MagnusDice Core Rules (Public Copy)

MagnusDice

Sell your Soul. Face your Fear. End the World.

A Roleplaying System based on The Magnus Archives

Introduction

“Statement Begins.”

Things lurk at the edges of the world, in the dark and twisted corners of humanity. Frightful things, horrible things, creatures that would steal your face, rip you apart, drop you into an endless void. And even all that is but a drop in the bucket beside the true horrors that lurk out there, ancient primaeval beings. The Powers, Fears, Entities, they have many names and many forms. 

It is here, at the horror-laden edges of the world, where the stories of The Magnus Archive take place, and it is here where the MagnusDice game system tells tales. Players step into the role of one of the Marked, people who have been touched by an Entity, who draw power from those terrible beings, yet have not died and completed the transformation to being fully-fledged Avatars.

In less flowery terms, MagnusDice is a fan-created tabletop roleplaying system based on the work and the world of The Magnus Archives. Players take on the role of characters touched by the Fears, working to build up their cult’s Ritual to bring their Fear into reality. 


Table of Contents

Introduction2

Table of Contents3

Challenges5

Example5

Contests6

Failing6

Standard DCs6

Aspects7

Example7

Strain8

Character Creation9

Concept9

Hook9

Method9

Face9

Heart10

Trouble10

Final Touches10

Favour11

Traits12

Action13

Time13

Combat13

Zones13

Attack14

Move14

Tactic14

The Fears15

Marked Rules15

The Buried16

The Corruption17

The Dark18

The Desolation19

The End20

The Eye21

The Flesh22

The Hunt23

The Lonely24

The Slaughter25

The Spiral26

The Stranger27

The Vast28

The Web29

Optional: The Extinction30

Artefacts, Places, Monsters31

Concept31

Legend31

Face31

Bane31

Final Touches32

Optional: Dice & Strain32

Example32

Terminology33


Challenges

“If you win, you shall not die.” 

In MagnusDice, challenges are resolved through rolling two dice in conjunction, taking the total, and comparing them against a difficulty number known as a DC. Meeting or surpassing the DC constitutes a success. Notably, failing to meet the DC is not always a failure to advance, but can spell a consequence imposed upon progressing. 

Dice should only be rolled when there is a significant chance to fail with consequences. Attempting to find a book in a library would not require rolls, but attempting to find a book in a library while being hounded by monster dogs would. 

The first die rolled is the Mortal die. This represents the physical factors involved in a task and the mundane aspects of a character. Is there a crowbar to help pry open a lockbox? Does the character have a certain applicable skill? Mortals will generally have a base Mortal die at d4 or d6 size. 

The second die rolled is the Supernatural die. This represents the inhuman, magical factors at work in a scene and in a character. Is a Leitner nearby which the character is using? Has the character tapped into their Patron by paying Favour? Mortals, again, will generally have the base Supernatural die at d4 or d6 size. 

To modify the dice rolled, players can tap into Aspects of the situation and themselves. Aspects represent qualities that can help or hinder the success of a task. For each Aspect tapped in a positive way, the character increases the size of the appropriate die by one. For example, tapping the Marksman aspect to shoot a target accurately would increase the size of the Mortal die by one. 

The Aspects section contains more details on the intricacies of tapping Aspects, what constitutes an Aspect, and negatively tapping Aspects. 

Dice sizes go from d2, d4, d6, d10, d12, then d20. Note, though, that d20 rolls are generally not available to players outside of extremely special, significant moments. The peak of a Ritual would be a supernatural example. 

The shorthand for dice rolls used here will be MdX+SdX, where M stands for the Mortal die, S for the Supernatural, and X for the size of each die. For example, if a character would roll a d8 for theri Mortal die and a d4 for their Supernatural die, this would be represented as Md8+Sd4.

Example

Daisy wants to shoot a monster with her trusty revolver. This is assigned a DC of 8. Her base dice are Md6+Sd6. She decides to tap into her Aspect – Marked by The Hunt, increasing the size of her Supernatural die to d8. She also decides to tap into the terrain Aspect of Steady Walls, allowing her to lean on the wall and increase her Mortal die to d8. Rolling both dice, she comes up with a 3 and 6 for a total of 9, succeeding the challenge. 

Contests

When two fleshcrafted brutes go to blows with each other, a mind-bending abomination tries to eat your character’s sanity, the situation is resolved through a Contest. Contests are a subsection of Challenges, where instead of rolling against a DC, characters roll against each other.

