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Posts Tagged ‘Ars Magica Hack’

DnD to Tartary character translation notes

January 10, 2013 2 comments

Tartary is flailsnails, but it doesn’t run in DnD – it kinda runs in Ars Magica Lite but not really.
Which is stupid but it’s because I don’t want levels and some other DnD baggage, and AM wizards are not native. Go figure.

Tartary natives use this chargen here.
Complete combat system here.

DnD flailsnailers use this converter:

Attributes

DEX, INT,  WIS, CHA are all the same.
The higher of STR or CON becomes PHYsique.
New stat: PER
ception – either use WIS or roll 3d6.
We only care about your bonus/penalty here: this will affect all skill  rolls. If I say “add Wis” I mean add your bonus/penalty (+3 to -3). A DnD attribute of 3 gives -3 penalty, 4-5 = -2, 6-8 = -1, 13-15 = +1, 16-17 = +2, 18 = +3.

Reroll Hit Points. You get D6 + Wis + Phy + 4 + level. So your dude is 3rd level, that’s +3, regardless of class/race.

REP: Reputation records your fame and badassery on Tartary, useful in social combat and when asking for favours, recruiting redshirts etc.
Rep = your DnD level +/- a modifier based on your greatest career highs and lows to date:  Tartary gets television from across the flailsnailoverse so there’s a fair chance Tartarians have watched your glorious or embarrassingly funny exploits on the village big screen.
If you have a Rep of 5+ then you must choose one of the 2 Tartary alignments, which affect how people will react to you. The alignments are Face and Heel.

Classes and skills

Tartary uses a skill system but the skills are so broad they’re like classes.
You get your current level + 3 in your core competency. So eg a 4th level fighter gets FIGHT 4+3=7. A second level thief gets THIEF 5.
EXCEPTION: at 5th level and above instead of getting an extra +1 in your primary occupation you get something else. Bring a high-level character and I’ll tell you what.
You also get 2 other minor skills, one at 3, one at 2.
Everyone gets FIGHT 3 anyway.

Minor Skills are narrower than classes but still act as a basis for players to bargain with the DM. They include:
Acrobatics/escapology (circus work, includes multi-person stunts),
Athletics (parkour – climb, run, jump)
Stealth
evaluate goods/bargain,
smuggle/conceal/bribe,
etiquette/savoir faire,
folk ken (applied psychology/empathy),
Animal handling/whispering,
leadership/oratory/bluff,
act/lie/disguise
Direction Sense (track, find your way in the dark etc),
Dowsing,
radiation sense (aka detect magic),
Concentration/iron will (useful for rocket surgeons, lookouts)
ride,
survival,
swim,
linguist,
scribe,
forgery,
jimmy (pick locks, also fix machines with a kick or whisper),
healer/herbalist,
mimicry/ventriloquism,
read lips/gesture,
weather sense,
shoot – bow or guns or artillery,
sleight of hand, 
music, 
showmanship,
law, beliefs
, anthropology,
sail, drive, or fly vehicle.

Most equipment and magic items will be just fine: Tartary’s built around dangerous gear. But it might attract a lot of attention/avarice from powerful people. Psionics and MUs in particular will attract trouble, and Cleric magic may or may not work.

Tartary is Bollymecha part 1: the Bolly, or Dance Rules for Techno-Tyrants

January 8, 2013 3 comments

Tartary is slums and pomo Orientalism and post-Soviet social commentary and Roadside Picnic getting-melted-by-your-treasure, and constant war and endless treachery and uncaring thaumatocrats and incomprehensible honour systems and tyrants replacing each other on the banks of the Oxus.

But in true Massala movie style, Tartary is also GIGANTIC BOLLYWOOD SONG-AND-DANCE NUMBERS. Which are frequently tied closely to WILDLY DESTRUCTIVE ARENA BATTLES BETWEEN GARGANTUAN HOME-MADE JEEPNEY/TEMPLE HYBRID MECHA.

Yes, this
Yes, this

plus this.

