Master of the Rogue Spire SRD
Types of Dice
Taking an Action
When a player declares an action, the Spire Master must adjudicate whether this is a skilled action, unskilled action, or free action. This is an important decision to keep consistent - if a character can take a skilled action once, they should be able to take that same action again in the future as a skilled action. The chief difference between these types of actions is which die the player can roll.
The player may roll any of the character’s dice for a skilled action.
The player may only roll the vitality die for an unskilled action.
Each action a character takes has a target difficulty (TD) either decided by the Spire Master or derived from an opposing die. For example: the difficulty to pick a lock, resist a poison, or disarm a trap would be opposed by the die of the person that made the item.
A skill die can only be used as an opposing die if the defense is a skilled action for the character. A Perceptive character may use a skill die to oppose someone sneaking up on them, an Athletic character may use a skill die to oppose someone trying to run away from them. If a character could not take a skilled action in defense, no matter what die the action is targeting, the opposing die will be the defender’s vitality die. Keep in mind, this is the setting difficulty for the action - affecting another character directly is covered in the next section
Routine: Routine actions have some light consequences for failure, like climbing down from a 2nd story window or wading into knee- deep water.
Most simple actions are at a routine difficulty.
Trained: Trained actions are better taken by skilled individuals and have slightly steeper consequences for failure, like hitting a small target with an arrow or climbing a steep rock wall.
The trained difficulty requires some skill or luck.
Advanced: Advanced actions are prone to failure, making them much more dangerous, like walking a tightrope or doing a front flip through a window. Only characters with some training should attempt them, because even in success, untrained individuals will suffer adverse consequences.
The advanced difficulty is hard even with training.
Target Difficulty D10 (5)
Expert: Only those with a high level of training can hope to succeed at these actions, like jumping a large chasm or riding a horse sidesaddle to grab something off the ground. These actions are always risky, even by the highly skilled.
The expert target difficulty is for ambitious stunts.
Target Difficulty D12 (6)
Heroic: When an expert target difficulty action has a sense of desperation to it, it can become a heroic action. These actions should not be taken lightly, because they most likely will end in failure, like jumping from one sheer cliff to another or swimming into rushing rapids.
The heroic target difficulty is for Hail Mary gambles.
Target Difficulty D20 (10)
Epic: Even the best and brightest the world has to offer can only hope to succeed half the time. These actions are extremely hard and usually dangerous, like jumping from the top of a castle tower into the window of another building or escaping from the mouth of a huge waterfall.
The epic target difficulty is for seemingly impossible efforts
1.5 - DICE STATUS
A character’s vitality die and the lowest exhausted skill die refresh at the start of every turn.
If a character’s vitality die is strained, the character is unconscious.
If a character’s vitality die is injured, the character is on death’s door.
1.4 - ROLL RESULTS
Failure If the roll is less than the target difficulty, the action has failed. The best way to learn is through failure. If a character’s XP is not at the maximum, XP is gained whenever the player rolls a 1 on a die.
The XP earned when rolling a 1 is equal to the number of sides on the die rolled.
Success BUT… | Failure BUT….
Sometimes the drawback or advantage won’t be immediately obvious to the players. Spire Masters may bank these results for a later reveal.
1.6 - DICE RECOVERY
Strained dice are refreshed by a quick rest, but they remain strained.
1.7 - INJURY AND DEATH
On Death’s Door
Without the use of powerful magic or godly miracles, all death is final.
1.8 - OTHER DICE RULES
Roll the die normally.
If it rolls the max value, roll the next higher die - D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20.
Repeat from Step 1 until rolling a die that has a chance of success at the target.
Using the same dice progression as above. Roll the die and all other dice needed to explode up to the required target difficulty.
If all lower dice rolled their max value, check to see if the highest die beat the target difficulty.
Skill Dice for Unskilled Actions
KEEPING TIME - What happens next?
Actions in Free Time
To resolve actions in free time, characters may roll their highest skill die if a skilled action or just their vitality die if an unskilled action as per the normal rules. If they are successful, the action happens normally. If they are not, the action takes X more tries where X is the number by which they missed the roll. The character does not have to make those rolls or exhaust any dice, only spend the time required. If a character cannot roll a success without exploding the die it is up to the Spire Master’s discretion whether they can do this action at all.
1 Day: Traveling long distances, training an army
2 Hours: Tracking an enemy, exploring a city
30 Minutes: Commanding an army, searching an area
5 Minutes: Convincing a noble, escaping a guard
10 Seconds: Fighting some orcs, playing a sport
No skill dice refresh on the first turn of an encounter, only the vitality die.
Players may decide the outcome of ties between themselves however they wish, but player characters win all ties against non-player characters. The Spire Master keeps track of this result and runs the rest of the encounter in the same order. Folded note cards placed in front of the Spire Master’s screen are a good way to visualize the order.
KEEPING LOCATION - Where am I?
Engaged A character that can interact physically with another character without moving is engaged with that character. Engagement is not always reciprocal. A character with a long sword may be engaged with a knife-wielding character, while the opposite is not true because the character with the knife can’t reach the sword-wielder. Large creatures have even larger ranges than are humanly possible.
Melee Weapon Ranges Range Example Weapons Very Short (VS) Fists, Cestus, Brass Knuckles Short (S) Knife, Hand Axe, Shield Bash Medium (M) Short Sword, Cutlass, Short Spear Long (L) Long Sword, Spear, Rapier Very Long (VL) Halberd, Pike, Man-catcher Extreme (X) Giant-sized Weapons (usable only by giant creatures)
Moving into engaged range with a shorter weapon can be opposed by a longer range weapon. [See Spontaneous Contests on page 26]
Focused For ranged weapons, verbal communication, or mental conflict, a character can be focused on one character. Other characters engaged with that character count in this focus area as well. Changing focus is a free action, but needs to be done explicitly on a character’s turn. Unless otherwise stated, a character is focused on the last thing they interacted with on their turn.
