Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Empress 2.0!

This is a bit out of nowhere.  In short, I just drafted a new set of rules for Empress, my homebrew FRPG.  As the post title suggests, we're going to call this Empress 2.0, for now.

Here she is!

What's different?  In a nutshell: it's much simpler.  I reduced the ability count from seven to five, and that's with adding Luck as a new ability.  Armor is handled simply by increasing the Hit Class, with some rare attacks halving or nullifying the armor contribution.

Also, magic is a lot simpler.  Rather than describe a complex framework for custom spell casting methodologies, I reduced it to two: a semi-Vancian system, with slow-cast spells being stored up in a limited container for fast-casting (sorcery), and a fatigue-based system where casters develop mutations or restrictions as they advance (witchcraft).

I've added a few concepts, mostly stolen from Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC).  There's the aforementioned Luck, of course.  In this case, all characters regain a Luck point per day.  There's also a skill in Cantrips, which can basically be used to apply Luck to other characters (and also as a penalty), and to have it occur based on conditions.  It yields double the bonus of a simple Luck expenditure, as well.  This is an Explorer skill (my renaming of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess' (LotFP) Specialist) rather than a straight-up mage art, and it kind of simulates the mechanics of the DCC Halfling.

I also introduced my own system for feats which is based on Mighty Deeds.  Basically, all characters are encouraged to supplement every attack with some special effect.  The damage will always succeed if the attack hits (assuming the attacker wants to do damage).  The feat will succeed if (1) the attack succeeds by an amount based on the difficulty of the feat, and (2) if the defender fails a saving throw.  Warriors have an advantage, here, since they can take combat specializations that decrease the required margin of success to activate the feat.

The kind of mutations and restrictions that witches accrue, called "marks," are based partly on corruption from DCC, and similar ideas from Crypts and Things. The latter game influenced a number of these mechanics in subtle ways.  They show themselves most clearly in how damage is handled.

Finally, note that this is a work in progress.  Some of the tables are incomplete, and there's plenty of room for things to change.

Latest update: 2/10/2017

Without further ado...

fantasy role-playing rules


Empress is my latest attempt at a fantasy role-playing game ruleset.  It’s meant to correspond to an old-school approach, where the rules should be loose enough to permit easy on-the-spot rulings.  Also, some of the mechanics hearken back to the early days.

Each section will describe some important set of game mechanics.  We’re going to assume that the reader understands the basic conventions of tabletop role-playing.


Like most RPGs, characters’ raw physical and mental aptitude is described by a number of abilities.  As with old-school games, these are rated from 3-18 in most humans.  A starting character can determine these values according to whatever system the GM selects (roll 4d6 and drop the lowest die, point-buy, allocating values, etc.).  Here are the abilities:

  • Toughness: Strength and constitution.
  • Dexterity: Agility and aim.
  • Mind: Intelligence and cleverness.
  • Spirit: Willpower and charisma.
  • Luck: Pool of points that can be spent on other rolls and certain situations.

Each ability has an ability modifier, based on the ability score.  This modifier typically applies to any roll that incorporates that ability, as well as a lot of other situations.  The modifier will range from -3 (for an ability score of 3, which is very poor) to +3 (for a score of 18, which is awesome).


Luck is a little different from the other attributes.  It is generated based on a 2d6 roll, and it doesn’t entail any modifiers.


Luck can be spent to increase one’s own die rolls, and may provide bonuses in specific situations.  Any time a player wants, Luck points can be added to any roll they make, the character’s Luck score is reduced in accordance.  The player can wait till after a roll is made but before the results apply.

It may also be used in rolls to determine the effects of pure chance that primarily affect the character.  Luck that is spent to improve other rolls is treated as damage (see later), which means it recovers at the rate of one point per day.  It doesn’t benefit from healing, though.

Note that NPCs may be considered to have Luck abilities, but they generally don’t spend Luck points.  That’s purely the province of PCs.  The exception is when they use folk magic; see below for more details.

Classes and levels


We’ll go with four basic classes: warrior, explorer, sorcerer and mystic (the last two classes are considered magicians, and are quite similar).  A character who gains a level can potentially pick any that he or she is either frequently performing or receiving intensive training.  The GM is the final judge of what classes are open to a character at any given time.

The benefits of a warrior class level is that the character increases Initiative and Attack Bonus by one, each, as well as Toughness and Agility saving throws.  He or she can also select one combat skill (a specialization or a proficiency; see later).  Warriors gets 1d8 + Toughness modifier HP per level.

An explorer may choose to either increase four different skills by one level, or to raise one skill by two levels and a different one by a single level.  Explorers also get two saving throw increases per level; the player chooses the two saving throws to improve.  Explorers get 1d6 + Toughness modifier HP per level.

A magician improves Mind and Spirit saving throws by one for each level.  They also gain the ability to learn new spells, and are able to cast more of them with greater power.  They get 1d4 + Toughness modifier HP per level.  Also, for every two levels of experience, a magician gains one skill level in Arcana.  Finally, magicians improve their Casting Modifiers by one for every level.


The base rate at which characters earn experience points (XP) is one per hour of play (real-world time, not in-game time).


Characters progress in levels according to his XP total, as follows:

(XP for last level) + (N x 10)


Character creation involves a straight 3d6 roll down the line for four separate characters.  These can be run through a DCC-style funnel.  Alternatively, the player chooses which one to play.  Then, he selects a class, and starts at level one.  If the GM agrees that the player got a bunch of truly lousy rolls, he may allow the player to roll four new characters.

Starting funds should be pretty modest for the game world; characters need a reason to go adventuring!  100 SP/GP (depending on your standard) is a simple rule of thumb.

Explorer skills

All characters start the game with a number of Explorer skill points equal to their Mind modifier, plus one.  These can be allocated however the player desires.  If the character has a negative number of skill points, then he has to reduce one or two skills to zero!

Weapon proficiencies

For a character’s first level in a given class, he or she should gain the appropriate proficiencies.  In some cases, the GM may be presented with multiple possibilities; the GM should select based on the flavor of the character’s training.

Proficient weapons
dagger, club, staff, short sword, mace, short bow or all crossbows, sling or thrown blade, improvised weapons
dagger or staff
club, staff, spear, polearm, club, staff, all crossbows or javelin, pick two from {swords, axes, shield}, pick two from {bow, longbow, sling, thrown blade}

Improvised weapons do damage like similar weapons, though they generally either (test Luck) break or gain an added -1 to hit and -1 to damage with each round they a wielded.  


If you want to have a little more customization, characters can start with traits, which are unusual advantages and disadvantages.  Traits have either a negative or a positive value, and these are added up to obtain an overall trait level for the character.  Players are usually limited to three traits, and the GM can veto (or permit) any individual or combination of traits that he wants.

