Fantasy #

For our purposes, fantasy is any genre that has magic, or something so inexplicable it might as well be magic. The sort of core default of this type is Tolkienesque fantasy, also known as second-world fantasy because it includes a completely new world not our own. Big fantasy epics like those penned by J. R. R. Tolkien (hence the name), C. S. Lewis, George R. R. Martin, Stephen R. Donaldson, David Eddings, Ursula K. Le Guin, and others are indicative of this genre. It usually involves swords, sorcery, nonhuman species (such as elves, dwarves, helborn, and half-giants), and epic struggles.

Of course, fantasy might also involve the modern world, with creatures of myth and sorcerers dwelling among us. It might involve mythic traditions of any number of cultures (elves, dwarves, and the like, usually being decidedly European) or bear little resemblance to anything on Earth, past or present. It might even involve some of the trappings of science fiction, with spaceships and laser guns amid the wizardry and swords (this is often called science fantasy).

Fantasy can also be defined by the amount of fantasy elements within it. A second-world fantasy filled with wizards, ghosts, dragons, curses, and gods is referred to as high fantasy. Fantasy with a firmer grounding in reality as we know it in our world is low fantasy. (In fact, low fantasy often takes place in our world, or in our world’s distant past, like the stories of Conan.) No single element indicates concretely that a given fantasy is high or low. It’s the prevalence of those elements.

The point is, there are many, many types of fantasy.

Suggested Types For A Fantasy Game #

Role Character Type
Warrior Warrior
Knight Warrior
Ranger Explorer
Barbarian Explorer flavored with combat
Thief Explorer flavored with stealth
Wizard Adept
Cleric Speaker flavored with magic
Druid Explorer flavored with magic
Warrior mage Warrior flavored with magic
Bard Speaker

Basic Creatures And NPCs For A Fantasy Game #

  • Bat: level 1
  • Dog: level 2, perception as level 3
  • Dog, guard: level 3, attacks and perception as level 4
  • Hawk: level 2; flies a long distance each round
  • Horse: level 3; moves a long distance each round
  • Rat: level 1
  • Viper: level 2; bite inflicts 3 points of Speed damage (ignores Armor)
  • Warhorse: level 4; moves a long distance each round
  • Wolf: level 3, perception as level 4
  • Blacksmith: level 2, metalworking as level 4; health 8
  • Farmer: level 2, animal handling as level 3; health 8
  • Merchant: level 2, haggling and assessment tasks as level 3
  • Villager: level 2

Additional Fantasy Equipment #

In the default Medieval Europe-style fantasy setting, the following items (and anything else appropriate to that time period) are usually available.

Inexpensive Items #

Weapons Notes
Arrows (12)
Crossbow bolts (12)
Knife (rusty and worn) Light weapon (won’t last long)
Wooden club Light weapon
Other Items Notes
Burlap sack
Iron rations (1 day)
Torch (3)

Moderately Priced Items #

Weapons Notes
Blowgun Light weapon, immediate range
Dagger Light weapon
Handaxe Light weapon
Sword (substandard) Medium weapon (won’t last long)
Throwing knife Light weapon, short range
Armor Notes
Hides and furs Light armor
Leather jerkin Light armor
Shield Asset to Speed defense
Other Items Notes
Rope Hemp, 50 feet
Signal horn
Spikes and hammer 10 spikes

Expensive Items #

Weapons Notes
Battleaxe Medium weapon
Bow Medium weapon, long range
Cutlass Medium weapon
Light crossbow Medium weapon, long range
Quarterstaff Medium weapon (requires 2 hands)
Sword Medium weapon
Armor Notes
Breastplate Medium armor
Brigandine Medium armor
Chainmail Medium armor
Other Items Notes
Bag of heavy tools
Bag of light tools

Very Expensive Items #

Weapons Notes
Greatsword Heavy weapon
Heavy crossbow Heavy weapon, long range
Sword (jeweled) Medium weapon
Armor Notes
Dwarven breastplate Medium armor, encumbers as light armor
Full plate armor Heavy armor
Other Items Notes
Disguise kit Asset for disguise tasks
Healing kit Asset for healing tasks
Spyglass Asset for perception tasks at range

