Time spent progressing Character Level is considered valuable Experience. Narrative defines the Campaign Setting, Player Characters (PCs), Non-Player Characters (NPCs), Quests, and Plot Points of the Experience. The RPG supports two Narratives: Epic Campaigns are long, connected stories that have a beginning, middle, and end, consisting of three Arcs featuring Serialized Chapters, for a straight-forward linear Narrative; Anthology Campaigns are collections of short, self-contained stories where the chronological order is irrelevant for progress, consisting of three Arcs featuring Episodic Chapters, for a non-linear sandbox Narrative. Experience is defined by how many of a Campaign’s Quests and Plot Points have been completed.
Experience which either does not progress the Narrative or would be more appropriate for a previous Arc is not considered valuable Experience, and does not count toward progressing Character Level. Such Experience should instead have personal value to Player Characters. When such play is engaging and constructive the Experience should present a tangible reward to the Player Character(s), which may include extra resources and/or more beneficial relationships with NPCs; when such play is distracting and destructive the Experience should present a consequence or tangible cost to the Player Character(s), which may include a loss of resources and/or a harmful relationship with NPCs. This method of reinforcement is meant to encourage cooperation and teamwork for both Players and their Characters both in and out of game with in-game metrics.
Arcs group Chapters based on common Threads and Themes, and are organized by scale or scope: Low Level (1-6), Mid Level (7-13), and High Level (14-20). This determines the appropriate challenges and objectives to expect, with the challenges presented during each Arc rarely scaling outside this range. Characters at the beginning of an Arc should find most challenges exceptionally more difficult than Characters at the end of the Arc, who should trivialize such challenges. Not until the end of an Arc is it appropriate to introduce challenges from the next range, as to not present challenges that are beyond what the Characters can be fairly expected to accomplish.
Guideline: Appropriate Challenges by Arc
Affected Cultural Scale
Puzzle and Problem Solving Complexity
Low Level (1-6)
Swimming, Climbing, mechanical locks and traps, short Weather Exposure, short distance, inconvenient Atmosphere and Landmarks
Rural, Suburban, Urban
Bar Brawls, Street Fights
Single or Double Step Detail or Spatial puzzles
Little to no magic
Local Monster attacks
Mid Level (7-13)
Air Travel, magical locks and traps, long Weather Exposure, long distance, Hazardous Atmosphere and Landmarks
City Siege, National Coups
Double or Triple Step Detail or Spatial puzzles
Combination of mundane and magic
Threat to Natural Resource
War and Peace
Power and Corruption
High Level (14-20)
Planar travel, Resource draining locks and traps, Weather Disasters, Uninhabitable Atmosphere and Landmarks
Continental, Global, Planar
Multinational War, Invasion
Triple or Quadruple Step Detail or Spatial puzzles
Chapters and Quests
Chapters refer to Character Level, finishing a Chapter means the Player Characters level up. Chapters vary in length to accommodate the needs of different groups, but always have at least two main quests, the Journey and the Destination, and up to any number of Side Quests. A quest is meant to take a whole game session, and consists of at least four to six Plot Points, or scenes which progress the Narrative. Serialized Chapters will always have a Journey and a Destination Quest, Episodic Chapters might only consist of two or more unrelated Side Quests.
Journey Quests are the introductory Quests of a Chapter, with the main Narrative objectives being Exposition, Inciting Incident, and Rising Action. Each objective should have one or more Plot Points dedicated to them. Exposition introduces important locations and NPCs, the Inciting Incident motivates the PCs to engage the Plot, and the Rising Action advances the PCs to the Destination Quest. If traveling to a new location is needed to complete a Chapter, it should be included in the Journey Quest.
Destination Quests are the conclusive Quests of a Chapter, with the main Narrative objectives being the Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. Like a Journey Quest, each objective should have one or more Plot Points dedicated to them. The Climax almost always includes Exploration and Action, the Falling Action typically concludes the current affairs with the important NPCs introduced in the Journey Quest, and the Resolution sees the PCs advance to the next Chapter and level up.
Side Quests don't introduce important NPCs or conclude Chapters on their own. They usually either exist to add extra content to Explore in a Chapter, but can also be Player inspired. They almost always last one session and either represent a self-contained short story unrelated to a larger Narrative, serving as a break or change of pace; or an extension of threads and themes presented in a Narrative, serving as grind, and may include convoluted plots, exceptionally difficult travels, or extra rooms in a dungeon.
