Monday, January 23, 2017

Rediscovering Pars Fortuna

Bo'al, Ilel, Caledjula and Cakrol
It was about seven years ago that I published Pars Fortuna, my first game. It used the Swords & Wizardry engine, with a few alterations by myself just to test out ideas for alternate mechanics. Seven years, and now it's time for a little revision.

Revising seems to be my main hobby at the moment. I've just done a 2nd edition of Blood & Treasure, so I'm now working on revising the two B&T supplements, the Monster Tome (to be re-titled Monsters II) and the NOD Companion (to be re-titled Esoterica Exhumed). That goes on apace, one piece at a time. Now I've started delving into Pars Fortuna, and it has been fun to explore that weird little book.

The idea at the time was to make a random RPG. This meant removing the races, classes, spells, monsters and magic items that we all knew and (mostly) loved, and replacing them with things that had their genesis from random generators. At the time, I described it as reminiscent of Talislanta ("no elves"). For the most part, that's what I did. Random classes just were not workable at the time, though I later developed a random class generator. To deal with classes, I went the race-as-class route. Random spells had the same problem, so I just rolled randomly on some lists of OGL, but non-SRD, spells.

Now I'm revising, and that means re-reading, and I'm amazed at how much I wrote that I do not remember writing. A couple of the races receded from memory and were nice surprises to me now. Many of the monsters were forgotten, and now I'm realizing how much monster art I'm going to need.

In Pars Fortuna Revised, I'm going to bring the rules more in line with what will be, next year, a revised Bloody Basic. Mostly just messing with saves and skills - nothing earth shattering. The race/classes will get some more options (essentially a warrior, skill monkey and magician class for each race). Pars Fortuna's spell system will remain intact, and I'll add in a few extras that I created after it was published and maybe a few things that have been bouncing around my head for a while.

Speaking of art ... art was the weak spot for me when I wrote Pars Fortuna. At the time, I had zero budget to work with, so I convinced my wife that sinking $120 or so of our money into this silly project was a good idea. I contracted with Jon Kaufman to give life to the bizarre races in the setting, and I still remember the feeling of absolute delight when I got that first illustration (at the top of the post) from him. It's still one of my favorite things ever from my years of commissioning art for games.

And then came the monsters. I tapped a fellow named Michael Stewart for a few pieces (gongthrottle over to the left is among my favorite, but the hamazak and qward are also awesome), as well as Russ Nicholson (who I'm proud to say is now working on a cover for B&T Monsters II) and Rhiannon McGuiness (who did the delightful illustration of ouphs). All great illustrations, but ... there were so many more monsters to be illustrated! Almost all of the monsters in the book are original (to some extent), but I didn't have the money to commission more art for them. Seven years later, I have a bigger budget to play with, so I plan to commission quite a few more monster illustrations. Here are a few that are on my list of potential targets for illustration:

Arahkhun - giant racoons, as big as bears and excellent grapplers

Armadillox - armadillos the size of oxen and used as draft animals; a cakrol (pangolin man) mounted on an armadillox would be just dandy!

Bebb - bears with curled goat horns

Gangarou - glossy black giant kangaroos, sometimes used as mounts

Haloot - owl-lions - quadrupedal raptor, with cheetah speed

Jumart - horned horses with shaggy hair

Mursa - furry, white walruses with bear-like legs

Olph - carnivorous sheep with wide faces and toothy maws

Opur - penguins the size of orcas, filling a similar niche

Woin - sleek wolverines with skin membranes that allow them to glide

Abominid - a giant spider stitched together from humanoid arms and legs by a vivimancer

Fulminator - five bronze spheres joined together by arcs of electricity and moving like a humanoid

Mercurial - animated mercury in the vague shape of a rat

Ningyo - animated wooden puppets with demon faces

Retriever - clockwork dingo

Sanctus - animated statue of a saint

Skeloid - animated skeleton bound in silver and gold wire with its head replaced by a wooden raptor or crow head

