We’re lucky to be able to present a look inside Bedrock Games’ forthcoming Sertorius RPG.
This content is from the unfinished book and so may change but the following is a generous quota of artwork from the game plus a hunk of the book’s opening text. RPGs often don’t publish according to schedule but if all goes well then this game will hit the layout phase of production around Feburary and that hints at a March release for the PDF version.
This book was a long time in the making. When we first started Bedrock Games, it was at the top of our list of projects to-do, but it fell by the wayside while we worked on other books. We released Terror Network, Crime Network, Horror Show and Servants of Gaius (and we published an OSR Indian RPG called Arrows of Indra). We also published a number of modules and supplements. All of these commanded our full attention, and we were not able to work on Sertorius seriously until 2012. Since then we have been diligently putting the setting and system together. In the end, the delay was a tremendous gift. It allowed us to experiment with the underlying system for years with games like Horror Show and Servants of Gaius. We identified flaws and tried to improve what already worked well. This game is a result of all that effort. But it is also something new.
Fans of previous Network games will note that Sertorius is a more robust system. Part of the reason for this is the introduction of magic and fantasy meant we simply needed more mechanics. But the other half was a desire for more comprehensive design. We knew this would be a bigger book than our previous Network games (which are roughly 100 pages each) so it seemed like a good opportunity to develop the Network System beyond that smaller scope. The end result still adhered to a general philosophy of less is more, and we tried to keep most of the expansions optional. Hopefully the more elaborate system will not shock those familiar with Terror Network or Servants of Gaius. I believe this is our best Network product so far and hope you agree.
One reason Sertorius is 400 pages is the setting: Gamandria. This is a fantasy world where the players are powerful spell-casters (called Sertori), the reborn spirits of a god whose soul was scattered to pieces over a thousand years ago during the time of the great ogre kingdoms. They inhabit a setting of empires, ruins and city states, amassing worshippers as they gain power.
The setting is an entire continent. It includes a wide range of cultures, races, magic and gods. It can accommodate a range of play-styles and adventures. We made it with everything from political intrigue to dungeon crawls in mind.
We worked hard on the setting trying to make it believable, fun and fantastic. Our aim was to include a gazetteer with an entry for everything named on the map. Word count limitations forced us to limit some entries, but on the whole we were able to include everything we wanted.
It’s not perfect, but I believe we did as well as our natural limitations allowed. Each of us had strengths that contributed to Gamandria’s design, and we certainly also had weaknesses that couldn’t help but emerge. While we worked to contain those, I am sure some have been overlooked.
Still we think it is a marvelous setting and is better than we imagined when we set out to create it. We all have our favorite aspects. I love the ogres with their mighty civilization and tragic decline. The nomadic elves of Mandaru and the city states of Hema Valley are other personal favorites of mine. Dan gravitated toward the beastly Gru warriors of the north and the mercantile republic of Shahr. While Bill fell in love with the monks of Phra Goa, the dizzying array of Sertori gods in Donyra and the Taksiri pirates.
Like all of our other books this one is a result of many different influences. I think the chief ones are the fantasy and science fiction settings we played growing up in the 80s and 90s. Among these, Ravenloft, Harn and Darksun probably had the most direct influence on our design. In particular, Ravenloft helped inspire certain aspects of the setting. I am a die-hard fan of the demi-plane of dread and tried to bring some of its creepiness to Sertorius.
For movies it really ran the gamut: Life of Brian, Ben-Hur, Jesus of Nazareth, Willow, Excaliber, Conan, Spartacus, The Highlander, 13th Warrior, Legend, Gladiator, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Clash of the Titans, Time Bandits and Agora all shaped the setting. I think Agora and Life of Brian were quite important helping inspire much of the Follower system (which becomes more central as campaigns progress). The Roman influence is probably obvious to readers so, much like Servants of Gaius, Gamandria (or at least the orcs of Caelum) owes a debt to I, Claudius the miniseries. Television programs like Doctor Who, Rome, Star Strek, Star Trek: The Next Generation (Particularly the Kahless episodes), Hercules and Xena certainly offered inspiration as well. Martial Arts Fantasy and historical martial arts films also shaded our view of what an RPG setting ought to contain. I drew a lot of inspiration from recent martial arts movies like House of Flying Daggers, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Zu Warriors, Painted Skin, Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (highly recommended for Sertorius), Sorcerer and the White Snake, Ong Bak 2 & 3, Flying Swords of Dragon Gate Inn. I was also influenced by older ones like Come Drink With Me, the Bride with White Hair, The Kid With the Golden Arm, The One Armed Swordsman, Golden Swallow and Dragon Gate Inn.