The effect of trait levels is on the amount of XP a character needs to go up a level.  Each level, the required XP is adjusted by an amount equal to three times the character’s trait level times his experience level.  

Thus, a character with a trait level of three trying to reach experience level five must spend an additional (3 x 3) x 5 = 45 XP.  The total required for this character to reach level five is 145 + 45 = 190 XP.

Use this table as a guideline:

Trait level
Social undesirable who may be meet with intolerance and even mob violence
Effectively has mystic mark IV
Strongly allergic to iron
Movement -10 per round
Unable to become a magician
Low class, disrespected and easily dismissed
Demanding tribal code of honor
-1 roll penalty in specific situations
Effectively has mystic mark II
Menaced by a dangerous enemy
Member of the aristocracy, and free from casual persecution
Skill starts at +1
Can cast a level one spell as a mystic
Starts with x5 wealth
Extensive contacts in one social circle in one sovereign state
Member of nobility with lots of special privileges
Skill gains +1 every 3 levels
Saving throws +3 for specific situations (e.g. poison, falling, etc.)
Infravision 60’
Water breathing

It should be said that these are completely unnecessary to have a great game.  I mainly included them for instances that one might want to simulate a non-human character who has certain racial advantages or disadvantages.  But let’s face it, there may be times when players want to have characters who start off a little different, and it’s good to have a system for it.

Saving throws

Saving throws are only used for reactive situations, not in the place of skill or attack rolls.  There are four ability-based saving throws: Toughness, Dexterity, Mind and Spirit.  Corresponding ability modifiers apply to each save, of course.

The GM has discretion to select the appropriate ability and DC for a situation.  In some cases, there may be multiple applicable abilities.  For instance, if a character is injected with a drug meant to induce a suggestible mental state for interrogation (i.e. “truth serum”), an argument could be made for using either Toughness, Mind or Spirit.  In such situations, the GM might allow the character to use the highest applicable bonus, or the lowest, or whatever he damn well pleases.  

Smart players may narrate their attempts to resist in such a way as to influence the GM’s choice.

Toughness saves

These are used for situations where the character is resisting the effects of something that is causing physical distress.  The classic example is poison, but can be used also for enduring the effects of fatigue or deprivation, and may even be to resist the effects of some forms of hostile magic (such as polymorph spells).

Dexterity saves

Dexterity saving throws are one of the most common ones, and are used when a character needs to react quickly and properly to threats.  The classic example here would be avoidance of traps or area effect weapons.  In Empress, a common situation is that a Dexterity save can be used to determine if an attack actually makes contact with a character who is hit but is not reduced below zero hit points.

Mind saves

Mind saving throws are probably the least used, but they can come in handy for resisting magic of a deceptive nature, like illusions, subconscious suggestions, etc.  Note that the Perception skill should generally be used for noticing things that are hard to notice.

Spirit saves

Spirit saving throws are most often used for resisting the effects of magic, although typically not for avoiding purely physical effects like fireballs and the like.  Instead, a Spirit save would be appropriate for defeating different kinds of curses and unpleasant enchantments - charm spells are the classic example.


Explorer skills rely on a similar system as LotFP Specialists.  Skills default to level one for all PCs, and can be raised up to level six.  In some cases, a character may be level zero in a skill.

Explorer skill list

The following is the list of skills that Explorers may choose from.

  • Arcana: Lore of natural and/or supernatural.
  • Culture: History, customs and all that.
  • Research: Ability to work in a lab or library, and to derive skill from books.
  • Tinker: Working with tools, gizmos and mechanisms (especially traps and locks).
  • Sleight of hand: Picking pockets, concealing weapons and draws, card tricks, etc.
  • Perception: Searching, spotting surprise attacks, etc.
  • Deception: Acting, forgery, cons, lies, etc.
  • Ambush: Improves the effectiveness of sneak attacks.
  • Stealth: Remaining undetected (sneak, hide, etc.).
  • Athletics: Climbing, swimming, etc.
  • Construction: Good for building and analyzing buildings.
  • Craft: Making tools and stuff.
  • Bushcraft: Survival, tracking, navigation, etc.
  • Languages: Ability to communicate in foreign languages.
  • Business: Assessing value, and scoring good deals.
  • Medicine: Stabilize critical condition, given extra saving throws, speed up recovery.
  • Leadership: Improves Spirit bonuses with hirelings.
  • Animal handling: Riding, training, calming and general care of domestic animals.
  • Carousing: Socializing in casual situations.
  • Cantrips: The art of hexing and blessing (see below).

Warrior skills

Warriors have combat-oriented skills, which aren’t rated, and are gained at the rate of one per level.  There are two types of warrior skills: feat specializations, and weapon proficiencies.

Feat specializations

Feat specializations allow a character to perform a certain kind of feat as though it was one level lower (i.e. major feats can be accomplished as though they were minor).  Specializing in a trivial feat means that it can be performed even if the character misses by two or less.

Weapon proficiencies

Weapon proficiencies, on the other hand, represent a character gaining familiarity with a class of closely related weapons.  The exact weapons depend on the kind of training.  They can belong to the same martial tradition (e.g. Roman Centurion), or the training can be generalized to be used with a number of similar weapons (e.g. single stick).  GM judgement comes into play, here.  As a guideline, it could entail anywhere from three to five new weapons.

Simple weapon proficiencies

For certain weapons that are extremely simple to operate, proficiency may be obtained through a few hours of instruction.  This is the case for the crossbow, as well as different technologies of black powder weapons (most of the training there is for loading).  The GM may select any others that seem reasonable, although few melee weapons should qualify.  In general, we’re talking about something with a bit of technology.

Doing things

Depending on the situation, different mechanics are used to handle different situations.  Most of the time, we go with a d20/DC mechanic, but not always.

Ability checks

When a character is performing something fairly standard, an ability check can be made.  The GM can assign a DC to the task, and roll 1d20 + ability modifier.  If the character has an applicable skill, add the skill level.  This is called an ability check.  When an explorer skill can apply, a character may add it to the roll if he has progressed past level one.

Opposed checks

If two characters are actively and consciously opposing each other, opposed checks may be necessary.  If one character is passive, then assign an appropriate DC based on the situation.  If specialized skills are required, then characters must pass a skill check, too.

Skill checks

If the character is doing something that requires specialized skills, roll 1d6 to get equal or lower than the highest relevant explorer skill level.  For hard or easy tasks, roll two or three times; take the lowest value for easy tasks, the highest for hard ones.  If a character’s skill level is six, then he tries again if the first trial is a failure.  This roll is called a skill check.

If a character’s skill level is six, then for each die, roll two dice, and consider the roll a failure only if they are both sixes.  For level zero, also roll twice per roll, but only consider the check a success if they were both ones.

