Mystery in Tenochtitlan – Demon of the Air by Simon Levack

Some time back, while on holiday I perused the sale books at a local shop. They were stacked high and generally held no interest for me. One light orange coloured spine caught my attention. It was a book called Demon of the Air, by Simon Levack.

I pulled it out and read the back:

INTRODUCING A NEW DETECTIVE TO RIVAL DIDIUS FALCO.

Mexico, 1517. The Aztec Empire.

The Emperor Montezuma rules by fear. Temples run with the blood of human sacrifice. In this brutal world a free man can sell himself into slavery. Escaping a troubled past, Yaotl has chosen to become a slave to the Chief Minister, Montezuma’s unscrupulous right hand man.

Strange things are happening. The sacrificial victim Yaotl was ordered to escort as leapt to his death, uttering sinister prophecies before the priests could cut out is heart. The emperor feels threatened. Mysterious strangers have appeared in the East. Visions disturb his dreams. His soothsayers cannot interpret them.

When the soothsayers vanish, Montezuma senses a connection with the bizarre suicide, and orders Yaotl to follow the trail – in defiance of his own master. What Yaotl uncovers will unlock nightmares form his own youth – and threaten the future of everything he knows.

The novel is fast paced with one event leading into the next. Simon Levack interweaves the here and now with commentary on Aztec culture that enhances the narrative. Add in occasional, well timed flashbacks and one has a winning formula for an interesting story that is difficult to put down. I am not a speed reader, yet even so I mowed through Demon of the Air in short order as I felt compelled to read “just one more chapter“.

The end of the novel is bittersweet. No, do not worry, not a spoiler. Rather I had thought this to be a standalone story, whereas I discovered that, while the story does reach a conclusion, it also leaves a number of threads leading into a sequel. I was overjoyed at the prospect of more Aztec action, but also apprehensive of the wait I will have to go through to locate a copy of the sequel.

Sequels as it turns out. Some mild research reveals that the author written three more novels in the Aztec series: Shadow of the Lords, City of Spies, Tribute of Death. I look forward to reading all of these.

In conclusion, I found Demon of the Air to be a fascinating journey into Aztec culture and would recommend it to a wide range of readers as a true example of merging unlikely genres and settings into a compelling finished product. The subject matter has been extensively researched which makes it all the more believable to read.

This was something completely different. I enjoy the occasional novel with a historic setting and one like this, set in a culture I have sparse, probably inaccurate, knowledge of was intriguing to say the least. I parted with some cash and took it home from my holiday, unread, for it to take up residence on my accrescent shelf of Books Awaiting Reading. Demon of the Air languished there, partially forgotten until a recent reorganisation revealed it. The fates had thrust this novel back into my hands. Who was I to argue with such an auspice?

Demon of the Air is Simon Levack’s first published novel. Set in Mexico preceding the imminent arrival of Spanish explorers or conquistadores such as Juan de Grijalva and Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, it presents a first-person account of life in Tenochtitlan through the eyes of a slave called Yaotl.

I have the Pocket Books paperback version of Demon of the Air, which weighs in at 413 pages*. The novel is no dry history, neither is it an alternate earth fantasy. Rather it is a murder mystery in a unique fascinating setting. The first few pages are dedicated to authors notes and some maps, thereafter one is immediately thrown into the action as Yaotl and a friend ascend the Great Pyramid, on their way to a sacrifice at the temple of the war god Huitzilopochtli.

I often find myself wearing a RPG game master hat when reading a book that engages me. I just cannot help thinking, “wow, what a cool idea” or “I am definitely using that next time we play” as I read. Sometimes I lie awake buzzing with ideas after reading an exciting story.

From a roleplaying perspective, Demon of the Air is a treasure trove of ideas. Tenochtitlan is a city like none other. Built on an island in the middle of a lake and bisected with canals, the possibilities for adventure and exploration may seem endless.

From a classic alternate earth RuneQuest III perspective, Aztecs should have been a fait accompli. There are accounts of such an Aztec supplement being considered in the Avalon Hill days. Alas talks about what could have been a radical supplement in its time never translated into anything material.

Reason enough for someone or a group of likeminded people with a passion for RuneQuest and Mesoamerican culture to publish a supplement.

For a detailed look at Avalon Hill’s RuneQuest III that does briefly touch on the Aztec theme, look no further than Michael OBrien’s detailed article on the subject at Black Gate.

* The book is technically 429 pages long but the last 16 pages are dedicated to the first chapter of the sequel: Shadow of the Lords.

