Men and Magic

The life of an adventurer in the Drowning and Falling Role-Playing Game is fraught with peril - deadly peril that can kill you! The characters sheet includes space for multiple guys, and you might want to roll up a few in advance, just to be sure. Everybody plays one at a time, though.

MAKING UP A GUY

Every character in the Drowning and Falling Role-Playing Game is as unique as a snowflake - having fifteen different traits makes it possible! These fifteen traits are divided into two categories - helpful and harmful.

GENERATING YOUR TRAITS

Trait generation is random. Roll a six sided die for each trait and write the result next to it. For your ten helpful traits, higher is better. For your five harmful traits, lower is better. If you are lucky you will have a better character than your friend who is unlucky. It is all in the implacable hands of fate!

If you have fifteen dice handy, you can roll all your traits in one gigantic mega-throw! Just toss them all, then line them up based on the distance they fell away from you, and write the result starting at the first trait (Brave) and continuing until you get to the end.

If you want to have some kind of equitable and balanced point-allocation system, go ahead and get your friend's buy-in and make one up - but know that you'll be missing out on rolling a bucketful of dice for every character.

A final word of advice here - don't share your characters sheet with other players. Eventually they will create evil wizards, and any information you give them will be used against you.

HELPFUL TRAITS

The helpful traits are: Brave, Cool, Mysterious, Blessed, Fast, Agile, Alert, Observant, Tough, and Strong.

Brave reflects the character's raw courage. Use it when bravery is called for! Cool is that certain quality that the really cool kids possess. Mysterious refers to a character's air of mystery, or aura of mysteriousness. Blessed is the degree to which the Gods favor a character. Fast indicates the character's raw speed, and also whether he is fast or not. Agile comes into play when feats of agility, dexterity, nimbleness and adroitness are called for. Alert provides guidance on a character's general state of readiness for sudden trouble. Observant is all about being observant, and observing things. Tough is a measure of a character's ability to absorb punishment - a measure of toughness, if you will. Strong is pretty self-explanatory. Do I really need to get into what being strong is all about?

HARMFUL TRAITS

The harmful traits are Pathetic, Unlucky, Clumsy, Oblivious, and Weak. Pathetic includes all things dorky and embarrassing. For example, if your character plays role-playing games other than The Drowning and Falling Role-Playing Game, his Pathetic is probably high.

Unlucky refers to general ill fortune. The character with a high Unlucky will be a cosmic whipping boy. Clumsy refers to a character's lack of agility, dexterity, nimbleness and adroitness. Oblivious is a measure of all-around cluelessness, absent-mindedness, and lack of observational skill. Weak, like strong, is pretty self-explanatory.

WHAT'S UP WITH THE WEIRD COMBOS?

Clumsy-5 and Agile-6? It happens. It is your duty as a role-player to find an exciting reason why your alter-ego, your virtual champion, would be simultaneously fabulous and lame. Embrace contradiction! In play, all of your helpful scores are going to spiral down like airplanes on fire anyway. If it really bothers you, choose a character class that allows you to change one of the scores you don't like.

HIT POINTS: STAYING ALIVE

Your hit points are equal to the sum of the five highest helpful traits, resulting in a number between five and thirty, hopefully closer to the latter. This is the number with which all characters start. Your total hit points do not go up if your traits increase. Hit points will be reduced by injury from drowning or falling. They can be restored by the earnest prayers of a good cleric, or to a lesser extent by some good magic. But for the most part, they will go down until they hit zero - see "Getting Hurt".

ALIGNMENT: STAYING FOCUSED

Just like real life, there are two alignments in The Drowning and Falling Role-Playing Game. Each character you make must be good or evil. This choice will guide your decision-making in play. As a guideline for appropriate play, good characters normally do good things and evil characters are more likely to do evil things. Wizards and clerics have access to amazing alignment-based spells and prayers.

Playing an evil character is obviously wrong and bad, but in the interest of presenting a complete role-playing system, rules have been included for it.

CHARACTER CLASS: STAYING CLASSY

You must choose a class for each character you create. Your class will determine many things, such as whether you carry a sword or wear a purple robe with stars on it. You will probably want to pick the class that is most beneficial to you, but there are no restrictions. Each class has advantages. As a group, the very best strategy is to diversify! Also, if you roll up a guy who will obviously be slain right away, make your next character an evil wizard so you can turn him into a zombie to wring some usefulness out of his corpse.

Warrior:
Warriors fight things and know countless menacing poses to strike fear into the hearts of their many enemies. Change Brave and Strong to 6, regardless of what you rolled. This means that if you roll up a weak, cowardly character, make him a warrior. Warriors also ignore penalties from monsters of their level of lower. Thus, a level two warrior suffers no penalty from a difficult or easy monster.