As usual, characters roll their Mortal and Supernatural dice and add up the total. However, instead of comparing the totals to a DC, the totals are compared to each other. Whichever roll has the highest total is the winner of the Contest – they successfully break through their target’s mental defenses, they land their arrow shot just right. In case of a tie, the instigator of the Contest succeeds, but not to the full extent. An axe swing may strike a glancing blow, a pursuer may gain a small lead.

Failing

Above everything else, MagnusDice is a system to tell stories and develop characters. However, what happens when the dice decide to land against you and stop your plot from progressing? Here, MagnusDice adopts an idea simply known as failing forward.

In short, failing forward is the idea that rolling badly on a challenge should not put a halt to the narrative. Failure is a chance to introduce an unexpected complication, to challenge the players and the characters, to raise the stakes. This does not mean every challenge result should be good for the characters, simply that any result leads to interesting events.

Each time the dice come up a failure, MagnusDice offers two alternatives to simply failing: success at a cost, and failure with a silver lining. 

Success At A Cost 

Instead of failing the task, the player may decide to succeed instead, but introduce a complication. This complication doesn’t have to be decided by the GM – if a player has a good idea for a complication, they may suggest it to the GM. For example, if a player attempts to use their Armed With Lockpicks Aspect to pick a difficult lock and they fail, they may crack the lock but introduce the Tripped Alarm Aspect to the scene. 

Failure With A Silver Lining

The other side of this coin – a failure remains a failure, but introduces an alternative possibility or a small benefit for the players. As with success at a cost, this does not have to be decided by the GM. Using the same example, the player may fail to pick the lock, but in doing so notice the plaster around the door is flaking. This introduces the Weak Frame Aspect for the door, which then allows the player to simply break down the entire door frame and get into the room. 

Standard DCs

Difficulty

Easy

Standard

Challenging

Intense

DC

3

6

8

11

Example

Hiding from inattentive foes

Shooting a gun at a distant target

Cracking a bank’s computer systems

Talking down an angry Hunter


Aspects

“Like colours, but if colours hated me.”

Aspects are qualities of a situation, a character, a challenge, whether they be mundane like rain or supernatural like inscrutable darkness, or even an object or relationship to a person. Within the game, Aspects are tapped into to modify the size of the Mortal or Supernatural dice when attempting a challenge, influencing the chance and the type of success. 

Aspects come in many different types, but as a rule of thumb, they are sorted into two of four categories. Are they Mortal or Supernatural, and are they Lasting or Transient? The first binary decides if tapping an Aspect influences the Mortal or Supernatural die, while the second binary decides what happens to the Aspect after it is tapped. 

Tapping into Aspects is when a character utilises an Aspect in order to assist with a challenge they are facing. The specifics of how a character taps an Aspect is up to the player to describe, but one ironclad rule is that it must be something the character is physically and mentally doing. You may be able to tap the Aspect of Marked by The Dark to hide, drawing upon your Patron’s power, but you can’t tap the Aspect Crowbar to open a crate if you can’t reach the crowbar.

As explained in the Challenges section, tapping into Aspects is done when a character would attempt to overcome a challenge with a significant chance of failure. Lasting Aspects can be tapped once per scene, while tapping Transient Aspects changes the Aspect, creating something different than before to be tapped. 

Aspects may also be tapped negatively, imposing penalties on the character’s dice size. This follows the same limitations as positively tapping Aspects. While negatively tapping Aspects does make a challenge harder, it rewards the character with Favour from associated Powers, be they the characters Patron or otherwise. 

Aspects do not only include physical characteristics, but also character history, Traits, equipment, personality, supernatural Boons and Burdens, and many more. 

Some Aspects do not simply exist to be tapped, but also have passive  effects just for existing. For example, the Aspect of Ray of Light illuminates and makes seeing possible, the Aspect Air Is Optional allows a character to survive without air.

Example

The GM describes a warehouse which was once an abattoir. The place is dimly lit and smells faintly of blood, filled with shipping crates. A few Mortal Aspects can be drawn from this, such as Dim Lighting and Constricted Space. Some Supernatural Aspects can be decided too, such as a Lingering Bloody Smell. If a character would then switch on their torchlight, they now have a Transient Aspect of Ray of Light


Strain

“It collapses on top of me, and I collapse with it.”