Exanimate – Paradox Magazine

This is an ongoing series of articles discussing contemporary magazines which have ceased to exist.

Paradox Magazine was a speculative fiction publication edited by Christopher M. Cevasco that had a thirteen issue run. Their first issue was published in March 2003 while their final issue was published in April 2009, receiving a fitting eulogy at Back Gate Magazine.

The word paradox should be well known to most readers of speculative fiction and it is thus no surprise as to the existence, past and present, of other publications bearing this word in their title. The H.G. Wells Science Fiction Society of Romania publishes an inhouse magazine called Paradox, while a one off APA zine of the same name (formerly Just SF) was published in June 1982. Neither of these or any other publications with a similar name are covered within the ambit of this article.

The magazine’s speciality was more geared towards Alternative History, Period Tales, such as Arthurian, and Time Travel. i.e. Earth based as opposed to the otherworldly slant that often comes with traditional Fantasy and Science Fiction. Like many other similar publications, Paradox Magazine featured the occasional scholastic article, review and poem. One interesting differentiator was their substantial use of historic art, both on the cover and internally – an idiosyncrasy I quite liked.

I received my copy of Paradox Magazine issue 7 some years back, amongst an order of assorted back issues I was able to purchase from Neil Clarke, who publishes the successful Clarkesworld Magazine. As an indication of just how long this magazine languished on my Books to Read shelf, consider that Paradox Magazine was still an in print going concern when I received this specific issue!

The magazine has a glossy card cover in colour, depicting A Reading from Homer by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 – 1912). There is no artwork or other detail on the back cover. It is a standard sized “A4”, saddle stitched publication containing 56 pages of quality paper. Fiction in order of appearance is:

A Tear Like a Rainbow by Meredith Simmons. A tale of the US Civil War involving aerial reconnaissance through the use of lighter than air balloons and a young protagonist with a penchant for words starting with the letter i. Illustration by Roxell Edward Karr.

The Avowing of Sir Kay by Cherith Baldry . An Arthurian tale about Sir Kay, King Arthurs foster brother, seneschal and a Pentecostal vow. Illustration by Howard Pyle (1853 – 1911). While I recalled Sir Kay from various works of fiction and the movie Excalibur, this view of him was different to what I had expected. I enjoyed this story.

A Monument More Lasting than Brass by Steven Mohan, Jr. An Alt History tale about the first return to the moon, many years after a disastrous Apollo 11 mission failure. Illustration by Jeff Ward. The author of many BattleTech novels delivers a “what if” scenario on a cold war backdrop in the time of US president Reagan.

The Tiger Fortune Princess by the late Eugie Foster. This short work is set in China and involves the Empress Meiying and a curse placed upon her daughter, the princess Wen-Xiu. Illustration by Wu Guxiang (1848 – 1903). The story reads like a folk tale, quickly putting one in the mindset of a Chinese narrator telling the tale to rapt audience.

A Taste of Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick . This story takes the form of a letter written in the first person, detailing a horrific paranormal encounter. Illustration by Arthur Davis Broughton. The author is well published, and while I have not read any of her other works, it is my belief that A Taste of Ashes may fit within the universe of some of her works.

A Hand in the Stream by Darron T. Moore. Illustration by Jim Ordolis. This is a Time Travel piece about the leader of a team of time travellers from the future must return to a critical point in the past to collect certain objects of high value moments before they are destroyed, without of course causing any timeline continuity problems. The story flips between present and the main characters memories of certain events in her past. Enjoyable and quite credible in its context.

The Gods of Green and Gray by Paul Finch. A tale set in Roman occupied Britain, some years after the Romans quelled Boudicca’s revolt, this feature story takes up the final fourteen pages of the magazine. Illustrated by Allen Koszowski. This was my favourite story, although I freely admit my bias towards the subject matter. Well written with believable characters and a good mix of historic and fantasy elements, I could not put it down.

Other works include an essay titled Beyond the Barbarian: History in the Works of Robert E. Howard, by Patrice Louinet. If my experience reading and contributing at Black Gate Magazine has taught me anything, this would have been a perennial draw card.

Poems by Angelo Sphere (Prayer of Atigone) and the prolific Darrell Schweitzer (The Greatness of Scipio Aemilianus) are set amongst the various stories and advertisements, while regular departmental columns (editorial, book and film reviews and contributors’ biographies) round off the magazine.

I enjoyed the magazine, finding all the content to be well written and pertinent to the magazines by-line – “The magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction”.  If an opportunity to purchase other issues presents itself, I will definitely take it.

