Handbook For Players
Writing by Levi Kornelsen and Kim Lam
Considering by Laura Hamilton and Holly Tetz
Cantripification by Layne Myrhe
Art by Gustav Dore
Playtesting by Levi, Kim, Laura, Holly, Layne, Alina, Lloyd,
Michael, Lachlan, Nikolai, Brooke, Lil’ Brooke, Rebecca.,
Rory, Dan, Noah
All art is in the public domain, and free for any use.
All text is copyright of Levi Kornelsen and
Kim Lam, 2009-2010. Permission is given to
duplicate this work, in whole or in part, for personal use.
Chapter 1: The Stage 4 Chapter 4: Lineage 26
You Are A Magician 5 Channel 28
The Nation of Ruritania 6 Host 30
Social Tensions 8 Shard 32
Magical Society 10 Spoil 34
Cosmology 12 Vessel 36
Chapter 2: Character 14 Spark 39
Character Basics 15
Gear & Retainers 16 Chapter 5: Guild 40
Finishing Touches 18 Brewers 42
Experience 19 Scribes 44
Chapter 3: Origins 20 Smiths 48
Blueblood 21 Weavers 50
Guilder 22 Tinkers 52
Hierarch 24 Chapter 6: Gameplay 54
Strangeling 25 The Nine Rules 54
Region Lists 60
Ruritania is a theatre game, or live-action roleplaying game. This means that
every player has their own character, a persona they dress up as from time to
time to attend events where they interact as that person with others doing the
same. At these events, characters will discuss events, trade goods, politick,
come into agreements and have disputes, all in pursuit of drama, pageantry,
and entertainment of other sorts for the players.
The game also has significant downtime components. This means players
will fill out little notes to describe what their character is doing in the fictional
world of play, and those notes are managed with rules. The purpose of this is so
that the characters can build and manage resources for use at events, and
explore the occurrences of the world they live in.
Finally, the game will often have independent combat and interaction
scenes spurred by actions done in events or in downtime. These are usually
managed separately from dress-up events, often by sitting down over coffee or
the like. Heavy combat scenes, especially, are often best managed as sit-
downs on the side using tokens and “combat maps”. This allows for plenty of
tactical detail and action, and means that players wanting to play the
“heavies” of the game have plenty of opportunities to shine.
This game works to more-or-less integrate five types of play, each of which is
broad enough that it could legitimately be called a game unto itself.
The Interpersonal Game
Players can come into the game and play it improv-style, as something that
resembles an ongoing soap opera. To help with this, the game as a whole
provides flavor, a stage, and a few of core rules (which is about all that’s
needed). If this is main appeal of the game to you, be aware that most of the
page count of this book is targeted at other kinds of fun; you’ll likely find
yourself reading for flavor more than for crunchy rules bits.
The Narrative Game
The setting of the game is in motion; there are political and magical situations,
each of which could be resolved in several different ways. Players can throw
their characters into this mix, and change the fictional world. Chances are
good that this will run them right into other characters with contrary interests
(partly because the organizers will try to make sure that this happens).
The Political Game
Players can come into the game with characters that want to lead and organize
the others. This can be a lot of fun, but one warning applies: In this game, a
leadership type will likely end up running into mercantile action, territory
discussions, and the like; those parts of the game were deliberately build so
that politics would be about land and trade more than being about pageantry
and showmanship. If that strikes you as a net positive, you’re set.
The Mercantile Game
Many of the abilities characters can possess are based on crafts, and much of
the downtime engine is about creating wealth. Taking the time to build up a
stock, trading, and otherwise playing at getting the best stuff, is absolutely part
of the fun that the game supports.
The Combative Game
Combat is a central par of the overall game, though not necessarily central to a
given character. All of the characters in the game can fight, and some of them
are specialists. Much of the stuff of trade is combative gear. You might want to
be the big bruiser; you might want to hire the bruiser to help you out, or you
might want to form a group of others to scrape through these things together.
Any way you approach, eventually, there’s always the question of force.
The nine rules given here encompass “how things work” in gameplay. These
are active rules - things you do, rather than things you must avoid. This doesn’t
mean players are free to be jerks in real life; it simply means that being a jerk is
managed outside of game rules.
1. The Rule Of Yes
The base resolution for all actions is If you paid for it, it happens. All attacks
hit, all powers work, all the time; there are no randomizers or complex resolu-
tion systematics involved in the game. Tactical complexity in the game is cre-
ated by many-on-many combats; in a one-on-one conflict the question isn't
one of probabilities, but how much damage you're willing to take.
2. The Rule Of Lame
If any player makes a declaration or takes an action that will flatly ruin the
game for you, simply declare "That's Lame". If other players to agree with you
that it's lame, then it doesn't happen. Note that rules-based actions are part of
the basic nature of play, and it’s very odd to call those lame. Attempting to
finesse the rules to get a stupid result is lame; creating a "revenge character" is
lame, killing off a character when there's all sorts of interesting goodness in
capturing them instead might be lame (or it might not). Don't do lame things.
3. The Rule Of Black
If any player is wearing black, or other very dark colors, with no logos, that is to
be treated as "appropriate clothing" by all players. While full costume is cer-
tainly appreciated (and how!), it's understood that sometimes it's just not easy
to do, because of costs, other events in the same day, or the like. Partial costum-
ing with an otherwise-black outfit is also encouraged, where full costuming is
4. The Rule Of Tags
If a place or item is "tagged" with a game tag that says indicates what it is, then
that's what it is. Tags are sometimes also chits and cards for resources, or sticky
notes on scenes to describe where they are.
5. The Rule Of Stages
Any playing space for the game will be marked out into "stages" - one of these
will generally be some main set piece location, while added stages will be
blank - players can use these and tag them as whatever place they like.
6. The Rule Of Circles
The game has check-in on entry, and check-out circle at the end. Don't skip
either one if you can help it; these are how your get and deposit item chits, and
where experience is given out.
7. The Rule Of Blood
When you take damage, you have options. You can:
• Cross off as many health as the damage you took. If you don't have
enough health left, you can't do this.
• Fall unconscious. If you're already unconscious, you can't do this.
• Take a Scar. Scars are a way to track the times you’ve cheated death; see
the Rule Of Scars, below. If you have three scars, you can't do this.
• Die. Upon death, the soul(s) of the character fall into Styx, and lose track
of their present life. A character can’t return from death without help.
8. The Rule Of Scars
Scars are permanent. When you take a scar, if you are unconscious, you may
invoke ‘plot immunity’. You fall off the waterfall, are left for dead, etc. Other
players are required to assist in this; if a character is beaten into being scarred
and invokes immunity, the others simply may not finish them (though they
may ‘throw them in jail’ or the like).
9. The Rule Of Combat
When characters are running about and flinging effects around in ways that
can easily overlap and conflict - most usually meaning, when there’s a fight -
the action may very well be paused, and people told to “act in turn”. Anyone
can call for combat time if they believe it will be needed. Combat time is
managed in the following way:
• The first character to take aggressive action gets the first “go”. They are
followed by everyone opposed to their actions, and then by everyone on
the same side as they are, and then by anyone else, and then start again. In
a scene that was set up specifically for a fight, the organizers will instead
just say “this side goes first”.
• On your turn, you can take three actions. An action is moving two steps,
making an attack, changing your equipment, or using a power. You can
only make one attack each round. Many powers “count as your attack” -
this is shorthanded by calling those powers attack actions and calling
everything else a general action.
• If you have retainers, they go at the same time as you, but try to spend all
the actions of each individual you control at once, so that you don’t lose
track of how many actions and of what kind each one has left.
Ruritania is a game of melodrama. It is not intended for players who like sitting
in their Fortress of Solitude. Characters are expected to confront each other
rather than engage in shadow wars. However, without some commonality
among players, attempts at melodrama can easily become gonzo instead. So,
here are some guidelines, pulled from improv theatre. Don't feel like you need
to hit all of these all the time - that's a lot of work, and the game is for fun.
While there will often be a central location for characters to gather at games,
the Organizers encourage players to start their own side scenes in different
locations as needed; there will usually be a couple of little 'stages' marked off
for this. This can be for clandestine meetings, grand speeches, flashbacks, love,
murder, mayhem.... When starting these scenes, there are some things you can
do to set it up for melodrama.
• Set the Ground First: Big crazy action stops being big and crazy if it's all
there is. "Grounding" a scene can be done by starting off with low-key
action, or making sure you actually describe the entry to the scene in pro-
saic terms. You need to see the street before the explosion demolishes it.
• Enter With Purpose: When you're about to enter a scene, consider what
your character wants. Be on the scene for a reason, to get something
done. In group scenes, "I'm here to back up another character"
is absolutely a purpose.
Exits & Level-Breaks
Letting a scene drone on because no one's quite sure what else to do can be
irritating. Here are some ideas on changing and ending scenes.
• Exit with purpose: If possible, leave looking to go and do something. This
can actually be harder than entering with purpose, but it's a lot easier to
fake. The idea is end scenes definitively, rather than having them trail off
and linger (unless there's someone poised to barge in and level-break you
waiting in the wings. Then you trail..... and bang.)