Strain is a measure of how much the characters have suffered, how close they are to losing their shit. In other games, this would be their health bar. Strain is not simply a measure of their physical well being, but also their mental state, how close they are to giving in completely to the Fears, or just breaking down completely.

Characters initially start with 0 Strain. For each point of Strain a character has, they suffer a reduction to either their Mortal die size or their Supernatural die size by one. If this would reduce a dice below the size of a d2, the character suffers a game-ending consequence. Death and mental trauma are common ones, but each Power has their fates worse than death.

When a character would gain Strain, if that does not kill them, they may choose to spend up to three points of Strain to gain an Injury instead. Injuries are Lasting Aspects which have a significant negative impact on the character, representing the long-term effects of strain build-up. Characters may only sustain a maximum of five Injuries total before they are unable to spend Strain to gain Injuries.

Some Traits and Feats can heal Strain, and a select few can heal Injuries. In a non-stressful environment, characters can also heal Strain slowly. Unless otherwise stated, characters can heal one point of Strain at the start of each session. If a character has sought medical attention in between sessions, or the in-character time between sessions has been suitably long, GMs may rule that more points of Strain, or even Injuries have been healed.


Character Creation

“Your perfect body is here. Become all you can be.”

In MagnusDice, character creation starts with a series of six questions about the character you want to play, distilled into Lasting Aspects that form a quick guide to the character. 

Concept

Initially, ask yourself a simple question: Who is my character? Are they a hapless new hire at a company influenced by the Flesh? Perhaps they’re a soldier who gazed upon something terrible that sung war in the notes of a bagpipe in one of their tours of duty. They could even be the latest in a long line of successors to a family cult dedicated to the Vast. 

Whatever the case, the next step is taking the answer and crafting a Lasting Aspect out of it – the Concept. This can be Mortal or Supernatural as appropriate to the Aspect – the Aspect Soldier Who’s Seen Something would be a Mortal Aspect, while Scion of a Vast Cult would be Supernatural. Write down the Aspect on your character sheet, and it’s on to the next question. 

Hook

After filling in the Concept, the next question is why: Why did my character get involved in the mystical and supernatural? For some, the path is a conscious choice – a superior introduces them to a Leitner, they were born in a magical cult, et cetera. Most of the time, it is something unconscious, almost an accident, but it is still a choice. This covers events such as being haunted by a monster of the Dark, falling into a cave of the Buried, or even being interrogated by an avatar of the Eye. 

Again, the answer will inform the creation of a second Lasting Aspect – the Hook. The Hook is always a Supernatural aspect, as it directly involves some supernatural meddling. Some examples include Lost John’s Cave Broke My Leg, Family of The Vast, and Only Survivor of Lanncraig

Method

The third question to ask is: What does my character do in the face of trouble? Characters are not passive beings who simply let things happen to them – they take action, they fight back, they have means and methods of seeking out, dealing with, and avoiding trouble. For a career soldier, being faced with the terrible and monstrous may prompt them to fight back, while a lifelong coward could attempt to run away, and a supernaturally gifted person may even invoke their own dark god.

A character’s first reaction when faced with a problem – be it missing information or a monster – is a third Lasting Aspect, their Method. As with the Concept, this Aspect can be either Mortal or Supernatural as appropriate to the details – Seek Out Every Secret could be Mortal if it describes the character doing investigative work, but would be Supernatural if the character is reading minds.

Face

No character is an island, and the fourth question fleshes out the who in a character’s life. Who does my character know? Generally, this reflects someone human close to the character – a significant other, a bosom friend, a sibling – but it can also be a supernatural acquaintance such as a flesh-shaping Leitner owner, or sworn rival they find themselves teaming up with out of necessity. 

This other character is the basis of the fourth Lasting Aspect, the Face. The Face may be Mortal or Supernatural. Keep in mind knowing someone who, unknown to your character, is supernatural does mean the Face is a Supernatural Aspect. It functions off what the character behind the Face is, not what your character knows about them.

Heart

In the world of the Magnus Archives, there are many ways that a character’s humanity can be compromised, but all characters have to be human at some point. This question, What drives my character?, fleshes out what part of your character makes them really human – their core desire, motive, driving force. Even the characters lost to their supernatural powers were humans who hated, loved, adored, and most importantly feared in their life. Does your character want money? Adulation? True love? Or do they hate someone so deep that it drives them forward?

