This is a playset/re-skin for Beyond the Wall.
Lysander’s castle lies at the centre of a magical wasteland. Those who dwell in the castle are citizens of Lysander, having taken their lord’s offer of sanctuary. Many have fled untold horrors. Many more are unsure of how they arrived here; they remember the castle gates, and the mists, and the sounds and scents of the outside, though as soon as they crossed the threshold into Lysander’s domain these melted away like a dream. Almost as if the memory were hiding from them.
The characters are Lysander’s knights. They each came here from elsewhere; they are given title and responsibility above the other citizens, and they venture beyond the walls to do their lord’s bidding, not knowing what they will confront in the external landscape.
They have a sense of self and an acute connection to a place, somewhere in their past. But their families, friends, political sides, even their names — these are less certain, and they change from day to day.
How this works
This is a playset for Beyond the Wall and the Further Afield supplement. It’s been created with Beyond the Wall’s core values in mind — namely a low-prep fantasy game about a group of characters striking out from safety into unknown danger. It uses the following concepts:
- Major locations (from Further Afield)
- Threat packs
- Beyond the Wall’s specific colour including True Names, magic, etc.
It differs from Beyond the Wall as follows:
- Characters are adults, or at least reasonably confident in their place in the world. Their ignorance of what lies beyond the wall comes from magical trickery rather than youthful ignorance.
- There’s no reason this can’t use the BtW rules as written; however I plan to make this system work with StormHack, which is essentially level-less (but levels come from something else).
- Level advancement then is about climbing the social ladder within the Castle, currying favour with the mysterious Lysander.
- Playbook structure is similar but there are crucial differences. Like the core game the playbooks have three common tables, and four playbook-specific tables. See below.
Characters and their playbooks
The goal of the playbooks is to present a complete set of characters each with back-story in minutes, ready to drop into an adventure. Standard BtW does it by first talking about childhood via common tables and then moving on to a set of themed tables around the playbook’s premise.
In this version the character premise is a lone figure, an eternal champion or protagonist who has found themselves outside their own time. The first three tables are common to all playbooks and cover three things:
- How they entered Lysander’s Castle
- Their audience with Lysander
- Someone else they met in the castle.
The next four tables describe the character in more detail. This should be imagined as if the characters, newly arrived in the castle, are sitting down together to their first meal and talking about their past. This exposition could be in-character, or it could be inferred (e.g. by the strange attire of the character, their mannerisms and other cues the other party members pick up on) or it could simply be internal monologue.
Normally in Beyond the Wall each playbook has a climactic event which also involves the player character to the right. In this case these events have been replaced with a strong sense of a location. This location will be of primary significance to the character but may have a completely different meaning to another character — their version may be a reflection, or be far in the future or the past, represent a diverging timeline, etc.
Over the next few blog posts I’m going to write some sample playbooks — the first one is at the end of this post.
One: Within the Castle
While the action game should take place outside the castle walls when running missions at the behest of Lysander (as directed by his various mouthpieces), in downtime the PCs may explore the labyrinthine castle and its many weird denizens. Consider using these relationship rules to develop relationships with the castle’s inhabitants. What do they know? What do they want?
What places are there to find in the castle? How does one’s level affect access to these places — as you go up a level and further into Lysander’s favour, are you invited to explore new and stranger sights within the castle?
Two: The Ladder
In place of, or as well as, individual character advancement levels there is a Ladder for social advancement within the castle. Advancing means access to better equipment, spells, libraries, and so on; so it means you will get the benefits of rising through your class’s levels. But in addition it grants access to new social circles, new places in the castle, more information, and even the right to ask Lysander questions directly (within a certain scope).
Three: Naysay the Cartographer
The characters have been recruited by Lysander. At the same time they have been contacted by Naysay, the secret cartographer. Naysay questions the mystery surrounding the castle; he asks why Lysander would limit information about the outside world, and not even provide a map. Naysay has therefore struck a deal with the characters: provide information about the places they visit, and he will in turn give them access to his maps.