• Level-Breaking Starts New Scenes: A level-break is when you step into a
quiet discussion with an announcement of violence, or into a giggle-fest to
inform everyone that one of their friends is dead. When you do this, you're
trying to replace the current scene with a new one. It can be just what is
needed, especially if the current scene is meandering. However, if you get
into the habit of level-breaking, you can end up calling for weaker scenes
in the middle of stronger ones - not so good. If you're uncertain, take time
to assess the scene before bursting in, looking for the moment to pounce.
While YouÊre In There
Now that you're in the scene, with a purpose, here are some ways to keep it
• Be Affected MORE, Not Less: The single fastest way to kill drama of all
kinds is to "refuse the offer". If someone tries to intimidate you, and you
aren't scared or angered or affected in any way, you're refusing the of-
fer. This doesn't mean that you should be scared every time something is
scary; ruffling in a clear display of "And now, I'm being brave" is a way to
accept the offer. But the cool, detached character that simply 'lets things
slide right off' is anathema - and often even starts finding that they're be-
ing excluded from this stuff, since they're not really playing with those
doing such stuff. If everything has an effect on you (even if it's sometimes
completely weird), you're in the drama. And if you want to move from
drama to melodrama, be affected MORE, not less.
• Angst Happens Off-Stage, Pathos Happens On: Characters in melodrama
will, on account of everything mattering more, suffer. However, charac-
ters that are suffering silently aren't engaging. There are techniques in
television and film to make it work, but they don't fly in larp; you just end
up bored stiff (Many new Vampire players learn this the hard way, sadly.
We sure did). Pathos, however - having bit of a breakdown, a binge of
drink, and then rallying at a few words from a friend (or a cold dunk-
ing), that flies. You want your suffering to splash onto others.
• Escalate Hard, And Inaccurately.: Melodrama escalates hard and inaccu-
rately. A flirty glance demands Love At First sight. An perceived insult
demands not a slap, but a challenge of honor. This falls in line with 'being
affected more", but it's also about about being a dolt. To players of high-
intrigue games, this can equally be read as "Be easy to manipulate", and
that's totally the case. In melodrama, the cold, manipulative, villain
should get shockingly good results a couple of times... And should then
get lynched. If this occurs in the game, the organisers will not protect said
villian from the upcoming lynching of their character; we will expect you
to enjoy it.
• Go Line-By-Line The best dialogue for purposes of entertainment moves
between participants often and quickly. If you want a scene to build, keep
everything you say to a single sentence at a time, and try to make the sen-
tences snap (watch some professional improv - this is nearly universal, and
on purpose). If you want a scene to cool, use proper sentence structure, and
two sentences at a go. If you want to put everyone to sleep, or
you want your speech to be background, start monologuing. (If you actu-
ally do want to act as backdrop, start a scene where you are monologuing
at a crowd that is offstage, with the other players behind you. This almost
completely assures wit occurring back there.)
This game occurs in an alternate pseudo-history. This is a world where most of
Grimm’s Fairy Tales are distorted version of historical events, and one where
the author H.P. Lovecraft will one day be a prominent scholar, without needing
to change his subject matter terribly far. It follows the same rough timeline as
real history, and most of the place-names are the same, but the details vary in a
number of cases - there were many Kings named Louis in France, to be sure,
and the dates of their reigns are within a ear of being the same, but at least
three of them were the very same man reborn through some unknown magic.
This difference isn’t a secret from the people of the world; there are plenty of
ratcatchers that can quote you rates for the removal of boggans, piskies, and
other varying forms of small mad Fae things. People believe in monsters. But
keep in mind that “not a secret” isn’t at all the same as “understood”. There are
comparatively few scholars in mystical lore outside of practicing magicians,
and practicing magicians aren’t all that keen on widespread fame. So, faced
with magic of significance, people make do with a blend of local superstition,
varying religious practices, and rumored advice supposedly offered by some
local magician or another.
It is 1844.
It is a time of rapid technological change, but society is slow to adapt.
Although social stratification crumbling as the balance of power moves from
the aristocracy to the middle classes, few realize the extent of the changes…
• Gas, Steam and Electricity: Steam is replacing horse power and the sail,
and electricity competes with it to provide the next great wave of power
supply. In large cities, gas is the preferred form of lighting, though it
produces a flickering yellow flame not much better than oil and
candles. In Ruritania, gaslighting is in the process of becoming a reality;
Schoelin has a small gasworks and several areas lit in this manner.
• Weaponry: The proto-revolver has just recently come into common use, as
has the packeted bullet - shot and ball in a paper sleeve together. Sabers,
swords, and similar bladed weapons remain quite popular as well; at the
same time, unusual combinations and experimental weapons are also
common. Laws for control of firearms exist in Ruritania, specifically
banning multi-shot weapons. These are enforced zealously. Conversely,
Ruritania has no edged weapon control laws whatsoever, and it is quite
common for members of polite society to carry weapons which they have
the skills to use in a lethal manner.
• Transportation: Outside of rail, transport is mostly horse-drawn; bicycles
are only just coming into fashion. To make up for it, there are
efficient messenger services, and small cab and carriage stands are
relatively common in towns and in the city itself.
• Entertainment: Much is often home-made; the phonograph is still more of
a curiosity than a serious rival to live music. Common hobbies include
photography (which goes by many names based on the chemicals used),
various forms of collecting, handicrafts, and gardening. The main sources
of ‘massed’ entertainment are Theatre and Opera, which are very popular.
• Clubs, Salons, and Dinner Parties: This is an era in which most of the social
gatherings and institutions of the higher classes are rigid and formalized.
Gentlemen’s clubs, Ladies’ salons (and mixed salons), and dinner parties
each have sets of expectations which would be more than sufficient to fill
a volume or two. These strictures are sometimes pointless, but on those
instances where guests have differing and volatile views, it’s possible for a
skilled hostess (or sometimes host) to see that friction turned at least partly
into a better evening rather than a worse one.
• Sexism: This isn’t quite history in terms of women’s roles, but it certainly
isn’t equality, either. Women taking on roles that are traditionally male
are somewhat more often viewed as eccentric, rather than dangerous. In
Ruritania specifically, eccentricity is pretty common, but sniffy attitudes,
crude jokes, and “prove it” challenges abound.
Ruritania is a small, ’backwater’ nation in the extreme south of Germany, from
one point of view. However, people do come to it on ships; there’s a pot town. If
you know your geography, this doesn't make any sense at all. There's a running
theory among some magicians that the country sits sidelong to normal reality -
that it's a 'faerie kingdom'. But the nation isn’t not overtly strange; the people
are people, the magic is magic.
The Five Towns
Ruritania has five towns of significant size (as well as a number of hamlets and
other minor centers). The towns are...
• Tor Eisen is the port town on the west end of the nation; it is harsh, dirty,
mercantile, and extremely lower-class. Where much of the nation is quiet
and sedate, Tor Eisen is almost frenetic.
• Schoelin is the capital; it's the (semi-)sparkling center of the nation. The
highlights of Schoelin are the estates around the edge of town; as one
progresses towards the centre, the class falls rapidly. For most of the upper
classes, the Schoelin ‘ring’ is the basis of society.
• Wierstaad sits on the pass to the north into the German states. It began
life as a temporary military training camp and base, and remains cleanly
laid out, military in management, and quiet.
• Hoherabbey is the eastern tip of the nation, and is built on the slope of
mount Pfander, around an abbey and a cathedral. The town is known both
for the excellent masonry of the building, and the salt mines of the slope.
• Dolchmarkierung is south of Schoelin in the deep forest, and is even more
of a backwater than the rest of the nation; in many respects, this town is
The Ruritanian Character
The people of Ruritania aren’t terribly strange, but they do have their quirks.
A few things that set Ruritanians apart:
• Rover-Love: According to local legend, the first king of Ruritania was a
Gypsy. Or a pirate. Or a bandit. Or some other form of roguish wanderer ;
the legends vary. Whatever the case, the common folk have a deep and
abiding appreciation for wandering scoundrels, and young people
(mostly, but not always, men) will occasionally go “on a wander” at some
point in adolescence. The upper classes hate this sort of thing.
• An “Orthodox” Church: The local branch of the Christian faith has long
since made its peace with the people of the nation, at the cost of being
entirely disavowed by almost all other branches. Folk rituals, such as
leaving out bread for ghosts in harvest-time, have simply been absorbed
into church practice. This flexibility has eliminated almost every other
branch of ‘folk’ religious practice into a single mass, with the possible
exception of the legendary witches of the Thornwood. Ruritanians, thus,
are almost universally Christian, after their fashion, and the church is a
powerful unifier between the high and the low.
• The Bohemian Affection: Absinthe has made it’s inroads into Ruritanian
culture in almost entirely upside-down fashion. It is the liqueur of choice
among the idle petty nobility (as opposed to the working rich of the
Volker Haus). The Knights and Dames of the nation, already only a few
steps above the forming “middle class”, have been forming up around a
new artistic culture of their own patronage, open to many.
Seen From The Gutter
Many of the people of Ruritania are upset, and the reasons, while currently
inflamed by the recent royal endorsement of sorcery, are certainly not limited
to that debate. Other topics which often create civil debate, concern, and ac-
tion are listed here, from least to most recent:
• Modernity: From a gutter perspective, every single social ill that exists in
the nation can be laid squarely at the feet of (firstly) the King and (now)
the Volker Haus coming into a desire for the country to “become modern”,
a desire that has led to pointless political waste, heavy oppression in many
quarters, and no actual benefits in terms of wealth created to date.