Badger Books – British Pulp Science Fiction from the 1950’s

Some time back, while scouring the shelves of a tiny book exchange, I came across a book tiled The Time Kings by JB Dexter. It was published in 1958 by Badger Books and contained 158 pages of small typeface on paper from the cheaper end of the publication spectrum. An old science fiction book from a budget publisher, I had to have it!

Information regarding Badger Books is pretty thin, limited to a Wikipedia page and what can be gleaned from the Internet Science Fiction Database (ISFDB). They were an imprint of John Spencer & Co, London, who started out in 1947 selling pulp style magazines before branching out into budget paperbacks in the 1950’s.

The Badger Books imprint started out in 1954 with a number of books entitled Supernatural Stories which, apart from a detective story: Assignment in New York by Mike Lantry (E.C. Tubb), was the predominant theme of their publishing schedule until 1958, when they started to branch out into science fiction. Their first book in their SF series was The Waiting World by R. Lionel Fanthorpe.

The Waiting World by R. Lionel Fanthorpe. Cover artist unknown.

During the course of the following decade Badger Books published science fiction and supernatural books on a near weekly basis at their peak, with a handful of authors using various pseudonyms churning out quantity reading matter. They also covered, at a lesser volume, other genres such as romance, westerns and war.

My modest collection

The cover artwork is quite enticing, with shiny spaceships featuring prominently to engage the readers sense of wonder. Earlier novels had covers by a range of artists, including some prominent names in the field. By 1961 Henry Fox had become the principal cover artist for Badger Books, with most covers thereafter attributed to him.

The mid to late 1960’s were not good times for the pulp industry in general. Many magazines and budget book publishers were affected, on both sides of the Atlantic. Badger Books was no exception and they ceased publication in 1967.

Clear signs of wear on these vintage books. Space Void cover by Ed Emshwiller, Doomed World by Carlo Jacono, other artists unknown.

South Africa has in the past tended to import most of our English language published matter from the UK, so it is not surprising that Badger Books do turn up occasionally. These books are becoming something of a rarity, having been published with no mind for longevity. As with many such pulp publications, many may have simply fallen apart or have been thrown away along with other old read magazines and comics.

My own small collection barely scratches the surface of the 118, or 227 if you include the supernatural line, published. Hunting for these books in exchanges, markets and second-hand shops can prove quite exhilarating especially when one finds a new sample to add to a collection. If you see one, give it a try. It may well be the work of a hack churning out words to meet a deadline, but could as easily be a hidden, long forgotten gem.

Crimson Planet cover by John Richards, the rest could be by Henry Fox
By this time Henry Fox was doing most covers, although none of these are attributed to him at ISFDB.

The Orc Gathering

Some humans experience the fun, filth and fury of an orc gathering. This is a description of the gathering and does not detail and specific role playing events.

From a distance it looked like a plan filled with bushy terrain that stretched on towards the horizon. Details became clearer as they neared, movement could be discerned on the plain. Cresting the brow of a small hill, there was a sharp intake of breath as the vista before them came into view.

They had been looking past the low hill – more a high area on otherwise flat landscape than a true hill – regarding what could be seen on the following, distant incline. Before them, across could be loosely referred to as a valley, the land was blanketed wit a moving mass or orcs.

The orcs thronged like ants, moving apparently randomly amongst tents, fires, livestock and wagons. What few trees may have previously been resent on the plain had long since disappeared to be used for shelter or firewood.

The noise, smell and energy of the great orcish gathering washed over them as they neared. They noted that the odd human merchant had set up for business on the periphery, risking life and livelihood for the chance of trading with the orcs for their (often plundered) gold. They received looks and grunts of greeting or challenge as they entered the periphery and began to make their way into the gathering proper, but for the most part they were left alone. Any serious challenge to orc safety had been met and dealt with leagues away, before the gathering proper began. A small band of humans posed no threat to what appeared to be thousands of orcs. Any larger threat that may approach the gathering would have been dealt with the none too friendly orcs who had pulled patrol duty.

“No boasting rights may be claimed for killing at a gathering. Orcs adhere to a special truce at their gatherings. Humans at an orc gathering are the safest humans in all Gaia.” They repeated these words like a mantra, desperately calling upon whatever gods may be listening to uphold their truth.

Yet their sources appeared to be correct. While here they could still die at the hands or an orc, the changes of dieing at the hands of the same orc elsewhere were considerably higher. They watched the orcs fight, feast and fornicate with equal enthusiasm as they walked unmolested amongst those violent people.