Tinker King - mechanical man with gemstone eyes

Nine - furry humanoids that look something like otters or seals, but with four eyes; extremely fast

Nizzertit - slimy burrowers with big eyes; keep guard cats

Nurg - short, hairy men with savage tempers; have large fists

Spenwanan - spider people of dungeons and grasslands

Zimbad - humanoid pterosaurs

Goon - evil underground humanoids who wear crowns and cause trouble

Ingalas - amazon nymphs of the jungle

Meagle - stunted moor-folk who like like a combo of hedgehog and bat

Osk - golden humanoids with sharpened teeth; covet jewelry

Tomb Robber - tiny men with grey skin, white eyes and oversized black claws

Azimok - towering crimson humanoids with protruding foreheads; urbane philosophers in daylight, raving madmen at night

Booglemoon - bear-sized wingless turkeys with crushing beaks

Cavern Crawler - terrestrial octopi

Crystalline tree - can throw beams of searing light

Dreak - look like polliwogs with the faces of human children; lake predators

Floating Horror - floating eyeball formed of protoplasm

Hyari - feathered carnosaurs with long snouts and who can leap like fleas
Idekel - cross between alligator and boa constrictor with illusion powers

Lady-of-the-depths - plant that uses illusion to look like a dainty woman; enslaves people with tendrils, who then serve as her handmaidens

Nanc - coppery capybaras with spiny tails

Oroboros - worms with lamprey mouths on either end; Pars Fortuna's answer to color-coded dragons

Palasm - look like faceless baboons with distended bellies

Pellucid - colonies of translucent crystals

Pyroceros - stone rhinos with cores of magma

Sand rat - scaled rats with sapphires embedded in their foreheads

Sagebane - large frogs with psychic powers

Snurl - mastiffs covered in lobster-like armor

Wyveroon - like little wyverns; they adore magic rings

Zavvo - body of giant serpent, head of bat, wings of vulture; surrounded by darkness

Archfiends - Haaqugo the Burning One, Ac'ishlath the Elder Goddess and Y'dhortshagg

Lunarch - slightly amorphous silvery bear with a cluster of spider eyes on its head

Malhora Swarm - tiny moths that accelerate time

Nokt - evil spirit that looks like a five-headed green crow

Pillar of Fire - 'nuff said

Volp - crystalline wolves

Zax - energy creatures (look something like 9-bit designs from old arcade games)

If I can manage to commission a third of these, I'll be pretty happy. If I can do more than that, I'll be ecstatic. If you have any favorites from the list above, let me know in the comments.

I'm thinking of doing a separate setting book for the game, and both rule book and setting book (if I do separate them) will have adventures in them as well. Should be a fun project, and a nice chance to resurrect one of my first attempts at making games.


  1. Dude, Pars Fortuna is still probably my favorite thing ever.

  2. Pars Fortuna was the first book of yours I bought, and I have bought every one since. A great game, and an under appreciated gem.

    1. Thanks - I'm getting pumped about resurrecting it and writing for it again.

  3. Tangential to the main thrust of the blog post, but...I can not wait for Esoterica Exhumed. :)

  4. I was also thinking about Pars Fortuna over the holidays. I'm planning to use it to populate a campaign I'm about to start running in-person tomorrow (and maybe online eventually.)

    I wrote about a few of my ideas for using it, if you're interested. I'll probably post about it more in the coming weeks.

    1. That sounds awesome. Love the blue giants. Let me know how it goes.

  5. We had our first session on Saturday, and it went well.

    I'm renaming some of the humanoid factions so that I can reliably pronounce them the same way each time, and doing a bit of creative extrapolation based on the material in the book. (Let's stipulate that this Island is not the original home of any of the Fortunans.)

    I hope to familiarize myself with the bestiary a bit more before the next game so that I can bring in a few of your monsters as well.

    1. Awesome! Always glad when some of this stuff I write actually gets used.


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