Front Matter

Front Matter

Introduction

THE SHADOW OF YESTERDAY (known as TSoY among friends) is a roleplaying game of fantastic, passionate adventure in a world struggling to knit itself together after everything almost ended. Players of the game create a world of stories about the brave people who join this struggle and shape the face of the world to come.

TSoY uses a rules system called SOLAR SYSTEM, a game of dramatic adventure. The Solar System is a generic rules system, which means that it can be used for many different stories in all sorts of imaginary worlds. It was, however, originally created for The Shadow of Yesterday, for which it is uniquely suited. The Solar System is available in many different forms and languages on the Internet and in game stores.

In TSoY the Solar System is used in conjunction with the SETTING of NEAR, an original fantasy world custom-built for the personable, passionate stories TSoY is about. This book provides the setting in a language compatible with the Solar System rules. We also discuss how the setting can be used when playing a Solar System campaign set in Near.

History of Near

The Shadow of Yesterday was originally selfpublished in 2004 by Clinton R. Nixon, a canny roleplaying game designer and IT professional. At this time the game book included both setting and rules in one book. The second edition followed pretty quickly in 2005, as Clinton honed the rules system, now also published separately under the moniker of "Solar System". The game has been pretty widely available both in game stores and the Internet in different forms since then.

Clinton as a programmer is an ardent supporter of the open source movement, which has through the years weighted increasingly on his work as a game designer as well. TSoY has from its first edition on been available for free under the CREATIVE COMMONS licensing scheme, first under the non-commercial license, then without even that limitation. In 2008 Clinton released all of his other game designs under similar terms, completing his move towards pure open culture.

The open nature of TSoY has helped it become a relatively successful game in terms of popularity. I myself published a Finnish translation of the game in 2006 with Clinton's support, and the game has been translated to other languages as well. Perhaps even more significantly, Clinton has been steadfast in his support of not only freedom from expense, but also freedom in thought: The Shadow of Yesterday has developed through these few short years into a community project, with many people all over the world interpreting the game and reinventing it to their needs.

In 2008, after discussing the matter with Clinton himself, I myself decided to take up his challenge and do what those licenses are meant to do: I would create new products for the game, gathering and refining the various Internet discussions about Near and the Solar System rules into a new round of finished products. At this point I decided to split The Shadow of Yesterday into two separate texts: there would be SOLAR SYSTEM, the rules of the game separated from the fantasy setting, and THE SHADOW OF YESTERDAY, a new, expanded edition of the setting information. This would encourage friends of the system to use it for other things as well, and meanwhile the setting book could be wholly dedicated to its own purpose, making for a leaner, meaner reference and a more ample and passionate reading experience. We shall see how that works out.

What is TSoY?

The Shadow of Yesterday is a fantasy roleplaying game that is very much defined by its peculiar setting, NEAR. Clinton characterizes it as "pumpkin fantasy", akin to that genre of fantasy literature in which young boys leave the farm, take up the sword, learn of their world and their place in it, and ultimately redeem everything.

Aside from pumpkin fantasy, a major influence for many of us working on TSoY has been the idea of pulp aesthetics as a counterpoint to genrified post-Tolkien, post-D&D fantasy literature: Near is a very organic world (some would call it "gritty") that draws pretty freely from sword & sorcery imagery and encourages stories to go where they will regardless of conventional structure. So there is a definite tension between uplifting heroism and literary realism in this material. It is a fruitful tension that I have seen no need to resolve: TSoY is at once sentimental and pragmatic; it is always exciting to sit down to play and see what we bring to being this time.

This is not to say that The Shadow of Yesterday is a generic fantasy game that suits anything and everything. To the contrary, Near has a very definite feel, one that is easy to recognize, as anybody who's witnessed our frequent forum discussions on expanding and detailing Near can attest. To wit, Clinton even wrote these principles into his book:

  • No monsters: The occasional wild animal happens, but the real threats and antagonism reside in characters with understandable motivation.
  • No gods: Mankind of Near shapes their own destiny. This is not to say that faith has no power, but no gods will judge or redeem the world.
  • Only people: Good and evil happen for a reason. That reason is somebody making them happen.

Stories of Near are humanistic stories, and even when the protagonists might not be human, they are still people, and their fates speak to us on that level. Read this as a refutation of certain sorts of fantasy literature and roleplaying if you will.

There is more to Near in general, such as the Sky Fire and the Year of Shadow, but those are incidental matters of history, not underlying thematic purpose.

Acknowledging Sources

I should note that much in this book derives from the community of interested roleplayers. While I've written the words, often the ideas come from other works or discussions we've had over the years with others enticed by The Shadow of Yesterday. Many of the words I've even borrowed directly from others, especially Clinton's to-the-point prose in the original THE SHADOW OF YESTERDAY.

Aside from Clinton, whose influence is obvious, I have to commend Josh Culbertson, a long-term contributor in related forums. His "southern initiative", as I've come to call a spate of discussion threads in the spring of 2008, was central in inspiring me to take up this work. With Josh's kind permission I've adapted freely from his vision in bringing the southern continent and other ideas of his into this new form. Anybody interested in the origins of many ideas in this book should visit the forums at the Forge (http://www.indie-rpgs.com) for the original discussions that gave rise to what we have here.

In addition to Clinton and Josh there are of course many others whose ideas, critique and imagination have contributed in different ways and degrees to my work here. At least Troels, Harald Wagener, Dave Michael, Sami Koponen, João Mendes and my brother Jari are easy to name, and there are likely many others whose names escape me at the moment.

Another set of acknowledgement goes to the various people who have helped me playtest the materials in the book. These are mostly my local friends who have graciously helped out. At least Jari and Sami above, Markku, A-P Lappi, Henrik Mikkonen, Pyry and Peitsa Veteli, Satu and Timo Eskelinen, Sipi Myllynen are easy to name, and there are probably others I forget. As this book largely consists of an editorial reworking of multiple sources mixed with original writing and design, I make a point of indicating the main sources of each individual chapter in rough terms at the beginning of each. I don't nitpick obsessively over the matter, but that should be enough to help direct the reader towards the original sources in each case, if he's interested.

Using this book

First off, if you're new to the game and don't have the Solar System yet, we'll need to fix that. The Solar System is available on the Internet for free, as befits its open nature, and you can also buy it in a cheap booklet from yours truly. There are several different versions out there from when Clinton actively revised the game "“ look for the "2008 edition" if you can, as that uses the same terminology I use here. Easier to follow that way.

Looking at the Solar System, it already advises quite a bit in how to latch a ready-made setting into the game. Actually, I write about setting up a game in general there, so I won't repeat all that now. This book is special, though, in that it has been written with the Solar System in mind. This makes using the setting most straightforward.

I recommend reading or at least browsing through the whole book before going to the game table, especially if you're the Story Guide. I've tried to write this in an entertaining manner, and to sort the material so it makes sense as a reading experience. The indexes at the end of the book are there to make referencing various details easier in play.

Traditionally roleplaying settings have been presented in gazetteer format, so I should note that this book is arranged a bit differently: TSoY is as a matter of method a random-access work wherein geographical logic is not nearly definitive: rather, players need to mix and match the material for use in their own campaign, connecting the dots between different parts of the book. For this reason I decided to arrange the book with readability in mind: in actual play you're going to be skipping all over the place anyway, utilizing the index and your own bookmarks heavily, so I might as well organize the book logically as a reading experience, thus:

Front Matter of the book includes introductory material, Story Guiding advice and the default CRUNCH LANDSCAPE of TSoY; all material that is necessary for most campaigns using this book. Study it well.

1st Movement
consists of the material I think of as the "short Near": it tells of Maldor, the empire, and what became of it after the Year of Shadow. I've arranged this material with internal coherence in mind: if you're overwhelmed by the extent of the setting in whole, the 1st Movement is actually a sort of mini-setting in its own right, perfectly playable.
2nd Movement
concerns the "Matter of Ammeni", the steamy northern Near. Although Clinton didn't originally plan it this way, in practical play the Matter of Maldor and Matter of Ammeni tend to become sort of separate: a given campaign in my experience rarely tries to encompass material from both, it would simply be too sweeping.
3rd Movement
is practically Josh Culbertson's "Southern Initiative" edited through my own lens and connected with the rest of the setting. It concerns the lands of the southern continent, a Nordic fantasy wilderness that connects and impacts the Ruined Empire from across the ocean in unpredictable ways.
4th Movement
presents a powerful general theme of the game, the issue of the Human Equation. The different intelligent species of Near are introduced and their place in the world discussed. It is a rich and useful additional angle on everything that came before. Not mandatory for a lighter campaign by any means, but useful for everybody.
5th Movement,
finally, is a segue of possibilities. I've written this book with an eye towards the future and inclusiveness, with no regard for a setting canon. This part consequently gathers in one place various ideas, shards and notions that might prove fruitful in the future as we continue play and work on this imaginary playground of ours.
Back Matter
includes the essential indexing. This book is pretty extensively concerned with rulesmechanical crunch, so I've tried to offer enough tools for finding what you need in the midst of play.

Although I've made a point of grouping the material a bit in the above manner, do not for a moment entertain the idea that I'd want you to limit your practical play to one or two parts of the book. I just found that the book made a better reading experience when I gave it slightly more structure than a huge dictionary of articles in alphabetic order would have had.

To Interpret Canon

While writing this book I have had to think a lot about what roleplaying game settings mean and how my and others' play of TSoY differs from how setting material is usually used in roleplaying. Issues such as "gregging" (the actual verb used by Glorantha fans when the canonical setting is changed by Greg Stafford) or "metaplot" (a big issue with many "˜90s roleplaying games that included a prose narrative that progressed and made changes to the setting of the game through various sourcebooks) have made me wonder how come our attitude in playing TSoY with its relatively elaborate setting has never stumbled on these kinds of issues.