Players can call out what their character is focusing on: aiming at a door, for example, waiting for enemies to come through. Focusing allows characters to take a reaction when something happens. A character can only react to an action if they are focused on the source of the action. [See Spontaneous Contests on page 26]
Short range with a ranged weapon is farther than extreme range with a melee weapon.
Clustering A group of characters that are linked together through engagement is called a cluster. Clusters can be tracked privately by the Spire Master or with a hex grid and miniatures for all players to see. Those characters not in a cluster do not need to be tracked via a hex grid; the Spire Master can keep track of distances privately. Clusters can help simplify combat by grouping engaged players and enemies together.
Movement Speed by Round Length Round Length Distance per Side 1 Day 1 side = 0.4 miles (600 meters) 2 Hours 1 side = 0.2 miles (300 meters) 30 Minutes 1 side = 100 yards (100 meters) 5 Minutes 1 side = 20 yards (20 meters) 10 Seconds 1 side = 1 yard (1 meter)
Movement is an action, but under normal circumstances characters do not need to roll a die. Some characters, depending on size or training, may have movement speed multipliers or bonuses that change how much they can move with a single die. Characters can move twice as far as their normal movement speed if they only use their dice for movement and move in more or less a straight line.
Additional Movement Speeds Movement Speed Location or Conveyance 0.25x Speed Swamp, Jungle, Alpine, Snow 0.5x Speed Desert, Forest, Hills 1.5x Speed Carriage, Donkey, Pony 2x Speed Horse, Dogsled, Boat
ATTACK AND DEFENSE - How do my actions affect others?
Attacking Characters can harm others with their rolls. This could be an attack with a sword, a dressing down by a commander, or a sharp-worded insult. Whatever the target or means of attack, all offensive rolls work the same way - the only difference being between lethal and non-lethal methods. Obviously, a verbal beatdown, no matter how vicious, will not cause permanent injury.
» Successful attacks exhaust the defending die. » Non-lethal attacks that roll “Success AND…” exhaust the defense die and have the option to strain it. » Lethal attacks that roll “Success AND…” exhaust the defense die and have the option to injure it.
» Armor defense protects against direct damage by physical attacks - like being hit with a sword, arrow, or fireball. » Body defense protects against physical threats that do not cause damage - like being grappled, pushed, or tripped. » Mind defense protects against non-physical threats - like intimidation, deception, or fear.
Characters must defend with an unexhausted skill die first.
Characters can also gain Power and Bypass from their environment or situation. Having the higher ground may grant more Power to an attack; having a torch may grant Bypass when searching in the dark.
A die cannot be modified lower than a D4 or higher than a D20.
If a die would be modified lower than a D4 or higher than a D20, instead adjust the defender’s defense die up or down instead. The defender’s defense die cannot go below a D4 or above a D20 either. Sometimes an attack can only be so good (or bad).
SOCIAL INTERACTIONS - Can I affect others outside of combat?
Outside physical attacks, sometimes characters would simply like to affect their opponent’s point of view - convince a guard to let them through the gate or haggle for a better price with a merchant. This is generally treated the same way as an attack but does not exhaust or strain the defender’s dice.
Social interactions, along with Mind defense and various talents, can be affected by the relationship between the two characters. A strong relationship with a merchant can provide Bypass for a character’s negotiations, while a negative relationship with a guard can make it even more difficult to change his mind.
Everyone the party meets will have a starting attitude be it friendly, indifferent, or hostile. These attitudes can change over time and through the interactions they have with the group. Being caught in a lie or trying to harm someone will usually lower their attitude towards the character that took the action or the group as a whole, making subsequent social interactions even harder.
COMBAT SUMMARY - Step by step, how does combat work?
1. Declare Attacking Die » Attacker chooses skill, talents and related equipment for attacking action. » Attacker exhausts attack die and any other dice used by talents.
2. Declare Defense Die » Defender declares an unexhausted skill die for defense. » If all skill dice are exhausted, defender declares an uninjured skill die » If all skill dice are injured, defender must declare the vitality die.
3. Determine Roll Modifier » Taking the defender’s Defense vs. the attacker’s Bypass and Power, find the roll modifier for the attack. » Adjust the attacking and defending die by the roll modifier. » Before modifiers, always treat unskilled attacks and defenses as a D4, regardless of the die declared!
4. Roll the Attack » If the roll is a success, exhaust the defense die. » If the defense die is already exhausted, injure (or strain) it instead. » Success AND... results may also injure (or strain) the die as a consequence.
5. Final Resolution » If the defender’s vitality die is strained, the defender is unconscious. » If the defender’s vitality die is injured, the defender is on death’s door.
OVERRUN DEFENSES - What happens when my dice run out?
Exhausted Characters If a die is exhausted, a character cannot use it for defense. If all skill dice are exhausted, the character is considered exhausted.
Exhausted characters must defend with an undamaged skill die first.
If an attack hits an exhausted skill die, the targeted die is injured if the attack is lethal (or strained if it is non-lethal). This means that injury no longer requires a “Success AND…” result: any lethal hit on an exhausted die will injure it. Being exhausted is a very perilous position, but small injuries will actually tend to make characters slightly stronger, because their higher skill dice will now refresh sooner.
Sometimes the most dangerous enemy is an injured enemy.
Overwhelmed If a character’s skill dice are all damaged (strained or injured) and no unexhausted dice remain except for the vitality die, the character is overwhelmed. Once a character is overwhelmed, all attacks target the vitality die - exhausting, straining, or injuring it as any other die [See Dice Status on page 12]. Strained dice that have yet to be exhausted still provide normal defense. It is only after they have been exhausted that the character becomes overwhelmed.
