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The Profane WYRD by Copper State Games
The Profane WYRD by Gabe Rivera of Copper State Games is billed as “A delightfully dreadful companion and rules expansion for WYRD.” If you’re not familiar with WYRD, read my previous entry on the system to familiarize yourself with some of the following terms.
For this review I’m reading the ashcan edition of The Profane WYRD, which has some charming public domain art on the interior, an interesting and fitting cover, and a logical but simple layout.
The book itself is divided into three sections. The first is the rules section that adds some more procedure to the WYRD framework. The second section is fifteen adventure seeds with encounter tables. The third section is a list of WYRD items that can be dropped by the “great boss” enemies of the aforementioned adventure seeds.
The book begins with its rules expansions, which add some classic OSR rules and procedures to the WYRD framework while not bogging it down with needless rigidity. The Skill Checks section gives a lightning fast mechanic for making skill checks against a difficulty rating (DR), as well as suggestions for DR thresholds. Since WYRD calls attributes “skills,” the GM may want to rename them to attributes or call The Profane WYRD’s skills “abilities.” Gabe also gives some suggestions for how to incorporate these skiils into WYRD character creation and/or progression. Emergent skill acquisition, as part of advancement, or as part of creation are all suggestions. I like the idea of spending gold for this type of advancement, as some of the following adventure seeds can leave the party flush with money on a success.
After skill checks, Gabe introduces random encounters. He says to roll a d6 at every 30 minutes of in-game time and consult the general encounter table. There is no other mention of time, so this is up to the GM to decide. However, I think the conceit of “every 30 minutes” gives the GM a rough idea of how to pace dungeons or adventure sites.
The encounter table, a d6, begins with an encounter where the GM rolls 2d6 on the adventure seed’s monster encounter table in the first monster column to see what the players must face. The next two entries are no encounter. The fourth entry is spoor—more on this shortly. If Spoor is rolled, roll 2d6 on the encounter table and read the second column, “Spoor,” to see evidence of the next monster that will appear in an encounter. The fourth is avarice—the next encounter yields extra loot! The last is ruin, meaning the party gets held up by a difficult-to-navigate section of dungeon.
Gabe’s use of “spoor” here is VERY cool. Spoor is the term for an animal’s scent or tracks; it is how trackers or hunters can determine the last known location of an animal. However, as you will see in the adventure seeds, “spoor” is used in much more creative ways.
Quests of Glory & Scorn is a little more abstract of a rule, but I think the idea is that if a party goes against the conceit of a Reputation Adventure (e.g. an adventure for Disdain or Renown) they can earn what is basically like 5e’s “inspiration,” a pool of points to use towards rolls. However, since attaining this benefit can have in-game effects, the pool of points is permanent, refilling every session.
The last part of this first section is a paragraph explaining the book’s WYRD items, a d66 table of items that can be obtained by defeating a Great Boss in the following adventure seeds
The second and largest section of the book is the adventure seeds. There are fifteen adventures total. Five of “any notoriety;” five for “Renown,” going from one rank to five ranks; and five for “Disdain,” going from one rank to five ranks.
Each adventure seed is comprised of two sections. The first is a few paragraphs explaining the background of the adventure and perhaps the party’s circumstances at the beginning (sometimes dropping the party into a compelling, tight, or horrifying situation). There isn’t a specific time period or genre for these adventure seeds, but reading through them the words that come to mind are “Late Modern Gothic Horror Fantasy.” Ghosts, demons, bandits, tyrants, automatons, and more deadly and dangerous monsters abound in these scenarios.
The second section is a 2d6 encounter table. The eleven entries contain three normal monsters (in two appearances each), two boss monsters (in one appearance each), and one great boss monster with one appearance. The encounter table is further separated into two columns, one for the named monster with its category and another with its aforementioned Spoor column.
The monster on the encounter table, through their name and their Spoor, help set the tone for the adventure/dungeon, letting the GM know what kind of monsters lurk in these places and what kind of challenges the players face. The great boss encounter is generally the “big bad” of the adventure and brings everything together.
As stated above, the meaning of “Spoor” here is more creative than merely evidence of the monster’s presence. In addition to something like “slime” or “a groaning noise,” the players may notice “increased paranoia” or “battle standards” or even a “boiling cauldron.” The GM could easily use these descriptions to flavor the dungeon and create set pieces for planned encounters as well. The Spoor column gives life to the monsters and I really appreciate the creativity here to include atmospheric and even mental/emotional evidence of nearby monsters.
The adventure seeds for any notoriety are general introductory quests, but the Disdain and Renown quests are more tailored toward pursuing the stated Reputation (or at the party’s desire, eschewing that for Glory or Scorn and scoring that pool of dice points!). I like that the adventure seeds range from investigation to exorcism to assassination, all with a macabre or dangerous twist. As noted earlier, sometimes the adventure begins in media res, with the party being forced to reckon with some circumstance they’ve been forced into. Some of the adventure seeds have gold rewards as well, which can really speed up advancement for players that are willing to see them through to completion.
The last section is the WYRD items. This is a d66 table of unique, strange, and interesting items that can be rolled on when the party defeats a Great Boss. Some of these items have a clearly stated use; in true old-school fashion some of these uses are more straightforward and others are more use-case or require creativity. Other items have no clear use, in which case they can serve as inspiration to the GM for a new adventure or for the players to pursue their own goals.
The items have some clever humor scattered throughout, and serve the book’s cohesive theme of gothic horror, with occult magic being prominent. The vampire hunting kit might be my favorite item out of the list. One particularly good entry is an on-call infernal chef who will prepare interesting food for the party, with its own d6 table of pasta to choose from.
The last entry is an item from the Trove of the Dragon Lords, and the last section is a d10 table that serves as the Trove. There are eight different dragon staves, each with its own unique and vivid description and power corresponding to its own motif (such as mind, time, air, fire, etc). The 9th item is a gemstone that sets into the 10th item, a scepter. This is the scepter of the dragon lord, and when inset with the gemstone and in the presence of ALL the dragon staves, is an extremely powerful item that can cast every effect of the aforementioned staves.
So who exactly are The Dragon Lords? What are these staves? Why is the scepter in two pieces? How the hell does the party find all of these?
Who knows? Who cares? It fucks.
Make it an adventure, a campaign, a goal, or just a rumor or a mythology. It’s a cool piece of god-like power fantasy that wouldn’t be out of place in an anime or high fantasy novel and it’s a super fun way to end the book.
I’m really interested in seeing more of Gabe’s work, especially his intro adventure in the upcoming GUILD kickstarter by Disaster Tourism. Gabe and his work can be found below. Go get The Profane WYRD!