Exorbitant Items #

Armor Notes
Elven chainmail Medium armor, encumbers as no armor
Other Items Notes
Sailing ship (small)

Medieval Fantasy Equipment #

Category GP Value
Inexpensive Less than 1 gp
Moderate 1–10 gp
Expensive 100–500 gp
Very expensive 1,000–10,000 gp
Exorbitant 10,000+ gp

Fantasy Artifacts #

In many ways, fantasy is the genre for artifacts. All magic items—wands that shoot lightning, magic carpets, singing swords, rings that make the wearer invisible, and so on—are artifacts. Below are a few sample artifacts to give a template for GMs to follow. Those running a fantasy campaign will likely want to create many magic artifacts.

Angelic Ward #

Level: 1d6 + 2

Form: Tiny figurine of a winged angel

Effect: Once activated, the figurine’s spirit emerges and becomes semisolid as a glowing, human-sized winged angel. It follows within 3 feet (1 m) of the figurine owner. Anything within long range that attacks the owner is attacked by the angelic ward, which sends out a bolt of flesh-rotting energy, doing damage equal to the artifact’s level. Once activated, it functions for a day.

Depletion: 1 in 1d10

Ring Of Dragon’s Flight #

Level: 1d6 + 2

Form: Green iron ring that appears like a dragon wound around the finger

Effect: When the wearer activates the ring, dragon wings unfurl from their back, and for one minute the wearer can fly up to long range. The ring does not confer the ability to hover or make fine adjustments while in flight.

Depletion: 1 in 1d10

Soulflaying Weapon #

Level: 1d6 + 1

Form: Weapon of any type, with engraved glowing runes denoting soulflaying

Effect: This weapon functions as a normal weapon of its kind. The wielder can use an action to activate its soulflaying magic for one minute. During that time, if the weapon scores a hit, it inflicts normal damage, plus 3 additional points of Intellect damage on all creatures that have souls (not automatons, mindless undead, or the like).

Depletion: 1 in 1d100

Spellbook Of The Amber Mage #

Level: 1d6

Form: Weighty tome bound in amber filled with pages of spell runes

Effect: When the user incants from the spellbook and succeeds at a level 3 Intellect-based task, the user can attempt to trap a creature within long range inside a block of amber. Only creatures whose level is equal to or lower than the artifact’s level can be targeted. A creature successfully caught is preserved in perfect stasis until the encasing amber is broken away (the amber has 10 points of health per level of the artifact).

Depletion: 1 in 1d20

Wand Of Firebolts #

Level: 1d6 + 2

Form: Wand of red wood 8 inches (20 cm) long, carved with intricate flamelike images

Effect: When activated, the wand looses a blast of fire at a chosen target within short range, inflicting damage equal to the artifact’s level.

Depletion: 1 in 1d20

Fantasy Species Descriptors #

In a high fantasy setting, some GMs may want dwarves and elves to be mechanically different from humans. Below are some possibilities for how this might work.

Variant Rule: Two Descriptors #

By having dwarf, elf, or other species take the place of a character’s descriptor, it creates a situation where only human characters have the variability of choosing a descriptor that suits their personality. The GM might instead allow all human characters to have two descriptors, and nonhuman characters to have a standard descriptor in addition to their species descriptor.

Sometimes contradictory descriptors might weaken or negate each other’s benefits and drawbacks. If one descriptor gives training in a skill and another gives an inability in that skill, they cancel each other out and the character doesn’t have any modifier for that skill at all.

Descriptors As Species #

If a player wants to play a nearly human species without any exceptional or unique special abilities, it’s easy for a GM to pick an appropriate descriptor and use it as that species’ descriptor. A greyhound-like species might have the Fast descriptor.

