Descent RPG

Table of Contents

Basic Mechanics

Roll 2d10 vs a TN(Target Number, TN's are always require a roll of equal to, or above, to succeed) of 15 for basic challenges, in combat the TN may be your opponent's relevant defense instead. Pre-roll you may spend Stamina or Adrenaline as appropriate(Stamina only outside of combat, Adrenaline only in combat) for a bonus on a 1 to 1 basis, post-roll you may spend Stamina or Adrenaline as appropriate for a bonus on a 2 to 1 basis(i.e. spend 2 Stamina, gain +1 to the result). Class and species may also provide bonuses.

Basic challenges will have ~20% chance of success without expending Adrenaline/Stamina or gaining bonuses from other sources.

Generally only extreme situations should provide something higher than a TN of 15, like trying to pick a lock while someone's trying to put an axe through your head, brewing a potion on the deck of a storm-tossed ship or attempting to convince a dragon to surrender his hoard in exchange for your collection of beanie babies.

When a battle ends, all Adrenaline is reduced to 0 unless otherwise noted. Stamina is regained to full whenever the party makes camp or otherwise takes a breather(a good meal at a roadside inn, dipping their road-weary feet in a stream, etc.) for long enough that it delays their journey/expedition. When outside of combat, any character can spend Stamina at a ratio of 2 to 1 to regain Health, or trade Stamina to another character at a ratio of 2 to 1(fluffed as offering to carry their pack, giving them a pep talk, etc.). Characters reduced to 0 health continue to be at 0 health unless they recover, but no characters die unless the entire party is reduced to 0 health.

Characters who are reduced to 0 health gain Wounds(temporary penalties that will heal with sufficient rests and will eventually become Scars).

Stamina Recovery

Resting requires Supplies. Every member of the party who doesn't consume any Supplies, only recovers half their Maximum Stamina, no matter how much they rest. Hirelings, henchmen, pack animals, etc. will also consume Supplies. If no Supplies are available, every Rest without Rations will double the Hireling's pay.

The party can Rest at any time during Overworld travel, or at any time during an adventure where they're not under immediate time pressure or under threat.

Resting does consume actual time, however, usually about a third of a day, so if the party's under some form of time pressure or time table, excessive resting my exacerbate it.


Pick a species, pick a class, note your starting HP, starting defense and starting skills. Spend your three starting skill points and purchase your starting equipment. Write a brief biography, name your character. You're ready to play.

Combat Mechanics

Initiative, Surprise and Formation

The resolution of initiative and surprise varies depending on whether the party is moving in formation, and trying to avoid being surprised, or moving out of formation, and trying to surprise enemies. The second factor is whether enemies are trying to surprise the party. Thus, there are four potential ways an encounter can start:

Both sides are in formation
Neither side is in formation
Only the players are in formation
Only the NPC's are in formation

If the PC's are moving in formation, they essentially declare which range bands their characters intend to start in when combat begins.

Both sides are in formation

Both sides deploy in their pre-chosen range bands, all active participants roll 1d6(modified by appropriate skills or circumstances), and the lowest roller(s) start on Tick 0. Subtract the lowest roll from all other rolls to determine which Tick they start on. If there's a tie, PC's always act before NPC's, and if two PC's have a tie and can't agree who acts first, have a 1d6 roll-off with the lowest roll going first.

Neither side is in formation

The declared leader of the PC's rolls 2d10(modified by appropriate skills and circumstances) versus a TN of 15. If the roll succeeds, the PC's gain surprise. If the roll fails, the NPC's gain surprise.

The side which fails to gain surprise is randomly distributed across the range bands on their end of the battlefield by a roll of 1d6 per participant, with 1 being the farthest range band, and 6 being melee. Then the side which gains surprise chooses which range bands they want to deploy in, and whether to attack the randomized enemy formation from the front or the back.

After this, initiative is rolled as normal, with the winning side modifying all their rolls by -2.

Only the players are in formation

The declared leader of the PC's rolls 2d10(modified by appropriate skills and circumstances, in particular by Torchbearers) versus a TN of 15. If the roll succeeds, the PC's are unsurprised. If the roll fails, the NPC's gain surprise.

If the NPC's gain surprise, they may deploy as they choose across the range bands and then choose whether to reverse the players' formation. They also modify their initiative rolls by -2.

If the players are not surprised, their formation remains as they intended, while the NPC's are distributed randomly across the init band as in the former example. The players modify their initiative rolls by -2.

1d6 deployed Torchbearers are considered to be immediate casualties in either case.

Only the NPC's are in formation

The declared leader of the PC's rolls 2d10(modified by appropriate skills and circumstances) versus a TN of 15. If the roll succeeds, the PC's gain surprise. If the roll fails, the NPC's are unsurprised.

If the players gain surprise, they may deploy as they choose across the range bands and then choose whether to reverse the NPCs' formation. They also modify their initiative rolls by -2.

If the NPCs are not surprised, their formation remains as they intended, while the players are distributed randomly across the init band as in the former example. The players modify their initiative rolls by -2.

Speed and Stamina/Adrenaline

Whenever a participant's turn comes up, they spend Stamina equal to the number of actions taken so far plus one(i.e. 1 on their first turn, 2 on their second, 3 on their third, etc. If the character doesn't have the necessary amount of stamina, they spend as much as they are able) and gain twice as much adrenaline as they spend stamina(2, 4, 6, and so on upwards if the players have the full amount of stamina to spend) plus 2. The additional 2 Adrenaline is gained on every action, even when the character does not otherwise expend Stamina(for any reason, such as having been reduced to zero).

Each action has a speed rating which advances the user that many steps down the initiative track, thus actions and items with higher speed ratings incur a longer delay until your next action.

Armor penalizes the speed of all actions by the listed amount, with the sole exception of held actions.

Any character who doesn't wish to act, or can't see a good action to take, can choose to hold their action in 2-Tick increments. Held actions advance Stamina expenditure and Adrenaline gain like normal.

