Tag Archives: modern horror

Drivin’ Devilian — Sigil & Shadow Session Report

DevilianIt’s January, 1985.
Two brothers are cruising the winding rounds near the Rocky Mountains.
One of them is Jason Devilian, a professional daredevil. The other: Craig, a deadbeat drifter who just happens to actually be dead. He now possesses his brother’s DeLorean DMC-12. Together, they travel the back roads of America, seeking out weird shit and making sure they’re not a problem for anybody.

Okay, not the strongest narrative, but it was an ad-hoc session where I had no idea what to expect from the players. The suggestion from one of them was Supernatural meets Christine meets Knight Rider. The idea to put it in the 80’s came at the last minute. I had to run with it — because the 1980’s means a significant lack of mobile devices, internet, or any quick reference and “know it all” mentality. It was perfect.

Jason Devilian is an Illuminated Keeper, which is a calling to make sure that everyday people don’t stumble upon the terrible secrets of the occult and supernatural. It’s a role suitable for your typical Men in Black or guardians of forbidden knowledge — for Jason, it mostly stemmed that he didn’t want anyone to find out his dead brother was still hanging around as a ghost.

Craig, meanwhile, is Afflicted — a character tainted by the shadow of Scorn. He has no damn idea why he’s hanging around, or even why he’s bound to his brother’s DeLorean. Even though he’s bound to the car, he’s free to leave it and pursue his own agenda. The problem is: being a ghost, he exists primarily in The Echo, the part of the netherworld that immediately reflects the physical world. This side of the world is filled with spirits and other beings in limbo. Though he can manifest briefly in our world, his only real anchor is the car itself.

Strange cars on the side of the road are never a good thing.

While dealing with treacherous weather on a slick, twisting road, the brothers pass by a car that appeared to skid off the highway and almost over a ledge. They stopped to check things out, finding the passenger missing although the belt was still buckled. Craig manifested for a moment to talk with his brother — until a mangled corpse fell from a tree, at which point he said “Oh shit” and vanished. While Jason tried to find some identification on the corpse, Craig immediately scoped the tree-tops out from the Echo. What he found was a horrific “owl-man-beast-thing” about to descend on his brother. He fled back to the car, where he revved up the engine, flashed the lights, popped open the doors and yelled “GET IN THE DAMN CAR!” through the radio speakers.

"So I look in the rearview mirror and see a RUSH album cover?"
“So I look in the rearview mirror and see a RUSH album cover?”

As Jason slammed the door shut, Craig put the metal to the metal and immediately blasted off down the slick and sleeted highway. Behind them, the “Owl-Man-Beast-Thing” rapidly flapped its wings in pursuit of the two. Jason leaned out a window, and unloaded his shotgun on the monster. It screeched, and immediately pulled up to fly away in the night.

You know it’s a small town when an old man works the graveyard shift at a gas station.

After the encounter with the “Owl-Man-Beast-Thing”, they veered off up the road into a small secluded town that I was too lazy to name. Jason filled up the car, and went in for nachos and an Icee. He hounded the old man working behind the counter for information related to massive owl creatures, and picked up the usual cliche’d yarns of a local monster told around campfires.

Craig, meanwhile, took a stroll away from the car. He found an empty storefront filled with shadow people, who nervously ducked away from him and seemed to cower from everything. He picked up quickly that these spirits were more manifestations of fearful feelings and dreadful emotions. Though simple in their discussion, he found out two interesting facts about the Owl-Man-Beast-Thing: one, it manifests physically at night, and returned to the Echo during the day. Two: it was summoned and kept by town leadership who wanted to scare outsiders away. After returning to the car and sharing this information with Jason, the two bros figured it was time to mess some stuff up in this town.

Things Escalated Quickly.

Craig: So who do you think summoned this thing?
Jason: I bet the mayor knows. Think the old man can tell us where he is?
Craig: I got an idea. Give me the shotgun, and stay behind me. 