I remember vividly how in 2006 or so somebody asked on Clinton's forums about "Oran", a vaguely referenced land and people that gains hardly a mention in Clinton's TSoY. The answers to that thread consisted of no less than three separate visions of what Oran might be "“ one of them by the creator of the setting. Not once in that discussion did we have any confusion about the truth of the matter: Oran would have to be, by necessity, whatever a given campaign or writer would want it to be, whether that'd be savage falconers, homosexual Arabs or a lost colony of the empire. (Check chapter 28 for what I ultimately made of that discussion.)

This is a lesson in using setting material in roleplaying, one that TSoY puts to use in a most fruitful manner: Near as a literary entity is strictly secondary to the art performed upon this stage we craft in words and pictures. A roleplaying setting must be solid in play, but this does not mean that a setting book has to have automatic credibility against the desires of the players: the group and the Story Guide (according to his task as backstory authority) should consider a setting book, no matter how well-crafted, a series of inspiration and suggestions only.

I do not write about this because I'd need to explain this ethos to old friends of TSoY. I'm explaining a fundamental difference in attitude to new readers so that you may understand why there are references never explained, why the seemingly objective descriptions differ in content, why all rules systems are partially unfinished and why I break immersion all the time to talk about why the setting is built the way it is. There simply isn't any more objective reality behind the curtain than we please to pretend from moment to moment in our play.

Nature of the Beast

Based on the above, a necessity occurs: just as I don't consider this book a canon to follow, I do not consider it a product so much as a source. By this I mean that I find more value in this book as a source of inspiration than as a complete, pre-packaged gaming experience.

I struggled for a while to find words for what exactly I mean here, so I devised a simile: when somebody writes a book about Chess, we do not say that his book is Chess. In the exact same way, while this book gives you everything you need to start playing TSoY, the book is not THE SHADOW OF YESTERDAY itself. It's just a source, of which there are quite a few nowadays, starting with Clinton's original books and ranging through various web materials to translated language editions. My hope is that you approach this book like a book on Chess: it explains the rules and helps you begin, but it's not everything there is to the game, and it's certainly not the final authority on it. That authority is the Grandmaster who schools you at the board in actual play.

Continuing from Here

This book is full of material, enough for a hundred campaigns. If there is anything you don't understand, want examples for or want to know more about, don't hesitate to ask me or other TSoY players about our own notions. I love to speculate about the Worst War or the Abandoned Coast or how equipment rules can be abused, or what lies beyond the Eastern Ocean, and why its name has a compass direction when it's the only Ocean out there. Alongside other things this book being a reference work means that it's supposed to be used in conjunction with your real play and other sources, not as a solitary canon.

Campaigning: Story Guide Advice

This chapter is a summation of notes for the Story Guide working with TSoY. This material might not be that interesting or necessary for a player-type, but you'll of course make your own call.

The First Session

The basic procedure for starting a TSoY campaign is for the whole group to gather for a planning session, just like I describe in SOLAR SYSTEM. When using TSoY, the Story Guide often ends up being the person who has studied the setting a bit and imagined using it, so he is in a good position to tell about it to the other players. Tell small, general stories, one might say. Answer questions. Provide a picture of the sort of stories that will be created and the characters that will perform the main roles.

Many groups go into this sort of process topdown, by describing a setting in general terms of setting history first and continuing to the details. That's fine if the group works well with that sort of approach, but I've personally found that an ordered top-down process is more for the comfort of the person explaining things than for utility: the rest of the group won't really care and perhaps shouldn't care of the generalities before you've nailed down the particulars.

As an alternative, consider leaving history and geography at the door and working with concrete images and concrete situations. What the players need to know and want to know is not necessarily the history of Absolon and Hanish (page 56), but the fact that now a people lies in slavery while black hearted men reach for immortality. If the latter is what excites the group, then perhaps that is what should be offered first.

When the group has latched onto a FOCAL POINT of the setting, such as the ever-popular Zaru slavery issue (chapter 10), character generation can commence in relation to this common situation. Players can choose to create characters who are directly involved, or they can choose to play outsiders, but the important thing is that they know which their character will be by figuring out the character's relationship to the focal point. I've managed to make a mess of TSoY myself by going into the game characters first, so I can't stress enough the importance of first having the group (or, conceivably, the Story Guide alone) choose the focal point around which the campaign will revolve.

Near is a big place full of possibilities for play, so an individual campaign will never need to have an integral relationship to everything in this book. Let go of any need to cross-reference your chosen material any further than seems fruitful for actual play. Ignore the parts that seem irrelevant to this particular campaign. Embrace setting-definition through the process of play, rather than looking for answers in a book.

Everything in this setting book is written with a dual purpose: on the one hand it is for the players to create their characters, the protagonists of the story world the players will create. On the other hand, all the material is usable for the Story Guide in preparing the situations he needs to conduct the campaign.

The Terse Near

I am not sure if this is actually necessary for understanding what is to come, but in case it is, here is a very compact explanation for the setting of Near, the world that is the home for the Empire of Maldor, jungles of Qek and other miracles that come later. A Story Guide who prefers a top-down approach might start with this when introducing the game to a new group.

What Came Before

Not much is known of Near before the Skyfire. This was the age of myth for most cultures on the planet. The most prominent of these myths from Before is the Empire of Maldor, to which we'll return later on.

The Skyfire

When a fiery dot appeared on the sky, people all over the world were alarmed. When it grew larger, they were agitated. The giant asteroid, as such it likely was, struck the planet and nearly destroyed everything. If the Myth of the Skyfire is to be believed, the Last Emperor and Hanish the foreign magician saved the world then.

The Year of Darkness

After the Skyfire disappeared, the world was cast in darkness as clouds of ash rose to the skies. The earth first broke, and then froze. The darkness lasted a full year, or perhaps a generation. Nine tenths of the population of Near perished, and the survivors were left with nothing.

The Moon

When the Year of Darkness ended, the Moon rose to the skies for the first time. It was received with fear, and quickly it became the object of superstition and magic. The Moon is the part of the world that is now lost, for it broke away from Near into a world of its own.

What is now

Now is perhaps a hundred years after the Skyfire. The myth of the Skyfire says 300 years. The world is being rebuilt, or rediscovered, as only the mightiest powers withstood the Year of Darkness unscathed. The world is in flux, civilization and life itself still in danger of extinguishing. The world is broken, and only courage may rebuild it.

I will be providing similar run-downs of individual concepts through the book for the benefit of a setting-introducing-person; I know personally how annoying it can be to try to info-dump even the bare necessities of a setting to a new group. Hopefully some pre-thought paragraphs that can be directly read out will help in this a bit.

Using the Crunch

Having a book full of rules material makes for a quite different play experience with the SOLAR SYSTEM than starting from an empty table would. Consequently, the Story Guide might consider how to best leverage the resources under his guidance.

One thing I myself tend to do is to discourage players from seeing the setting material as a selection of character options: not only (as I've been repeating already in the book) are all the materials in the book only suggestions, but the purpose of the setting materials is not so much to encourage character optimization as to provide ideas for how to express the fiction of the game in the rules mechanics. Sometimes I get players who presume that everything in the book is to be considered as resources characters are entitled to, and I think that this sort of thing tends to lessen the experience a bit.

So what I do instead is to encourage the players to start with simple characters that'll then grow organically through the game into whatever direction fate and player choices dictate. As the Story Guide I like to take on the job of consulting with the players on how their characters grow and develop: the players do not need to go through long lists of character options because I'll be throwing things out for them in the fiction of the game. Instead of going through a list of options for what he'd like to spend his Advances on, I like to see players work with what the setting is offering: a character might encounter an Uptenbo master who offers to teach him, or he might decide to become a wizard and seek tutelage in that, or he might have to learn advanced survival skills and knot-making in the jungles of Qek just because he happened to get stranded there. All of these options and more are so much more interesting when they follow and inspire the fiction of the game rather than being necessitated by a systematic study of crunch materials conducted by a player.

Often you need to do nothing more complex than utilize the crunch fully in creating secondary characters, and make sure that those characters get to engage the game mechanically. For example, a great way to introduce a new culture into the game is to create some characters that use the new crunch and have them come into contact with a player character. This allows the players to see how the new crunch works, inspiring them to consider new options for their own character.

My point in this is not to ask the Story Guide to limit other players in how they engage with the game (this book, as all materials, is for everybody), but rather to ask him to consider his responsibilities in the SOLAR SYSTEM to be expanded when this sort of crunch-heavy setting is dropped onto his lap: in addition to everything else, the Story Guide should now make sure that the players do not need to make the reference book their best ally in providing exciting character development options. There's even no need to create your own additions to the crunch, just being active and inventive in bringing the existing material to the fore is enough. There's quite a difference in just having a given Secret sit on the page as compared to having a character in the game actually possess it and be willing to teach it to your character.

Campaign Themes

Near is a fantasy world with the makings of your typical historical romance "“ there are humble farmers, evil tyrants, high mountains, wide rivers and all that stuff you'd expect. The world is just recovering from disaster as fractured societies slowly knit themselves back together, often in completely new forms. It's a time of heroes, as the direction of the world and even its very survival are at stake.

The numerous cultures of Near have many differences. Their differing values and material lifestyles take them into conflict as old routes of travel are opened. A big part of the game is to create characters that represent or contrast with cultures in the focal point of the campaign; player characters can clash with each other as representatives of different cultures, or they can come as strangers into such situations.

