Character Creation

posted by Doresh Original SA post

Silent Legions

Those are some stiff poses. Is that what SAN loss does to you?

It's Kevin Crawford time again! You might remember this OSR sandbox game creating machine from games like Stars Without Number (aka OSR Traveller),
Other Dust (a post-apocalyptic prequel to SWN with an actual long term goal to kinda sorta fix everything), Red Tide (a rad Labyrinth Lord sourcebook),
Spears of the Dawn (classic murder hobo adventures in a fantasy version of Africa) and Exemplars & Eidolons (both a guideline on how to format an OSR game, and an actual OSR game about playing as mythical badasses equal to the likes of Heracles or Gilgamesh).

Silent Legions is one of Crawford's Kickstarter projects. offering his brand of OSR sandboxing to play games of Lovecraftian horror - with a twist. You see, it kinda does get pretty boring if it's always the Cthulhu mythos, and players might just have grown tired of having their newest PC always be shocked and horrified at seeing a Shoggoth or Deep One for the "first" time. So instead of making this Calls & Cthulhus, Crawford offers his typical sandbox toolkit assortment to allow the GM to quickly roll up an entire pantheon from scratch, complete with cults and an unpronouncable name generator. This way, the players can never be sure what Eldritch abominations they might encounter, or what these abominations are actually capable of once they do encounter them.

Or, you know, you can have them meet Mara from Shin Megami Tensei. Not sure if this needs censoring...

Character Creation

Character Creation in Silent Legions follows standard Crawfordian OSR convetions: roll 3d6 down the line (with the option to reroll everything if your total modifiers are below zero), and when you choose your class you can set one Attribute that is among the class' Prime Attributes to 14 (the minimum for a +1). This time around, you can't shuffle some points around.

If rolling your Attributes isn't your thing, Silent Legions offers a fast and simple array-like option: You can set any of your Attributes at either 14 (+1), 11 (+0 or 7 (-1), with the restriction being that you can have more 14s than you have 7s. As this happens before the Prime Attribute comes into play, you can dump one of them and end up with a character that has a +1 in two Attributes and is average everywhere else, for a guaranteed baseline competency.

Starting skills in SWN were determined by picking Skill Packages, with one being your background and the other one serving to more cleary define your class. In Silent Legions, you only have a background package, which determines the job you had before everything got all non-euclidian.
There's a total of 80 background present, each with 4 starting skills, either chosen baed on your characters vision or rolled up with a d8 and d10.
If the Backgrounds aren't anything for you, you can just pick 3 skill you like and the Culture skill of your society.

(And yes, 80 background do mean you get some more silly stuff like Bum, Programmer, Prostitute and Trust Fund Kid. Now that's a party setup I can get behind.)

Skills themselves are very much like in Stars Without Numbers, without the space stuff of course. You do however get an Occult skill, and one of the Combat specializations is Eldritch, which covers anything magical or alien in nature.
Everyone starts with their mother tongue and any language related to whatever nation or culture a character has as a Culture skill. The implication I get here is that either all otakus are fluent in Japanese, or knowing a lot about anime and katana supremacy really doesn't qualify as a skill in any meaningful way.

As this isn't exactly the type of game were total strangers meet up to investigate strange stuff goin on, there's an option to create random connections between the PCs, with each player rolling how his characters knows the character of the player to his left. So you might end up with a 3-man party in which PC #1 is a relative of PC #2, who in turn is a childhood friend of PC #4 who himself was a teacher of PC #3.


Unlike SWN and Other Dust, multiclassing is the norm instead of an optional rule. The classes also have four Class Abilities instead of one, learned at levels 1, 3, 4 and 10.
Instead of tracking their per day/hour usages, each use of a Class Ability costs Expertise , which slowly recovers with each sleep. Everyone starts with two points, and each level-up raises this maximum by one.

Unsurprisingly for this kind of game, we have a Madness score to keep track of. Everyone starts at 0 and goes batshit bonkers when this ever reaches 100. It's pretty much reverse SAN.

Saving Throws in this game are Physical Effect, Mental Effect, Evasion, Magic and Luck. Pretty much everyone is equally good at Luck, while the rest differs.

The Investigator (Prime Attributes: WIS and CHA, d6 Hit Dice, medium Attack, good at Evasio, bad at Magic)

"It was a cold, dark night..."

Your typical Lovecraftian horror protagonist dude who goes out to investigate a murder in a backwater village, only to discover some weird stuff.

Investigators start with several contacts to draw upon in order to get some new information, though it might come at a price. They later can quickly make out red herrings, find out if someone's lying, and go full on Gumshoe system by just automatically finding everything of intel value there is to find at a location.

The Scholar (Prime Attributes: INT and WIS, d4 Hit Dice, slow attack progression, good at Magic, bad at Physical)

"I think this 'FATAL' book is driving me insane..."

Your researchers, ocultists and bookworms in general. Once per day, they can automatically succeed at any knowledge skill check that doesn't involve the occult or Eldritch, cause that stuff's dangerous.

As they rise in level, they get to ignore Madness increase once per day, analyze a magical item, and can quickly assess the rough abilities of any weird critter they come across as long as it isn't disguises as anything else or way too alien or unique for the scholar to have ever read about.

The Socialite (Prime Attributes: INT and CHA, d6 Hit Dice, slow attack progression, good at Mental, bad at Evasion)

"Hi! I'm awfully cheerful for this kind of game!"

The face of the party. Pretty good when dealing with humans, not so good when dealing with something that has tentacles and multiple mouths.

Their abilities are almost like subdued telepathy: They can break the ice and have someone react friendly or intimidated towards them (if it makes sense, that is), can sense a person's emotions, blend in with almost any crowd and can finally more or less brainwash someone after a 5 minute talk.
There aren't really clear mechanical rules for any of this, so I suspect room for abuse. They certainly rule any social situation as long as they have Expertise to spend. Then again nothing about all of this helps if a lynch mob or unspeakable horror is after them.

The Tough (Prime Attributes: STR and DEX, d8 Hit Dice, fast attack progression, good at Physical, bad at Mental)

"You've got a pretty good right tentacle..."

The tank of the party and general big damn hero, for those who would like to play as Old Man Henderson.