No matter the motive, the desire, the Lasting Aspect drawn from this question – the Heart – is always a Mortal Aspect. After all, the Aspect needs to reflect a core part of the humanity that lies at the core of a character. No matter if Hatred for The Archives or if they Just Want To Have Friends, the Heart is something you can find in any other human, something quintessentially mortal.

Trouble

No character would be truly complete without a dash of trouble, the shit on the fan, the fly in their porridge, the Darth Vader to their Luke. Ask yourself: What force impedes my character? Put aside the monsters of the week, the one-off baddies, focus on the core antagonistic force against the character. Is their anger something that consistently gets the better of them? Are they bound to the code of an institute they despise? Do they have a brother who constantly comes and upsets things?

This sixth Lasting Aspect, the character’s Trouble, can either be a Mortal or a Supernatural Aspect. Not all things that plague a person are mystical – someone’s Inescapable Crushing Debt can be wholly mundane, while Stalked By The Others is likely a Supernatural Aspect.

Final Touches

After going through the six questions, tally up the number of Mortal and Supernatural Aspects your character now has. If they have more Mortal Aspects, they start with a Mortal die of d6 size and a Supernatural die of d4 size, and vice-versa if they have more Supernatural Aspects. If the numbers of Aspects in both categories are balanced, then you get to choose which die starts at d6.

Player characters, whether they know it or not, are all Marked, their souls tied to a number of the Entities that lurk outside reality to prey on fear. Choose one Power to be your character’s Patron, the entity which grants them their powers and demands a tribute of terror. Choose a second Power to be a supporting Power, an entity that doesn’t grant power so much as gives little nudges to the character, helping in a myriad tiny ways according to some inscrutable plan.

Characters don’t start out completely helpless against the myriad terrible entities out there. Traits reflect either innate qualities or specific stunts or powers a character may utilise. Upon creating a character, you may pick up to two Traits worth no more than 2 Favour apiece. These Traits must be from your character’s Patron or their supporting Power. 


Favour

“I just find my mind already wandering to the next statement…”

Over the course of a campaign, as characters take actions in support of one Power or another, they accrue goodwill with the Powers, if such a thing is possible for such beings. Favour is a representation of how in touch with a particular Power a character is and how much goodwill they have with that Power. Favour is tracked separately for each Power when a character would gain their Favour.

Gaining Favour occurs in one of two ways – either a character takes actions to support a Power, or a character taps an Aspect negatively to challenge themselves. Depending on the action taken and the Aspect tapped, any number of Powers could be associated. Characters may only gain Favour for one Power from any one action or Aspect tapped.

Favour is used by characters to tap into supernatural powers and feats. Tapping a Power grants a 1-die size increase. For Marked characters, tapping into their Patron is detailed in Marked Rules, while tapping into their supporting Powers costs two points of Favour with that Power. For other characters, they may still tap into Powers at the cost of two points of Favour with that Power. Apart from that, Supernatural Feats generally require the character to spend one or more points of Favour.


Traits

“You see, I am a very restless man.”

In MagnusDice, what a character can do isn’t measured with stats and skills. Lasting Aspects form a basis for what a character is, their approach, personality, and history. Traits round out the character with capabilities and powers they can bring to bear against the terrors they face. 

Traits represent a character’s innate qualities and abilities, whether those are positive or negative, supernatural or mortal. Are they strong, fast, do they have supernatural senses? Maybe they’re able to crack a mind open and read it like a book, shoot accurately from a speeding vehicle, or roar so terribly it stops a foe in their tracks. 

Linked here is a list of sample Traits to use in gameplay.

The list of Traits above is by no means exhaustive. Players or GMs are encouraged to come up with their own if the list doesn’t have a Trait that fits what they want for a character. 

On a longer-term scale, Favour is also used to purchase Traits to progress a character. Traits are grouped into Mortal and Supernatural, representing if they come from a mundane, human source – such as skill with a gun or sheer willpower – or from a supernatural one – such as the ability to read minds or the ability to fall without touching the ground.

After each session, player characters may spend Favour to purchase new Traits, expanding their repertoire. If there is a Trait that costs more Favour than you have to spend, you may spend Favour to partially purchase that Trait. 


Action

“His blades were blades and forged for killing.”