Craig manifested long enough to march back into the gas station and raise the shotgun up at the old man, who immediately panicked and threw his hands up. This was a tactic to see if he was armed — as Craig disappeared, Jason stepped immediately behind him to grab the shotgun and continue holding the station attendant at gunpoint. The old man, scared for his life (especially after being confused by the sight of a man disappearing before his eyes) hit the panic button to call the only two on-duty cops in the town.

Jason grabbed the old man, and took him to the car, ordering him to show him where the mayor of the town lived. Meanwhile, Craig greeted the cops by phasing before the police car, causing them to slam the breaks (and spill coffee everywhere.) He then proceeded to lurk in the backseat of the cop car (being a ghost has its perks.) As the police drove up at the sight of a DeLorean blazing off into town, Craig then proceeded to manifest and paralyze the driver, causing him to stiffen up and continue to accelerate into the gas station. His partner tried to wrestle the hands from the steering wheel, only for me to roll a fumble and thus declare they drove into the gas pumps instead.

Spoiler Alert: The Mayor Didn’t Know.

But his wife sure did. Jason marched up to the front door of the mayor’s two-story house (the old man fled for his life), kicked in the door and proceeded to march in. Craig barely caught up in time to momentarily manifest and tell him to hold back while he scouted the upstairs. The wife could be heard hysterically calling the cops (who were occupied trying to get out of their car while gasoline was spewing all over.) Craig went upstairs to see that the mayor had pulled out a .357 magnum, and was waiting to ambush the perpetrator breaking into his house.

Craig proceeded to paralyze him as Jason walked in, grabbed his gun, and marched over to the mayor’s wife yelling at her to calm down. When the mayor regained control, Jason demanded to know who (or what) was responsible for the Owl-Man-Beast-Thing. The mayor had no damn clue what he was talking about, but Craig was willing to wager that the wife did — since she pulled out a candle, lit it, and began motioning her hands to conduct pyromancy.

Craig phased back into the real world, paralyzing the wife momentarily (allowing Jason to knock the candle out of her hand and out the window.) The mayor in that moment was horrified by seeing a ghost manifest out of nowhere, and crumbled into a catatonic state fearing for his life. That was about the time the wife snapped back, and grabbed the locket around her neck, muttering something in Latin and then being yanked out the window by Owl-Man-Beast-Thing.

The Fight was not pretty.

Craig manifested physically, leaped out the window, and attempted paralyze the Owl-Man-Beast-Thing. It was dramatic because Freebird came on the station we were listening to — and he failed miserably, plummeting to the ground and taking damage. Jason was barraged by the Owl-Man crashing through the window, and they both exchanged slashes and gun fire. Back outside, the Mayor’s Wife pulled out her lighter and began channeling her spells again. Craig ran back to the car, possessing it and revving it up. The witch attempted to fling fireballs at the DeLorean, but my dice sucked and nothing worked. Craig proceeded to send the car crashing through the white picket fence, and slamming into the witch at full speed.

Meanwhile, Jason unload a shotgun blast at close range (finally) into the Owl-Man-Beast-Thing, killing it and causing it to dissolve back into the Nether. Jason then dragged the bewildered mayor out of the house, then dragged his wife back in to the house. Craig set the place on fire, and they both fled back to the car to get the hell out of dodge.

Jason: So that was a thing.
Craig: Yeah… hey, I heard they’re making some movie about a time-traveling DeLorean.
Jason: Yeah, I saw that! That dude from Taxi is pretty damn funny.
Craig: We should go see it! I mean, we’re pretty much two tickets for the price of one anyway.

18780-300x239 (1)




Sigil & Shadow is in a free public play test. 

