Reading Lair of the Leopard Empresses

PrivateEye

Legendary Pubber
Joined
Jan 18, 2021
Messages
399
Reaction score
1,175
The interest in this game pushed me into buying a copy, and I thought it might be nice to do a read-through.

I have played Tunnels and Trolls in the past and backed the Deluxe Edition (and the Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes reprint) on Kickstarter. I'm not going to specifically reference these during the read-through, but will comment if I notice any change that look obvious to me.

I will comment on the art, but not on the use of AI.

So here goes...


The Cover and first few pages

The cover has a strap line describing the game as "Superheroic Swords & Sorcery Adventure" - seems about right from the rules point of view (more about this later).

The illustration depicts a sword-wielding woman in a leopard-like metal mask and metallic mid-torso armour. She has prominent canines and claws on her hands, and also sports a scattering of leopard-like spots on her face and upper arms/chest. Behind her is a muscular guy with a hand-axe, clad in (?) trousers of a reddish material, with a diagonal strap across his bare chest. He has black hair and beard, but no armour or leopard/big cat type features.

In the background are stone ruins with a large draconic creature looming around a corner. Top right and left are semi-stylised leopard head inserts.

It is a good quality image and does match the tone and contents of the book pretty well, which isn't a bad start.


Next we get a full page illustration of a stylised lion's head in the form of an amulet/shield or other crafted design - again pretty good and heavily reflecting one of the themes of the setting


On the next page is a quote from "The Memoirs of Lord Girrien Endol". This is fairly short, but sets the scene of a world under threat, and serves as a call to arms for adventurers. I like the reference to the threat of Lord Crying-Death-On-Wings, who is likely to invade before the year is out.

As a general point I found pretty much all of the in-game fiction and references to be interesting, evocative and (hooray!) short. No pages of "inspiring fiction" as sometimes seen in other games and (by me at least) skipped with a heavy sigh.

Next we get the credits section. This is pretty standard stuff, but all references to rules are to Monsters! Monsters! (hereafter M!M!) and not to Tunnels and Trolls. Regretfully I do not (yet) have a copy of M!M!, so I can't compare LotLE directly to that game.

The contents page shows we have 15 chapters, as well as an appendix, character sheet and (another hooray) index before us...

The final page before the start of the book proper is a full page illustration of a city/citadel on a small peak overlooking a river flowing into the sea. In the dark skies above a huge big cat's face looms out of the dark and the stars. I like it.

I'll be looking at chapter one (Introduction to Ximuria) later today
 
Chapter One - Introduction to Ximuria

We start with a short piece of in-game material - I reproduce the first paragraph to give a taste of the style:

“I saw a dream of dragons, fighting the great cats of the plain. My name is Lorihotep, and I am not of this world. This is the story of how I became a king."

The first page tells us that Ximuria is an island continent about 3000 miles across. Some arrive there from across the oceans (though we only have a map of the continent, and other places in the world are vague), some via magic of one kind or another. Ximuria has a long history of invasions, wars and strife. It is sometimes referred to as a Land Without Gods, and the peoples are generally aligned to the elements and to totemic animals, especially great cats.

It does have the usual goblins, dragons and orcs, but also interesting variants, like cannibalistic elves. More of these later of course.

The game title (Lair of the Leopard Empresses - hereafter LotLE) refers specifically to the largest human realm, the Empire of Salama, devoted to the Leopard as totem animal, and ruled by the immortal El-Esmadiel, She-God of Arafell. Past its peak, the Empire is beset by foes and troubles.

We get a section on what is in the book, which includes the rules (based on M!M!). The obligatory section on "what is a roleplaying game" is to the point, to say the least - it assumes the reader knows, and if not suggests they look on Youtube and other places on the internet.

There is a section on what sort of games you can play, a suggestion that although the book contains rules, picking up a copy of M!M! would be a good thing as well. There is an overview of key parts of the rules (together with a comment that at high levels attributes may rise above 100!) and a section on what bits to read next, depending on whether you want to learn more about the setting, or the rules.

There is then a longer bit of in-world fiction, but still only about half a page, and also fairly evocative.

The chapter finishes with another full page illustration, this time of a veiled figure (large humanoid or maybe a statue standing beneath a Leopard Banner in a pillared hall, with a large audience/council? sat below and tow the sides.

A short chapter, but it does its job of introducing the world and directing your reading appropriately. It was a relief to have such a short section on "what is a roleplaying game" for a change.

More meat in the next chapter...
 
Chapter Two - An Overview & History of Ximuria

We start with a small piece of fiction - in fact the arrival of Lorihotep, as he stumbles into the bedchamber of Queen Altana of Inheliath through a shimmering portal, a refugee from Zimtrala, and bearing a warning of imminent invasion.

We start off with a description of Salama, the Lair of the Leopard Empresses. One of the most powerful nations, its calendar (the Leopard Reckoning) is widely used. We get two pages dedicated to the Leopard Reckoning, detailing the six seasons, the thirteen months, the weeks of the Two-Moon Dance and the days of the Two-Moon Dance. This is fairly interesting and detailed and has some interesting flavour. I'll be honest though, I don't tend to track time that closely when playing campaigns, so I tend to treat a lot of stuff like this as pure fluff, and don't make much practical use of it - I do like it though.

We're given a brief (but useful and usable) overview of the Empire and its divisions (Claws - ruled by sultans) and the City of Alabaster Spires, as well as the society (matrilineal and still fairly devoted to the Leopard Cult) and the politics between the empress, her daughter and various other factions. A lot of the names are very pleasing (to me, anyway) and evocative - Glomhut the Menacing Silence, General of the Blue Legion for example, is leader of the secret police.

After Salama we get similar treatments of various other polities in varying amounts of detail. There is a good deal of material here that really makes the setting stand out as far as I am concerned. Rather than go into huge detail I will highlight some I particularly like.