Time

Gameplay in MagnusDice, like in many other tabletop RPGs, is divided into three abstract units of time – Turns, Scenes, and Sessions. These do not measure a quantitative unit of time, but rather a narrative length of time. 

Turns are the shortest, each one covering a simple action, whether that is punching someone in the face or searching a backpack. 

Scenes cover extended time periods focused around a single location or group of characters. A chase through the streets is a scene, a conversation can be a scene. 

Sessions are like episodes in a show, scenes linked together that constitute a single play session – for example, a single statement in The Magnus Archives could be a session.

Combat

An unknowable beast, twisting and writhing, is hurtling down the corridor at your character. Section 31 cops are storming into the cult’s base, guns drawn and ready to kill. The grand ritual to call the Slaughter requires the backdrop of a terrible and vicious war. While there are many situations in the Magnus Archives that never see a fired shot or the glint of a knife, sometimes combat and violence is unavoidable. 

Combat time is divided into Rounds, a unit of time covering a single Turn from each of the characters involved, antagonists and player characters alike. The order of Turns is determined by a reflexes Challenge. All characters roll their Mortal and Supernatural dice, and turns are taken in order from highest result to the lowest.

Each character can take one action on their turn, whether that is attacking a foe or kicking over a cabinet to create an obstruction. Minor actions, such as moving a short distance, shouting a few words, can be done alongside the character’s action.

Zones

During combat, it can get very hard to keep track of who is where and the distance between people. MagnusDice abstracts that away with combat Zones. A Zone is a single area where all characters within are relatively close to each other. If a character can move a few steps and touch another character, the two are likely within the same Zone.

Most attacks will specify a range in terms of Zones. A swing with an axe targets a character in the same Zone, a shot from a pistol can target an adjacent Zone. 

A character can reasonably reach anything within their occupied Zone without a dedicated action to moving. To reach something in a different Zone, the character must take the Move action.

Attack

Attacking is a Contest between attacker and defender. If the attacker succeeds, they inflict, at base, one point of Strain on the defender. Some weapons and powers may affect the amount of Strain inflicted or suffered – the Tough trait, for example, can reduce Strain taken.

Move

Moving specifically to moving to Zones a character doesn’t occupy. Without a roll, a character may move to an adjacent Zone. When moving more than one Zone away, all characters in the starting Zone may attempt to stop the moving character with a Contest.

Tactic

As an action, characters may attempt to change something about the scene, generally introducing an Aspect or removing an Aspect. Throwing a smoke grenade, knocking over a wall, introducing a supernatural darkness. Unless otherwise specified, doing this requires a roll, with the result becoming the DC to compare against for any challenges involving the new Aspect.


The Fears

“There are… entities in this world. Beings of vast, dark power.”

Behind every terrible monster lurking in the dark, pulling the strings of every sadistic cultist, are the Entities, the Fears, beings of infinite dark power with many names. They influence reality in a supernatural fashion – or, depending on who you ask, they manifest bits of themselves. Books of dark and mystical knowledge, locations where the very ground seems hostile, all in service of reaping fear and terror from all those who encounter them. 

When faced with these horrific things, what are people to do? Run, fight, freeze, there is another option available. With the right knowledge, resources, and even good luck, one can take up the power of the Fears. The ultimate expression of this is becoming Marked, one of the few connected directly to a Fear, gaining boons and burdens in equal measure. 

Marked Rules

During Character Creation, players selected a Patron power who marked their character. After picking Traits, add the Lasting Supernatural Aspect Marked By The [Fear] to your character, replacing Fear with the character’s Patron. Marked By may be tapped for a 1-size increase in the Supernatural die for any challenge associated with the Power. Characters may also spend 1 point of Favour to tap the Marked By Aspect again, even if already tapped that scene. 

Apart from the Marked By Aspect, characters also gain one Boon and one Burden, additional Lasting Supernatural Aspects reflecting their new status as Marked of a Power. While Boons may be tapped positively or negatively, Burdens may only be tapped negatively. As with the questions in Character Creation, these are freeform for players and GMs to come up with.

Some sample Boons and Burdens for each Power are provided in their individual entries in the pages below. These are simply starting points, inspiration for your own games.

The Buried

The Centre, The Choke, Too close I cannot Breathe

You are a worm, digging through the dirt, choking, crushing dirt, every millimeter you squirm a struggle through matter so packed and dense it’s impossible. You are drowning in water so black you cannot see your hands, cannot feel your feet. You are a child once again, trapped in the closet, in the cellar, the attic, trying so desperately to escape the confines of a space too small for you.