Because every town worth a damn has at least one mecha fighting arena, and every kid goes through at least one summer where they dream of being a big star pilot like Prince Harbir of Amritsar or that magnificent bastard Nizam The Suzerain, Pit Boss of Komtor.

And what separates those great TV heroes and heels from the local toughs, duking it out in the local dive with their grease-powered MadMaxoskeletons?

Well, unimaginable riches, obviously. And mighty hordes of followers and the splendours of a kingdom behind them.

But all those things stem from KEEN DANCE MOVES.

For which, I humbly herewith present some rules, in the hopes of encouraging frugging, as well as the more usual fighting, for justice, glory and base gratification.

BUT WHY WOULD I WANT TO DANCE?

Because dance is ritual magic (it’s actually a whole magic system, but that’s another post). It’s the path to power and fortune. And it’s the one way to really, truly, definitively win disputes.

The basic coin of social power in Tartary is Reputation; it’s a measure of how important you are. And it’s a stat on your character sheet: REP. Incoming DnD flailsnailers get their level as their starting REP, because their greatest deeds are shown on Tartary’s ubiquitous TV networks – late night or prime-time, depending on how great they are.

REP can be increased by accomplishing mighty and important stuff and by beating folks in the arenas. You do not get REP – or respect or followers or groupies – by shanking your enemies quietly in the night. You get it by dominating and humiliating them in the public eye.

And you can attract that eye by invoking the ritual of Breaking into Song and Dance.

When you begin a dance you change the rules of conflict; a shouted challenge to a barroom fistfight can be brushed or laughed off, but a formal challenge by dance-off is serious business – it means the world is watching – and it must be met in kind. To refuse a dance-off is to admit defeat and agree to whatever settlement the victor demands. It’s not good for your reputation, but like losing a duel, it’s still within the bounds of honour.

But if you then protest, or go back on the deal, or try to get back what you legitimately lost by treachery, why then you lose ALL respect and REP – effectively setting you back to level 0 (if the TV catches you…).

SO HOW DO I DANCE?

1. The Challenge

When someone starts dancing a Challenge is issued and Stakes are set.

The challenger rolls a d6 to set a target for the challengee to beat. They can add mods to this roll by Staking resources and by bringing in situational modifiers.

Stakes:
anything you stake may be lost if you lose the dance-off.
The first thing that can be Staked is Reputation – every point of REP staked is a +1 on the roll
You can also stake your life for a further +1. If you lose that… well in theory the victor could then legally kill you without reprisals, but that’s frowned on. Instead you’re commonly bound to do some service for the victor – either a specific task or a year of limited slavery.

If you have supporters, they can also stake their lives and join you in your dance (they could stake their Reputations but Rep cannot be pooled – only the single highest Rep counts) for +1 each

Situational Modifiers:
Anything you can bring in to hype the dance can provide a mod. Creativity is rewarded and appreciated by audiences. Classic moves include:

involve the crowd: make a d10 roll + CHA + REP + applicable skills to get the audience dancing on your side (vs the audience’s current disposition to the challenger). This can add +1 on an ordinary success, +2 on an exceptional success or -1 on a botch. If nobody brought their own band, musicians might also be called out of a crowd for an extra +1

stage effects: if you have an engineer on your side they can provide lighting or stage props, a choreomancer can tighten up your choreography, a great singer or musician can solo in praise of your majestic vertu, panache or malandragem. In each case a successful skill roll can add +1 (and a botch is -1)

2. The Response

The person challenged can Raise the stakes, Concede (or Fold), or Accept the challenge (Call).

If they Raise then they must beat whatever the Challenger got on their d6+mods, which will probably mean that they also have to Stake stuff and try to win situational modifiers – essentially they have to out-do the previous dance, make fun of the opponent’s claims and demonstrate their superior badassery and flair. They can entice the audience and musicians away (beating the previous skill roll to do so) and whatever else they can think of. If they beat the challenger, then the challenge is passed back to the original challenger who must Raise, Concede or Accept.

Each time a challenge or raise is issued, demands can be added to the dispute.