They start out with the ability to instantly stabilize when hitting 0 HP. Further abilities let them shrug of critical hits, auto-crit once per fight, until they finally become badass enough to cause crits on otherwise uncrittable monsters (which is basically anything that's not a guy or animal). You migth still not be able to punch out Cthulhu, but certainly Deep Ones and cultists.


Silent Legions uses an abstract system of tracking wealth, which goes in a similar region as d20 Modern but without any wealth bonuses or checks required.
Essentially, your wealth is tracked as an adjective Wealth Rating ranging from Penniless to Plutocratic . New characters start at Average (which makes you wealth enough to pay mortgage for a house and own a car), and they have the option to go one step below to Struggling (gaining a new skill in return because because you're more resourceful) or one step above to Affluent (which has you start with 10 points of Madness because your sheltered life makes you extra unprepared for cosmic horrors).
Characters start off with anything that makes sense with their background. So a cop might already have a gun, and a pilot might have a helicopter somewhere he might not own personally, but still be able to use.

You can buy stuff up to you Wealth Rating (kinda, equipment cost has its own adjectives, each tied to a rating) without issues, especially stuff below your rating which you can buy in bulk, enough to equip half a dozen teammates (which is a big improvement over d20 Modern). Items one step above your rating can be bought at the cost of reducing your rating by one step for one month. Buy something two steps above your rating, and the drop is permanent.

Like in previous Crawford games, smaller melee weapons allow you to use DEX instead of STR right out of the gate, and your attack attribute bonus is always added to damage as well. This time around, weapons also have something called a Slaughter Die , which is related to this game's critical hit rules, which we'll get to later.

The equipment itself is overall like in SWN, without the futuristic stuff of course. New on the list are tasers, smartphones, fake IDs and a Geiger counter.

Vehicles of course include the trusty powerboat to knock out Cthulhu. And if the Eldritch horror is already on land, you get yourself a friggin' tank. Luckily, the game is sane enough to not have tanks for sale.

Next Time : The Rules of the Game - Slaughter Dice are scary.

The Rules of the Game

posted by Doresh Original SA post

Silent Legions

The Rules of the Game (Soldiers in a lost Cause)

Silent Legions uses the same 2d6-based skill system (with skills ranging in level form 0 to 4) as many of his previous works, with a little addition: To make Skill Checks less binary, the GM can rule that missing the Target Number by 3 or less constitutes a Partial Success . This means the character either only managed to achieve part of what he wanted (but that's still better than nothing), or he gets exactly what he wanted, but with some added complications.

We also get some additional uses for Expertise: Aside form activating Class Abilities, they can also be spend to reroll a Skill Check if the Skill in question is a Class Skill. Casting a spell and pulling off other occult stuff also costs an Expertise point, though you can alternatively raise your Madness instead (Expertise is essentiall a buffer against going bonkers).
One night's rest only recovers a single point of Expertise, and this isn't really the kind of game where 15 minute adventuring days are a thing, so spend those points wisely.


"Was that really necessary?"

Here we have the same streamlined OSR combat system from SWN, using descending AC while avoiding THAC0 or Attack Matrices. Seriously, why did TSR never think about "Just add the enemy's AC to your roll, and if the total is 20+, you hit"?

Of course, Lovecraftian horror doesn't lend itself to murder-hoboing your way through multi-dimensional cosmic critters from non-Euclidian space. So in order to make the PCs think twice about fighting, the Slaughter Die was born.

While SWN didn't have critical hit rules at all, Silent Legions brings them back with a vengeance: Instead of critting on a natural 20, you instead roll your weapon's Slaughter Die along with your damage roll. If the Slaughter Die is a 6 or higher, the damage dealt is tripled . Fucking ouch .
The default Slaughter Die for most weapons is a d6, with nastier weapons having a higher die. Rifles get a d8, shotguns and two-handed weapons get a d10, sniper rifles and machine guns have a 1d12, and the rocket launcher has a 1d20 (aka its already impressive 3d10 damage is actually 9d10 most of the time).

Yeah, considering that even the crappiest weapons deal triple damage every 6th hit, and most "proper" combat weapons a lot more often, one can see how even starting a shoot-out with cultists isn't really in anyone's best interest. You'll never know whether the next bullet will just explodify you or not. This also gives the Though class the only kind of sure staying power in a fight, as they can ignore crits by spending Expertise. High-level Toughs are also the only ones who can actually crit a supernatural creature. But even they have a long way to go before they can even think about insta-gibbing Not-Shoggoths with a rocket launcher.

On the upside, being a martial artist can be pretty badass, as unarmed attacks are the only ones were you add your Skill Level to attack and damage, and it's also the only attack were your Slaughter Die increases as you gain Skill Levels. Someone with maxed Combat/Unarmed Skill has a slaughter Die of 1d12 (aka he crits slightly more than half the time), with a base damage of 1d2+4 + either STR or DEX bonus. This makes your fists better than swords .


Madness comes in damage-like rolls which accumulate in your Madness score, ranging from just a 1 for intentionally causing severe (non-fatal) harm to someone, 1d6 for seeing a cultist ritual, up to 1d20 for intentionally killing someone for the first time. Reach 100, and you'll probably end up in Arkham.

Madness-causing events are categorized as Bloodshed (killing stuff and see stuff getting killed) Horror (pretty much anything involving cultists and monsters) or Occult (casting spells witout spending Expertise).
As there's only so much crazy you can take in at any given time, so if multiple sources of Madness trigger at the same time, your Madness never raises higher than the maximum possible result of the worst event. Similarily, seeing the same kind of tentacled nightmare just isn't scary after a while. Once encounters with the same kind of monster has caused Madness equal to the maximum possible for a single monster (so say 10 points of Madness for a critter that causes 1d10), the character will never suffer any more Madness from dealing with this breed of Eldritch horror.

So how do you get rid of Madness? Well, each level up reduces it by 10, and you can also take a Delirium once per level. A Delirium can be a habit you've taken on to try to block out the weird shit you've seen (like lots of alcohol or praying), something you do to try to make sense of everything (occultism), or just a plain psychological scars (phobias, paranoia, tics, deluding yourself that your green Sonic with pants is really a totally original character...).

There's an example list of 12 Deliria you can probably roll on if you want, but the game recommends that the players figure out their character's Deliria themselves. If anyone's gonna ruin your character, it's yourself.