Attacking and Injury

Most effects aimed at enemies will require a roll to hit, which is 2d10+(appropriate modifiers) vs the target's Defense. If the action does any damage, the damage will be reduced by the target's armor unless otherwise specified(though, again, unless specified, the damage from any attack that actually hits can only be reduced to 1 at minimum). The remaining damage is subtracted from a character's health and any characters reduced to zero health are considered to be unconscious or otherwise able to participate for the rest of the fight, but will be back on their feet(though without recovering any health) afterwards.

Prior to any combat roll you may spend Adrenaline for a bonus on a 1 to 1 basis, post-roll you may spend Adrenaline for a bonus on a 2 to 1 basis(i.e. spend 2 Adrenaline, gain +1 to the result).

Any character reduced to zero health will also roll on the Wound table, Wounds are negative effects that will persist with the character until three Rests have occurred, or until some item or effect specifies that it removes a Wound. When a Wound is removed, it's almost always replaced by a Scar.


All characters and creatures involved in a fight are present in one of the combat's 11 range bands, arranged in a line, the only bands which are functionally distinct are the two farthest bands as they're the only ones that permit a character to flee combat.

Moving one range band is an action that can be taken alongside any other at the cost of increasing the speed rating of the accompanying action by 2. If you choose to move more than one range band, you cannot use any skills or make any attacks on the same action, and the cost will rise with every range band you choose to move:

# of bands Adrenaline Cost Can Act?
1 0 Yes
2 4 No
3 7 No
4 11 No
5 16 No
6 22 No
7 29 No
8 37 No
9 46 No
10 56 No

When calculating the range, include every band between you and the target, including the one they're in, but excluding the one you're in. Range 0 only occurs if someone's in the same range band as you.

Most attacks will have a specific range or use the range of an equipped weapon. A weapon can attack at either its intended range or below. For every increment below the intended range, the attack suffers a -1 to hit(so a range 3 attack used at range 0, i.e. against someone or something within the same range band, would have a -3 to hit).

Retreat and "Tagging In"

Any character in the outermost range band on his "team's" side of the battlefield can attempt to leave the fight, which is a Speed 10 action. If the character is still in the range band on his next action, he leaves the battle. When the battle is left, all Adrenaline is reset to 0 and stamina expenditure instantly ends.

Rejoining the battle instantly puts the character into the farthest range band again, and his next action is 10 Ticks later. Alternately, the character can choose to have a henchman or other NPC companion with combat stats rejoin the battle in his place.

A character in the outermost range band can also choose to swap places with a henchman or other NPC companion with combat stats who is not currently unable to fight or already in the battle. This is a speed 5 action, and at the character's next action, if he's still in the outermost range band, he is replaced with the chosen henchman or companion, who then has his first action immediately.

Miscellaneous Actions

Un-equipping a weapon or other piece of equipment adds no speed modifier to your action if you're just dropping it on the ground, +2 if you're stowing it in your pack to keep it ready to re-equip. Picking up and equipping a piece of gear, or taking a piece of gear out of your pack to equip, adds +1 speed to your action.

Large Enemies

Some enemies occupy more than one range band due to their size. Any attack that hits multiple range bands they're in, will make multiple attacks against them, and can deal damage multiple times(though armor applies separately to each attack). If the enemy occupies multiple adjacent range bands, any ability that moves one of their "parts" will move all of them in the same direction if possible, though if one cannot be moved, none of them can(for instance, a three-band enemy cannot be moved away if one of its "parts" is already up against the edge of the battlefield, even if the others are not).

Weak Enemies

Not all combat initiates actual battle. For instance, if the players ambush someone in an alleyway with the intent to subdue them, it's instead a skill roll to see if/how they take them down. Failing these rolls has varying effects depending on the situation. For instance, if the players clearly can't lose, then a failed roll simply means the target got in a lucky punch or stab before getting taken out, and someone loses some Health or Stamina. If there are guards around, perhaps the victim managed to call for help before they got taken down, etc. There's no reason to start up a full tactical fight for these situations(though there may if when the guards show up).

Overland Travel

Overland travel assumes the use of a hex grid, and barring any unusual circumstances, the party is assumed to be able to have ten moves between each required Rest. Some non-travel actions may eat into this supply of moves(stopping at a village to trade or hunt up information, for instance, or taking the time to carefully scout the terrain ahead from elevated terrain.). If the party wants to enter terrain that they lack the moves for, they'll have to Rest and try again afterwards, the party can Rest at any time no matter how many moves they have remaining, which will tick up supply consumption and hireling payments as any other Rest.

The move cost for a type of terrain is paid on entering the terrain type. If anything modifies a move cost and the result is not a whole number, round up.

When entering unexplored terrain, by default the party can see one hex in each direction, but Mountains are visible from ten hexes away.

When travelling through non-plains, non-river, non-road area, every time the party and its hirelings is outnumbered by its pack/riding/other animals more than 4 to 1, roll a 1d4 on every Rest. That many of the party's animals wander off, get themselves eaten by the local wildlife, fall in holes, think of ants and die, etc.

Terrain Types

Desert/Badlands/Arctic: 4 Moves. If Resting in a Desert, Badlands or Arctic square, Supply consumption is tripled.
Forest: 4 Moves.
Hills: 6 Moves. While in a Hills square, the party can spend 2 Moves to reveal two connected hexes starting with one hex adjacent to the Hills hex the party is occupying.
Jungle/Dense Forest: 6 Moves. While in a Jungle or Dense Forest square, the party cannot see the terrain of any adjacent unexplored squares. If the party attempts to enter an unexplored square that they lack the Moves to enter, half the required moves are lost.
Mountain: 8 Moves. While in a Mountain square, the party can spend 2 Moves to reveal three connected hexes starting with one hex adjacent to the Mountain hex the party is occupying.
Town or City: 2 Moves
Plains: 3 Moves.
Road: 2 Moves
River: SPECIAL. If moving from one River hex to another River hex, the cost is 1 Move if the party has a boat or barge, otherwise the cost is 2 Moves. If attempting to move across an unbridged River without a boat or barge, the cost is 6 Moves.
Tundra: 3 Moves. If Resting in a Tundra square, Supply consumption is doubled.



