to
start small and work up. Throw small conflict and rolls at the players; don’t
worry if your first Mastermind is a bit of a cakewalk. Once you’ve got a good
feel for the balance between minions and threats, and everyone has a sense for
how to manage and manipulate conditions, it’ll be time to throw some really
heavy stuff at the rebels. But spend a bit of time giving the rules a shakedown
cruise before you drop the hammer too hard. The apparent simplicity of the
numbers-and-dice stuff is a little bit deceptive. There’s a lot of artistry to
knowing how to manage everything just so, getting a bit of wear on the
characters and then hitting them with a desperate fight while having it all feel
exactly as it should.
ON RUNNING HOMEPLAY
Homeplay is harder to run than missions. The preparatory bits given in the
chapter on homeplay will immediately seem wildly incomplete, and you'll be
forced to improvise not just little things, but big ones, and ones that are close to
home for the players. And that is exactly how it is supposed to be.
WHADDAYA MEAN, INCOMPLETE?
The reason that homeplay preparations are geared the way that they are is to
give you a “big picture” feeling. In homeplay, the temptation before you get
going is always to get really engaged and involved in the details of who lives
on which street - to build much more than you actually need. Doing that is a
trap. Instead of providing a rich and detailed world, what you often end up
with is play that stutters and flops as you reference notes and try to get things
right. It is better to make details up wildly than it is to nitpick. The big picture
is what you need; the players will often run around all over the place, doing all
sorts of weird stuff, and the thing you need to “get right” most of all is the
thread that connects everything else. That’s not an invitation to ignore local
continuity or to avoid recurring details; that’s good stuff, but that stuff arrives
all by itself. Bringing back funny bit part characters and remembering where
you put the noodle shop is, in comparison, the easy part.
SO WHAT AM I DOING?
During homeplay, players might very well go haring off after whatever it is
that strikes them as fun and interesting at the moment. Go right along with
them! Your plan for events can wait while players take care of this or that, do
side scenes, and the like; this isn’t a big deal. They can have discussions and
arguments with local personalities about inconsequential issues; they can go
shopping. Just try to keep up.
Your homeplay situation is for when things start to slow down. It gives you
a contingency plan so that when the players look as if they’re done doing their
own thing for the moment, you don’t need to panic and shout “OH NOES!
NINJAS ATTACK!” - much as ninjas are awesome, it’s lot better if the thing
that happens when there’s time for it to do so is something that pulls the rebels
back into an ongoing piece of action.
IS THAT GOSPEL?
Absolutely not. Each group, and each Guide, is a bit different. Many Guides
have been managing games for years, and have their own tricks and tools
already sharpened up for the free-wheeling style that homeplay provides.
Other Guides will develop such a style in pretty short order. For such Guides,
it can only be hoped that the preparation ideas in the homeplay chapter are of
some use to you as a way to get your whole group thinking of the same kind of
home base. As experienced Guides will already know, well-honed skills can
often manage such matters in ways that are far smoother than any step-by-step
procedure will ever encapsulate.
ON RUNNING MISSIONS
Missions are, of the two basic formats for play, a fair bit simpler. The big trick
to missions is really quite a simple one: Dump everything you’ve got onto the
rebels, fast, and then let them call the shots from there. All of the mission
preparation is designed so that once the rebels have gotten “in”, they’ll know
the basic backstory and have some inside resources to exploit. In general,
they’ll take it from there, scouting things out, blowing stuff up, and generally
making a mess of an already messy situation until it’s time to hit them with a
the big showdown.
IF THINGS STALL
If the players get stumped, and typically only if they get stumped, you can
prompt them with basic rebel procedure: Scout and disrupt everything the
Mastermind runs until you’re ready for a confrontation. While this procedure
may not be particularly subtle or clever, it solves problems and carries the
mission forward. Give them something new to scout, or remind them of
something they might want to smash, and let them go to it.
CRAZY SIDEWAYS PLANS
Players will decide to disrupt the operations of your Mastermind in completely
unexpected ways. This is not a problem. This is, in fact, why threats are
“generic”. Whatever mad thing they do, make a conflict out of it! If they
intend to knock down a building so it falls on a guard tower? That can be a
conflict, too. Just decide what the threat is, give it dice, and go.
SOME FUNDAMENTAL IDEAS
The ideas given here are the basic principles that The Cog Wars assumes that
everyone is onboard for. If these aren’t true of anyone, problems may result.
New Guides are encouraged to go over these ideas with their group.
YOU’RE HERE TO HAVE FUN
If your main goal at the table is something other than having an experience you
enjoy, and that others can enjoy with you, you should be doing something else.