• Law, Appeal, and Prison Death: Since the 1810’s, Ruritania has been a
member of the German “Federal Diet”, a series of documents and complex
negotiations. One of the side effects of this membership is the requirement
for courts of law to have a ‘ladder of appeals’. In the case of Ruritania, the
‘ladder of appeal’ moves outside the country and into the Kingdom of
Saxony. Those imprisoned for political reasons often have their appeals
delayed for years, and those making appeals to the point of leaving the
nation have often been subject to violence from the guard.
• Factory Conditions: As is the case in many countries during the industrial
revolution, the working conditions of those employed in factories are
atrocious, leading to tension between workers and factory owners.
• The Constitutional Riots: From 1831-33, rioting erupted in many German
states, as the people of the nation sought to have their rights protected in
the form of a constitution. In Ruritania, these riots were suppressed bru-
tally, almost savagely, and only partial efforts at appeasement were made.
• The Joke of Parliament: In 1833, to quell the rioting, a weak constitution
and weaker parliament, known as the Volker Haus, were enacted. This
new parliament became a bureaucratic busywork, and another financial
sink on the country.
• Censorship: After the ongoing vitriol of the press to the newly-embodied
parliament, a board of Censors was created in 1836, and based on an
existing system of application and license for all printing operations.
• Faith In The King: While the King began his reign as a popular figure, the
general feeling is that he has become corrupt, seeking a "bigger picture"
with such fervor that it's badly hurting the smallfolk that actually make
up the nation. It is common practice for the people to pray for the recovery
of his judgement, and for the return of his health if that goes well.
Seen From The Top
Naturally, those in power (and those affiliated with them) look at these issues
in some radically different ways that those who advocate civil protest, criti-
cism, and revolutionary activity:
• Law, Appeal, and Prison Death: The legal doctrines of the Federal Diet are
a first step toward a unified German state, without needing to throw away
the still-useful systems of older times. That some wish to overthrow the
system should shock nobody. Their failure is also no surprise.
• Factory Conditions and The Brink of Hunger: The people have demanded
prosperity. To give them these things requires that the nation put forth
the great effort of an industrial nation. As the nation grows into the
modern age, many of these problems will resolve on their own.
• The Constitutional Riots and Parliament: The people of the country have
long desired a voice. But only those with a true understanding of the
issues can make wise decisions. We cannot afford for a man to be
given bread and circuses at the expense of the nation; for this reason, to
verify and seal the rights of the people into law must necessarily be a most
careful process, lest the greed of a few who know the law too well over-
come and abolish the needs of others. A strong constitution is certainly
desirable, but it must be reached slowly and carefully - to give in to every
demand of a mob is a sure sign that anarchy cannot be far away.
• Censorship: With such complex issues at hand, and so many decisions that
must be made which take away the flippant desires of today to meet the
bare needs of tomorrow, inflamed and rash opinions must not be allowed
to run rampant. Loud simplicity may be an easy path to take, but it will
not feed our grandchildren in the world that is being built.
• Faith In The King: On the whole, the nobility feel that the king has "grown
sensible" in his later years, and has become an agent of Progress and Unity.
This game is about magicians. Specifically, the action centers on what are
called lineage magician, as opposed to hedge magicians, a distinction that
vaults the action directly into the realm of the superhumanly potent. Whether
or not a lineage magician is even truly human is seriously questionable.
Why So Scary?
From an outside viewpoint, the lineage magicians could be easily be shown off
as the monsters of the setting. Each of them is formed by an unholy fusion
between a human with merely “natural” magical powers and a gateway to
other-planar things which are, for normal people, insanity-inducing in their
sheer wrongness. However, since these are the people that you’ll be playing,
they are presented in a much less emotionally charged fashion. For the most
part, lineage magicians are neither truly good nor truly evil; they’re confusing
and confused individuals with more power than they understand. They’re
people. But they are people whole live on a different scale, and the reasons for
the difference do matter.
A Word On Secrecy
Magicians in the setting are not a
secret. People in general know
about the existence of magicians,
and have varying views on them.
For the most part, lineage magicians
keep the exact extent of their power
a secret - they might very well be
able to hack their way through a
crowd or flatten a building, but that
doesn’t make them immune to mobs,
poisons, or snipers. Most lineage
magicians like to be viewed with a
little awe, a little fear - but the
smart ones keep those proportions at
“a little”, in defense of their own
lives and livelihoods.
A Quick Overview: True & False
Here’s some fast “true and false” about magicians in this setting...
• Magicians deal with devils: Not quite true. Magicians certainly deal with
otherworldly stuff, and their inborn powers are not quite human in origin,
but neither are they something demonic. Shapeless creatures of green and
liquid metal, rifts in space, and unspeakable sights from beyond the walls
of reality are much more in the general province of magicians than devils.
• Magic is passed through the blood: True. The magicians of the game fall
into five diverse lineages, which make up the quasi-organisation called
the great families.
• Magicians sometimes create enchanted items: Significantly more true in
the setting than in many stories. Each magician in the game possesses a
magical crafting skill which they practice regularly. Petty magical items
are trade goods in the great families.
• Magicians, like other supernaturals, must be invited in to your home: True
and false. There is such a thing as a 'threshold effect', which curtails the
power of magical beings inside it that are uninvited. However, the effect
covers an area larger than a home - usually, a whole neighborhood falls
under a single threshold effect. Each threshold is centered on a 'hearth',
the location where magical energy in that area gathers naturally, and
which occasionally generates 'keys' - items, rituals, or people allowing
access to the power of the region. A magician without a hearth-key for a
region has serious problems operating inside its threshold.
• Magicians are part of a strange world of Fae and monsters: True. There
are uncountable kinds of beings that look to hearths as a source for power,
and magicians must occasionally deal with all of them. For the most part,
these beings are totally uncommunicative and entirely alien, and
magicians deal with them by attempting to simply wipe them out and
claim their hearths. However, some of these being are much more person-
able, and occasional alliances and friendships do occur.
• There are "high" magicians and "hedge" magicians: True. Any lineage
magician can use vastly greater amounts of power than any hedge
magicians. Hedge magic is "crafting" magic, and is largely ritual; lineage
magicians have access to crafting and lineage abilities, which work on the
spot and are, for the most part, combat-capable. Magicians played in the
game are lineage magicians.
• Magicians are tied to places, ley lines and focuses: Partly true. Lineage
magicians draw power from hearths, but don't manipulate the flow of
power from one hearth to another. There are people capable of this feat,
though, called Hearthbonded. Almost all Hearthbonded are descended
of people local to the region since time out of mind.
Everything that dreams creates Quina, a form of energy. Quina is tricky stuff
to quantify; it acts according to rules native more to the unconscious mind
rather than bowing to physics; it is tied to primal powers not because it must be
but because those things matter to those that create it. Quina is the foundation
of all magic.
The Loose Flow Of Power
Where things dream, Quina moves, seeking other Quina that carries similar
imprints. This flow occurs in pools that mirror the living spaces of the dreamers;
a street or neighborhood has one distinct ‘pool’, while the next block over, a
different pool is in motion. Each flow finds a central locus - a place or thing
that enough dreamers imprint into it regularly, and which is not active in itself.
This locus becomes the place where the flow collects; the touchstone for the
power moving through that immediate area. Such spots are known to
magicians by many names, but most commonly as Hearths.
Hearths, Thresholds, And Keys
As a Hearth gathers age and power, it has a number of effects on the area.
First, the presence of a Hearth causes the pool of power that created it to grow
more difficult to influence; a magician wishing to cast a spell or activate an
item within that pool must work harder. This is known as the threshold effect.
At the same time, certain actions, items, or persons become imbued with a sort
of ‘trust’ from the Hearth - those performing such actions, carrying such items,
or who have been well-referenced by those persons are not affected by the
threshold effect. Such actions, items, and persons are generally known as
As well as centralizing the flow of power in a region, a Hearth also comes to
store Quina. Left to itself, fragments of this power will attain a process that
resembles thinking, and emerge as Fae. These beings are formed, however,
from the impulses of dreaming minds - and not only human ones. They are
always confusing to deal with, usually nonsensical, and sometimes horrifyingly
dangerous. Left long enough, a hearth will spin out many Fae, which will
slowly cull and duplicate until a sort of community forms. A mature Hearth
that has seen no interference for decades will become a Fae Court, which may
be protective of it’s dreamers, or predatory, or any mixture of the two. Such
Courts exist in states of permanent competition; even the most benevolent of
Courts with regards to their dreamers still cull their own ranks constantly.
Of course, things don’t tend to be left untouched. Creatures living in an area
for many generations, who dream of the personalities of places, sometimes
adapt. The signal adaptation to magic is the ability to force it out from a
Hearth; the Hearthbonded are those who possess this capacity. Powerful and
gifted Hearthbonded, who have not only become aware of this ability (most do
not), and have practiced their powers for a significant amount of time, can
cause vast flows of power from one Hearth to another. A few Hearthbonded
have become lords over Fae courts, simply by being able to feast or starve those
courts at will. Hearthbonded have existed from time before memory.