Slowly they made their way inward, accepting the an ale here, or an offer to gamble or wrestle there, all the time learning more about orc culture and language. Hours spent here would teach them more about orcs than they could learn in years of pouring over dusty scrolls and tomes in great libraries of Chakar and Draskor.

Though most knew of, had met and spoke the language of the plentiful Darketa, or even the vicious, aloof Nar-Haaz, few knew of the Mâal. It was now that they marked members of this third nation of orcs, this sub species who hailed from the far south, making their home among the great southern peaks. The Mâal they saw looked at them in a way that chilled their human souls and reminded them just how precarious their situation was.

The wiry, mottle skinned Mâal sneered and spat at them and thought not verbalised, the looks on their faces threatened death. A drawn out painful death for sure if you were to become their prisoner a passing Darketa explained helpfully, laughing at their own joke. Fortunately most of the Mâal who were in attendance had congregated to the far southern side of the gathering and kept to themselves for the most part.

For that matter the Darketa and Nar-Haaz did not appear to socialise much with the Mâal. Darketa and Nar-Haaz also kept mostly to their own kind, but tended to mix better with each other when occasion permitted.

It started to rain. A steady summer downpour that continued into the night. Filth that had lain on the ground or in shallow trenches washed together into rivulets as the rain cleansed the field. Rivulets fed streams that became choked with filth which they disgorged into bigger streams and rivers which all headed west, down an indiscernible gradient and would eventually empty into the Sylmar river. River fish choked on water fouled with the effluent of twenty thousand orcs, but as the rain continued to fall and the cess trenches washed clear, fresh water entered the rivers and the fish breathed again.

Through the night and rain the orcs fought, fornicated and feasted. Bonfires spat and sizzled as all manner of beasts were roasted on them. A vast bonfire, ten times the size of any other was visible towards the centre of the gathering. They heard talks of the great beast roasting there: A dragon said some, a stoorwyrm said others. The tale of whom and how it was slain changed with each telling.

The orcs fought, feasted and fornicated. Their fighting was not usually lethal, and not always physical. They boasted and haggled, argued, wrestled and brawled in the mud. At times one would need to look twice to see if two orcs rolling in the mud were wrestling or fornicating. The concept of privacy and tents among orcs, although understood, were not always contextualised together. While an orc may use his tent to keep his armour and sword dry from the rain, or conclude a sneaky deal out of the eyes of his fellow orcs, he or she would fuck in public so as to make it easier to refresh their beer, boast of their prowess and speak to their mates at the same time.

As the night progressed and became an even more drunken orgy than the day had been most of them received sexual proposals from various orcs. Food was plentiful and willingly shared, with the smells of freshly roasted meat mingling with spicy stews bubbling in cauldrons and oneesha bread baking over low fires.

By morning the rain had slowed to a light drizzle. While masses of hung-over or still drunken orcs milled about, others could be seen oiling weapons and muscles. The few humans traders who had come to the gathering had long since departed with heavy purses and empty wagons. Slowly the populace began to make its way west, towards what appeared to be a small copse of trees still left standing. Beer still flowed. Spilled wine looted from Sylmar valley farmers ran in red rivulets between their feet as they joined the orcs making their way west, winding between tents, horses and comatose orcs.

Food was still plentiful and it was easy to slice a snag off of a cooling roast, or appropriate a mostly un-gnawed haunch or if not careful, find oneself eating a spicy mouth burning stew out of a scooped out hunk of hard oneesha bread – the consequences not fully understood until later.

The copse of trees was not what it had appeared to be from a distance. An orc made quadrant of raised earth was flanked on three sides by the “trees” which now that they were closer, could be seen to be a myriad of war banners on long poles. The western side of the quadrant which was furthest from them was empty of banners. The banner poles were made of various materials, though mostly wood some were of bone and some even of bronze and whale ivory. Each banner represented a specific clan, while each side of the square, barring the empty western side, represented a specific nation of orcs, Nar-Haaz on the north, Darketa on the east and Mâal on the south.

This was the square, the main reason for the orc gathering. The place where the three nations put down their weapons and met in peace to boast, affirm alliances and feuds, demonstrate skill at arms and make orc policy. The gathering was a rare occurrence, few orcs saw one, a very small number ever saw two.

They were of a select small group, daring, human and perhaps very stupid. They were of a fraction of a percentage of humans ever to behold the wonder of an orc gathering – in all its fun, filth and fury.

This article was originally published on VI April MMIX

Melee Weapons

A list of alternative or out of ordinary melee weapons and their statistics for RuneQuest play.