Sigil & Shadow: Seasoned to Flavor

A lot of folks ask what the mechanic differences between Sigil & Shadow and other d00Lite games are. The bulk of the mechanics are derived primarily from Covert Ops, with some of the fantastic from BareBones Fantasy sprinkled in. But I didn’t intend for S&S to be a mash-up of the two games with a new skin. I wanted things to have a certain ebb and flow to them, allowing the game’s pace to be optimal to my style of gaming.

moralityFor those who’ve never had the pleasure of indulging in DwD’s previous titles, here’s the hallmarks of the core system:

  • Percentile Based System — The core mechanic is about rolling under a percentile score, either against one of four ability scores (STR, DEX, LOG, WIL) or against a Skill (which the base half of the score is derived from half of an ability.) 00-05 always succeed, 95-99 always fail. Rolling doubles are critical success/failure.
  • Professions as Skills: The skills tend to use names that sound like classes in other RPG’s.
  • Multiple Action Economy: Performing multiple actions in a round is a big part of the game, but it’s handled rather elegantly: On your first action, you roll against your score as normal. Each additional action results in a cumulative -20 per action to the score (even if it’s against a different score.) Also, defensive actions (like dodging) also count as actions. So, all because you have a score of 100 or over and can make multiple attacks, you’re also stacking penalties for when you need to defend against others beating up on you!
  • Bones: being that the system is also known as the “BareBones” system. bones are the action point/luck/bennie economy of the game. The interesting factor is that you start off with a pool of these at character creation, and can permanently spend them to make certain key decisions which are usually determined by random rolls at chargen time.
  • Morality System: I think the d00Lite Moral Code system is my favorite alignment system. It’s a matrix where you select key moral aspects, and then rate it as somewhat, very or totally.

Here’s the big list of what separates S&S from the rest of the d00Lite family:

  • Design Goal: Players only need 2d10 to experience the whole game.
  • Character Creation: Lots more options for Bone expenditure to tweak the character. Ability scores are now 50+2D. Starting characters may take two skills at Level 1, receiving a third from either a Background or spending a Bone.
  • Castings: Characters fall under one of two alignments (Illuminated or Shaded), further divided into four castings. These archetypal roles determine what drives or burdens allow the characters to replenish their Bones during play.
  • Backgrounds: The core backgrounds are similar to Covert Ops, with mild tweaks. Backgrounds now also have a Monthly Allowance tied to them to determine funds the character has. There’s also Special Backgrounds, which are really weird and give strange little benefits to the character.
  • Skills: Skills have been flavored more as archetypes than professions. A lot of them have been condensed/streamlined compared to the original system. A “Socialite” skill has been introduced, replacing “Leader” which I felt was too crunchy and genre specific for this broader, more open ended title.
  • Equipment: Characters have a Monthly Allowance based on their background, and can pay a Lifestyle cost to cover their holdings such as home, vehicle, business and what kind of random belongings they may own. Characters still pick around 5 specific pieces of equipment (like weapons or equipment packs) to establish what they generally have on them at any time.
  • Weapon Damage: All weapons roll 2D, and are rated as Lowest, Average, Highest, or Total. Lowest and Highest means, well, lowest or highest die rolled. Likewise, Average is the average of the two, and Total is the sum of both. Unarmed is still 1D/2.
  • Body Points: All characters have a base BP of 20 points. The STR bonus for damage now also serves as bonus BP for the character.
  • Advantage/Disadvantage: Characters who have advantage roll their two dice, and uses the lowest in the tens place. Disadvantage, therefore, means the highest die is used in their tens place. This replaces a lot of circumstantial rolls that originally cut scores in half. For instance — being shot at without partial cover leaves defensive actions at a disadvantage, where originally in CO the character’s DEX score was cut in half.
  • Driving: Operating civilian vehicles are just a given, and any actions taken with a vehicle are based on the DEX ability instead of a skill. Those who want to pilot/drive more complicated vehicles can do so by taking a specified focus under the Technician skill. DEX is still used for piloting, but they’re considered to have operational and diagnostic training.
  • Manifestations: The Medium skill allows the character to acquire special powers. These powers are actually based on or inspired by the spells found in BareBones Fantasy. They are relatively scaled back in power, however, and the amount the character adopts is greatly reduced (two at first level, one again levels 3 and 6.)