If you get yourself a new Delirium, you roll a d20. As long as you don't roll below the number of Deliria you have, you get to lose 10 points of Madness. If you do roll below, you add 10 points as your little house of cards is starting to shake.
As if that wasn't enough, you have to make save versus Mental Effect in order to resist all those lovely phobias and compulsions you've been collecting. If you fail, you can still ignore them, but it'll give you another d6 Madness as you're intentionally disruption you're strangely structured life.

As Deliria are the result of the human mind trying to fend off weird alien knowledge that's infecting your brain like a virus, no psychotherapy in the world can make you normal again. Fun times.

Character Advancement

Whereas SWN and other oldschool games have you gain up to 9 Hit Dice and just give you a flat bonus after that, Silent Legions goes up to 10 HD, but gives nothing afterwards - though you do still get to re-roll those dice each level to try and get a higher sum.

Level 10 is also the last time your Attack Bonus and Saves improve. Everything else (Expertise, skill points, Madness decrease) works as normal. And did I mention that everyone gains the same Skill Points each level? And that the penalty for buying a non-Class Skill isn't too bad? Your max level isn't limited, but you have to pay as much points as the next level would cost.

Multiclassing is fairly painless. You just have to know the first two skills of the new class' bonus skils (aka starting skills for a level 1 character). Other than that, you're good to go.

The game doesn't actually expect most PCs to reach double-digit levels, but if they do, they should be rewarded: At level 11 and every odd level thereafter, the character should gain a unique ability tailored to his previous experiences. The two examples include a sniper Tough who can insta-kill humans form a sniping position, and an Investigator who can use his contacts to get at governmental files.

Injury and Healing

Characters are generally considered dead at 0 HP, but PCs and other important characters can stay somewhat alive for around 6 rounds before they finally kick the bucket.
Being stabilizied through non-magic means you're in pretty bad condition and can't recover naturally until you're back in shape. Depending on how badly you roll on your Physical Effect Save, your character might be ready to go within minutes, days or weeks. If you really mess up, you just die from your wounds after those weeks.

Next Time : Sorcery - let's see if I can spot a couple traditional D&D spells.

Sorcery - Arcane Rituals and Eldritch Arts

posted by Doresh Original SA post

Silent Legions

Sorcery - Arcane Rituals and Eldritch Arts

That went well.

Sorcery, magic, or just plain old "playing around with powers mere mortals aren't meant to understand". It's mostly for lunatics or maniacs to play with, but players can get their hands on it as well.
As there's no class that just starts you off with spells, you have to either find a mentor or forbidden tome during the sandbox campaign.

Magic in Silent Legions is seperated into Spells (well, spells) and Disciplines (which are kinda like a mixture between the psychic powers and martial arts styles from SWN).
The arcane arts are further divided into the "black" or "gray" arts. The latter are the only ones presented here, as the black arts require a demented mind and are basically GM fiat. As all magic is inherently evil or sinister, there is no such thing as "white" arts.


The spells of Silent Legions are of little use during combat, for they are all rituals that take at least 10 minutes to perform. They range in level between 1 and 5, and while even a 1st level character can learn the most powerful spells right away if he can get a hand on it, but n00bs should be very careful when it comes to casting spells that are way over their head

All that is required to learn a spell is the Occult skill and a few weeks of study, after which an Occult check is made to see whether or not the spell is actually learned. Failures can only be repeated if the student finds a new source to learn from, or raises his Occult skill.
If a character is learning from a tome, he naturally has to understand the language its written it. If learning from a mentor (which can be another PC who has already learned the spell), the character gains a bonus to his Occult check to learn the spell.

As Eldritch magic is a bit weird for humans, each learning attempt adds to Madness.

While spells take several minutes to cast, and any interrupting can ruin the entire attempt, spells generally automatically succeed - unless the spell's level is higher than your Occult skill. Then you have to make a check, failure of which means the spell either failes or raises your Madness.
Some spells allow a character to create magic items that he can share with the rest of the party, but his character level, INT modifier and Occult skill level limit the maximum amount of magic items he can keep fueled and active.

Spells of the Gray Path

The following are spells that are somewhat safe and sane enough for PC use. In true Lovecraftian tradition, their names are quite wordy.

(The spell descriptions themselves are not ordered by level, but alphabetically. Luckily, I'll condense them here.)

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Level 5

The Incantations of Night

Aside from the above "safe" spells, there's the blackest of magic for cultists and other persons who have long stopped being normal humans.

Black magic essentially consists of GM fiat and plot devices. In order to quickly create dark magic on the fly and keep the players guessing what those cultists are actually doing, this little sections lets you roll up random magical effects. None of these actually come with mechanical effects. The GM should either come up with something that makes sense or just treat the spell as a force of nature.
Dark magic doesn't have any level or similar stuff, and even the weakes of such spells would damn a PC forever. Instead, they only work under specific circumstances which the GM should work into the plot.

So, let's roll for such a fun spell, shall we?


So the spell's basic effect consists of "It enhances a living target's capabilities", aka a buff. It was first invented by an ancient human sorcerer and causes to target to gain additional limbs or body parts. Nice.
The spell in question is of "major" power, requiring one day to cast and a total of 4 things, which consist of...

Rolling up some fitting names for the spell, I come up with "Lesser Blessing of Demons". It seems the whole spell is a ritual to turn a new cultist member into a demonic horror with wings and maybe a couple other additional limbs (let's call it a Horned Spider Man-Bat) when being performed on an old battlefield or similar field, which seems to suggest the transformed might end up looking and behaving like a daemon of Khorne. Who could that historical figure be? My bets are on Custer or Vlad Tepes.


Disciplines are essentially skills that grant you a supernatural ability with each level, not unlike Feat chains. Each level requires skill points to spend and a month of learning. Once a Discipline was initially learned, no further tomes or mentors are necessary to improve it. If the character doesn't have enough Skill points left, he may borrow some from his next level up.
Unlike spells, Disciplines can be used quickly during combat. One Expertise is all that's needed to grant full access to a Discipline for around 15 minutes. Without Expertise, Madness increases.

In a similar way to psychic powers from SWN, a character can master Discplines level by level by either paying permanent Expertise of Madness. From that point on, the mastered Disciplines won't cost anything to use.