Here are some specialized uses of some skills that the GM may want to use.


For climbing things like trees and steep slopes, or using ropes or hand-holds that a climber put in place, ability checks are reasonable (with a bonus from Athletics skill), and only if the climb is challenging.  However, for things like free-climbing a typical wall or cliff, or using specialized climbing gear, an Athletics skill roll is called for.


Despite being something anyone can do, stealth relies on skill checks.  The tricky character rolls Ambush, Stealth, Deception, Sleight of Hand, etc. (depending on the activity), and the target of the trick rolls Perception.  If the target is being vigilant or the deception is especially brazen, the trick is noticed if the Perception check succeeds or the trick check fails.  If the target is vigilant the trick is noticed only if the Perception check succeeds and the trick check fails.


A backstab is basically an attack that the defender didn’t see coming.  To backstab in melee, it is usually necessary that the attacker makes a successful stealth check of some sort; the Ambush skill can be used here, too, if the attacker selects and prepares the location, as opposed to sneaking up on a guard.  The Stealth skill is used to sneaking up on guards, and Deception is used for sucker punches.  When a character attacks from surprise, he gets a base +2 bonus to hit from attacking from the rear.  Also, the attacker adds Ambush skill to the attack roll and damage die.  Finally, backstabbing with a dagger (or any other weapon designated as having the backstab property) does +3d damage (i.e. base 1d7).

Knowledge checks

Lots of different skills can be used to provide background knowledge to characters.  Difficulty can be varied for more obscure or well-known tidbits.  Another way to handle a complex topic is to have the character may rolls to uncover more information about successive levels of depth.  Each roll, the GM tells the player more if the roll was a success, but once a roll fails, all rolls stop.

Using book research

A character can use his or her Research skill to rely on books to supplement his or her knowledge.  Each week the character researches a topic, he may increase his skill level by one, up to a maximum level equal to his Research skill.  He can do this for a number of topics equal to his skill level.  It takes sufficient reading materials and two hours a day, approximately.  If the character stops researching a topic, his skill level drops by one level per week of disuse.  Topics are more narrow than complete skills.


This skill has a few uses.  One of the most important uses is stabilizing a comrade in critical condition.  This requires a skill roll, and if successful, a deteriorating character will stop getting worse.  It can be attempted once per round, and repeated until the roll succeeds or the patient dies.

Another valuable application is to earn extra saving throws against poison and disease, when applicable.  This can give a character a chance to re-roll a failed save.  If the treatment roll fails, then no re-roll is obtained.  This can be attempted once per failed saving throw.

Finally, medicine can be used to speed another character’s healing.  By spending two hours a day tending to another, that character may heal an extra ability point every day.  A skill roll is required each day, and the GM must determine what kinds of other resources are needed.


Instead of keeping track of every language a character knows, we have a Language skill.  When a character encounters a new language, make a skill roll to see if the character can communicate in it.  If the character succeeds, roll again at half skill level.  If only the first check succeeded, then the character is only barely conversant, apt to miss sophisticated meanings, occasionally miscommunicate, etc.  Mark down that the character is familiar with the language, and make skill rolls any time the character is attempting to understand or express a complex concept in that language.  

If both skill rolls succeed, then the character is sufficiently fluent that such rolls are unnecessary.  This can also be marked down for future reference.  However, note that regional variation is extreme in the absence of mass communication; thus, this may need to be re-rolled after traveling only a few days in any direction.  It is, however, safe to assume that all characters know any “common” tongue of the greater region that they are native to.


As stated, we will cover this in the magic section.

Saving throws

If a character is reacting to danger, use the appropriate saving throw modifier for the ability check modifier.  This is a saving throw.  We’ve more or less covered this in its own section.

Luck tests

When testing Luck, things are resolved a little differently.  Roll under the character’s current Luck on 1d20 for him to be lucky.  In an opposed situation, everyone must roll 1d20 and add their entire Luck score; the winner is the character with the greatest sum.  These are called luck tests.

NPC reactions

This is a generalized social mechanic.  Basically, the GM should play NPCs however seems reasonable.  If at any point the GM isn’t sure how the NPC will react to something that another character is doing, or would like to inject some randomness, then he or she should roll 1d20 and consult the following chart:

Future reaction modifier
Very negative
Very positive

A character should add his or her Spirit modifier, plus any applicable skill modifiers.  Regardless of modifiers, a natural “1” always produces a very negative reaction, while a “20” receives a very positive one.

The GM should interpret the result of the roll within the range of possible responses, not within an absolute scale of reactions.  A very positive reaction could mean anything from a stranger welcoming a person into his home, to a guard letting a character off with a warning.  It should never result in something truly unrealistic occurring, and the range of possible responses should be based on whatever the character is actually doing or saying.

In addition, the future reaction modifier is used to modify future rolls that the character must make with the same NPC.  This modifier is used when the reaction roll is used to represent the NPC’s general disposition.  Not every reaction roll is going to affect future reactions, depending on what they are used to represent.


One thing you should realize about combat is that only warrior levels improve a character’s Initiative and Attack Modifiers.  Although this might seem extreme to those familiar with The Original Game, it’s actually quite feasible even without multiclassing.  Explorers and magicians have plenty of combat options, although they tend to be less straightforward.


Every character has an Initiative score.  This can either be treated as a modifier to a roll (1d6 is the classic roll), or just taken as a constant value.  If it is a roll modifier, the roll is made by every participant, or group, at the start of the round.

If you’re rolling for a group, use the highest modifier and 1d20 if they are well-organized or 1d10 and the lowest modifier if they are in disarray.

Over the course of a combat round, participants have the option of acting in initiative order, descending.  An action can often be coupled with a move, or the character can forgo an action and move twice.  Some actions may preclude movement, and the GM may rule that some actions take multiple rounds.

A character can delay acting in initiative order.  As the GM counts down the initiative segments, each character that has the ability to act and has not acted may opt to act during that segment.  If two segments go by with nobody acting, the round ends and the next begins.

Initiative has an impact on combat effectiveness, besides the tactical considerations of ordering one’s actions.  If a character is attacking an opponent with a lower initiative value who has not acted yet this round, there is a +1 bonus to the hit roll.  If a character is attacking an opponent with a higher initiative value who has not yet acted in the round, however, there is a -2 penalty to the attack roll.

Simplified initiative

This makes things even simpler for handling the common situation where the PCs are fighting against one or more NPCs.  It’s just a subset of the usual rules.

During the first round, determine whether the party or the NPCs go first.  For a well-organized group, use the highest Initiative value of that group.  For a rabble, use the most common Initiative value (they’ll often be pretty uniform, anyway).  The GM may want to have each side add a 1d6 to this value, to add a stochastic element.