Wizard:
Wizards possess the arcane lore of ages past, and channel the eldritch energies of the cosmos to do their bidding. They also wear crazy robes and/or capes. Gain a number of spells equal to your Mysterious trait. Choose good or evil spells based on your alignment. Play a wizard if your Mysterious is high.

Cleric:
Clerics are the stalwart faithful who travel the paths and byways in service to their Gods, caring for the dead and praying for things. Gain a number of prayers equal to your Blessed trait. Choose a number of good or evil prayers based on your alignment. Play a cleric if you like tagging along and healing people, or if your Blessed is high.

Elf:
Elves, the wispy denizens of the deep forests and secret places beyond the realm of mankind, are beautiful to look upon and somewhat fun to play. Change any single helpful trait to 6, regardless of what you rolled, and add one magic spell, based on your alignment. Elves are resistant to drowning. As an elf, you get to re-roll any one die per drowning encounter. It can be a test you failed, or it can be a damage die. Play an elf if you are afraid of drowning or if you are a girl.

Dwarfling:
The stout and jolly dwarflings enjoy a good pipe and a flagon of ale at the end of the day! They are lucky and adorable. Change any single harmful trait to 1, regardless of what you rolled, and add one prayer, based on your alignment. Being little, dwarflings are resistant to falling. When playing a dwarfling, you get to re-roll any one die per falling challenge. It can be a test you failed, or it can be a damage die. Play a dwarfling if you are a huge Led Zeppelin fan.

Modify your character's traits and add spells and prayers according to the class you choose.

THE BIRTH OF GWARL

Johnette is making up her first character. She rolls a bunch of dice and gets this result:

Brave-2, Cool-6, Mysterious-4, Blessed-1, Fast-3, Agile-3, Alert-5, Observant-1, Tough-5, and Strong-5. Pathetic-3, Unlucky-5, Clumsy-1, Oblivious-2, and Weak-2.

Not bad at all. Johnette sees that Unlucky-5 and decides to make her character a dwarfling, changing the harmful trait from a five to a one. She names him Gwarl Ovenwhisper.

Gwarl will have 25 hit points. Johnette decides that he is of good alignment, and chooses Holy Do-Over as his single prayer. Johnette also notes that he gets to re-roll any one die per falling challenge due to Gwarl's dwarfling nature.

MAGIC

Magic - is there anything more awesome or powerful or mystical? When a character uses magic, weird rainbows appear around them and the air tinkles with tiny, frightening bells. Role-play it! Wizards can cast spells at any time, and they automatically succeed. Once cast, a spell is gone forever - they are like bullets of pure imagination! If you are a wizard or elf, you have the option of gaining a new spell when you go up a level. An evil wizard is, generally, an unreliable companion.

General Spells

Magical Tornado of Magic:
This spell, available to all wizards, lowers the monster penalty by one each time it is cast. It is intensely irritating.

Bulldrag's Arcane Guardians:
This spell, available to all wizards, provides a single re-roll during the current challenge for two randomly-determined members of the party. Draw straws or roll a die to figure out who the arcane guardians guard. It can be cast multiple times simultaneously, and arcane guardians can double up on the same adventurer.

Good Spells

Sailor's Charm:
This good incantation protects the person it is cast on from drowning. It can be cast by wizards on themselves. The recipient automatically succeeds in their next drowning roll, whenever that occurs. It is not retroactive.

Wings of Love:
This good eldritch spell protects the person it is cast on from falling. It can be cast by wizards on themselves. The recipient automatically succeeds in their next falling roll, whenever that occurs. It is not retroactive.

Summon Apprentice:
The apprentice is a much-maligned helper that can be summoned by any good magician. The poor apprentice has two dice worth of hit points (rolled by the wizard) and will insert himself into any dangerous situation ahead of the wizard, taking damage intended for his master until he dies.

Wizard's Balm:
A good wizard can cure one die worth of hit points caused by drowning or falling to two different characters at the same time, but only on others - not himself. And not on an elf. Roll each healing die separately.

Wilkin's Helping Hand of Help:
With this good spell, a wizard can choose his own harmful trait in a challenge, taking over that duty from the challenge creator. He also chooses one of his helpful traits, as normal.

Evil Spells

Create Zombie:
An evil wizard can raise a fallen comrade from the dead as a mindless zombie. Like an apprentice, the zombie has two dice worth of hit points (rolled by the wizard) and will insert itself into any dangerous situation ahead of one member of the party, who is chosen by the former player of the dead character. A zombie must be raised immediately after a character dies. Since most sensible people will have the zombie guard their own new character, the totally boss thing to do is to make up an evil wizard when you die and take this spell right off the bat.

Magic Rocket:
This spell, available to evil wizards, is used to hurt people. If cast on a player character, the victim takes one die of damage. It can also be used to destroy a single treasure. Neither of these actions is helpful in any way.