If a Raise is unsuccessful or if the person being challenged Concedes then (a) the challenger wins the dispute and any demands issued (argument, daughter’s hand in marriage, deeds to the mine, leadership of the pirate gang, rocket parts, whatever); (b) the conceding party loses whatever they Staked and 1 point of REP.

If a challenge is Accepted (Called) then the dancing turns to ritual combat (probably involving Mecha, discussed in Part 2), but not on a level playing field:

(a) the Accepter’s opponent (ie the last person to Challenge or Raise) gets initiative in the first round

(b) they also get the margin of their challenge’s success as a modifier to use at some point during that combat, either to modify one roll or to split up over multiple rolls as they see fit.

WHAT THE WHAT?

OK, example: Hakim challenges Waled for leadership of the tribe. Hakim has REP 4 and 2 supporters: a grease monkey and a trumpeter. Hakim stakes his REP and life, for a total of +5, his supporters stake their lives too (+2), the grease monkey adds spotlights and the trumpeter provides honking accompaniment for +1 each, for a total mod of +9. Hakim rolls a 3 +9 for stakes and mods = 12.

If Waled were to Accept this challenge then Hakim would get a total of +12 to use in the ensuing combat, which could be +12 on a single roll or +5 on one roll and +7 on another or any split Hakim chose.

Instead Waled Raises. He has REP 2 and 3 friends – a singer, a judge/orator and a high-CHA pilot with a magnificent moustache.  He stakes his REP (+2) and all stake their lives (+4). Waled borrows an extraordinary hat to augment his performance (+1), the singer solos (+1), and both the orator and the pilot try to involve the crowd. This is a judgment call for the DM – can you involve the crowd more than once for multiple mods? After furious pleading the DM is persuaded by the players’ argument that oratory appeals to the crowd’s religious fervour while moustache-envy appeals to lower urges, and so both are allowed (+2). The total mod is +10, Waled rolls a 5 and beats Hakim by 3.

Hakim doubts he can win the crowd back so he Accepts the challenge, knowing that Waled will have +3 in mods (the margin of his Raise) to use as he wishes in the upcoming combat.

ONLY THE POWERFUL CAN RENOUNCE POWER

In accordance with anthropological theory, there is a moment in this exchange where power passes from challenger to responder: when a Raise is successfully executed, the Raiser gets a choice: they can force a fight or concession, or they can take the loftier path and call for peace and reconciliation.

If they choose not to fight then the status quo is restored and everyone stands down. The challenger may only challenge again if they can present a new and compelling reason to do so. This rule was enacted because of the death through exhaustion of one Garwan the Grandiloquent, a remarkable and highly popular showman-emir who was subjected to a campaign of continuous challenges for trade concessions over 13 days by representatives of the Consortium of New Julfa Coffee Shippers.

BUT WAIT I THOUGHT THIS GAME WAS GOING TO BE ABOUT DANCING MECHA?
Well duh. You think getting your Bollymech to dance isn’t going to be worth some Situational Modifier (as well as being risky)?

Streamlined Ars Magica hack combat for Tartary

November 20, 2012 4 comments

I’ve been re-reading Ars Magica 4e (available for free download! Thanks to Jeremy Duncan for telling me this) and it’s cool but too complicated (incompatible with gin, which is a deal breaker for me).

So here’s a simpler hack. This is a draft, stuff will change.

All combat is done with d10. You and the opponent roll, you want to beat their result. You do damage equal to the margin by which you beat them.
Roll of 1 = fumble. Reroll – if you get another 1 a BAD THING happened. Reroll: another 1 and it’s WORSE.
Roll of 10 = awesome! Reroll and add results together. Lather, rinse, repeat.

You and the opponent get to add modifiers to your roll: your skill (called “fight”) + any situational things you can persuade me of (surprise, range, smoke, gigantism etc).
After you’ve decided who hits, damage gets modifiers from the kind of weapon you’re using. Like a dagger has no mod but a sword gives +1 damage. In Tartary people often play with explosives, which add a whole +d10 to damage.

Sequence of combat and modifiers

1.  initiative: d10 + fight. Lowest result declares their actions first. Anyone with higher initiative can interrupt that action with their own action.

