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Friday, July 18, 2008

The Lord

Two years ago.

Princess Anezka, now Lady Anezka, carefully slips out of her bedroom, past the guard who gives her a knowing look. She does not sleep in the same room as her husband unless he...comes to her at night. She does her duty and nothing more. This distance from him most nights is good for a variety of reasons - tonight, it gives her freedom to do what she needs to do.

The final step.

She meets up with Skaina, still here despite no longer having a determined roll. They incline their heads together briefly in the darkness, lit only by a shuttered lantern held between them and casting ghost-story shadows on their faces. What they say cannot be heard, but they continue down a hall, through a door, deeper into the keep, and finally, to a dark stair leading down.

They descend.

In a dank stone room beneath the keep a man is huddled, shivering. He is chained to the floor, and his fingernails are bloody shreds from trying to claw his way free somehow. He has pulled on the chains until his wrists are red and purple and raw. He has prayed, but has heard nothing but his own harsh breathing for hours, perhaps days.

Then there is light. He cringes and tries to become smaller, to sink into cold corner, to somehow slip away unseen, but he is the only living thing in the room.

She enters, the Lady Anezka, with her witch-hag from the Lhazaar Principalities, and two other young women the man recognizes from the keep - Danneke and Joli. Danneke is plump and pretty and dark, and is a foster from another noble family - essentially a hostage, kept and taught and protected, but not allowed to go so that there is always a reason to keep the two houses from clashing. Joli has the harsh pale face of the Lord, her uncle once removed or somesuch. She is tall and does not miss opportunities for petty cruelty.

As they enter, they stop speaking.

There is no one else alive down here.

He is gagged to stop his shouting, but he forgets to shout until the gag is already in. He is lifted up on to a table that is brought in, and his arms and legs are tied together under the table so that he cannot move. The strain on his shoulders is painful, but he almost forgets it, watching them work. Then they stand aroud him, with the Lady Anezka at the head of the table - at his head. He can strain and see the witch-hag at his feet. She looks to Anezka.

"Are you prepared?"

Anezka nods, and pulls a glimmering black blade from under the cloak thrown around her shoulders. She shrugs the hood back and looks down at the man bound before her. She is about to speak -

When the Lord Kronan strides through the door, a man-at-arms at his side.


Everyone freezes - the Lord does not shout, but his face is livid and his breathing heavy.

Everyone, that is, but Skaina, who shouts a harsh syllable and reaches out, touching Kronan on the chest, just above the crest of his house embroidered onto his doublet.

He gasps, and then his breath hitches in his throat. The stench of death fills the room and the color floods from his face, leaving it bone-white, even his straining lips.

The man-at-arms shouts and his sword rings free, but Anezka raises a hand silently and something dark and cold passes between them. He shudders and slumps, suddenly exhausted and feeble. She draws a quick breath through her teeth and flinches before she regains control of herself.

And then Joli is there, ramming a kitchen-knife into his chest. It catches on his chainmail, and he struggles to push her away, but enfeebled as he is she writhes free and strikes again, this time slashing his throat. A spray of blood paints the wall and he slumps to the floor, gurgling up at her.

The Lord Kronan is still struggling in vain to move, to speak, even to exhale. Skaina laughs.

Anezka looks to her teacher, the witch-hag, trembling slightly, gripping her left forearm as if it suddenly pained her. "What are we going to do now? He wasn't supposed to know - "

"This changes nothing," Skaina growls. "Have you lost your resolve? No? Good. Then we continue. You are ready."

"But - but what about Kronan?"

Skaina turns to the Lord, straining, his pale eyes rolling in their sockets. Joli watches. She's wiped the knife off on the man-at-arms' tabard, and hasn't noticed the spattering of blood on her face and chest and right hand. Danneke looks slightly ill, but makes no move to leave.

"Kronan...we will deal with together, and quickly, before he is missed. I doubt anyone heard him down here or will interfere. Doubtless they assume he is...disciplining you. But once you have made the final sacrifice to the Vol, once you have given yourself over to her, I will show you what comes next. You have enough power, enough knowledge...Kronan will serve you, my lady."


Sunday, July 13, 2008


In Spirit of the Century, Stunts are the way you take your skills beyond the rules. A stunt is a small cheat, a way to push a rule that extra bit. Each stunt is rooted in a single skill, but some of then enable to use your skills when you normally wouldn't. Stunts take the place of Feats in that other game, and if you want to adapt a Feat for SotC just talk to your friendly local GM.
The SotC book gives a huge heaping load of stunts as examples, and here a few of them to give you an idea of what they are and what they do. More powerful stunts have simpler stunts you need to take first.

