Brendan’s 20 questions for Tartary, plus starting equipment
So Brendan’s wonderful system list is going around again. Here’s Tartary’s system, such as it is:
Ability scores generation method?
3d6 in order, punk. Now re-reading Ars Magica since I’m thinking of using it just to get away from stupid levels even though I’m shooting myself in the flailsnailing foot.
How are death and dying handled? At 0hp you roll on the complicated dismemberment table. It’s actually surprisingly non-lethal, but can give you lasting headaches. Pious men do not demand markers for their graves, but if you go the whole pyramidal tomb tower route then it’s just possible that through years of strange adventures someone might be able to bring you back from a toenail.
What about raising the dead? There are many stories, most of them unpleasant. You have to ask yourself if you really want to get the Mad Archmages of Ashgabat all up in your business.
How are replacement PCs handled? bring some friends, sassy kid sidekicks or hired help along on dangerous business. You can keep them as retainers or go the whole Ars Magica troupe route. The alternative is to wait for me to weave your new PC into the story, which might be as a rescued captive or sole survivor of an airship wreck.
Initiative: individual, group, or something else? All combat is simultaneous, when I can be bothered. Otherwise, it’s group.
Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? 20 or 6 over the to hit number is a crit, 1 or to hit -10 is a fumble. Or Ars Magica equivalent let me check… anyway I’m thinking of adopting something like Zak’s called shot mechanic
Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? on the dismemberment table, yes.
Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? If you fumble, you hit your friend.
Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? Try not to tackle anything head-on. Never assume you have surprise. When you run, run around corners, not in a straight line.
Level-draining monsters: yes or no? Maybe. Also permanent HP draining, stat draining, whatever makes your skin crawl.
Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? Saves are your second chance, your “but I’m a hero” special pleading, so yes.
How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? Only when it’s funny or if I get suspicious. If I go waitiaminute can I see everything you’re carrying? then chances are you don’t have all that with you and we have to decide what stayed home. But otherwise, no I won’t make you account for your matches.* But I will make you count your bullets.
What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? Magic always has to be found in game, and any other new feats need explanations. But mere incremental changes just happen.
What do I get experience for? Surviving (especially only just), style/smarts, acts of renown and, alas, filthy moolah spent.
How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? They’re usually written right in – seldom randomly – and often thematic. PCs finding them? Description, sometimes perception rolls. Actually if I ask for a perception roll, that’s me giving you a 6th sense heads up.
Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? Most of Tartary has no cash economy, so extras are encouraged but the details of partnership are up to you. Morale is a contested roll between the PC’s CHA and the demi-PC’s WIS, with modifiers. Number of retainers is not mechanically limited, but they won’t follow you unless there’s something in it for them.
How do I identify magic items? You can try asking sages and mages in the cities if you trust those weirdos, or try to get into a library. The world abounds in strange little boxes with an antenna and a button, and much of the time the quickest, surest answer is to press it. Or get someone else to do so.
Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? You can buy all kinds of crazy junk. No refunds, no guarantees. Small probability of it doing exactly what you wanted. No, you can’t buy +n weapons, but you can go shopping for explosive bullets etc.
Can I create magic items? When and how? Play a grease monkey, a sage or an alchemist. Sneak into libraries, find ingredient lists, and go hunting. Play it out, negotiate, and take risks. That’s really what the whole game is about.
What about splitting the party? How would I stop you?
* but don’t I have to calculate encumbrance at chargen? Together with starting money and equipment costs and so on? Not if you use this handy starting equipment table (hat tip to Stuart Robinson of Strange Magic). First roll to see how desperate and starving you are – or talk me into agreeing to a specific social stratum via a really great character concept story.
Level of Destitution (d6)
1. naked and alone. You have exactly nothing. Save vs. INT or you’re also suffering from amnesia
2. where’d you get that? roll d6+14 twice on Table A and 1d12 on Table B
3. one good friend. You have the basic tool of your trade** plus 3d8 on Table A and 1d12 on Table B
4. practically minded. You have the basic tool of your trade** plus 4d12 on Table A and 1d6 on Table B
5. expert skip-dipper. You have the basic tool of your trade** plus 4d20 on Table A
6. Favoured urbanite with social contacts: roll 6d20 on table A, 2d12 on table B
** a melee weapon or a grease monkey’s spannerwrench or a grapnel/multitool or a primus stove and glassware or whatever.
4. food, drink and backpack
5. lamp and flasks of oil (3)
6. melee weapon
7. armour: leather or improvised equivalent
8. bow or crossbow with 10 arrows/bolts
9. handcart – doubles as a small raft
11. rope (50′)
12. grappling hook
13. pouch with 20 silver dirhams
14. musical instrument
15. hammer, chisel, pick + 8 iron spikes
16. writing box and seal
17. jezzail or blunderbuss + 10 shots
18. 10 radium shells for a jezzail/blunderbuss.
19. grease monkey’s spanner-wrench
20. 3 detonator charges, with timers
1 lucky medallion (re-roll 1 failed saving throw)
2 potion of healing (2d6 hp)
3 lockable iron-bound chest
4 guard animal (dog, calot or similar)
5 riding or pack animal (camel, pony, small thoat)
6 yurt or similar packable shelter
7 armor: chain or exotic
8 book – holy text or instruction manual or blueprints
10 loyal family retainer (
HP:5, AC:6, Dmg d6, +4 Morale) a standard grog with a couple of charming quirks.
11 holy symbol or badge of office