Xinqar - the first humanoid kindred, the Xinqari are carnivorous, leopard-riding elves, fiery man-eaters and militant anti-vegetarians living in steaming hot jungles

Strelth - an island nation of High Elves (so called because they don't eat people... they exchange and consume magical energy instead)

The Felsenfjords - home to lynx charioteers, they are the front line against the orcs of Urvang, the Dragon Reach, and the goblins of Hinternesse.

Zornish - pirate kingdom, and one of the few human realms not dominated by the Great Cat Cults

Klashkabaan - a rival of Salama, and trading in spices and silk it is ruled by the Flying Maharajah

The Dragon Reach - A monstrous realm of evil dragons, last redoubt of the now ex- tinct Serpent Kings, the Dragon Reach is dotted with ancient ruined cities like K’Sht-A-Kehn-Aarth, Lammaassith, Hayai-yahaa, and Ssaah.

The Jungles of Kla - The land of the Elephant People or Invisible Men of Kla, who look like living skeletons enmeshed in a filigree of veins (Lankhmar fans might find these familiar)


After the quick tour we get the history of Ximuria. As you might expect, this dates back many tens of thousands of years and includes ancient Serpent Kings and elves (elves who travelled to the Serpent Kings to learn their magic are the ancestors of the orcs. We also have the fairly familiar "wizard wars", though nobody knows why they started - perhaps ego, boredom or ideology.

Eventually the Serpent Kings are thrown down and the age of mortals begins. Dwarves settle the mountains (they come by boat, or climb out of the deep earth, or forge themselves into existence from the metal ores in the earth...). We then have a succession of wars and strife - Elves v Dwarves, Xinqari wizard treekeepers v all invaders, settlers from across the seas, rise of humans, more Elves v Dwarves, then the threat of the orcs, goblins and dragonkind of the Empire of the Winged Serpent.

Wrath of Meglax arrives from beyond the sea to lead an alliance that defeats the Empire of the Winged Serpent and eventually ushers in a golden age as emissary of the Emperor Over The Ocean. Of course, ultimately contact overseas is lost, trade dimities and the Kingdom of Wrath starts to fall apart despite the efforts of Queen Wragna. A new dark age intervenes.

The Empire of Salama is founded but after struggles against Koom, the Winged King, a giant goblin wizard with batlike wings and attacks along the frontier from monsters including a new type of winged, batlike goblin, dubbed “hobgoblins”, as well as internal strife, the Empire starts to contract.

Now the Empire faces new threats from Lord Crying-Death-on-Wings and his forces.

A lot of stuff to take in here, but hooray! - a short sidebar assures us that:

"Unless you’re a scholar, Ximuria’s past is a mess of legends, songs, and half-remembered tales, and the unfathomable ruins that dot the landscape. Most people know the Serpent Kings were an ancient, deadly foe, and that Wrath of Meglax defeated them and saved the world. They know that Wragna was like Wrath Reborn, and led a magical kingdom in the darkness; but that the darkness was only pushed back by El-Esmadiel, the Leopard Empress, five hundred years ago. All hail the Empress’s name!"

We get a few more nice illustrations, including a mighty-looking king an a throne flanked by lions, and a stern-looking woman apparently conjuring spells from a cat-headed wand, supported by a man in helm and breastplate with magical energy swirling around his hands.

The next chapter is called "The Basics"
 
Chapter Three - The Basics

We start with another short bit of fiction - this time an Amazon Captain and ?a scholar seek to escape an attack by goblins on terrorsaws dropping explosive flasks - luckily the warning of the attack (by Lorihotep - see previous post) has probably saved the city...

We start off with an acknowledgement to M!M!, on which the rules are based.

Then we get a brief description of dice-rolling conventions. As most folk probably know, T&T and M!M! use only standard d6s and we get the usual explanation about notation (what 3d6+2 means etc). We are also told that when rolling a Saving Roll, doubles add and you roll again, continuing until you get no more doubles, and that a similar rule applies to rolling triples I character generation. It also tells us that rolling a "1" on a die can be important in combat - it's a "trigger die" that can cause special effects.

I think in T&T this happened on a "6", otherwise the rule is pretty much the same.


OK, now we move on to characters.

A brief explanation of PCs versus NPCs starts us off. As expected, your character can be any gender, species or ethnic background, though the default is to start as an adult human. You also get to choose to be a warrior, wizard, hunter etc or any one of a number of callings.

A sample completed character sheet leads us to a discussion of its contents. This is a pretty traditional game, so we start with Prime Attributes.

The eight Prime Attributes are: Strength (STR), Constitution (CON), Dexterity (DEX), Speed (SPD), Luck (LK), Intelligence (INT or IQ), Will (WILL), and Charisma (CHR).

Attributes are generated by rolling 3d6 eight times, and assigning them where you like. However, triples add and roll over (TARO as the game calls it) so you can start with fairly high stats if you are lucky.

It's important to note that there are no separate Hit Points in this game, just your CON - when it reaches zero you're unconscious. Between -1 and -10 you're unconscious but bleeding out and you lose 1 more CON each combat round until someone uses magical healing or first aid on you.

One change from M!M! is that Will takes the place of Wizardry.

For those who don't know, stats rise with experience in this game (as in M!M! & T&T) - even up to 100 or more. The game is nicely unapologetic about it:

"...yes, that does mean that your 10th level leopard rider, with a Strength of 105, is literally ten times stronger than your average Joe on the street. That’s the superheroic reality of Ximuria—your characters, if they survive, are going to be awesome!"

Finally we find out about Combat Adds - the bonus you add to your damage dice rolls in combat - you get +1 combat add for every attribute point above 12 you have in the STR, DEX, SPD, and LK attributes...

We are briefly told about Kindreds, which are described as "a species or culture - all the hereditary and up- bringing-related stuff that made you what you are" and Callings - what you do (you only have one and it doesn't usually change).