At some point in prehistory, some Hearthbonded were instead born with the
capacity to force Quina out of Hearths and into material form. Those that were
born empowered in this way became a new kind of magic-worker. Each
family line of such magicians, developed and refined the ability to craft a few
kinds of magical items. For the most part, these Hedge Magicians outpaced the
original Hearthbonded; almost any town has a Hedge Magician or a cluster of
them somewhere, while only a few towns have a Hearthbonded in their ranks.
As it happens, this earthly arrangement of power is unusual in the greater
scheme of reality (though not unique). On most planes of existence, the local
“Fae” are dominant, and dreamers are bred for their ability to generate Quina.
In their travels, a number of wanderers from such other planes have found their
way to our reality. Such beings found the local powers laughable, and began
to establish centers of power - the first human cities. In those cities, these alien
gods opened gates to their own planes, letting the rules of far realities leak
across. Such power brought about an age of tyranny under beings that wished
to remake the human mind into a form more suitable for giving them power.
In the cities of the Outsiders, mad attempts and experiments were untertaken,
as hedge magicians sought to eke out some form of existence. They worked to
draw tainted Quina from the gates to alien realities, whether to challenge the
alien gods or to gain a place of power at their right hand. Their failures were
immense. The few and awesome successes came when they transformed their
own bodies into gateways to other-planar power, inheriting an entire new
suite of powers and abilities, and the ability to store Quina within themselves.
These successes were the first Lineage Magicians, and between them, they
shattered the thrones of the Outsiders. The alien gods were driving into hiding
by humans who had stolen and mastered their own powers. Your ancestors.
There Planes That Matter
From the viewpoint of a lineage magician, four planes of existence matter.
Foremost among them, of course, is Reality - the plane where human beings
live out their lives. After that, it gets a little stranger.
• Styx: The shadowed plane of ghosts, Styx is the source of power for the
lineage known as Hosts. Despite the macabre nature of the plane, it is far
more hospitable to human interaction than Lethe or Gehenna; there is a
ground and a sky, rivers, boats, and (formerly) human residents.
• Lethe: A plane of liquid silver, which is both the medium in which the
denizens live and the stuff of their bodies, Lethe is the source of power for
the lineage known as Vessels. The plane is not especially conducive to the
presence of normal humans - there is no real gravity, no indications of
direction; there seem to be no language-bearing residents, although some
Shard explorers speak of great stony vessels delving in these ‘waters’.
• Gehenna: A great vortex of incandescent and freezing fire, Gehenna is the
source of power for the lineage known as Channels. The plane is actively
hostile to non-Channels, being a blazing and spinning shoal of energy and
destruction inhabited only by beings of utter cold and by flocks of strange
and singing crystals.
And There Are Un-Places Between
Lineage magicians draw on the other planes regularly, but they don’t usually
go all the way across and visit. They do, however, often tap into the taint that
those other planes cast onto reality, stepping into areas often called
“Backstages”. A backstage (properly called an Immrama) is a reflection of
reality. A magician in a backstage is insubstantial and invisible to those in the
real world, but they remain solid and substantial to that mage. Magical
theories suppose that the Backstages are part of a locus of distance, a place-
that-isn’t, from which the Lineage most often called Shards draws their powers.
And Places Further Beyond
A few hardy (and possibly insane) Shards have spent time venturing in these
places, seeking pathways that would link them to still other planes. There are
tales of following the ships of Lethe back to a place of sparking stones, of
strange outposts sighted in the vortex of Gehenna. However, most venturers
instead make their explorations up the many-headed river of Styx; those who
return sometime tell of finding ghosts of non-human races, and some claim to
have found pathways up into the worlds of such peoples.
T he ÂBlack BackstageÊ
T he ÂSilver BackstageÊ
T he ÂW hite BackstageÊ
The first lineage magicians changed themselves from hedge magicians into
something significantly more potent and less human. Their children inherited
much of this power, and generations since then have inherited it in turn, for
something approximating five thousand years. In that time, lineage magicians
have organized themselves in a great many ways, and each of those forms of
organization has left traces behind.
The original lineage magicians all mimicked what they had heard of one
another, but they did so over great distances, over a span of a few hundred
years. Each lineage, bonded to one “outside reality”, also came into existence
in a different place. The Styx-bonded Hosts were founded in and around
Egypt; the healing and diseased Spoils came into their power among the
proto-Celts. The Channels, linked to ice and light, came into existence in the
area know known as Poland. The original ’homeland’ of the Vessels was
blasted from the earth in their uprising; it is remembered as Atlantis. The only
lineage that never had a homeland was the Shards, linked to travel itself.
These original lineages spread through many peoples, meeting from time to
time. Where they met, they most often met as rivals for territory and Quina. A
great number of struggles are remembered as “lineage wars”, though it seems
likely that they never actually involved enough people to be worthy of the
name. But while most struggled, a few traded the various craft items that their
respective lines had become able to create. The alliances of these traders grew
more potent and wealthy as time went on, and a few of them discovered the
combination of powers that would change everything.
The Rise Of The Ancients
A stable group of lineage magicians that spans a few different lineages can, by
using specific powers, set up a means by which all the members are regularly
reincarnated into new bodies after death. Hosts and Spoils are most necessary
to forming such an arrangement, but other lines can bring their gifts to bear as
well. This fact did not escape the notice of magicians in times past, once they
got down to really talking, and led to the creation of small circles of magicians
attempting to keep such a cycle running over time. Such groups have varying
“staying power”; some manage a few reincarnations, while other such circles
have managed to last hundreds of years. The member-beneficiaries of these
groups have come to be known as Ancients.
The benefits of cross-family trade, one combined with the lure of possible
immortality, were simply too much to resist. Within a hundred years of the
first reincarnations, communities that had been steadfastly single-lineage
purists were inviting the descendants of other lineages to join them. Lineage
magicians mixed in great numbers. However, despite this general trend of
mixing, no single “social order” ever became truly dominant. Instead, what
grew up was a multiplicity of different organizations, including…
• Ancient Circles: Naturally, many magicians worked to create groups and
circles for reincarnation. Many of these persist even now; cities and large
regions are often quietly “guided” and “advised” by increasingly cautious
(and powerful) Ancients.
• Guilds: In time, it was found that while a lineage mage can learn only one
set of “crafting arts”, they don’t need to learn the same set as their parents.
This discovery led to many long-term deals being sealed with fosterage
across lineage lines, a practice so successful that most lineage magicians
have to pause to remember which lineages originally had which crafts.
• Charters: Those able to craft magical inks, known as Scribes, have long
been able to draft binding contracts among those who agree to them.
Over time, this has led to the creation of many regions that are ruled “by
charter” - a single (often lengthy) contract for society binds the members
together, and is re-signed yearly (negotiations on what will change for the
next contract typically go on year-round). There are even distributed
groups (including at least one knightly order) managed this way.
• Strangeling Cults: This upheaval did not create, but revealed, that a
number of single-lineage areas had slowly established contact with the
beings living in the planes that their powers were ‘sourced’ from, and had
brokered deals for power. A few purges were attempted against these
groups; a few even succeeded. However, it slowly became clear that even
though the Strangelings were making deals with Outsiders, it really was
the Strangelings that were getting the better end of those new deals. The
practices and methods of the Strangelings are persecuted less and less, and
spreading into acceptability more and more as time goes on.
• Other Local Societies: In local terms, lineage magicians have likely tried
on almost every way of arranging their group affairs that un-gifted
humans have, albeit on much smaller scales. Communes, tyrannies,
democracies, and everything between, have been tried in varying places.
The Great Families
The sum total of all these groups, and of the families engaged in them, is known
colloquially as “The Great Families”. It has no single form, no unified agenda.
It’s a giant mess of pieces, and all the pieces talk to each other.
Lineage Magicians Are New In Ruritania
The lineages arrived only recently. Like many small countries with stable
royal lines, Ruritania appears to have a threshold effect not only on it's
neighborhoods, but on the nation as a whole. A number of overtures and gifts
made by the King (legally a figurehead, but a practiced diplomat) to the
families, and vice versa, seem to have lifted this threshold.
But TheyÊve Been Trying To Get In For A While
The families have been seeking access for quite a while. Many of the newly
arrived magicians are descended from hedge magic families that call the
nation home. Others have noble ties of blood. Still others are arriving in
pursuit of relatives that were sent as “pathfinders” to seek out some means to
enter the country in a lasting way.
These Magicians Will Form Society
The ways that the lineage magicians associate with each other, with the magic
and power of the nation, and with the politics and current events of the region,
are the action of the game. Characters who don’t engage these things to some
extent are characters that aren’t being played. Whatever means of dealing
with each other the magicians come up with is their society, however absolute
or mutable, formal or informal it is.
ThereÊs No Right Way For Society To Form
The great families aren’t a concatenation of a great many structures, rather
than a single giant hierarchy. From the perspective of the whole, it doesn’t
make any real difference how magicians in Ruritania govern and organize.