For successive rounds, the players and their allies act before opposing NPCs.

Initiative still matters.  Any character from the side going first in a round may opt to delay its action until after the other side.  Whichever party attacks in the round before the defender acts gets a bonus of +1 to hit if its initiative was higher, or -2 to hit if it is lower.

So the same bonuses and penalties are in place.  It is the process of determining who goes first is greatly simplified, favoring the players overall (though hopefully not in an unbalancing way).

Combat movement

Everyone gets a movement allowance of 30’ per round, which they spend during their turn to act (i.e. segment).  If a character spends his or her action on movement, the character may move double this round.


If a character is trying to pull away from melee range with one or more adversaries, any of those adversaries who hasn’t acted this round has the option of taking their attack immediately.  However, if a character is actually trying to move past aggressive opponents, they each may perform a free attack immediately prior.

Hitting things

Hit Class (HC) is purely based on size and hardness, although other factors can modify the hit roll.  It is typically 12 for an adult human.  Every character has a Power Modifier and an Aim Modifier.  These are both based on combat skill (i.e. +total warrior levels and +1 for all leveled characters), while Power is based on Toughness and Aim is based on Dexterity.  When attacking with ranged weapons, the Aim Modifier is always used for the attack roll.  When attacking with melee weapons, the greater value is usually used.  Some melee weapons may entail the use of one or the other; unarmed attacks, for example, rely on the Power Modifier.  The selected modifier is called the Attack Modifier.

The attack roll is 1d20 + Attack Modifier, or 1d16 + Attack Modifier is not proficient with the weapon being used.  If the roll exceeds HC, the attack hits.  A critical success results in maximum damage.  A critical failure results in some kind of fumble.  Have the attacker make a Reflexes saving throw against a DC of 15, and resolve accordingly.  A critical failure here probably results in accidentally hitting an ally or even oneself.

In addition to an HC, a character also has an Armor Class (AC), representing the amount of HC improvement they receive purely from the toughness of their armor.  This doesn’t come into play often, though some attacks could be designated as Penetrating, or even Breaching.  A Penetrating attack halves effective AC against it, while a Breaching attack ignores AC entirely.  These attributes are applied to unusual attacks like the swings of a giant club, the touch of a ghost or bullets fired from a rifle.  

Other attacks, on the other hand, might be classified as Glancing, which means that AC is increased by 50% (rounding up) against them.  This could be for attacks that rely heavily on direct skin contact, like blowgun darts, tasers or bee stings.

Situational advantage

A basic concept of combat are advantageous and disadvantageous situations.  If a character makes clever use of the battlefield, the GM may provide a bonus to his attack rolls, while a disadvantageous situation may incur a penalty.  Depending on how avoidable these situations are, the GM may give the defender a saving throw to avoid the bonus, or the attacker a saving throw to avoid the penalty.

Combat feats

One thing I’m stealing from DCC is that combat feats are baked into the system.  Characters are able to (and should) declare that they are attempting some kind of special combat effect along with their usual damage.  They may decide to forgo damage completely, but this will not provide any benefit to the feat.  The point here is to encourage players to be creative by providing no penalty for doing so, not even an opportunity cost.

Almost anything can qualify as a combat feat.  It could be something simple, like the character trying to force his opponent backwards or disarming them, or something more complex, like leaping onto a giant and steering it into another.

A combat feat is categorized as either trivial, minor or major.  Trivial feats accomplish something fairly insignificant (at least, under normal circumstances), like touching an opponent upon hitting them (even if they have mitigating hit points).  Minor feats include more drastic results, such as forcing an opponent backwards, disengaging safely from combat with the defender, getting a hold on the defender, etc.  Major feats include the most dramatic results, like disarming or pinning the defender, inflicting significant extra damage, etc.

To achieve a trivial feat, the attacker need merely hit the defender.  To succeed in a minor feat, the hit must be notable (i.e. exceed the needed value by four or more).  To succeed in a major feat, the hit must be critical (i.e. natural 20, or when succeeding by 10 or more).  In all cases, however, the defender makes some kind of saving throw, with the hit roll or an attacker ability check as the DC.  A trivial feat might give the attacker a +1 bonus on a future specific roll (like an attack next round or even the damage roll), while a minor feat could have a valuable tactical effect, like knocking enemies into each other to cause them all to receive larger penalties.  Major feats, on the other hand, can lead to decisive results, such as an attack that damages more than one opponent, or an inescapable hold on the defender.

No rules are given for these.  You must make them up at the table.

Some warrior specializations lower the effective category of a feat.  For instance, a warrior who specializes in sword disarming may do so as a minor feat instead of a major one.

Dual wielding

Dual wielding comes in many forms.  The most common are shields.  A shield has an AC bonus, and a max AC (i.e. cannot improve AC past this point over armor).  Bonus is +2 for normal-sized shield, with an AC ceiling of 6 for steel, 5 for reinforced wood.   Using a shield without a shield proficiency results in -1 to hit rolls and -1 to AC bonus.

Dual wielding weapons is a special proficiency, so a character’s attack is rolled on 1d16 if he lacks proficiency in the specific combination.  Otherwise, dual wielding improves either attack modifier or HC by one each round, and attacks that land roll both weapon damage and take the highest.


When a character is sacrificing one aspect of combat (e.g. HC) in return for another (e.g. Attack Modifier), then this is generally done at a 1:2 ratio; i.e. a penalty of two for one thing in return for a bonus of one for another.  This can be doubled in extreme situations (i.e. a penalty of four in exchange for a bonus of two).  There is no special bonus from giving up one’s attack beyond the +2 HC that comes from taking a -4 to hit.

Combat damage

Every weapon has a base damage die.  A character with a Toughness bonus simply modifies the damage die accordingly.  If an attack scores a critical hit, then damage is the maximum value that could be rolled.

Equipment statistics

Melee weapons

Melee weapon class
Hands, feet, elbows, foreheads, etc.
Heavy mug, knife
Hand weapon
Club, dagger
Short weapon
Hand ax, gladius, mace
Standard weapon
Arming sword, spear, battle-ax
Heavy weapon
Longsword, halberd

The GM can make rulings as desired for weapons that act as exceptions.  Certain weapons can have bonuses against certain specific types of armor; for instance, a warhammer may have an advantage when used against plate armor, and a mace would be especially useful against light mail.  A +2 to hit bonus in such occasions is reasonable.  Best yet, the GM can consider armaments when determining situational advantages for attacking.

Unarmed attacks are treated as armor piercing.  This is because grappling pretty much ignores armor entirely.

Heavy weapons tend to require two hands.  Spears and polearms can be used to attack from the second rank.