SPONTANEOUS CONTESTS - What if I want to stop an action from happening?
Whenever any characters take an action, those engaged or focused on them may turn it into a spontaneous contest. The character taking the action rolls dice as normal, but other characters may roll dice in opposition. If the action is something that does not require a roll, like movement, the target difficulty is half the number of sides of the die spent on the action. If the opposition rolls higher than the original actor, the action does not happen, and the opposing player decides the outcome. This could be grabbing a creature’s hand before it can draw a weapon, shooting an arrow into a mug before the contents are swallowed, or jumping through an opening before the door is closed. Characters can use a contest to counter attack as well - whoever rolls higher damaging the other. Success AND... results require rolling double the opposing die.
If the die rolls are tied, the opposing player can choose either: » Success: The action is interrupted but the original actor gets a small advantage. » Failure: The action proceeds but the opposing actor gains a small advantage.
Characters can use a spontaneous contest after their first turn in the encounter.
About the Game
Master of the Rogue Spire is a new take on old-school tabletop gaming from the 70s and 80s - rugged, deadly fantasy in the mold of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth, Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. These series spawned the first fantasy roleplaying games: worlds of heroes with questionable morals, dark and strange magic, where survival was the hard-fought result of extreme resourcefulness against the ever-present danger of death.
Characters that rush headlong into battle will die. Injuries will not heal overnight. Expeditions must be planned. The world will chip away at the characters bit by bit unless they find a use for every random scrap of magic or wondrous item they discover along the way. If they survive, they may someday earn their place as legends like Cugel the Clever, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, or Conan the Barbarian.
The Spire Master
The Rogue Spire is the Master’s home and prison. Its location in any plane of existence is ephemeral, but from this vantage point the Master can see everything that takes place in the world and pull the strings of fate. The Master’s power is limited, however. Only the party is able to change the world; the Master merely reveals its contents.
Every campaign in Master of the Rogue Spire should begin with the party summoned to the Master’s tower. Once there, they will take on a quest that may not seem significant but will expand over time into a saga of how the characters survive deadly trials and vicious monsters to build an indelible legacy in their world.
Each adventurer in the party has been summoned by the Spire Master. There is no greater reason needed to keep the party together, but it is helpful for each character to have some small connection to at least one other character in the group. If characters decide that this employment is too dangerous or wants to cash out their rewards, new characters are added to the group as a replacement. The Spire Master is uninterested in those characters not under contract; their stories will be told by someone else.
In the normal sequence of play, this is how the Spire Master and the players decide the outcome of any action:
The player decides on an action
The Spire Master decides the difficulty
The player picks a die to roll
The Spire Master adjusts the chosen die up or down
The player rolls
The Spire Master narrates the results
The Spire Master should feel free to ask players for input or ideas when narrating results. A good Master never forces an action on a character without the player’s input.
The point of the game is to invent a world and story together at the table. The only way to “win” the game is for everyone to have fun. Players and Spire Masters should keep that in mind as they play and they should solve disagreements amicably with a conversation or a die roll. The best solution is usually to move forward with a compromise and return after the session to hammer out the “official” ruling for that specific scenario.
Books and Materials
Because of the resource-based dice mechanic, it is important for players to have a character sheet in front of them or some other way to track the status of their dice. The Spire Master may also want to print out a monster’s stat block ahead of time for the same reason.
CARRYING THINGS - How much can I take with me?
After the characters’ basic needs are met for food and provisions, the real logistical problem of an adventure is what they take with them and how much loot they can haul back to town. Many players do not like to track carried weight but this system streamlines it in a way that is manageable by just focusing on the large objects. After asking a few simple questions, the capacity taken by most items can be figured quickly and added to the total.
All of the capacity numbers are calculated for a normal sized, normal strength human. There are larger and smaller metahumans, talents that affect this chart, and other means to carry more capacity. Capacity Number Capacity Lift Details 0 1 Handed Not of significant weight by itself, unless carried in high quantity. 1 1 Handed Hold, carry, throw or use with one hand without any trouble. 2 1 Handed Hold, carry, throw or use requires two hands because of size or bulkiness. 4 2 Handed Can’t be used or thrown easily, can be carried or held with one hand if resting against the body. 8 2 Handed Can’t be used or thrown while moving. Must be carried with both hands and rested against the body, can be held with one hand resting against the body if stationary or for a short amount of time. 16 2 Handed Can’t be used or thrown. Must be carried with both hands and rested against the body. Cannot be held in one hand. 32 2 Handed The maximum size a normal human can lift. Cannot be carried. The Spire Master will use this table when deciding the capacity of an object. Bulkiness is a large part of the capacity calculation, but if a quick calulcation is needed apply the following rule.
For standard items 1 capacity per 10lbs is a reasonable approximation.
Half the weight for each capacity if the item is oversized, strangely shaped, or generally difficult to carry in a character’s hands or backpack. Small creatures, like Halflings, add 1 capacity to carried objects. 1 capacity weapons can only be used by small creatures with two hands, and 2 capacity weapons are too large to wield normally.
2x Total Carrying Capacity 1/2 movement rate 2x Total Carrying Capacity in Hands 1/2 movement rate 4x Total Carrying Capacity No movement
A normal human can carry 8 capacity and still be completely mobile - this is called the total carrying capacity. Usually up to 4 of this capacity is in the hands or up to 8 on the back in a pack. Carrying 2x total carrying capacity reduces movement by half, and 4x total carrying capacity renders a character unable to move.
Holding Capacity Anything that can hold something, hang something, or otherwise bear the weight of an item has holding capacity. This could be a backpack, a quiver or a bag. Items with holding capacity may also have a max size. Each item held inside or carried by the item must have a capacity equal to or smaller than the max size. Regardless of how much something can hold, you still mark the capacity of the items inside it against carrying capacity, unless the container has some magical properties that reduce the weight or size of the items carried.