The Buried is the Entity that deals with the fear of being trapped without enough space: claustrophobia, but also drowning, being crushed, unable to breathe, the underground, being at the center of everything without enough air as the weight of the world presses down. It is also associated with metaphorical weight and the feeling of crushing, such as poverty, lethargy, and bad-faith moneylenders.

Boons

Burdens

Air Is Optional

Character needs to breathe less, or doesn’t need to breathe at all.

Verified Moleperson

When in open spaces, character may be weakened mentally or physically.

Knows The Earth

Character has a deep understanding of geology and related subjects.

Never A Dime

The character somehow always finds themselves broke when most inconvenient.

Plant Your Feet

Character is supernaturally immobile, especially when focusing.

Stressed And Depressed

An incurable depression has overtaken this character, driving them to lethargy.


The Corruption

Filth, The Crawling Rot, Can’t Get Clean I Feel Sick

There is a rot in your soul, an uncleanness that never comes out no matter how much you scrub, not even if your skin is red raw and bleeding. There grows mold in the dark, damp corners of your room, and you are sure their toxic spores are going to creep into your lungs and grow. There are a million million skittering, scrabbling ants under the floorboards, in the pillars of your house, and one day they will swarm out in their filthy hordes. 

The Corruption is the Entity that deals with the fear of corruption, disease, rot, and filth, associated with feelings of disgust and revulsion, the sensation of a thousand filthy insect legs crawling all over you. Bugs, worms, rats, vermin are common associations, but it also has power over mold and toxin and infectious disease. There are elements of twisted, unhealthy love within the Corruption, with many victims finding comfort in what most would consider vile.

Boons

Burdens

Patient Zero

Character is less susceptible to disease, but more likely to carry such. 

Unsightly

Character is disfigured, diseased, or in some way has a revolting appearance.

Infectious Mood

Character’s emotions tend to leak out and ‘infect’ others they interact with.

Love At First Bite

Character has a deep and unnatural love for rotten things, pests, etcetera.

Part of the Swarm

Character has an affinity for insects, especially pests like locusts and cockroaches.

Revolting Diet

Character must eat waste or refuse once per day or more.

The Dark

Who’s There I Cannot See, The Forever Blind, Nightfall

Something is hiding in that dark corner of the room, something great and terrible, something that will swallow you up, grind your bones to ash and marrow. You know not what it looks like, but in that tenebrousness it could be anything. Are the shadows moving, just out of the corner of your eye, outside the safety of your fragile lamp-light? Yes, whispers the child, for out of sight lurks a monster.

One of the most primal of fears, the Dark is the Entity that deals with, well, the fear of the dark, of what lurks beyond sight, of the monsters that have to be there in the shadows. It is associated with dark water, shadows, coldness and blindness, and is said to be one of the oldest of the Entities. More often than many of the other Entities, it preys on the young, for even a child can fear the creatures that lurk in the dark once their nightlight has been switched off. 

Boons

Burdens

Cloak of Shadow

Character has an affinity to hiding in dark locations and/or at night.

Technophobic

Modern technology reacts badly to the character, often breaking down.

Out of Sight

Specifics about the character have a tendency to fade from memory.

Photosensitive

Character is hurt – physically or otherwise – by light, especially strong light or sunlight.

Beware, Child

Through appearance or demeanour, character evokes a childhood fear.

Don’t Look

When directly viewed, the character is weakened in some way.

The Desolation

The Lightless Flame, The Devastation, Please Stop You’re Hurting Me

Everything burns, is burning, has burnt. The smoke stings your eyes, the heat sears and strips your cracked flesh from bone. No life remains, the ground scoured and blackened by fire, a painful gaping wound in the world. There is no comforting light here, nor the mellow warmth of a hearth fire, only the unthinking, unyielding pain of a wildfire that leaves nothing but terror.

The Desolation is the Entity that deals in the fear of pain, of loss, and unthinking, cruel destruction. It is all the worst parts of fire without any of the warmth, that primal fear that someone who just doesn’t care about you will come and destroy all you hold dear. Sadism is a core trait among followers of the Desolation, with the Cultists of the Lightless Flame gaining power by destroying the lives of people who still had reasons to live. 

