Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Black Death Preview

Today, I'm talking about my next Quick & Easy (though that classification might not fit exactly) game, Black Death. Obviously, it's a cheery game about rainbows and gumdrops.

The idea for Black Death was really just an image of a guy being molested by a skeleton. From there, it turned into a game set during the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, culminating in the devastating Thirty Years War, in which all the fighting and condemnations and general hatred have allowed Hell to burst forth on Earth. Now the Catholics and Protestants also get to deal with demons, the undead and other fantasy creatures. Into this cesspool of violence, black magic and disease (lots of disease), a band of mercenaries, picaros and itinerant scholars does their best to survive and thrive.

Here are a few bits and pieces from the game as it currently stands. Right now, it's about 80% there - written, but with lots of editing and tweaking needed, but well on its way. I've also got the hex map for NOD 28 done (need to start writing my buns off), and I'm doing another round of edits on GRIT & VIGOR.

Abilities: Strength, Agility, Constitution, Intelligence, Willpower, Perception and Charisma.

Allegiance: This can be to a religion, nation or other concept. Characters get to allegiances, and they get an experience bonus when they serve them (which may pit characters against one another, if their allegiance's clash)

Classes: Hoo boy, there are a few of these. Since classes in Q&E games are just a collection of skills, it's not too hard to build them. Each of these classes also have a special ability each. Here are a few examples:

HexenhammerHexenhammers are witch hunters, scouring the countryside for the tools of Satan (or harmless-but-scary old women, as the case may be). Hexenhammers are possessed of a frightening determination, and once they are on the scent of a witch, they do not stop their hunt until they have their quarry. Every hexenhammer carries with her a well-worn copy of the Malleus Maleficarum, a guide book for witch hunters.

Primary Skills: Fighting (Str)
Secondary Skills: Endure (Con), Intimidate (Str), Prayer (Wil)

Special Ability: After long study of the Malleus Maleficarum, hexenhammers know well their ways. They can use a Sixth Sense task check to sense the presence of witches, conjurers, heretics and tools of Satan within 60’.

The landsknechts are mercenaries, fighters-for-hire that care little about the cause, only the reward. English mercenaries might instead be called “gentleman adventurers”, Italians “condottieri” and the Swiss “reisläufer”, but they’re all just mercenaries. When a general is willing to pay them, they are happy to fight battles. When clients are in short supply, they are happy to turn to brigandage or adventuring to earn a living.

Primary Skills: Fighting (Str)
Secondary Skills: Marksmanship (Dex), Carouse (Con), Endure (Con)

Special Ability: Landsknechts are well trained in the fighting arts, and may use any armor and any melee or missile weapon, regardless of their current Fighting or Marksmanship skill values (q.v.).

Magicians practice the scholarly magic of the Renaissance. While they themselves may be benevolent, they must have truck with demons to produce their magical effects, and therefore are considered suspect by most decent folk. Magicians are usually to be found in the robes of a magic, or in the dress of a gentleman or gentlewoman with one or several grimoires on their person, heavily annotated in the margins and smelling slightly of sulfur. The most famous of their number is perhaps Doctor Faustus.

Primary Skills: Invocation (Int)
Secondary Skills: Flee (Agi), Fortune Telling (Wil), Learning (Int)

Special Ability: Conjurers receive their magical knowledge from books, and are thus always literate. When they have a grimoire in hand, they can use it to aid in their magic. For each grimoire they possess, they can add +1 to their Invocation score during a task check, but add one combat round to the time it takes them to cast the spell.

Other classes include the archer, barbarian, cleric, courtesan, doctor, flagellant, fool, gypsy, hunter, inquisitor, knight (dame), mariner, musketeer, picaro, professor, rakehell, rat-catcher, resurrectionist, robber, satanist, student prince, trader and witch.