The Empire of Stone's Children was once a prosperous and pious nation, the official history books declared that it was formed shortly after the world itself was created, and charged by the Lords and Ladies of the Earth with promoting their worship and thus guarding the world against the ravages of unclean spirits and their theologies. Within its borders, the Empire suppressed cults hoping to summon celestial spirits of air, void and star, crushed those worshippers of the Phoenix Lords that planned violent revolutionary change and hunted down the heretics of the Abyssal Lady who planned to slowly and insidiously twist the very foundations of their Empire to the worship of water spirits instead.

Soon, however, the Emperor and his advisers became aware that their neighbours were not so pious, and so the Empire went to war. To the west, the nomads of the plains and forest were defeated on their home ranges, with the survivors recruited and indoctrinated as new citizens. To the north, the barren tundra was pacified on principle, so the Empire would have somewhere to send those undesirables that could not simply be killed and to the south, the lizards' home jungles were invaded to bring them into the fold of true civilization, giving them the chance to work their own lands as plantation slaves. Eastwards, the merfolk kingdoms saw what was happening to everyone else and wisely stayed hidden below the waves for as long as possible, only engaging in what subtle smuggling they could without giving themselves away.

In these blessed years, the Empire was more prosperous and had a greater span than ever. Only the polar ice caps, the eastern seas and the western mountains seemed to provide barriers to them, and even those were just a matter of time. Art, science and magic flourished, and soon the Empire had a bounty of ways to keep its people fed, its borders secure and its nobles entertained. Those that before had to be forcefully brought into the fold, became willing converts to the bounty of the noble and stable Earth as they saw the glory of the imperial capital.

And then the plague came. At first it seemed like just another of the tropical diseases that struck the Empire's jungle holdings and plantations every so often. It wasn't until the first refugees, already blotchy with plague bruises and stiffening from its paralyzing grip, started stumbling into the border cities of the Empire proper, that panic started to spread. Quarantines failed as the guards succumbed to the plague, were overrun by refugees or found the plague already behind their blockades as it was spread by the hidden Eroder and Phoenix revolutionaries that had never been truly destroyed.

A panicked exodus was soon in progress, across the mountains, across the seas, but some planned a more radical form of escape. For centuries, the practice and research of Necromancy had been banned by the Arch-Sorcerers of the Imperial Alchemical University, but now they brought the old tomes from the barred vaults and pored over them in desperate speed… a plague would hold no fear for those already dead, after all. And so, as the novices and students fled the university's halls with arms full of tomes and scrolls, the elders committed ritual suicide and opened their bodies and minds to celestial re-animation.

They were successful beyond their wildest nightmares.

For a brief moment, as they were pulled back to unlife, they retained their lucidity and had just enough time to congratulate each other on what they'd pulled off before their minds were drowned out by the howling of the void spirits. Soon, in an orgy of magic and violence, those students who hadn't had the foresight to flee, joined them as maddened undead. Among the madness of the plague days, no one outside noticed the uncharacteristic silence from the from the university until a week hence, the time of a rare astrological conjunction.

As usual, the smallest moon rose shortly before nightfall, resuming its aeons-old guardianship of the world below… and then it began to crumble, its familiar features disintegrating as the Arch-Sorcerers focused their arcane powers on its destruction. The celestial spirits had given them the knowledge, explained to them the timing and lent them a portion of their powers. Much of the moon remained in orbit, already assuming the shape of a beautiful new ring system even as house-sized boulders hurtled through the atmosphere. Some exploded in mid-air, flattening the terrain for kilometers around and peppering it with molten shrapnel, while others smashed whole into the ground, carving out new lakes, craters and mountain passes.

But that was, perhaps, minor compared to what would happen next. Since the founding of the world, those dead who were not buried in the soil, sunk into water or consumed by flame, those exposed to the night sky, would rise as the undead on every moonless night, as the world's three guardians no longer held the void spirits at bay, their spirits subsumed or replaced by inky black alien madness. Now, with one of the three moons suddenly removed, plague-slain corpses across the Empire began to stir and awaken, heading towards the Empire's capital and the Alchemical University, summoned by the Arch-Sorcerers as their new army against the living.

The perhaps-defeatable siege of the plague was now joined by a war against the undead as tens of thousands of shambling corpses assembled, supported by undead Sorcerers and guided by fallen Imperial Legionnaires, intending to purge the empire of all sentient life. All but the smallest, most well-hidden forts and villages were eventually put under siege by the undead over the next ten years, and if it hadn't been for an unlikely source of aid, the Empire would almost certainly have been extinguished, allowing the undead to turn their eyes to the rest of the continent, and then the rest of the world.

In the early years of the plague, a small flotilla of ships had in desperation struck out across the eastern ocean, hoping that it would not be trackless or too broad for their limited supplies. After months, they finally hove into view of a continent since named the Drakeshore. When they learned of the crisis back in the Empire, they set about assembling what allies they could among the local Lizards and Merfolk before striking out across the sea again to return home.

In the end, it was as close a battle as it could possibly have been. The new allies arrived just in time to turn the siege of Whitecliff into a victory for the living and began to push back the undead across the Empire towards the Arch-Sorcerers' center of power at the former imperial capital, but with the University's considerable magical powers added to the fray, it looked as though the last army of the living was about to be routed until a conclave of the highest-ranking surviving Earth Clerics undertook an audacious ritual. They fought their way to the center of the capital and, pooling their strength, called upon the spirits of the Earth to aid them… and the spirits listened. Within moments, the earth heaved and shook, and the entire city, along with all those within its walls, both living and dead, was swallowed by the ground and buried.

This battle ended fifteen years ago, and the Empire has been rebuilding and recovering since. The Emperor is back in one of his palaces, giving orders, the survivors of the Imperial guard and the noble houses' militaries patrol what roads they can, but much of the nation is still unguarded, easy prey for bandits or surviving undead stragglers, from small bands to whole regiments. A small minority of the undead have somehow managed to recover their sanity, if not their memories, and have been given, by Imperial decree, amnesty and are to be regarded as citizens equal to all others. Many of the southern plantations and settlements have broken free, those that were not annihilated by the undead or the plague, the merfolk kingdoms are openly trading with the Empire, convinced that the weakened state of it will not allow it to enforce its will against them for decades if not centuries to come, and all in all, it's a world ripe for mercenary and adventuring work.

