Inspired by a discussion in the OSR Discord.
A simple axiom of the universe; things which are better at surviving live, and things which are worse die. This evolutionary pressure is constantly applied to every population. Warfare, especially the messy kind predating antibiotics and painkillers, is a very strong evolutionary pressure on a population (young soldiers) already selected for competence and fighting ability.
Some people think this is evil. War is a terrible thing, they say, and death a cruel joke played on Man by callous g_ds. They scoff at the glory-ardent, and jeer at the old lie of "Dulce et decorum est/pro patria mori
Not you, though. You understand.
You are a Zouave, light infantry trained for ambush, scouting and extended periods in the field. You are not a noble, but neither are you a peasant levie. You volunteered
to protect your homeland. You provided your own equipment, learned the art of war, rose through the ranks, became a cunning veteran, seized victory in battles where you were outnumbered 20-to-1, shaped the face of the world with nothing but your sword-arm and sturdy snapchance — and then you won, and the war was over.
Most of your friends are turnip farmers or fishermen now, or dead. You tried the peaceful life. Maybe you even stuck with it for a few years; but when you realized the only thing you looked forward to was sharing half-true war-stories with the old men in the tavern, you took your sword and your gun down from the wall and set out on your last adventure
For every template you have in this class you gain +1 inventory slot
and +1 HP
. If you have at least one template of Zouave, you cannot fumble with mundane weapons and can wear light and medium armor.
1. Forestry, 2. Rock-Climbing, 3. Ditchdigging
Slightly ridiculous old-fashioned uniform (as leather
), an iron ringsword (medium
), a snapchance and powderhorn (see below for equipment list), good pair of boots, excellent backpack, one other piece of kit of your choice.
You've been everywhere
- A Tall Tales, Nonplussed, Extra Attack Per Round
- B Respect
- C Old Friends, Extra Attack Per Round
- D Nose for Trouble
, man. Roll 3d12
on the following table of mostly-true things you did before becoming an adventurer and record the results. If you roll the same result twice, take your choice of the one above or below.
- Crossed the Deserts Bare. Your long campaign took you as far as the frozen mud-puddle of Arel, where trees never grow and people wear stupid coats all year round. A six-month guerilla campaign against a vastly superior force of manhunters taught you the value of good boots and warm wool socks.
You and your party travel at full speed over rough terrain.
- Breathed the Mountain Air. Your long campaign wound through the mountains and over steep peaks. You developed an instinct for avalanches and rockslides, and learned the ways of the goat and the warg.
You and your party travel over normally impassable terrain as if it were rough.
- Travelled Every Road in This Here Land. Your long campaign took you... everywhere, really.
You can read roadsigns in any language, and you and your party move 1.5x as fast when on actual roads.
- Hunted the Dead in the Hills. During one part of your campaign, your unit was tasked with cleaning out Unburied-infested ghost towns which threatened your supply lines. This was treacherous work, and you still have nightmares about an encounter with a cobold in the cellar of a church.
You can smell a human corpse from two hundred feet. If you stay perfectly still for a full minute, you can hear the difference between a dark room which is silent and a dark room in which someone is not making a sound.
- Forded Eden White in Flood. You took part in a famous pre-dawn raid over a broad, deep river. Half of your force was swept away and drowned, but the enemy was taken entirely by surprise, and their leaders were slain before the watchmen were roused. Educated officers will have learned about this raid in the academy.
You have a +4 bonus to any roll against being moved against your will.
- Killed an Evil Wizard With My Bare Hands. This one is a straight-up lie: you actually bashed the wizard to death with the occult manacles he had placed on you in preparation for a goetic sacrifice.
You can tell the difference between magical and non-magical items by tasting them, and you get an extra save against any Command spell.
- Waded Ankle-Deep in Blood. You took part in an infamous blockade of a fortified city. The six-month siege resulted in the destruction of the walls and the slaughter of the inhabitants, which caused a mass-rising of the Unburied. The city is abandoned to this day and the survivors curse your name.
You can identify the value of a mundane item in a real damn hurry, about as accurately as a first-level thief.
- Rode Beside A Hero. You once rode vanguard for a young man with a strange birthmark and a bad habit of rescuing people. Later, he distinguished himself as the Chosen One in some prophecy or other. This fact might be worth a free drink or two, but unless you can find the boy again, you probably won't get the full benefit of this tall tale.
- Strolled Through a Blockade. You were once besieged in a fortified city, cut off from supplies of food and water. When all hope seemed lost, you slipped out a side door one evening and walked through the enemy line. No one challenged you. You were as surprised by this as anyone.
Outside of combat, people just assume you are where you belong unless given a compelling reason not to.
- Killed Three Men With One Shot. This one is also not true. You shot one man who was at the top of a tall ladder, and he knocked two others off as he fell.
If you roll a critical hit with a firearm you make a ballistically improbable shot. The target you hit moves up to 10' in any direction you choose, including straight up. It's the Dungeon Master's problem to explain how this is possible.
- Won a Game of Riddles With A Giant. Self-explanatory, really. They were good riddles.
Non-player characters take your riddles very seriously, although this usually isn't enough to dissuade them from killing you.
- Narrowly Escaped an Angry Husband. One escapade in a post-battle debauch led to a deadly choice: face an angry and armed city headsman while totally nude, or leap headfirst out a third-story window. You chose the leap, survived the fall, and haven't been afraid of heights since.
You treat every fall as if it were 10 feet lower.
You've seen it before. Twice
. You have a +4
bonus on saves vs. Fear
. If you succeed, allies and hirelings who can see you have a +2
bonus to their save
. Even if you fail the save
, if you were carrying a loaded pistol you can take a shot before running away.
