Inspired by the wild die mechanic of the D6 system, and Fantasy Flight’s narrative dice, GMs and players can incorporate their own narrative dice into d20 games, granting GM and player actions with blessings and curses. Here’s how:
Designate 1d6 as your blessing die and another 1d6 as your curse die. These dice should be different in color for easy distinction.
Designate the even numbers on both dice for blessings and curses. Odd numbers are ignored. Blessings and curses correspond with the number rolled: the blessing die grants a +2, +4, or +6 on a rolled 2, 4, or 6. The curse die grants a -2, -4, or-6 on a rolled 2, 4, or 6.
Blessing and curses cancel one another according to their value. For example, if a 6 is rolled on the blessing die (+6), and a 4 on the curse die (-4), then a +2 bonus is granted.
GMs and players narrate their actions before rolling their blessing and curse dice along with their d20. For example, Mark wishes to strike a goblin, and he says, “I spin with a flourish before thrusting my longsword at the goblin’s head.” Then Mark rolls his d20 and blessing and curse dice together.
Regardless of Mark’s success or failure, his blessing and curse dice count only for narrative purposes, not to be added to the d20 roll. For example, Mark’s d20 roll is successful and he hits the goblin, plus he rolls a 6 on his blessing die (+6) and 4 on his curse die (-4). Mark’s hit counts as normal, but he gains a +2 bonus applied to his next roll. Narratively, what accounts for the +2? That is Mark’s decision, based upon his previous description. Perhaps Mark says his spinning flourish dazes the goblin for a moment, giving him an advantage to strike the goblin next round.
Blessings and curses can be bestowed upon others. For example, Mark’s +2 could be bestowed upon a fellow player who hasn’t yet acted.
Blessings and curses can be bestowed upon the opposition. For example, Mark’s +2 could bestow a curse (-2) on the goblin’s next roll.
GMs and players narrate their own blessings. GMs narrate player curses. Players narrate GM curses.
Critical hits double blessings. Fumbles double curses. Critical hits do not impact curses. Fumbles do not impact blessings. For example, if Mark rolls a 20 with a 4 on his blessing die (+4), he’s granted a +8. Or if Mark rolls a 1 with a 4 on his blessing die (+4), he’s granted the usual +4.
Blessings and curses are applied to all d20 resolution tasks, not just combat. Be creative. Blessings and curses can impact virtually any existing modifiers (AC, skill checks, spell resistance, feats, damage reduction, and so on). Encourage players to really narrate their actions and reactions based on the outcome of the blessing and curse dice.
You might see those less fortunate than you everywhere in the next town you visit, or there might be only one beggar calling for alms. If, for some reason, the characters take a look into a beggar’s cap, there might be more in there than coins. You can roll randomly for a result below, or use the handy number provided with each entry to figure out your result on a d12. You can also pick the one that works for the area in which your characters currently linger.
“Master, help! I can’t get this pot off my hand. I was only feeling inside for spiders. Help me remove it, please!”
“It is too late, sluglet. Once you’ve placed your hand inside a gnashing scarab pot there can be only one ending.”
“You lose whatever you thoughtlessly thrust into it, of course, in a little under a minute from now if it follows the usual pattern. That’s the trouble with pharaoh objects, they are almost always horribly trapped, or cursed, or both. Now, hand me my catalogue of pharaohic artifacts I asked you to find over an hour ago, and get some mint tea ready for my visitor. He has bulging pockets and an obsessive love of things looted from pyramids. And be quick about it. You have only fifty seconds left.”
Treasures come in all shapes and sizes—and from a variety of places. With treasure, variety is almost always a good thing. Our list this week is 50 outré or disturbing treasures found in the land of the pharaohs. These objects need not be looted from pyramids and temples, however. They can be found in any collection, perhaps as part of a vast trove of someone who has an unhealthy love of pyramids and tomb robbing.
Cassandra Kresnov is not human. She is a synthetic—a manufactured being that has been designed for violent action. Operation Shield opens with a fight on the planet of Droze, a hive of scum and villainy. It seems that a localized rebellion of her fellow synthetics, or GIs as they are called, has started, and Cassandra is trying to assist them. This rebellion has far-reaching implications that could change the already fragile treaty that has stopped intergalactic war. Cassandra has to make tough decisions, and some of them will haunt her long after the fighting has stopped. After making those choices, she heads home with three street-smart and highly advanced youths she has decided to adopt. Because of her fame and notoriety, she must balance her work life with raising children who have endured the horrors of war, the loss of parents, and the quick death of their innocence. As Cassandra learns how to become a mother, the results of some of her actions on Droze come back to haunt her, her children, and the entire federation. Lock and load—this is going to be a wild ride.
Joel Shepherd, why have I not been reading more of your books? This book is the fifth book in the series and the first book I have read in this series. Starting on the fifth book in any series is normally not a good idea, but the folks at Pyr were kind enough to send me a review copy. I figured if Shepherd is as good as they say he is, I should catch on to what is happening at one point or another. I like doing this sometimes since it lets me know if an author can tell me the backstory through the current narrative. I don’t fault authors if they don’t, but it is cool to see if they can tell the current story while giving me enough backstory so that I do not feel lost. Yes, a quick summary at the beginning of any book in a series is a good thing, but it is interesting to see how each author (and sometimes each publisher) handles that. After reading Operation Shield, I can say without any doubt that Shepherd expects that you have read his previous books. If you haven’t, the catching up is on you.
A super-strong hero needs to save his girlfriend—it’s the most important thing he has ever done. Problem is, she’s trapped under a bus that’s heavier than anything he’s ever lifted.
What happens next?
In a realistic scenario, the hero has a finite and quantifiable amount of strength. Either the bus is too heavy for him, in which case he is unsuccessful, or it’s not too heavy, in which case he is successful. End of story.
In a dramatic scenario, the hero’s actual strength is not what matters. What matters is whether it’s dramatically appropriate for the hero to save the girl, or not. Perhaps the hero is supposed to save her, in which case he flexes his muscles and strains with all his might and he barely lifts the bus enough for her to crawl to safety. Or, perhaps, he is supposed to fail, maybe learning a lesson in the process, or becoming a haunted and dark hero. In the latter case, he flexes and strains but it’s just not enough and he watches her expire before his very eyes, knowing that he couldn’t be the hero this time.