Lifting Heavy Objects The target difficulty for treating a capacity like a lower amount of capacity is the amount of capacity you wish to ignore. In this case do not round.
» Throwing 8 capacity in one hand, like a 1 capacity item would require a target difficulty of 7. » Holding a 16 capacity object in one hand would require an 8 ficulty roll. » Lifting over the max capacity of 32 is 1 difficulty per capacity over 32.
BUYING THINGS - What can a purchase?
The rule of thumb here is, as long as you aren’t buying more than you can physically carry, you do not need to reduce wealth for purchasing mundane items.
Wealth Details 0 Mundane daily consumables or very small items 1 Upgrades to daily consumables or cheap durable items 2 Expensive daily consumables or standard durable items 4 Exotic materials or large sized durable items 8 Large, complex, or expertly crafted items that are difficult to make 16 Very large, extremely complex, or master crafted items 32 Huge or luxury items only available to the very rich
Some things may cost more than 32 Wealth. It is up to the Spire Master to set an appropriate price. Rare or illegal items can cost 2-4x the wealth on this chart, depending on the culture in question.
Wealth Type Capacity Details Coins 1/16 Widely accepted, depending on regional governments Gems 1/32 Generally accepted at cost ranges between 2-8 Ancient Coins 1/8 Must be transferred into other forms of wealth, either through a collector or melted down for materials. Treasure 1/4 Limited acceptance, add 1-3 defense to any haggling roll if the buyer does not personally need the item.
Haggling Haggling is a contest between the owner of an item and a prospective buyer. Usually this is a skilled action by a Charismatic or Deceptive character against the skill die of a trained merchant, but sometimes a character finds themselves bargaining with an untrained individual. Modify the difficulty by the Mind defense of that die, relationship with the seller, and the difference in cost in the chart above minus 1. The more expensive items are very difficult to haggle much lower.
Starting Wealth All characters start with 16 wealth to purchase equipment with or save for use during the adventure. Some backgrounds, like the noble and entertainer, have talents that affect starting wealth balances and how easy it is to purchase and bargain for equipment. Starting equipment cannot be haggled.
EQUIPIMENT - How does equipment function?
Armor Armor is written with three numbers, separated by brackets. The first number is the Armor added to the character’s vitality die, the last number is the Armor added to the character’s highest skill die, and the middle number is the Armor added to all the rest of the dice. If a character only has one skill die, use the middle number on the highest skill die. Conceptually, when taking damage this can be thought of: Head | Body | Extremities
Ablative Armor defense is reduced by one in that hit location when injured. Requires a successful repair roll at half the dice level and the materials to fix. These materials cost 0, but must be available. Accurate When an attack misses by 1 the player may choose Success BUT... or Failure BUT... instead of simply failing. Brace Character can “Set for charge” with a move action. Weapon gains +1 Power on contests versus a character moving into engaged range. Bulky Remove -1 Power on all Coordinated actions. Bypass [See Power and Bypass on page 23] Concealable Gives the character +1 Mind and +1 Body defense when hiding the item. Disarm Use a successful attack to disarm a character instead of exhausting a die. Disarm can also be used in place of a beneficial consequence in Failure BUT... or Success AND... results.
Chapter 4: Equipment & Wealth
Directional Armor defense only against 1 specified enemy. Must be called out at the end of a character’s turn and cannot be changed without an out of turn move action. Disorient On a Success AND… result, the attacker may choose to exhaust an additional die instead of straining the targeted die. Effective / Ineffective Reduces or increases the number needed to roll a Success AND... result by 1, with a lower limit of the target difficulty +1. Gauntlet Add +1 Armor defense against an attack using the Disarm quality. Failure BUT... results cannot use the Disarm quality. Guard Gives the character +1 Armor defense on the highest skill die. Hardened Ignores 1 Effective from any physical attacks. Inaccurate If the attack rolls exactly the target number, the player must choose Failure BUT... Knockdown Use a successful attack to trip or knock over a character instead of exhausting a die. Knockdown can also be used in place of a beneficial consequence in tied rolls or criticals. Non-Lethal Does non-lethal damage only. Noisy -1 Power on all elusive actions. Reactive Armor defense can only be applied if the character uses a move action in reaction to an attack. Riposte When using a spontaneous contest to counter attack, Riposte gives the defender +1 Power on the roll. [See Spontaneous Contests on page 26] Prepare Requires 1 move action to use again. For ranged weapons this is a reload. Sunder Weapon has +1 Power when sundering equipment or items. Two-handed Grip Can be used one or two handed. Use the appropriate stat line for the two different grips. Uncivilized -1 Power on all social actions in high society or city life. Unwieldy Rolling a 1 requires a move action to re-ready the weapon. Weak Rolling a 1 on any die damages the weapon. Remove 1 Power from the weapon when damaged. If the weapon has 0 Power, rolling a 1 destroys the item. It cannot be used for combat again until repaired. For unarmed attacks, treat this like a D4 injury to the hand or foot.
STORY TOKENS - How do players affect the story?
Players can use story tokens to influence the Spire Master’s narrative. During normal play, the Spire Master is the final arbiter of everything that happens in the world. Players may suggest outcomes or details for the world, but it’s up to the Spire Master what happens with these suggestions. When a player uses a story token, they gain the power to affect the world outside their character. Spire Masters get story tokens as well, to give them more control over their own stories and balance their ability to influence the reality of the game.
