Saturday 23 December 2023

Setting: Traveling Merchants

"The first act of true power displayed by a mortal was not one of sword or sorcery. No in fact, amidst the Unshaped's unquestioned reign over reality, the first thing the folk could do to warrant attention was to offer a bargain."

                                                                       - An excerpt from the exalted journal of Artesi Galvani 

In a previous entry, we discussed members of chivalrous orders in Outer World. In this one we will discuss a group that is just as adventurous, if a bit less romanticized: The Traveling Merchant. 

Of the vocations in Outer World, traveling merchants might be one of the most widely recognized. Every settlement, from the grand city of Aeon to the smallest lantern towns, has seen at least one peddler grace their streets. They come in all shapes, sizes, and walks of life. Any of them worth their salt has an eye for opportunity with the wits to grab it when the time arrives.

In an effort to be as brief and spritely as a potion seller making a deal, today's entry will be expressed in three brief anecdotes:


Most wandering peddlers wear headgear of some kind. Hats of course, but headwraps and bandanas are also popular among them, depending on the region. For example, broad brimmed hats are useful in the Blazing Garden and parts of the Twilight Meridian where the sun is a persistent issue. Fluffy hoods, caps, and face coverings are more desired in the colder regions like the Shadowed Lands. Something akin to a helmet is great for the less stable parts of the Buried Kingdom for debris related reasons.

An unspoken tradition among wealthier merchants (or ones attempting to appear as such) is to accessorize with small or otherwise impractical headdress as proof of their financial success. The reasoning is that things like broad brimmed hats denote a merchant who needs that extra bit of protection thanks to needing to walk about on their own two feet and such, whereas one wearing a functionless little cap is wealthy enough to afford some sort of covered transport or, even better, doesn't need to travel all that much at all. 

Some merchants will employ an opposite strategy, donning a very rugged looking bit of headwear to make sure to not look pretentious when dealing with more practical, rural folk. When an Outer Worlder mentions that someone "wears many hats" they are insinuating they are a duplicitous or disingenuous individual - something that has apparently confused Dimensional Strays from time to time.


It's hard to discuss matters mercantile in Outer World without bringing up the two most potent merchant factions on its surface, namely Shard's Guild and the Merchant Scions of Galvanus. These two organizations deal and broader trade than their names might suggest, and are often quietly at odds with one another as a result.

Shard's guild is a bureaucratic entity that sprang from the merchants of that country seeking a way get the footing deal more evenly with the established powers of the Church of the Sacred Chain and the Patricians. Their efforts more than paid off, and the organization became as powerful those two factions (and just as suffocating, depending on who you ask) becoming the third part in Shard's elite political triumvirate. The secret to this growth was to reach beyond the borders of their homeland, securing resources that couldn't be controlled or cut off by their rivals, and using their accumulated wealth to bolster their power back at home. This ruthless strategy did little to endear them to powers abroad, however.

In contrast, the Merchant Scions of Galvanus organized to keep from economically (and physically) strangling one another. The archipelago lacks the looming centralized powers that Shard has and while this granted the merchants living there a great deal of freedom it also allowed the larger syndicates to take advantage of their power to undercut rivals with underhanded tactics, even leading to outright violence in some cases. Rather than allow an increasingly volatile situation to worsen, a loose alliance between these merchant families was formed. This turned out to be serendipitous for a number of reasons, including the fact that when Shard's guild attempted to dominate trade in the Twilight Meridian, the Scions where far better equipped to deal with them.

While these two factions generally attempt to subtly undermine and outmaneuver the other via economic and political means, it's also not entirely uncommon to see guild agents clashing with the colorful killservants employed by the merchant scions out in the open. This has led to disaster more than once, a recent example being a particularly bad exchange between a guild sage and a scion employed murder maid leading to the destruction of an ancient river god's shrine and subsequently, a great deal of retributive flooding in the area.

At least the deals have been good as of late.


Among travelers a certain peddler is spoken of exclusively in rumors and half-whispered tales. You only ever find him on crossroads. He's a little too long, dressed in fashions you've never seen, and has a face that's impossible to remember. His wagon is pulled by a creature that's an undecipherable mass of limbs and fur, and its interior is far larger than should be possible.