Pilum

The pilum was actually a heavy javelin used by the Roman legions. Later on, variants were developed for melee use. The melee pilum was made out of wood and was shorter (1,83 meters) that the missile pilum. Its primary use was to thrust at the enemy from ramparts and to create pickets. Some versions were sharpened on both ends. For ease of play, the melee versions statistics have not been altered here.

Ikilwa

A short hafted stabbing spear invented by Shaka Zulu. It has a broad iron blade and short wooden haft. Similar in purpose to a gladius, vis-à-vis, to get in close to ones enemy and draw him into single combat, thereby forcing him away from his formation. The broad blade leaves a nasty wound but, being made of iron, is not too strong against metal armour.

Cestus Maximus

A combination of the heavy cestus and the fighting claw. Allows the wearer to pack more weight behind their fighting claw, thereby doing more damage. Also gives the user the advantage of their melee weapon having armour points.

Chompers

A set of oversize metal jaws inset with steel canines. Fitted tight over the jaws of the wearer and secured with leather straps around the back of the head, the real and metal jaws move in sequence. A biting action will produce an exaggerated mirror action from the chompers. Chompers have no practical every day use, but can have great intimidation value in battle, especially when forming part of an imposing helm or mask. Chompers are mostly used in the fighting pit.

Spatha

A roman cavalry sword, similar to the gladius but longer.

Jawbone Sword

Inspired by a Dark Ages Miniature. This sword is a partially modified jawbone of some great reptile or fish. It bristles with razor sharp teeth down its curved length and can be deadly when used against an unarmoured/soft armoured foe.

Dark Ages Miniatures – Crocodile Warrior with Jaw Sword

Razor Nails

Razor sharp steel blades, manufactured to look like a cats claws. They are usually half a centimeter high at the base and half again as wide, narrowing down to a needle point over their 3 centimeter length. Blunt down their convex back, their concave inner is usually extremely sharp. Inferior quality versions come as uniform rings which slip over the end of the wearers fingers, or embedded into a leather glove. Razor nails of a high craftsmanship have been known to come in many forms, the most exquisite being set into a series of rings, one for between each finger joint. The blades (blunt for areas that ride against the finger) have stretched all the way across the back of the hand where they have proceeded to merge into a jeweled, but sturdy bracelet. Each blade has been tailored for the finger it is to slip on, with the thumb blade being thicker and stronger, to allow for an effective scissoring effect with the finger blades. Clearly these items are not meant for battle against armoured foes, but rather as subtle but effective weapons for high ranking ladies, sorcerers and other people who would cringe from having to carry a dagger or sword. Due to the small amount of damage that razor nails can inflict, they are often poisoned to enhance their lethality.

Toe Ring

Originating from India, this device slips over the big toe. A sharp, 5 centimeter barb protrudes from the ring at an angle. A practiced kick can have the often poisoned barb strike an enemy with all the force of the wearers leg. toe rings were often used in gladiatorial type combat, where the combatants did not have much protection in the way of armour.

Trident

A heavy three pronged fork, used as a two handed weapon.. Similar to a spear in that it can be thrown, but is usually used in melee situations. Looks like I should read my RQ material more closely. just realized they have stats for Trident and Combat Net in the Monster Coliseum supplement. The Monster Coliseum Trident is a one handed weapon. For the sake of RQ rules consistency, the tridents are listed under the spear weapon category.

Combat Net

From the Monster Coliseum supplement. Full rules for ensnaring etc are given in the Monster Coliseum.

CategoryWeapon DamageSTR/DEXENCBS%ArmourSRPrice
Spear, 1HPilum1D6 + 19/72.005102125
Spear, 1HIkilwa1D86/81.5076260
Spear, 1HTrident1D6+19/72.00592125
Spear, 2H Trident1D12+29/112.005131175
FistCestus Maximus1D4+211/91.5153170
FistRazor Nails1D24/50.1153100+
FootToe Ring1D35/110.115370
HeadChompers1D4+18/90.2103150
SwordSpatha1D6+17/101.010102150
SwordJawbone Sword1D127/131.0105240
NetCombat Net1D4*12/103.00.561150

* A successful attack will ensnare the target, as long as targets SIZ is 20 or less. Ensnared targets can escape by Ripping Free (match STR vs. Nets STR {usually 2D6 +14, depends on quality and purpose}), Cutting Free (awkward, GM’s discretion to be used), or Burning the Net (if it can be set alight – the target may also get burned in the process). Dodging vs. Net is done at a -10 due to the Nets effective area. Successful parries will lead to the parrying weapon/shield and the arm using it becoming ensnared.

Shields and Armour

This article lists a few shields that were not defined in the original RuneQuest 3rd Edition rules.