There are four main types of scenes that progress a Narrative: Roadblocks, Setbacks, Encounters, and Spoils. Not every type of Plot Point or scene will be present with every quest, nor is there a particular order which is required to structure them. Different combinations may provide variety in play by changing the patterns and pace of the Narrative. Each scene is expected to, and should be written to take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to complete, depending on the group a single quest should take 2-4 hours. More or less scenes may be appropriate to lengthen or shorten a quest.
⦁ Roadblocks are challenges that prevent a quest from beginning or progressing, they can be questions that need answering, NPCs who haven’t been met yet, Detail puzzles to solve, or guards preventing progress.
⦁ Setbacks are challenges that halt or reverse progress, and can be a lack of correct resources or knowledge, unexpected or undesired outcomes, Spatial puzzles to solve, or distractions which intentionally cost resources.
⦁ Encounters are challenges which involve NPCs, they can include tense and important Dialogue, subterfuge or infiltration of enemy control, and of course Action.
⦁ Spoils are not challenges, they represent scenes depicting achieving a Quest’s objective, and can include treasure, gaining important information, reaching a new location, or finding something important.
Puzzles represent challenges in the game which test the Players’ problem solving skills, they come in two forms:
⦁ Detail Puzzles test attention to important details that Characters are expected understand immediately.
⦁ Spatial Puzzles test navigating and understanding physical spaces or abstract concepts.
Puzzles have a complexity in the number of steps required to solve the puzzle, each extra step will double the difficulty making for very difficult challenges very quickly. Exceptionally complex puzzles combine elements from both Detail and Spatial Puzzles to present engaging and fun challenges.
Each step of a puzzle should be designed with at least three different solutions in mind to accommodate different Players and Characters. One should involve details, characters, or objects presented with the Puzzle in the same space or Chapter, a locked door has a key, etc. One should involve a number of different acceptable Skill checks which could appropriately solve the Puzzle. The last resort for solving puzzles should be Magic, there should be a solution that comes from being able to cast a certain Spell(s) or Magic Items which solve the Puzzle directly or indirectly. This ensures that any style of play can be successful and that solving the Puzzle doesn’t become impossible.
The Narrator adjudicates and directs the Narrative, this responsibility includes interpreting the rules, describing the setting and events necessary, and interpreting and Role Playing NPCs. Generally any dispute over game rules or Narrative direction falls on the Narrator to make a final determination and progress the game. This responsibility might include changing or updating the content of the Narrative as well, to accommodate the needs of their group.
Understanding the best way to direct comes down to taste and the dynamics of the group having the dispute, but a general guideline for Narrators is to consider the fundamental pillars of the RPG: Game, Narrative, and Simulation. Any dispute will ultimately fall into one of these three categories for determining what is the most important aspect in that instant. Game requires the rules to be followed and have somewhat predictable and understandable outcomes. Narrative requires that the Plot progresses ignoring aspects of the rules for better story and flow. Simulation requires considering the setting and suspension of disbelief to ensure there are understandable and appropriate consequences to actions (constructive or destructive).
Playing a Character is Role Playing, its responsibilities include building or knowing the build of the Player Character (PC); acting out or narrating the PC’s actions or behavior; and tracking the PC’s resources, Experiences, inventory, and relationships with NPCs. Role Players design their PC’s personality and ethics and it is important to consider a Character’s Alignment and Moral Values when Role Playing, upon leveling up, changes in Alignment should reflect the Narrative Experience of the Character including the actions, behaviors, and their motivations over the course of a Chapter.
When prior knowledge or information pertaining to a Narrative affects gameplay decisions in a way that grants an unfair advantage, it is considered Metagaming and should not be considered a valid form of play. Sometimes, a Narrator must Metagame to explain to Role Players the outcome of an event, or the significance of a decision. Other times Metagaming may be acceptable, when a Role Player is oblivious or otherwise unaware of some relevant capability they possess and need a reminder, as the Character probably wouldn’t be so oblivious. If a Role Player or Narrator is in a situation where revealed information affects gameplay, it should be treated as a form of dramatic irony, using phrases such as “knowing what my Character knows, [they] will take this action”. Such play styles can effectively create drama or tension if Role Players coordinate their knowledge.
The Pilot Chapter represents a session of play that includes little to no play. This should be spent building and organizing the Player Characters and establishing their roles to play and relationships to each other in the Narrative. This Chapter needs to introduce the Setting and orient the Characters within it. Any necessary backstory or Character introductions should be handled with the Pilot Chapter. If building level 1 Characters, the Pilot Chapter should count as the first Journey Quest, meaning 1st level Characters need only complete a Destination Quest to level up.