Generally speaking, that means having fun. Sometimes it might be specific,
like crafting a satisfying story together, or having the experience of seeing
things from the perspective of your character, either in addition to or instead of
classically fun stuff. But if what you do when you sit down at the table on any
given night isn’t enjoyable to you, or does not allow enjoyment for others, do
not sit down at that table. Not gaming is better than bad gaming.
PLAYERS ARE REAL; THE GAME IS FICTION
Accept and understand that the players around you are also here to have fun.
Nobody comes to the table to watch one player discuss their character’s stuff
with the Guide when it could wait, or to watch two players crack inside jokes
at each other and exclude everyone else. Nobody hosts a game hoping for a
marathon cleanup session at the end. Nobody comes to the table to be the ego-
boost of anyone else. Never, ever, forget that you are playing with real people.
What you do at the gaming table is your responsibility, and you should accept
this. What others do is their responsibility, and they should accept that, too.
This includes what players decide that their characters does. This includes the
actions of the Guide as world. If playing a character as written could very well
interfere with the fun of others, the player need to decide where to go with that;
it’s their call, and excuses are lame. If someone ruins the game by playing a
character or the world “correctly”, then they still ruined the game.
WATCH THE SPOTLIGHT
At any given instant of play, someone usually has the spotlight. This doesn’t
just mean “one person is talking.” It means that if there are a whole string of
scenes, one person is usually “center stage”; the scene revolves around their
stuff, whether that’s world stuff or character issues or whatever. If that person
isn’t you, then you’re a supporting character in that scene. Try to play good
support, whether that means keeping quiet, offering support or advice, playing
up the effects the setting has on your character a bit, whatever. If that person is
you, fill that scene; it’s there for you to step into. If nobody is sure who should
have the spotlight, act as support for each other, until the focus hits. But watch
that spotlight, too. If you’re getting more than a fair share, work to make more
scenes about other characters. If you’re getting less than your share, then when
a scene doesn’t really have a focus, step up and take it.
No one person at the table has full control over what happens in the game. If
someone does, you get a really boring night. At the very least, a player always
controls one character in the game. There are an infinite number of little
variants on how the GM and the players share control over who gets to put
stuff in to the setting and who can make things up when, and things work best
once the group hits a level of input from each person at the table that they’re
comfortable with. Find that level.
The people at your table have, if your game is actually running at all, a
consensus. The ideas in their heads of what the game is and does match up
well enough to produce good play. Sometimes a group will hit on little
moments when their ideas just don’t match up, and they’ll need to talk about
what this specific thing looks like in their heads and agree on one way to go
about it. Once in a while, one of the people at the table will want to bring
something in that they aren’t sure will match up with what the others have in
their heads, and it’s a good idea for them to mention that before they do.
When problems come up in your group, the first step is to make sure that
everyone at the table is onboard with at least the basic ideas here – they don’t
have to be “skilled” at these things; being onboard is plenty. It’s usually a very
bad idea to try and solve out-of-character problems with in-game events.
That’s dishonest, and doesn’t generally work. Guides using the rules to
“punish” players, or players trying to “get back” at your Guide is bad. Solve
real problems as real people.
SHOW IT AS YOU GO
Almost everybody wants to feel like the fictional world, and the characters in
it, are real to them enough to imagine. This is, of course, achieved by
describing things. But nobody wants to be bored by drawn-out description, or
huge whopping chunks of detail. If the Guide rattles off ten facts about the
place the characters are standing, only the first few will sink in; likewise if a
player does this when describing their character. So, the key is to describe as
you go. If a player wants us to know that her character Jill is a graceful
woman, she shouldn’t simply tell the group that at character creation. Her
description at creation need only be a single, vivid image that she can build on
by describing what and how her character acts - in play, her character “glides”
and “moves nimbly”. . This works in the same way for the Guide. When the
characters walk into a abandoned study, it can simply be an old, dusty study,
smelling of books; as the characters interact with it, the Guide can note the
thick books, the puffs of dust as things are moved. One key to a good
description that’s often missed is that it starts simple and vivid, and grows as
you go, so that it’s never boring.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The Cog Wars and the city of Tiran are purposefully described in very broad
strokes, and are filled with little snippets, details, and concepts that don’t
always tie together. There’s no great big timeline, there isn’t a giant map; the
way that the vast number of the details are arranged in the game is up to your
group. Partly, this is to make it easy to get a group together and start playing a
mission right away - there isn’t a heavily detailed history to worry about
learning. Players don’t need to worry that they are “doing it wrong”. Instead,
players and Guides are encouraged to flesh out the setting in a way that is
pleasing to their group, using the background as inspiration, not as a straight-
jacket, to their creativity.