When these classes run around killing things (or trying not to be killed), they'll have a big list of weapons. I went a little nuts on the weapons, and each weapon is capable of a "weapon trick" in place of doing damage - things like tripping people, backing them up, disarming them, crushing armor.

There's a section on disease - lots of opportunities to catch something nasty - and on damnation. Damnation points are collected when people do bad things - absolution by the church can remove them, as can holy quests and pilgrimages.  The more damnation points, the harder it is for holy magic to work on you, and the more likely you bear a "mark of Satan" - i.e. a mutation.

There are lots of monsters - undead and demons, but also fey creatures. The monsters are mostly from Central European myth and folklore, but some other bits and pieces as well, such as from Dante's Inferno.

It's still a pretty quick and easy game to play (I think), but it does look like it's going to be about 88 pages long - about twice the size of earlier efforts. I'll keep folks updated.

Oh, and here's an early draft of the map, broken into regions for easy travel rules.


  1. So is this set to be your Warhammer?

    1. Kinda sorta. Same sort of period, and I damnation can get you marked by the devil (a bit like mutations), but no chaos gods, and the rules are completely different.

    2. Still is interesting. I'll for sure grab it when it comes out

  2. A Warhammer-style mini game doesn't sound bad,
    but is there still going to be a "B" is for Barbarian (or has it been scrapped for Black Death)?
    I see barbarians as classes listed here, but I'm hoping they get the full S&S treatment
    in a quick & easy game of their own (along with other genre-appropriate classes such as
    Puritan, Beastmaster & She-Devil, naturally).
    That's the one I'm really holding out for -- then I'll probably grab Manbot Warriors, Swords and Sandals, Deviant Decade, and Black Death all in the same purchase.
    Your mini-games are compatible with one another, right?
    Would be cool to mix/match monsters, gear, etc.

    1. I've started working on formatting B for Barbarian, so yes, it will happen. While B for Barbarian is actually a different system than the other mini-games, the rest are all compatible with one another.

  3. Also patiently awaiting Grit & Vigor,
    can't wait to blend a bit of semi-modern with Blood & Treasure!!!

  4. Wow,

    Seriously your stuff is amazing. I have been wanting to run Sinew & Steel and slowly introduce elements of the fantasy editions, but this looks even better. I'll have to wait until it comes out, but the time period of the Reformation is a great starting place for 'semi real' settings.

  5. Even though a whole game doesn't sound interesting, I'm slavering to steal your damnation rules.

  6. I'm not seeing in the book (paperback from Lulu) any listings of Magic Spells / Prayers or their effects. Are they drawn from some other book, or should the GM bring his own created set?

    1. There are no spell lists. Rather, under the skill section you'll descriptions of magical effects that can be obtained with prayer and magic, along with the difficulty (in terms of the number of dice you roll on a skill check) of creating that effect. It's pretty freeform, with the player deciding what they want to do and then dicing to see if they accomplish it.

    2. Yeah, the freeform nature and adaptability of it is something I appreciate as GM, I just wasn't sure if there was any intended precise balancing (dirty word, I know, but one of my players is a bit game-ist and prefers things spelled out) with regards to effects (i.e. should a damage spell be limited to one damage, should AoE increase the dice, how much should a defensive spell apply, etc)

      Well, part of the one fun with that player is parlaying about these kinds of things anyway, so we'll figure out for ourselves what works for us.

    3. There's a little guide, in terms of if it hurts somebody, roll 4 dice to see if it works, if it changes reality but doesn't damage anyone roll 3 dice, and if it's completely passive roll 2 dice - hopefully enough guidance to keep people from gaming the system, and as the GM you get the final say so.

  7. This looks like a good source of great stuff to steal into Bloody Basic: Steel and Sinew and with little effort have Bloody Basic: Swords and Deviltry edition ... someone above mentioned puritan ... I guess Solomon Kane is pretty much a hexenhammer with a broader hit list than just witches

    1. Different system, but it could be a source of ideas.


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