There are Levels in the game, but they don't work like D&D. The lowest Level is 1 and levels above 10 are really powerful. However, levels don't determine your attributes - it's the other way round: you level is equal to your highest attribute divided by 10, rounding down. You can quickly see that you need at least one stat at 100 to reach level 10!

All characters have Special Abilities - two at 1st Level. There's a lot more about this later.

A simple table shows what levels mean follows - eg Level 1 might be an inexperienced farmhand with his uncle's old sword, a Level 5 character would be a mover and shaker in the campaign, and Level 10 would be a world leader.

We finish this section with height and weight, encumbrance and other things like eye colour, personality etc. In essence except for height and weight (dealt with in the detailed Kindred section) these are down to the player based on their vision of their character and kindred.

Last of all is a character checklist.

We'll get on to further details of special abilities, callings, kindreds etc in due course, but tomorrow I'll finish this chapter which deals with actions, combat etc.
 
Taking Actions.

Combat rounds are old-school style, lasting roughly two minutes, but specifying that this covers a number of actions - getting in position, making a coupe of meaningful attacks, defending yourself etc.

Five combat rounds equals a full turn (full turns being used for strategic/dungeon movement, some spell durations, doing something significant involving a Saving Roll (eg picking a lock), recovering a point of WILL and so on).

LotLE uses two core mechanics - the Saving Roll, and the extended combat system.

Saving Rolls can be passive (did I resist the effects of that poison) or active (searching for a hidden door, persuading a guard to let you through the castle gate). Usually you roll two dice (sometimes three or even four) and add the relevant attribute. Doubles add and roll over (DARO).

The score is compared to the difficulty set by the GM - a level 1 Saving Roll (SR) has a difficulty of 20, level 2 is 25, level 3 is 30, and so on.

You fumble a Saving Roll on a 1 +2 (because two 1s would get the DARO rule)

A worked example of trying to find a trap and then trying to disarm it follows.

There is a lot more about SRs in the Elaborations chapter, but in essence, this is the mechanism that you use for pretty much anything that isn't straightforward combat. Lifting a weight? - Strength SR. Resisting poison? - Constitution SR. You get the picture.


OK, now for combat.

Basic combat in LotLE (and M!M!, T&T etc) is where some folk might balk. It is nothing like D&D or most other rpgs (I suspect many readers might already know this).

Generally you have two sides in a combat - the PCs and the NPCs. They will be using weapons (even if natural weapons like fists) which will be rated for damage dice (2d6 for a dagger, 3d6 for a short sword etc). Each round, everyone describes what they are doing and everyone involved rolls their damage dice, adds their Combat Adds (see previous posts) and you get a grand total for each side.

Highest score wins, and the difference is taken in damage by the losing side, distributed amongst the combatants however the losing side wants, as long as it matches the description of what's happening in the combat.

Armour reduces the damage you take, and any left over comes off your Constitution. Yikes!

Not all NPCs/Monsters need full stats, so they often just have a Monster Rating (MR). An NPC with a MR rolls combat dice equal to its initial MR divided by 10 (rounding up) and has Combat Adds equal to half its current MR (rounding up). Damage comes straight off the MR, so you can whittle down the NPC's Combat Adds as it suffers damage (but not the number of combat dice rolled). For classic fantasy monsters a Kobold might have a MR of 1-10 and an Ogre 31-40 and there is a short table of examples (of course there is a bestiary as well).

This chapter finishes with a section on magic. spells are organised by lists and level. Not every spellcaster has access to the same spells - a member of the Wizards Guild has access to different spells than a red dwarf enchanter. You can seek out spells of almost any sort, but its easier to find and learn them from you own spell list.

Some spells can be cast at higher levels for bigger effects. All cost Will to cast, causing mental fatigue (Will recovers at 1 point per full 10 minute turn). Some spells can be resisted with a SR and sometimes a caster has to make a SR to cast the spell - as you would expect there is more on this in the chapter on Magic.

Advancement is based on the award of Adventure Points, awarded for slaying monsters and foes, solving problems, making everyone laugh etc etc. More on this later as well.

We finish with a couple more nice illustrations - I like the northern barbarian racing through the snow accompanied by a great cat with a white pelt.

That's it for the basics.

Now, for those who have never come across M!M! or T&T it may seem way too basic and abstract - bear with me please, because there's much more to come - this is only the basics after all.

Next up is Kindred & Callings and the game and the world building start to really shine a bit
 
Chapter 4 - Kindreds & Callings

We start with another brief piece of fiction in the form of an "Exhortation to the Rangers of Halagad by Lord Girrien Endol, New Year 548LR"

First off we learn a bit more about Special Abilities mentioned in character creation.

You'll recall that everyone starts with two Special Abilities (if you're lucky enough to roll a character who starts higher than first level, you can have more). You also gain more as you level up. You choose your Special Abilities from those listed for your kindred, calling, or (optionally) your cult, guild, or brotherhood (more on these later).

Special Abilities represent things like:

innate features: (being really small, Ironskin etc),

activity bonuses: (giving you an extra dice on SRs related to a broad field, or two extra dice related to a narrow field (you usually choose the broad field first, then a related narrow field) (eg Knowledge (History) or Analysis (Inscriptions)

capabilities: these are essentially binary - you can do it, or you can't (can you use magic? see in the dark?, are you immune to something)

A Special Ability can also encompass competencies, special attacks, special defences, and special effects.

You can have weaknesses and vulnerabilities - either automatically as part of your Kindred, or to offset the cost of a Special Ability.

Finally, some Special Abilities can only be used when you roll one or more trigger dice (rolling a 1) as previous mentioned. Some require more than one trigger dice (notation is the number then a slash - eg 2/ Impale, 4/Stoning Gaze).