Mechanical Effects There are various mechanical effects that a player can call upon with a story token. Any of these results can be used on any character in the game - the use of a story token is not limited to a player’s own character. Even enemies can be stymied with the tactical use of a story token. Here are some example effects:
1. Refresh a die: A character refreshes a die. 2. Upgrade a die: A character adds +1 roll modifier to any roll. 3. Downgrade a die: A character adds -1 roll modifier to any roll. 4. Roll a skilled roll: A character rolls an unskilled action as a skilled action. 5. Reroll a die: A character rerolls any roll once. Story Effects The player may also use the story token to add something to the story, narrate a small detail, or solve a dispute with the Game Master. The final decision still resides with the Spire Master, but this can help players feel more in control of the game world. Here are some example effects:
1. Add a story detail: Add something to the story that the Spire Master wasn’t planning on. Maybe the innkeeper is the cousin of a character or a character visited this town a few years back. 2. Add a world detail: Give characters some advantage with a new detail in the world. Maybe a guard has keys on his belt, or a building has a door in the alley. 3. Solve a dispute: If two players, or a player and the Spire Master saw a scene differently in their heads, solve the dispute by spending story points. Maybe a player thinks he is close enough to attack without moving, but the Spire Master doesn’t. Spend a story token to solve the dispute.
Spire Masters may use their story tokens in the same way. This is helpful when a Spire Master wants to include an unexpected event while still being fair to the players. Spire Master story tokens can have a larger effect on the narrative than player tokens.
Chapter 5: Storytelling & Advancement
Gaining Story Tokens Players each get 1 story token at the start of each session, while the Spire Master starts each session with 1 story token per player. Players can gain additional story tokens during the session for various actions that the Spire Master feels like should be rewarded. This could be roleplaying a scene well, avoiding combat in a dangerous area, coming up with an ingenious plan, putting his character in harm’s way, or even telling a funny joke. Spire Masters gain an additional story token at the start of each encounter.
At the end of each session, unused story tokens for both players and the Spire Master are discarded. Players may choose to receive 4XP instead of a bonus story token when the token is awarded, useful towards the end of the session when it is less likely to be used.
ADVANCEMENT - How to characters get better?
One of the base assumptions of a role-playing game, or a narrative, is that characters evolve over time. They learn from mistakes, pick up new abilities and become greater than when they were introduced to the story. This hero’s journey is an important part of fantasy fiction and what keeps the players coming back every week to play the same characters.
Experience Points In Master of the Rogue Spire, most experience points (XP) are gained when a character makes a mistake, or fails to do something. Success is easy to celebrate, but failure is just as important (or perhaps more so) to becoming better and expanding a character’s trait horizons. As noted in the Game Mechanics chapter, players gain an amount of XP every time they roll a 1 on any die. The amount of XP earned on a 1 is the same as the number of sides on the dice.
XP gained when 1 is rolled: D4 D6 D8 D10 D12 D20 4 XP 6 XP 8 XP 10 XP 12 XP 20 XP
The average amount of XP earned per die roll is 1 XP, because the probability of rolling a die decreases at the exact same amount as the XP gained increases. Therefore, rolling dice is always a good thing, no matter what size.
No XP is earned on a free die roll. This includes free dice rolled because of specialized dice or exploding dice.
Spending XP When taking a good night’s rest, players can spend XP to upgrade their characters. The main way to upgrade a character is to upgrade a character’s skill die which will also unlock a new talent. The cost of upgrading a die is 5x the number of sides of the die.
XP required to upgrade: D4 D6 D8 D10 D12 20 XP 30 XP 40 XP 50 XP 60 XP
A skill die can only be upgraded if the character has another die of the same size. Upgrading a die also gets the player a new talent of the same size of the die (or lower) that can be put in any open talent slot. A new talent cannot have a higher die value than the die that was just upgraded, but it can have a lower difficulty - a player could use a D6 talent slot for a D4 talent. Each die upgraded is considered a new level. If characters cannot upgrade any of their dice, because they do not have any of the same size, they are at the max dice level for their current character tier.
Increasing Character Tier When a player has reached the maximum dice for their character tier, depending on the story and game world, they may be able to spend XP to upgrade to the next tier. Moving up from minion, elite, and leader tiers costs 5x their highest die available and gains the character an additional D4 skill die.
Chapter 5: Storytelling & Advancement
XP required to ascend to tier: Elite Leader Champion 30 XP 40 XP 50 XP
This must also be accompanied by an appropriately heroic action or downtime event to explain the character’s sudden ascension in ability. The upgrade happens as soon as the action is completed, if the character has required XP to spend. Each tier also gains the character an additional trait and D4 talent. Most times this additional trait will be an ability trait, but in some cases a background trait could be appropriate, especially if the ascension comes with a time jump. Tier ascension does not change the level of the character.
Mithrial of Darkwood is a 2nd level, leader tier character with 4 dice. She has a D4 vitality die and a D4, D6 and D6 skill dice. She currently has 64 unspent XP.
She has two options: 1. Upgrade her D4 skill die to a D6 for 40 XP. [D4, D6, D6, D6] 2. Upgrade her D6 skill die to a D8 for 60 XP. [D4, D4, D6, D8]
Beyond Champion Tier Levels beyond champion tier should be reserved for epic fantasy games in which the characters take on god-like powers. The D20 skill die is a very large step away from the D12 and may not fit in a gritty, realistic fantasy setting. Moving beyond champion tier is similar to ascending a tier, but the scale of the heroic event must be truly epic.
Ascending each champion sub-tier upgrades the vitality die to the next die size instead of adding an additional die. The XP cost of ascension is 25x the vitality die being upgraded. After this, skill dice may be upgraded and levels gained normally until the next maximum is reached. Ascending through champion tiers counts as a new level and unlocks a new talent for the increased vitality die.
