Black Death Preview

Today, I’m talking about my next Quick & Easy (though that classification might not fit exactly) game, Black Death. Obviously, it’s a cheery game about rainbows and gumdrops.

The idea for Black Death was really just an image of a guy being molested by a skeleton. From there, it turned into a game set during the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, culminating in the devastating Thirty Years War, in which all the fighting and condemnations and general hatred have allowed Hell to burst forth on Earth. Now the Catholics and Protestants also get to deal with demons, the undead and other fantasy creatures. Into this cesspool of violence, black magic and disease (lots of disease), a band of mercenaries, picaros and itinerant scholars does their best to survive and thrive.

Here are a few bits and pieces from the game as it currently stands. Right now, it’s about 80% there – written, but with lots of editing and tweaking needed, but well on its way. I’ve also got the hex map for NOD 28 done (need to start writing my buns off), and I’m doing another round of edits on GRIT & VIGOR.

Abilities: Strength, Agility, Constitution, Intelligence, Willpower, Perception and Charisma.

Allegiance: This can be to a religion, nation or other concept. Characters get to allegiances, and they get an experience bonus when they serve them (which may pit characters against one another, if their allegiance’s clash)

Classes: Hoo boy, there are a few of these. Since classes in Q&E games are just a collection of skills, it’s not too hard to build them. Each of these classes also have a special ability each. Here are a few examples:

HexenhammerHexenhammers are witch hunters, scouring the countryside for the tools of Satan (or harmless-but-scary old women, as the case may be). Hexenhammers are possessed of a frightening determination, and once they are on the scent of a witch, they do not stop their hunt until they have their quarry. Every hexenhammer carries with her a well-worn copy of the Malleus Maleficarum, a guide book for witch hunters.

Primary Skills: Fighting (Str)
Secondary Skills: Endure (Con), Intimidate (Str), Prayer (Wil)

Special Ability: After long study of the Malleus Maleficarum, hexenhammers know well their ways. They can use a Sixth Sense task check to sense the presence of witches, conjurers, heretics and tools of Satan within 60’.

 

Landsknecht
The landsknechts are mercenaries, fighters-for-hire that care little about the cause, only the reward. English mercenaries might instead be called “gentleman adventurers”, Italians “condottieri” and the Swiss “reisläufer”, but they’re all just mercenaries. When a general is willing to pay them, they are happy to fight battles. When clients are in short supply, they are happy to turn to brigandage or adventuring to earn a living.

Primary Skills: Fighting (Str)
Secondary Skills: Marksmanship (Dex), Carouse (Con), Endure (Con)

Special Ability: Landsknechts are well trained in the fighting arts, and may use any armor and any melee or missile weapon, regardless of their current Fighting or Marksmanship skill values (q.v.).

 

Magician
Magicians practice the scholarly magic of the Renaissance. While they themselves may be benevolent, they must have truck with demons to produce their magical effects, and therefore are considered suspect by most decent folk. Magicians are usually to be found in the robes of a magic, or in the dress of a gentleman or gentlewoman with one or several grimoires on their person, heavily annotated in the margins and smelling slightly of sulfur. The most famous of their number is perhaps Doctor Faustus.

Primary Skills: Invocation (Int)
Secondary Skills: Flee (Agi), Fortune Telling (Wil), Learning (Int)

Special Ability: Conjurers receive their magical knowledge from books, and are thus always literate. When they have a grimoire in hand, they can use it to aid in their magic. For each grimoire they possess, they can add +1 to their Invocation score during a task check, but add one combat round to the time it takes them to cast the spell.

Other classes include the archer, barbarian, cleric, courtesan, doctor, flagellant, fool, gypsy, hunter, inquisitor, knight (dame), mariner, musketeer, picaro, professor, rakehell, rat-catcher, resurrectionist, robber, satanist, student prince, trader and witch.

When these classes run around killing things (or trying not to be killed), they’ll have a big list of weapons. I went a little nuts on the weapons, and each weapon is capable of a “weapon trick” in place of doing damage – things like tripping people, backing them up, disarming them, crushing armor.

There’s a section on disease – lots of opportunities to catch something nasty – and on damnation. Damnation points are collected when people do bad things – absolution by the church can remove them, as can holy quests and pilgrimages.  The more damnation points, the harder it is for holy magic to work on you, and the more likely you bear a “mark of Satan” – i.e. a mutation.

There are lots of monsters – undead and demons, but also fey creatures. The monsters are mostly from Central European myth and folklore, but some other bits and pieces as well, such as from Dante’s Inferno.

It’s still a pretty quick and easy game to play (I think), but it does look like it’s going to be about 88 pages long – about twice the size of earlier efforts. I’ll keep folks updated.

Oh, and here’s an early draft of the map, broken into regions for easy travel rules.