You aren’t some bumbling conscript, you're a Zouave, and people around here are starting to remember what that means. Peasant militias, wandering thief-catchers and other assorted low-caste warriors will look to you for guidance. Even the nobility will stop to listen if you make a fuss, although they might have you horsewhipped if you say something they don’t like. In addition, you can issue a challenge
to an NPC you aren't currently fighting. Roll a d6
to determine their response, which depends on their social class:
1: Disbelief and derision,
2-6: Intimidation and apology.
1: Loud mockery. Expect his friends to try and beat you up.
2-5: They accept. Expect a fistfight or, at best, a choice of two sturdy clubs
6: Intimidation and awkward verbal submission.
- Noble (shitty):
1-2: A horsewhipping
3-6: They accept. Name your terms.
- Noble (not shitty):
1: Guards! Guards!
2-5: A horsewhipping, followed by a second and more thorough horsewhipping
6: Pistols at dawn.
They found you at last; the ones you've been trying to avoid for years. They might owe you a debt, but they are probably here to collect instead. This is someone who featured in one of your tall tales; maybe a survivor of a siege, or a hero, or an angry husband. Or a giant. Or a goat. Or a dead wizard.
Nose for Trouble
Your paranoia has saved your life many times, and if you attend to it closely it will save you many times more. You always go first in combat. If you are surprised
, you aren't. If you take someone else by surprise
you deal maximum damage with all attacks on your first turn. You sleep with a loaded gun under your pillow, and unless you've been strip-searched you always have 1d4
knives on your person. If someone demands you hand over your weapons you can pull the old unloading-an-armory gag and hand over all four — but you will still be carrying the 1d4
- Ringsword. Classic Aeshean sword. Looks like a spatha with a big knuckleguard, and the pommel is a ring. Nobles would thread a ball-and-chain through the pommel in ages past, but that style has mostly fallen out of fashion.
- Snapchance. Classic Aeshean black-powder pistol. About the size, shape and weight of a foot attached to a calf. Deals 2d6 damage on a hit. Takes a full minute to reload, and fires with disadvantage if you moved last turn. -1 to-hit for every 10 feet between you and the target.
A proper bullet gives a flat +1 to-hit, but you can load it with coins, shrapnel or crossbow bolts for no bonus.
- Black Powder. Comes in horns or kegs, you have a horn of it. The keg is probably as dangerous as a Fireball. Enough ink has been shed on this topic; I'm sure I don't need to explain how to use black powder in a game. 1 or 10 slots.
- Excellent Backpack. Every adventurer wears a backpack, but this one is really excellent. Allows you to carry two more items before becoming encumbered (not two more items total).
- Grapnel and 50' of rope. 1 slot each
- 40' of iron chain. 2 slots.
- A shortbow and a quiver with 20 arrows. 1 slot each.
- A wool cloak with a camouflage pattern of your choice. Options include: forest (green), desert (brown), ice (white and grey), sea (dark blue with green bits), sky (bright blue with white bits), city (cityscape), Hell (red and orange).
- A hammer and 10 eighteen-inch iron spikes. 1 slot each.
- A hand drill with a six-inch bit. Can make a hole in sedimentary rock in five minutes and igneous in half an hour. 1 slot.
- A flask that keeps hot things hot and cold things cold. Not magical, but if you suddenly produce a cup of steaming hot chocolate people might mistake you for an angel. 1 slot.
- A gleaming brass shield which can serve as a mirror. 2 slots.
- A stiff leather bag stuffed with straw, taller and broader than a man. Holding this below you lets you treat a fall as 20 feet shorter. 5 slots.
- A pair of manacles lined with gold. 1 slot.
- A pair of fashionable pincenez in an ivory sheath, which slightly (~1.15 times) magnify your vision.
- A book of famous poetry and quotations. Gorgeous leather binding, silk cover, perhaps an autograph from the poet.
- A small case of snake oil. The tinctures, ointments and potions inside have a 1-in-6 chance of healing 1 HP when applied. You could make 5d4 gp hawking this stuff on the sidewalk, or use it to impersonate a doctor. 2 slots.
- A golden candlestick. Worth 20 gp in good condition. Can be used as a light weapon against the undead, but it breaks on an attack roll of 1 and is only worth 5 gp as scrap. 1 slot.
- Red Powder. Comes in horns or kegs, you have a horn of it. This stuff is weaker than black powder, so weapons loaded with it deal two points of damage less, but it can fire when soaking wet, produces no smoke and is almost silent. The muzzle flash is lurid red and much brighter than that of normal powder. 2 or 20 slots (very heavy)
- A weird or inexplicable curio. Roll 1d6:
- 1. A locket with a lacquer portrait of an old woman. If you whisper a message into the locket and close it immediately, the message will be repeated in an old woman's voice the next time the locket is opened.
- 2. A crude bronze key, inscribed with eye-watering runes of evil import. The pagan magic of this key will seize up any mundane lock. They can then only be opened by the twin of this key — which, unfortunately, you do not own. It also doesn't make doors more difficult to bash down.
- 3. A polished piece of cobalt ore, which looks exactly like a closed fist from one angle.
- 4. A red ribbon with gold brocade. Three feet long, and at least four times stronger than iron chain.
- 5. An antimakassar with a map scrawled on it in blood. It isn't immediately obvious what it's a map of, but it has a big X mark and the words "GRAVEBORN SINNER HIDES THE GOLD 45 ½ AA"
- A bronze skull with an opening on the top. Twice as deep as it is tall. Occupies 1 slot in your inventory, 2 slots of items can be contained within it.