Catfolk #

You are unmistakably feline. Your people have fur; large, pointed ears; sharp teeth and claws; and even tails. You are nimble, graceful, and quick. An ancient and sophisticated culture, your people have their own language, customs, and traditions developed in relative seclusion over the centuries. Neither conquerors nor conquered, the success of your society has come from the fact that you have given most others a wide berth. As a people, you almost never get involved in wars or similar matters, which has given other cultures the idea that you are aloof, unapproachable, or mysterious. As long as they leave you alone, what they think is fine with you.

You gain the following characteristics:

Agile: +4 to your Speed Pool. Skill: You are trained in climbing and balance tasks.

Bared Claws: Even unarmed, your claws are light weapons that inflict 4 points of damage.

Initial Link to the Starting Adventure: From the following list of options, choose how you became involved in the first adventure.

  1. You were curious as to what the other PCs were up to.
  2. You needed to get out of town, and the PCs were going in the same direction as you.
  3. You are interested in making a profit, and the other PCs seem to have a lead on doing just that.
  4. It seemed like a lark.

Dragonfolk #

You have scales, fangs, claws, and magic—gifts of the dragons. You might have been born of dragonfolk parents, willingly transformed in a magical ceremony, or chosen by a dragon to be their agent or champion. You have a great destiny before you, but it is your choice whether to make it your own or bend to the will of those who made you what you are. Some people mistrust or fear you, and others consider you a prophet or wish to exploit your power for their own goals.

You gain the following characteristics:

Sturdy: +2 to your Might Pool. Skill: You are trained in intimidation

Dragonbreath (3 Might points): You breathe out a blast of energy in an immediate area. Choose one type of energy (arcane, cold, fire, thorn, and so on); the blast inflicts 2 points of damage of this kind of energy (ignores Armor) to all creatures or objects within the area. Because this is an area attack, adding Effort to increase your damage works differently than it does for single-target attacks. If you apply a level of Effort to increase the damage, add 2 points of damage for each target, and even if you fail your attack roll, all targets in the area still take 1 point of damage. Action.

Draconic Resistance: You gain +2 Armor against the type of energy you create with your dragonbreath.

Scaly: +1 to Armor. Inability: You have difficulty relating to non-dragons. Tasks to persuade non-dragons are hindered.

Initial Link to the Starting Adventure: From the following list of options, choose how you became involved in the first adventure.

  1. You believe the other PCs can help you solve a mystery about your heritage.
  2. You needed to get out of town, and the PCs were going in the same direction as you.
  3. Your creator, master, or mentor told you to help the PCs.
  4. You want to make a name for yourself, and the other PCs seem competent and compatible.

Dwarf #

You’re a stocky, broad-shouldered, bearded native of the mountains and hills. You’re also as stubborn as the stone in which the dwarves carve their homes under the mountains. Tradition, honor, pride in smithcraft and warcraft, and a keen appreciation of the wealth buried under the roots of the world are all part of your heritage. Those who wish you ill should be wary of your temper. When dwarves are wronged, they never forget.

You gain the following characteristics:

Stalwart: +2 to your Might Pool.

Skill: You are trained in Might defense rolls.

Skill: You are trained in tasks related to stone, including sensing stonework traps, knowing the history of a particular piece of stonecraft, and knowing your distance beneath the surface.

Skill: You are practiced in using axes.

Skill: You are trained in using the tools required to shape and mine stone.

Vulnerability: When you fail an Intellect defense roll to avoid damage, you take 1 extra point of damage.

Additional Equipment: You have an axe.

Initial Link to the Starting Adventure: From the following list of options, choose how you became involved in the first adventure.

  1. You found the PCs wandering a maze of tunnels and led them to safety.
  2. The PCs hired you to dig out the entrance to a buried ruin.
  3. You tracked down the thieves of your ancestor’s tomb and found they were the PCs. Instead of killing them, you joined them.
  4. Before dwarves settle down, they need to see the world.

Elf #

You haunt the woodlands and deep, natural realms, as your people have for millennia. You are the arrow in the night, the shadow in the glade, and the laughter on the wind. As an elf, you are slender, quick, graceful, and long lived. You manage the sorrows of living well past many mortal lifetimes with song, wine, and an appreciation for the deep beauties of growing things, especially trees, which can live even longer than you do.