Missile weapons

Throwing knife
Throwing ax
Thrown rock
Light crossbow
Short bow
Heavy crossbow

It takes a round to load a heavy crossbow.  Taking a round to aim gives the character a +2 to hit.  Crossbows are treated as being aimed from the round after they are loaded, until they are fired.



These won’t make an appearance in most fantasy settings, so we’re going to keep it simple.  Pistol and rifle are very generic categories, so the GM can adjust damage and range a little bit for lighter and heavier versions, as well as other variations.  The same is even more true for “scatterguns,” which encompasses includes shotguns, blunderbusses, flechette ammunition and related weapons.

There are a few features that set these weapons apart.  First of all, they are all are treated as armor-piercing with medieval armor (i.e. halve AC contribution to HC), except cannons, which bypass armor completely.

Second, reloading times depend on technology.  Modern weapons have magazines, which take a single action to replace.  If replacing individual cartridges, a proficient character can replace two in an action, one if not proficient.  Older black powder weapons typically take a proficient character two rounds to reload.  Non-proficient characters take 4 rounds, and must make a Mind check at DC 15 or will simply explode the gun if fired (2d6 damage to wielder).

Thirdly, the scattergun does -1d damage for every range band beyond short range, but +1d damage at melee range!  It can target two adjacent opponents at short range, three at medium and four at long.

Finally, modern versions of these weapons have better range characteristics.  Increase pistol to 45/90/135, rifle to 90/180/270 and shotgun to 40/60/80.  Cannons are another matter; they get longer ranged and do more damage, both by significant amounts.  They have no range penalties if they can see you, and they do 4d10 damage.


Hard leather
Light mail
Heavy mail
Medium shield
Large shield

A shield used with armor cannot be used to improve AC past a certain point that is determined by the shield material.  A shield made of reinforced wood cannot improve AC past 5, while a steel shield cannot raise AC past 6.

Bucklers give the same bonus as a medium shield, but the bonus can only be applied towards one attack per round.  That attack must be deliberately selected by the defender, so the buckler cannot be used to blindly ward off arrows.

Large shields are extremely cumbersome, not generally for adventuring.  Keep this in mind for encumbrance.  They require a distinct proficiency to use, and even then, a character attacking with one rolls 1d16.  Best used for shield walls, backed up by pikes in the second rank.


Ability reduction

The primary form of damage in Empress is not hit point damage, but ability reduction.  Ability reduction represents the reduction of ability points through deleterious conditions, and thus actual impairment to body or mind.  Hit points are a bit more abstract and combat-oriented.

There are several kinds of ability reduction.


The most harmless is fatigue.  All sorts of things can cause ability fatigue, although the most common we consider in Empress comes from the use of magic.  The GM may apply fatigue in any situation that he deems it reasonable.  Typically, this involves a character rolling a Spirit or Toughness save, and receiving less fatigue on a success (generally half).  In some cases, fatigue may target a specific ability instead of both physical or both mental abilities.

Fatigue can be either physical or mental.  Physical fatigue reduces Toughness and Dexterity, while mental fatigue reduces Spirit and Mind.  Fatigue reductions are quite temporary; once the source of the fatigue is removed, characters recover one point per hour.  Fatigue is not typically deadly, but if the character’s Toughness or Spirit is reduced to zero or less, bad things happen (see below).

Ability damage

Ability damage is more lasting than fatigue.  It represents genuine harm, and typically, points recover at the rate of one per day.

Ability loss

In extreme cases, harm can be lasting.  In such cases, this is represented by ability loss, which is the permanent reduction of an ability score.  There are a number of ways this can happen: really nasty poisons, black magic, undead, etc.

Total depletion

If any of a character’s ability scores is reduced to zero or less, he or she is appropriately incapacitated until it is restored.  In general, the effects of ability depletion are the same, whether it occurs through fatigue, damage or loss.

In addition, both Toughness and Spirit are considered vital abilities.  If either of these ability scores is reduced to -3 or less, the character enters critical condition.  At this point, the character must make a Luck check every round.  After three failures, the character is lost.  This means death (for Toughness) or permanent madness (for Spirit).

A character who recovers from critical condition permanently loses single point of Toughness or Dexterity if Toughness was depleted, or Spirit or Mind if Spirit was depleted.  If either vital score is reduced to -6 or less, the character is immediately lost.

Combat damage

Things have hit points, like any OSR game, and these are based on character levels and Toughness modifiers in the usual way.  For a human past level zero, most of these hit points represent defensive ability of some kind.  When a character has no hit points left, each blow may be incapacitating or worse.

In such cases, the character must make a Toughness save against a DC of 15.  On a success, the damage is merely subtracted from Toughness, and the character can continue to act if Toughness is still greater than zero.  On a failure, Toughness drops to zero, and then the damage is subtracted from Toughness.  This will leave the character incapacitated, in critical condition, or dead, depending on how much damage was inflicted.

NPCs should usually be incapacitated or outright killed at zero hp (50/50 if a simple ruling is called for).  Their healing rates may be reduced if, for instance, the GM decides that most of their hit points represent actual physical resilience.

Psychological shock

Empress has rules to simulate situations where characters are subjected to extreme duress, or perhaps exposed to alien things beyond the mortal ken; in other words, horror, cosmic and otherwise.

The way this works is made pretty simple.  A shock is rated with a DC, and the character attempts a Spirit save against it.  On a critical success, no harm is suffered.  On a normal success, the character takes one point of Spirit damage, but maintains control.  On a failure, however, the character takes 1d6 Spirit damage, and surrenders to the stress for that many rounds (behavior will be either 1-3: fearful, 4-5: frozen, 3: aggressive).  On a critical failure, the character takes 1d6 Spirit damage and loses control for that many turns, loses 1 Spirit permanently, and is stricken with a form of madness.  The severity of the madness is roughly based on the character’s Spirit.

Here’s a chart of random disorders, indexed by the character’s current Spirit modifier:

Spirit modifier
roll 1d4
+2 or more
Phobia: Fear caused when confronted with object of phobia (GM choice)
Subdued: Lose 1Spirit
Doubtful: Lose 1 Mind
Reckless: When planning goes on more than ten minutes, the character must make a Will save every turn to refrain from charging ahead
Addiction: Must make a Spirit save DC 10 every day denied addiction or attempt to indulge
Depression: For encumbrance purposes, character counts as always carrying 1d4 extra objects
Unstable: All loss of control becomes traumatic, but only causes a new insanity on a critical failure
Recurring Nightmares: Make a Spirit save DC 10 every morning or suffer 1d3 loss of Mind and Dexterity that day
Destructive impulses: One of the character’s Hooks is replaced with a destructive impulse, like kleptomania or pathological lying, and another is replaced with the desire for nobody in their life to know; character must make a Spirit save DC 10 to refrain from taking advantage of easy opportunities
Psychosomatic: The character develops all the symptoms of a severe physical problem, such as limb paralysis, blindness, Tourette’s Syndrome, etc.; every morning, the character must roll a Spirit save DC 10 to avoid suffering this syndrome for that day
-3 or less
Paranoid delusions: Character believes something that is very untrue (GM decision); two of the character’s Hooks change to reflect these new impressions of reality
Unstable personality: The character’s personality changes completely, replacing potentially all of his or her hooks; future trauma will cause this to recur, but each new personality should have one more insanity than the prior one

That’s the system in a nutshell: the DC determines how severe the shock is.