1a. exception: SURPRISE. To get surprise you (a) set up a surprising situation, (b) roll d10 + sneaky skills. The person (perhaps) being surprised has to beat your total with their d10 + Wis or Per. THIS OBVIOUSLY FAVOURS PEOPLE WITH SNEAKY SKILLS GO FIGURE.

1b. exception: missiles go after melee (if you want to hit anything – to interrupt meleers you have to suck up a -3 mod)

2. Attack! Roll off with opponent, see who wins and therefore gets to cause damage. You CAN defend against multiple attacks in one round but each extra defense is at cumulative -3. If you are not defending then the target number to hit you is 2.

Missile weapons are a bit different
1. they go after melee (see above)
2. Roll D10 + shoot skill to hit. The basic target number to hit someone at cop show handgun range is 9 – this is in lieu of them getting a defense roll.
3. If applicable, apply the following mods:
partial cover -3 (includes a big shield)
target thinks they have full cover but doesn’t quite -6
long range for your weapon -2
spend an extra round aiming +3
target not moving (and not behind cover) +3
shooter takes damage in round of shooting: -total amount of damage taken.

4. Damage = the amount the attack exceeded defense + damage mod of weapon -armour

Melee weapon damage mods
Unarmed: -1
bottle, spanner: +0
one-handed weapon like a sword +1
2-handed weapon like an Enoch hammer +2
special pleading for your badass weapon +d10, though I can’t right now think of a single melee weapon to give this to, lightsabers and chainsaws included.

Missile weapon damage mods
sling/discus -1
thrown knife/axe/spear +0
bow/pistol +1
fancy bow/rifle/jezzail +2
basass blunderbuss, elephant gun, radium rifle or grenade launcher +d10 (but generally these weapons takes multiple rounds to reload).

Armour damage mods
improvised shield (rolled cloak, bit of siding) -1
actual purpose-built Roman or Viking type shield -2
Holtzman shield generator out of Dune -7
These can stack with actual Armor:
leather 0
man-portable metal -2
improvised tank plate -3
battleship siding -6
overworld hypercrystal alloystuff -10 (basically counts as cover

What damage means

Hit points are the old Errol Flynn DnD “luck and grit and ability to avoid serious injury” until you get to 0, when suddenly it’s slow healing time (unless you have a talented/ultratech medic or grease monkeys nearby, in which case good on you and don’t come crying to me about the strange things that happened).

At 0 hp you roll on The Death and Dismemberment Table (via Trollsmyth and Carjacked Seraphim).
Roll 1d10. If you’re in negative HP territory, that negative is applied to the roll.

1 confirmed by rerolling 1: Instant death (decapitated or other grievous wound).
1 but unconfirmed: Incapacitated/maimed. Die in 1d6 minutes unless medics beat difficulty target 9. Medics will be working on you for hours. Weak for 2d6 weeks, some lasting impairment.
2: Severed limb (DM’s choice or roll randomly) will die in 3d6 minutes unless tourniquet applied, cauterized etc. Then will die in 3d6 hours unless medics beat difficulty 6. Out for min. 1 hour.
3: lose something fragile – an eye, an ear, a finger, your memory/sense of self-identity. You’ll die in 3d10 hours unless medics beat difficulty 6. Beat 6 on d10+Wis or be stunned for rest of combat
4-5: broken bones, punctured lungs: roll over blow-through damage to stay conscious. You need medical aid or you will never be the same again. Also will die in d10 hours if you don’t stop the bleeding. With proper care you can recover completely. Meanwhile beat 6 on D10+Wis every time you try to do something strenuous or you’ll black out. And if you do, then beat 6 on d10+CHA or roll again on this table.
6: Knocked out and concussed. At -3 to do everything for 2d12 hours. Also you’re still on 0 hp. Beat 6 on D10 or you’ll black out. And if you do, then beat 6 on d10+Cha or roll again on this table.
7: Beat 6 on d10+Wis of be knocked out for d10 minutes.
8: Stunned and confused until someone snaps you out of it.
9: drop weapon, stunned for 1 round.
10: Adrenaline Surge. get back 1d3 HP. These go away again at the end of combat, at which point reroll. Another 10? permanently get +1 hp.