Another large theme of Near is humanity; no gods, no monster as I explained in the Introduction. The so-called "old species" are a number of drastically different creatures such as humans, goblins and elves, all of which share the world and society with each other. Then there are the new creatures that have come with the broken world, in their own way both human and bestial. All of these people have identity issues that need to be resolved for a hero to truly emerge.

Finally, Near has magic. Amazing feats are possible for heroes, but only at the price of their identity: all magics and other sources of personal power are rooted in culture or even species, making the choice of tools a choice of values for a hero.

Themes in conflict

While TSoY doesn't fit directly into a given genre, it has a certain feel that the Story Guide will do well to consider. TSoY is a very human fantasy, which leads to certain rules of thumb when the Story Guide executes his responsibilities in dramatic coordination. For instance:

Death:
It is usually not proper in TSoY to have stakes in conflict concern outright death of another character. Extended conflicts or helplessness due to Harm are thus needed to permanently kill named characters, while extras may die as part of narration on the way to objectives. (Note that somebody a player character specifically wants to kill can hardly be an extra, can they?) This means that usually the Story Guide may only declare player character death as conflict issue after a player decides to extend the conflict, not before. Seeming death (dropping into a gorge and never leaving a body) is still very much on the table, of course.
Human worth:
Extras are only extras as long as they don't have names or stated interests. There are no social classes or types of people constrained into insignificance by genre stricture, as tends to be the case in chivalric romance and most other fantasy genres ever since. What this means is that there are no object people that are systematically victimized and ignored as sources of conflict without dramatic concern for their individuality and intent; anybody may prove important, be they slave or king.

Of Cultural Sources

As TSoY is a shared endeavor, I can't really give a definite list of useful sources. I could make a list of the sorts of culture that have influenced me on my part when playing in Near, but I desist: it'd just be that same list of seminal fantasy literature you'd get from Wikipedia and any number of other fantasy roleplaying games: just look for "sword & sorcery", "pulp fantasy", "pulp horror", "Tolkien", "feminist science fiction", "military scifi", "Glorantha", "Dungeons & Dragons", "historical novel", "libertarianism", "Romanticism", "neopaganism".

You probably know the seminal authors already, or if you're young and don't "“ I can't guarantee it, but you'll probably have a much better time reading the Masters than my book. In any case TSoY is for me a very wide organic writing and playing experience, one that allows me to detach from formulaic expectations of genre and just play the setting and rules, playfully shifting from genre to genre and throwing cultural references like they were cherry pits. I hope the game works the same way for you.

I should mention that Clinton gives Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber as the main influences of the original TSoY book. You will certainly not be far off if that's the sort of setting you expect, although there are many other things here as well.

Character creation

The next couple of chapters introduce the core CRUNCH LANDSCAPE for a campaign set in Near. There are Abilities, Secrets and Keys that are usually available to all characters that want them. Many cultures in the setting use their own, more specific crunch for accomplishing some of the things covered here, but many concerns are shared by all.

When creating characters for THE SHADOW OF YESTERDAY, the convention is for the player to choose one specific CULTURE his character belongs to. The player then creates the character using only the general crunch and the culture-specific material for the culture in question. What is a "culture" in this sense is up to the group "“ I could see prohibiting a mixture of crunch specific to certain social classes in some lands of Near, for example. The book doesn't make a big deal of this, it doesn't specifically list which cultures are enough of traders to wield the trading crunch in chapter 9, for example. You'll just have to pay attention to the fiction and make choices that fit with your campaign's intent.

The player may also choose to make his character non-human (as opposed to the human default, chapter 22), in which case they may not access the human-specific crunch but have additional options related to their species. Nonhuman characters are still members of a culture just like humans, so they can use that crunch as well.

I should emphasize that the culture limitation does not mean that characters can't adopt another culture during play; to the contrary, this is often a matter of great emphasis in the character's story. During play crunch is chosen normally, so characters can learn anything they have the reasonable background or mentors for. The culture limitation is there to emphasize the cultural theme, not to limit the fiction itself.

It is not uncommon for the group to coordinate so that all the player characters are members of the same 1-2 cultures at the focal point of the campaign. For example, players might all agree to create characters living in the same town in Maldor. The choice to play an outsider in this set-up is a strong one as well, for such outsiders naturally become pivots and judges of the local situation.

Another approach is the classical adventure fantasy paradigm: have all players create characters out of the material they are most interested in, getting a mix of cultures from all over Near, but also require the characters to be severed from their society and already adrift, looking for purpose; some heavy-handed dramatic coordination from the Story Guide will then get all of these colorful, idiosyncratic individuals mixed up with the focal point of the campaign, at which point they can take sides and proceed with the scenario. Even a traditional adventure party is a possibility here, at least for a time.

Default Pools

Characters for the Shadow of Yesterday are customarily created with 11 Pool points distributed between the three default Pools of VIGOR, INSTINCT and REASON. They are accompanied by the default PASSIVE ABILITIES, as we'll see in the next chapter.

Abilities: Venues of Conflict

Abilities are the "venues of conflict" in Solar System, being the means by which heroes channel their will. In TSoY we have a pretty large swath of common Abilities available to all characters "“ for example, a character might choose to approach convincing another by the means of CHARM (I), DECEIT (I) or SPEAKING (R), and that doesn't even cover the less generic culture-specific options or newly created Abilities. The purpose of this rich texture is to pay homage to traditional fantasy adventuring sensibilities: players are encouraged to pick up lots of different Abilities for their characters, and it's easier to encounter situations where a character's Ability is just MEDIOCRE (0) when there are lots of different Abilities floating about in the headspace of the group.

This is not to say that the Story Guide should use the large number of Abilities to punish characters; as always, an Ability is only as relevant as the group allows it to be. Regardless, the slightly grim environment of Near benefits from the fact that players are encouraged to show character vulnerabilities, not just strengths. I've even been considering a character sheet with the common Abilities preset, just so the players don't forget that they can have their character be weak once in a while as well.

Dealing with the list

You won't go too far wrong if you consider the list of Abilities a list of examples only, but there is some hidden wisdom in what I choose to include in it. Here's some advice on handling situations that might be unusual compared to how you might expect one to handle the fantasy genre in the SOLAR SYSTEM.