Most cities or towns have problems with bandits and monsters, destroyed colleges, forts and mansions may yet hold forgotten knowledge or treasures, everything from treatises on architecture to chests bulging with loot, and above it all, there lurks the eternal temptation of the old capital, the Buried City. Centuries, if not millennia, of riches have been buried under thousands of tonnes of soil and stone, and likely most of it still remains there. Gems, gold, tomes, scrolls and artifacts. All awaiting the brave adventurer and his shovel… as well as his sword, if the restless dead are still stirring in the surviving vaults and streets of the Buried City.

Or for the idealistic, they could take up arms for a noble with a vision, for a religion, for the Emperor himself, or maybe strike out to explore the frontiers that the Empire never pacified, see what lurks beyond. Never before has the Empire been so open to change… or to re-establishing the old ways with even firmer control.

Life in the Empire

Life in the Empire is heavily coloured by its religious and conservative values. Though mostly how the Empire's values are going to impact an adventurer's life is in what is and is not permitted in the Empire. By and large, this amounts to the same things as in most societies: nothing that violates the bodily sanctity or property of someone else without their permission, and heresy. The main difference in the former is the method of punishment and the establishment of guilt.

If it's a case of the local government accusing someone, they will be allowed to speak their case(and may hire experts to pore over the lawbooks to find an escape route for them), after which the judge or ruling noble determines their guilt. In all cases bar heresy, the punishment is likely to be a fine(for heresy, it's usually maiming, death or indefinite imprisonment), which is usually to be paid half to the injured party(or their family) and half to the state, though the judge may choose to set a fine so high that the accused has no means of paying it. In this case, they become an indentured servant, either in the service of the state, or in the employ of the injured party, with the length of their term based on how large their fine is. In some cases this may mean terms of far over a human lifetime, meaning that it is in effect lifetime slavery.

When two citizens accuse one another, it proceeds much as a government case does, with a judge or noble as arbitrator and eventually deciding on a fine. However, at any point, either party may elect to settle things with a duel, with the winning party being declared right. This is usually a duel till first blood, but in rare cases also to the death. Either party is allowed to choose a champion in this, and some former legionnaires are the state's Public Defenders, who stand in for those who cannot duel on their own and cannot afford a champion. Most magistrates don't like duels as a solution, but since the law remains on the books and no one's yet found a way to remove it, they have to abide by it.

The Empire's lawbooks have been carefully constructed by legal experts, priests and emperors over the last thousand years or more and are by this point a complicated maze of overlapping clauses and deprecated editions. Due to rulings about imperial infallibility(and all legal texts have to be given an Imperial stamp of approval), it's more or less impossible to remove an old law unless the author is retroactively proven to be a heretic, a rare event. After the plague years, a lot of lawbooks have also been lost, and some courts are operating with outdated editions until the latest are tracked down and printing begins anew, meaning that laws may vary from region to region simply depending on what books the courts have access to.

Much of the Empire's general outlook is shaped by its faith, and in general most citizens will(at least publicly) declare a regard for what could be seen as the virtues of earth and stone: tradition, building up rather than tearing down, staunchness and a lack of overly emotional displays. This leads to a stubborn society where any change has to be affected subtly and over many years, or has to be perceived as being built on top of something pre-existing. Many families, especially nobles, will take pride in still living in homes their ancestors built over a century ago, or still having some of said ancestors' possessions in use and cared for. Actually wanting to remove something old to make way for something new is a common thing, but not so easily said as done, as an excess can result in being branded as a Phoenix Cult or Eroder heretic.

This has caused the existence of a small industry of "breakers," people who are hired to "accidentally" destroy things the owner wants to replace while never admitting that it was a business transaction.

The religious faith and texts of the Empire also impact its cuisine and day-to-day life, as conservative readings imply that anything which flies or swims is suspect due to the very element it immerses itself in, not to mention the dangerously heretical habit of actually cooking food over a fire. All but the most intense conservatives will disdain these supposed rules, but it does mean that the Empire's food tradition heavily involves anything that grows on(or better yet in) the ground, raw, fermented or pickled foods and a large number of insects.

The Earth Temple maintains no overt religious police, but instead closely advises the ruling Emperor on new laws, their implementation and enforcement, and also has a tradition of going to war with the legions, since enemies of the Empire are by default assumed to be enemies of the faith. Travelling Earth Clerics are also a common source of news and often carriers of mail.

For a long time, the heart of the Empire has been in the world's warmer latitudes, while the northern regions were primarily where societal outcasts and criminals ended up. As a result, Imperial fashion has inherited a trend towards light clothing. After all, if you had to bundle up against the cold, you were probably somewhere unpopular and unfashionable, or had picked up habits from such a place.

Life in the Pearl Court

Life in the South



Prior to the plague years, the Order of Denial was a small group that only avoided Imperial sanction by virtue of being too small to bring much notice to itself. The adherents believed in asceticism, denying one's own desires, rigorous exercise, meditation and mortification of the flesh in order to gain a greater understanding of the universe. After the horror of the plague years, the cult has grown considerably larger, with followers in almost every large settlement. The voiced goals of organized Deniers is to eventually achieve such enlightenment that they understand the true nature of existence. Many ex-Deniers also exist, however, who have gained some measure of "enlightenment" from the cult and now use those skills and teachings to survive and profit.

Skill trees: Refusal, Unarmed, Void Whispers

Starting HP: 18
Base HP Per Level: +6
Base Defense: 15
Base Stamina: 23
Base Stamina Per Level: +4
Starting Skill Points: 4(One must be spent on a species skill)
Free Starting Skills: Mind Over Matter, Unarmed Expertise, Body Without Mind
Starting Funds: 50 Flints

Earth Cleric

Earth Clerics are the religious arm of the Empire, trained within the church to be inspiring orators, staunch bulwarks and competent wielders of Lithomancy. Most Earth Clerics experience dreams and visions, during which they commune with the Lords and Ladies of the Earth, during their teenage years, and then eventually make their way to a temple, church or shrine where they can be trained. The visions are all highly individual, and many Earth Clerics never speak of them, but usually they result in a deeply driving personal mission. Supposedly all Earth Clerics' visions are recorded in the vaults of the First Temple, and form the foundation of the church's mission, teachings and understanding of the world, as each contains some valuable grain of insight or understanding.