Dealing with vehicles etc.
Most hand weapons just do 1 damage to vehicles. hand-holdable explosives still do d10.
Vehicle-type cannons do +d10 damage to people, but only get some numerical +1 or similar against other vehicles.
PPCs, giant cannons or earthquake guns might do +d10 or even +2d10 to vehicles.

Special fightin’ nonsense
“Double wielding”
(using 2 weapons) means you still only attack once but you get to roll to attack twice and use the higher result.

You can use Zak’s “called shots” mechanic to say that you are increasing the chance of an exploding result on the die. IE: usually you would only reroll a 10 but you can take extra risk and say you want to also reroll a 9, 8, 7 or 6. BUT then your chance of a fumble goes up equally – so if you go all out for a called shot (shot works/explodes on 6-10) and roll a 6 then you get to reroll and add as per usual exploding damage. After that first reroll you only reroll again if you get a 10 as usual. BUT if you roll a 5 in the same situation then it’s a fumble AND when you reroll a 5 or below confirms the fumble.

Climbing on things: smaller things may be able to climb up bigger  things to do more damage to their vulnerable bits. Zak’s hack of Scrap’s rule works directly here: “for every round spent climbing on (not attacking) a big monster without falling or being thrown off you get +2 to hit and damage for when you do attack while on it. You are also protected from many of the creature’s usual attacks depending on where you’re climbing and what part of it you’re on.” NB this can also be done to PCs.
Small rolls D10 + climb vs. a target number (6 for a Bollymech, 9 for an organic creature, 12 for a smooth-sided supertanker or similar) to improve their hold/location. If Big is resisting they roll d10 + fight to try to throw Small off – if Big beats Small’s climb roll then Small can’t advance/get more bonus. If Big beats Small by 5 they shake/scrape/fling Small off. Whether Small can use their 2-handed sword from atop Big should be obvious from the specific situation.

A note about encumbrance
I mostly don’t bother tracking it unless you’re carrying a piano/fallen companion/statue etc. If you are, and you refuse to drop that heavy thing for combat, then you get minuses to all actions. Although maybe partial cover in recompense.

Ars Magica hack for Tartary (Chargen)

November 18, 2012 4 comments

So because I’m a lunatic I decided to try running Tartary in Ars Magica rather than the more obvious DnD route (also because I don’t want to deal with levels, at least for now). And then I hacked AM to look as much like DnD as possible.* Idiot.

Anyway: simplified Ars Magica chargen for Tartary.

1. roll characteristics,
2. choose a “class” – this is your major skill. Add 2 minor skills,
3. roll equipment.

Core Mechanic ie what you’re rolling against: 

D10 + relevant characteristic + situational modifiers against a target difficulty number. 1 is a botch (roll again – 1 confirms the botch, but there may be mods on that second roll depending on how risky the thing was you were doing). 0 is exploding – roll again, add to the previous result. (note this is the inverse of AM. Crazy huh?)

You can take “extra risk” and add +n to your die roll, but then you have to roll over n to avoid a botch.

AM has needlessly complex initiative and combat rolls. Here you just roll D10 + skill + sneaky roleplaying mods you fast talk me into, and try to get higher than the enemy. All combat is simultaneous except where there’s surprise.

Attributes (different from AM, sorry):
roll 1d6 -3 for each of these, yielding a range of -2 to +3. In order, natch.

Phy(sique = Str and Con combined), Dex, Int, Per(ception), Wis, Cha.

If you are not happy with your whole suite of rolls you can change the sign of all of them at once – all negatives become positives and vice versa. Attributes actually matter, so it might be worth it. Or just cheat completely: how would I know?

Hit Points

I do not use Ars Magica’s Body Levels. Instead there are hit points (which represent luck pure and simple and which recover after a night’s sleep) and a death and dismemberment table adapted from Trollsmyth, for when the hp run out.