Gregor's Hand of Malignant Dunking:
This evil spell causes the victim to automatically fail their next drowning roll. Pure evil.

Alan's Hot Wind:
This evil spell causes the victim to automatically fail their next falling roll. Why would you take this spell? It's just mean.

Azagor's Icy Puppet-Strings:
This evil spell allows the wizard to choose which players will decide another player's traits in a challenge. Two players must be selected to choose helpful traits, and one to choose a harmful trait. Both the wizard himself and the victim can be assigned choices if desired.

PRAYERS

Praying to the gods is even more magical and mystical than magic. There are gods of good and gods of evil, and they will hear and obey your words until you run out of prayers. Then they will abandon you. If you are a cleric or dwarfling, you have the option of gaining a new prayer when you go up a level. Evil clerics are real good-for-nothings - most of their prayers are just cruel.

Good Prayers

Please Help the Drowned Person Amen:
This good prayer causes the recipient to recover one die worth of hit points caused by drowning. It cannot be directed at the cleric himself.

Please Help this Person who has Fallen Amen:
This good prayer causes the recipient to recover one die worth of hit points caused by falling. It cannot be directed at the cleric himself.

Please Imbue this Person with Your Awesome Power Amen:
This good prayer raises all of the recipients' helpful traits by one point, even above six, until after the next challenge. It can be directed at anybody, including the cleric himself.

Holy Do-Over:
This prayer, available to good clerics, allows the recipient to re-roll any single die - a challenge roll, a healing roll, whatever. It can be cast on anybody, including the cleric himself.

Righteous Appropriation:
This prayer allows a good cleric to steal a single item of treasure from a monster prior to defeating it, or from another player character.

Righteous Destiny:
This prayer allows the cleric to assign both his own helpful traits in a challenge, rather than having the player on his left provide a trait. Obviously he's in a better position to choose an ideal combination.

Evil Prayers

Shower Wet Hatred Upon this Swimmer So Mote It Be:
This evil prayer causes an extra die of damage to the victim for each failed drowning roll in a single encounter.

Let Them Fall As You Fell My Dark Lord:
This evil prayer causes an extra die of damage to the victim for each failed falling roll in a single encounter.

Let the Abyss Gaze Back into Thine Enemies:
This evil prayer raises all of the victim's negative traits by one point until after the next encounter.

Unholy Do-Over:
This prayer, available to evil clerics, allows the recipient to re-roll any single die. It can be directed at anybody, including the cleric himself.

Blasphemous Song of Stealing Treasure:
This prayer allows an evil cleric to steal a single item of treasure from a monster prior to defeating it, or from another player character.

Foul Destiny:
This bastardly prayer allows the cleric to assign both helpful traits in a challenge to another character, rather than having the player and the person on his left provide traits. If the cleric has a good idea about the areas in which the victim is weak, he can do a lot of harm.

ADVANCEMENT AND NOT-ADVANCEMENT

Characters begin with no levels. They gain a level each time they succeed in a difficult or awesome challenge, and lose a level each time they fail any challenge - even easy challenges. As a tasty side benefit, killing monsters or facing extra-crazy challenges can also net you treasure, which helps you out a lot. Easy challenges are not noteworthy in terms of loot.

Rising and falling levels make The Drowning and Falling Role-Playing Game different - and better - than many other role-playing games. If you have experience with those other games, it may take a little getting used to. Levels are much less monolithic and more flexible. Going negative is entirely possible and is the harbinger of some very rough times ahead.

Gaining a level allows you to improve your character in one of three ways:

Buff up:
You can increase a helpful trait by one point, with no maximum. Yes, this means you could, with some effort, have one completely boss trait that would never fail. This sort of behavior is what evil wizards were born to monkey-wrench.

Compensate:
You can decrease a harmful trait by one point, down to a minimum of one. This is a sensible long-term choice and rarely gets the attention of evil wizards.

Reload:
If you are a wizard or elf, you can add a spell. If you are a cleric or dwarfling, you can add a prayer. There is no upper limit to the number of spells or prayers you can possess.

Remember that warriors also gain some immunity to monsters as they rise in levels.

Losing a level requires that you lower a helpful trait of your choice by one. You can't raise a harmful trait or lose a spell or prayer - you can only begin the slow, relentless spiral of death! One strategy is to lower your character's worst traits first, starting with those rated at two. Another is to chip away at your character's best traits, keeping your average up. You can't lower a trait already at one, although you will want to. If all your character's helpful traits descend to one and by some miracle he is still alive, the next time a trait is lost, he dies.