You gain the following characteristics:

Agile: +2 to your Speed Pool.

Long-Lived: Your natural lifespan (unless tragically cut short) is thousands of years.

Skill: You are specialized in tasks related to perception.

Skill: You are practiced in using one bow variety of your choice.

Skill: You are trained in stealth tasks. In areas of natural woodland, you are specialized in stealth tasks.

Fragile: When you fail a Might defense roll to avoid damage, you take 1 extra point of damage.

Additional Equipment: You have a bow and a quiver of arrows to go with it.

Initial Link to the Starting Adventure: From the following list of options, choose how you became involved in the first adventure.

  1. Before putting an arrow in the forest intruders, you confronted them and met the PCs, who were on an important quest.
  2. Your heart yearned for farther shores, and the PCs offered to take you along to new places.
  3. Your home was burned by strangers from another place, and you gathered the PCs along the way as you tracked down the villains.
  4. An adventure was in the offing, and you didn’t want to be left behind.

Gnome #

You are curious and love discovering ways to turn found things into art, tools, or weapons. You might be a sculptor, smith, artist, chef, storyteller, or inventor. Alchemy, magic, and engineering fascinate you. Other beings may see you as a strange mix of a nature-loving elf and a craft-obsessed dwarf, but you and your kind are unique people with a passion for life, exploration, and creation.

You gain the following characteristics:

Genius: +2 to your Intellect Pool.

Skill: You are trained in two skills that suit your creative nature, such as alchemy, smithing, poetry, cooking, woodcarving, or pottery.

Skill: You are practiced in using hammers.

Natural Affinity: You gain one of the following abilities: Communication, Eyes Adjusted, or Minor Illusion.

Inability: Your small size makes some physical tasks difficult. Might-based tasks are hindered.

Additional Equipment: You have a bag of light tools or a bag of heavy tools.

Initial Link to the Starting Adventure: From the following list of options, choose how you became involved in the first adventure.

  1. You think an object or material you’ve been looking for can be found where the other PCs are going.
  2. You were recruited because of your knowledge on a particular subject.
  3. You were bored and it sounded like the PCs were going to do something interesting.
  4. You owe one of the PCs a favor for a useful gift in the past.

Half-Giant #

You stand at least 12 feet (4 m) tall and tower over everyone around you. Whether you are a full-blooded giant or merely have giant heritage from large ancestors, you’re massive. Always large for your age, it became an issue only once you reached puberty and topped 7 feet (2 m) in height, and kept growing from there.

You gain the following characteristics:

Tough: +4 to your Might Pool.

Mass and Strength: You inflict +1 point of damage with your melee attacks and attacks with thrown weapons.

Breaker: Tasks related to breaking things by smashing them are eased.

Inability: You’re too large to accomplish normal things. Tasks related to initiative, stealth, and fine manipulation of any sort (such as lockpicking or repair tasks) are hindered.

Additional Equipment: You have a heavy weapon of your choice.

Initial Link to the Starting Adventure: From the following list of options, choose how you became involved in the first adventure.

  1. You fished the PCs out of a deep hole they’d fallen into while exploring.
  2. You were the PCs’ guide in the land of giants and stayed with them afterward.
  3. The PCs helped you escape a nether realm where other giants were imprisoned by the gods.
  4. You kept the PCs from being discovered by hiding them behind your bulk when they were on the run.

Halfling #

Three feet tall and proud, you are fond of the comforts of home but itching for a little adventure now and then. Small and quick, you have a way of getting along with everyone. You might have been raised in a halfling village, a mixed community where humans and the small folk work and eat side by side as friends, or a less welcoming environment where your people get things done using deception and criminal activity. You and humans have a lot in common—you’re just more compact and efficient about it.

You gain the following characteristics:

Agile: +2 to your Speed Pool.

Skill: You are trained in pleasant social interactions.

Skill: You are trained in stealth.

Skill: You are trained in Intellect defense.