Some Earth Clerics eventually break from the church, however, occasionally driven by their personal missions, or sometimes simply because they end up no longer agreeing with the dogmatic understanding of the lore.

Despite their Lithomantic powers ostensibly being gifts from the Lords and Ladies, however, they are never lost no matter how much they stray from the path into heresy or simply self-serving adventures. The ones who stray into heresy are viciously hunted by the church.

Skill trees: Defender, Lithomancy, Oratory

Starting HP: 18
Base HP Per Level: +6
Base Defense: 15
Base Stamina: 23
Base Stamina Per Level: +4
Starting Skill Points: 4(One must be spent on a species skill)
Free Starting Skills: Guardian, Unsteady Ground, Inspiring Song
Starting Funds: 75 Flints


Mercenaries are hard men and women who come from every walk of life. Merchants, thieves, thugs and former Imperial soldiers, scouts or quartermasters make up the bulk of their number, but every so often a clerk, singer or farmer will find themselves drawn to a life of danger and profit. To any adventuring party they bring invaluable skills with the temporal world that Deniers, Earth Clerics and Sorcerers often neglect in favour of their more specialized abilities that often fail to do simple things like paying for a night at the inn or shoving a sword into someone's brain.

The goals of mercenaries range from simply paying for another meal to fomenting a revolutionary change within the Empire.

Skill trees: Merchant, Rogue, Warrior

Starting HP: 24
Base HP Per Level: +8
Base Defense: 15
Base Stamina: 20
Base Stamina Per Level: +3
Starting Skill Points: 4(One must be spent on a species skill)
Free Starting Skills: Negotiator, Mechanist, Charge
Starting Funds: 75 Flints


The surviving Imperial Sorcerers are a strange lot. There's the occasional master or apprentice who found shelter during the darkest days of the Plague or escaped with the refugees, there are the self-taught who found ancient grimoires and, lastly, there are the undead. The former are regarded as cowards, the second as dangerous meddlers and the last as a grim reminder of the horrors of the Plague. But none of this is mentioned when their powers are needed to turn the tide of a battle or assist a mercenary company in exploring a new corner of the ruined Empire.

Skill trees: Alchemy, Elementalist, Photomancy

Starting HP: 12
Base HP Per Level: +4
Base Defense: 15
Base Stamina: 26
Base Stamina Per Level: +5
Starting Skill Points: 3(One must be spent on a species skill)
Free Starting Skills: Grenade, Elemental Spark, Illuminate, Call Shadows
Starting Funds: 50 Flints


Species abilities are bought with the same skill points as are used on class abilities.


You're probably one, you know what they're about. Imperial Humans come from an area about as large as the North American East Coast, so they vary considerably in skin colour, hair colour and size due to having absorbed numerous tribes and nations in the past. The ethnicities nearest the coast, who form the core of the Empire's nobility, tend to be dark-skinned due to the warm climate and sunny weather.

Scion of the Empire(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): None, Passive)

Halves travel costs along roads and rivers, works for a group up to 10 times the character's level. Multiple Scions of the Empire add their maximum group size together. Halves(round up) the supplies used whenever the party is Resting on a Road, River, City or Town hex. Cannot be chosen alongside Brigand.

Student(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Scion of the Empire, Passive)

Choose a field of study, gain a permanent +3 to any rolls involving it. More or less anything you can get a degree in, in the real world, is a valid field of study.

Imperial Bounty Hunter(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Scion of the Empire, Passive)

Whenever the party defeats an enemy that isn't a law-abiding citizen of the Empire, harmless animal or domesticated animal, the character may collect a bounty proof that takes up 2 Encumbrance and sells for 50 Flint(base price, haggling is possible) in town with Imperial authority. Large, scary enemies(i.e. leaders or similar boss-encounters) may be worth more. Bounty proofs can also be used in the place of supplies at a 1:1 exchange rate. Don't think too hard about that.

Brigand(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): None, Passive)

Gain a permanent -1 to all initiative rolls. Cannot be chosen alongside Scion of the Empire.

Highwayman(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Brigand, Passive)

Gain a permanent +2 to rolls to gain Surprise against enemies if this character is leading the party.

Outlaw(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Brigand, Passive)

Start every fight with 4 Adrenaline as soon as initiative is rolled.


Merfolk are humanoid amphibians of roughly human size, though usually tending to be somewhat taller. Their skin is rough like a shark's and generally shaded towards dark grays on the back and oversides of limbs, while being pale white on the front torso, face and underside of limbs. Their eyes are larger than human, with notably larger pupils, they have no noses, their teeth are clearly intended for a carnivorous diet(they can survive on one, but are not obligate carnivores) and they have gill slits on both sides of their neck(allowing these to dry out can cause considerable discomfort and illness). Their main deviation from a human body plan is that all merfolk have large tails that help them swim and balance.

All merfolk can breathe both fresh and salt water as well as air, and can survive greater pressure with less discomfort.

Tireless Explorer(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): None, Passive)

Gain a permanent +4 to Stamina. Cannot be chosen alongside Champion of the Depths.

Restless(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Tireless Explorer, Passive)

May move one range band at no cost when combat starts, after everyone has rolled initiative. This does not trigger any effects that would normally be triggered by this movement, nor any enemy reactions.

Merchant Tradition(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Tireless Explorer, Passive)

Gain a permanent +1 to all haggling rolls.

Champion of the Depths(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): None, Passive)

Can continue to act until reduced to -15 Health, but will still receive a Wound when reduced to 0 or less. Cannot be chosen alongside Tireless Explorer.