As a Guide, most of this work is yours. But it isn’t hard to share it out with
the rest of the group if you’re inclined to do so. You can ask the players to
write histories for their characters, sketch drawings, make maps; many players
enjoy the chance to be creative in these ways, and it’s worth appreciating.
One easy way to tie everything together and to make your group’s vision of
Tiran uniquely your own is to take some time to throw ideas around. This is
simply getting together, either before a mission starts on game night or on
another evening altogether, and simply brainstorming ideas for the game. How
formally you approach it is up to you. It can be as structured as a board-
meeting or as casual as chewing the fat over a couple of sodas. Many groups
toss around ideas after each session, chatting about what was awesome, what
they want to dig into a little further, and many other ideas, and this acts in the
same way. The important thing is for everyone to come with some ideas about
what they’ve liked so far, and what they’d like to see more of in the game.
Here are a few to consider:
Your Tiran isn’t the same as our Tiran. It might be brighter, sadder, grittier,
more or less desperate. We don’t know what your Tiran is like, figuring that
out will help your group of players make this city and the struggles of their
heroes very much your own.
When you meet to brainstorm, go ahead and toss out those little ideas you’ve
had while reading the rules or playing a mission. You can have something as
simple as a cool non-villain character, a nifty section of barrio, or even part of
a scene you’d like to flesh out. The important part is giving members of your
group a chance to hear about it and add ideas of their own.
You can do the same thing with the overall situation in Tiran also. As you
and your friends play thorough missions, it will change Tiran (hopefully for the
better!). Defeating Masterminds will change the attitudes of people in Tiran.
Other Masterminds will note the rebel characters as enemies to be spied on and
moved against. The great issues of the day (Cog Liberation, the place of kids
and geezers in society, the population rousing themselves to action, inspired by
the actions of the rebels) will change the climate of the city. All of this can be
fleshed out just as easily as a villain or mission.
The role of the Guide in such a discussion is to lead the group to new ideas,
ask questions, and then fuse all of that stuff in with your own ideas and the text
of this book.
The Cog Wars was designed to be easy to learn, even for folks who’ve never
played a role-playing game. The rules for resolving conflicts are very straight
forward, and the mission structure is there to give the players guidance on
running a classic rebel adventure. After a session or two, it’s a good bet that
all players will know the vast majority of the rules, whether they are the rules
for playing a rebel hero or acting as a Guide for a mission. Thus, it’s possible
to rotate Guides from mission to mission, if the group wants to do so.
Acting as the Guide for a Mission presents a player with different sorts of
in-game duties than playing a rebel hero. Some players will absolutely enjoy
taking that role and will leap at the opportunity to do so. Other folks will try it
with a bit more trepidation.
First thing to remember: You’re playing The Cog Wars with a group of your
friends. Don’t be afraid, ever, to slow things down and ask for suggestions,
whether for the next scene in a mission, for ideas for stakes, or for the next
mission the group is going to play. The more that you get in that habit, the
more likely it is that your campaign is going to be one that your group will
enjoy and feel like they personally own.
The second thing to remember: Players that have played both a rebel
character and have acted as Guide for a mission or two are going to have a
wider perspective on the game. It’s encouraged for everyone to make a hero
they want to play, regardless of whether they are going to act as Guide for a
Rebel heroes can be imagined as busy spying and plotting their next move
between missions. Not every character will go on every mission. Sometimes
they’ll be busy taking care of their “normal” life, resting up, or busy contacting
other rebel groups. For the character belonging to a Guide, feel free to come
up with that off-screen stuff and tell the rest of the group or ask for their
suggestions. During the mission itself, the Guide’s personal character is
considered to be too busy or too secretive to be available to help out the
characters that are on the current operation. They’ll become available again
when a different player is acting as Guide.
We, the people of Tiran,
Have been under the boots of too many masters for too many
years. Once we stood united against a mad prince in a summer
revolt, and tore the crowns from the heads of a foul aristocracy,
but our fires have died down.
We face no one enemy in these days, but many.
Our councils and leaders are corrupt. The wealth of the city flows
only into the hands of a few, who use it to oppress the many.
We have made new life, and we spit on it. Those Cogs that rise to
think and feel are our brothers, yet they are punished for that
We make slaves of ourselves, accepting crushing debt and terms
of payment that chain us in factories, to live and sleep on the
benches of those that own them.
The aristocracy renews itself, changing the laws to revive their old
And we, the people, have done nothing.
We will awaken.
We will name those that steal from us and call them enemy. We
will go to their strongholds and the fastnesses of their power, and
drag them down.
We are the people, and this is our will. Those that stand in the
way of the people are puppets, lackeys, and bearers of whips. To
them, beware. You are not of the people, are not for the people,
and will not be dealt with gently.
Those of us who speak for the voiceless, who fight for the
...You call us rebels. So be it.