Advantage: When you use 1 XP to reroll a d20 for any roll that affects only you, add 3 to the reroll.

Inability: Your small size makes some physical tasks difficult. Might-based tasks are hindered.

Initial Link to the Starting Adventure: From the following list of options, choose how you became involved in the first adventure.

  1. You were fleeing someone and literally ran into the other PCs.
  2. You were invited (or invited yourself) as a good luck charm.
  3. You were tricked into going with the other PCs or were brought along despite your very reasonable objections.
  4. You’re very protective of another PC and want to make sure they get through the upcoming challenges.

Helborn #

Demons of the underworld sometimes escape. When they do, they can taint human bloodlines. Things like you are the result of such unnatural unions. Part human and part something else, you are an orphan of a supernatural dalliance. Thanks to your unsettling appearance, you’ve probably been forced to make your own way in a world that often fears and resents you. Some of your kin have large horns, tails, and pointed teeth. Others are more subtle or more obvious in their differences—a shadow of a knife-edge in their face and a touch that withers normal plants, a little too much fire in their eyes and a scent of ash in the air, a forked tongue, goatlike legs, or the inability to cast a shadow. Work with the GM on your particular helborn appearance.

You gain the following characteristics.

Devious: +2 to your Intellect Pool.

Skill: You are trained in tasks related to magic lore and lore of the underworld.

Fire Adapted: +2 to Armor against damage from fire only.

Helborn Magic: You are inherently magical. Choose one low-tier ability from the Abilities chapter. If the GM agrees it is appropriate, you gain that ability as part of your helborn heritage, and can use it like any other type or focus ability.

Inner Evil: You sometimes lose control and risk hurting your allies. When you roll a 1, the GM has the option to intrude by indicating that you lose control. Once you’ve lost control, you attack any and every living creature within short range. You can’t spend Intellect points for any reason other than to try to regain control (a difficulty 2 task). After you regain control, you suffer a –1 penalty to all rolls for one hour.

Inability: People distrust you. Tasks to persuade or deceive are hindered.

Initial Link to the Starting Adventure: From the following list of options, choose how you became involved in the first adventure.

  1. You were nearly beaten to death by people who didn’t like your look, but the PCs found and revived you.
  2. The PCs hired you for your knowledge of magic.
  3. Every so often you get visions of people trapped in the underworld. You tracked those people down and found the PCs, who’d never visited the underworld. Yet.
  4. Your situation at home became untenable because of how people reacted to your looks. You joined the PCs to get away.

Lizardfolk #

You are from a long line of fierce reptilian predators. You show your fangs and scales proudly. Your people survive and thrive in the wetlands, guarding their eggs, raising their hatchlings, and protecting their territory. City-builders may call you a savage and your culture primitive, but there is grace in your hunting, artistry in your crafting, joy in your songs, and reverence in your worship.

You gain the following characteristics:

Agile: +2 to your Speed Pool.

Skill: You are trained in balancing, jumping, and swimming.

Skill: You are trained in hunting and tracking.

Skill: You are practiced in using javelins and spears.

Scaly: +1 to Armor.

Inability: Your slightly clawed hands make fine detail work difficult. You have an inability with picking locks, picking pockets, and other manual dexterity tasks (but not crafting).

Additional Equipment: You have a spear and a pair of javelins.

Initial Link to the Starting Adventure: From the following list of options, choose how you became involved in the first adventure.

  1. The other PCs were lost in your territory and you were sent to escort them out.
  2. Something has been attacking your community and you want to find and destroy it.
  3. You were exiled from your community and need to prove your worthiness before you can return to it.
  4. You or your priest had a vision of you traveling with the other PCs.

Optional Rule: Spellcasting #

Fantasy settings prioritize magic as an essential ingredient. But why restrict that magic to just wizards and similar characters? It’s not uncommon in fantasy literature for a thief or warrior to learn a few spells as they steal or brawl through their adventures. Leiber’s Gray Mouser knew some spells, Moorcock’s Elric knew a lot, pretty much everyone in Anthony’s Xanth books knew at least one, and so on. Of course, wizards and sorcerers specialize in spellcasting, which gives them clear superiority in magic use. But whether a character is a fireball-flinging wizard or a belligerent barbarian, anyone can learn some spellcasting under this optional rule.