Naturally, some specific groups inside of the great families will have very spe-
cific preferences, and may try to exert their influence in varying ways - but it’s
also likely that mundane humanity will put pressure on the whole to adapt as
But There Are Common Points
A number of common points that span all of these places and forms are given
lip service at least though almost all the societies of lineage magicians:
• Hearths are always central: The way that a society manages the distribu-
tion of hearths is core to what a society actually is. If three magicians have
a monopoly on who gets what Hearths, they are the actual rulers in any
practical sense, no matter what other structures are pretended to.
• Force creates structure: Lineage magicians, bluntly put, are all capable of
violence. There aren’t any universal ‘polite rules’ on how this violence is to
be used - so, in general, this means that power accumulates around the
ability to exert force, rather than force accumulating around authority.
Gang-like structures are often the early foundations of any local society.
• Marketplaces are valued: Regions that have devolved down into infight-
ing and chaos often retain at least one place that is ‘neutral’, where things
are bought and sold among magicians. The urge to truck and barter runs
fairly strong among crafters of mystical goods. In a number of cases, such
marketplaces have become the central point of a new order.
• We’re still family: It can be a bit more difficult to stab your philosophical
and political enemy in the streets when you’d need to explain the matter
to their and your (truly powerful) grandmother at dinner next Sunday. In
places where things have gotten out of control, it’s quite common for eld-
erly members of the families to make a few absolute statements about the
shapes the chaos is permitted to take. This may seem silly, but very few
magicians are stupid enough to cross the eldest members of the families.
Forming Society: Townships
A character that has an interest in shaping the forming of society in Ruritania
(or in revising it in some way) is advised to first note that Hearths are already
divided up by town. Because of this natural division, it can be expected that
one of the earliest “natural” groups of characters will be the residents of a town,
and that the arrangements to manage “who gets what” in terms of Hearths
made within each town will be the foundations of society.
Forming Society: Contracts
Again, for characters wishing to shape or revise society in Ruritania, it is ad-
vised that you become familiar with the workings of Union Ink, and (to a lesser
degree) of Champion’s Ink, and determine where these items can be gained.
Many societies are solidified by creating a series of “articles”, where each arti-
cle is a single agreement created by means of Union Ink. Note that when an
agreement created with Union Ink has a significant number of signatories,
breaking that agreement is an invitation to die suddenly.
Before creating a character, you'll likely want to at least skim through these
rules, and get an idea of the kinds of characters that the rules support. You
may want to read over the setting material and the rules information. Once
you've done that, actual creation is extremely simple. Your character will
have the following components:
• An Origin: The first package chosen. An origin is a partial answer to the
question “Why is this character in Ruritania?”. Each Origin grants you
either a set trait, or a choice between several, and access to a list of further
• A Lineage: The second package chosen. A Lineage describes the original
and otherworldly source of your magic. Each Lineage grants you a set of
cantrips, a fixed power, and access to a list of further powers.
• A Guild: The third package chosen. A Guild describes the kinds of items
that your character is capable of creating. When you choose a Guild,
you’ll gain the ability to craft a single kind of item, and will have access to
a list of further items you can learn to create with experience.
• A Vision: A vision is basically a statement of political outlook. See the
description of visions in the next few pages.
• A Bonus Trait: After making these choices, you may choose a single added
trait from your lists. You must have any prerequisites listed.
• Equipment: You will have 25 points to spend on starting equipment; this
money is to have starting craft items, hire retainers, and so on.
Coming In With Ties
A character that has a history with one or more of the other characters in the
game has something of an edge - even if that relationship is negative. By
coming into play with context for your character, you have a relative position;
the way that the other character relates to people will influence you, there are
motives for action right from the first moment you step into play, and so on.
Whenever possible, try to get a few minutes with one or more other players
and set up a few relationships for your character before you start to play them
in the game.
In general, it’s a good thing for the game if the characters in it are diverse,
either in terms of mechanical stuff, or in terms of attitude, or both. Having what
amounts to the same character as another player doesn’t generally create good
times, unless that’s actually built in to the characters (such as if the players are
deliberately playing as siblings or something similar).
To help reduce the chance of this happening, the organizers will often
temporarily encourage, discourage, or even close specific packages. Even if a
package is “closed”, though, you can still check around with the other players
that share it. If your concept for how the character will play out in action is
different enough from others, the organizers will happily reconsider.
Some Quick Mechanics Advice
A few final things worth noting before you start designing:
• The Three-Month Tester: If you play out the same character for 3-8 events,
and then change characters, you keep all the experience you gained. So,
when considering something that might be a stretch to play, the simple
question is “Can I be this person for three events?”.
• Money will never be cheaper: When you spend points on equipment,
always take a few points in money. While you likely won’t need all that
much money in any given month, the point value for cash is deliberately
very, very low.
Each character enters play with an allotment of 25 points in gear. These points
are exchanged for money, materials, etc, as follows:
• Craft Items: You may spend these points on items made with Guild
crafts. The point cost of an item is the creation cost (see the items).
• Own-Guild Items: Items created by your own Guild cost half as many
points as usual.
• Raw Matter: You may also take actual Ingots, Skiens, and the like as start-
ing goods; these cost one point each. The same half-price alteration for
items made by your own Guild applies; one point buys two such units of
• Marks: Marks are the 'mundane money' of Ruritania; each point put into
Marks nets a character 50 marks. Marks can be used to hire pawns and
retainers at creation, pay their upkeep, and purchase the slim list of basic
'mundane' items that matter to the game. Note that you need six marks
each month for "personal upkeep". Note also that marks will never be so
easy to get as they are at creation.
The vast majority of mages maintain a small staff of people. Retainers are
hired and upkept with Marks; to hire retainers at creation, convert points to
cash and hire normally. Retainers are shown overleaf; you may hire only one
of each retainer, except for Minions.
Mages must regularly protect their territories from... things that feed and grow
from magic, occasionally from other magicians, and from those who view
magic as abominable. As a result, most mages tend to go heavily loaded. Ar-
maments are bought with Marks.
• Hand Weapon: If you are using a hand weapon, you deal a base of 3 dam-
age, rather than two, when striking a target within one pace. [Purchase 5,
• Pistol: Ruritania isn't exactly highly advanced in terms of firearms manu-
facture and trade; any multi-shot firearm (including pepperbox pistols) is
banned, and carrying such an item is a serious offense. A pistol, thus, is a
single-shot dueling-style firearm. A pistol may be fired at any target
within ten paces, as a strike. It deals three damage, and may be used only
once per combat. [Purchase 30, Upkeep 1]
• Carbine: A carbine is a single-shot rifle. A carbine may be fired at any
target within twenty paces, as a strike. It deals five damage, and can be
used only one per combat. [Purchase 60, Upkeep 1]
Sergeant Hire 20, Upkeep 10
A sergeant is a general term for any salted and flexible com-
batant that a magician can manage to hire. Most are minor
personalities in their own right.
♥♥♥♥♥ • Attack: Damage 2, Reach of 3.
• Attack: Damage 3, Reach of 1.
Pistoleer Hire 12, Upkeep 6
Most shootists are ’independent guns’; they wear many belts
festooned with cheap pistols.
• Attack: Damage 2, Reach of 3.
Clerk Hire 12, Upkeep 6
If you have a clerk hired to assist you, you gain two added
actions in downtime.
• Attack: Damage 2, Reach of 1.
Thug Hire 12, Upkeep 6
Most thugs are ruffians or simple dockside brawlers and
• Attack: Damage 3, Reach of 1.
Minions Hire 2, Upkeep 1
You can have up to eight minions in your employ at once. A
single hit dealing two or more damage takes a minion out of
• Attack: Damage 2, Reach of 1.
A finished character is one that you're ready to put on and walk straight into
play. A few things that contribute to this:
• History: While your choice of Origin will speak fairly strongly to the
history of your character, you may want to consider the details a bit more.
• Naming: Doing a quick online search for names and surnames for the
country of origin you’ve picked for your character can yield long lists of
possibilities; a name that “feels right” can help give a character presence.
• “Voice”: A solid character has mannerisms, a way of speaking, their own
cadence and expressions. As silly as it might seem, practicing these for a
few minutes in front of a mirror can really get these things moving.
• Relationships: Coming into play with existing relations to other characters
is something that name traits can help with, but establishing a few other
high-tension or high-value relationships right from the get-go can drive
play well beyond that. Simple short-term motivations include acquiring
territory, stations, wealth, and so on; every character should have at least
some inclinations here. Longer-term motivations tend to be broader -
take a look at the setting information, specifically the bits about why the
characters are in Ruritania in the first place, for some ideas there.
• A Vision: Each magician has a unique viewpoint on what the social
structure of the great families is, what it should be, and their role within
it. This is, in effect, their political motive. It's useful to sum up the vision
that your character has of such things - at the end of each game, you will
be able to give out experience to others that reacted in an engaging way
to your views, your role. A vision should be something that you can sum-
marize in a single sentence, but which has implications and motives for
A FORMULA FOR EXPRESSING THIS:
"The great families should focus on _____________________. My role in
that structure is as a ________________."
• The great families should focus on security and purging unspeakable
things. My role is as a hunter of the monstrous.
• The great families should focus on discovering and understanding
magic. My role is as a supplier of equipment.
• The great families should focus on obtaining regular-world security and
child-rearing. My role is as an honored aunt.