To calculate HP: D6 + Wis + Phy + 4. Because wisdom is the art of doing what turned out to be the right thing after all (which sounds a lot like luck to me) and being big and beefy at least looks like it matters when you’re shrugging off minor damage.

If you take enough damage to reduce you to 0 hp, then roll on the The Death and Dismemberment Table (via Trollsmyth and Carjacked Seraphim). Roll 1d10 minus whatever negative hp you might be on.

1 confirmed by rerolling 1: Instant death (decapitated or other grievous wound).
1 but unconfirmed: Incapacitated/maimed. Die in 1d6 minutes unless medics beat difficulty target 9. Medics will be working on you for hours. Weak for 2d6 weeks, some lasting impairment.
2: Severed limb (DM’s choice or roll randomly) will die in 3d6 minutes unless tourniquet applied, cauterized etc. Then will die in 3d6 hours unless medics beat difficulty 6. Out for min. 1 hour.
3: lose something fragile – an eye, an ear, a finger, your memory/sense of self-identity. You’ll die in 3d10 hours unless medics beat difficulty 6. Beat 6 on d10+Wis or be stunned for rest of combat
4-5: broken bones, punctured lungs: roll over blow-through damage to stay conscious. You need medical aid or you will never be the same again. Also will die in d10 hours if you don’t stop the bleeding. With proper care you can recover completely. Meanwhile beat 6 on D10+Wis every time you try to do something strenuous or you’ll black out. And if you do, then beat 6 on d10+CHA or roll again on this table.
6: Knocked out and concussed. At -3 to do everything for 2d12 hours. Also you’re still on 0 hp. Beat 6 on D10 or you’ll black out. And if you do, then beat 6 on d10+Cha or roll again on this table.
7: Beat 6 on d10+Wis of be knocked out for d10 minutes.
8: Stunned and confused until someone snaps you out of it.
9: drop weapon, stunned for 1 round.
10: Adrenaline Surge. get back 1d3 HP. These go away again at the end of combat, at which point reroll. Another 10? permanently get +1 hp.

Abilities and Skills:

Everyone has 3 fields of ability: your class (a broad but ill-defined suite of skills, on which you get +6); your minor (a more limited skill area, like “bargain” or “athletics (ie run, jump, climb)” on which you get +4) and your hobby (same as minor but you only get +3).

If you want to specialise like crazy you can ditch your +4 minor and make ONE of your class’s core skills +7.
Everyone also gets Fight at +3 (unless they already have it at +6 because of their class, obviously. Sheesh.) – if you want you can trade this out for a different skill at +3 and be the one person around who can’t fight. Fight, by the way, covers all kinds of melee, brawling and dirty tricks bound up together.
Everyone can also at minimum ride a horse or camel well enough not to fall off on the trail, erect a tent, build a fire, climb easy rocky cliffs, walk quietly etc. without needing points in those things. BUT literacy, driving, repairing machines, swimming, medicine and shooting straight are not assumed.

Sample Classes (some extra class flavour here) – or suggest your own, natch.

Athletic/fighting classes – these guys all Fight, Shoot and Ride professionally (+5), but they have different societies, priorities and other skills.
Mamluk (Mamluk/pilot/ordnance officer) used to formal command systems, respectability and driving and field maintenance of heavy equipment, sapping etc.
Nomad (Turkmen horseclansman, pirate, steppe bandit, Mongol, barbarian) adds survival, tracking, animal handling and slaving contacts.
Green man (or Thark for the layman) unrivalled marksmen (automatically get +6 to shooting but no familiarity with bows), 4 arms allows multiple attacks, but almost universally outcast as rage-prone lunatics, stand out in a crowd, too big to usefully ride anything smaller than a thoat. May not have Wis above 0.