XP required to ascend to champion sub-tiers: Epic Legendary Mythic XP Required 100 XP 150 XP 200 XP Vitality Die D6 D8 D10
Vitality | Skill Tier Level 4D | 6D - - - Minion 1st lvl 4D | 6D 8D - - Elite 1-3th lvl 4D | 6D 8D 10D - Leader 1-6th lvl 4D | 6D 8D 10D 12D Champion 1-10th level 6D | 8D 10D 12D 20D - Epic Champion 11-15th level 8D | 10D 12D 20D 20D - Legendary Champion 16-19th level 10D | 10D 12D 20D 20D - Mythic Champion 20th level
CHARACTER CREATION STEPS - How do I make a character?
Step 0: Tier and “Concept” Some heroes are created at a higher level than others. Your Spire Master will tell you what tier your character will start at, then you can begin making a character.
» Gain dice from tier / level » Write down a simple one sentence character concept
Step 1: Personality and Background This is where you take the one sentence concept and start to build it into a fully fleshed character. What’s your character’s background and what drives them?
» Choose at least 1 personality type » Choose up to 2 background traits » Each background trait must choose an expertise
Step 2: Choose Abilities Background is what your character trained in their formative years, but abilities are innate. Choose abilities that round out your skillset. Remember, anything you want your character to do well must be related to a trait.
» Choose ability traits » Characters have the same amount of traits as dice - this includes background traits and duplicate traits
Step 3: Choose Talents Talents are connected to your traits. They are the small details that make your character different than other characters. These are the easiest things to make up if you don’t see something you like!
» Choose talents connected to the character’s traits » Each die unlocks 1 talent for each die type that has the same or fewer sides » For example: a D8 die gets a D8 talent, a D6 talent, and a D4 talent » Talents much be from a specific die size or smaller » For example: a D6 talent can fill into a D8 slot, but not a D4 slot » Talents must be attached to corresponding traits and each trait can only have one talent per die slot
Step 4: Purchase Equipment Equipment will help your character use their talents. Because of the Spire Master’s patronage, money is less of an issue than the space required to carry it all.
» Start with 16 wealth in coins (or more after talents) » Purchase equipment from the list
CHARACTER TIERS - How strong is a character?
As characters travel the world, they will meet various people, monsters, and animals along the way. Each of these beings has an innate power level, represented by the amount of dice available to them. Before the adventure starts the Spire Master will decide what sort of adventurers are needed - are a group of commoners sufficient or does the task require a group of high level champions? Character tiers set the power level of a campaign.
Tiers can be also be upgraded during play through gaining XP and fulfilling a satisfactory story requirement set by the Spire Master. [See Advancement on page 74]
Minion Starting Dice: Vitality D4 | Skill D6 Level Limit: 1 Minion tier characters are very weak and can be taken out of action with a single swing from a sword. The Spire Master may choose this tier for a game that revolves around children, average people in gritty realistic circumstances, or heroes that come from humble beginnings.
Elite Starting Dice: Vitality D4 | Skill D4 D6 Level Limit: 3 Elite tier characters are slightly stronger than the average person, have more skill, and can take a couple hits. The Spire Master may choose this tier for a low-powered game about above-average people dealing with dangerous circumstances.
Leader Starting Dice: Vitality D4 | Skill D4 D4 D6 Level Limit: 6 Leader tier characters are the exemplars of society. They have more skills, can take more hits, and are obviously a cut above normal folk. The Spire Master may choose this tier for a game that resembles classic heroic fantasy, where heroes are a true cut above all the rest.
Champion Starting Dice: Vitality D4 | Skill D4 D4 D4 D6 Level Limit: 10 Champion tier characters are the best of the best; they have more skills and more hit points than multiple people. At high levels they can take on seemingly impossible tasks without breaking a sweat. The Spire Master may choose this tier for an epic high fantasy adventure where characters will become, in effect, superheroes.
PERSONALITY - How does a character act?
The problem with a simple “good versus evil “morality is that it doesn’t speak to why characters take an action. Master of the Rogue Spire presents a more piecemeal and customizable approach to personality generation for players. Characters have personalities that can help the players controlling them roleplay difficult situations. Without these guideposts, decisions can feel arbitrary or meta-gamed, leading players and Spire Masters unable to infer future actions from past behavior.
Those familiar with the traditional nine alignments will be able to find some overlap in this system, but there is much more room for customization and experimentation in your character’s personality.
Personality Types A character’s personality is a mixture of how they act externally and the personality types that drive them internally. Whether a character behaves funny, serious, flirty, or dour, each character has a few core tenets that motivate them to action or inaction. The chart on the next page shows the relationship of the ten basic types which form a circular pattern from altruistic dispositions back around to dominant impulses. Altruistic characters take action selflessly, while dominant characters focus more on what they can gain from each situation. On the left side of the wheel are personalities focused on individual action while the right side is more motivated by social structure. Choosing Types Characters can have up to four different personality types, but most have only one or two. After choosing an initial type, remove all opposing types - these are types any more than three spaces away on the personality wheel. Opposing types may be admissible by the Spire Master, but a character cannot have two diametrically opposing personality types as they stand for the exact opposite inclinations. These opposing motivations are highlighted in italics in the descriptions later on in this section. Characters can be moved by something other than what their chosen types dictate, but their personality should take precedence in any weighty decisions that have real repercussions in the game world. No matter the motivation, in only the most exceptional circumstances is it stronger than the will to survive.
Using Personality In PlayEncouraging Actions If a player is making a tough choice with two strongly divergent outcomes, there are benefits they can be given for choosing the outcome that coincides with their character’s personality types. At the appropriate decision point, adjudicated by the Spire Master, they may become encouraged. This can be a personal decision or a decision that the entire party makes. In the case of a party decision, the Spire Master may encourage multiple characters for the same action. Encouragement gives the character one story token, that can be used for various effects. The story token only lasts until the next long rest. [See Story Tokens on page 72]Discouraging Actions Characters can be affected negatively by their own actions or the actions of the other members of their party. When events conspire against a character’s personality, a player may opt for the character to become discouraged. When discouraged, a character strains one of their skill dice that is not already strained. Discouragement gives the character two story tokens, but they are only usable for actions that fight back against the source of discouragement. Characters are initially disheartened by their actions, but are then motivated to correct their perceived mistakes. The story tokens last until the strain is removed from rest. Spire
PERSONALITY DESCRIPTIONS - What are the different personality types?