Perhaps more important was our interest in ancient history: the ancient Mediterranean cultures, Europe, The Middle East, Eurasian Steppes and the Silk Road. Thai history and myth also play a foundational role in the setting. The great ogre civilization is based on the old Thai kingdoms, and much of ogre and elven culture is influenced by Thai interpretations and art of the indian epic Ramayana. Arabic and Middle East history played a pretty big role in shaping the setting. I took a cue from Tolkein and used the three letter root system(often after creating the sound of a place name) to discover what it meant. The influence of Arabic (and its clumsy merger with Phoenician and Punic) cannot be overstated (at least for the widespread Khubsi speaking cultures that dominate so much of the continent). It needs to be emphasized, these were sources of inspiration that we took and changed to our taste. Nothing here is intended to be authentic to any source material. The languages are fake hybrids. While the monsters, cultures, etc are fusions dressed up the way we like for an RPG.
Gamandria owes a big debt to Tolkien and to Dungeons and Dragons. It is a fantasy setting with elves, halflings, dwarves, humans, and monstrous races like trolls. We may have put our own unique twist on them, but we tried to keep all the basic races familiar to fans of traditional fantasy. Beyond Tolkien, all of the designers could point to countless Fantasy and Science fiction writers who inspired them while working on Gamandria: Michael Moorcock, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Jordan, Mercedes Lackey, Chris Bunch, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, T.H. White, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, R.A. Salvatore, Jim Butcher, Harlan Ellison, Tad Williams, John Marco, J.V. Jones, Patrick Rothfuss, Peter S. Beagle, C.S. Friedman, Robert E. Howard, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Ray Bradbury, Aldus Huxley, Robin Hobb, Mickey Zucker Reichert, James Lowder, H.G. Wells, Terry Pratchett, etc
Ultimately this is a game that draws from a wide range of sources.
We would like to thank everyone who supported us by playtesting, reading, contributing and being fans of Bedrock Games.
Chapter One: Introduction
What is Sertorius?
Sertorius is a fantasy roleplaying game where you play mighty magic-wielders called Sertori. In an ancient world, where kings and oligarchs rule, Sertori are the inheritors a dead god’s sacred powers. That god, Senga, the ogre deity, was killed ages ago and his spirit reborn among the races of the Gamandria. This power is yours.
Rare and widely feared, the Sertori are at times the focus of adoration and worship. In this game you increase in power by gaining followers. With time you command hundreds of thousands who kneel at your feet and heed your every word. Well, almost every word. Followers add to your strength but sometimes stray into sectarian conflict and religious warfare.
Until you achieve such greatness, you are just one Sertori among the hundreds of others who roam the land. Some have formed into orders, others adventure the world together, and a few dream of conquest. Your destiny is for you to decide.
Sertorius is a game for adventures of all kinds. Explore the ruins of Nong Sai, navigate the gauntlets of courtly intrigue, make your fortune as an adventurer or merchant and investigate the strange and evil doings of mysterious cults. There is an entire continent before you, waiting to be explored.
Gamandria is the world and continent on which Sertorius is set. It is a place created by the gods, who once walked freely among their followers. In its ancient past, the ogres built a great civilization of cities called Nong Sai and went to war with their rivals in Anumar. When these powers collided, their gods Senga and Lorgo fought with them. But the last of the ogre kings, Dosikan, made a pact with Sarilla, the snake goddess and consort to Senga, who showed him how to kill a god. He tricked Senga and spilled the deity’s blood, absorbing all its divine powers in the process. The experience drove Dosikan mad and brought the wrath of the other gods. As they sent dragons and fury to destroy Nong Sai, Dosikan made his last stand in Sai Wood. When he died in battle, the power of Senga was released into the world and reborn into the humanoid races, except for the ogres, who carried the curse of Dosikan with them.
Civilization was destroyed. From that destruction, the other races (halflings, dwaves, orcs, humans, elves, gru, kobolds and hasri) built on the ruins. The emergence of Sertori, who are a product of Senga’s death, was initially frightening. They often seized control of cities and imposed their will on the populations, or they were hunted down by organized bands of fanatics. Eventually things settled and today Gamandria is once again a world of sprawling city states and trade roads.