Scutum

The RQ III rules refer to the large, heavy rectangular shield used by Roman legionaries as a hoplite shield. This is incorrect, the shields name is a scutum.

Soldiers bearing pre Marian scutum

Thebe/Isihlangu

A large cow hide shield favored by many Southern African tribes. Thebe is the Sotho word for this shield, Isihlangu the Zulu version.

These are not a one size fits all shield style. Each nation has its own distinct design and usage. Only two of many nations’ signature shields are mentioned here, more by way of evidencing the differences, rather than similarities.

The thebe shield is quite small and would act much like a target shield in terms of RuneQuest rules. It has an interesting shape with a broad upper portion to provide torso coverage form missiles.

Sotho warrior with thebe shield

The isihlangu shield is possibly more universally familiar due to the well published accounts of Zulu warriors and their battles with other tribes and later with the British. This oval shaped shield is often as tall or sometimes even taller than the warrior that carries it. Widest at the middle, it tapers to a point at each end. It is usually slightly convex, to allow missiles and poorly thrust weapons to glance off. The concavity on the bearers side can be used to store items such as weapons and rations. They are made by stretching cow hide over a light wooden frame. Due to their size and relatively light weight, the shields can be used to form shield walls, testudo or phalanxes. They will effectively cover the legs, torso and shield arm in combat. In fact it will cover the whole body if the user crouches behind it, but the combatant will have to expose head, part of chest and weapon arm to strike. As a result it is very effective when seeking cover from missile weapons.

In terms of RuneQuest rules, coverage may be best likened to a kite or scutum shield, although due to size perhaps more body areas may be covered. The shield would still be relatively light, not carry too many AP, but at the same time create a degree of encumbrance due to its size.

Zulu warriors with their isihlangu shields

Occupations

Alternative occupations for RuneQuest 3rd edition.

Medicine Man

An alternative to the Shaman Occupation.

Medicine Man, Primitive
Some adventurers do not have the skills or desire to become a shaman. Alternately, their tribe may Frown upon magic. A healer with plant knowledge and skill in setting broken bones is still a basic necessity in a primitive tribe. Medicine men also take on the roll of tribe historian/story teller in many cases. To this extent, a medicine man may even exist alongside a shaman in bigger tribes.

Skills: Throw x 1, Orate x 2, Sing x 2, Speak own language x 1, Animal lore x 1, Plant lore x 3, Human lore x 3, Mineral lore x 1, Read/Write own language x 1 (Pictograms/paintings), First aid x 3, Listen x 2, Devise x 1, Search x 2, Fist attack x 1, Dagger attack x 1, 1H spear or club attack x 1, Dodge x 1.
Magic: 1D3-1 points at 15 years of age plus 1 point per every 10 years or part thereof.
Equipment: Cultural weapons, knife, gourds, fire maker, fur and leather clothing, sack with herbs and medicines, drawing charcoal, wax and trinkets/totems to the value of 10 pennies.

Nomad Trader

Nomads also need to trade.

Trader, Nomad
Some nomads tribes trade goods with the people whose lands they travel through. This is usually the forte of each individual Tribesman, but in larger or more organized tribes, there occasionally arises a quick tongued person who can specialize in making a quick profit. Nomad traders will often be asked to make profitable deals on behalf of their other tribesmen. Be that selling the crafters wares or procuring a pretty bride for their chieftain.

Skills: Ride x 2, Throw x 1, Fast talk x 3, Orate x 1, Speak own language x 3, Speak other language x 2 (or speak 2 other languages x 1 each), Evaluate x 3, First aid x 1, Human lore x 3, Read/Write other language x 1, Conceal x 1, Sleight x 2, Devise x 1, Scan x 2, Fist attack x 2, Dagger attack x 2, 1H Weapon attack x 1 or missile weapon x 1, Dodge x 3. Magic: 1D3-1 points at 15 years of age plus 1 point per every 10 years or part thereof.
Equipment: Leather clothing (1-point protection), 1 item fine clothing or armor, knife, dagger, water skins, fire maker, 50m rope, riding animal, 2 sacks and assorted trade goods worth 150 pennies, 20 pennies in assorted coin.

Serving Wench

Who else is going to serve the ale and take the abuse of a taverns patrons. Conan the barbarian must have made many serving wenches rich in his time.

Serving Wench, Civilized
Most every tavern in civilized lands employ women to serve their patrons. Serving wenches are clever gatherers of information, friendly company or comely redistributors of wealth. Many a drunken adventurer has lightened his purse considerable in the company of a buxom serving wench. Serving wenches often endure their somewhat demeaning employment while they await a chance to enter a more exciting or rewarding occupation. Although this occupation is aimed principally at female characters, there is no reason why a male character cannot perform its functions. E.G.: In a tavern frequented by amazons.