Now on with Callings. We start with the Common Callings (maybe think character class). The Common Callings are pretty generic.

They are: Fighter, Wizard, Sage, Rogue, Crafter, Hunter, Priest

The types of special abilities are pretty much what you might expect - here are some examples

Fighters can choose Armour Proficiency which doubles the protective value of armour, Combat Training which grants +2 Combat Adds per character level, Weapon Focus which adds 1d6 to weapon damage for a particular weapon (eg short sword)

Wizards get Spellcasting (Duh!) but this requires them to take Lack of Combat Training, meaning that if they use a weapon of more than 2d6 they can't use their combat adds. They can also choose various Knowledge or Analysis abilities, the ability to create charms/amulets etc, or a Magical Focus that reduces the Will cost of casting spells

Sages have the Lack of Combat Training as well, but have to various Knowledge and Analysis abilities

Rogues get things like Streetwise, Thievery etc and can also choose a limited form of spellcasting (they can only memorise a limited number of spells and always have to make a SR to cast them)

Crafters get access to Knowledge, Analysis and Item Creation (they don't get Lack of Combat Training)

Hunters get access to Outdoor Survival Skills and Ranged Combat Training

Priests get access to things like combat training in weapons of their cult (adding their level to Combat Adds when using those weapons), Spellcasting, Knowledge relating to Cults and Temple and Holy Dread (intimidating, demoralising and terrifying susceptible opponents!)


Kindred Callings

Common Callings (above) are available to everyone. Some are only available to certain Kindred, and of course these are closely tied to the setting. I won't mention them all, but enough to give a strong flavour, along with the Kindred in question.

Kindred: The Peoples of the Cat

These are humans of various lands, descended from tribes which each revered a different type of great cat (lions, panthers, lynxes, and most notably leopards). You can select a specific one from a handy table, which will give details of typical appearance, language and typical Common Callings. A obvious choice would be Salaman, from the Empire of Salama, Lair of the Leopard Empresses.

If you choose this Kindred you can choose from the following Special Abilities:

Ancestral Atavism: You can take this special ability twice. The feline blood of your totem animal ancestors runs thick in your veins; the first time you take this abil- ity, you have either retractable great cat claws or great cat fangs, and get 2 unarmed attack dice instead of 1. The second time you take this ability, you have claws and fangs, and get 3 unarmed attack dice!

Beastwalking: You’re a beastwalker, able to transform into the Great Cat Totem of your people. See page 51.

Feline Grace: The feline blood of your totem animal ancestors runs thick in your veins; perhaps you have cat’s eyes, or your skin is covered with light fur, or you’re slinky and sinuous when you move—or all three! Roll 3d6 on SRs to befriend your totem animal, or to seduce, fascinate, distract, or intimidate another person.

Kindred Callings for the People of the Cat include:

Skoggcattar Chariot-Rider

You’re a chariot-rider of the Lynx People of the Felsenfjords. Your war chariot is pulled by two giant lynxes, who lash out with teeth and claws at your foes.

Special Abilities include:

Chariot Riding: You ride a giant lynx war chariot, in- cluding in mounted combat

Giant Lynx Companions: You have two giant lynx companions. They may pull a chariot; even if not, they will fight for you.

Ranged Combat Training: You’ve had training (and experience) using ranged weapons, especially from a chariot. You get +2 combat adds per level on ranged weapon attacks.

Skrae Ghost Warrior

You’re one of the haugjar, the ninja-like “ghost warriors” of the Skrae, (the Snow Leopard tribe). You’ve dedicated your life to moving and killing your prey unseen. You’re in great demand as an assassin.

Special Abilities include:

Ignore Cold: You may survive in intense cold, ignoring cold damage equal to your level x 2. Any cold damage above that still affects you, ie if you’re 2nd level and take 5 points of cold damage, you only reduce your CON by 1.

Invisible Strike: Your target gets an IQ SR at your level to spot you; if it fails, you make your first attack against an undefended target with a HPT of zero!

Move Without Trace: Make a DEX SR at your opponent’s level to move in such a way that he doesn’t notice you at all. Alternatively, if someone is trying to spot you, move in such a way that they have to make an IQ SR at your level to see you.


Kindred: The Dael Wrathi

This is the other major human Kindred.

If you choose this Kindred you can choose from the following Special Abilities:

A New Way: You’re adaptable and good at finding new solutions to problems. If you fail an SR to “solve a problem”, you may immediately try again, as long as you can describe a completely different way to approach it.

Steadfast: You don’t demoralise easy. Roll 3d6 on any SRs to resist fear, intimidation, or demoralisation.

Kindred Callings for the Dael Wrathi include:

Justiciar - self appointed champions who travel the Old Kingdom righting wrongs with access to Combat Training, Armour Proficiency and Analysis (Justice), Knowledge (Justice), Cow the Unjust and Horse Rider.

There are 19 different Kindred to choose from, some of course are not human. It's probably worth a look at the cannibal elves - the Xinqari in a bit of detail.


Kindred: Xinqari

Xinqari get multipliers to their attribute scores (like most non-humans). So STR is x 0.9, CON x 0.66, DEX x 1.3, IQ x 1.5, WILL x 1.5 and CHR x 1.1

Their physical appearance is described as tall, slender with deeply tanned skin, pointed earth and green cat's eyes. They tend to have fiery hair colours, an almost feline sensuality and wear few clothes. Old Xinqari have prodigiously long noses.

All other elves, and orcs, are descended from them. They’re committed carnivores with cannibalistic tendencies, wild and violent leopard-riding warriors with nothing but disdain for all other kindred. They’re fiery, savage, and very long-lived, and think they secretly rule the world.