GWARL LEVELS UP AND DOWN

Gwarl Ovenwhisper, dwarfling and adventurer, has a run of good luck. He finds himself drowning in a gigantic bowl of porridge (and being eaten by a giant), but emerges only slightly injured from the difficult challenge and toting some hot new treasure. He's level one now! Gwarl used his Holy Do-Over to succeed, so Johnette decides to reload that prayer as her leveling-up bonus. Later on Gwarl is pulverized by an awesome challenge and fails his first roll, and thus the entire challenge. Johnette lowers her character's brave from two to one and braces herself for more trouble.

CHALLENGES

The Drowning and Falling Role-Playing Game is filled with challenges. Every challenge poses the risk of drowning or falling - you will fall, you will drown, or you will triumph. This means that all challenges take place near things to fall off of or things to drown in, or perhaps both. The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures section of the book offers plenty of insight into how to arrange challenges.

Challenges always requires a series of three tests - each a die roll - to overcome them. Each challenge is rated as either easy, difficult, or awesome. An easy challenge requires one out of three rolls to be a success for the character to avoid a penalty. Once you succeed, you can stop rolling. You can miss two and still overcome the challenge on the third.

A difficult challenge requires two out of three rolls to be a success for the character to avoid a penalty. If you succeed in two tests, you need not roll the third. You can miss one and still overcome the challenge.

An awesome challenge requires all three rolls to be a success for the character to avoid a penalty. If you miss a single roll, you fail. Luckily, these are pretty rare.

If you fail more than the allowed number of times in any challenge, your character goes down a level and must reduce the helpful trait of your choice to one. Depending on how the challenge was constructed, there may also be additional penalties for failing test rolls.

RESOLVING CHALLENGES

For each of the three linked rolls, the player will be trying to get a total under a target number on two six-sided dice. To determine the target number, two players and the challenge creator need to be involved.

First, the creator of the challenge describes the scene - what's around, and what's happening. Based on this, the player whose character is in danger chooses a helpful trait to use, and describes using it to avoid falling or drowning. Then, based on that description, the person to that player's left (no matter who it is!) chooses a second helpful trait that they are using to avoid death or injury. Add these two together to get a number, generally between two and twelve. Finally, the challenge creator chooses a harmful trait that is interfering, and the value of this is subtracted, giving a final total target, usually between two and eleven. To succeed, the player must roll equal to or under this number on two dice.

No trait can be used twice during a challenge. Once a trait is used (helpful or harmful), it is effectively gone until the next challenge. This means a lot of traits will be invoked, which is fun.

A successful roll means that third of the challenge has been overcome. If this is enough to complete the challenge, stop rolling. If not, pick some new traits and roll again.

A failed roll means that the character is hurt. Damage is the difference between the target number and the number rolled. The nature of the challenge may also incur additional penalties for failure. Later Gwarl screws up an easy challenge, slipping on a patch of wet pavement, and Johnette fails three times in a row, nearly killing him.

CRUSHING FAILURE

Losing all three challenges is a brutal and humiliating experience. And, like all brutal and humiliating experiences, you learn and grow from it. If your character fails all three challenges in a difficult or awesome situation, you go up a level anyway. This will be cold comfort when contrasted with the hideous damage your character has no doubt suffered to earn this boon.

GETTING HURT

As mentioned, damage is the difference between the target number and the number rolled, modified by circumstances based on what the character is drowning in or falling into. Ironically, you have a greater potential to take damage from easy challenges, since you can fail twice (taking damage each time) and then succeed. Damage is removed from hit points. If hit points reach zero, your character is dead, and all your treasure is suddenly up for grabs. Roll up a new character and catch up with the adventurers as soon as you can. They will have divided your loot among themselves by then.

GWARL GETS HURT

Johnette's character, Gwarl Ovenwhisper, is drowning. Clemont created the challenge and Sandy is the person on Johnette's left.

Clemont: OK Johnette, Gwarl has slipped in a pool of water and is drowning! It's an easy challenge. Johnette: He's a mighty dwarfling! He's Strong! He can swim for ages. That's 5. Sandy: And he's Agile and can probably find a hand-hold on the mossy lip of the pool. Johnette: Right, and his Agile is 3, so that's a total of 8. Clemont: Yes, but he's scared - real scared. Pathetic, actually. Johnette: His Pathetic is 3 - crap! I need to roll a five or less on two dice. (She rolls an 8) Whoa! That's three damage, and I failed the first test. Two more to go, and I hope I make one of them!

WHAT IF A CHARACTER GETS STRANGLED OR BURNED?

Then, quite frankly, you are playing wrong. The Drowning and Falling Role-Playing Game is about the horror and sorrow of drowning and falling. It simply does not support "burning" or "strangulation" any more than it supports wizards flying airplanes. In a game that strives for focused realism, these extraneous elements have no place.

If this sounds strange to you, perhaps you are not ready for The Drowning and Falling Role-Playing Game.