His red-draped workshop and filing systems are a complete mess — the “map” is distributed over many pieces of paper and parchment stuffed into drawers, hung on walls behind other maps, and even cunningly woven into the rug in his room. Absconding with a map will do the characters little good. However giving him information means he will give them advice in return — in the form of Major Locations (see Further Afield).
Veteran of the Sonic Wars
The Sonic Wars: where both sides employ sonic weapons and sonic drugs which resonate key areas of the brain to control sleep and emotion; where years-old remnants of aural detonations still resonate in unexpected patterns, making any journey outside a soundproofed Dome hazardous; where the ultimate act of intimacy is to remove one’s ear pods and listen.
Starting ability scores: STR and CON of 10, all others at 8.
|What was your first sight of the castle, and how did you enter?
|You emerged on a balcony to a skyline of minarets, spires and bell-towers under a starlit sky.
|+2 INT, +1 WIS, +1 CON, Skill: Astrology
|You arrived at the Southern Gate and hammered your fist on the oak door until they allowed you in.
|+2 STR, +1 CON, +1 CHA, Skill: Intimidation
|You cut your way through a mass of ivy to locate a small archway in the Eastern Wall.
|+2 CON, +1 DEX, +1 WIS, Skill: Spot Hidden
|You nearly drowned wading through a mire to reach the North Gate.
|+2 CON, +1 STR, +1 DEX, Skill: Swimming
|You leapt a chasm to reach the West Gate.
|+2 STR, +1 DEX, +1 WIS, Skill: Athletics
|You climbed up the well in dining hall.
|+2 DEX, +1 INT, +1 WIS, Skill: Climbing
|You remember falling forever, then waking in an amphitheater surrounded by weather-worn statues
|+2 WIS, +1 INT, +1 STR, Skill: History
|You wandered through the arboretum until you found the Southern Gate.
|+2 DEX, +1 INT, +1 CON, Skill: Navigation
|You entered a submerged bunker in the desert and followed a rough-hewn passage to the Eastern Gate.
|+2 INT, +1 DEX, +1 CHA, Skill: History
|A portal in the temple by the lake carried you over a blue-starred causeway to the North Gate.
|+2 WIS, +1 INT, +1 CHA, Skill: Legend Lore
|Stones around your ankles dragged you down to the sea bottom, where you found the Western Gate.
|+2 CON, +1 WIS, +1 DEX, Skill: Breath Control
|You emerged from a sarcophagus in the mausoleum.
|+2 CHA, +1 WIS, +1 CON, Skill: Sense Death
|Upon entering the castle you were told that you were now in Lysander’s domain and under his protection. What happened?
|Lysander addressed you in a booming voice from a balcony, his features obscured in shadow
|+2 STR, +1 INT
|Lysander entertained you in a grand room, offering you a jet-black wine
|+2 WIS, +1 CHA
|Lysander’s seneschal regretfully informed you that his master was occupied, and to enjoy the lavish meal laid in front of you
|+2 CON, +1 WIS
|You chased Lysander, a cloaked figure in a white mask, through a hedge maze demanding answers — but he was always just out of reach
|+2 DEX, +1 STR
|Old and kindly Lysander appeared at your bedside, asking if you had rested well and offering you bread and fruit
|+2 CHA, +1 CON
|Young and androgynous Lysander escorted you through a gallery of their ancestors’ portraits
|+1 WIS, +1 INT, +1 CHA
|You glimpsed Lysander, flanked by an entourage of armoured hyena warriors, as they passed through a grand colonnade
|+1 CON, +1 INT, +1 STR
|You crept into Lysander’s sanctum, and witnessed them converse with a living mist billowing from a brazier
|+1 DEX, +1 INT, +1 WIS
|Who else did you meet in the castle?