Abyssal(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Champion of the Depths, Passive)

When reduced to 0 or less Health, gain +2 armor and reduce the speed of all actions by 1(to a minimum of 1).

Deep Tongue(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Champion of the Depths, Non-Combat)

May spend 2 Stamina to be able to speak the languages of any aquatic creatures for an encounter. Animals won't be able to answer complex questions, but may be able to give answers to things that interest them(prey, food, shelter, things that scare them, etc.) or be convinced that the party isn't to be eaten.


Shorter than humans and merfolk, many lizards are equally adept at moving around on two legs or on all fours, and they often sport coloured frills or small horns. Despite their varied appearances, their scales are always somewhere on the spectrum of green or yellow, with the colours paling with age.

Small Stature(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): None, Passive)

Gain a permanent +1 to Defense, double the base cost of all purchased armor and weapons. Cannot be chosen alongside Colourful Frills.

Skittish(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Small Stature, Passive)

Any time you're targeted by a range 0 or range 1 attack, you may choose to move one Range Band away from melee immediately after the attack resolves, at the cost of 5 Adrenaline.

Servitude(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Small Stature, Speed 1)

Spend 4 Adrenaline to instantly move to the same range band as an ally.

Colourful Frills(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): None, Passive)

Gain a +3 to any attempts to capture and hold someone's attention or add a +3 to someone else's attempt to engage in stealth at the cost of being unable to engage in stealth yourself. Cannot be chosen alongside Small Stature.

Blinding Spit(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Colourful Frills, Speed 3)

This is a range 2 attack with +1 accuracy which does 1d4 damage. If it hits, the target's next action will be delayed by 4 Ticks. This ability can only be used once per combat encounter and costs 2 Adrenaline to use.

Rebellious(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Colourful Frills, Passive)

Gain +1 to hit any enemy currently in the same range band as an ally other than yourself.


While most Undead go insane or are soulless husks animated by Celestial spirits, a small minority still retain some aspect of their former selves. While they've only started showing up in larger numbers since the latest disasters(and have in fact only been recognized as citizens by the Emperor in this time as well), consensus seems to be that those Undead which are buried without being destroyed occasionally seem to recover from whatever fugue state revival puts them into. This process also seems to blast most of their former memories and identity from them, and they have to start life anew. Some undead are skeletal, others mummified and yet others still have rotting flesh clinging to their bones. Most Undead were human in their former lives.

Mummified(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): None, Passive)

Gain a permanent +1 to Armor. Cannot be chosen alongside Skeletal.

Canopic Jars(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Mummified, Passive)

Any time you suffer a Wound that requires a roll on the Wound table, reroll the Wound and pick the one you prefer. If you roll the same Wound twice, you receive no Wound.

Tomb Guardian(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Mummified, Speed 15)

For the next 15 Ticks, enemies cannot move past the range band this character is in, in the direction of the players' starting side of the battlefield, the character's armor is increased by 5, and armor can reduce damage to 0. Cost: 2 Adrenaline.

Skeletal(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): None, Passive)

This character consumes no Supplies and has twice the standard Encumbrance limit. Cannot be chosen alongside Mummified.

Celestial Host(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Skeletal, Passive)

May spend Health in the place of Adrenaline or Stamina at a rate of 3 Health per point of Stamina or Adrenaline replaced.

Death Mask(Tier 1, Prerequisite(s): Skeletal, Speed 2)

For the next 15 Ticks, enemies moving into or through the range band as this character are slowed by 2 Ticks. Cost: 3 Adrenaline.

Skill Trees

Moved to Descent Skills


Character starting funds are defined by their class, the standard Imperial unit of currency is the Flint, which is a minted iron coin. The reasons why it's named Flint has been long lost to the past, but archeologists theorize that an early incarnation of the Empire used knapped flint shards for currency.

By default all characters can carry a maximum of 100 units of Encumbrance. If the party's total Encumbrance exceeds their carrying total, they suffer a -2 reduction in daily Moves on the Overworld and a +2 modifier to all Initiative rolls. If they have over twice their total, this increases to a -4 reduction in daily Overworld Moves and a +4 modifier to all Initiative rolls. -6 and +6 modifiers respectively are for going over Triple Encumbrance. The unbreachable limit is quadruple Encumbrance.


Barring unusual circumstances(a famine makes rations more expensive, a town near an excellent iron mine may have cheaper weapons), all items are assumed to be bought at 100% price and sold at 25% price at default. Any character can attempt to haggle for a better price.

Haggling is done in 5% increments, with a successful roll lowering or raising the price by that amount. Every successive roll gains a -1 modifier for every previous successful roll. Failing once resets the price to normal, failing twice halves doubles the base price(obviously it's halved for selling and doubled for buying) and three failures in a row annoys the trader enough to refuse to deal with the haggling player for the foreseeable future. Haggling can be done for bulk purchases or large orders at once, rather than per-item as desired.


Note that any weapon can be renamed to a similar weapon with similar stats. I.e. a two-handed sword may as well be a massive maul, a dagger could be a hatchet, etc.

Name Damage Range Speed Type Cost Encumbrance
Hands & Feet 1d4 0 3 Unarmed 0 0
Brass Knuckles 1d4+1 0 4 Unarmed 5 5
Punch Daggers 1d6+1 0 4 Unarmed 10 5
Dagger 1d6 0 3 Melee 5 5
Polearm 1d8 1 6 Melee 15 10
Sword 1d8 0 5 Melee 10 10
Two-handed Sword 1d8+2 0 6 Melee 20 15
Thrown Rock 1d4 3 3 Thrown 0 0
Throwing Knife 1d6 3 3 Thrown 5 5
Javelin 1d6+1 4 4 Thrown 20 10
Short Bow 1d6 5 5 Ranged 15 10
Long Bow 1d6+1 8 6 Ranged 15 10
Crossbow 1d8 5 8 Ranged 30 15
Rifle 1d8+2 8 8 Ranged 50 15