The way poison usually works in Empress is that the character must make a Toughness save at some DC dependent on the poison and its dosage.  If the character succeeds, then the more severe effects of the toxin are avoided, whereas failure causes the character to suffer the full impact.

The effects of poisons and toxins vary somewhat, but the most common effect is a reduction in attributes.  For drugs, these reductions are treated as fatigue, while poisons typically inflict damage.  Critical failures for drugs will cause damage, and critical failure for poisons will cause permanent loss.  Which attributes depends on the toxin, and the quantity of loss further depends on the quantity.

Drugs may have other side effects, and these are usually mitigated by a successful Toughness save.  These can include things like paralysis and hallucinations, or even more exotic effects like truth-telling and sexual arousal.  A successful save will result in partial or total mitigation of these side effects, depending on the agent.

A character typically has some time before the poison takes full effect.  This can be used to provide first aid, or to cast appropriate spells.  The onset time can vary greatly, although many venoms may act very quickly to disable prey.  The effects should be applied gradually throughout the onset time, at a rate that seems appropriate (i.e. if it takes rounds, then once per round, but if it takes hours, then once per hour).


When a character is exposed to a pathogen, he or she must make a Toughness save against an appropriate DC to avoid infection.  Conditions and the degree of exposure may affect the DC.  Especially virulent infections, however, may be unavoidable if contact occurs.

When a character is affected by a sickness, then he generally takes some kind of gradual ability damage.  This is rolled periodically (once a day for acute conditions), and damage is mitigated if the save succeeds.  After a certain number of successful saves, most diseases are rejected by the immune system.  Some diseases, however, may be incurable without magic or other extreme measures.


A character should take 1d6 damage for every 10’ fallen.  For every “6” rolled, the character takes one damage to Dexterity or Toughness (50/50) due to breaks and sprains.



There are several distinct schools of magic in Empress.


These are powers that are acquired in a variety of ways.  Some people are born with minor magical abilities, much like psychic powers.  They can also be obtained through an inhuman birthright, ascetic focus, pact with supernatural beings, or alchemical experiments.  Powers obtained through inborn abilities must have them at first level.  This is a very general category that covers all non-formulaic types of magic.

Powers of mysticism can be used at-will, although they drain the physical energy of the magician.  In some cases, these ability points may be permanently lost.  Obtaining powers of mysticism may mark the mystic in some observable way, and in extreme cases, these marks may impair the mystic.  The severity of the mark depends on a random roll, but its nature depends on the source of power.  It could be a physical mutation, a manifestation of madness, or a prohibition against violence.


This is essentially a standard flavor of OSR mage (which particular flavor is to be decided).  It is based on a specific system of magical technologies developed by a long dead race.  Living wizards have no idea how it really works, although there are lots of theories and experiments.  Even at the height of the Ultimate Empire, it isn’t clear that they understood it entirely.

Sorcerers craft special items called foci, and these can take many forms, though the wizard must be in contact with the focus to use it.  The object must be large enough to bear a fair number of precisely-cut runes, and it is specially prepared by the sorcerer in a ritual that uses his own blood to bind the focus to him.  Wands and staves are common, but swords and weapons are not unknown.  Sorcerer spells take a long time to cast (e.g. an hour for a level one spell), and the amount of time is exponentially proportional to spell level, but these can be locked into the focus for quick usage at a later point.  The amount of power the focus will hold depends on the sorcerer’s power.

Folk magic

Traditional wisdom about signs, rhymes, minor charms and the various minor magical cantrips that are passed down by the common folk.  These are very minor spells, which are used to ward against evil spirits and provide good (or bad) fortune.  This is represented by a single skill, representing the breadth of a character’s knowledge of cantrips.

Folk magic is not actually learned via magician levels, but explorer levels.  Mechanically, it uses the rules for skills.


This approach to magic is pretty open-ended, relying on different kinds of arcane sciences to create wondrous works.  This can span the gamut from technology to magic, including pulpy notions of “super science.”  Works take time but often produce devices that can be used later when needed.  Results always require maintenance and have unpredictable quirks.

Wizards make great NPCs.  They can do amazing and terrible things, unpredictably upending everything, or if you prefer, restoring status quo via tiresome deus ex machina.  We prefer the former.  Wizards are excellent as both patrons and antagonists.  

The mechanics would have to be comprehensive to cover all the different kinds of things wizards should be able to do.  So for all these reasons, we’re going to defer providing rules for wizardry at this state.  And even when they are provided, a GM may reasonably disallow players from running them, and should limit them to players who can handle the complexity.

Spell casting

For both magician subclasses, acts of magic are practiced as spells.  What differs between them is the price they pay for these powers, but we’ll get to that, later.

Spells in Empress are much as they are in most OSR games.  We’ll use Lamentations of the Flame Princess as our reference point, until we build our own spell list.  One big difference is that this game only has six spell levels.  We’ve just compressed it; 1-3 are the same, but 4-5 are now just 4, 6-7 are now 5, and 8-9 are now 6.  The spell lists of clerics and magic-users can be combined, for our purposes.  There are probably some spells we need to change to adapt to these rules.

When a character has a chance to resist a spell, he gets an appropriate saving throw depending on the effect (Dexterity and Spirit are the most common, but not the only ones).  The DC is usually determined by rolling 1d20 + CL + ability modifier (Spirit for mystic, Mind for sorcerer).  This value is called the Casting Modifier, and it is used in a variety of spell-related rolls called casting checks.


Sorcery takes a long time to perform.  Spell formulas and rituals are very elaborate, and require a great deal of concentration.  It isn’t particularly fatiguing, but typical sorcery takes far longer.

Spell level
Casting time
3 turns
1 hour
3 hours
12 hours
3 days
3 weeks

There are two ways that a sorcerer can cast spells spontaneously.  One way is to cast it ahead of time, storing it in their foci for later release.  Each spell takes up a number of focus spell levels equal to its spell level, and a sorcerer’s focus can hold a max number of levels based on the sorcerer’s level.  The procedure is simple: the sorcerer casts the spell when there is time, storing it for later if he has enough free focus slots.  