Under the spellcasting rule, any character, no matter their role or type, can choose to learn a spell as a long-term benefit. After they learn one spell, they may learn more later if they wish, or just stick with the one.

First Spell #

Any character can gain a spell by spending 3 XP and working with the GM to come up with an in-game story of how the PC learned it. Maybe they learned it as a child from their parent and practiced it enough to actually do it; perhaps they spent a month hiding in a wizard’s library reading; it could be that they found a weird magical amulet that imbues them with the spell; and so on.

Next, choose one low-tier ability from the Abilities chapter. If the GM agrees it is appropriate, the character gains that ability as their spell, with a few caveats. The spell can’t be used like a normal ability gained through a PC’s type or focus. Instead, a character must either use a recovery roll or spend many minutes or longer evoking their spell, in addition to paying its Pool cost (if any).

Using a Recovery Roll to Cast a Spell: If the character uses a one-action, ten-minute, or one-hour recovery roll as part of the same action to cast the spell (including paying any Pool costs), they can use the ability as an action. This represents a significant mental and physical drain on the character, because the normal benefit of recovering points in a Pool is not gained.

Spending Time to Cast a Spell: If the character takes at least ten minutes chanting, mumbling occult phonemes, concentrating deeply, or otherwise using all their actions, they can cast a low-tier spell (if they also pay any Pool costs). An hour is required to cast mid-tier spells. Ten hours are required to cast a high-tier spell.

More Spells #

Once a character has learned at least one spell, they can opt to learn additional spells later. Each time, they must spend an additional 3 XP and work with the GM to come up with an in-game story of how the character’s magical learning has progressed.

Two additional rules for learning additional spells apply:

First, a character must be at least tier 3 and have previously gained one low-tier spell before they can learn a mid-tier spell.

Second, a character must be at least tier 5 and have previously gained one mid-tier spell before they can learn a high-tier spell.

Otherwise, gaining and casting additional spells are as described for the character’s first spell.

Wizards And The Optional Spellcasting Rule #

Wizards (usually Adepts) and characters with explicit spellcasting foci like Masters Spells, Channels Divine Blessings, Speaks for the Land, and possibly others are also considered to be spellcasters, and moreover, specialized ones. Their spells—abilities provided by their type or focus—are used simply by paying their Pool costs. Extra time or physical effort isn’t required to cast them. That’s because, in the parlance of the fantasy genre, these spells are considered to be “prepared.”

But specialized casters can also use the optional spellcasting rule to expand their magic further. They can learn additional spells via the optional spellcasting rule just like other characters, with the same limitations.

Optionally, specialized casters who record their arcane knowledge in a spellbook (or something similar) gain one additional benefit. The spellbook is a compilation of spells, formulas, and notes that grants the specialized caster more flexibility than those who’ve simply learned a spell or two. With a spellbook, a PC can replace up to three prepared spells with three other spells they’ve learned of the same tier. To do so, they must spend at least one uninterrupted hour studying their spellbook. Usually, this is something that requires a fresh mind, and must be done soon after a ten-hour recovery.

For instance, if a wizard exchanges Ward (an ability gained from their type) with Telekinesis (an ability gained from the optional spellcasting rule), from now on the character can cast Ward only by spending time or using a recovery roll (as well as spending Pool points). On the other hand, they can use Telekinesis normally, because now it’s prepared. Later, the wizard could spend the time studying to change out their prepared spells with others they’ve learned using the optional spellcasting rule.

A PC might choose the 4 XP character advancement option to select a new type-based ability from their tier or alower tier. If so, the ability gained doesn’t count as a spell, and the spellcasting rule limitations do not apply to the ability so gained. If the PC is a wizard and uses the 4 XP character advancement option, treat the ability as one more prepared spell.