Here’s what has been added:

  • Terror System: An optional system for fear and terror. Players encountering terror make WIL checks to resist being frightened, going temporarily insane, or traumatized to the point their Moral Codes shift! The table of effects rolled on uses the sum of 2D, putting the most extreme results on the lower end of a curve.
  • Gifts: A system of general powers and abilities that players can pick and choose from to flavor their own supernatural characters.
  • Occultist Magic: Comes in two forms — Rituals and Thaumaturgy. Both use the Academic skill (with Occultist focus). Rituals are slow, time consuming spells that either Illuminated or Shadowed characters may pick up and learn. Thaumaturgy, on the other hand, is spontaneous magic that uses a free-form system. Both spell systems are centered around the six Arcanum: The four elements (Fire, Water, Air, Earth) and the two fates (Life and Death). The elements include not only the literal forces, but the common tarot interpretations as well. For example: Fire is an element of emotions and passions, air is an element of the mind, and water is the element of illusions.Sound interesting? Then go download the play test and let me know what you think!

Sigil & Shadow: Public Play Test is LIVE!


It’s finally here! Click the above image to go the download page!


The play test is the game in its entirety right now — nothing purposefully left out. It’s no frills, but I did attempt to format it as best to my ability. Once we’re confident with the feedback, we will be pushing forward with a professional layout, original artwork, and filling the final product with more goodies. Stuff like a bestiary, a pre-made setting, and a starter adventure scenario are in mind. But until then — there is more than enough here to run many nights of adventure, mystery and horror.

Help Make this Game Awesome! 

I need more eyes reading it, and most importantly: I need more people playing it! Over the last year and a half I’ve had many fun sessions at my table with this title. But I want to know how others are using it!



Sigil & Shadow: October Update

Playing Catch Up on my Modern Horror RPG

Image by Vinoth Chandar Licensed CC-BY
Image by Vinoth Chandar
Licensed CC-BY

It’s been some time since I’ve given any public updates about the progress on Sigil & Shadow. I had the opportunity to play several sessions over the summer months, with each group bringing something different in the approach to the game. I had groups with all investigators, groups with mediums and wizards, mixed-bag monster hunters with both human and “creeper” characters, and one really gonzo all monster duo session.

Through these groups, we got to work out a lot of kinks. Stuff that needed tweaking, stuff that needed to be re-defined, and stuff that needed a Nerf-batting really hard. What started off as a mashup of BareBones Fantasy and Covert Ops with a modern-horror skin as evolved into its own thing — you can still see the foundation clear as day, but as a game it stands out quite a bit from its parents.

Some big examples:

  • Backgrounds play a bigger part: Backgrounds (taken from “Origins” in Covert Ops)  add a bit more to characters this time around. They still award perks like their CO counterparts, but they also determine starting income levels for the character. We’re also in the process of brainstorming “strange” backgrounds, which can be potentially rolled or purchased in addition to the normal backgrounds, which offer a weird gift or tie to the supernatural realm. Things like “Raised by a Cult” or “Seventh Child of a Seventh Child.” This was an idea proposed by one of our play testers, and I loved it!
  • Bones play a bigger part: Bones are an important mechanic in S&S. Just like in other d00Lite games, Bones are a sort of “luck” point that can be spent to give characters (yourself or others) a much needed boost.  Supernatural abilities, from the powers (or “Gifts”) creepers have to the powerful, free-form magic of Thaumaturgy, also use these points to enhance their effects.  The catch is: creepers (supernatural characters) don’t recover bones naturally like others do. Instead, they must indulge in the burdens of their Shades to replenish their pool. For instance: a Vampire (with the Ravenous shade) must feed off the blood of another to regain their bone points.Even if your character is just Illuminated (a term for the everyday men and women who’ve become aware of the supernatural world,) bone points are a big deal. At character creation, they’re used to cherry pick options (as opposed to rolling) as well as potentially acquiring new starting skills or improving your income levels. In play, a large pile of bones generally gives a “normal” character an upper hand when having to deal with forces both arcane and occult.
  • Streamlined damage system: One of the biggest departures from previous d00Lite titles is the new damage system. All damage is rolled with 2d10. The damage types are listed as: Low, Average, High, Total. “Low” is the lowest of the dice rolled, “Average” is the mean of the two, “High” would be the highest of the dice rolled and “Total” is both dice added together. It may sound a bit quirky, but in my tests at the table it’s really kept things moving. We’ve also tapered the Body Points a bit to a flat rating that may be slightly modified via an improved STR score.