Intimidation:
Usually I don't allow this as a conflict. Rather, when characters try to intimidate others, the other party chooses whether they succeed and how the character will be treated going forward. For example, the Story Guide might have the target either buckle under and harbor resentment, or attack the intimidating player character outright. Note that if the target of intimidation is helpless and refuses to give in, it's up to the other party to go through or not with their threats.
Healing:
A community of Near won't necessarily have any dedicated health professionals. Lacking any real knowledge, a character may use HOUSEWORK (I) to treat simple injuries and illnesses. I usually limit this to the most rudimentary of treatments, such as bandages, splints and nursing; when these are insufficient, nothing much can be done.
Fighting:
Aside from BRAWL (V), there is no universal martial discipline available "“ the role of violence is different enough in the various societies of Near. A character that wants to be a disciplined martial artist needs to learn such arts and mindsets from a specific culture.
Archery:
Not available to everybody. In fact, unless you count throwing rocks with SPORTS (V), characters wanting to resolve conflicts with missile weapons need cultural Abilities. For others missile weapons might delay a conflict or change details about it, but the actual resolution will hinge on other things.
Stealth:
All sorts of sneaking about and hiding cleverly are accomplished with either WOODCRAFT (R) or THIEVERY (I), depending on the environs, purpose and the whim of the group. Surprising someone to mug or murder them is a fine application of THIEVERY (I), for example.
Forgery:
THIEVERY (I) can deal with this, but only if the character can write in the first place. This might require the SECRET OF SCRIBING if the group is using that distinction, or it might just require having a background in a literate culture like Maldorian courts.
Lore:
VAGRANCY (I) deals with the news of the present world, STORYTELLING (R) with history and stories. I like to use plenty of various lore checks to find out where player and character knowledge diverges; the intent is not to hide things from the players, but to give them tools for crafting entertaining situations. So the player would indeed know that his character is now romancing a witch, even if the naive fool himself didn't. This can then be used by the player in portraying his character. If your group isn't so hot for this sort of thing, no need to have lore checks at all.
Convincing others:
CHARM (I) and SPEAK (R) may well be used to sway another character. In the case of player characters, it is a good idea to ask the player of the opposing character to validate the conflict stakes, as he is the leading expert at the table on what the character might be willing to do; if the player feels that his character really can't be talked over in this situation even with circumstantial penalty dice, the conflict may still cause Harm from uncertainty, shame or other such social considerations. Thus, instead of "I convince him to kill himself out of shame" it's more reasonable to have stakes along the lines of "he takes a MAJOR (4) Harm as I shame him".
Arts and crafts:
If it can't be done with CRAFTWORK (I), chances are that some culture in the book holds the lost knowledge. Other cultures make do without.
Noticing things:
For the most part there are no Abilities for noticing things because noticing something is just set-up, not conflict. REACT (I) is used when this is not the case, but mostly it should be assumed that the characters notice what they need to notice for the scene to find its dramatic purpose.
Useless Abilities:
This is not so much the case with the common Abilities, but the cultural stuff later in the book includes some quite marginal cases. It is good to remember several things about this: dramatic coordination can be used to bring narrowly useful and exotic Abilities to the fore; the player can play towards his Abilities and use even a tenuous connection to justify a support check; choosing a weird Ability in itself signals a certain degree of willingness to wait and see whether it becomes a dead reminder of the character's past or a surprising, fresh focus for some different play.
Leverage and Secrets:
TSoY has a boatload of Secrets, much more than can be used during one campaign. It is extremely important for the players to understand that only content introduced into play is pertinent: disallowing a character from trying to set up an ambush with a normal Ability check because the book has a separate Secret of Ambushing or an Ambushing Ability somewhere in there would be abusing the content; the real crunch landscape of the game is only what the players willfully choose to include into their game, not what I might have written into this book. If this seems vague, meditate on the SECRET OF LANGUAGE until it becomes clear.
Animal Ken (I)
Use ANIMAL KEN as the general social Ability for interacting with animals. Domesticated animals may follow orders; wild ones will just understand to go away. Most cultures in Near have domesticated animals that are handled with this Ability. Those cultures that train riding animals either expand this Ability with a Secret or train the rider in a specialized Ability.
Barter (I)
Most of Near has devolved into a barter economy, so the rarity of money complicates trade. Experience with trade also allows the character to evaluate the value of things to others. Use BARTER to find out whether a character's wealth of the moment is enough to make a purchase, or what he might have to sacrifice to make the price.
Brawl (V)
Natural propensity for violence, uninformed by any finer discipline. Generally speaking a brawler will fight in a rage and limited in technique, which makes the use of sophisticated weapons inefficient and special technique all but impossible.
Charm (I)
Giving good impressions and making friends. Useful in delivering compliments and convincing others by subtle and personal means. The primary Ability for romantic conquest, should an Ability be required.
Craftwork (I)
Most cultures have traditions of creating elaborate art from wood, bone or other materials. While HOUSEWORK (R) is enough to create simple tools, this Ability is used when mere function is not enough, but beauty is desired as well. Items created with craftwork may reflect meaning and are reasonable as individual Effects that can influence people in different ways.
Deceit (I)
Delivering lies with a straight face, pretty much. Opposed by RESIST (R) when a character tries to perceive the lie for what it is. DECEIT and SPEAKING (R) overlap and support each other naturally when lies are delivered by a glib tongue. I'm not entirely consistent with DECEIT myself all the time; sometimes I allow characters to lie and mislead with CHARM (I). Caveat emptor.
Hard Work (V)
Most direct production in Near happens with human labor. Farming and related work is first and foremost about patience, measured use of force and experience. HARD WORK is used whenever characters want to support others with grunt work, or when they end up on the bottom ladder of a working group, or when they want to make their way honestly.
Housework (R)
Only the most well preserved or newly advanced communities in Near feature large degrees of specialized labor. Most of what makes people happy and comfortable from day to day is made in the home with this Ability, such as cooking, craftwork, folk medicine and so on. Essential for the functional household. HOUSEWORK may be used to treat simple injuries and illnesses.
Music (I)
A character's skill with instruments and song. Music is beautiful and universal to life in Near, but its usefulness is a subtle thing. Choosing this Ability as a major facet for a character is to choose to chase mirages that only occasionally perform truly. In other words, it takes some work to maneuver the game into a situation where music will be useful in conflict.
Pray (V)
This Ability is used to conduct rituals and focus the mind towards a higher power in meditation. Sometimes faith can move mountains, or at least support other Abilities at critical moments.
Speak (R)
The skill of explaining yourself well. Useful for arguing a point or delivering a rousing speech. Speaking usually requires some sort of valid point to work from, though. Use SPEAK for any social conflicts where substantial issues decided with reason are at stake.
Sports (V)
Sports are an important status practice, especially for men who use them to establish prominence. The same Ability is used to resolve general athletic situations, such as swimming, climbing, jumping and so on.
Storytell (R)
All but the most civilized places have lost their literary culture. What they have instead are storytellers, the sons and daughters of people who might have been erudite in their time. This Ability is used to know the old things and tell the truth of them, as well as to combine the old stories into new ones.
Thievery (I)
Thievery is experience in casing targets, picking pockets, stealthy entrance, confidence tricks and other unsavory practices that come with societal hostility and willingness to break norms. Experts are unlikely outside major urban centers.
Vagrancy (I)
Beggars and vagabonds are common in the Near of today. They learn how to freeload and draw a meager livelihood from the gratitude of strangers. Vagrancy is also useful for knowing things about the wider world. Aside from vagrants, any well traveled character might have this Ability.
Woodcraft (R)
Most of Near is temperate, consisting of woodlands, grasslands, wetlands and highlands. This Ability concerns survival skills in these wilderness environments, such as recognizing the flora and fauna, remembering their properties, tracking and trapping them. Extreme environments, such as dense jungle or bare tundra are wont to cause penalty dice, as is simple unfamiliarity with a specific terrain.

Creating new Abilities

In actual play of TSoY I've long used the Ability list more as a guide than an authoritative source for what can be turned into an Ability. Partially this has been because I haven't sat down to sketch my own perfect list until now, but part has been the fact that some Abilities should be developed for individual campaigns only. For example, if your character concept is an optician or some such, and you expect the play to center on how he helps everybody with eyeglasses, I simply can't predict that, and even if I could, all the crunch I wrote for the optician would be useless overhead for other campaigns.

Thus: remember that this book is a reference, the real crunch landscape is the one that is actualized by your individual campaign. It might have quite different Ability lists from what this general treatise suggests.

Local Ability

To give a less extreme example of what I mean, consider a street urchin sort of character that knows the city like the back of his hand. This is perfectly feasible in a fantasy punk campaign set in Maldor or Kalderon or such urban environment. The Ability:

Local (specify) (R)
The character has lived in a certain area for a long time. Choose a geographical area, community subculture or other such living environment. The character can find people, places and lore related to the locality with this Ability, and he is considered a member of the community here.

I didn't put this in the general list because these Abilities need to be developed on a per-campaign basis: for a far-traveling campaign you'd want something like LOCAL (MALDOR) (R), while for something set in a single, sprawling city you'd want LOCAL (KALDERON) (R). Normal Ability-creation in that regard.

Missing Abilities

TSoY is more or less a flagship setting for SOLAR SYSTEM, so it's pretty complex. Sometimes characters encounter each other in the weirdest of situations and simply have asymmetric Abilities. How to resolve conflicts when characters lack obvious Abilities?

The precept of Solar System is that Abilities simultaneously reflect character identity and allowable venues of conflict resolution. What this boils down to is that a character that lacks a MEDICINE (R) Ability, say, can't resolve conflicts through this venue; he fails automatically when the issue is whether a disease will run its course or not. The only way for the group to avoid this stark reality is by manipulating the TURNING-POINT of the conflict: perhaps the issue is not whether a character can heal another, but whether he can travel quickly enough to bring a remedy from far away? Or perhaps success depends on being able to convince a traveling doctor to help? As long as the player can re-frame a problem in terms his character understands, he can tackle the conflict from the new direction and be victorious.

When two characters conflict against each other, both have a say in where the turning-point of the conflict forms. For example, if the issue is over a military campaign conducted by imperial Maldor using BATTLE (R) against a primitive tribe without similar strategic culture, it might well be that the imperial forces would win with a simple, uncontested Ability check: their tactical supremacy allows them to win the war without a fight. A player character on the other side, however, is well within his rights to influence the unfolding narrative to include a concrete fight scene wherein his character's BRAWL (V) or other melee combat Abilities come to determine the fate of the war: whether the war between an empire and a primitive tribe comes down to brawling or logistics or some completely different Ability is a nuanced dance of scene framing, narration, player initiative and stakes negotiation: I can't give a straight answer because this largely is the game of SOLAR SYSTEM. Play the game and find out!

Secrets: Points of Contact

While most of the really cool stuff is found in the cultural write-ups, Near does have an array of generic Secrets available to all characters. The purpose of these Secrets is simple: they're here to cover all the really basic stuff that should be assumed as a baseline for all characters. The color is also generic and concerns simple things like "this character hits really hard" "“ players should feel free to embellish here to whatever degree they want.

Another, traditional reason for the general Secret list is that it sort of sets the tone and helps newcomers get a grip on character creation. Mostly the general list provides grounding for fantasy tropes "“ they show simple tricks that you'd expect to encounter in the fantasy genre, providing a basis for when you want to develop more simple stuff yourself. I often set up new players with the open list, telling them to browse it through a bit to get a sense for what sorts of things characters in TSoY are expected to do and have.

Culturally the group may wish to assume that all civilizations of Near have their own tricks and heritage that is culturally different but amounts to the same thing mechanically. Thus the SECRET OF MIGHTY BLOW of a Maldorite might in the fiction represent different martial training than it does for a Khalean, for example. Alternatively, a given Secret, such as the SECRET OF BODHISATTVA, might genuinely be universal, so that two enlightened characters from opposite sides of the world recognize in each other the same truth. It depends on the Secret; I'd assume it obvious that something like the SECRET OF CONDITIONING requires some back-story specification to find out where the mechanical effect comes from for this character. I might gloss over it in practice with a group that doesn't care, but were the issue to ever come up, having an explanation is a nice addition to the fiction.

Cultural Strengths

Later, in the actual culture write-ups, there are headings for "Cultural Strengths". Under these I have long lists of suggestions for how to adapt some of the more generic common Secrets for the culture in question. For example, I might list "specializations", which are suggestions for how to use the SECRET OF SPECIALTY with that culture.

Traditionally this sort of content would have been written into separate Secrets to emphasize how this culture is really good at swimming or whatever, but that goes a bit old, isn't that helpful to you and takes a lot of space, frankly, so I stopped doing it and just listed everything in one long list. I try to separate only Secrets that have somehow strange mechanics or are otherwise notable.