Boons

Burdens

Tussauds’ Model

Character has somewhat malleable features when exposed to high heat.

Burn It All

Character has an irresistible urge to commit arson, especially when least helpful.

Leave No Trace

Character is empowered to destroy evidence of crime, at least to mundane eyes.

No Comforting Light

Fires started by the character cannot be helpful, or worse, tend towards self-sabotage.

Uncaring Flame

Character is highly resistant to emotional appeals and attacks.

Sadistic Need

If the character doesn’t regularly commit acts of sadism, they are weakened.

The End

Death, Terminus, The Coming End, I Don’t Want To Die

All things die. Buildings collapse, nations crumble, living things breathe their last. Even the universe will meet its reaper in time, when the last star winks out and the last black hole fades to leave nothing but raw entropy. Who are you to stand against that most ancient of forces? One ember in the wind, to be snuffed out in time, as all other lights fade from the sky. 

The End practically needs no introduction, as the Entity that lords over the fear of death itself. It is uncaring and unstoppable and will claim all in the end. Frequently, it manifests through the dead and through dreams – what is sleep but a trial run for death, after all? If one is unlucky enough to meet one of its servitors at the moment of their death, they can be challenged to a game to avoid dying – but the challenger takes on the mantle of reaper should they prove victorious.

Due to the End’s lack of desire to conduct a ritual, and the skewed balance of power that it can grant, GMs may wish to ban players from selecting the End as their Patron or supporting Power. If a GM chooses to let a player be Marked by the End, it is recommended that the player and GM work out a different end-state for the character instead of conducting a ritual.

Boons

Burdens

Lucid Dreamer

Character can control the content of their dreams, and perhaps other dreams.

Why Care?

Character cannot relate to appeals for life or understand logic involving avoiding death.

The End is Nigh!

Character has a preternatural sense for how to cause things to meet their end.

Eternity of This

Character is eternally trapped in a state of decrepitude or agony.

Game Savant

Character has oddly increased skill or luck at a one-on-one game of their choice.

Deadly Presence

Character has a deadly aura they cannot control, affecting the Mundane.

The Eye

Beholding, The Ceaseless Watcher, It Knows You

Someone is watching you, stalking you, though you can’t catch even a single glimpse of them when looking over your shoulder. Something is watching you, taking in every dirty secret, every guilty pleasure. Everything is watching you behind your back, your privacy but another joke to be laughed at. You are watching, seeking, pursuing without end, each door and unopened book another secret to be uncovered, even as the discoveries destroy you and yours. 

The Eye is the Entity that deals with the fear of being watched, of having each and every one of your secrets revealed, of the terrible curse of being known. Conversely, it is also about the drive to know and understand even if what you seek will destroy you. Eyes are its symbol, whether they are flesh-and-blood or mechanical such as in security cameras. Apart from eyes, it also can be found in books of eldritch, cursed knowledge and libraries. 

Boons

Burdens

Eagle Eyed

Character’s vision is not only peak human, but superhumanly precise.

Voyeur

Character has an irresistible urge to uncover all secrets kept from them.

How Do I Know That

Character occasionally finds themselves knowing things they don’t remember learning.

I’m Being Watched

Character always feels a sensation of being watched, driving them to paranoia.

Speed Reader

Character has an uncanny ability to absorb and understand written information quickly.

Compulsive Oversharing

Character finds it very hard to keep a secret if pressed to share.

The Flesh

Viscera, The Waking Abattoir, I am Meat

Your body is not enough, never enough, must be more. Grow, shed, eat, process meat, always meat, everything is meat, indistinguishable raw meat. Cut your body open and change your meat to be different, to not be just another pile of meat. At the end of the abattoir line of life, there is only one result, and that is meat. So twist your flesh, starve your body, build your perfect frame, but in the end, you will always be meat.

The Flesh is a newcomer amongst the Entities, dealing in the fear of mutilation, having your body changed or destroyed, being processed for meat like an animal, and the realisation that a human is nothing more than animated meat and bone. Commonly, it manifests in animals, twisted bodies, and butchery – especially processing lines. It was, after all, born from the congealed fear of millions of animals sent to the slaughter week after week. 

Boons

Burdens

Refined Muscle

Character’s body has been shaped to enhance their physical strength.

Narcissus

Character has an overwhelming obsession with their physical appearance.

Feed

Character’s body can serve as a source of sustenance for others.