The special abilities available to them include Cat's Eyes (see in low light), Devour Fallen Foe (gain their combat adds as a pool to use at will), Fiery (resist fire or heat, bonus damage to any fire attack you make), Leopard Companion (fights with you and helps power your spells if you are a spellcaster, Spirit Leopard (incorporeal, but grants Beastwalker abilities and can power your spells), Torturer (extract information by causing great suffering at a temporary loss of Charisma due to self-loathing).

Kindred Callings for the Xinqari include:

Dewclaw Elf:
a Xinqari ninja with Special Abilities that include Bend But Not Break (soak damage with a SR), Dewclaw Knife (a wooden dagger that exudes venom), Like a Leaf on the Breeze (stealth-like abilities).

Leopard Rider: Special Abilities include Combat Training, Leopard Rider, Leopard Master and Weapon Focus

Crystal Mage: experts in the properties of crystals and gems, Special Abilities include Spellcasting (Crystal Magic - includes taking Lack of Combat Training), Analysis (Crystals), Creation (Spell Crystal), Crystal Charm, Knowledge (Gems and Crystals).

At the end of this chapter we have a section on languages, who speaks them , written scripts etc and how to learn languages. This includes ancient languages as well as current ones - the entries are generally interesting, eg:

Ved - The ancestral tongue of all dwarves. It’s no longer spoken, but Vedish texts are found.

Zornish - Spoken in the Pirate Kingdom. As a language it’s difficult to place, and is maybe a creole of Kabaani, Salaman, Tothic, maybe Dalrothi, and perhaps even an unidentified Sea People tongue.

Finally we get some equipment lists and simple encumbrance rules.

The chapter includes some nice illustrations and I especially liked the one of two Xinqari Leopard Riders.

I really like this chapter - the Kindred and Callings are all interesting a full of flavour, and the Special Abilities all look pretty neat. Here is where the flavour of the game really starts to come through. It gets even better int he next chapter - Cults, Guilds and Brotherhoods
 
Feline Grace: The feline blood of your totem animal ancestors runs thick in your veins; perhaps you have cat’s eyes, or your skin is covered with light fur, or you’re slinky and sinuous when you move—or all three! Roll 3d6 on SRs to befriend your totem animal, or to seduce, fascinate, distract, or intimidate another person.
Me, I love it. But I'm starting a countdown before this gets called "a furry game"...:grin:
 
OK, calm down folks.

Chapter 5 - Cults, Guilds & Brotherhoods

Another nice bit of fiction about Lorihotep starts us off, and then we find out that PCs can join cults, guilds, and brotherhoods to get special abilities and other advantages.

These are a bit more flexible than Kindred or Callings, as you can belong to more than one, and join and leave them as you adventure.

You can be a casual member of a cult or brotherhood as part of your story, with no particular advantages beyond knowing its members and tenets. You can also spend a special ability slot to become a full member, either during character creation or play. You can only join one cult, guild, or brotherhood per level, as part of your Special Ability buy for that level. You automatically gain one of its Special Abilities when you join, as part of the Special Ability slot spend.

You can buy the Special Abilities of cults, guilds, or brotherhoods no matter what your calling. They don't usually teach spellcasting, but instead some provide access to a spell list as a Special Ability.


Brotherhoods of Ximuria

There are 10 of these - I will outline a couple as examples

The Academy of Halaparada

A Dornathi duelling brotherhood based in the city of Anaxarias.

Special Abilities: Band of Brothers (makes it easier to find henchmen), Esprit de Corps (when fighting alongside other members of the Academy it's easier to resist fear, demoralisation etc), Safe House (can use a SR to find a safe house where you can stay incognito for up to a week)

The Riders of Ruinn

Based at White Horse Fort, the riders partner with intelligent horses from Fardene Vale. Many riders belong to other Brotherhoods as well. They are led by Chatelaine Odoasa, a justiciar of the Sisters of Wragna based at White Horse Fort. She has a deep and ancient friendship—some say love relationship—with the Horse King himself, although she rides her own steed.

Special Abilities: Esprit de Corps (when fighting alongside other riders it's easier to resist fear, demoralisation etc), Horse Rider, Ruinn Companion (you're bound to a Ruinn horse which will fight with and for you, you can divide damage between the two of you, ride the horse if you have Horse Rider, and use the horse's Will for spellcasting)

The Sisters of Wragna

Named after the legendary Honour Guard of Queen Wragna, there are men and women in the sisterhood. Its headquarters are in Castle Meglax, location of the Tomb of Wragna. Its mission is to protect the Old Queen’s remains, her shrine, and her memory, and to travel on missions of heroic errantry throughout her old queendom, bringing justice to those who were once her people. The Sisters recruit from many callings, but lean toward Justiciars of the Dael Wrathi, who epitomise the sisterhood’s philosophy.

Special Abilities: Inspire (as an ordained follower you can make a SR to inspire someone to undertake a mission on your behalf - once achieved they are freed from the compulsion, 3/ Righteous Smiting (In combat with a foe you’re punishing for injustice, your attack damages their weapon, destroying 1 of its damage dice for each trigger die you roll (including these 3)), Weapon Focus (Great Axe)(add 1d6 to your damage roll with this weapon for each time you take this Special Ability)


Guilds of Ximuria

There are 8 of these.

The Alchemist's Guild gives access to Special Abilities relating to knowledge, analysis and creation of Alchemical preparations

The Clockworker's Guild gives access to Special Abilities relating to knowledge, creation and analysis of mechanical items, including automata, vehicles, gunned, traps, siege engines etc

The Conservatory of Chime gives access to Special Abilities relating to the creation and performance of musical works, and access to the Music Magic Spell list

The Free Fighter's Society caters for mercenaries, guards etc and has Special Abilities allowing cheap healing, hiring henchmen, building strongholds etc

The Infinite University, located in Montrabeld (capital of Strelth) is the original and greatest college of Wizardry in Ximuria, with many satellite campuses. Special Abilities relate to knowledge of magic, creation of magic items, and access to the Infinite University spell lists

The Thieves Guild - need we say more? Bribery, fencing your goods and safe house are available

The Treeweird Tower. An elven university of magic wracked by power struggles between several factions. Access to the Treeweird Tower spell lists, street fighting etc

The Wizards' Guild. The old classic. The Wizardry spell list, creation of magical items and new spells, and access to "The old robe network"

I'll deal with cults tomorrow if I can (a new grandson is due any day...)
 