Special Weapons

Name Damage Range Speed Type Cost Encumbrance Special
Disruptor Mace 1d6 0 5 Melee 200 10 Disruptor Strike
Disruptor Lance 1d6 1 6 Melee 300 20 Disruptor Strike
Stinger Gauntlets 1d6+1 0 4 Unarmed 500 10 Get Over Here!
Thermal Gauntlets 1d6+1 0 4 Unarmed 500 10 Frost Bolt
Boomerang Shuriken 1d6+1 4 4 Thrown 500 5 Boomerang Strike
Channeling Scepter 1d4 1 4 Melee 1000 20 Lightning Rod(Passive)
Chaos Drone 1d6 0 3 Instrument 500 20 Chaos
Resonating Horn 1d6 0 3 Instrument 500 20 Armormelt


Name Armor Speed Penalty Cost Encumbrance
Padded Armor 2 0 15 20
Leather Armor 3 0 30 30
Chain Mail 4 +1 50 40
Breastplate 5 +1 100 50
Full Plate Mail 7 +2 300 60
Small Shield 2 +1 15 5
Kite Shield 3 +1 50 5
Tower Shield 4 +2 100 10

Equipment Modifiers

Master-crafted or unique equipment may be made from unusual materials or have special modifications due to being made to order or by an exceptional craftsman.

Name: What the modifier is called.
Price: A multiplier. All items are assumed to have a 1.0X multiplier already in place, thus a modifier with a price of +0.5X means it will cost in total 1.5X the item's original price. Items with multiple modifiers add all their price-multipliers together and then multiply the result by the number of total modifications added.
Material: Usually signifying an unusual forging process or metal. Items can only have one Material modifier.
Masterwork: Indicates that this modifier is a Masterwork rather than a Material. Items can have any number of Masterwork modifiers.
Stackable: Indicates that this Masterwork modifier can be added more than once to the same item. If this is a number, that's the maximum amount of times it can be added. If this is an X, it can be added any number of times.

Name Price Material Masterwork Stackable Effect
Abyss Bone 5.0X X - - Reduces item's weight by half, generates a point of adrenaline on every successful hit if item is a weapon
Channelling 2.5X - X - Generates 1 point of Adrenaline for the user or a chosen ally every time the user uses an Elementalist or Photomancy ability
Life-Crafted 2.5X - X - Item consumes 1 extra unit of Rations on every Rest, but as long as it is carried, the user gains a +5 to their HP. If the item isn't "fed," the bonus lapses, and if the item isn't "fed" three Rests in a row, the Life-Crafted modifier is permanently lost.
Lightened 0.5X - X X Reduces item's weight by half(round up), armor value is reduced by 1 OR damage done is reduced by 1
Moonforged 10.0X X - - Treats enemy armor as half for damage calculations
Sharpened 2.5X - X 5 Range 0 or 1 weapons only, item gains a +1 to damage
Sunforged 5.0X X - - All enemies within 2 range suffer a -1 to all rolls to hit
Weighted 2.5X - X 5 Range 2+ weapons only, item gains a +1 to damage, but a -1 to range

Miscellaneous Gear

Name Cost Encumbrance Notes
Crowbar 5 5 +1 to prying open doors and containers
Backpack 10 -15 Helps you carry stuff
Barge 1000 2000 Can carry up to fifty characters or pack animals.
Boat 200 100 Can carry up to ten characters or pack animals.
Supplies 2 2 Food & camping supplies
Pack Animal 200 -100 Consumes supplies on rest
Riding Animal 400 -10 If every party member and henchman are mounted, adds 5 Moves to the party's daily overland travel allowance.


Henchmen are those assistants the players pay to assist them on their adventures, or may be loyal followers for whichever reason(shared causes, favours owed, rescued prisoners, etc.). Barring temporary followers(rescued princes and so on) that will be bailing on the party as soon as possible, all henchmen will require payment, and all henchmen will also require feeding in the same amounts as players do(1 ration per Rest, and if anything would double the ration drain for a player, it will do the same for a henchman).

Most henchmen(torchbearers and loot carriers) will simply accept payment for their time worked(calculated per-Rest) and usually also a starting cost to get them to set out at all. Specialist(physicians, trap masters, quartermasters, etc.) and combat henchmen will instead often demand shares in the loot gained and/or payment for the amount of times their services are needed. Extra hazard pay for Wounds accrued is also common.

Combat henchmen are statted and equipped like player characters(they will often carry basic equipment when hired, however, and will not always need to be equipped from scratch), and barring temporary assistants they can never have more than half the levels(rounded down) of the PC they're following. Any given PC can have any amount of henchmen.

Shares are a common way to track who deserves what at the end of an adventure. Normally if there are share-demanding assistants, the principal stagers of the venture(the player characters) will issue an arbitrary number of shares(for instance, 100, listed share prices for Henchmen are based on 100 shares) which they split evenly among themselves. If the adventure has a backer who expects a return on the adventure in exchange for funding the player characters, he or she will often also take a certain amount of shares(anywhere from 25 to 50 shares depending on how much they're footing the bill). Each share-holder is then expected to hire henchmen from their own stash of shares.

Name Hiring Price Daily/Service Price Duty
Baggage Carrier 5 1 Daily Adds +50 to their employer's Encumbrance capacity. Multiple Baggage Carriers can assist each other in carrying one large item.
Torchbearer 5 50 per death When in-formation, every Torchbearer deployed in front of the party gives a +2 to any rolls to avoid being surprised. Torchbearers usually expect to die, and thus your contracts require their families to be remunerated if they're killed in the line of duty.
Combat Henchman 50 per level 5 daily per level, 1 share per level, +1 share per Wound suffered -
Physician 100 5 daily + 1 share per Wound suffered All Wounds require one less Rest to become Scars. Does not stack with multiple physicians.
Quartermaster 100 2 Daily multiplied by the total number of henchmen, carriers and baggage animals Multiplies all Encumbrance capacities by 1.25X
Specialist/Sage 50 1 + 1 share per time expertise is called upon Adds +3 to any non-combat roll relevant to their field of specialty(trap-disarming, ancient history, appraising valuables, etc.)


Sometimes you won't just find someone's wallet, you'll find something more interesting, and more complicated to convert into money. Or occasionally money's too heavy, and you want to convert it into something more easy to transport.