How Your Character Will Advance
You gain further traits as you gain experience; this is not an expense, but a
simple comparison to your total - experience is not spent; it accumulates. The
number of experience points required for gaining traits is shown below.
At the end of each event, players will “circle up”. Some fixed awards will be
given (attendance, downtime, etc), and then some “voted awards” will be given
out. Voted awards are given based on how many people point to who when
the group is asked “On the count of three, point at the person whose character
gave you the most reasons to show up for next event”, and similar such criteria.
An average game yields 4-7 experience points per player.
Experience And Traits
Total Experience Traits
0-4 Experience Creation
5-9 Experience Creation +1
10-19 Experience Creation +2
20-29 Experience Creation +3
30-44 Experience Creation+4
45-59 Experience Creation+5
60-79 Experience Creation +6
80-99 Experience Creation +7
100+ Experience Creation+8
When you change characters, your experience total may be adjusted
(although you’ll always keep at least half of it), based on how long you played
at the character you’re leaving.
Time Playing Last Character % of experience you keep
1 Month 50%
2 Months 75%
3-8 Months 100%
9+ Months 75%
There are five origins, each of which can be used as the foundation for a fairly
broad range of characters. Your choice of origin should give you an answer to
the question “why are you in Ruritania”, and help you decide on the further
goals and motives of the character. Each origin will also grant you a single
trait; some allow you to select one, while others set out that trait fairly firmly.
• Before You Decide: As you’ll see, many origins are meant to accentuate
and emphasize your other choices. You’ll almost certainly want to look at
your possible choices for Lineage and Guild, and how those match up with
the different origins, before making a final decision.
Origins & The Great Families
Your choice of origin is, among many other things, a statement of position in
relation to other magicians. In an entirely “stabilized” world, where the
families were not constantly changing, all lineage magicians would have some
form of the Hierarch origin (likely expanded to some degree).
Each origin makes a statement about the kinds of societies your character
has embraced. Bluebloods sometimes think of themselves as nobility first,
although they often have ideas about the nature of nobility that would strike
most aristocrats as ancient. Hierarchs are from, or have worked strongly with,
established societies of magicians that study the nature of magic itself.
Hedgeborn are the results of comparatively recent marriages into families;
they’re the “new kids”. Guilders, like Hierarchs, tend to come from fairly solid
centers of society, although their focus is less high-minded and more hands-on.
A Strangeling was either born from a community that sought a different path,
or has chosen to chase after the power of their lineage with serious ardor. Each
of these origins includes a long list of potential attitudes that a character might
possess, and which deserve some consideration.
Background At Start
As a player, you may find it useful to set up a some portion of your background
in advance. Knowing where your character is from, a few experiences they’ve
had, and the way these things shaped their life can ground a character quite
firmly. However, keep in mind...
Background In Play
Gameplay is fairly improvisational and impromptu; one of the tools used by
players whose characters have an existing relationship is “Do you remember
the time when…” or “Did you ever study with….”, or something similar, followed
simply by making things up. While past events created in this way won’t
usually provide a basic grounding for a character, this can be used to flesh out
common views and relationships between characters at incredible speed.
What The Organizers Use
The organizers, for the most part, are interested in how they can use your origin
to hook your character into the stuff of play. If your character had a wise and
good mentor who died, that might help you develop character, but it doesn’t
help the organizers much unless that mentor left work unfinished in Ruritania,
or was killed by something that came from or fled to the country. Those kinds
of details are “hooks”; they’re ways your character can e grabbed and pulled
into the action. Now, you may not want to give the organizers a big list of
hooks, preferring to make your own action. Or you might wan to have as many
as possible. That’s up to you.
You have a family connection to one of the noble families of Ruritania. This
connection might be fairly direct - you may be a distant cousin or the like to
one of the existing Barons - or it may be far more tenuous. Whatever the case,
the noble family in question has become aware of the King's decision to invite
magicians into the nation, and has looked you up and offered to assist you in
'setting up' for arrival. Naturally, your relations will have some expectations as
well. It's likely that they'll want to show you off in society, should magicians
become fashionable, and equally likely that they'll want to keep you quietly
available for more practical aid should this fail to occur. In any case, you've
seen some advantage in the possibilities, and made your way to the country.
• Trait: At creation, you gain any of the traits shown to right. The other traits
to right are available to you, to be gained as you advance, or as your
bonus creation trait.
What To Expect
If you’re playing a blueblood, expect the Organizers to connect you to the
politics of Ruritania in very short order, and to do so in whatever way strikes
them as likely to create conflict. You might very well end up with a family
that’s being destroyed (or already was), as the close cousin of a possible
villain, or otherwise thrown headlong into a mess.
Your family has given you access to and control over the family estate. This
will be a Hearth which you gain automatically, and to which you will hold the
Hearthkey. In any battle where you work to defend (or reclaim) this hearth, or
to scourge Fae from any other hearth in your chosen town, you gain two
minions in your efforts (the house staff and guards), free of charge, and two
further minions for each added Blueblood trait you possess. Also, while you
possess an estate, you can hire new retainers at the cost of their usual upkeep.
You have been trained by an ancient order of lineage magician-knights. This
grants you the ability to recognize Hearthbonded and Hearth-Keys simply by
being in their presence. The main mechanical effect of this trait is that it will
never take you more than a single downtime action to locate the key for a
Hearth. In addition, this trait is also a “mouthpiece” trait - if you possess it, the
organizers will sometimes hand you information about the sites of events,
hearths, and such, because of your added sensitivity.
If you are in a region for which you possess (or are) the key, you can raise or
lower the Threshold for others in a scene, simply by telling them that they are
or are not welcome in the region. In a combat, this counts as your attack. If
used to raise the threshold for someone with a hearthkey, it annuls the key for
the scene. You can’t use this ability with a “simulated key”, as provided with
Harvest Ink or the like. This ability also doesn’t work on someone who has
sworn stewardship on an area.
Oath Of Stewardship
As a fill-in-the-blank action in downtime, you can “Swear Stewardship” over
a specific hearth, which must be within your chosen town. You must have a
key for the hearth to do so. If you do, you become the key for that hearth, and
all other existing keys (including actions that act as keys) are annulled. If you
are absent from this hearth for more than two months, this effect fades.
Wealth Of The Land
When you take the downtime ‘work’ action in a region within your chosen
town, you earn five more Marks for each Blueblood trait you possess, including
You have been raised as a master of your magical craft, and will enter play
with added knowledge, as well as access to the potential for knowledge even
beyond the usual crafts.
• Trait: At creation, you choose and gain an added recipe from your Guild.
The traits shown to right are available to you to be gained as you advance,
or as your bonus creation trait; you do not gain any of them automatically.
• Note: Before taking any trait, look very carefully at the list of items
created by your Guild. Some Guilds do not suit certain choices at all.
What To Expect
If you’ve chosen to play a Guilder, you can expect that the Organizers will
hook your character into trade matters. If a master-crafter is visiting from
the London Society, they’ll know your name. This won’t always be a good
thing; it’s very possible that such contacts and connections will want to get
you or the local society involved in trade wars, in fraudulent projects, and
any number of other possibilities. Either way it goes, though, this isn’t an
Origin for players that want maximum exposure to “interesting times”. It is,
though, an origin for players that want to do business in game.
When you craft items, the raw materials you use are vaporized into floating
light and then coalesce back into your crafts. Besides looking pretty, this
allows you to make use of any type of raw magical material for your crafts; if
you are a Smith, you can forge items from Inkbase and Enamel just as easily as
from Ingots. You can also mix materials as desired, and do your work with
whatever hodgepodge you can get your hands on.
You are capable of (clumsily) creating any item on your Guild list. If you make
an item that you do not know specifically, you pay double the usual cost.
You can craft items almost instantly, changing the appropriate raw material
into a finished item in handwave - this is a general action during a combat.
When you gain this trait, choose and name a single item which you can make,
a which has a creation cost of at least 3 points of raw materials. You can make
that item at 2/3rds of the listed cost, rounded up. If you cannot create any
item with a cost of 3 or more raw materials for some reason, you cannot take
this trait. You can take this trait repeatedly, selecting another eligible item
You have mastered the power of unmaking magical items. Use of this power
requires that you be the only one touching an item created with guild or
lineage abilities (lineage-created items are often ancient and potent), and
takes a few moments of concentration. At the end of the required time, the
item unravels into a cloud of Quina, which you or any other lineage magician
in reach of it can absorb; absorption (of any number of points) is a general ac-
tion in combat. The number of Quina in the cloud is equal to the creation cost
of the item. The amount of time required in concentration is one general action
for each five points of Quina to be yielded. This can thus require several
rounds; if you are damaged in this time, you must start over.
• Artifacts and Loci: To destroy a Locus or an Artifact in this way requires at
least one downtime action.
You are descended from a cross between the great families and one of the
many lines of hedge magicians; three such families are shown below, and
players can discuss creation of others with the organizers, if desired.
• Trait: Choose a package from those shown right, and gain the trait
indicated. The package will also indicate any other required choices or
traits you can take after creation as a result.
