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Gothic Fantasy Roleplaying.

Imagine a village made insignificant by the landscape that surrounds it, its air thick with secrets. There have been disappearances, perhaps, or murders – gruesome ones, loaded with occult significance. Shadowy cabals concoct plots by candlelight, pursued by interlopers with demons of their own. The stash of books in the church’s broom cupboard locates a hidden temple in the woods; gives advice on traversing the labyrinth beneath. Dying gods are glimpsed in the abandoned tin mines by practitioners of forbidden sacraments – and as the darkest stars align, the cult’s agenda ticks like a bomb.

Secrets Under Stone is a Gothic fantasy role-playing game drawing on a vener-able British tradition. Although future volumes of Deep Under Stone will adapt the systems here for a wide range of settings and modes of play, the previous paragraph seeks to evoke what this arrangement will suit best: a mixture of investigation and adventure in a world saturated by hidden knowledge, where wise travellers go both well-armed and well-informed. This is not a game of heroes or plunderers, but scrappy dilettantes with idiosyncratically mixed capabilities, who frequently bite off more than they can chew.

Print edition published by Soul Muppet, available via Soul Muppet webstore (UK): https://soulmuppet-store.co.uk/products/secrets-under-stone-deep-under-stone-vol...

Key features.

  • An easy to learn but highly versatile skills-based 2d6 system, adapted from Advanced Fighting Fantasy and Troika! but with some key changes (e.g. having three core Ability Scores rather than just Skill).
  • Character creation that is lightning-fast and fully random without being unfair: every character is good at something, but you'll have to discover what it is. The full character creation rules can be read in the images to the right, so have a go!
  • A focus on readability and useability at the table: everything you need to know about a subject fits on a printable two-page spread, meaning you can print them off and give them to your players.
  • 48 pages of content including everything you need to get started: character creation,  item descriptions, example monsters, Rituals, and Patrons, and more.
  • Knowledge is power: rules for immersing yourself in occult disciplines including Astrology, Augury, and Demonology.
  • Magic that feels part of the world: form contracts with powerful patrons for a share of their magic, or learn dangerous Rituals through study. 
  • An implied setting that draws on centuries of Gothic writings.
  • Beautiful black-and-white art adapted from the work of Renaissance masters.
  • A modular and flexible system, with notes on adapting it to a wide variety of settings a play styles.
  • The first instalment of Deep Under Stone, a zine that will take the core framework presented here in vastly different directions.

Purchase

Buy Now$8.00 USD or more

In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $8 USD. You will get access to the following files:

Secrets Under Stone 1.0 for web - bookmarked.pdf 24 MB

Comments

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(1 edit)

Rather than rave about this game, I'll summarise its major differences to Troika.

  • No prewritten backgrounds. You make six rolls on a table to determine your starting skills and equipment. This does lose some of the charm of Troika's writeups, but is easier to quickly customise for your game world and keeps the zine short.
  • No Skill stat. The game keeps Stamina and Luck, but breaks Troika's Skill stat into Brawn, Knack and Knowledge. These ability scores are determined by which starting skills you rolled: roll Archery and Navigation and you'll start with more Knack. Then to hit a target with a bow, you'll roll 2d6 equal-or-under Archery + Knack.
  • Combat round structure resembles The Black Hack. All characters act once a round. PCs test initiative at start of combat by rolling equal or over their number of filled item slots. Those who succeed act before NPCs each round (in any order). Those who fail act after the NPCs.
  • Attacks are Roll Under, not Roll Versus. If you miss a melee attack, the enemy doesn't get to hit you for free.
  • Armour reduces to-hit, not damage. You add the defender's Armour to your 2d6 attack roll. It's possible to start with a Shield (+1 Armour) but most PCs will start with no Armour. It goes up to +5 for PCs. The example NPCs max out at +4 Armour, though it indicates a dragon might have as much as +6.
    A starting PC will typically have 7 or 8 as their Skill Total for a weapon. So to hit an NPC with +2 Armour, they need to roll a natural 5- (28% odds) or 6- (42% odds).
    I bring this up not because it's a bad design choice (as a post-OSR/OSR-adjacent/NSR/whatever game, you shouldn't expect a straight-up fight to be winnable). But if you don't enjoy how attack rolls work in D&D (lots of misses, which don't provoke GM moves) you'd be better off sticking with standard Troika combat rules, or using Into the Odd's "attacks always hit" system*.
  • No quick spells, only slow rituals. Rituals have ingredients & requirements, but don't cost Stamina. The shortest example Ritual takes a minute to perform. Most take hours. Not all rituals are literal spells, the examples also include making a forgery, brewing poison, and leaving milk & mead to attract a brownie into your home (I love this)
  • The theme. I adore Troika's implied setting, but it's a lot of work hacking it to run something moody, folkloric, or closer to earth. This does most of the work for you. Note by "moody" I don't mean "grim, mud-covered fantasy with lots of random injury tables

Layout is excellent, both in visual attractiveness and in containing information within single spreads.

It looks like it'd run just fine as-written, but the end has a few pages of advice on hacking the game for different settings, introducing quick-cast magic

I bought the printed zine on a whim from the Soul Muppet web store, not knowing what to expect, and I'm really glad I did. It's a well-thought-out game, and I hope this overview helps you decide if it's to your taste.

*I also think kitbashing this game with Cairn would be an excellent idea.