Eons ago, the overlords tamed the lands, vanquished the ghouls, gods and ghosts, and built a mile-wide, 36-level tower to govern the world – a place that allowed them to see everything and know everything. Around the tower grew a culture of supplicant monks whose only goal in life was to climb the 36 levels of the tower and receive the growing awards, powers and comforts of each higher level.
Cloisters and Wrong in the World
The monks live in small cloisters, because there’s less competition from peers when there are fewer peers. Small cloisters of the first three levels grow apples to distribute to the countryside. During the day, the monks when not out righting wrongs, tend the apple orchards. During night, they bunk with their cloister on the appropriate level. Cloisters span multiple levels.
When there is wrong in the world, the overlords assign a cloister a task designed to fix the wrong, and the best performing and most loyal monk from the cloister is rewarded a higher level. During all tasks each monk must deliver 10 apples, one of their sacred duties. Failing to force the 10 subjects to eat one apple each when on tasks results in banishment, death or worse.
Those that die during a task are demoted to level one and resurrected using resurrection magic, the only form of magic allowed by the overlords. A monk can only be resurrected six times before the flesh gives out and transforms to sticky mush.
You are a monk. Your name consists of two words that describe your worth in the world; you were given this name when you joined the cloister. The first word is an adjective, such as: dirty, hairy, homely, little, fat, yellow and windy. The second word is a noun, such as: ground, snow, hair, sky, wind, tree, moss, rock and dirt.
You are good at three practices from this list: awareness, heal self, blankout, gentle touch, climbing walls, finding and removing traps, moving silently, hiding in shadows, hearing noises and whispers, reading secret languages and opening locks.
Although armor and weapons are outlawed, monks don’t use them anyway, so you would never use any armor or weapon at the risk of vanquishing. And no monk worth his name would ever use forbidden magic even if the gods were alive to grant that power.
As a child, you were given to the cloister by your poor parents as a gift to you to allow you some level of comfort in your life.
You have six resurrections left and you live on level one.
Your goal in life is to become The One, the Holy Overlord of Level 36.
Gods and Magic
The gods don’t exist; they were vanquished by the overlords.
The gods are worms, and the gods are alive and present. They live in apples. When ingested, they control minds. Only those that are strong in mind can resist, and those that can resist, can use the magic granted by the worms.
The gods are divided into three factions: dogmatists, wildernessists and wizardists. Each faction wants to control the tower and thus the world, but they have slightly different goals and methods and spells. All the monks are infected, including you (but, luckily, you can resist their mind control. Don’t tell anyone, because resistance is punishable by banishment). The worms of your own kind know if you’re infected and know how you should act, so you better act the part and don’t use magic when another monk can see you. Reporting magic use is a way to rise in level. Only you can know what type of worm infects you. Because you can resist the worm, you can’t tell what kind of worms infect other characters.
Goal: To enlighten the world through the dogmatic following of dogma.
Methods: Spread the word through scripture.
Protections from Evils
Protection from Missiles
Goal: To return the world to nature.
Methods: Reduce civilization. Move subjects from cities to the country. Plant trees. Teach subjects to live in harmony with nature.
Read Ancient Languages
Invisibility 10’ Radius
Goals: Total control over the subjects through magic.
Methods: Cast spells, put subjects in chains and dungeons, use magic to threaten subject and make them grovel before you.
Although, you can uses spells granted by the gods – worms – you can’t select which one you want to use. The worms still are able to grant only those that they wish to give you, and they do so grudgingly, which makes the spells likely to backfire. At the start of an overlord’s task, you will know which spells the gods will grant you.
Monks of higher levels can use more spells.
- Level 1 Monks can use one level one spell.
- Level 2 Monks can use two level one spells and one level two spell.
- Level 3 Monks can use two level one spells, two level two spells and one level three spell.
Spells work once per task. If you gain a level during a task, the gods will give you new level appropriate spells you can use during the task – even if you already exhausted your allotted skills.
Guilds and Societies
When the overlords vanquished the ghouls, gods and ghosts, they outlawed the guilds and societies. All trades are trained by the monks and everything that is is from the tower. There are no guilds and societies. Anyone suspected of being part of a guild or society that doesn’t or does exist is subject to banishment or death or worse.
The five biggest guilds and societies are: the Thieves’ Guild, Mercenaries’ Guild, the Secret Society for the Destruction of the Worm (DoubleSDW), the Government in Exile and the Liberation Front. Each society has different goals and methods.
Your parents were part of a guild or a society and immune to the worm. They gave you to the cloister to help infiltrate the tower. Tell no one your guild or society. When the overlords assign you a task, your guild or society will contact you with instructions.
Goals: Accumulate wealth and power.
Methods: Blackmail, theft and assassination.
Goals: To return wars to the realm, so they can get paid again.
Methods: Cause conflicts between villages and the tower.
Secret Society for the Destruction of the Worm
Goals: To destroy the worms.
Methods: Destroy the apple orchards, stop the distribution of apples and deworm people infected with the worm.
Government in Exile
Goals: Restore the government of the people to the land.
Methods: Subvert any action taken by the tower and install representatives of the Government in Exile in every village.
Goals: To liberate.
Methods: Mixed and confusing.
Weapons and Armor
Weapons and armor are outlawed, so you would never use them, but those that do use weapons and armor have an advantage in any physical conflicts that might befall them. The overlords have forbid physical conflicts unless carried out by tasked monks with special permission. No one dies in the realm to physical conflicts.
Armor: shield, leather, scale, chain, banded, plate
Weapons: Axe, blackjack, club, hammer, mace, staff, dagger, spear, sword, blowgun, bola, rock, sling, whip
Making a Character
To play this game, you make a character by doing the following. Record this on a sheet of paper or index card.
- Write your character’s name.
- Pick three practices.
- Pick an armor to wear or not.
- Pick one weapon or not.
- Pick a worm type (keep hidden by writing it on the backside).
- Pick a Guild or Society (keep hidden by writing it on the backside).
- Draw six empty circles and write “Resurrections Remaining” by them.
- Draw ten empty apples and write “To please the overlord, I will promote health by providing one apple each to 10 subjects when on task.”
Playing a Character
When playing a character, you will do anything and everything to gain a level including killing other characters. You will act in accordance to your worm’s type and attempt to accomplish its goals in order to disguise your resistance. You will complete the task assigned you by your Guild or Society. You should avoid an assassination attempts. And you should always obey the overlords and carry out their instructions perfectly because if they find out that you disobeyed you will be banished, killed or worse.
During the game, you say where your character goes, what your character does and how your character reacts. When you say that you’re going to do something, it happens successfully, unless you’re trying to harm someone, use a weapon, cast a spell or do something that directly relates to any task. If you’re doing either of those, you’ll roll three six-sided dice. One will tell you if you were successful, one will tell the overlord (GM) what the gods think about your actions and what your guild or society thinks about your action.
You will die during a game and you may die often. Sometimes within just a few minutes of when the game starts.
The Basic Game Mechanics – Conflict Resolution
When the overlord asks you to roll the dice, you will roll three dice. A 1-2 on a die means that the action failed or the gods, guild or society disapproves. A 3-4 means that it only half succeeded. 5-6 means a total success. Rolls of 1 may mean death and triple 1s always means death.