What To Expect
Organizer hooks and action for Hedgeborn are fairly heavy and tie into a
great deal of the setting action going on. These hooks, though, will generally
be aimed at the family as a whole. If there are three Stehlskeins, then the
action tossed around will likely be scaled for three participants. This does
mean that you’ll most likely want to keep the rest of your family members
up to date with any findings you make or dangers you encounter related to
the “family plot”, lest you get in way over your head.
You are a member of a family of mystical dollmakers. The family originates in
Ruritania, but one of your ancestors (likely a parent or grandparent) married
into the great families. As the descendant of such a union, you are returning to
your ancestral homeland to seek out your distant family.
• Limitation: Your lineage choice must be either Host or Vessel.
• Creation Trait: You know the scheme to create Poppets, as per the Tinker
Guild list (this list is only accessible as a hedgeborn).
• Trait Access: You may later learn the schemes for creating Mannikins and
Titan Frames, also from the Tinker guild list.
The Stehlskeins are another former family of hedge magicians from Ruitania
who are coming home. Their abilities are linguistic in nature, and seem remi-
niscent of the story of Rumplestiltskin.
• Limitation: None.
• Creation Trait: You have the power Transforming Song, as per the Namer
Lineage list (this list is only accessible as a hedgeborn).
• Trait Access: You may later learn the powers Adoptive Speech, Banishing
Name, and Thundering Curses, also from the Namer list.
Once, the Veneziano were an extensive hedge family. Thirty years ago, some-
one hunted down most Veneziano - a handful took sanctuary with the Fami-
lies. Their children have found that the killers came from Ruritania; the
Veneziano are here to find justice - or at least vengeance.
• Limitation: Your guild choice must be either Tiler or Scribe.
• Creation Trait: You know the scheme to create Larval Masks, as per the
Tinker Guild list (this list is only accessible as a hedgeborn).
• Trait Access: You may later learn the schemes for creating Heraldica and
Bright Motes, also from the Tinker guild list.
Create Your Own
There are hundreds of other hedge families in existence, with a wild variety of
gifts. There are also “sports” - lineage magicians born with a smattering of
power in a second guild or lineage beyond their ‘usual’ one. If you’d like to
look a either of these options, talk with the organizers.
You were raised in close contact with the deal-brokering at the heart of the
Great Families. It’s likely that you acted as a messenger or emissary for the
magical society of some city in your lifetime, or that you have traveled widely
and been in contact with many different societies of magicians for some reason.
In terms of tone, Hierarchs aren’t simply powerful individuals gifted with
magic - they are, in fact, wizards.
• Trait: At creation, choose and gain either the Artifact trait or the High
Magic trait listed below. The other traits shown are available to you, but
all of the other require High magic as a prerequisite.
What To Expect
Players of Hierarchs can expect, much like Bluebloods, to be thrown
headlong into the politics of Ruritania. However, the politics that Hierarchs
can expect to encounter are magical politics. There are Fae Courts and
hedge families that have connections to members of the great families (even
without hedgeborn ties) in the country, and Hierarch characters will often
get wrangled up in such stuff, especially if they choose to have an Artifact as
one of their starting traits. Hierarchs are also the ones most likely to get
tapped as a contact for a visiting representative of some far-flung society of
magicians that feels it has an interest in the nation.
Artifact, Locus, Schematic
Artifacts, Loci, and Schematics are the great triumph of High Magic, which
is the domain of Hierarchs.
It is possible for a high magician with the proper abilities to rebuild a
Hearth in a way that focuses the power it draws, and cause that power to
constantly infuse a single and immensely potent item. A hearth converted
in this way is called a Locus, and the item that gains these benefits is an
Artifact. However, if the Locus is damaged or the item disconnected, the
Artifact becomes dormant.
Creating a Locus and Artifact is an extensive process, the first step of
which is creating a Schematic. These items have some minor magic of their
own; you can only repair a damaged Locus or Artifact if you have the right
You have inherited or been granted an Artifact, as well as some hints on the
location and disposition of it’s original Locus (which will be in Ruritania). You
also possess the Schematic for this Artifact and Locus, to allow you to make
repairs. This trait must always be discussed with the Organizers; see last page
for notes on these terms.
If you possess this trait, your ability to store Quina is permanently increased by
five points. This does combine cumulatively with the ninetails shapeshifting
alteration (which has the same effect). You can take this trait repeatedly. The
effects are cumulative.
Analyze & Dispel
As a general action, you can determine what magical effects are currently
active for target within six steps of you. If you wish, you then use another
(attack) action to pay the cost that it took to create any one of those effects, and
end it. If ending an effect created by an item, you pay the creation cost of the
item, in Quina. You cannot target an “always active” trait. If the effect is
generated by a lasting item, you suppress the item for a scene.
• Prerequisite: High Magic
Leech & Charge
You can focus on any Fae or lineage magician within six steps, and either grant
them Quina or steal it away. Granting one or two points of Quina is a general
action; leeching away one or two points of Quina is an attack action. You can’t
grant more Quina than the target’s capacity or steal more than they have.
• Prerequisite: High Magic
High MagicianÊs Ascendance
You are able to direct the creation of Schematics (see below), and with one in
hand, able to organize the construction of an entirely Artifact and Locus (other
character with a schematic can only repair, not create, such things) . This effort
requires a lot of different talents and guilds, and this trait is not recommended
for starting characters. The kinds of Loci are not detailed in this rulebook;
those notes are held by the organizers; talk to them if you’re eyeing this trait.
• Prerequisite: High Magic
• Note: A character may only ever have one Ascendance.
At some point, you came into contact with a being originating in the plane
that your Lineage powers are drawn from, and struck up an arrangement
where you will occasionally act in their interest in exchange for added power.
Most recently, you have received notice from this being that they should
appreciate your voyaging to Ruritania, and you have decided that this
particular request was intriguing enough to accept. Additional details on this
deal and on the being in question will be available only after selecting this
trait; if you take it, it's a bit of a blind jump.
• Trait: At creation, you choose and gain an added Lineage power. The two
traits to right are available to you to be gained as you advance, or as your
bonus creation trait; you do not gain them automatically.
What To Expect
Strangeling players can expect that
they’ll be coming at the same stuff as
the other players, but they’ll often be
coming into it from a very different
angle. Explaining to all the other
characters that you have, indeed, been
taking tea with a Fae Lord bent on
annihilating all humanity, but you
only ever talked about a book both of
you were trying to find, is just this kind
of thing Strangelings will get hit with.
Always remember that you can
refuse requests from your ally. As a
Strangeling, you will know that the
agenda your ally has is to eventually
break open reality and strap it to the
plane or concept that your ally hails
from, even if it’s current requests are
almost always simple and usually at
least appear to be to your direct
Your ally has provided you with a gateway to some place outside of normal
reality. This might be a habitable crystal home in the burning light of
Gehenna, a shell-like globe floating in Lethe, a tower overlooking the river of
Styx, or something very different. Whatever the case, this is an added Hearth
that only you can use, as well as being a place from which you can also hire
retainers. The hire and upkeep costs of these retainers are doubled (although
you’re paying them in their preferred materials, rather than actual money),
and they will be a little different. Retainers hired this way by a Host, Vessel,
or Channel can use their full turn in combat to enter or leave the appropriate
backstage (black, silver, and white, respectively). Shard retainers hired in this
fashion can enter and leave any of the backstages. Spoil retainers heal after
combat, if ‘killed’.
You can call on your eldritch ally to manifest into the world. Using this power
costs you at least five Quina and five Health (you can choose to spend more of
either or both). In combat, this is a general action. Your ally then manifests in a
spot within a single step of you. They have Quina and Health equal to the
amount spent to summon them. They possess a single Ascendancy from those
in your lineage chart, and all the powers that act as prerequisites to it; you may
not choose a “grafted” ascendancy in this way. The ally acts immediately after
you, under your control, and remain for the scene, or until the incarnation is
destroyed (out of health). They cannot communicate meaningfully while
manifest in this way.
• Choose Once: Once you have chosen the Ascendancy your ally possesses,
it is fixed, and will be the same each time you call them.
If you possess this trait, your ties to your ally are respected by others of the
same “kind”. This creates an entire class of beings that will never attack you
unless first attacked, even if ordered to under the direct control of another
lineage magician. Such beings will give you minor assistance if free to do so,
and if you can communicate it to them. The beings are based on your lineage:
• Channel: Beings summoned from or native to Gehenna.
• Host: All independent ghosts (not part of a different Host).
• Shard: Spirit Allies, Strangeling patrons, independent world-jumpers..
• Spoil: Sapient and court-based Fae.
• Vessel: Beings summoned from or native to Lethe.
Components Of A Lineage
When you select your lineage, you will gain a package of abilities as well as a
set of ways in which your character can advance...
• Cantrips: These are simple ‘tricks’ which can be performed by any member
of a lineage. They do not have a cost, and can be expanded on by players.
• Basic Power: There is a single power gained automatically by all members
of each lineage; this differs from one lineage to another.
• Further Powers: Your lineage will grant you the ability to learn a further
list of traits. Some of these further traits will have prerequisites - powers
that you must learn before you are able to learn the power in question.
• Ascendancies: Some powers have the term “ascendant” or “ascendancy” in
their title. These are the powers of potent masters of their lineage arts.