Some Questions Answered:

How far along is the game? When’s it coming out?
If I had to stick a number on it, I’d say the game is about 80% finished. The current draft is a complete game in terms of mechanics, abilities, and tinker toys — but it lacks more flavorful things that DwD is known for: Broadstroke settings, random tables and guide lines to help a GM on the spot, etc. As for a release date, I’m afraid that answer is only “Not Yet.” The writing has been a labor of love on my part, with assistance coming from the small playtester team and Bill Logan when he has time. I will say that Bill and I intend to not rush this, especially now that we’re in the final parts of it, to ensure we deliver a solid product. Sorry if that drives ya nuts.

Is this a fan game/homebrew like your other stuff?
No. This is actually going to be a published, edited book through DwD Studios!

How is your game going to support (X Monsters)? What kind of setting is it?
The game broadly labels itself as “A BareBones Game of Modern Horror and Gothic Fantasy.” While we may establish some universal concepts for the implied setting (such as Creepers, the Illuminated, Shades etc.) it’s not a setting so much as it’s a toolbox for the GM to build their own. Instead of concrete definitions of what every vampire does or how every zombie behaves, we’re using a template system that can be used multiple ways: A GM, for example, may want to use their own mythologies. They can design their own creeper templates, with powers and curses, as sort of the “campaign standard” for their world. Flipside of that: a GM may openly encourage the players to design their own monsters. They can either used pre-generated templates, or use the guide lines to create their own unique spin.

This has been my design intention from the beginning. I’m a huge fan of horror and supernatural RPG settings. When I set out to develop S&S for DwD Studios, my goal was to create a flexible game that could be used for a variety of play styles: I have ran gritty, nihilistic Lovecraftian horror with this setup. I have run a ton of Buffy-inspired monster hunts. This game can swing from serious to silly, from dark to fantastic as much as you need it to. And if I don’t approach something the way you would like, that’s fine! I hope I at least give your a huge launch-pad to crank your own stuff out quickly. The game is going to be licensed under creative commons, and the guys at DwD are always eager to help people take their fan supplements to official material.

Does Sigil & Shadow have any tie in with Malevolent Domain, the recently announced Zombie Horror RPG by DwD?
Aside from maybe stealing a couple ideas from Bill in terms of mechanics, the two games are separate (although both using the in-house rules set.) Sigil & Shadow is all about occult mysteries and ancient shadow conspiracies against a backdrop of a naive modern society. Malevolent Domain, meanwhile, is more of a survival setting in the aftermath of a zombie virus outbreak. Being in the same rules system, there may be some overlap (and some great mashup ideas) but, ultimately, the two games are very different in tone and cater to different styles.

How much compatibility will S&S have with other DwD titles?
I’d say mostly compatible. The core percentile mechanics are the same, and most of the core rules found in BBF and CO will be seen here. That said, there are some noticeable changes.  I plan at release (or sometime close to it) putting out some cross over guidelines. Just know that, yes, you’d be buying another BareBones system game, but it is different from the others in a lot of ways.

I don’t have forever, and my game table is waiting! How can I get my hands on a play test draft?
Easiest way is to buzz me over Google Plus.
Alternatively, use the following form to email me. Please mention why you’re particularly interested in Sigil & Shadow, and what kind of feedback you plan on giving.