It's dark within, and you can only ever see exactly what you need to. No more, no less. His partner sits in one corner, happily humming as her many arms customize and craft things both banal and arcane. He stands behind the counter and makes you an offer or listens to your order. 

His prices are steep, fair, and sometimes seem impossible, but never are. One warrior claims to have traded something precious they don't recall for a ancient magical sword. The blade has served them well, but the regret never leaves them.

If a deal has been made, he'll go in back to retrieve what you paid for from the shelves and send you on your way. If the deal was pleasant, he'll give you his card: you can call him again by tearing it up at a different crossroads on a future date.

You are not allowed to see or touch the shelves. Ever.

Legends speak of a the folk's first true act of power, a bargain made with an unshaped. No one knows exactly what this first deal was, but everyone knows who made it.

Thursday 7 December 2023

Freebie: The Troublesome Trio (Adversaries)

There are antagonists that truly test the mettle of any adventuring party, whose raw might can match them, whose cunning keeps them one step ahead, whose stalwart convictions ensure that no matter what happens, they won't stray from the dark path they have chosen. Adversaries like these can rattle the nerves of even the most stalwart of heroes.

This blog entry is not about them.

Instead, it focuses on the also-rans, the would-be's, the mid-bosses - the quirky sort of rivals who never quite manage to be more dangerous than annoying, but demand the heroes attention anyway. Since these sorts tend to come in sets of three, we'll officially dub them...

The Troublesome Trio 

Rather than one set of values or stats, the Troublesome Trio is an archetype that you may add to a team of three adversaries of your choice. These can be brand new GMC's created with either the character creation rules or adversary generation rules, or a team selected from existing adversaries - in the case of the latter, I suggest making sure they are of similar rank, perhaps modifying the selected adversaries to make sure this is the case.

As a brief aside, these rules are just the tiniest bit more meta than I usual (for adversaries at least) - while this means they won't fit in every BREAK!! game, I did think it was pretty fun for an experiment. 

With that said, Troublesome Trio's have certain sorts of members and a dynamic to keep in mind:

The Leader: While this may or may not be the trio's official leader, they are the ones that generally order the other two around. They have a tendency to be showy and boisterous, often taunting their self proclaimed rivals and giving away their schemes before they happen. They also have a tendency towards loud fashion, favoring Appealing or Authoritative Outfits. 
  • Battle/Murder Princesses or Blaster Mages are good candidates to use for different sorts of leaders, though anyone who can be flashy and try and steal the show could work.

The Brawn: Usually the largest member of the group (though some are comedically smaller than their partners in crime) the brawn is usually the one running around doing the legwork. While this means many are fighting sorts, some are simply strong or sturdy enough to carry around whatever the leader demands they do. They have a tendency to be clueless or a bit dense.
  • Champions or Proudhound Sellswords are both good examples of Brawns. That said, anyone who can lift heavy things or hold their own in a fight do too.

The Brain: While "smart" is a relative term when it comes to Troublesome Trios (in fact, many of them are honestly rather foolish) this member of the team is the one who provides and attends to the magic or tools that allow for all the leader's ill-considered plans. They near universally love sarcastic quips.
  • Factotums and Sages work well as the Brain, but anyone who can create or call upon means for mayhem could perform the role just as well.

Members of a Troublesome Trio have the following special Abilities:

Persistent Pests
For some reason, the party just can't seem to shake these morons.
  • Whenever the GM rolls on a random encounter table in a Saga where a Troublesome Trio is present, any roll of 3 results in an encounter with them, regardless of where the party happens to be.
  • The GM may decide how and why the trio happens to be there or roll on the mood table below for inspiration:
    • 1-7: The Trio has simply been following the party and waiting for the exact moment to strike and get in the way of some important objective. The GM should have the party member with the highest Insight roll to see if they notice them. If the party member fails, the Trio will pop up at the worst or funniest possible moment for an ambush.
    • 8-14: Believe it or not, they were already here. They are likely stranded or lost when the party stumbles on them. They'll probably play this off as intentional but they are obviously lying.
    • 15-20: Unsurprisingly, the trio has already gotten into trouble - another random encounter on the chart is currently scolding or chasing them when they bump into the party. They are not above begging for help.
  • This Ability can be ignored when it is absolutely impossible for the Trio to be where the party is or whenever the Game Master forgets about it.