You may only possess one lineage power ever, and may only purchase one
if you have all the prerequisites and have at least four of your other
lineage powers first (it must be your fifth or later lineage power).
Lineages Run In Families
On hearing the term “lineage”, one immediate assumption that can spring to
mind is to think of a family or a nationality. And while there’s some credence
to that - most lineages still have a place that they consider a homeland - it
doesn’t match up quite right in modern times. A lineage is like an eye color; it
can suddenly surface even when both parents have to stop and consider who
was the most recent ancestor either had of that line. There are many actual
families among the mess of the Great Families that cross several lineages;
children from these families might be of any lineage involved (or might be
born with only crafting gifts, as disappointing hedge magicians).
There are Five Recognized Lineages
Although the lines of descent from the ur-lineage magicians have crossed so
many times that the resulting agglomerate mess simply calls itself “the Great
Families”, the lineages themselves don’t mix easily or often; the vast majorityof
children of the lines are born with ‘pure’ powers. For this reason, there are five
properly recognized strains of power within the Great Families, detailed over
the following few pages. You will be of one such strain.
And Two Demi-Lineages
At the end of this chapter, you’ll find (notably shorter) entries for two other
lineages, the Namers and Sparks. These are included because some hedgeborn
magicians possess powers from these lines; for example, the Stehlskiens are
near-namers. The great families believe that these are potential lineages that
may one day become numerous enough as “main lines” to be recognized.
A Lineage IsnÊt Usually A Political Grouping...
Lineages as a whole typically aren’t especially cohesive. Generally, this is
because they don’t have anything to collectively bargain with or about. Hosts,
who can exchange abilities temporarily, typically have the strongest relations
based on lineage, and occasionally an actual family within a lineage will have
some strength together.
...Except When It Comes To Children
In a number of well-established magician’s societies, members of the varying
lineages pool together to introduce their own descendants to one another.
Some even set up trusts and grants to provide for additional children born “of
the stock”. It is worth noting that many of the magicians that most strongly
support these efforts are Strangelings, and that their Eldritch allies seem very
well pleased by such activities and efforts.
Bearers of the rimelit gate of flame, Channels are cool to the touch and usually
heavily scarred. Each Channel has the ability to spill fire from their body, in
forms ranging from a blast from the hands to a whole-body shroud. This is not
natural fire; though it consumes, harms, and destroys, it also burns an incandes-
cent white, and siphons in heat rather than putting it off (the flame converts all
the energy consumed into pure white light, rather than generating both heat
and light). Rimefire, as it is called, cannot normally spread across areas; it can’t
stay in the world without magical influence.
All Channels gain the Rimelit Strike trait, as well as the ability to cast Chan-
nel Cantrips, and may also choose the other traits listed below among their
starting traits or as experience buys.
A channel may cause or create any of the following effects without cost for
cosmetic or narrative effect (and may improvise further, if other players
agree that the described effect is low-impact) :
• Create a chill in the air.
• Draw an portrait or picture in frost on a wet surface.
• Sculpt a tiny, fragile object in ice drawn from the air, such as a flower or
• Condense water from the air in a thin and cold trickle.
• Illuminate an area by causing an object to glow (and frost over).
• Extinguish small lights, such as candles or lanterns.
• Cause water in the air around you to change into snow.
Rimelit Strike (1Q, General Action)
On activation, your hands ignite with cool blue flame, and you become able
to launch bolts of rimefire for the scene. Each bolt is a ranged attack, dealing
2 damage, with a range of up to six steps. If the target is within a single step,
this attack does 3 damage instead.
• Enhancements: Standard enhancements for this power are Incandescent
Shroud, Encase, and the item Foehammer. All of these enhancements
combine for cumulative effects.
Channel Power Prerequisites
The prerequisites shown below apply to all powers overleaf. In order to
acquire a given power, you must have all the powers that “point to” it.
Remember that you cannot acquire more than one Ascendancy.
Rolling Sphere Vortex
Sculptor’s Call Chill
The Look Of the Thing: Channel Powers
Channel abilities generate an incredibly bright blue-white flame, which
burns cold. This has plenty of cosmetic side effects. Rimefire leaves behind a
wound that doesn’t bleed, because it’s frozen shut. Any Channel power is cold
enough that breath fogs in the immediate area, leaves behind a trail of snow-
flakes or ground frost, and so on. An area where a Channel has been practicing
powers provides even stranger evidence; trees may take on autumn colors in
the middle of summer, and so on.
The Look Of the Thing: The White Backstage
The white backstage, occasionally accessed by Channels (and by Shards),
looks mostly like a brighter, washed-out version of the part of regular world
that it mirrors, except that all cold things also give off light into the white
backstage. A frosty mug of ale in Reality glows like a torch to someone in the
white backstage. It’s also incredibly, numbingly cold in the white backstage,
doing a point of damage each round to anything that’s not a channel, a native,
or in stasis..
Primal Ignition (1Q, General Action)
You focus on a person within six steps. The target must choose one crafted item
they possess (they can choose a unit of raw materials); the item is destroyed,
exploding in coruscating rimefire, and dealing them two damage.
Rolling Sphere (3Q, General Action)
You focus on a spot within six steps. A globe of rimefire one step across appears
there, lasting the scene. As a general action, you can move it up to three steps.
At the end of your turn, it deals two damage to anything in its space.
Vortex Ascendant (5Q, General Action)
When you activate this power, Rimelit Strike also activates, for free; rimefire
trails from your hands in a lazy orbit around you. When you hit with rimelit
strike, you can forego the normal damage in order to create a rolling sphere in
the target’s space, or to subject them to primal ignition (they still end up taking
damage). In addition, you may use two actions to attack each round, so long as
both are Rimelit strikes, and made on separate targets.
SculptorÊs Call (1+Q, General Action)
You call up ice in a ribbon two steps 'wide', one step 'tall', and as many steps
long as the number of Quina you spend, squared. It starts in a space you touch.
You can give it any shape along this length that you wish (bridge, wall, etc),
but cannot enclose a target. If you create ice on a spot occupied in the white
backstage, the occupant is drawn into reality, frozen in ice, in stasis. Freeing a
frozen target, or smashing a wall segment, takes a total of ten damage.
Frost Gauntlets (1Q, General Action)
On activation, ice forms around each your forearms, creating a pair of ‘shields’.
When harmed, you can break a shield, reducing the damage by one. You can
only use one shield per hit, but this can reduce damage to zero. These last for
the scene if not used; “regrowing” a shield can be done, but takes three actions.
Reactivating the power restores both.
Chill Ascendant (5Q, General Action)
When you activate this power, Rimelit Strike and Frost Gauntlets both also
activate, for free. Your skin grows pale, and takes on a bluish cast, and a pair of
magical effects occur: You are able to move through ice made with Sculptor’s
call as if it were not there, but cannot end your turn inside it. The range on
Rimelit Strike becomes only one step, but any hand weapon you hold is coated
in rimefire, and deals an added damage. This lasts a scene, or you can activate
this power for a full day at a cost of seven Quina. If you do, the other powers
also remain active for the day. If you do this for an event, make-up is desirable.
Incandescent Shroud (2Q, General Action)
On activation, you are wrapped in chill flames for the rest of the scene. If you
make a melee attack, or if one is made against you, your foe takes one damage,
in addition to any other damage inflicted. If you are using Rimelit Strike
(through a Foehammer or not) within melee range, it is enhanced by this power.
Encase (Always Active)
When you deal damage with a Channel ability, the attack may freeze the
subject and pull them out of reality. If the target is an object that would be
destroyed, it is encased in ice and vanishes into the white backstage. If the
target is a creature, it gains the option to be encased in ice, put in stasis, and
sent to the white backstage, in addition to the usual options (lose health, take a
scar, death). A creature frozen in this way is in stasis, and cannot act until
someone gets them out (usually with Shard abilities or Sculptor's Call). When
retrieved by a Shard, they are frozen in ice, which must be broken away just as
with the ice from Sculptor’s call.
Crystal Word (Special)
In downtime, you make use one of your downtime actions to create lamplight
crystals around a hearth you have a key for; these are tiny crystals that 'grow'
throughout the region. The Hearth can no longer be used by non-channels,
and produces one more ‘unit’ of material than normal whenever material are
gathered; this is permanent. Repeated use of the power keeps adding to this,
but always makes the place odd, and can destroy the territory, ‘collapsing’ it
out of Reality and into Gehenna.
LightbringerÊs Ascendance (7Q, General Action)
When you activate this power, Incandescent Shroud also activates, for free. In
the area around you (everything in a six-step radius), reality is unified with the
white backstage; this lasts for the rest of the scene, or until you use an action to
dismiss the effect, and has several effects: Everything that was in or would
move to the white backstage is pulled into reality within this radius, so long as
it stays within the effect. Everything cold sheds a pale light, all open water
freezes over, and motes of frost begin to hover throughout the air. At the end of
your turn each round, anyone that is not a channel, a native to the white
backstage or to gehenna, or in stasis., takes one damage. Minions within this
effect ignore this damage; instead, they can be killed by doing a single point of
damage to them by any other means. Note that this effect is hostile to your
own retainers, unless you have retainers which are able to enter the white
backstage under their own power.