OK, so grandson delayed for a couple of weeks (original C-Section postponed).

So on with Cults!

Ximuris may be a "land without gods: but there is still religion apparently. These may revere elemental spirits and other embodiments of natural forces, dragons, or even creatures like trolls. Cults are described as repositories of magical power and lore - although many Cult Special Abilities appear magical, they aren't spells and require to Will to use, nor do you have to be a spellcaster.

There are a fair number of these, so I won't detail them all.

Ximura The Troll Mother - Almost everyone can technically trace their ancestry back to Ximura (except The Serpent Kings and elves, who came from "outside"). Special Abilities: Become Troll (like Beastwalk, but as a troll - each time you use it you become a bit more "rocky" until one day you wander off to join the trolls), Spell List (Troll Magic) (works better underground, and you must have your feet in contact with earth or stone to use it), Trollfriend (provides advantage when befriending and persuading trolls, and remembering facts about them)

Troom, Lord of the Trees - Special Abilities: Become Trow (like Become Troll, but you become a berserk Trow, and become more "woody" with use before joining the Trow), Spell List (Trow Magic), Trowfriend (like Trollfriend).

The Winedancers - an orgiastic Gushmeg cult that’s frowned upon by most right-thinking folk. In its rites, cultists revel in drunkenness, orgies, laughter, and the loss of self, laying themselves open to possession by ancestral Gushmeg spirits and by all accounts having a great time doing so. Special Abilities: Creation (Wine)(it needs drinking right away though...), Performance (Dance), Winedance (must know Performance (Dance) but you can make a SR to induce your audience to a wildly drunken orgy... You take 1 point of damage for every full turn you keep the Winedance going, and so does everyone participat- ing, but you’ll probably all lose consciousness before anyone dies. It’s an epic hangover, though)

The River Cult - there are a number of these including the Darshi River Cult. Special Abilities: River Speak (whisper to the water and the sound carries anywhere the river connects to - a 3d6 SR will transmit the whisper to anyone with their ear to the water as many miles away as you roll on the SR), Therodont companion (like other forms of animal "companion" mentioned previously, Therodont Rider.

Beast Cults - a number of these: Cheetah, Jaguar, Leopard, Lion, Lynx, Mountain Lion, Sabretooth, Serpent, Snow Leopard, White Dog. They all give access to Spell Lists (Great Cat Cult Spell List, White Doc Magic Spell List, Serpent Magic Spell List), to Shapeshift (allowing you to Beastwalk at will) (Except for the Serpent Cult), and grant various other abilities depending on the individual cult (eg Prodigious Leap, Terrifying Roar, etc). The Serpent Cult alone has access to the Boon & Bane Ritual granting a special power, and a special restriction, granted by the Endless Null (see below).


The Endless Null - this is the power which would devour all existence in an orgy of annihilation. It doesn’t belong to the world, but the Serpent Kings invited it in, millennia ago. In its wake come all kinds of “petty devil” servitors. It perverts all life which succumbs to it. It offers power but corrupts utterly. Ximurian demons are essentially “neutral” (they’re intelligent elementals), but older demons—especially those who served the Serpent Kings—have been corrupted by the Null.

There are many associated evil cults, all linked by the Boon and Bane Ritual, where you get a random Boon and Bane rolled on a short table and include things like Raise The Undead, Drain Life Energy, Dissolve Into Shadow.

A couple more illustrations round off this chapter.


I have to say that these elaborations on character generation really bring the game alive for me and create a real feeling for the fictional world. In some ways it reminds me of Glorantha, but a bit simpler, and that's no bad thing.

Next up we have Elaborations.
 
The book definitely made it to my "pick up list" due to this read through. Appreciate the posting of the information P PrivateEye . I've not truly messed with T&T since the start of the 1980s. It was only something we'd play off an on as something different. I was always a fan of the City Books and Michael Stackpole and he did some of their adventure modules if my memory serves me correctly.
 
Last edited:
The book definitely made it to my "pick up list" due to this read through. Appreciate the posting of the information P PrivateEye . I've not truly messed with T&T since the start of the 1980s. It was only something we'd play off an on as something different. I was always a the City Books and Michael Stackpole and he did some of their adventure modules if my memory serves me correctly.
Yep, Stackpole did the amazing City of Terrors solo, among others. His adventures usually have good stories and replay value.

There's also The Isle of Darksmoke, a GM dungeon for T&T written by Larry "Masks of Nyarlathotep" DiTillio. Sadly, only the first level was published (though it was being teased a couple years back that level 2 existed and may yet see the light of day), but it's still a very good adventure.

The Citybooks are great. Especially for a lazy GM like myself. Such a great resource.
 
Thanks for the comments folks. I' had an email yesterday to say my hard copy is on the way (hooray!)

OK, so now we are on:

Chapter 6: Elaborations

First - I appreciate the title, which is a call back to previous editions of T&T.

We start with another short piece of fiction: this time Young Queen Altana of Inheliath, writing to Lady Inanna, Justiciar of the Order of the Sisters of Wragna at Castle Meglax speculates on the arrival of Lorihotep, who claims to be from "another world", and speculates whether other travellers in times past could have come form "elsewhere" and whether coming "from over the ocean" was cypher for traffic with other worlds.

After a very brief introduction, we go straight into:

Saving Roll Elaborations

Starting with a reminder of how the SR works (usually 2d6 (DARO) plus an attribute against a difficulty - Level 1 has a target of 20, Level 2 a target of 25 etc).