One thing the players might wish to do (and which was explicitly done in earlier editions of TSoY) is to make common Secrets based on cultural strengths just the slight bit more powerful than any old implementation a player might grab. This could range from allowing an abnormally wide specialization to picking two generic Secrets under one heading. This is all fine, as the Secrets featured in Cultural Strengths are mostly pretty low-key stuff anyway. Thus, to pick an old TSoY example, the SECRET OF SWAMP LORE would be a Zaru SECRET OF SPECIALIZATION that also expanded the usage of WOODCRAFT (I) a bit.

This might go without saying, but do treat those lists of cultural strengths as a list of examples to be added to as the group's understanding of the given culture increases. Here more than anywhere else I just sat down and typed whatever came to mind, there is no great plan behind the free association that went into this particular piece of crunch.

Mechanical Issues

While most of the general Secrets are mechanically simple, this is a good place to introduce some overriding mechanical principles I've worked with while editing this book to shape. Some of these are terminology issues, some are new rules, some are optional rules. See for yourself.

Spending Pool at Character Creation

This one always comes up, especially in the TSoY crunch landscape: when a player wants to start play with an Effect or a piece of equipment, do they pay Pool for it?

I used to not worry about this, but the players actually seem to be happier if the mechanics are followed in a robust manner. So yes, have the character pay Pool for each Effect you roll for him in character creation. The character starts play with somewhat expended Pools.

Real tough guys might want to craft several items for their character at character creation with the SECRET OF CREATION, as opposed to just talking it over with the Story Guide and setting appropriate statistics for the equipment. If it's just one piece, handle it like Effects, above. If it's several, assume that the character refreshes his Pools after each project. Equipment is so expensive to create that few characters could make more than one without refreshment.

Pool Spend Caps

I noticed in writing this book that there is a boatload of Secrets in here that work with the Solar System Pool spending limitations. It's that small rule that says that characters can buy exactly one bonus die for an Ability check with a Pool point from the associated Pool, but no more than one, and not from other Pools.

In this text I call this rule the "Pool spend cap" of a given Ability, associated with a certain Pool. Thus, when I say that a Secret "removes the Pool spend cap", that means you get to spend as much Pool as you want on those bonus dice. Pretty simple, I just thought it better to mention this for clarity's sake.

Superior Leverage

Many Secrets in the book reference this concept. You can read about the theoretical background I went through with it in chapter 4, but it's better to mention it here as well.

When a character has "superior leverage", it's just my technical speak for the fact that his position in the fiction makes it infeasible for his opponents to engage him in conflict. For example, a character standing on top of his house and throwing rocks at his enemies has superior leverage "“ he can hurt his enemies, but they can't feasibly hurt him. Superior leverage is the next step down from two circumstance penalty dice: the situation is even worse for the opponent.

When a character has superior leverage, conflict rules are not engaged at all: the opponent loses the conflict automatically, one might say. One might also take the situation into extended conflict were one so inclined, but superior leverage works there as well: if the opponent insists on attacking the superior leverage directly, he will lose every round of conflict automatically.

The proper method for working around superior leverage is not to engage in conflict; the whole idea of the concept is to formalize and speak about the situations in fiction where everybody from audience down understands that conflict is not feasible. Like escaping stormtroopers in STAR WARS, nobody in the audience questions Luke & Han's choice to not attack and try to conquer the Death Star singlehandedly.

Rather, characters work their way around superior leverage by avoiding it. Change the conditions so you don't need to encounter strength with weakness. If your opponent has superior leverage in a debate, stab him. If he has too many stormtroopers, try to talk them over. Or perhaps bring in your own superior leverage to match him, if you can.

Often characters can engage superior leverage meaningfully with PARTIAL conflict stakes, where the weaker party has less to win and more to lose. While the opponent might hit you with a stone and injure you, you might be able to get up to the roof to attempt restraining him in a further conflict, for example.

Last, to clarify: superior leverage is a judgment on the fiction of the game, one which the Story Guide makes when assigning stakes for the conflict. Some crunch might explicitly assign a character with superior leverage in certain situations, but this doesn't mean that the Story Guide can't give it to anybody by declaration. This is a normal part of the leverage evaluation the Story Guide does in the SOLAR SYSTEM rules: conflicts are only ever played out when both parties have some chance of success.

Overflow dice

Some Secrets, such as the equipment rules (chapter VI), make use of the concept of OVERFLOW DICE. These are any dice that were left over after choosing the three best or worst dice in an Ability check. So if you rolled a total of five dice, for example, then you'd necessarily have two dice left over after choosing the three that actually contribute to the check result. Those are the overflow dice.

Obviously enough, when you have overflowdependent crunch in play, don't mess up the dice on the table when rolling. Technically, the overflow does not go away before the whole Ability check procedure ends, as it's possible to add bonus and penalty dice into the roll several times, which also adds to the overflow again and again.

When using overflow dice, I allow players to choose freely to downgrade their result to modify their overflow. So if you really want a "˜+' die in your overflow and have one in your standing dice, go on and switch the "˜+' die out. I sometimes even allow desperate players to roll extra penalty dice into their check if they really must get overflow any way they can; feel free to experiment with this, these are pretty new rules compared to most of the SOLAR SYSTEM toolbox.

What you actually do with overflow dice depends on the Secrets that use them, but the general idea is that I wanted to create an array of Secrets that would make high numbers of bonus dice a bit more useful for the dedicated character. TSoY has traditionally had a pretty bonus-dicey crunch landscape, so rolling a +3 in an Ability check has not been that difficult; with the idea of overflow dice we can create crunch that rewards or punishes the excess dice.

Overflow dice that are used for some purpose are always consumed from the table. This mostly matters if you have some wacky crunch that uses the overflow in several different ways.

Aggravated Harm

Several Secrets in the book use the concept of AGGRAVATED Harm, which, as you might imagine, is always some sort of extra annoying Harm. Aggravated Harm does not shake down and is not associated with a Pool, and can't thus be healed naturally. Often specific sources describe even worse effects.

Healing Abilities work normally on aggravated Harm. I also allow a healer to make an Ability check to turn all aggravated Harm equal or under the check result into normal Harm, which also shakes the Harm down.

Flashbacks, Flashforwards. Intermissions

A central theme of TSoY on the most primordial poetic level is the eponymous shadow of yesterday. In my play this seems to come up as all sorts of flashback mechanics and other weird non-chronological storytelling devices. They don't make an appearance often, but they are regulars in the toolbox.

My general principle for playing scenes in nonchronological order is to refuse to engage in retooling character sheets. We just use the character exactly as he happens to be. This makes certain sorts of narrative sense (that is, this is how movies work), and it saves work, too. If a character is different enough in two time-frames, my solution of choice is to write him up as a new character when necessary.

Players always play their own characters in all scenes when I play, even if we've sort of established that they did some things in the past that they now need to re-enact. I remind the players of what we already know, but they play their characters freely; that's one of the dangers of a real flashback scene.

When non-chronological scenes contradict established facts, a character who is telling the story or experiencing the memory gets to make a STORYTELLING (R) check so we can find out how believable this version of the events is. Others can conflict the story, of course. I've never had this happen, but I suppose that this method could be used between time-frames to find out which timeframe is actually the primary one if the game timejumps (in memories, non-chronological telling or actual time travel) a lot and the players are confused.

Lastly: the Story Guide can always opt to replace a narratively difficult scene with a CUT SCENE: instead of playing a scene, one player (often the Story Guide) makes an expository monologue before the game continues. This is always the case when there are no player characters in the scene.

Limited Effects

This is a variant rule I've found worth considering in TSoY, at least for some groups. The idea is that while Near is supposed to be pretty grim at times, the game mechanics actually provide quite a kick for characters if the players start really working with all the crunch available. Effects from SOLAR SYSTEM rules can especially be leveraged in some interesting ways with the crunch in this book. Gift dice don't fare well in this environment, as their impact is lessened by players wielding large inherent dice pools.

If the group feels that their game has too many bonus dice floating around, they might consider LIMITED EFFECTS: have Effects spent for bonus dice be limited to one die per check, just like Pools are. For an extra-grim take, count each Effect under the Pool spend cap of the Pool it derives from (rather than allowing one die from each Effect). In this latter method Effects are still worthwhile in that they save Pool for the character and might allow a character to tap on the Pool spend caps of several Pools when an Effect is applicable to a situation where the Effect and the Ability are from different Pools.

It would also make sense to apply this rule only in extended conflict, akin to how support checks from secondary Abilities are limited.

I've played both with and without this rule, and it's not nearly mandatory. Rather, just like all alternate rules, it's something to take up when and if the problem (too many dice in this case) comes up in play.

Fragile Effects

Another variant rule in the same vein concerns Effects in another use, as direct resistance against Ability checks in conflict. Some crunch in TSoY provides characters with potentially pretty powerful Effects that protect them from other characters. Gorenite RITUAL WORKINGS, Ammenite ALCHEMY and giant ONE-EYES are good examples; they can be very unforgiving, almost a done deal against a low-Ability character.

If the group starts to feel that such Effects protect characters too much and result in dramatic duds, they may consider FRAGILE EFFECTS: under this rule all Effects that participate in conflict directly lose an Effect level regardless of the conflict outcome; thus Effects ablate in use. If the opponent wins and tries to destroy the Effect, it is immediately destroyed, just like always.

Circumstance Penalties to Effects

One last variant rule concerning Effects, or rather a Story Guide option. When a character encounters adverse circumstances, he suffers circumstance penalty dice to his Ability check. This same rule can be extended to Effects in advanced play by considering the Effect's value to be one level less for each level of current circumstance penalty. Thus an AMAZING (4) angry mob might operate as just GREAT (3) in horrid weather conditions. Simple.