Sneaky, techie classes – in Tartary technology is always secret and academics need con-man skills, so there’s a large liaison between magic, tech and thief type skills.
Grease Monkey (hack-it-together mechanic, repairman and saboteur)
Scholar (or Apprentice Technomage/archaeologist – part Stalker, part Repo Man, and a large part knowledgable thief)
Merchant, Smuggler, Ambassador, Spy (same skillsets, reasons to keep moving on),

Charismatic classes – not clerics, but rabble-rousing talkers. Cha, obviously, but also Int, Dex, Phy can be important.
Lawgiver (respectable traveling Qadi or Mufti – eg ibn Battuta – more a Solomonic judge than a sheriff but both ideas are applicable)
Prophet, mystic or saint (shaggy-haired bushman or resplendently caparisoned spirit medium, the point is you have a strange hypnotic authority for some people)
Entertainer (be a bard if you like but you could be a veiled dancer, acrobat, or fakir)
Bollymecha Gladiator/Jockey (there are lots of ways you could’ve had a shot at the big time and fallen by the wayside. Now it’s comeback time. You have hands-on experience of surfing the dragon, but not necessarily any idea of what to do when it goes wrong. Somewhere you have a gaggle of die-hard fans. And sworn enemies. Note that to perform at the top you gotta be a triple threat – singing, dancing and whoopin’ ass in a giant fighting machine – but street brawling ain’t for stars)

NOTE: I am always interested in new classes that trade on Perception or Wisdom, or trades that favour less-traveled mixes of talents, like strong/wise or strong/charismatic: if you have an idea you’re excited about I’m unlikely to say no.

Sample minor skills. Where there’s a slash you get the combo: I just couldn’t think of an elegant name for it.

acrobatics/escapology (circus work, includes multi-person stunts)
athletics (parkour – climb, run, jump)
stealth
evaluate goods/bargain
smuggle/conceal/bribe
etiquette/savoir faire
folk ken (applied psychology/empathy)
animal handling/whispering
leadership/oratory/bluff
act/lie/disguise
direction sense (track, find your way in the dark etc)
dowsing
radiation sense (aka detect magic)
concentration/iron will (useful for rocket surgeons, lookouts)
ride
survival
swim
linguist
scribe
forgery
jimmy (pick locks, also fix machines with a kick or whisper)
healer/herbalist
mimicry/ventriloquism
read lips/gesture
weather sense
shoot – bow or guns or artillery
sleight of hand, 
music, 
showmanship
law, beliefs
sail, drive, or fly vehicle

Experience and Character Advancement

is handed out at DM’s will and whim, but often comes down to 1xp per session of active participation, and sometimes an extra 1 if you do something awesome.

An xp is a skill point plain and simple. The cost to improve a skill by 1 point = the resulting bonus. SO to improve a skill of 3 to 4 costs 4 points. Then to improve that to 5 costs 5 points. In short, it’s a triangular number system.

Attributes can also be improved, but the cost is triple that for skills. So to improve DEXterity from 0 to 1 costs 3xp. From 1 to 2 costs 6xp, from 2 to 3 costs 9xp. It’s the same with negatives: -1 to 0 costs 3xp. -2 to -1 costs 6xp etc.

Equipment (reproduced from here)

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.

Table A
1. crowbar
2. dagger
3. shield
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
10. mirror
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

Table B
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
9 map
10 loyal family retainer – a standard grog with a couple of charming quirks.
11 holy symbol or badge of office
12 radio

Also check out these name lists right here.

Sample Character: Armağan the Vagrant is a some time scholar and part-time bandit. Allegedly he has a prestigious apprenticeship waiting for him among the Seers of Otrar, but that’s conditional on him bringing something back from his “fieldwork” to form the focus of his research.
Phy -1, Dex 0, Int +2, Per +1, Wis -2, Cha 0. Scholar/archaeologist 5, smuggler 3, liar 2
Chemistry set and ancient mysterious instruction manual, crowbar (counts as club), lamp and oil. One flask of something he hopes is a potion of healing.

General statements about the setting:
Tartary has “technomagic” – a lot of stuff in Tartary obeys peculiar physical laws, functions unpredictably, is misunderstood and has some kind of superstitious traditions built around it.
Doing technomagic means building and using equipment or stuff in the environment. Nobody starts with magic on hand, it must be found through play – though scholars may recognise it when they see it and know where to learn more about it. There is most of all no equivalent to DnD’s one-spell-a-day magic user or cleric – there are guilds of scholars and mad archmages with plenty of mystique around them, but they mostly fight over physical resources. Even the great choreomancers, who clearly do honest-to-whizbang magic, work with physical tools.