The Game Pace is how quickly any given group expects to complete Chapters. When writing or planning a Narrative, understand how many quests the group will Experience each session, and figure out how often the group will meet. For the Standard Game Pace, Low Level Chapters after 1st will consist of three quests, Mid Level Chapters also consist of three quests, but High Level Chapters consist of only two quests. For groups who meet weekly, this is 51 sessions, or close to a full year of real time spent playing one campaign. Narratives can be constrained to specific Level ranges, or can start In Medias Res at Mid Level or High Level. Campaigns using such ranges should include more Side Quests for Narratives to span longer timeframes.
Treasure and Difficulty
Treasure is an integral part to RPGs, but know how much to hand out depends on how hard of a game the group wants to play through, whether it’s a Narrative beginning at Mid level or whether one needs to generate an NPC, this table shows what budget to use to determine a character’s assets.
This can be used as a difficulty scale for making sure PCs find enough treasure to afford all the gear they will need to succeed in play across a Narrative. Easy Difficulty games will have PCs gaining wealth like an Aristocrat, Standard games like an Expert, and Hard games like a Commoner. The amount of treasure to be found by a party of four is listed by Chapter, to make designing rewards easier. These are of course guidelines, and real numbers in play may deviate.
Table: Treasure Progression by Game Difficulty and Individual Character Wealth
Aristocrat NPC Wealth (gp)
Easy Difficulty Treasure (gp)
Expert NPC Wealth (gp)
Standard Treasure (gp)
Commoner NPC Wealth (gp)
Hard Difficulty Treasure (gp)
Action and Adventure use different Game rules for Encounters. Scripted Encounters focus on Narrative, and typically involve Named NPCs. Random Encounters depend on the Nameless NPCs in the Campaign Setting, and focus around Simulation.
The Challenge Rating (CR) of an Encounter is compared to the Chapter it’s presented within, representing its relative difficulty, assuming a party of four Players. CR increases in three distinct ways:
⦁ Increasing the HD/Level/Wealth of the NPCs improves their d20 rolls, HP, and should also improve Ability Scores, Equipment, and AC. This also adds Feats that should be accounted for during Encounters. Use this method if the Player Characters aren’t being challenged enough.
⦁ Increasing the number of the NPCs improves the Action Economy of the Encounter, giving foes more opportunities to act and divides the attention of the Player Characters. Use this method if Encounters are ending too quickly.
⦁ Situational Advantages to the NPCs are meant to impede or dissuade Player Characters from using certain strategies depending on the specifics of the Encounter, this can include Difficult Terrain or Social Paradigms which apply movement or d20 penalties to Players or grant bonuses to NPC movement or d20 rolls. Use this method if Encounters lack excitement.
Scripted Encounters with Rival or Villain NPCs have a CR numbering Character Level -2. Subjects with a Greater Anatomy or higher Wealth Status adjust CR by +1 for each. Individual NPCs should never be Encountered more than 4 Character Levels higher than the Chapter. Encounters with groups of NPCs determine CR based on the highest Individual CR present, +1 for each additional NPC with Class HD, or +1 for every 4 additional NPCs without.
Militant NPCs and Wildlife are used for Random Encounters. These NPCs have HD/Levels determined by their Rarity, and are usually encountered in groups of 2 or more identical NPCs. The size of the group should be determined by the Arc. The CR for these Encounters is total HD/8. Wildlife adjust CR by +1 for each applied variant (Mature or Advanced). Militant NPCs adjust CR by +1 for each improvement to the Economy (Modest to Rich). Random Encounters involving Subjects with Greater Anatomies increase CR by +2.
Table: Random Encounters by Arc
Simple Wildlife Species
Complex Wildlife Species
Exotic Wildlife Species
Encounters involve Goals related to Dialogue or Research. In Campaign Settings with Complex Languages, the Dialect(s) used may affect Encounters. Scripted Encounters involve Important NPCs, they have daily re-rolls on d20 rolls numbering Character Level, which determines their CR.
Random Encounters use General NPCs according to the Civilization, the CR for Random Encounters is total HD/4. Groups or Crowds of NPCs can be treated as a single entity for these Encounters, granting re-rolls on d20 rolls numbering the Group or Crowd’s participating members.