I wouldn't worry about these details with a soft beginner-type group, but if the group is playing hard-ball with some of the more advanced applications of the rules, this might become worthwhile.

Game Balance

Because this comes up pretty often both in play and discussions, I feel that I should mention it explicitly here: the purpose of SOLAR SYSTEM crunch is usually not to be "balanced" in the sense of providing all players with different characters a fair shot at overcoming each other or some imaginary opposition in a wrestling match. To the contrary, different crunch provided in the game is nothing more or less than what it seems like: itemized points of contact between the fictional matter and mechanics of the game. The only balance here concerns upholding meaningful gameplay while focusing attention and inspiring outcomes.

I've discussed this in the actual SOLAR SYSTEM rules, but it really is important: the very idea of playing TSoY is to deck up a couple of bad-ass fantasy heroes and bash them together until one's brains come out. A themeful story is created when we, as audience, make judgments not only of who was stronger, but also who was more in the right and who would have deserved to win. This has nothing to do with game balance, having a hero doomed to lose because his cultural crunch sucks in comparison to his opponent just stacks the deck towards a certain story outcome. This is good, because in SOLAR SYSTEM we enjoy those points of contact and don't want equalized 50/50 chances.

Universal Secrets in Near

These Secrets are known all over Near. Some of the bunch are little more than frameworks that allow the players to model details as they wish.

Blessing
The character can bless endeavors, tools and places with a ritual of his faith. The player makes a PRAY (V) check to create the blessing as an Effect which is then moved to the recipient's character sheet. Blessing Effects are spent as bonus dice; usually they manifest in the fiction only subtly, but when Keys are activated simultaneously, supernatural light effects or such might happen as well. Blessing Effects are not affected by Pool spend caps under the LIMITED EFFECTS variant rule. Cost: as per normal for Effects.
Conditioning (Pool)
The character has been especially conditioned in one of his Pools, either intentionally or by cruel fate. The Pool spend cap is increased by one for the Pool; while others can only spend one Pool point per Ability check on bonus dice, this character can spend two from this Pool. This Secret can be purchased multiple times.
Contacts
The character is well-traveled and knows people in many places. A VAGRANCY (I) or LOCAL (R) check is enough to establish that the character has in fact visited a given place in the past. The player may also activate this Secret to establish that his character has a pre-existing relationship to another character in the game; the player describes the relationship with a short phrase, while the controller of the other character establishes the attitude of the other character and the current state of the relationship. Cost: 1 POOL for locations, 3 for characters, Pool mix chosen by the Story Guide: VIGOR for buddies, INSTINCT for lovers and REASON for colleagues, for example.
Counsel
The character knows how to heal broken spirits. Sometimes this is taught, but most often it is instinctual kindness. When the character advises another and the advice is accepted, the player may make an appropriate emotional Ability check such as PRAY (V), MUSIC (I) or STORYTELL (R) to heal mental or social Harm for the target. Cost: 1 appropriate Pool
Culture (specify)
The character loves his people. He can use any CULTURAL STRENGTHS listed for the culture in question as if he had the corresponding Secret. Cost: 1 POOL appropriate to the situation.
Dark Rhetoric
The character may impose the KEY OF DESPERATION upon another character with a successful SPEAK (R) check. The target may RESIST (R), of course. The target pays for the Key normally, going into Advance debt if necessary. Cost: 2 Instinct. Requirement: KEY OF DESPERATION
Day Labor
The character does not pay Pool to create Effects with the HARD WORK (V) Ability as long as he doesn't possess any Vigor-based Effects.
Enhancement (Ability)
The character has a heroic Ability that does not have a Pool spend limit. This might be because of specialized initiation, exotic training or simply from being so cool. Regardless, the Pool spend cap for this Ability is lifted altogether: the player can buy however many bonus dice he wants for this Ability.
Experience
Whenever the character does something notable, the player may choose to record his Ability check as a free Effect under this Secret. These Effects are free of Pool costs, but they cannot be used during the session they were recorded. Later the Effects can be used normally when the character encounters situations similar to his past experience.
Herbal Medicine
The character has studied natural remedies. A WOODCRAFT (R) check allows him to know and locate suitable herbs to treat most injuries and illnesses. The check may directly heal Harm or allow further checks to treat the patient (e.g. HOUSEWORK (R)). Cost: 1 REASON
Home Set (specify)
The character has a milieu particularly important to him. The player can make an appropriate LOCAL (R) check to force the next scene to happen there. The Story Guide can make the obligatory scene a cut scene if he wants. Cost: 1 INSTINCT
Inner Meaning
The character's art has an expressive spark to it regardless of his level of skill. A piece of art created with CRAFTWORK (I) or other suitable Ability, when turned into an Effect, may at the player's choice influence anybody witnessing the art emotionally, akin to how MUSIC (I) would. The target may resist the influence with RESIST (R) against the Effect value. Cost: 1 REASON per check forced.
Knockback
The character may send others flying with his powerful blows. In extended conflict this can end the conflict if the player's check was the highest of all during a round; such a conflict ends without resolving the stakes, making for an opportunity to back off. Cost: 2 VIGOR
Language (specify)
The character knows an extra language in addition to his own. If no character in the campaign has this Secret, then it's up to the Story Guide to decide how much pain in the ass he wants language to be, case-by-case.
Luck
When the character gets GIFT DICE from others, the player gains an equal number of dice into his own Gift Pool to redistribute. Even if the group is not using Gift Dice, other players can still each give one Gift Die to this character to any checks they want.
Mighty Blow
When the character deals injury to another by violence, the player may choose to increase the level of Harm caused by paying VIGOR: 1 point per one level of increase. The maximum level of Harm is MORTAL (6), however. Cost: 1+ VIGOR
Past
The character has a rich and meaningful past. Whenever this backstory comes up in play, the player may choose to frame a flashback scene revealing a part of it. Play the scene as cut scene if appropriate. Cost: 1 INSTINCT
Prophecy
The character gets prophetic flashes. Either the player or the Story Guide may activate this Secret to have the player make a PRAY (V) check; the player may call for his character to RESIST (R) the vision, however. Success indicates important visions of the future or far away places, narrated by the player who called for the prophecy. The check result may be made into an Effect by anybody the prophecy pertains to (whether present or not); anybody who hears of the prophecy can duplicate the Effect by paying for it, making it viral. The prophetic Effect provides bonus dice normally, and may also be used for penalty dice on pertinent opposing checks. Cost: 1 VIGOR
Prophecy #2
The player can make a PRAY (V) check to get a look at the Key Elements list in advance. The Story Guide shows him as many Key Elements as the level of his check indicates. Cost: 1 VIGOR
Quest (specify)
The character has a treasure map, plan or other precepts for achieving a major goal, which probably involves gaining some rare Secret or Key or such. This Secret is replaced with the target Secret after three successful conflicts towards the goal: the Story Guide includes the quest in the stakes of appropriate conflicts. He also determines whether losing the conflict risks the whole plan or not.
Retrain (Ability, Pool)
The character has undergone some special training or exotic conditions related to the Ability in question. For example, he might practice a Reason-based musical style taught in old Maldorian art academies. The Ability is now associated with both its original Pool and a new Pool. The two Pools have separate point spend limits for this Ability. The player may also rename the Ability at this point to reflect the changing emphasis; this might be useful in moving between cultures that have similar but separate Abilities, for example.
Scribing (specify)
The character knows how to read and write in one writing system. If no character in the campaign has this Secret, then it's up to the Story Guide to decide how much pain in the ass he wants literacy to be, case-bycase.
Shrew
The character is skilled at tugging at the heart-strings of others with their manipulation. The player may opt to spend a successful social Ability check result as penalty dice against the target character if the target opts to act against the advice given by the shrew. This works even for social Effects created in earlier scenes. The shrew does not have to be present to spend the dice, as long as the target remembers their earlier interaction.
Sidekick (person)
Choose an amiable secondary character that has no Abilities higher than the character's highest. The secondary character is now assumed to stick with the player character and help him out of loyalty to common motives, payment or other suitable motive. The sidekick follows instructions for the most part; the Story Guide may contest individual commands with a RESIST (R) check. The secondary character has KEY OF SERVANT for free, but may not use any other Keys; the player character may not gain experience due to interaction with his sidekick. Should the sidekick decide to leave, he decides whether the master gains back the Advance spent on this Secret.
Specialty (focus)
The character has focused his skills to a specific direction. Choose a specialty that is narrower than an Ability. The character gains a free bonus die to any Ability check made within the specialty.
Sudden Knife
The character is practiced as a killer. When the player activates this Secret in a violent conflict, death for the losing party becomes a part of the stakes. Either party may voluntarily de-escalate, but as long as the assassin continues to seek death, he gains a boon: for each "˜ "˜ overflow die in his Ability check, he causes a penalty die for his target's check (opposed checks only in extended conflict). Cost: 3 from the Pool associated with the current conflict Ability, 1 from each other Pool.
Synergy (Ability, Ability)
The character has learned to combine the two Abilities seamlessly in situations that utilize both. The character may use either Ability to support the other in extended conflict as a normal support chain that does not expend a round. In normal conflicts check both Abilities simultaneously and have the worse check support the better, regardless of other conditions.
Vagabond
The character has lived among different cultures through his life. For each time the player takes this Secret he may add one background culture for his character, allowing him to use crunch from several cultures in character creation and later development. The cultures have to border each other geographically or be otherwise connected. (Note that characters can gain crunch from other cultures without this Secret in play. The Secret just formalizes the fact that the character has spent a long while with a culture and can improvise crunch from it like he were native.)