The setting of Gamandria is described in much more detail later in this book (particularly CHAPTER NINE). All you need to know initially is that it’s a setting modeled after the ancient world, in places extending as far as late antiquity or even the dark ages, but for the most part draws inspiration from places like ancient Rome, Alexandria and Petra. That said it is also anachronistic. Things like gunpowder exist in certain quarters.
While there are a lot of places to explore in Gamandria, the key areas to be aware of going in are Caelum Republic (an massive orc empire in the north), Ronia (a theocracy in the Varian Sea, mainly human), Shahr (a halfling trade empire, with extensive coastal colonies), Mandaru (an elven empire ruled by nomads from the steppes) and Asharun (a Hasri empire in the west).
Sertori and Grims
Magic is dangerous to wield in Gamandria. Sertori who carelessly cast spell after spell risk acquiring afflictions which affect their bodies and minds. If they allow this process to continue it can turn them into beings called Grims. Grims come in a great variety of forms. When a character goes Grim, his spirit and body undergo an elaborate transformation, sometimes fusing with the local environment. Grims exert an influence over such areas, and their powers are greatly heightened. This is not unlike a haunted landscape, people fear to pass through. But Grims can also be mere monsters like liches, banshees and minotaurs.
The Gods and Rituals
The gods are real and their powers can be called upon through rituals and effort. Characters, even non-Sertori, can perform rituals to seek aid from the gods or they can try to divine their will through augury. These are both handled by Ritual Skill and Divination Skill (both belonging to the Specialist Skill group). Throughout the book you will find (particularly in the god section) rituals that characters can perform. These are not exhaustive, there are assumed to be more rituals and the GM has freedom to create them as he needs.
The Network System Basics
The Network System is skill-based and uses dice pools of ten-sided dice (called d10s) against static defense numbers (called Target Numbers or TNs). This is the same system we used in Terror Network, Horror Show and Servants of Gaius, greatly modified for a fantasy setting. To play the game you will only need the Sertorius rulebook. You do not need to buy any other Network products and everything required to play is contained in these pages.
When characters do things they make Skill rolls. This includes everything from swinging a sword to pitching a tent in the wilderness. To make skill rolls, characters roll d10s equal to their skill rating against static target numbers to see if they succeed or fail at an action. A crucial point here is they roll a number of d10 and take the single highest result, which is compared to the target number (TN). If it equals the TN, then it is a Success. If it is lower than the TN, then it is a failure. If it is result of 10, then something special happens.
In rare cases, characters roll their d10s against each other or opponents, and the person with the single highest result wins (this occurs in arm wrestling matches or races for example).
The number of d10 rolled for a skill is set by your Skill Ranking (usually 0-3). The Skill Ranking is the number of dots a character has in a given skill. Each of these dots equals one 10-sided die in a skill roll. So a character with two dots in Light Melee, rolls 2d10 any time he attacks with a dagger.
When characters have zero ranks in a skill, they can normally still use it, but must roll 2d10 and take the single lowest result.
All skill rolls are made against Target Numbers. Characters need to meet or exceed Target Numbers to succeed at an action. When the Skill Roll is performed against another character, the Target Number is the target’s relevant Defense Rating (see CHAPTER TWO for details). When the skill is performed against the environment or objects, the Gamemaster sets the Target Number. Guidelines for setting Target Numbers are found in CHAPTER FIVE: RULES.
Character creation is a step-by step process described in CHAPTER TWO. Here we go over some of its basic components.
There are several different races to choose from in Gamandria. Almost all races can be sertori, except for ogres, who have no access to magic. The available races are: orcs, kobolds, humans, gru, hasri, halflings, dwarves, and elves.
This is a reflection of your personal history, social class and natural talents. Are you a halfling merchant looking for opportunities on the Eastern Trade Route, or the elven son of a chieftain from the Steppes of Shandee? The function of Background is to determine how many skill points you have to invest in each category of skill. The Backgrounds in Sertorius are: Scholar, Farmer/Laborer, Warrior, Tradesmen, Leader, Performer and Jack of All Trades.
These are aspects of your character like place of birth, age, name and description. Some sample names based on language are provided in CHAPTER TWO.