Refuge in Slapstick
While the trio no doubt wants to defeat and humble the party, they would never go so far as to try and really hurt them. Their inherently comedic nature partially shields them from serious harm thanks to a quirk of Fate.
  • If a party member is ever forced to make a roll on the Injury Table due to the attack or actions of a member of a Troublesome Trio, the roll always counts as a Light Injury. Individuals who do not use the Injury/Damage table (such as friendly GMC's) are simply knocked out cold.
  • Members of a Troublesome Trio don't ever die when reduced to 0 Hearts, instead being incapacitated in a funny way and usually sent flying elsewhere if the means to launch them is present.
    • This aspect of this Ability can ignored if someone really evil is attacking the trio, or if the Players (not the characters) are more annoyed than amused by their antics.

Using A Troublesome Trio

The Troublesome Trio are best used multiple times throughout a Saga, which is reinforced by Refuge in Slapstick which assures they'll stick around for the length of any given campaign.

Probably the most straightforward way to utilize these rules is to have the trio show up for early adventures as a serious challenge, and then have them slowly become more of a joke as the party outpaces them in rank and ability.

Planning scenarios around the trio could be a great way to provide a breather between more serious sessions if you're running a more plot or danger heavy saga. For some ideas: 
  • Big machines! (you could represent these by re-skinning some larger adversaries to have some drone or bio-mechanoid abilities), 
  • Heists! (maybe they are stealing from a patron or ally of the party) 
  • Terrible disguises that somehow work really well! (for some on brand fun, you could let the players in on these even if they fool their characters).
They can add a fun bit of chaos too, as the Persistent Pests ability can be used to make it so that even you can't be sure when they might show up. This of course can be ignored if you don't want to do as much improvising, but I think a big part of the fun would is having these dweebs show up unprompted.

Finally, if the party is ever totally stuck or in grave danger and you want a way to help them, the trio can actually be helpful here and again. This might be because they aren't so bad after all, they want to put the party in their debt, or just because they think the real villain of the saga is a huge jerk.

Example Troublesome Trio: The Shadowed Hearts

Drak Dastard (The Leader)
  • Rank 2 Tenebrate Murder Princess
  • +1 Grit, Aura, -1 Insight (Determined, Dramatic, Dense)
  • Wrath's Blade: Arc Weapon (Sorrow Scythe)
  • Elective Ability: Bulwark of Disdain
Drak is an intense sort who dresses in elaborate attire with an excessive amount of belts (Authoritative Outfit) that claims he will one day ascend to the rank of Overlord. While he does have a lot of ambition and dramatic flair, he's also the sort of person who can't read a room and misses a lot of minor and important details. While he will often talk of his dark past, his patrician parents are actually pretty supportive and send him encouraging missives with money tucked inside them here and again.

Mett Allic (The Brawn)
  • Rank 2 Promethean Champion
  • +2 Might, -1 Deftness (Too strong for her own good)
  • Favored Weapon: Mighty (She likes hammers)
  • Elective Ability:  Brute
In spite of her bubbly nature, Mett loves a good scrap. She's fond of Drak and goes along with his plans as it give her an opportunity to start fights and occasionally even smash things which is her favorite pastime. She did not get the memo about the team name and generally dresses in bright armor and pastels.

Tomato Disaster (The Brain)
  • Rank 2 Rai-Neko Sage
  • +1 Insight (Sharp Wit)
  • Elective Ability: Arcane Artificing 
With their dark cloak and wide brimmed hat, Tomato seems like the mysterious sort until you get them talking about their newest creation, prompting them to go on at length about it in an excitable manner. It's clear they joined the Shadowed Hearts so they could have an outlet for all the strange artifacts they make, though they are also fairly good friends with Drak and Mett as well.