Ambitious Motivations: Fame, Status, Celebrity Motto: “First come, first serve” Opposing Type: Principled
Ambitious characters want to be the best, the richest, the most loved, or if they cannot be any of those, simply the most famous. They may get there slavishly following the rules or through heroic selfsacrifice, but they are not concerned with being nice or following the will of others.
They want to improve their holdings and status. They would only help others if it helped them personally to do so.
Cruel Motivations: Malice, Hatred, Antagonism Motto: “Show no mercy” Opposing Type: Humane
Cruel characters take great pleasure in hurting or dominating others, especially their enemies. They may extract a steep penalty for any wrongdoing or serve a cruel master, but they aren’t concerned about helping anyone or progressing the greater good through their malice.
They want to hurt others. They would only show mercy to inflict more pain.
Dogmatic Motivations: Order, Procedure, Law-abiding Motto: “The law is the law” Opposing Type: Righteous
Dogmatic characters follow the law to the letter, whether it be the law of the land or their group’s ethos, but never their personal whims. They may be ambitious for status and wealth or kind to the unfortunate, but they do not seek independence in action or desire to give their lives in service.
They want to follow the rules. They would only do what they feel is right if the law allows it.
Obedient characters follow the orders of their commanders, whether they be good, evil, legal, or illegal. They may serve selflessly or as an extension of their personal cruelty, but they aren’t concerned with personal ambition or what is the just course of action in any situation.
They want to serve their leader. They would only do what they want if their leader allows it.
Humane Motivations: Mercy, Love, Kindness Motto: “Kindness is never wasted” Opposing Type: Cruel
Humane characters are always kind and never cruel, even to their enemies. Their kindness does not have an agenda. They may take personal joy from kindness or it may be part of a deeply held belief system, but they don’t care about status, competition, or hierarchical dominance.
They want to be good to others. They would only hurt someone if it cannot be avoided.
Imperious Motivations: Power, Influence, Authority Motto: “Might makes right” Opposing Type: Selfless
Imperious characters wish to take power over others and feel no need to help other characters whether they are in trouble or not. They may use their power to progress the greater good, but they are not concerned about the wellbeing of individuals (other than themselves) or the idea of justice unless it is what they justly deserve.
They want to dominate others. They would only help someone to gain power over them.
Independent characters do what they want to do and are not concerned about what others think. They may thirst for power or do good for others, but they care nothing for the rules of society or a nebulous sense of “the greater good.”
They want to enjoy life. They would only follow orders if they wanted to follow them.
Principled Motivations: Unity, Balance, Fairness Motto: “For the greater good” Opposing Type: Ambitious
Principled characters try to do the best for all, even if would cause suffering for a few. Some would call it the pragmatic side of good. They may try to consolidate power around themselves or have their own sense of right and wrong, but they are not driven by selfish or cruel motivations.
They want to make the world a better place. They would only act for themselves if society would benefit.
Righteous Motivations: Justice, Revenge, Anti-corruption Motto: “More justice, fewer laws” Opposing Type: Dogmatic
Righteous characters do what they think is fair and just and are not concerned with what the law says they can or cannot do. They may fight for the greater good or enjoy handing out cruel punishments, but they are not interested in power for power’s sake or following their leaders blindly.
They want to right wrongs. They would only follow the law if they agreed it was just.
Selfless characters live in service to others even if it may be detrimental to themselves. They are agents serving causes that they believe to be just. They may blindly follow the orders of a strong leader or seek to gain prestige and fame for their service, but they don’t enjoy cruelty or following rules they believe to be unjust.
They want to serve the cause. They would only take power over another to save them.
BACKGROUND TRAITS - What is my character's history?
Traits are the broad strokes of a character’s ability, background, and training. Every roll a player makes in Master of the Rogue Spire calls back to these traits - making it either a skilled or unskilled action - so players should make sure that the traits they pick cover all of the actions they want their characters to excel at in the future.
Players cannot swap traits once chosen.
There are two basic types of traits: background traits and ability traits.
Background Traits Background traits represent the training characters received before they became adventurers. Whether they started life as a town guard, an alchemist, or a master of the arcane arts - humans can have up to two background traits during character creation. All background traits must also have an expertise. An Expert chooses a trade, a Cleric chooses a deity, a Sage chooses a school, and even a Soldier chooses a fighting style.
Metahuman Background Traits If a player wants to play a metahuman - elf, dwarf, halfling, half-elf, or similar - the character must take that people’s metahuman background trait. These traits give nonhumans access to many different powers and talents, while at the same time counting as a background trait against the limit of two. Humans are widely thought to be more versatile (unfocused, to some), learning a couple of trades in their short time on the material plane, while metahuman cultures are often older and more traditional, having deep ties to certain activities that have helped their societies survive for thousands of generations.
Ability Traits Ability traits define a character’s best physical and mental attributes. A character can be Athletic, Charismatic, Coordinated, Deceptive, Determined, Elusive, or Perceptive in addition to their background traits. Generally, characters and monsters have the same amount of traits as dice.
Dwarves must choose a bloodline as their expertise.
The Mountain bloodline is the bloodline of the dwarven royalty, while the Hill bloodline is the legacy of soldiers and craftsmen. All dwarves gain +1 Body defense on all dice to represent their inherent toughness and +2 Bypass against any actions taken in darkness because their vision includes the infrared spectrum. Dwarves are trained from a young age in the use of axes and hammers which they can use as a skilled action in and out of combat, and all dwarves are trained in medium armor.