Spells are primordial creative energies similar to human emotions. All spells are divided into four emotional categories: Misos (anger), Agape (love), Penthos (pain) and Deimos (fear)—there is also an All category. Casters are naturally more inclined toward different emotion categories, and have ratings of 0 to 3 in each. Having a high rating in a category makes those spells more powerful when you cast them but it also increases the number of Grim points you acquire through casting. Emotions are described in more detail in CHAPTER TWO.
In Sertorius, most characters are assumed to be spell-casters (or Sertori). In fact those who are not, are at an extreme disadvantage and strongly discouraged. Spells are performed by making skill rolls. Each spell is tied to a particular skill, which is what you need to cast that spell. So Bolt of Fury uses Small Ranged. Meaning anyone casting it must make a Small Ranged skill roll to do so successfully. Because of this, it is important to know what Skills you need for your spells.
Generally, most characters start with four spells.
Sertorius is skill-based and has six categories of skill: Defense, Physical, Combat, Mental, Specialist and Knowledge. The higher a character’s rank in a given skill, the better he is at performing it.
Expertise and Combat Techniques
Expertise are enhancements to existing skills. They give you a small +1d10 bonus to using skills in the right circumstances. For example, a character can take the Dagger expertise, to gain a +1d10 bonus to Light Melee skill rolls when wielding a dagger.
Combat Techniques are special abilities available to characters with the Warrior Background and to ogres. All others need to trade in combat skill points or buy them after character creation. These add flavor and flair to combat. They give you a little bonus or special effect under the right conditions.
Sertori grow in power by gaining Divinity. This is described in CHAPTER TWO, but the key thing to keep in mind is Divinity goes hand in hand with gaining followers. As you gain more Divinity, you can learn new spells and eventually tap into major powers called Thauma. Non-Sertori characters have Devotion, while ogres have Resist (which makes them less affected by magic).
Flaws are physical or mental weaknesses that are a serious disadvantage for characters during play. They usually give you a free Skill point when you take them.
How to Use this book
This book contains everything you need to play and run Sertorius. Players making characters should read through CHAPTER TWO: CHARACTER CREATION. This has nine steps that walk you through the different stages of making a character and it includes complete descriptions of skills, combat techniques, languages and other important aspects of character creation. Spells can be found in CHAPTER THREE: SPELLS AND THAUMA. Equipment is located in CHAPTER FOUR: EQUIPMENT. The rules of play are found in CHAPTER FIVE: RULES. The remaining chapters are largely for the Gamemaster and cover afflictions (acquired when spell-casting goes wrong), the setting, monsters, etc. The Gamemaster should read all these chapters in addition to chapters one through five.
It is important to note that information on individual Skills are all contained in CHAPTER TWO: CHARACTER CREATION under STEP SIX. This is important to reiterate because Sertorius is a skill-based game, and these entries will come up often during play. This chapter, which is quite long, is divided into the nine steps of character creation: race, background, character details, emotion ranks, spells (covered in more detail in CHAPTER THREE), skills, expertise, combat techniques, Divinity/Devotion/Resist and Flaws. It ends with a short example of character creation. Use this chapter to make your character.
The Gamemaster should read every chapter, but should pay special attention to CHAPTER SIX: AFFLICTIONS AND GRIMS, which describes the dangers of using magic in Gamandria; CHAPTER FIVE: RULES; and CHAPTER NINE: PEOPLES AND PLACES, which describes the setting of Gamandria in detail. Monsters can be found in CHAPTER ELEVEN: MONSTERS AND THREATS. To find gods go to CHAPTER SEVEN and to find information on religions and organizations go to CHAPTER EIGHT. Magical Items are located in CHAPTER TWELVE: OBJECTS OF POWER. Advice on running the game is found in CHAPTER THIRTEEN: GAMEMASTERING GAMANDRIA, and examples of NPCs are found in CHAPTER FOURTEEN: NPCS. The APPENDICES contain encounter charts, titles, a setting glossary, and more.
Where to begin?
To start play, grab a character sheet from the back of the book, go to CHAPTER TWO: CHARACTER CREATION and complete each of the nine steps described. If you have trouble review the Character Creation example at the back of CHAPTER TWO or skim through the chapter to get a feel for the different sections. It is organized according to the steps, in order of the steps.