Sigil & Shadow DevLog - Picking Bones

In Osprey Games

Something big is coming July 22nd. From the mysterious mind of author, R.E Davis comes Sigil & Shadow, a roleplaying game of urban fantasy and occult horror in which players take on the roles of illuminated heroes and shadowed monsters. Ancient nightmares lurk behind the closed doors of board rooms, entities from beyond time prowl the city streets, forgotten rituals are reborn as viral memes. Do you take a stand against the encroaching shadows? Or do you seek their power for yourself? Preorder your copy now and terrify your players this summer.

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Sigil & Shadow is filled with dichotomies: light versus darkness, logic versus unreason, and, of course, the natural upended by the supernatural. Players will find their characters caught in the tension between all of these forces and will have to decide for themselves where they stand. There are no clean-cut choices, and players will have to start addressing them as early as character creation.

For today’s devlog, I wanted to shed some light on Castings and Drives – key aspects of player characters that help establish their motivations and what roles they play in the game’s story. I also want to discuss Bones – the system’s “meta-currency” – and how all three of these connect together to define a sort of gameplay-loop tailored to the character.

Casts of Light & Darkness

Character creation begins by building a concept, which you do before assigning any ability scores, choosing skills, or anything else really. The very first step of doing so is choosing your character’s Casting. It’s sort of an archetype, but it’s not a rigid class choice like in many other games. Instead, it’s both a statement of alignment (are they in the light or the dark, but not necessarily whether they’re good or evil) and what kind of role they’re playing in the story.

Castings come in two categories: First, there’s the Illuminated – everyday people who have encountered the paranormal in a way that has forever changed their life. There are many interpretations of what “illumination” means – the light revealing the truth, acting as a beacon in the dark, or a metaphor for the switch you can never turn off even if you wanted to. Among the Illuminated are four different callings:

  • Seekers are those who pursue knowledge about the supernatural.
  • Hunters are compelled to seek out and eliminate paranormal threats.
  • Protectors focus on safeguarding their communities and loved ones.
  • Keepers wish to keep the deeper knowledge of the occult hidden from the masses.

On the flipside are the Shadowed – those who have sought out and embraced their darkness to inherit strange and fantastic powers. They are the monstrous anti-heroes and paranormal misfits of our game, and are split into four courts:

  • The Ravenous have a need, desire, or hunger that fuels them.
  • The Devoted receive their power from an unworldly entity, either by worship or pact.
  • The Hosts also inherit their abilities from an outside being, but their minds and body are actually inhabited by its presence.
  • The Afflicted are those who revel in their own horrific nature, but this empowerment comes at the cost of suffering the scorn of those around them.

Every Casting is listed with a Drive, which explains their motivations to engage the paranormal and how to conduct their activities during an adventure. We’ll talk more on those here in a bit…

The Bone Pile

After choosing a Casting, the player is then given a “pile” of five Bones – our colorful term for the game’s meta-currency. Think of them as the fate/luck/destiny points like you’d find in other RPGs. Lots of actions and decisions during the game use these Bones: re-rolling failed checks, creating advantages, and activating paranormal abilities are just a few examples of how they’re used in play.  

I bring this up now because they also play a part in character creation! There are several places where the player will have the option to permanently spend a Bone from their pile – the earliest case being that your character’s professional Background is, by default, randomly determined with a die roll. For the price of a Bone, the player may choose their own instead. Additional options throughout character creation include bonus skill training, gaining additional perks from your background, or even picking up additional paranormal abilities.

As you can see, it’s easy to spend most of your Bones before your character even gets played! The player will have to carefully decide how much they’re wanting their character to rely on their own talents, and how much they’re willing to hold back in exchange for being able to push the odds in their favor during game play.

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A Driven Dynamic

A shallow Bone Pile for a character means the player will be wanting to recover their tokens (or points or however you track them) more frequently, while a character with a larger pile will be capable of pulling off more awesome feats during the game. What all can spending a Bone do, you ask? Well, it all depends on your Casting.

All player characters may spend a Bone to re-roll on failures; but the Illuminated are allowed to spend them on special boonsallowing their allies to re-roll a failure, forcing the Guide to re-roll on a success, automatically succeeding a resistance check, or even asserting minor control over the game’s narrative are all possible!

Shadowed characters, meanwhile, appear to have lost favor with lady luck. Instead, they spend their Bones to activate special features of their manifestations – each power is listed with both passive abilities and potent enhancements that can be triggered with Bone spending.  

So how are these Bones recovered? Earlier we mentioned that each Casting also has a Drive– what motivates and empowers the character. Each drive specifies the activities during a scene that allow a character to recover a Bone. Illuminated drives reward characters for acting in accordance with their calling, such as when a Seeker makes a discovery or unveils a secret, or when a Protector safeguards a friend or loved one from paranormal harm. Shadowed drives, on the other hand, focus on succumbing to their darker sides – for example, a Ravenous may feed off the blood of another, or a Devoted may perform something at the behest of their Patron to recover Bones.  

Wrapping Up

In the years I’ve spent playtesting Sigil & Shadow, I’ve been very satisfied with how the Casting and Drive system has helped new players get a sense of purpose for their character, as well as an idea for how to interact with the game world and engage the narrative. The asymmetrical approach to how the Illuminated and Shadowed spend and acquire their Bones, meanwhile, makes both sides feel different in play – Illuminated heroes tend to push their luck, assist their allies, and answer their callings to keep going forward. The Shadowed, meanwhile, indulge in their monstrous behaviors (or answer to strange entities) to refuel their power.

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I know quite a few of you are already dying to know more about our magic system, as well as how paranormal manifestations and mystical gifts work. Next time, I’ll pull back the curtain further to reveal the secrets of these mysteries!

 


- R.E Davis

 
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Find out more about the dark urban horror of the Sigil & Shadow RPG here on the Osprey Games Blog every week. Make sure to preorder your copy of the book from the Osprey Games store today (find it here).

Find more of the incredible work of author R.E Davis on his personal blog page here.

We'll see you all next week. Sleep well.

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