Keys: Heroic Urges

In an epic fantasy setting like Near Keys are "heroic urges" "“ it's easy to interpret Keys as expressions of the greater nature of a given protagonist character. Of course TSoY is also a quintessentially humane setting; all people are worthy of respect, and protagonists become heroes due to their circumstances and experiences, not due to fate alone. I won't bore the reader with my patented anti-fascist fantasy lecture here, it suffices to say that I love playing stories of Near that are about human concerns big and small. If heroism should happen, it comes about due to choices made by the characters and not due to rigorous narrative whitewashing.

New Keys

I've always created new Keys as needed for the dramatic sensibilities of the group. I would probably read the Keys in this book as important examples and likely candidates, not as a limiting constraint. There is no pressure to create your own Keys, of course "“ the general list alone is more than sufficient for many different characters.

Keys for secondary characters

I don't usually bother with Keys for secondary characters per se in TSoY; instead, I assume that all named secondary characters have a Key concerning their foremost passion of the moment, should that become pertinent.

Secondary characters in my TSoY only really advance in experience with fictional events and time. So something has to happen in the fiction for the character's capabilities to change, and the Story Guide judges what the change brings. Sidekicks and such are an exception; if a player runs the statistics of a given character, then the player may as well track experience points for them.

Useless Keys

Keys in TSoY tend to be quite quirky by generic SOLAR SYSTEM standards. It's not that hard to make a Key completely useless without hitting the Buyoff condition with some of these, especially when characters can change the world. I handle those situations by allowing the character to regain an Advance for the useless Key, provided that it has really become non-applicable and not just difficult to use.

Adventure
For the people of Near, adventure means refusing social ties; most societies frown upon this, but not all. Some have approved roles for people eager for adventure. 1xp: Go on or continue an adventure when you could back down. 2xp: Get into danger. 5xp: Do the impossible. Buyoff: Settle down.
Bloodlust
The character enjoys defeating others in combat. This Key is considered a virtue in almost all cultures of Near, but only when practiced in the correct ways by the right people. 1xp: Attack somebody. 3xp: Win a fight. Buyoff: Be defeated in battle.
Compassion
The character struggles to do right by others. Foolish sympathy is not rated very highly by most cultures of Near, but it exists in all. The emblematic scene that separates the hero from the villain comes when the former's compassion gets abused by the latter. 1xp: Help those in need. 2xp: Save another's life. 5xp: Get taken advantage of. Buyoff: Ignore the cries of the innocent.
Coward
The character frightens easily and can't or won't control it in public. The Key is the same whether prudence is accepted of the character socially or not. 1xp: Show your fear to others. 3xp: Back down from a confrontation. Buyoff: Risk yourself voluntarily.
Cripple
The character is crippled or has some such permanent injury. Old age, blindness and lameness are fine examples. 1xp: Get pitied or scorned for your condition. 2xp: Suffer difficulties due to the condition. 5xp: Succeed despite your condition. Buyoff: Get healed of your infirmity.
Desperation
The character has given up hope. Broken souls are not at all rare in Near of today. Some of them may never heal. 1xp: Try to convince others to give up. 3xp: Give up on something important. Buyoff: Cast aside your despair.
Faith (specify)
The character has a belief system that guides him. Not all cultures have churches, but most have religions of some sort. 1xp: The faith comes up. 2xp: Enact the faith in action. 5xp: Suffer for your faith. Buyoff: Abandon and deny your faith.
Fellowship
The character belongs in a fraternity of unlikely allies questing for a common goal. Such a bond can be the strongest of them all. 1xp: Discuss the course of the fellowship with the other members. 2xp: Cooperate with the fellowship to achieve your goals. 5xp: Side with the fellowship against your own best interests. Buyoff: Leave the fellowship.
Glittering Gold
Avarice runs in his veins. As with most character traits, a majority of societies considers a modicum in this regard a virtue, with a minority favoring extremes to either direction. 1xp: Gain material wealth. 3xp: Gain wealth at the expense of others. Buyoff: Give away your wealth.
Glory
The character hungers for renown. This is typical for heroes who don't want to be seen as just a face in the crowd. 1xp: Make sure your name and deeds are known by bragging or seeking witnesses. 3xp: Take foolish risks to increase or enjoy your fame. Buyoff: Give the credit that would have increased your glory to someone else.
Impostor
The character lives in and for lies. Perhaps he is proud of his ability to introduce and control illusions into the lives of people he uses as tools. 1xp: Pass yourself off as something you're not. 2xp: Lie to yourself or your friends. 5xp: Your lie survives a concerned effort to debunk it. Buyoff: Confess to your victims.
Mission (specify)
The character has an important mission that they must complete. Unlike the KEY OF THE VOW, this Key concerns a clear task with a finite end-point. 1xp: Try to forward your mission. 2xp: Succeed towards your mission. 5xp: Reach an important waypoint. Buyoff: Abandon the mission.
Outcast (specify)
The character has lost fellowship in a group or organization, becoming an outcast. This has not necessarily lessened the hold the organization's values have on the character. 1xp: Your status as outcast comes up. 2xp: Interact with the organization. 5xp: Work against the organization. Buyoff: Rejoin the organization.
Past
The character has a dark, significant past. 1xp: Your past comes up. 3xp: Your past influences a decision. Buyoff: Make a different choice this time.
Power
The character hungers for control, perhaps because he's had so little of it. 1xp: Struggle for influence. 3xp: Improve your social position. Buyoff: Relinquish your position.
Relation (specify)
The character has an important relationship to another. Familial relationships are the simplest, but fraternity is also universal. Sometimes other relationships develop as well. 1xp: Interact with your relation. 2xp: Follow the other's advice. 5xp: Defend your relation from danger. Buyoff: Sever the relationship.
Servant (specify)
The character serves another due to fealty, money, force or other concerns. There are some cultures in Near that do not recognize servitude, but most do. 1xp: Obey the master. 2xp: Suffer in service. 5xp: Save the master in some manner. Buyoff: Leave service.
Suffering
The character belongs in a disenfranchised population, born (or at least adopted) to suffering. 1xp: Fail in your efforts. 2xp: Be abused by others. 5xp: Fate casts you down. Buyoff: Succeed beyond your expectations.
Vengeance (specify)
The character thirsts for vengeance against a person or group that wronged them. 1xp: Express your hate and intent for vengeance. 3xp: Attack your target in word or deed. Buyoff: Let your enemy go when they are at your mercy.
Vow (specify)
The character has sworn an oath he intended to keep to his dying day. Unlike the KEY OF THE MISSION, this Key would concern an on-going, static commitment. 1xp: The vow comes up during play. 2xp: The vow causes significant difficulty for you. 5xp: Another character tries and fails to make you break the vow. Buyoff: Break your vow.

Equipment: Fruits of Culture

"Equipment" in the SOLAR SYSTEM is a somewhat flexible term: not only tools and gear, but also masses of people, vehicles and natural weapons have been considered equipment. The dramatic significance of equipment in the fiction is its external nature to the character himself; we've chosen to emphasize this by giving equipment separate, distinctive rules. They can be used to emphasize realistic considerations ("having a sword against an unarmed man is a big deal") or for purely dramatic purposes ("this particular sword symbolizes kingship, therefore it has mechanical impact"), as desired.

Equipment more than most other rules has a somewhat problematic history in TSoY. The original equipment rules of the game have not interacted too well with my own play: at first I spent a couple of years outright misplaying against the intent of the rules, and when I corrected my understanding, it proved that the rules didn't fit the bonus dice heavy crunch environment at my table.

My intent with these new rules was to build them to be essentially compatible with the old ones, to make it easier for individual groups to pick and choose their own preferred approach.

Basics of Equipment

When a character has an important tool, such as a signature weapon, the player may choose to have it emphasized via the SECRET OF EQUIPMENT. The Solar System rules for DECLARED equipment may also be used if desired.

Each piece of equipment has a QUALITY VALUE as an Effect; this is derived with a Barter (I) or suitable crafting Ability check, depending on how the character came by the equipment. The quality is important when another character is trying to destroy the equipment, and it sets the upper limit for the equipment's usefulness in other ways as well.

The two main mechanics for a piece of equipment are EQUIPMENT RATINGS and IMBUEMENTS. A given piece of equipment will usually have equipment ratings equal to its quality rating; it may also have at most that many imbuements. However, each imbuement increases the INTRODUCTION COST of the equipment, so having them is not always a good thing.

Mundane vs. Magical Equipment

This has not been so much of an issue in other settings, but in TSoY I seem to constantly bump on the matter of unrealistic equipment: a character might have a comb that helps him attract horses, or some such unlikely combination. The fantastic environment seems to encourage this, as in fact it is perfectly possible to have such a comb in this game.

The way I deal with this is to be clear on whether equipment and its ratings are mundane or "magical", and judge accordingly. It's perfectly reasonable for a character to buy a horse that helps him move faster, but buying a horse that helps him write letters would take a bit more doing, because normally I would assume that such horses weren't for sale in most places.

Mundanity is judged mostly by the Story Guide. Usually it comes up when a perfectly ordinary smith wants to create some strange and wonderful device. That's when I get to consider whether such a creation really is possible without Elven magic or some such source of supernatural mojo. Some groups will specifically want to make fantastic equipment easy to create, so do by all means draw the line between mundane and magical as you see fit.

Weapons, armor, tools

Some crunch only applies to equipment used in different ways. These are not classifications of equipment itself, but of how it is used. A TOOL is any equipment not used against an opponent. A WEAPON is an equipment used offensively to affect an opponent, while an ARMOR is used to protect oneself.