|+2 INT, +1 CON
|Fulker, mistress of owls and hawks
|+2 DEX, +1 INT
|Madame Zmeice, keeper of the observatory
|+2 WIS, +1 CHA
|+2 CHA, +1 INT
|Constable, castle security
|+2 STR, +1 INT
|Orville, fool in motley
|+1 INT, +1 DEX, +1 CON
|Elle, sitting in an apple tree
|+1 CHA, +1 INT, +1 DEX
|Durt, skulking pot-washer
|+1 CON, +1 WIS, +1 CHA
As you sit down to eat with your fellow knights you recall your past life. Your armour and weapons leave no doubt that you’re a Warrior of some skill. You have the class abilities of knacks and weapon specialisation.
|How were you recruited?
|Citizenship demands enlistment — you signed up thinking it was a way to climb the social ladder.
|+3 CHA, knack: Fleet
|You were conscripted along with the rest of your Dome.
|+3 STR, knack: Great Strike
|Your parents were career military, so you followed their example.
|+3 CON, knack: Weapon Specialisation
|You were abducted from a border village and illegally pressed into service.
|+3 CON, knack: Resilient
|You were idealistic and believed the recruiter’s propaganda.
|+3 STR, knack: Defensive Fighter
|The enemy hit your Dome and killed everyone you knew. You enlisted bent on revenge.
|+3 STR, knack: Great Strike
|What was your first taste of war?
|You were patrolling a village, and without warning your whole squad was hit with a sonic weapon. You remember shooting desperately as your sergeant sounded the retreat.
|+2 WIS, Weapon specialisation: carbine
|You were waiting in a trench for the big push. Someone thrust a sword into your hand and pushed you over the top.
|+2 STR, Weapon specialisation: sword
|Your unit received a cavalry charge, and in the chaos you picked up a lance from a fallen cavalier and defended yourself.
|+2 CON, Weapon specialisation: lance
|In the middle of battle you fenced with an enemy lieutenant.
|+2 STR, Weapon specialisation: sword
|You and an equally green enemy soldier found yourselves fleeing into a maze of tiny passages under a ruined bunker, where you stalked each other in the dark.
|+2 DEX, Weapon specialisation: pistol
|You were forced to defend an undersupplied fort over several weeks. When the enemy finally broke in you had to grab whatever was to hand to defend yourself.
|+2 STR, Weapon specialisation: club
|Deep in the wasteland you found a place of peace. What was it?
|An abandoned ballroom filled with holographic ghosts of party-goers. The friend to your right has seen, heard of or read about a similar place; what do they know? They gain +1 DEX.
|+2 DEX, skill: Dancing
|A ruined theatre full of abandoned set pieces and costumes, posters and flyers of past performances. The friend to your right has seen, heard of or read about a similar place; what do they know? They gain +1 CHA.
|+2 CHA, skill: Acting
|A dusty museum full of enormous displays depicting life in earlier times. The friend to your right has seen, heard of or read about a similar place; what do they know? They gain +1 INT
|+2 INT, skill: History
|A greenhouse of thriving and overgrown vegetation, fruits and vegetables. The friend to your right has seen, heard of or read about a similar place; what do they know? They gain +1 WIS
|+2 WIS, skill: Plant lore
|A gallery of white walls, wide open spaces and huge canvases of vibrant paintings. The friend to your right has seen, heard of or read about a similar place; what do they know? They gain +1 CHA
|+2 CHA, skill: Art
|A library of maze-like stacks with books on every imaginable subject. The friend to your right has seen, heard of or read about a similar place; what do they know? They gain +1 INT
|+2 INT, skill: Trivia
|What did you take from the battlefield?
|+2 STR, grenade
|A collection of letters from a fallen comrade.
|+2 WIS, Letters
|A pair of decent boots from an officer.
|+2 DEX, Fine boots
|Identity papers from an enemy combatant.
|+2 CHA, Identity papers
|A small white flower growing in the mud, which you pressed in a book.
|+2 CON, a flower
|An officer’s sight-glass.
|+2 INT, Sight-glass