All new characters are generated as “companions:” competent non-magic folk. Also, by default everyone can fight – but just being a fighter is boring, so folks are mostly distinguished by being able to do other things.

Common belief says there is an “overworld,” but that’s where consensus ends. Tartary has a hard time distinguishing between magic and engineering – it certainly does not draw any clear line between magic and religion. In place of clerics there are Those Who Hold The Law. There are various kinds of uncanny spirits, sprites and parasites, but whether they are undead or not is a philosophical matter: anyway nobody can turn them.

Tartary has no “home tech level” (like DnD’s home tech level is roughly 14th century but you might run across stuff that’s anachronistic/out of place), it’s the whole history of Turkestan, ancient to post-Soviet, simultaneously – flattened into a brick – plus “magic” and post-apocalyptic bits and Girl Genius and Arabian Nights shout-outs.
But real high-tech is rare: production quality is generally low – stuff is improvised, home-made. Bows are no more common than guns or slings or atlatls, but the guns are what you could cook up in the desert with simple tools: more like unreliable muskets than modern assault rifles. You use what you can. Technologies that have dependencies (like cars that need fuel and spare parts) are rarer and less reliable than those that don’t (like rocks and hide shelters). Real manufactured goods are the stuff of legend – and are to be found in dangerous, Roadside Picnic type zones.

Tartary also has no widespread cash economy – individual cities and some confederations exist that have common money, and the Armenian and Chinese trade networks have paper letters of credit that work something like cash (but must be certified), but most trade is barter and exchange rates for metals, rare stones, spices and other common cash equivalents are wildly variable.

Language is a mish-mash of Turkic/Uighur/Persian/Arabic/Pashto forming a pidgin “common” tongue – most people also have their “native” language spoken only by a small population in the local area, so kin/neighbours often have a kind of secret code among themselves. This effect is doubled for incoming flailsnailers, who are definitely gringos/farangs in a foreign land, but can communicate well enough to get by, when everyone wants to be understood.

Colour-coded Carcosans dropped in some years ago and have their own communities out in the wastes, but they’re a minority. If you play a Carcosan then you can speak Carcosan and bad common, you’ll be tolerated by most non-Carcosans, and you may be hunted by sorcerers or paint suppliers, but in recompense you get some natural radiation/magic resistance. Prejudice is so universal and works in so many directions that it’s hardly worth mentioning anti-Orange or -Teal* feeling. The exception, of course, is Bone men, who creep out the superstitious (ie most folks but not everyone) and Yellow men, whom the Mongols have decided are their natural enemies. Barsoomian Green Men are another matter altogether – they’re actively feared by many and the Turkmens, in particular, hate them. There are some places where Green Men are welcomed and they have powerful sponsors who use them as mercenaries, but on picaresque adventures they’re going to face general flak.

Tartary is supposed to be a flailsnails setting, but Ars Magica and Tartary don’t have levels. Weird, huh? BUT there is a  Reputation stat (REP) that records your fame and badassery on Tartary, useful in social combat and when asking for favours, recruiting redshirts etc. Tartary gets television from across the flailsnailoverse; when bringing a character from elsewhere, let me know about their greatest career highs and lows to date – there’s a fair chance someone out there has seen them on TV based on their fame.
Rep = your DnD level +/- a modifier based on your glorious pratfalls so far.

For more and confusing information, follow the Baikonur and Carcosa tags.

* changes from Ars Magica: no more “communication” – that’s up to you, player. Also no more Qikness (aka “initiative bonus”), Sta, pairing of stats. Pfeh. I like differentiating Int and Wis so there you are. Also allows me to give you common sense saves vs doing something stupid.

Also Virtues and Flaws are not included here. We may add these later but for session one don’t worry about it UNLESS there is something vital to your character concept.