At a later point, if the sorcerer has physical contact with the focus, the spell can be released as an action.  Once he does that, the capacity of the focus is restored immediately by the level of the spell just cast.  A sorcerer can also discharge spells from his focus without casting them, at a maximum rate of one spell per action.

Another way that a sorcerer can spontaneously cast a spell is to take Toughness damage equal to twice the spell’s level.

Caster level
Known spell levels
Sorcerer focus slot max

Sorcerer spells may be learned from spellbooks or teaching from another sorcerer.  They can also be invented from scratch, although it is easier if the player decides to invent a spell already on the list.  Learning a spell from instruction, or inventing one similar to one already known, entails a casting check against a DC equal to 8 + spell level.  Inventing an entirely new spell without instruction entails a casting check against a DC of 10 + (2 x spell level).  It takes an amount of time to learn a new spell equal to its level - weeks for instructed, months for invented.

Sorcerer spell levels can be spent to reduce the number of focus slots a spell consumes, on a 1-to-1 basis, with a maximum reduction equal to the focus slots of the spell divided by two, rounding down.  Any unspent learning slots for spell levels are banked for future character levels; otherwise, nobody would be able to learn spells beyond fourth level!

Sorcery foci

A sorcerer can prepare any item with about 20 square inches (or 50 square centimeters) of writable surface as a focus.  The object must have runes drawn or carved into this much surface area, and if these runes are damaged, the focus loses its potency.  It takes one day to charge a focus with a single spell level of capacity.  A focus is charged to work only for the sorcerer who prepared it.

A sorcerer can have multiple foci, perhaps to make it harder to be completely disarmed in a single stroke.  The maximum number of spell levels of storage capacity is distributed among all the active foci that the magician has created.  The capacity of a focus is fixed at the time of its creation, and new foci can only be prepared if the sorcerer has unspent capacity.  An existing focus can be destroyed simply by breaking the runes, just as with anyone else.


Mysticism can always be performed on the spur of the moment; mystics must instead contend with fatigue and loss of vitality.  The caster must compare his casting modifier the spell level.  The cost of the casting is as follows:

Casting modifier - (2x spell level)
Casting cost
-6 or less
Toughness damage equal to the spell level + 1d6, and earn a new mark
-5 to -3
Toughness damage equal to the spell level
-2 to 2
Physical fatigue equal to the spell level
3 to 5
Physical fatigue is half spell level, rounding up
Physical fatigue is zero for a level one spell, one for levels two through four, and two for levels five and six

Caster level
Known spell levels

Learning mystic spells is similar to learning sorcery spells, although mystic spells and sorcery spells are not the same thing.  Usually, mysticism instruction is provided in-person and is rarely documented.  However, for certain kinds of powers, such as those that might be obtained through alchemical experiments, books exist.

Mystic spell levels can be spent on increasing the character’s saving throw to resist fatigue for a single given spell, on a 1-to-1 basis.  As with sorcerers, unspent slots for learning spell levels are banked.

Each time a mystic goes up in level, he or she obtains a mark.  The severity of the mark can vary widely, rolled on the following table:

Mark level

The type of mark generally depends on the “alignment” of the power source.  If the character is obtaining powers from a deity, then the alignment of the mark may depend on the alignment of the deity.  If it it via alchemy, then marks could be neutral or chaotic (GM choice).  Natural psychic powers would have lawful or neutral marks, usually (again, GM choice).

In addition, the GM is encouraged to interpret the mark tables liberally.  Make sure that the particular mark makes sense for a given source; a priest of a god of righteous warfare should not end up pledged to pacifism.  The GM should feel completely free to swap out listings with his or her own ideas.  And as for repeated rolls, the GM may choose to either intensify the mark, request a re-roll, or improvise.

Level I marks

Lawful mark
Neutral mark
Chaotic mark
Must receive holy tattoo
Strangely-colored eyes (1: red, 2: lavender, 3: reflective, 4: white)
Loss of all body hair
Must meditate for an hour per day
Always smells like a wet dog
Voice turns deep and gravelly, unsettling (-1 Spirit for charming others)
Must bless all food and drink before consumption (1 round; this includes potions!)
Grows an extra finger
Dark presence (+1 Spirit for intimidation, -1 for relaxing people)
Detached mindset (+2 Mind, -1 Spirit)
Develops strange appetites (1: rotten vegetables, 2: curdled milk, 3: burnt cheese, 4: insects)
Sprout several hairy facial moles (-1 Spirit for seduction)
Deeply empathic (-1 Mind, +1 Spirit)
Off-hand grows long claws (1d4 unarmed damage at -1 to hit, looks distinctive)
Spittle mildly acidic (can be spat into eyes to cost opponent an action, kissing unpleasant for lover)
Character is beloved by children (+3 Spirit for charism with kids), who may follow him around in a city (1-in-6 chance any time it could be a problem)
Super flexible; +2 Dexterity, -1 Toughness
Grow a third nipple

Level II marks

Lawful mark
Neutral mark
Chaotic mark
Not permitted to eat meat
Character has heavy musk scent, easily tracked by animals (+1 to random encounter checks in wilderness)
Makes animals uneasy, reluctant to let him ride, fails at animal handling
Required to always carry holy symbol if possible and never hide it
Must pray in the moonlight for an hour every night with bare head
Terrible breath (-3 Spirit for seduction)
Very obvious ritual scarification required
Must get drunk once per day (-1d6 Dexterity and Mind when drunk, 1 sp)
Shadow makes offensive gestures occasionally (Perception to notice once per turn when visible)
Cannot eat or drink between sunset and sunrise
Grows a vestigial tail
Spirit save vs. DC 10 to resist laughing when someone describes their misfortune
Spirit save vs. DC 14 to make first attack against an enemy in a combat
Must bathe in a consecrated pool once per month for one hour; it takes 3 days to consecrate a pool
Tears always have blood in them
Character’s hair turns white
Grows hair all over body, must shave frequently or look bestial
Loses ability to smile convincingly

Level III marks

Lawful mark
Neutral mark
Chaotic mark
Can only digest flowers
Must make Spirit save vs DC 15 to sleep properly under a roof
Can only digest blood
Must heal any nonaggressive party that requests it
After damaging an enemy, Spirit save vs DC 16 each round to break from attack same target till dead
Must drink a 1 GP potion every day or get headaches (-1 to all rolls)
Strange speech pattern, annoying to some (-[1d3-1] Spirit for charisma); 1: Yoda-talk, 2: no articles, 3: speaks very slowly, 4: overly- complex vocabulary
Skin turns unusual color (1: blue, 2: transparent, 3: deep orange, 4: teal)
If touched by a child, Toughness save DC 14 or vomit helplessly for 1d6 rounds
Cannot cooperate with traditional enemies
Teeth become fangs; 1d4 bite attack but -2 Spirit for putting others at ease
Every day, 1-in-20 chance of experiencing a shocking hallucination (DC 12)
May not break word
Gain a lot of weight; +1 Toughness and -2 Dexterity
Any gold handled turns bloody in 1d6 rounds
Constant self-flagellation causes -1 Dexterity
When trying to whisper, make Luck test or speak at full volume
Carried food always spoils in 1d6 days