Man, that's pretty darn rad stuff actually. With just two levels each in Enlightened Hand and Pyrokinesis, you effectively become a fighting game character.

Next Time : Creating Your Mythos - Call of Poothulhu.

Creating your Mythos - Summoning up the Damnable Powers

posted by Doresh Original SA post

Silent Legions

Creating your Mythos - Summoning up the Damnable Powers

Your average TPK.

This chapter is the meat of the game. This is were you yank out the Cthulhu stuff out of this Lovecraftian horror game and cram in your own mythos to keep the players guessing.

A "mythos" in the context of the game is all the supernatural shenanigans going on, from alien artifacts to tentacled, multi-dimensional horrors.
To help flesh out your mythos, you can pick a couple of themes:


The classic Lovecraftian concept of "Nobody gives a damn about humanity, and nothing you do matters in the grand scheme of things, though you can get yourself some short-term victories". As such, supernatural critters generally don't really care about humans at all.
Thankfully, the game makes it important to not forget the "short-term victories" part (with said short-terms potentially consisting of thousands of years). It's not fun playing these kinds of games if nothing ever matters at all.


This theme is probably even worse than the above. Not only is your not-Azathoth not indifferent to humanity, but he actively wants to eradicate it. While a cosmicism entity might unintentionally kill you through sheer proximity, a malevolence creature will actively make sure that you suffer for as long as possible.

This theme lends itself well to more satanic figures, as malevolence can also materialize as the urge to corrupt humans instead of merely killing them.


In short: Knowledge is power, but also very, very dangerous.


Though characters in Silent Legions are somewhat more competent in combat than in similar games, it realy isn't about murder-hoboing at all. Supernatural entities are either resistant or downright immune against normal violence, and although human cultists are a lot more squishy, frequent murder sprees will eat away at the PCs sanity because gleefully murdering other human beings is a bit effed up.

Though if you want to make it more about murder-hoboing, you can make the supernatural critters less resistsant, and make the PCs immune against crits.


What would a Lovecraftian game be without some good old-fashioned SAN loss?

Silent Legion walks around the issue of trying to realistically portray actual mental illnesses by declaring Lovecraftian SAN loss as something much different. Madness through Lovecraftian means is the result of your feeble human mind trying to comprehend the forbidden Eldritch stuff you just witnessed, to the point of mentally burning out. The Deliria you make up are your own mind trying to make sense of everything.

The Outer Gods

The first step to your own mythos is the creation of th eouter gods, the distant and unkowable entities that will pretty much wreck everything for everyone if they ever get even close to our solar system. So better don't let the cultists succeed at anything relating to these guys.

To come back to my threat from a while ago, enjoy this pantheon:

Outer Gods of the V'ny Mythos
The traits for this pantheon is Immanence , meaning they have a physical presence in this world. They are also Forerunners , aka Gods that are not fully born yet, so things are only going downhill from here.

(If you're wondering how the names are generated, there's a handy name generator in the back of the book. It lets you either roll up from a list of syllables, or let you create you rown syllables from scratchs. I used the pre-rolled syllables as much as possible.)


They have come for our booze.

Whether they have been extinct for millions of years or are still alive and well, alien races are another important element for Lovecraftian horror, offering a usually much more manageable threat than the outer gods.
More often than not, aliens are attracted to Earth not because of humans, but because of natural reosources and/or magical MacGuffins.

With that out of the ways, let's roll something up:

The Bi'z

The Bi'z are a bizarre and disturbing alien race that is scared shitless by the above outer gods (and who could blame them). Going by rare reports, they have been around on Earth since around two centuries, and they have inlfuenced at least one religion during that time (Scientology?). Nowadays, they can be found in uninhabitated parts of the world, which are connected by a secret underground network.

Bi'z have originally come as explorers and are now mining Earth for resources they require for reproduction. Let's say pollen. To help them achieve that goal, they use their magical mind control powers to "recruit" human agents to do their bidding.

Their appearance is just lovely: A big, conical lump of interwined cords covered in frills and flayed skin. They move either by flying with a pair of insect-like wings, or by skittering on the floor as their body is dragged by roided-out limbs that end in oddly human-looking hands. Speaking of, they also have a very human-like face, though they have a couple nasty fangs hidden behind their lips. This is overall quite ironic, for they find humans disgusting. Or maybe it makes sense, as they see just a tiny bit of themselves in us?
Naturally, no Lovecraftian critter would be complete without tentacles. The Bi'z have several that end in mouths. Yummy.

Their voices are like metallic buzzing. They prefer to eat other predators, luring them in with their decayed apperance before lashing out with hidden tentacles and jaws to grab their prey and swallow it whole. They love consumption, so they probably eat a whole lot more than they actually need.

Interactions with the Bi'z are bound to result in failre, for they despise truthfulness.

I think I just rolled up a Mi-Go, re-imagined as an Apostle from Berserk.

Kelipot: Realms of Shadowed Dream

Kelipot (Kelipah for the singular) is the game's term for pocket dimensions and alternate realities, like Dreamland.

The biggest Kelipot can have entire worlds inside them, while the smallest one blend into our own world without much issues, creating strange phenomena of houses that are bigger on the inside, or highways that appear out of nowhere.

Kelipot can look clearly dangerous or more or less pleasant, but they are never a place you'd want to hang out for long.

Kelipot are connected to our world thorugh Ways . Some require specific triggers, while others are basically always active. Some are cleary recognizable as gates or portals, while other can only be senses by magic means and blend into the surrounding. Others can be reached with the right drugs.

Getting rid of a Way usually requires a ritual of some kind. Large gatherings of humans also seem to do the trick, for bigger Ways never seem to be near human civilization.

Kelipot are categorized into different times: Static Kelipot are the easiest to comprehend by humans. They and their inhabitants are very close to what we can understand, though there's still always something wrong about the whole place. Maybe sorcery is more redily available and easier to use, allowing you to just insert your normal D&D campaign (which the book more or less recommends you to do).

Themed Kelipot all revolve around a single theme and/or gimmick, while Dream Kelipot are strange worlds than run on narrative logic rather than physical logic, where the inhabitants don't live a normal life so much as they play their role.
Alien Kelipot finally are so odd and incomprehensible that humans can't stay in them for long before going mad.

So, another set of rolls later...


