The next chapter of Gods of the Fall jointly covers descriptors and foci – respectively, these are the adjectives and verbs of the one-line Cypher character description. There are a few new ones for both of these, so I’ll look over them and see what we’ve got.
The chapter opens with half a dozen new regular descriptors, specifically designed for use with the setting; chaotic, humble, and lawful are among them. They’re intended to help tie a character into the setting and the Prophecies that the plots are intended to revolve around. Chaotic, for instance, paints an image of a character that does things just to see what might happen as a result, with one detail that permits them to prompt a GM Intrusion daily. I can easily see this being a favorite of that player – the one who, in Dragonlance, insisted on playing a kender because stealing from party members was fun.
Humble characters get extra stat points, and training in Intellect Defense – nothing to sneeze at, there. They also need to spend a point from their Intellect pool whenever they want to apply Effort, apparently as a sign of having to overcome their own nature to do anything genuinely flashy. I’m not sure how I feel about that; even in a game with negative descriptors like Mad and Doomed, this feels like a poor trade-off.
Lawful is the descriptor for the guy we all know who figures that paladins should be the D20 fantasy edition of Judge Dredd. With an asset for upholding the law and an inability while breaking it, this might be harsh to play if you’re in the Nightland; while you can make a case that the place is essentially lawless due to how the indulgences work, there’s an equally good argument to be made that the corrupt system of the Nightland is the law, so a Lawful character fighting against it would be severely out of place.
Ironically, one of the other descriptors is Gluttonous, which seems like it should have some hefty penalties associated with it, but the only problem it has is an inability with Might Defense rolls, while having training at a lot of handy skills like persuasion, theft, stealth, and all manner of financial things.
This part also introduces us to descriptors for the two nonhuman races that can be played – the Sleen, a race of lizardfolk, and the Taran, a race of eyeless giants. The former claim to be descended from a world-wrapping empire in days long since past (backed up by some things in the Deeps of the Ruinscape) and have an affinity for magic, secrets, and theft. The latter claim to be descended from gods that predate those of the Fall, rely on hearing, smell, and vibration to perceive the world, and claim that their patron god survived the Fall and sleeps at the bottom of the Sea of Clouds.
Mechanically, the Sleen are long-lived and clever, but not very strong; they also get some skill bonuses related to their racial affinity for all things magical and secretive. The Taran get painted as large and not-very-bright brutes; their big advantage is being automatically trained in perception and not being hampered by darkness.
After that, we move on into the section on Foci, which starts off with a list of Core foci that work for the setting; most of these are fairly obvious, although a few seem a little out of place – Operates Undercover is viable enough, if you think about it, and if you recast Fuses Flesh And Steel as being part golem it can fit. The new foci, though, are a little interesting.
The first is Finds The Flaw In All Things, which is exactly what it says on the wrapper; you start off being able to swap out a Type ability to get perfect knowledge of any simple flaws an enemy has, such as being weak to fire, and the ability to essentially stun an enemy by exploiting their flaws. It moves on to seeing social flaws in others, flaws in objects, and ultimately to the point that you can pretty much see the flaws in reality itself.
Revels In Trickery comes next; this one is clearly meant for trickster gods in the making. Starting with the ability to essentially do magic tricks and the ability to follow up on the attacks of others, this focus quickly becomes the sort of thing that can charm a beast into standing still, lay traps for the unwary, and even fake people out about how hurt they are, spontaneously recovering from injuries.
Speaks Curses is an interesting one; each tier grants a new curse, and the flavor text suggests that your very nature exudes a cursed essence, such that plants wither and animals cower in your presence. The first tier is a reactive defense, both damaging those who seek to harm you and granting you some Armor; three of the curses cause significant penalty and last for a day. While you’re unlikely to be a front-line powerhouse with this focus, you could be an amazing support character, weakening foes to set them up for your allies.
Last up is Walks With The Night, which if I’m honest makes me think of Batman prowling around the city of Corso, dispensing vigilante justice by night while being an upstanding indulgence-paying citizen by day. At first tier, you can swap out a Type ability to gain the ability to literally manipulate the shadows around you, to the point of creating a shadow play if you want to spend the time to do so. You also get to ooze through any gap a shadow can pass through, which could be handy for dealing with locked doors. At higher tiers, you can command ‘creatures of the night’, turn into a shadow for a time, and hurl nightmares of shadow at opponents. Definitely more of a vampire schtick than a Batman one, alas.
And that wraps up this chapter; check back next time for the part we’ve all been waiting for, which covers Divine Dominions!