Today, we’ll be heading into the final portion of Gods of the Fall, the GM’s Toolbox section. It covers all the bits and pieces a GM really needs for the setting that the players should generally keep their noses out of; if they want to read it, they should be considering sitting behind the GM’s screen themselves. (Of course, we all know that players are notorious for memorizing GM-only material better than most GMs, right?)
Of the two sections of relevance to the review, the first one is titled Creatures and NPCs; this is more aptly put as the Bestiary. The section opens off by noting some of the more common creatures of traditional fantasy gaming and how they might fit into the Afterworld; demons and devils, for instance, are better off described as ravers, seraphs of sin, or the like, while the closest thing to an angel is a seraph of virtue – an iron statue animated by divine power. Dragons, likewise, aren’t the fearsome fire-breathing winged reptiles, but rather sorcerers of particular power and selfishness.
In the actual bestiary, we get an array of interesting entities; first one up is the Bibliomancer, which is the default form of magic in the Afterworld, it seems. They draw spell effects, from blasting magic and defensive wards to outright summoning, from books they carry. Given that this is the default model for magic, sorcerer and bibliomancer are largely interchangeable; a lot of them see themselves as the inheritors of the gods, and are likely to take issue with genuine godlings for this reason.
Faerie Rings are a kind of ooze that pops up across the Afterworld, fungal in origin and capable of producing enticing magical illusions that disguise it and lure victims in, deluding them even as the ooze consumes them. Judging by the description and the timeline that they’ve been active (about 20 years, growing in frequency), it seems likely that these escaped from the Deeps of the Ruinscape and have found the shattered state of the world to their liking.
The Hellmaw is the closest thing the Afterworld has to a Western fantasy dragon; built from the dead and infused with divine power, it once was the guardian of Soulrest, but now it freely preys across all the realms, able to sniff out weak spots to slip between worlds. Huge, hungry, and with a devastating roar that harms the mind and soul, it’s nothing to sneeze at as a level 13 foe.
Nightmares apparently come in many forms; level 3 Nodlings, which are essentially the Afterworld’s edition of Chucky from the Child’s Play slasher films, level 6 Night Horrors that apparently forms from particularly vivid nightmares and keep on going when the dreamscape ends, with the ability to project terrifying psychic images at everyone around them; and so on.
Apparently at least one god had a phenomenally bad idea, creating rakshasas from the dead spirits of particularly evil humans; with the god in question dead, these beings are free to do as they wish. If these are anything like the rakshasas of Earth’s legends, those wishes will include lying for their own amusement, changing into copies of their victims to further dupe the families and friends of said victims, and chowing on on the fresh corpses of those who fall victim to them.
Ravers come in Lesser and Elder forms, all of them absolutely horrific in aspect. These appearances can range from the distortion auras that come before a migraine through creeping mist that flows across the ground in ways it shouldn’t all the way to literaly hunks of the skin of dead gods, trailing blood and organs, flapping wildly around by itself. Lesser ones are mindless, and can be handled as divinely powerful mindless beasts, but elders are potent enough and retain enough essence to manifest their own malign intellect and will. While even the elders aren’t going to be Big Bad levels of power, they can certainly qualify as major threats and the kind of thing that a Big Bad would herd toward their foes.
Trolls aren’t quite the same as you might expect from D20; while nothing impedes their healing while they’re alive, taking them to 0 health kills them, if you can get around their 3 Health/round regeneration. Of course, dealing too much damage to them can be a problem – hit them too hard, too fast, and you get a pair of trolls scrambling in opposite directions to go hide and feed until they’re full grown and can come back for more.
Despite it being ‘creatures and NPCs’, the chapter caps off soon after; it seems the NPCs are limited to generics, like bibliomancers and slavers. It’s a little disappointing, but hey – a decent selection of foes, guidance on a few typical foes, and plenty of material already available from other things produced by MCG to be used here.
Next time, we’ll look at the last part I intend to review: Cypher and Artifacts!