This Kelipath is one giant forest the size of a small nation. The entire plantlife is covered in nauseating hues, and they seem to constantly exude a fog that covers the entire Kelipah. The local fauna is a strange bunch, as they all appear to be covered in mysterious glyphs.

The inhabitants of this Kelipah are a strange lot, living only in a single town that seems to be in a state of frequent change, currently appearing as a techno-medieval city.
The townspeople don't seem to have a proper government, instead blindly following the "role" laid out for them by a higher power. The "play" changes, but the protagonists, antagonists and supporting cast will always come from the same caste.
As they are so deeply integrated into their play, they pay no mind to outsiders as long as they don't mess with the script.


These need little explanation I suppose. All of these types of campaigns need insane humans playing around with powers they barely understand.

So, into the dice!

The Eyes of the Argent Bone King

Founded a couple centuries ago by a starving peasant haunted with strange visions, this particularly mad cult quickly attracted the rich and wealthy, meeting in cemeteries to sate their depraved cravings (which going by the origin and meeting place probably means they eat corpses). They even managed to maintain an outpost in a Kelipah, where they probably keep their most insane members.
Naturally, the church wasn't particularly fond of these heretics, so the cult naturally had to go into hiding, partially by retreating into their outpost and by keeping the cult a family secret. As their rituals cause sterility in their members, it seems that only the "chosen" of those families are worthy to enter the cult proper.

Important NPCs the party might come across is a mad sorcerer who, although powerful, is way too bonkers to lead the cult, and your typical friendly old lady who is actually a cult member.


Although powerful, no artifacts can truly be called "safe". Each and every one of them is cursed, and it up for the PCs to avoid the trigger or get rid of the curse if it did trigger.

Artifacts belong into one of four categories: magical weapons, protective artifacts, miscellaneous effects and occult grimoires. I'm going for the latter to make a not-Necronomicon.

(It should be noted that merely reading an occult grimoire doesn't cause madness in and of itself. It's when you try to learn Eldritch arts from it that things go crazy.)

Codex of the Uttermost Curse

This lovely, one of a kind tome made out of human skin and bones contains the historical records of the mad priest that wrote it a thousand years ago. Attentive readers might realize that some of these records are actually encrypted spells, namely:
If the reader doesn't prepare his lectures with purification rituals, the Eldritch powers residing within its pages might cause severe bad luck to his friends and allies for as long as he isn't purified.

Next Time : Building Your World - it's time for Tags again.

Building Your World - Creating Dark Circumstances

posted by Doresh Original SA post

Silent Legions

I think I'll make this a double feature, as the next chapter is a lot like stuff I've already covered in SWN:

Building Your World - Creating Dark Circumstances

The Lovecraftian sandbox of Silent Legions abstracts the "map" into regions . They can range in scale from a simple town to an entire nation (or a few smaller states), with the only limit being that whatever weird stuff is happening inside a single region rarely spreads out into other regions. What happens in Innsmouth stays in Innsmouth.
Inside every region are locations , which aside from free-floating shenanigans are the only points of interest for the players. The scale of the locations should depend on the scale of the region: If the region is "New England", a location might be "Innsmouth". If the region itself is Innsmouth, then a location could just be the little-known Innsmouth branch of Cheese Dudes or something.

The book recommends to start out with a region one is very familiar (like say your home state) and then pick three cities, rural areas and isolated places as starting locations. These can be based on actual real-life places, but the GM can also just make stuff up or change things around.
The region is then populated with at least one cult and alien species for the PCs to stumble into. If the GM feels nice, he might also sprinkle in an ally faction for the PCs, like a group of monster hunters or a secret agency.

When fleshing out locations, around 1/5 of them should be red herrings, aka locations without anything occult going on. This is just a friendly reminder that the players shouldn't expect crazy cults or Shoggoths behind every corner.
Actually fleshing out the locations is done in typicl Crawford-fashion by rolling up some tags that provide ideas for plots, places and NPCs. More specifically, each tag in Silent Legions provides multiple examples for enemies, friends, schemes, secrets and places.
True to modern day occult horror roots, the tags include fun stuff like "Alien Bloodline", "Breeding Program", "Corrupt Police", "Eldritch Radiation" and a friggin' "Lich Lair".

Adventure Templates

These are adventure frameworks for the GM to roll up between sessions and flesh out as needed, as simple dungeon crawls aren't really a thing in these sorts of games.
The book "warns" that these templates have a relative tight focus for a sandbox game. It's basically all about the PCs wandering the sandbox and picking an adventure road that looks interesting.

Each adventure template is made out of several scenes . The four primary types of scenes found in nearly every template are Hook scenes (the first nudge towards the main plot), Introduction scenes (where the PCs make themselves familiar with the location), Investigation scenes (where they try to find out just what the hell is going on) and Resolution scenes (where cults are busted). Typically, they happen in around this order.
Other possible scenes include Ambush scenes (surprise cultist attack!), Escape scenes (pretty much whenever something with tentacles and multiple mouths appears), Conflict scenes (combat!) and Respite scenes (time for recovery!).

The book recommends to build these templates backwards, starting with the final Resolution scene, adding multiple chains of Investigation scenes that lead to it, and finally an Introduction and Hook scene to get the ball rolling.

Once the template is fleshed out with NPCs and everything, the adventure can be run in one of two ways: oldschool-style were the entire adventure can fail spectacularly if the PCs mess up, or a more Gumshoe-ish approach where failsafes will make sure that the PCs will always get the minimum amount of clues necessary to get to the end - so they price they will have to pay for this can be steep.


The surviving PCs gain an amount of XP that depend on the highest level anyone of them has, allowing the inevitable replacement PCs to catch up faster.

Wealth-related rewards are handled as abstract wealth tokens , each with their own wealth level that can be exchanged for equipment. These tokens can be split up into tokens of less worth, but they can't be combined to create a token of higher worth. The latter part is especially important since wealth tokens that are around two steps above your own wealth level can be used to permanently increase your wealth level by one.

Scenes and Challenges

This section is all about randomly generating the parts for your adventure templates. Each scene comes with one (sometimes two) ranodm tables, there's a random NPC and crime generator, and there are even challenge tables tailored to the individual classes, so that everyone gets something to do.

