“I loved it when one day a player of mine said, “I polymorph myself into a troll and run out into the street after the thief.”
Another player said, “Dude, you can’t go out there like that!”
And the first player replied, “Don’t worry about it! This is Ptolus — they see this stuff all the time.”
I knew then that the first player really got Ptolus.”
– Monte Cook, A Player’s Guide to Ptolus
The thing that intrigues me most about Monte Cook’s Ptolus setting is that everything is driven by the Rules As Written of D&D 3rd Edition.
As my poison of choice is Savage Worlds, one of the things I shall be exploring in Irongrave is: What does a Savage Worlds setting look like if the conceits of the setting are the conceits of the Rules As Written? This will be my focus for the next few Savage Saturdays.
The first thing that springs to mind is the split between Wild Cards (PCs and major NPCs) and Extras (mooks and cannon-fodder). In the setting, people will know this, and might know which they are. This calls to mind the Bene Gesserit of Dune, who sift people to find the true humans, and the Birthright D&D setting.
There’s a third category, Allies – Extras (or possibly Wild Card NPCs) who are attached to the PCs. They differ from normal Extras in having a chance to “level up” after adventures. Some Wild Cards can also share power effects or bennies with their allies.
In-game, the best ways to tell whether someone is a Wild Card are to cast Fear on them (Extras always Panic, Wild Cards may Panic but usually do something else instead) or to injure them seriously (Wild Cards keep going after Extras have been incapacitated).
WHAT EVERYONE KNOWS
- Most people (and other beings) are ordinary.
- Some people – the Chosen – are inherently stronger, tougher, faster, smarter, and luckier than others. However, they are not invulnerable or immortal, nor is any race or social class favoured; anyone could be Chosen.
- There is no infallible way to tell whether someone is Chosen or not; the most reliable predictor is how they respond to terrifying situations or severe injuries.
- The best way for an ambitious but normal person to improve themselves is to ally themselves with one of the Chosen.
- The worst monsters (vampires, dragons etc.) are Chosen.
- If you want something important done, you use the Chosen to do it. They are more likely both to survive and to succeed. Over time, therefore, the Chosen have come to dominate positions of power.
- Scars and a reputation for courage command respect. Improbable survival in the face of wounds, or exceptional courage, are good indicators that you are Chosen.
- If you want to know whether someone is Chosen or not, you subject them to a series of terrifying experiences (much less likely to kill them than injuries). The ones who do something other than Panic are Chosen; most Chosen identified by this method have phobias or some mark of fear such as white streaks in their hair. However, some of the Chosen go berserk under stress, so the tests are best administered from a safe distance.
- If you are not Chosen, but still ambitious, you try to find one of the Chosen and join his or her retinue; your chances of glory, gold and increased prowess are much higher. Of course, your chance of dying horribly is much higher too.
- If you become well-known as one of the Chosen, you may start to attract normal people as retainers. These will be motivated by ambition, greed, or glory.
All of this leads naturally into a discussion of the pantheon – who Chooses these people, and why? That needs a bit more thought.