Skills: Throw x 2, Fast-talk x 3, Orate x 2, Speak own language x 1, Speak other language x 2 (or Speak two other languages x 1 each), Human lore x 3, Plant lore x 1 or World lore x 1, Evaluate x 3, First aid x 2, Conceal x 2, Sleight x 4, Listen x 1, Scan x 1, Fist attack x 2, Kick x 2, Grapple x 1, Dagger attack x 4, Dodge x 2, Throwing knife x 2. Magic: Roll D100 for the magic system available to the adventurer. Do not change magic system before play begins.

01 – 75
Divine Magic: Your adventurer’s parents worship the ruling god (see Divine Magic chapter of the Magic book). Your adventurer can automatically become an Initiate of that god, whether or not she has a positive magic skills modifier (see Civilized Initiate occupation). She will then receive both Initiate and normal occupational experience.

76 – 00
Sorcery
: Your adventurer receives 1D3-1 sorcery spells at age 15, plus one additional sorcery spell for every 5 years or fraction thereafter. She also receives Intensity x 1 or Ceremony x 1 or World lore x 1, Enchant x 1 or Summon x 1and spells x 2 (allot the percentiles among known spells as desired).
Equipment: Linen and wool clothing, Scanty costume, knife, bronze dagger, fire maker and tinder, 2-hour candle, sack, bottle of spirits, wineskin (full), blanket, 30 pennies in coin, assorted jewelry worth 200 pennies.

Skills

Many new skills can be thought up. Some are suggested in the Deluxe rules, such as Scout (Terrain). Vis-à-vis a character who served as a soldier in mainly forest areas, may have learned how to scout in forest terrain. Thus his scout skill would be pretty useful for a party sneaking through the forest, but of little use in the desert. New skills are listed here as they are thought up.

Acrobatics

CATEGORY: Agility
BASE: 05%

Acrobatics Agility 05% The special ability to perform and acrobatic feat. Acrobatics is more advanced than simply jumping or dodging, it is a skill that takes a large amount of training to learn. Acrobatic feats can be used for entertainment (tumbling), in other, more stealthier activities (burglary) or even in combat. It should be the GMs discretion to call for an Acrobatics roll where a situation dictates that a simpler skill (such as Jump) may not suffice.

Insult

CATEGORY: Communication
BASE: 05%

In times gone by, a good insult was a prerequisite to any battle. No warrior worth his salt would deign to enter battle without severely insulting his enemies. A skilled insulter need not speak the language of the person he is insulting – body language and crude gestures can convey much. A successful insult roll can demoralize a foe (He only attacks at half his normal skill – See Demoralize Spririt Magic spell). Of course, a taunted foe can resist using his own Insult skill – A skilled insulter will be able to take what he gets.

Rope Tricks

CATEGORY: Agility
BASE: 10%

Rope tricks refers to the ability to work with rope, twine or similar items. This includes tasks such as tying knots as well as performing certain tasks with a rope – for example: tying a knot in one end of a rope and throwing it to hook a prison guards keys. Clearly this must be an agility skill, rather than manipulation as tying knots would otherwise work under a boat skill and most rope tricks involve some sort of throwing. This skill does not surmount specialist rope skills, such as using a net or rope lasso.

Row

CATEGORY:Agility
BASE: 00%

Row referrs to the ability to handle an oar on a large oar powered ship, such as on of the many configurations of galley or a viking long ship. A rower has to work in unison with other rowers and thus the skill is much more involved than that of handling a simple boat or canoe. Rowing is a profession that can pay well at times. On a galley, the crew and marines rely on rowers to keep them afloat and bring them in range of enemy shipping. A row check will usually be made when a specific skilled task is performed, such as ramming, or in other high stress situations.

Meditate

CATEGORY: Knowledge
BASE: 00%

This ability allows a character to increase the number of Fatigue Points gained during a period of rest by mentally blocking out all stress-causing factors. A successful roll means 1d3+1 Fatigue Points will be regained per round. One round, during which no roll is allowed, is required to obtain the proper frame of mind. A new roll is required each time the character wishes to ignore an interruption. Coming out of meditation is instantaneous. While meditating, all Perception rolls receive a 20% penalty. Note: This skill is published with thanks to David Smart from the RuneQuest Rules List. It is a house rule he has used for a long time so cannot vouch entirely for whether it is original or based on an idea from elsewhere.