Cults - Sicknesses that never sleep

This section is essentially an adaption of the faction rules from Stars Without Number, focused on cults. Just like in SWN, these rules are for the GM to change the sandbox depending on how the various cults are doing trying to expand and outdo each other, and they can be used by PC onces they have enough influence to create their own cult (or rather agency in this regard).

Like in SWN, these rules are all about aquiring various Assets and using them to crush the opposition. The currency of this system is Power . Each location has its own rating depending on how important it is, but cults operating in a location can try to improve that rating.
The most important thing for each cult in any given location is its stronghold there. It acts as that location's HQ and is necessary to make use of its Power.

Due to the unpredicable nature of Eldritch horror, some of the more supernatural assets have the Berserk state. If you can't pay their upkeep for more than a turn, they will go on a rampage and continue to wreck your and everyone else's stuff until it is destroyed.

Each cult has 3 attributes, which grant access to different kinds of assets: Muscle is for brute force. It starts off harmless with corrupt cops and thugs, moves on to assassins and military weapons and ends at a friggin' army.
Sorcery is for your occult and Eldritch needs. Low Sorcery only allows for wannabe sorcerers and maybe a minor abomination, but higher scores grant access to a Kelipah and make you BFF (sorta) with an Outer Lord (whatever that is; though it doesn't sound very nice).
Influence is for gaining social and economic power. It starts of with a profitable business, moves onto connections with a Crime Boss and ends at the Inssmouth Response , aka the cult is now a national secret agency that allows them to totally wreck opposing cults with the small chance that their activities will backfire after getting compromised.

Next Time : The Bestiary - including one of the best Eldritch horror pictures ever.

The Bestiary - Creatures of Bleak Dreams

posted by Doresh Original SA post

Silent Legions

The Bestiary - Creatures of Bleak Dreams

Silent Legions follows the bestiary format laid out by Stars Without Numbers and Other Dust: It presents a list of generic statblocks which you pick from based on how much or little TPK potential you want your critter to have, and then roll up some traits to decides its visuals and possible additional abilities it might have. Like Other Dust, it also presents a list of example creatures.

The list of statblocks is the biggest so far with a total of 11, including two types of human opponents (common and skilled), a generic undead human statblock and several statblock for your Eldritch horror needs, be it an Amorphous Terror, Humanoid Thing or Outer Entity (which is the most dangerous thing you can encounter, with an average HD 8, 4 tentacle attacks at 1d8 each and a Madness die of 1d10).

Now the latter's stats might not sound like much, but they have many things going for them. Like all supernatural critters, they are immune to crit attacks, and Outer Entities are also the primary candidates for creatures that are straight-up immune against magical damage sources.

If that wasn't enough, you can turn any creature into a Nemesis . This is a template that beefs up a creature'S HD and attack bonus of 50% (with a minimum of 5 each), and it grants a second action each turn.

I was also talking about average stats because each of these statblocks actually has three different stat arrays (Weak, Average and Strong). This is because the special monster traits you can roll up (which includes stuff like "acidic", "multilimbed" and "skeletal") moves one or more stats up or down from the Average array, resulting in more variety in creature stats without having the GM to do much extra work. Though if you want to tweak the creature, you can just pick and choose from the arrays anyways (with a guideline on what to do when a trait boosts a Strong stat or reduces a Weak one).

As this is a game about horror, you can roll up on a table to determine what kind of horror the creature is supposed to convey, with a general description about each. Examples include body horror (for all your Junji Itou needs), consumption horror (Berserk seems to love this one), pursuit horrors (for your Eldritch not-Jasons) and sexual horror . Thankfully the books essentially goes "Don't use this if you don't know what you're doing, and be careful to make this an actual focus of an adventure". And the example for this kind of horror is essentially that one scene from Exalted where a little girl got turned into a demon-generating multi-womb, except this can apparently also happen to dudes.

There are also rules to roll up diseases and poison, which are fortunately not oldschool enough to just have everything be save-or-die. Most of them are more like debuffs.

Mundane Humans

You average humans, serial killers, cultists and mad scientists. Special mention goes to the Slasher (HD 6), who is immune against non-magical weapons (though you can set them on fire or drop a building on them), always hits and rolls a damage die that starts at 1d4 and goes up one step up to 1d20 for each hit it scores (can't crit, fortunately). Doesn't come with slasher teleport powers, but he's faster than the other humans.


The friendliest zombie you will ever see

A standard selection of zombies, ghouls, vampires, and ghosts. The vampires have the gimmick of letting the PCs roll up an Occult check to see if they can figure out that particular vampire's weaknesses, if they actually now that vampire's origin and name.
And to emulate zmbie movie conventions, shotguns and two-handed weapons always auto-crit against zombies.

Uncanny Abominations

Just look at this guy. It's like he's doing stand-up comedy :

Now here's the weird and Eldritch stuff. Some of these can be the center of an entire cult, while others just do whatever.

Blistered Priests (HD 7) are nasty creatures that love to disguise themselves as priests or therapists, for they feed on human's psychological torment and suffering, which they then turn into physical debilities to make them suffer some more. This torment is kept in boils covering their body, which burst open in melee damage for some extra Madness as their opponent suddenly experiences the suffering of someone else.
As cult leaders, they love to supposedly ease their followers' suffering through more and more extreme acts of self-mutilation.

Cancer Men (HD 8) are the result of experiments to extends someone's life span with the help of radiation. In the case of the Cancer Men (or Women) this actually worked, though they have basically turned into sentient, human-shaped tumors in the process. As a rather straining feat for them, they can cause cancer through touch. This cancer kills in one week per point of CON on the victim, and it can only be cured by killing the Cancer Man - largely because the tumors are actually part of the Cancer Man. He can feel and see through them, and a sufficently infected victim can even be controlled remotely.
Killing a Cancer Man is a pretty hard task unless you manage to pump them full of chemotherapy drugs, for then they will instantly recover all their hit points at the start of every round as long as they still had 1 hit point left . They're kinda like super tumor trolls in that regard.