We then get a discussion of Open-Ended Saving Rolls, ie a roll made without a specific target, and how that can reflect the quality of success by looking at the level of SR you actually made - here's the example: "you’re making an IQ SR. You roll 4, 4, and then 3 and 5, for a total of 16. You add your IQ, which is 16, for a total of 32. That’s enough to succeed at a L3SR; that means your roll is a level 3 quality success."

You can use this when you're looking for an unspecified number of things, seeing how many turns you can hang on the cliff ledge etc (I also recall the old DC Heroes game used a mechanism a bit like this for finding clues)

A variation on this is to still set a difficulty, but look for how many additional levels of success you get to decide the quality of the outcome - which could be the difference between persuading a troll not to hit you and getting him to join the party.

Opposed SRs are used when you want to compare the Attributes of two characters - arm-wrestling contests, foot races, tests of endurance etc.

Teamwork can be handled in two ways - either a helping stunt (explained later) or adding Attributes together and using that in a single SR (there will be a limit though - 2 people might be able to try to force a door, maybe even 3. But not 42...

First Aid uses a SR with the difficulty based on how much damage the character has taken (a successful roll can restore some lost CON and/or stabilise a dying character.

Saving Roll Chaining is used when there are a succession of obstacles to overcome, and might not always involve the same character


Combat Elaborations

This first deals with Surprise Attacks and Armour and Protection which are fairly straightforward.

Spite Damage

Whenever you roll a 1 on any attack die a special result is triggered. The default is that these points are Spite Damage - damage that will done In Spite of anything else - if you lost the roll you still do Spite Damage - and they punch through armour as well.

Rolling 1s can also trigger other special effects - especially for monsters. Sometimes you need more than one trigger die for the ability to come into use - the notation is the number of trigger dice then a slash - eg a cave bear with MR75 normally attacks with bite and claws for 8 attack dice and 38 combat adds. However, it has the special ability “3/ Bear Hug” so if the GM rolls three 1s on the 8 attack dice, they can choose to inflict 3 points of spite damage, or trigger the “Bear Hug” special ability (a bear hug you fail to escape from halves your Hit Point Total for subsequent rounds and the bear inflicts all its damage on you rather than shared out across the party).


Ranged Combat

Ah yes. Ranged Combat. I know at least three versions of how this has worked in T&T based games (including Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes). Each method has its own merits, but let's just stick to LotLE and see how it works here.

I have to say, the rule explanation is a little tricky to understand, but there is an excellent extended combat example that really clarifies it.

Here's my take on it.

There are 5 range categories. From shortest to longest they are: Hand-to-Hand Range (rolling around on the floor - too close for anything other than fists, claws, teeth or a small knife/dagger), Melee Range (normal combat with swords, axes, clubs etc, but too close for range weapons except a single initial attack with a gunne (see later)), At Range (ideal for ranged weapons, and too far for melee weapons), Long Range (you might get lucky with a ranged weapon, but it will be difficult), Our of Range (too far for ranged weapons, but you might be able to yell insults).

If you use a ranged weapon, you make a DEX SR to hit (the difficulty can be affected by the target's movement and size)

If you hit, the target is going to take all the damage you roll, regardless of which side wins the combat round, but your missile damage roll still counts towards your side's combat total, even if you miss your DEX SR.

The difference is that in the latter case, the target doesn't take all the damage from the missile weapon, which only contributes to the overall total.

A bit confusing unless you read the example, but them it all makes perfect sense. I think you also have to always bear the narrative in mind (of course).


Stunts

Now we get some pretty good stuff. As the book says: "A stunt is a fancy way of saying your character takes a sec- ondary action during combat which isn’t a usual attack or spell or attempt at roguery, but which has a special effect on how your attack, spell, etc, pans out."

Stunts are essentially improvised but examples are given. Stunts in combat all require SRs, but don't stop you attacking. You usually roll the SR first as it is likely to affect your Attack in some way, and also create "story truths" (eg they disarm, set on fire, unlock, lock, trip, trap, confuse, and so on).

Here are some examples

“I’m going to swing on the chandelier chain and strike my opponent before he can fire his crossbow.”
“I’m going to try and knock my opponent’s weapon out of his hands.”
“I’m going to try and knock my opponent to the ground.”
“I’m going to try and strike my opponent through a gap in his armour.”


There can be a cost for failing the SR, depending on whether the Stunt is considered low, medium or high risk - it could affect you combat total or armour protection for that round, or you might automatically take damage, depending on the narrative.

Helping and Hindering Stunts

Briefly mentioned above, these are ways to make another character's SR easier or harder.

Finally we finish Stunts with a table giving more examples and how to run them.


We then get a load of suggestions for specific issues and special cases: combat movement, ganging up, dodging missiles and spells, cover and concealment, closing range, and HTH combat (rolling around on the floor).

A formal Combat Round Resolution order follows, together with mounted combat and aerial combat (and aerial Stunts) and waterborne combat.

We then get the extended combat example I mentioned - this is a must to read as it makes so much completely clear.

Lastly, we get earning and spending Adventure Points (experience) to improve your character by increasing their Attributes and purchasing new Special Abilities.

The next page is a full illustration of a sorcerer using a crystal ball - very atmospheric and a good introduction to the next chapter - Magic.
 
Starting with a reminder of how the SR works (usually 2d6 (DARO) plus an attribute against a difficulty - Level 1 has a target of 20, Level 2 a target of 25 etc).
Interesting. I wonder why they've changed the way of reading Saving Rolls? Same result, but previously it was the level SR number (which is found by multiplying the level number by 5 and adding 15) minus the attribute which gave the target to beat on 2d6, with a minimum of 5.
 