Name Price Encumbrance Description
Flint 1 cell-content 0.01 Money's got its own weight, too. Don't bother to track partial Encumbrance, but note that every 100 Flint is 1 Encumbrance
Gem 300 1 Gems are a common way to transport valuables in a lighter format
Furniture 200 20 Fancy pieces of furniture
Art 300 10 Fancy pieces of art
Statuary 300 50 Classy statues and heathen idols alike
Tome 100 5 The Empire has a great need for words on paper, and consider them to age like wine
Rare Animals 200 0 Consume supplies like hirelings and pack animals
Spices 100 10 Delicious, but heavy.

Valuables may also have modifiers to their worth.

Name Price Multiplier Encumbrance Multiplier Description
Rare Materials x3 x2 Special materials usually means greater weight, or more stringent transport requirements
Historical Relevance x3 x1 Items of historical provenance are greatly valued in the Empire, but thankfully pack animals don't care about the weight of history
Perishable x7 x1 These items require some sort of special storage to avoid rotting/disintegrating or otherwise becoming worthless. Every Rest taken after acquiring them reduces their price multiplier by 1. Price can't have a negative modifier, but it can certainly have a 0 modifier.
Sinister Aura x5 x1 These items are somehow cursed. While they're of great interest, and thus value, to scholars, Sorcerers, Earth Clerics, Deniers and collectors of the unusual, all random, unfortunate events(random encounters, losing pack animals, losing torchbearers, etc.) roll twice and take the worse roll.

Character Advancement

Rather than gathering experience points to level up, characters gather valuables. However, the gathering of valuables and money are, in themselves, not enough to level-up. Instead, it only counts when you spend it. Doesn't matter what you spent it on, whether it's services, generous donations to a religious movement, bribes for a politician, prostitutes, drugs, a bigger sword, property or giving it all to beggars. It just doesn't count until it's spent.


Specific gains per level vary from class to class, but all classes gain two skill points with every level-up.

Level 1: You start here.
Level 2: 500 Flints
Level 3: 2000 Flints, Overdrive 1
Level 4: 5000 Flints
Level 5: 10000 Flints, Overdrive 2
Level 6: 20000 Flints
Level 7: 40000 Flints, Overdrive 3

From here onwards, the Flint price for level advancement doubles every level.


Overdrive allows the player to "supercharge" any non-passive skill, doubling the stamina/adrenaline cost to either double the damage(for skills based on weapon damage, only the skill's contribution to the damage is doubled), halve the speed(rounded down) or add +1 or +2 to the range(if the base range is greater than 1). At Overdrive 2, two of these modifiers can be added, and at Overdrive 3, three of them can be added.

The costs of multiple Overdrive effects on the same skill are multiplicative, and if the same effect is picked more than once, the effects are additive.


Generally, enemies will not be statted out like players, nor will they be using Stamina and Adrenaline, simply for the purpose of cutting down on bookkeeping during combat. It's possible to stat them out like a player, and possibly something you want to do with a major villain, but generally it should be avoided. For the same reasons of limited bookkeeping, large groups of weak enemies should be represented as a single "swarm" or "horde." Unless they have specific abilities that offer other mobility, assume that a given enemy can move up or down one range band accompanying each action.

Instead, enemies will have a health pool, an armor value and a defense value like player characters. However, their actions in combat will be governed by a list of abilities(again, similar to players, but they won't necessarily be the same) given by tier. Generally an enemy shouldn't use a given ability until they've taken actions equal to its tier level, and the ability should have that many turns of cooldown before being used again(so a tough enemy has some powerful attacks to bust out, but doesn't just spam them). If you want to add some randomness to what enemies do, you can list their abilities as a random table. For instance, if they have six different abilities number them 1 to 6, and roll for what they do if you're unsure what would make the most sense.

Example enemies will be in the Descent Bestiary.

Wounds and Scars

If a player is reduced to 0 health, they roll a d10 on the Wounds table to determine what happens. Some enemies may have specific Wound results that always happen when they reduce a player to 0 health. After three rests, or at the end of an adventure, all Wounds become Scars. It's possible to have the same Wound and Scar multiple times, no matter how implausible it might be that someone could really fit a 9th dramatic scar on his face or that someone's lost three eyes.


1: Concussion. +1 to all speed ratings, -1 combat accuracy and any intellectual pursuits. Scar: Facial Scarring
2: Eye Injury. -2 to combat accuracy. Scar: Eyepatch
3: Crippled arm. -1 to combat accuracy, -1 to all weapon damage. Scar: Damaged Nerves
4: Crippled leg. Shifting range bands now costs 2 adrenaline and adds a +2 speed modifier. Scar: Confusing Limp
5: Bruised lung. -6 max Stamina. Scar:
6: Missing teeth. -2 to any social interaction rolls. Scar: Gold Teeth
7: Impaled.
8: Open Wound. All damage you take is increased by 2 prior to armor. Scar:
9: Infected Wound. Consumes double the normal amount of rations on resting. Scar:
10: Lucky break! No wound.


Confusing Limp

You've developed an odd limp that makes your movements harder to predict. Your Defense is increased by 1 and your max Stamina is reduced by 4.

Damaged Nerves

Your damaged nerves result in a loss of fine dexterity, but also means you feel less pain. -2 to lockpicking, trap disarming or anything else that can be argued to rely on fine dexterity and steady hands. +2 to anything that relies on raw strength or endurance, +1 to all damage dealt with range 0 or range 1 weapons and skills.


On the downside, you've lost an eye. On the upside, now there's one less sensitive spot for enemies to hit! All attacks at range 2 or greater have a -1 penalty to hit, but you gain a +1 to armor.

Facial Scarring

Thanks to your obvious facial scars, you now look like a grizzled, dangerous badass: -2 to any rolls to peacefully negotiate with or persuade people, +2 to any social interaction where you intimidate or threaten people.

Gold Teeth

You've had your head knocked around enough times to lose some teeth and need them replaced. Gold seems the obvious answer. Doesn't change any characteristics, but you ended up with some gold left over from the work. Gain 50 Flint.

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