Drowned Kings (HD 12) were the sorcerer kings of what is clearly supposed to be Atlantis. When prophecies foretold the downfall of their kingdom, they performed a ritual to protect themselves from the catastrophe. The ritual worked in that it erased traces of their kingdom from history and threw them into a pocket dimension, where they are sleeping in their sarcophagi.
When a Drowned King is awaken from his slumber, they quickly create a court of loyal servants through their scary mind control powers, and they hold court in bizarre palaces that are created by twisting doors and passages of buildings and generally messing with space-time. As they have slept for who knows how long, they hunger for pleasure and intense feelings, which often results in a lot of riots and general chaos.

Fetches (HD 8) are awesome. They are supernatural assassins, appearing as car-sized monster spiders who can only be seen by their victim, unless someone else believes in their existence and that they're out to get said victim. They terrorize their prey by appearing a total of seven times, first in the far distance and then coming steadily closer and closer. The seventh time is were they actually attack their victim, though they aren't nice enough to just kill them. Instead they get impaled on one of the spikes on their carapace, where they will live in endless torment until someone manages to free them, at which point they are finally allowed to die. A Fetch typically carries the impaled bodies of their previous victims around. The are still moving and all, but like the Fetch, they don't make any sound.
Despite their cruesoome efficiency, summoning a Fetch is tricky. The ritual itself already requires a human sacrifice, and should a Fetch fail in its task (be it because it was killed or banished), a second Fetch will apear to hunt the summoner .

Gray Waifs (HD 7) appear as sickly maidens that typicall hang around cults and more powerful Eldritch critters. They love to create a damsel-in-distress narrative for them to attract heroic protectors. Once they have clung to a victim, they will fuel its paranoia by fabricating further troubles for themselves or altering his perception of social interactions. This can go for a long while and can end in their hero killing a dear friend or ally, or helping a cult achieve its goal.
When their victim as fulfilled its purpose, the Gray Waif will show its true form: A eight-foot tall cylindrical monster with four tentacles and beaks.

The Harbingers Syndrome is a kind of occult fallout that can happen before a natural disaster or in proximity to high magical activity that will have catastrophic effects in the future. Whatever its actual origin or motivation is, the syndrome causes the infected to ensure that the upcoming disaster will not only occur, but will to so in the worst possible way.
This "syndrome" will even go so far as to create doppelgangers of those infected to failed at their task.

It isn't really spelled out, but the statblock for the Harbinger (at HD 5) is probably for the infected and doppelgangers, which are noticably nastier than most types of humans.

Lycanthropes (HD 7) in this game are the result of parasites from a world where everyone's going berserk all the time. Their beast and hybrid forms don't necessarily have to resemble any earthly predator, and even if they generally look more like a dire animal on close inspection. They can only be reduced below 1 hit point through magic or silver weapons, for that metal is toxic to them.
They can hulk out whenever they want to, but they prefer the night as that allows them to be more sneaky. They also prefer nights with a mostly full moon because the human senses of their host don't actually improve in monster form, so they need a light source to actually see shit.

Macguffins are nasty incorporal entities than can transform into whatever object their victim desires the most. The object functions just like the original, but after a couple weeks, more and more of the victim's possessions will become infected by the entity, causing more and more frequent re-rolls to avoid them breaking or generally failing. Eventually, the victim's entire possessions will fall apart.
This curse of sorts can be broken my destroying the fake object. This in and of itself is easy, but the Macguffin can influence others to essentially go all Smeagol and try to get the object for themselves. And if everything else fails, the Macguffin can pull a poltergeist and animate objects (HD 1) around it to attack people.

Shibboleths (HD 3) are a varied group of Eldritch beings who come in all shapes and sizes. They aren't particularly powerful for a supernatural monster (HD 3) and can't communicate with humans (not that they care about humans unless they need them for siniser purposes).
The disturbing thing about Shibboleths is that they don't actually have to hide or anything. Humans who see them (either in the flesh or in a photograph or video) are incapable of conveying their existance in any way, shape or form. PCs can temporarily power through this urge at the cost of Madness, but NPCs are absoultely helpless against this effect. You can have entire villages know about that group of monster who are strolling around the place and building a weird tower near the local market, but none of them would be able to talk about this or call for help.

Spoken Ones (HD 8) are acidic blobs of slime the size of a bull who can create human-looking servants of varying levels of intelligence. Aside from digesting human sacrifices to become more powerful and create more sophisticated servants, a Spoken Ones primarily goal is to have its name be spoken by humans. As their names are long and unpronouncable, a Spoken One will send out servants to make its name known piece by piece. These name fragments can be strangely compelling to humans, which can eventually lead into a cult forming around a Spoken One that spends their time chanting parts of its name.

The Walkers Between (HD 8) are from the void between the various worlds and dimensions, and their goal is to destroy all form of barriers or boundaries, be they physical or metaphorical. They appear as a tall humanoid shape covered in rags, under which there seems to be nothing at all. Sharp blades and glass shards can protrude form its sleeves to attack, and they don't actually speak as much as they alter the sound around them. It is impossible to hit one with ranged attacks, and their sharp melee attacks have a very high crit chance.
As they can create new gates between worlds, cults often summon one to do just that. As payment, a Walker Between will either demand very cryptic and sometimes impossible stuff. Or he just goes body horror and demands victims he can fuse with other victims or even objects.

Next Time : Game Master Resources - how to suplex Cthulhu.

Game Master Resources - Red Rags and Shards of Bone

posted by Doresh Original SA post

Silent Legions

Game Master Resources - Red Rags and Shards of Bone

This final chapter includes several optional rules and charts, a lot of which was commissioned by the highest backers of the original Kickstarter campaign. So a big thanks to Matthew B., the guy who commissioned my favoite part of this chapter (which you'll surely find out once we get there). You rock.

Aside from the excellent Lovecraftian Name Generator which I used for the pantheon, there are the Secret Adepts of the World , which lets you quickly roll out the origin and backstory for a historical occult figure to splice into the PC's investigations (like say a Greek philosopher who wanted to become a god, became as strong as Heracles in the process and actually managed to accomplish his goal - sorta.).

Conversion Rules

Now here comes the fun part. The new rules and mechanics introduced in Silent Legions can be readily adapted to Starts Without Number, Other Dust and other Crawfordian games.

As there are a couple additional skills in Silent Legions, and the classes have more skills in general, it is recommended to give all of the old classes one additional skill point per level. Madness rules can be use as-is, and they replaced the attribute damage from torching, which makes life for Psychics a bit more easier.