Level IV marks

Lawful mark
Neutral mark
Chaotic mark
Must not attack anything except abominations
Bone spurs give 1d4 unarmed attack, +2 AC and -3 Dexterity, cannot wear armor (and look like a freak)
Psychological shock DC 22
Must not own anything that cannot be carried from place-to-place
Skin contact with forged metal causes 1 damage per round, metal weapons do +1 damage
Random limb replaced with functional tentacle; -4 Dexterity using when hand, -10’ movement if leg
Must not knowingly lie
-2 to all rolls in direct sunlight
In constant pain; painkillers cause -1 penalty to all rolls; DC 15 Toughness save every morning without drugs, -3 roll penalty on failure, none on success
Must not break the law
After killing an enemy, Spirit save DC 15 or feed on its flesh; try again each round to stop, and go into a frenzy if prevented
Part of body is perpetually rotting; -2 Toughness, and -2 Spirit for charisma
Must not retreat from battle against abominations
Mind becomes more bestial; Spirit save DC 18 lose 1d6 Mind, lose 1 Mind on success
Stops recovering ability damage without magic

Must help anyone deserving if requested
Reject friendly spells from allies with Spirit save against DC 20 (success results in rejection!)
Everyone within 10’ has penalty of one to Luck test

In the case of marks that require a certain code of behavior, nonadherence to the behavior causes spell abilities to be lost until he or she can engage in a cleansing ceremony for a number of hours equal to the spell level.  In addition, the character must save Spirit against DC 8 + spell level, or that mark will immediately be replaced with two chaotic marks of the same severity; this could end up repeating itself!  Also, every time this stricture is violated, this DC increases permanently by one, although that is reset every time the character fails.

Note that these results can be overridden based on a character’s very particular source of power.  For instance, the lawful priest of a god of righteous war is not going to restrict her followers from violence.  In such cases, they may have alternate tables or entries, or the GM can make common-sense substitutions. The GM can always just pick whatever he wants.


Most of folk magic is resolved through the use of a Cantrips skill, and one does not need to be a magician to develop this skill.  Although individual cantrips are formulas to provide protection and luck in a variety of situations, in practice, there is such a large catalog of them that they are covered under this one general skill.

Cantrips are used to cast very minor spells that allow the caster to make greater use of his or her Luck to influence events, especially on behalf of others.  These can be cast ahead of time to provide a person with luck for a future situation (should it come true) that is specified at the time of creation.  In this way, it can be banked ahead of time, but it can also be cast on-the-fly in one action.  This requires a successful skill check, and the result is to spend Luck on the specific event for double the normal effect.

A cantrip can be cast quickly as an action, but receives a penalty die when performed in haste.  The amount of Luck to be spent is chosen ahead of time.  A successful roll means that the caster may spend the Luck at double effect on any roll being made at this time.  A failed roll means the Luck is wasted.

Usually, a cantrip will persist until triggered, or for a year if left untriggered.  After a complete cycle of the seasons, the cantrip’s power has faded.  A character can only receive a maximum net hex benefit equal to their own Luck score, and a maximum net hex penalty equal to (21 - Luck) for that character.  Any cantrip that would exceed these limits is wasted.

A highly skilled worker of cantrips can work permanent hexes.  These require some form of physical marking of item affected, or the item to be carried by the affected person, or the tattoo.  In any case, it takes a few days to work hexes like this, and is more challenging as more Luck is invested.  If successful, the effect is permanent, but so is the character’s expenditure of Luck.  The Luck may be taken from the intended recipient of the cantrip, if they are a willing participant.

Cantrips can be used to curse just as they can be used to bless.  The dying curse of a hex worker can be a fearsome thing!

Cantrips are very widely used; they are practiced by hedge witches and temple priests alike, and many a superstitious traveler has collected a trove of secret mantras and fetishes.  Note that many of the more capable hex workers also know more formal spells or possess the powers of a mystic.


Like I said, we aren’t going to get into this today.  A system for wizardry would have to be more abstract and open-ended, allowing skills for different bodies of knowledge and different kinds of effects.  The works of wizardry often result in physical artifacts which may or may not be reusable.  Such devices may be unreliable, dangerous, or require expertise to properly utilize.

Performing acts of wizardry can take even longer than sorcery, potentially preceded by years of research.  And at the end of the long road, a wizard may encounter failure, disaster, or worse...he may learn that his goal cannot be achieved.  At least not without starting from scratch.

New spells

Here are some spells to bridge the gap between OGL and Empress.  Note that all healing spells from OGL should be replaced with the ones below.

Second Wind
Level: 1
Duration: immediate
Range: touch
When this spell is cast on another character, they immediately regain half of all lost hit points.

Quicken Recovery
Level: 2
Duration: 1 day/level
Range: touch
This spell improves a character’s rate of healing.  While the spell is in effect, healing from attribute damage is increased to 2 per day.

Breath of Life
Level: 2
Duration: immediate
Range: touch
This spell causes a subject who is in critical condition to immediately stabilize.

Purify Blood
Level: 3
Duration: immediate
Range: touch
This spell immediately banishes any drugs or poisons from a character’s body.  This includes medication and the effects of magic potions, both beneficial and deleterious.

Purify Flesh
Level: 4
Duration: immediate
Range: touch
This spell cures a character of any malady that might qualify as a disease.  The character must succeed at a Toughness saving throw against a DC of 10 for this spell to succeed.  If it fails, it will no longer have any effect on the same character for a year.

Mend Flesh
Level: 4
Duration: immediate
Range: touch
It takes 1d6 turns to cast this spell, which can be used to repair damage and deformities of the flesh.  The caster must succeed in a casting check against a DC that depends on the complexity of the problem - DC 10 for a standard non-critical wound, DC 15 for a crippling, DC 20 for conjoined twins.  If he succeeds, then any deformity is undone, or 2d6 Toughness are restored (even if lost).  If he fails, then the subject must make a Toughness save with DC 12.  On a success, nothing happens, but on a failure, the subject loses 1d4 Toughness.

Level: 5
Duration: immediate
Range: touch

This spell replenishes a character’s stolen life energy.  Each casting of this spell will restore an amount of lost attribute points equal to the caster’s level.  However, the recipient must make a Toughness save with a DC equal to the amount of points being restored; failure means that he dies on the spot from the shock of the restoration.

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