Rated Equipment

The equipment rating is a value in the range +1"“3, combined with a short phrase describing where it might be applicable.

For example, a simple sword might have an equipment rating "+1 to injure men or beasts". This sword would then be applicable when the character using it tried to injure men or beasts with it.

Each equipment rating is associated with a different scope of effect: higher ratings come only from more specialized equipment, like so:

+1 rating
applies to certain sorts of activity, with the scope roughly similar to an Ability. Examples:

  • A telescope for a +1 when examining distant things.
  • The Book of Light for a +1 when convincing people.
  • A horse for a +1 when traveling overland.

+2 rating
only applies in specific circumstances, akin in scope to the SECRET OF SPECIALTY. Examples:

  • A firebomb for +2 at burning a thing.
  • An Ammeni perfume for a +2 in convincing people attracted to you.
  • Snowshoes for a +2 when traveling over snow and ice.
+3 rating
applies in very specific circumstances that rarely come up of their own accord. Examples:

  • A helmet for a +3 against head-blows.
  • A royal charter for a +3 when convincing people to go along with it.
  • A shallow boat for a +3 when traveling in the Zaru marshes.

Each equipment may have at most three +1 ratings, two +2 ratings and one +3 rating, provided the equipment quality suffices. Most likely these ratings overlap in one piece of equipment, providing increasing specialties within a single field of endeavor, but that is not mandatory.

Using Equipment Ratings

Despite being a bit lengthy thing to explain, equipment ratings are useful because they can be hooked into other crunch to provide different effects. They also have one basic use that is available to anybody with an equipment rating at hand: should the character make an Ability check in a situation where the rating applies, the player may opt to replace the check result with the value of the equipment rating. The dice roll simply doesn't apply, although it is rolled normally. The only cost of this is that if the check would have been a FAILURE (0) without the equipment, then the equipment's quality quality drops by one.

To make this unequivocal: the equipment rating replaces the result of the check, and does not care about the character's Ability level. It's not far off to say that the character is withdrawing from the conflict and letting his equipment do the struggling, whereas he merely makes an Ability check to see if he can keep the equipment from breaking.

Activating several ratings

The default effect of equipment ratings isn't cumulative, but if a character has some crunch that makes several pieces of equipment sensible, then I allow each individual piece of equipment to be used once per check as long as the action makes sense in the fiction. The Story Guide might wish to lean on traditional fantasy RPG aesthetics in this, with single-handed and two-handed weapons, shields and such.

Imbued Equipment

IMBUED items are a lateral depiction of equipment. They are items with integrated Secrets in them that a character can use through the item. Imbuements are useful in depicting not only wacky magic items that do stuff for you, but also for mundane equipment that does more than just improves Ability checks. A character might, for example, have a heavy mace with the SECRET OF KNOCKBACK inherent to it, to coin a mundane example.

Existence of Imbuements does not increase the Advance cost to own an item; instead, an imbued item has an INTRODUCTION cost: first time the item is used for anything in a single scene, the player has to pay a Pool cost equal to the number of imbuements it has. This goes even if the item is just used for its ratings; the presence of imbuements makes taking the item out a weighty matter.

Which Pools the imbued item drains is established by the Story Guide when the item is introduced; the profile remains unchanged after that. Be colorful about it: heavy anime weapons take Vigor, items with many parts take Reason, that sort of thing. An item's quality rating sets the maximum number of imbuements an item may have.

Although the imbued Secret is used just like it would if the character himself possessed it, Pool costs and all, in the fiction it is usually not the "same" Secret that people use. Thus imbued Secrets don't care about fulfilling requirements, can't be used to learn the original Secret and so on. When I particularly want to emphasize that I'm not talking about a natural Secret that characters learn, I call imbued Secrets IMBUEMENTS. So an imbued mace doesn't strictly speaking have the SECRET OF KNOCKBACK, it has KNOCKBACK IMBUEMENT. One other difference between Imbuements and Secrets is that the former are usually somewhat narrower in application: the character has to use the item in question to activate the Imbuement, for example, while the Secret version can be used in any situation.

Gaining Equipment

The simplest method for gaining equipment is to DECLARE it. Aside from Story Guide decision á la SOLAR SYSTEM, players may purchase the SECRET OF EQUIPMENT all but instantly by deciding that a character's horse or armor or hat is important enough to pay an Advance for. Most Story Guides seem to be fine with this; I myself used to be hardass and demand a character to go buy or steal or otherwise gain a piece of equipment interesting enough for this, but nowadays I've come around: if equipment has been established as existing in the fiction and it's not in the middle of a conflict, it's the player's decision where he wants to spend his Advances.

When the SECRET OF EQUIPMENT is spontaneously declared like this, have the player make a suitable Ability check to represent the quality of the item, in case such a check hasn't already been made. If no pertinent Ability jumps out, the Story Guide may well decide the quality of the item freely: the item would probably be between MARGINAL (1) and GREAT (3), but it's the Story Guide's call. The equipment ratings for garnered equipment are determined by having the player first pick one equipment rating, after which the Story Guide names the others based on his sensibilities. Declared equipment is always "mundane" in the aforementioned sense, I'd expect.

Equipment and Advances

Rated and/or imbued equipment costs an Advance to own. It is not uncommon for characters to go to Advance debt with suddenly garnered equipment while they gather experience to learn to use it properly.

Losing equipment allows a character to regain the Advance invested in it. This goes for gifts as well: giving a piece of equipment to another regains an Advance for the giver, while the receiver has to invest an Advance.

Creating Equipment

Characters with suitable Abilities can create equipment by declaring it, as per above. There are also Secrets that make the process more efficient, such as the SECRET OF CREATION. Imbued items are complex enough that I don't usually allow creating them by declaration at all, unless the imbuement makes very much sense.

Disarming and destroying equipment

Whether a character can use a piece of equipment depends on the fictional situation, so one way to prevent it is to disarm him with suitable action. Also, the equipment may be outright destroyed just like if it was an Effect; an Ability check against the quality of the item suffices.

Equipment that loses in quality also loses equipment ratings, and might lose imbuements if the quality drops low enough. The user of the equipment chooses which ratings and imbuements are lost. The ratings can be regained by repairing the equipment with a suitable check; the imbuements only come back in repair if that seems to make sense in the fiction; otherwise they need to be recreated from scratch.

Secret of Equipment (specify)
The character owns a piece of rated or imbued equipment. The Effect rating of the equipment is a free Effect with no upkeep, although fixing the equipment (rerolling the Effect rating) costs normally.
Secret of Creation (Ability)
The character is skilled in equipment creation using a particular Ability. When he creates rated mundane equipment, the player gets to choose all of its ratings. The player may also imbue the item with mundane Secrets, and determine its introduction cost profile. Cost: VIGOR per item's quality, 2 REASON per imbuement.
Secret of Equipment Mastery
The player can consume a "˜+' overflow die to activate an applicable equipment rating: the rating acts at a level one step higher than normal for this check. Secret of Weapon Mastery The player can consume a "˜+' overflow die to activate an applicable weapon rating: the opponent's check suffers penalty dice equal to the rating.
Secret of Armor Mastery
The player can consume a "˜+' overflow die to activate an applicable armor rating: an incoming Harm is reduced by the value of the rating.
Secret of Tool Mastery
The player can consume a "˜+' overflow die to activate an applicable tool rating: he immediately gains the rating in pool points usable freely as bonus dice or in activating Secrets. If not used, the points become a free Effect.
Secret of Overflow Control
The player can use empty "˜ "˜ overflow dice in lieu of "˜+' dice when activating his Secrets.
Name Imbuement
The item has a name, it's unique and famous. The character may call out the name when introducing the item to pay the item's introduction cost out of suitable Effects related to the item.
Expert Imbuement (Ability)
The item is complex and difficult to use. The character using it has to succeed in the chosen Ability check when introducing it. The introduction cost is reduced by the check result, but failure damages the item's quality by one.
Null-rate Imbuement
The item is not broadly useful, and does not have ratings. Instead its introduction cost is halved, round down.
Secret of Signature Equipment
(specify) A piece of equipment the character owns is particularly important to him. Reduce the introduction cost of the item by two points when he is using it himself.
Secret of Shattering (Ability)
The character can destroy equipment and other material Effects with particular fluency when using the chosen Ability. In normal conflict his check result is deducted from the Effect's value even if he lost against it; in extended conflict he can pay Pool associated with the Ability to increase damage he causes to an Effect.
A Simple Sword
This sword's quality rating is GREAT (3), so we might consider it a masterwork weapon. It's the sort that might be used in Maldor or Goren. Ratings: +2 against other swords. +1 for fighting against people. +1 for fighting animals.
My Amazing (4) Warhorse
A horse wouldn't necessarily be equipment, it could be just a color element or a character in its own right. Making it equipment emphasizes that it is essentially furniture when the character is not using it. This trained horse provides a discount to its introduction cost with a CAVALRY (V) check. It can trample others with the SECRET OF MIGHTY BLOW. It can also see spirits and associates INSTINCT with CAVALRY (V), perhaps due to its northern stock. Ratings: +3 for charging in formation. +2 against infantry. +1 for fighting outdoors. +1 for traveling overland. Imbuements: Expert (Cavalry) (V) Mighty Blow (V) Spirit Sight (I) Retrain (Cavalry, Instinct) Cost: 2 VIGOR and 2 INSTINCT per scene, minus the Expert deduction. The introduction cost is not paid for merely having the horse in the scene, but even using the ratings triggers it.