To make combat even more dangerous, the Slaughter Die can introduced as well. Since a lot of weapons didn't make it into this book (this being modern day and all), there are guidelines to figure out the die size for the other weapons. Suffice to say, you really don't want to get hit by a Gunnery weapon.

Sorcery and Disciplines can also be used by anyone, so now your space marine can use pyrokinesis to punch aliens.

When Expertise is ported over to the SWN classes, a couple things change: Warriors can spend Expertise to not only reroll, but also attack rolls, which is amazing.
As the Expert's old "Like a Charm" ability basically worked like Expertise, it now ha the Expert pick a number of his skills which are now rolled on a 1d6+6 instead of a 2d6, guaranteeing average or above-average results.
Psychics don't really get much, but they can now spend Expertise to essentially torch without repercussions, just like how everyone can spend Expertise to avoid the Madness gained from Sorcery and Disciplines.

It should also be noticed that laser pistols and plasme rifles still don't do anything against critters that are immune against ordinary weapons. You still need magical or truly alien weaponry.

As all OSR games are kinda sorta similar in structure, one can use the mechanics in this book for other retroclones and old editions. The book more or less recommends to just wing it: Keep the Saving Throws from the other edition and pick the one that makes the most sense for the occasion, and instead of combing up with class skill lists for every class, just pick the list from the Silent Legion (or SWN class) that seems to be the most fitting.
Speaking of skills, the combat skills might not be a good choice for other OSR editions, as they primarily exist to make up for the lack of magical +x weapons.
As for Vancian magic, just use it as normal, without Madness or anything.

Since Silent Legions is inspired by Call of Cthulhu, there are conversion rules for that system as well. For the most part, you can use CoC monsters and critters as-is. Just replace SAN loss with Madness, convert hit chances to attack bonuses, figure out which Saving Throws to use to counter which supernatural ability, and you're more or less done.

And now for our main program. Sometimes, you want a more noblebright game aout Lovecraftian horror. Sometimes, you have to bring out the natural enemy of Cthulhu and his nefarious gang.

Sometimes, you need El Santo.

Luchadores Against Cthulhu

Luchadores are a class choice for Crawfords Solo Heroes rules (and by extension Exemplars & Eidolons), which allow you to run a typical D&D adventure with a single PC.

They aren't a real class, you just add the luchadore stuff on top of your actual class(es). Their unarmed attacks are treated as magical (so they can suplex Cthulhu), they deal non-lethal damage by default and don't gain Madness from beating people up that way, they gain automatic levels in the Combat/Unarmed skill, and they can spend Expertise to reroll attack rolls.
Unlike everyone else, a Luchadore's Madness only goes to 20, at which they don't become insane, but instead go into a heroic frenzy that only stops until they have accomplished their goal. It's like a Maid Stress Explosion, basically.

Luchadores also gain one special ability form a list each level, but most of them can only use them while in their masked persona. Nobody is lalowed to see them change into this persona, but once the mask is on, nobody will recognize them, and they can only be unmasked if they want to.

The abilities in question are just amazing. Here's a highlight reel:

Dark Visions

These optional rules give the PCs a chance to get "infected" with random visions upon reaching enough Madness. The vision is usually not very helpful, but the PC can concentrate to gain possible insight (a way for the GM to give some clues they have missed). This does however cause further Madness and additional side effects, like going blind for a moment or spontaneous bleeding.

The Secret Degress of Prince Hall Freemasonry

This is an example for a benevolent organization that might help out the PCs. More specifically, it's an African-American branch of the Freemasons largely made up of survivors of occult and Eldritch activity. They are heavy into the study of traditional magic, which gives the GM an excuse to introduce more traditional arcane spellcaster classes form other retroclones.

The Palimpsest Society

These guys are hilarious. On the outside, it's just a splintered sect whose members waste their time with silly conspiracy theories. But what's actually going on is that the higher-ups of the cult are serving Azug-Koth , the White Wind of Revision. They deliberately spread conspiracy theories, and if enough people believe they are real, Azug-Koth makes them real. Including chemtrails.

This also opens additional options to crash a cult of the society: Instead of just killing everyone, the PCs can convince them that they're wrong, or they can dilute the conspiracy theory by making shit up themselves, for the whole trick only works if the right pieces and names are used.

The Goat Mother

The Goat Mother is a fertility goddess of sorts, though she not only birthes life, but also ideas. This does mean that her cults don't just do sex orgies. Jam sessions are also fine.

The leader of any Goat Mother cult will use their meetings to sap attribute points from the rest. Once he has gathered enough, he can have the Goat Mother give birth, be it new life, an invetion or idea. Unfortunately for the leader, these creations will always oppose their actual purpose.

All in all, followers of the Goat Mother never get what they want.

Mythos Abberations

This is a short list of charts to roll up all sorts of Eldritch-related stuff, be it the motivations of a monster, or what's especially weird and uncanny about them.

Shadows in the Sky

These are some ideas about how to include occult horror into Stars Without Number, with a few examples. Basically, it might be something in the background, something that's the main focus of the entire campaign, or something that happens for a single adventure or two.

The Ordo Sevorum Lux

It turns out that faith can actually create gods, though they don't hold a candle to the outer gods and are more like larvae.

The Ordo Sevorum Lux was created after the fall of Rome and is tasked with finding forgotten shrines and other places of faith where these larvae are still bound to. If possible, they have to somehow retrieve them and bring them back to base, like some kind of religious Pokemon.

School Days

Campaigning in a university setting! Probably not something for long-term campaigns unless you make it Harry Potter I suppose. Man, imagine having an Elder Thing as a teacher...

Unit 13

Another organization of Eldritch survivors, this time being a military brotherhood that has members in almost every army.

They didn't put a 13 in their name for nothing, for each and every one of them is cursed to die a violent death. This is also their main motivation for keeping all this Eldritch stuff secret from the rest of the world, as facing people with the truth can actually spread this curse.

Next Time : That's it, ladies and gents. How to play CoC in OSR format without making it about murder hobos. For my next topic, I have considered Valor, but I'll wait a bit with that one as I've just entered a campaign. So in the meantime, I will take a look at the other natural enemy of the Eldritch forces aside from El Santo: magical girls. It's time for Sparks of Light , which I think is Princess the Hopeful, FATE and Noblebright Edition.