Every soldier must choose a fighting style as their expertise.
All soldiers are trained in the use of all armor and shields, but there are far too many weapons and fighting styles in the world to know them all at an advanced level. A fighting style defines the type of weapons that a soldier can attack with as a skilled action. Through talents, soldiers can round out their techniques or concentrate on one specific fighting style.
Example Style Example skilled weapons Strength Hammers, Axes, Heavy Thrown Weapons Finesse Swords, Daggers, Light Thrown Weapons Ranged Bows, Crossbows, Slings Martial Arts Nunchuck, Sai, Tonfa, Kama
ABILITY TRAITS - What is my character naturaly talented at?
Athletic Athletic characters are strong and fast, good at actions that require brute force or conditioning: like running, jumping, throwing heavy objects, pushing open doors, and so on. Athleticism does not allow a character to make skilled combat actions by itself, but through talents can offer proficiency in some strength and thrown weapons.
Athletic defenses involve actions like grappling, pushing away, jumping over, or running from a physical attack.
Charismatic Charismatic characters are fun to be around, good at actions that require them to interact with other characters: like bargaining, distracting, flirting, befriending strangers, and so on.
Charismatic defenses involve actions like enlisting help from a passerby, appealing to an attacker’s better angels, or offering friendship and help. This usually involves speaking the same language and being in a social encounter.
Coordinated Coordinated characters are skilled with hands and feet, good at actions that require fine precision and delicacy: like tumbling, catching, reacting quickly, playing music, and so on. Coordination does not allow a character to make skilled combat actions by itself, but through talents can offer proficiency in some finesse and ranged weapons.
Coordinated defenses involve actions like ducking an attack, rolling out of the way, or parrying a physical attack.
Deceptive Deceptive characters thrive on misdirection, good at actions that require cunning bluffs and subterfuge: like lying, impersonation, hiding emotions, acting, and so on.
Deceptive defenses involve actions like pretending to be a different person, pleading weakness or hardship, or play acting an injury. Like Charismatic defenses, this usually involves speaking the same language and being in a social encounter.
Determined Determined characters are intimidating to be around, good at actions that require the power of mind over body: like interrogation, scaring people, creating space, acting first in a contest, rallying allies, shrugging off damage, and so on.
Determined defenses involve aggressive actions like charging into danger, shrugging off pain, and otherwise intimidating enemies into giving up. This works against those that have something to fear from a battle, not against mindless enemies or ones that perceive themselves as having the upper hand.
Chapter 3: Characters & Traits
Lucky Lucky characters usually are in the right place at the right time, good at actions that require random chance and no skill.
Luck provides no real defense, other than not being the target of an attack in the first place. For example, if the Spire Master is randomizing which character a monster targets, a Lucky character may roll a skill die to win the contest and “luckily” not be targeted by an attack.
Luck shouldn’t be a catch-all ability, but Spire Masters should let players use it any time they are rolling to randomize an action or effect.
Perceptive Perceptive characters notice things that no one else does, are good at actions that require concentration and critical thinking: like standing watch, searching for something, noticing deception, hearing someone sneaking around, and so on.
Perceptive defenses involve actions like dodging traps at the last second, seeing a sneak attack coming, and generally reacting to events before they happen.
Elusive Elusive characters are good at masking their movements, good at actions that require hiding or acting unnoticed: like spying from a distance, eavesdropping, moving silently, switching objects unnoticed, and so on.
Elusive defenses can involve surreptitiously readying a weapon, blending into the crowd, or secretly positioning one’s body beneath cover.
TALENTS - What makes my character unique?
Talents are directly connected to a character’s traits. They are the bulk of what makes each character unique. So far, this book has laid out a set of consistent rules; talents are the small ways that characters can bend these rules for their own benefit. There are many talents, but players only need to remember their character’s own, which they will build up slowly over time through leveling up.
Each trait can only have up to six talents, one for each die type: D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20. Once a slot is taken, it cannot be replaced without retraining, and no additional talents of the same die type can exist in the same slot on that trait.
Info Description +1D, +2D, +3D Talent can be taken again at higher die levels Sp Specialization: this talent allows a single reroll of a die A This talent must be used as an action E This talent must be used as a once an encounter action SC The talent must be used as a spontaneous contest action R This talent must be used as an action, but can be taken on anyone’s turn as a response to another action - Does not require expending a die to use the talent
Talents that use actions must expend the die level of the talent or greater.
The minimum die size and type of action is listed under the info column. If a talent can be taken multiple times at higher level dice, it will have a (+#D) beside the name. Each time the talent is taken again, its effect stacks with the previous times it was taken when used with the higher die.
EXAMPLE: The talent “Get Pumped! (+2D)” may be taken 3 times - at D4, D8, and D12. In the end it would take only a single action to give +3 Mind to an ally’s roll. The player must expend a D12 to get the full benefit. If the character wanted to expend a D10 or D8 instead, they would only be able to give their ally +2 Mind.
Gaining Talents When players first make a character, they should pick talents once they have decided on the characters’ traits. Each talent takes up one die slot in the respective trait. For starting characters, count each starting die and all dice lower than the starting die to find out how many talents they have. For example: a D8 grants a character three talents - one at D8, D6, and D4 - while a D4 only grants one D4 talent. Characters can increase their level and tier by gaining XP, upgrading their dice and gaining new talents with each advancement [See Advancement on page 74].
Character Tier Vitality Die | Skill Dice Starting Talents Minion D4 | D6 D4, D4, D6 Elite D4 | D4, D6 D4, D4, D4, D6 Leader D4 | D4, D4, D6 D4, D4, D4, D4, D6 Champion D4 | D4, D4, D4, D6 D4, D4, D4, D4, D4, D6