A Costly Grace, An Artful Ward, and A Level Playing Field…

Martyr’s Shift

The others were drunk or laughing or both, a high fire popping and hissing wood while they celebrated.  The road had been long, the journey fraught with peril, and today they won through. It was dead. And the long miles and weeks of hunting it back to its manse, dispatching it’s minions–even with the losses they suffered and the friends they buried–were worth it. As Sir Broadways watched them all smiling and cheering each other through the gap in his tent, he felt the costs more than the joy. 

He took off his heavy golden armor, piece by weighty piece, and slowly–laying each down with care and respect. He took his padding off, the old quilted garment common to thick plate, and knelt in his shift.  The old blood stains–here, from that crossbow bolt last year; there, from the ax of that vile dark thing from his youth–were accented by a fresh one still red and damp and sticky. The creature had conjured some fierce and dark lance and there is where it would have pierced him had the old paladin not stopped it.

A cheer went up in the camp and the explosive and infectious laughter of Tanner.  Let them enjoy themselves, Broadways thought, I can still pay the costs…

History:  (Religion DC 15) The old orders of knights and The Faith from the long fallen Northern Empire still carry some of the artifacts of power or piety with them. Among these few and far flung pieces of careful, divine blessing are Martyr’s Shifts–seemingly normal, though well-made, cloth longshirts.  If not for the golden thread in the stitching, one would mistake them for any such shifts any armored or active individual might wear under their clothes in any part of the world.

But these were created through a slow and careful pledge to their now half-forgotten goddess that their wearer would trade his life, in what bits and pieces they must, to fight on righteously for Her glory and to protect Her people. They’re the simple clothes of a long dead pious warrior. As venerable as the bones of a Saint. One must be baptized, wearing only the shift, in natural waters (no particular faith or creed necessary, only a rebirth and personal oath to live to protect the weak) in order to attune.

System: Once attuned (see History), the shift allows the wearer to negate damage against themselves after the damage dice are rolled.  After a successful attack hits them, and after the damage dice are rolled, but before they are applied to the character, the player may use their Reaction (assuming they have it available) to remove as many of the rolled damage dice as they want.

For example, in the case of a greatsword attack against them that hits and does 3 (dice one) + 5 (dice two) +2 (strength) damage against them, they may elect to use their Reaction to activate the shift and take the 5, the 3, or both away–this has no effect on the remaining non-dice related damage.

Doing so, however, runs a 25% chance of removing 1 permanent maximum HP from the character for every dice removed.  So, in the event of removing 1 dice, roll 1d4 and on a 1 remove one permanent maximum HP from the character.  In the event of removing 2 dice, roll 2d4 and for every 1 rolled remove 1 HP from the character.  These HP removals aren’t a curse (and cannot be fixed by uncursing or restoring), they’re a cost.  They may not be wished or miracled back in any conventional magical sense as they aren’t “lost”.  They’re freely given away, divinely.

Finding and returning the shift to a priest or temple of the old Northern faiths (rare and lost to time) may restore those “paid” HP to the character at the cost of ever being able to use it again–DM’s are encouraged to make finding such people or places whole adventure arcs on their own as it has been centuries gone.

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Tools are for Fools…

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Now that the brush was cleared away (thanks to Meilla’s controlled inferno), what they saw was arresting and ominous. A long hallway cut right into the side of the hill, tiled with clever small colored stones depicting a winding red path that extended farther than any of them could see. The little crimson stones almost pleaded “walk on me, for I am the safe way through this hell”. Mosaics and frescos on the walls ahead, too dark to make out perfectly, said this was the horrorful tomb they’d sought.

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Secret & Safe: A Look At Codes and Spies For Fantasy Games

The history of espionage, even in the Classical or Medieval or Renaissance periods that so frequently inspire elements of fantasy settings, is enormous and deep. It’s also probably filled with holes in information, because so many resources were probably destroyed or lost due to their covert nature.

So, if you plan to use spies and coded messages in your game, how can you turn those story elements into challenges or hooks for player characters?

Below are a few brief thoughts on the form that spies might take, along with notes on how they might be treated, and a few example methods for passing secret information that could be slipped into any game.

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A Mad Book of Truth, the Lonely Song of Savages, and Whoopin’ Fisk

You can find the ever-growing list of “Better Than Nothing” items  over on the right. Read ‘em, like ‘em, share ‘em, and comment.

Darkle Fas

Wendell let them walk right into the path of the swinging log. Served them right, afterall—always on about him. Always judging. them with their noses high and their ways. If he’d had rich parents and all them trappings, he’d have done better than alright—it’s true. He’d be more lordly than their erstwhile bard, son of some count something or other.

And that paladin wouldn’t be so high and mighty. If Wendell’d been taught proper as a young thing, he could have set his mind on the gods and being fancy with that sword and whatnot. He could have owned the world, but here he was, sneaking and thieving for this group of right and full bastards.

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Play the Madness, Been Re-Reading Fables, A Cheap Trick, Tiny Lair, and Blessed Nonsense.

You can find the ever-growing list of “Better Than Nothing” items  over on the right. Read ‘em, like ‘em, share ‘em, and comment.

Kortholt of the Brigh Delac

“The Congregation wiles and pomps,
For ever day and shine again,
When Revelrie and Revelire,
Set to dance the feet of men,
The king! The king! In tally grey!
No clever boy denies the fae.

While the song pipes on and on,
And while the lights burn bright and strong,
And breathless servants play along,
There’s no time left to die today.”

–written in blood in the underjail of Kremen Hold

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Morveer Wishes He Had That, Brutal Advantages, and Messin’ With Casters…

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Slipquick Silks

Kelvin moved like ink poured over a polished, smooth statue—every turn was almost oily slick and his shape in the half-light was dark and fluid. The Houngang lunged this way and that, trying to wrap their large, powerful hands around an arm or a shoulder or anything, but every time they touched him, they found him slipping this way and that.

Four giants all grasping at a man moving like water, cackling taunts and pissing them off beyond all measure.

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Food of the Gods, Useful Things Aren’t Always Pretty, and All or Nothing…

You can find the ever-growing list of “Better Than Nothing” items  over on the right. Read ‘em, like ‘em, share ‘em, and comment.


It was a quiet, serious, and frequent communion. Every morning, when the dawn broke over the trees or peaks or horizon or walls, Favian Crossley could be found kneeling already—head bowed, a simple cloth sack spread before him like a small, ugly blanket. With great care and great ceremony, he picked up a wooden bowl no larger than a man’s cupped hand and filled it with his own breath. The deep inhale and exhale was a comfort to him, he visibly smiled and relaxed with the releasing of that air into the empty bowl.

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