Interesting. I wonder why they've changed the way of reading Saving Rolls? Same result, but previously it was the level SR number (which is found by multiplying the level number by 5 and adding 15) minus the attribute which gave the target to beat on 2d6, with a minimum of 5.
Maybe they felt this just seemed more natural - I must say I prefer it, and it was the method given in T&T 7.5, though they reverted to the older version in Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls
 
That's how I explain it to new players: "Attribute +2d6 vs. TN, DARO."
 
What's the rationale for missile fire still adding to the total even if the SR is a failure? Is it the idea that missile fire has a suppressive effect and that, in dodging an arrow, you might walk right into someone else's attack? (Or is this how T&T/M!M! has always done it and I'm just getting old?)
 
What's the rationale for missile fire still adding to the total even if the SR is a failure? Is it the idea that missile fire has a suppressive effect and that, in dodging an arrow, you might walk right into someone else's attack? (Or is this how T&T/M!M! has always done it and I'm just getting old?)
I think they say it's "part of the chaos" of battle. I think there are a variety of versions in different editions (and in Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes)
 
Yeah, MSPE handles missile fire completely differently, probably due to it having a larger role in its genres. It treats it more like other games do, though melee still mostly operates as it does in T&T.
 
Yeah, MSPE handles missile fire completely differently, probably due to it having a larger role in its genres. It treats it more like other games do, though melee still mostly operates as it does in T&T.
Unless you have Martial Arts, IIRC...:shade:
 
What's the rationale for missile fire still adding to the total even if the SR is a failure? Is it the idea that missile fire has a suppressive effect and that, in dodging an arrow, you might walk right into someone else's attack? (Or is this how T&T/M!M! has always done it and I'm just getting old?)
If you fire into a crowd of enemies, you may miss your specific target, but still hit someone.

This is one of the many cases where T&T GMs need to use common sense. If you're firing into a crowd that includes your friends, you may well hit one of them, and that should be a possible outcome.
 
I remember Missile Fire in MSPE being especially deadly....

Yes and no -- guns can do a lot of damage, but hitting someone can be rather challenging depending on various factors, and armor can be effective against smaller-caliber weapons.
 
If you fire into a crowd of enemies, you may miss your specific target, but still hit someone.

This is one of the many cases where T&T GMs need to use common sense. If you're firing into a crowd that includes your friends, you may well hit one of them, and that should be a possible outcome.
That’s an elegant way of handling friendly fire that is less dickish than “oh you missed, roll to see which friend you hit” which I’ve often seen in D&D house rules.
 
Last edited:
OK. so...

Chapter 7: Magic

Another short piece of fiction, this time form Lorihotep's view starts us off.

We then get some generic material about the Will cost of spells, and how you recover Will, Powering Up (if you're a higher level than the spell you want to cast, and the spell can be "powered up" you can spend more Will to cast the spell at a higher level, with increased effect).

Some spells can be resisted, and we get guidance for that. We also get guidance on casting spells that are higher level than the caster - extra Will costs and increased risks of backfire. You can also use Ritual Casting, which decreases the severity of any backfire. You can also get help from other spellcasters, who can make a SR to contribute Will to the spell.

We then get a table of Spell Lists - there are 23 of these in the main book, though others are possible.

We get a brief set of guidance about magic in combat, and then move onto the Spellbook.

Spells are described with a number of standard parameters - eg level, cost, casting time, duration, range, area of effect etc.

There is a sidebar describing Places of Magic - which can Provide Will for spells (and other benefits) or drain Will.

Spells are listed by level, and give details of which list they belong to. Many spells will be familiar t players of T&T, but many have different names, or are entirely new. The "humorous" names of spells (and the noxiously racist one) are no longer used. I generally approve of this, but kind of miss "Take That, You Fiend".

I won't even try to list the various spells, but some of them are very flavoursome - for example"Steel Healing" - which is described thus: "This spell lets the target absorb metal to heal themselves. It costs 1 WILL and the equivalent of 1 point of metal armour or 1 die of metal weapon damage dice for every 4 points of CON healed. It takes 1 combat round to heal 4 points of CON damage. As long as the metal and WILL points are available, there’s no limit to the healing possible. The target’s skin glistens like metal ore for several days after this spell."

I mean it's really just a Healing spell, but it just seems so much more...

I also like Skyrun - "This spell lets you run incredibly fast, across the landscape and even up and across the sky. You travel faster than the Flight spell". It feels like another echo of Glorantha. Summon Ancestor is another one I like.

The spell lists go right up to level 17, where you will find Resist Ageing - which you'd need to cast every year to "stand still".

Some more illustrations round out the chapter.

Next time - A Gazetteer of Ximuria
 
I won't even try to list the various spells, but some of them are very flavoursome - for example"Steel Healing" - which is described thus: "This spell lets the target absorb metal to heal themselves. It costs 1 WILL and the equivalent of 1 point of metal armour or 1 die of metal weapon damage dice for every 4 points of CON healed. It takes 1 combat round to heal 4 points of CON damage. As long as the metal and WILL points are available, there’s no limit to the healing possible. The target’s skin glistens like metal ore for several days after this spell."

I mean it's really just a Healing spell, but it just seems so much more...
"You need more iron in your system" is a phrase I can see myself using if playing that game:tongue:!

Also "he'd been healed in so many battles, his bones were the dream of dwarven smiths everywhere":shade:!
 
Some of the Kindred Special Abilities are written as though all PCs belonging to those Kindred have those Special Abilities. E.g., the flavor text for Spellcasting (Puck Magic) on p. 82 says that "All Pucks have magical ability" and that they "automatically" have access to the Puck Magic spell list. But this isn't technically the case, yes? A Puck PC would have to buy "Spellcasting (Puck Magic)" to get that Special Ability, and you could in fact play a Puck without any of the three Kindred Special Abilities. Or am I wrong?
 
Best Selling RPGs - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com
Back
Top