The most basic stunts that we'll use in this Eberron game enable spellcasting. The Google Document discusses that in more detail, and its open to house rules as we go through the game. Basically, each school of Arcane magic is a stunt rooted in the Spellcraft skill. Normally, Spellcraft just lets you do small tricks, the equivalent of Cantrips, and identify spells that someone else is casting or ones you find written down. The same is true for Divine magic stunts, which are rooted in the Religion skill - as I said, more in the Google Doc.

Here are some stunts from the SotC book - borrow one or leaf through one if you're curious to see more. These are just examples to get you thinking...(I'm also picking useful ones for an Eberron game)

Research [Academics]: This stunt means that when using Academics to research something, when you fail the roll you still get the information, but you take a lot longer to get it. The GM doesn't have to tell you the difficulty or how badly you failed, but if you put in the time, you'll still get the info.

Languages [Academics]: With this stunt, you can speak and understand a number of languages equal to your Academics score. You don't have to declare these before-hand, but can decide in-game that you understand a given language when you encounter it for the first time.

Walking Library [Academics]: With this stunt the character is always considered to have a Library handy of a quality equal to his Academics score, due to raw memorization of real Libraries.

Photographic Memory [Academics]: (Requires Walking Library) You remember everything you've seen or read. If the answer is some detail that has come up, then you'll remember with only a moment's thought.

On Top of It [Alertness]: In a given combat, you can spend a Fate Point to go first in an exchange, regardless of your actual initiative.

Danger Sense [Alertness]: Whenever ambushed, you can take a full defensive action with a +2 bonus regardless of whether you are surprised.

Contortionist [Athletics]: You can bend your body to fit into shapes a normal human body could not - into suitcases, cubby holes, through tiny crevices and so on.

One Arrow Left [Bow]: During a combat, reloading isn't an issue, and is assumed to be going on all the time as part of the exchanges. Nonetheless, there is a certain magic in the last arrow in the quiver. At any time, you can declare that a particular arrow is your last arrow. When you use it, you get a +3 to your attack roll.

Rain of Arrows [Bow]: When using your ranged attacks to perform a block, you can ignore up to a -2 penalty for the complexity of the block, even over a significant area.

Tripwire Sensibilities [Burglary]: You can use your Burglary skill rather than Alertness or Investigation to detect and avoid traps.

Hatpin Maestro [Burglary]: You can improvise anything to bypass a lock, and never take a penalty for not having the proper materials, and when you have the right tools, you can bypass a lock one time increment faster than usual.

Contact [Contacting]: Whenever you take this stunt, you define a Contact. This Contact is a companion as described on page 77, with three advances. You can also allocate an Aspect to this companion if you choose.

Close Contacts [Contacting]: (Requires at least a Contact) You have three more advances to spend among your companions however you wish, creating truly above-average companions for your character.

Clever Disguise [Deceit]: Normally you cannot create a disguise that will stand up to intense scrutiny, but with this stunt you can. You use your full Deceit skill to defend your disguise against Alertness or Empathy.

Last Leg [Endurance]: You are able to spend a Fate Point to defer a consequence to the next exchange in a combat.

Feel the Burn [Endurance]: You are able to take one extra moderate, physical consequence.

Brawler [Fists]: Your defense rolls are at +1 when using your Fists, and if you are fighting with two or more minions you also deal +1 damage on the stress track.

Dirty Fighter [Fists]: (Requires Brawler) When you tag an Aspect on an opponent in combat, you get an additional +1 to your roll.

Martial Arts [Fists]: You can spend a full action to study your opponent's fighting techniques. Your opponent has to defend against this action, which is essentially an attack. If successful, you can place an Aspect on your opponent.

Unbound [Might]: When restrained, you get a +2 to your rolls to escape your bonds.

Best Foot Forward [Rapport]: When making a roll to make a good first impression on an NPC, you cannot possibly make them think less of you no matter how bad the roll goes.

Smooth Recovery [Resolve]: This stunt enables you to take an additional moderate, social consequence.

Inner Strength [Resolve]: Whenever someone is trying to get into your head, and you take a full defensive action, you get a +3 instead of a +2.

Still Standing [Resolve]: (Requires Inner Strength) YOur character can take an additional moderate consequence of any type.

...anyway, this is a selection.