RuneQuest Resources

Quick Roll Up Guide

The RuneQuest III rules assume that a character starts working at 15 years of age. Therefore his or her skills are based on the years in an occupation after that age.

Herewith a quick reference for rolling up new characters:

  1. Decide what Age, Sex and Culture you character will be.
  2. Decide what the characters parent’s occupation is.
  3. Decide if your character remained in his parents occupation until his current age, or whether he tried other occupations
  4. If your character tried other occupations, decide the periods in each. Remember at least a year must be spent to accumulate the skills allocated by that occupation. Remember that equipment obtained in occupations is not cumulative
  5. Apply the formula: Age x Multiplier + Base + Modifier. Where Age is Age – 15 years (if you stayed in your parents occupation), or the number of years in an occupation (per occupation), Multiplier is the multiplier given by an occupation, e.g.: Throw x 3, Base is your base ability, e.g.: Agility = 3 and Modifier is the skill modifier if applicable, e.g.: First Aid (10) vis add 10.
    NB: Check the cultural weapons table when allocating weapon skills as the modifier’s can differ from the standard weapons table.

Modifiers
Character skills are split up between several self-explanatory categories:

  • Agility
  • Communications
  • Knowledge
  • Perception
  • Manipulation
  • Stealth
  • Magic

Each of these categories is used to modify a skill within that category. This modifier can be increase or decrease an overall skill and is worked out from a character’s basic statistics as per the following formula:
PRIMARY: Statistic minus 10. Thus if STR is 17 its PRIMARY will be +7. Note that negative results remain negative, vis-à-vis a STR of 8 will produce a PRIMARY of -2.
SECONDARY: Statistic minus 10, divide the result by 2 and round total up. From the above; STR is 17, its SECONDARY would be 4 IE: (17-10)/2. Negative results will remain negative.
NEGATIVE: Statistic minus 10. Insert a minus sign in front of result. From the above; STR is 17, its NEGATIVE would be -7. Note that is the result is already negative, adding a minus sign will make the result positive. From the above; STR is 8, its NEGATIVE would be +2.

Note: Try not to confuse NEGATIVE with its mathematical meaning, as the results of a formula may contradict its strict meaning. IE: A NEGATIVE formula may have a positive result.

These formula are applied for a reason; to create realistic characters. A huge (SIZ 18) clumsy (DEX 7) character will not have a decent Stealth modifier, in fact his Stealth will likely be a minus. thus a player should be careful with how characters statistics are applied. The best way is to have an even mix where a good statistic will negate any bad statistic while applying the formula.

Remember that a characters Agility modifier is applied to his or her weapons attack skill while the Manipulation modifier is applied to the Parry skill. Thus if a character plans to do any fighting (usually an unavoidable happening in Rune Quest), it would be helpful to have decent modifiers for these Categories. Remember too that Dodge (sometimes the last hope of savings a characters skin) is and Agility based skill.

Downloadable templates I created for RuneQuest 3rd edition some years ago.

CHARACTER SHEET

I have never been satisfied with the basic characters sheets offered by most old school RPG’s. A single page, while handy as a starting point, was never sufficient to contain all the details required for a decent three dimensional character.

This enhanced sheet is based on a friends basic design concept, which I subsequently re imagined to fit my own style.

GM Log

A simple two page document that can be used to assist Game Masters keep track of characters in an adventure.

NPC Card Template

This document provides a template for NPC cards. These tarot size items can be completed and then cut out, with the reverse folded back.

They can provide a useful way to have a pool of prepared NPC’s ready for any eventuality. It is also handy to have some blanks available for NPC’s who crop up on the fly.

GM Shield

A bit old school, but can be a useful resource. Six pages of RQ3 tables which can be printed and glued to a cardboard backing to create a handy quick reference for GM and players.

Six Barbarians

Using the RuneQuest NPC card template I created six random barbarian personalities.

Sever Spirit

This spell was mentioned on page 18 of the Gamemaster Book (RQIII AH version) but was never published in the Magic Book. Details are transcribed from Heroes Magazine Vol 1 No 6 . Republished here as a service to RuneQuesters who do not have access to the magazine in question.

Avalon Hill Heroes Magazine. volume 1 Number 6 cover

Sever Spirit

3 points
Ranged
Instant, non-stackable, reusable
War God

This spell acts as a sword to cut the bond between body and spirit of the target. The user must make a successful magic points verses magic points roll. If successful, the target dies. If unsuccessful, the target takes 1D6 damage to his general hit points, with effects similar to poison damage.