Unhealthy Appetite

Character’s eating habits are harmful, either in excess or in lack.

The Flesh Knows

Character can read a supernatural amount of information through touch.

I Only See Meat

Character is unable to differentiate others based on appearance.

The Hunt

Teeth, Pursuer, Run It’s Getting Closer

Run, it’s on your heels, run for your life, it’s chasing you and won’t stop, can’t you hear the baying of the hounds as they snarl and sniff and seek out your flesh, you who were once predator but are now prey, prey to be chased down and slaughtered, skewered like wild boar, so keep running, running for your life, running from those maws like steel that snap and bite and rend at prey, at you, for you are but prey in the eyes of the ever-approaching hounds. 

The Hunt is sovereign over the primal, animalistic fear of being hunted, chased, turned into prey and run down. Naturally, this manifests a lot as predators and prey, animals, and also monsters such as vampires and wendigo. While this is a fear that doesn’t affect people as much, as humanity has removed itself from the food chain, this does not mean it doesn’t affect people. After all, when there are monsters, there need to be hunters… 

Boons

Burdens

Unceasing Chase

Character never tires when in a chase to catch their quarry.

Prey Animal

Character attracts powerful predators and foes by demeanour or otherwise.

With The Pack

No matter where the character goes, they can find like-minded allies.

Return To Nature

Character is unable to understand much of ‘civilised’ society and social cues.

Assert Dominance

Character is supernaturally empowered to instill raw animal fear in weaker beings.

Big Bad Wolf

In a social group, character must always have one target to pick on and ostracise.

 The Lonely

Forsaken, the One Alone, Come Back Don’t Leave Me

They left you, you knew they would, each and every one of them cutting ties explicitly or otherwise. You look at the hundreds of friends on your social media, dozens of online indicators green, but no messages in your inbox. You’re walking through a misty forest, your friends all lost far behind, and the cold is starting to set in. You lie awake on your hospital bed, breathing your last breaths, but yet your family has not come, and will never come to see you.

The Lonely is the Entity that covers the fear of isolation, disconnection from society, of being cut off and alone in the world. While many, even most Powers prey on the isolated, or use isolation as a tool, this Power’s goal is isolation and the fear thereof. Common manifestations and associations include fog, mist, silence, ships, travel, and – perhaps unintuitively – crowds

Boons

Burdens

The Lone Road

Character has a deep knowledge of the ins and outs of transport and travel.

I’m Fine

Character is compelled to reject assistance, especially in tough situations.

I Will Have Silence

Character can dampen or snuff out any sounds in their immediate vicinity.

Where Are You?

Character has a tendency to become lost and alone if with companions.

Extreme Introversion

Character recovers faster both physically and mentally when alone. 

Distasteful Manner

Through some fault of mannerism or appearance, character is ostracised.

The Slaughter

Battlefield, The Enemy of All, We Are Turned Into Corpses

Bullets fly and shells whiz above your head, violence playing a twisted sonata, whose notes are the crack of gunfire and the screams of the dying, the damned. The dogs of war are loose, and havoc spills out, painting in blood and gore. Laugh at it all, as blades flash and explosives flare, and sing the song of war, of unpredictable violence. You are damned, we are all damned, damned men dancing to the discordant tune of the piper who whistles war. 

The Slaughter is the Entity that deals with the fear of pure unpredictable violence, violence without motive, not knowing where or how pain will come but that it will. It can be the frantic viciousness of a serial killer to the dispassionate violence of a firing squad. War is the most common way this manifests – anything from the frenzied soldiery to those that grow fat off war profiteering – but it also frequently has musical associations, especially pipe instruments.  

Boons

Burdens

Smell of Blood

Character is in tune with violence, and can sense the presence or remnants of such.

Fervour of War

Character is unable to control their killing instinct when riled up.

Butcher’s Hands

Character has greater proficiency with melee weapons of a specific type.

I Hear the Piper

Character naturally incites and attracts violence and conflict.

Soldier’s Dispassion

Character can temporarily suppress their emotional response.

Taste of Iron

Character feeds off bloodshed and violence, weakening if away from a fight for too long.

The Spiral

Esmentiaras, the Twisting Deceit, It Is Not What It Is

Something is wrong with the world, but no one else will believe you when you tell them, and you can’t be mad, can you? There is a door that wasn’t there before, and you know it will be not there but there no matter where you look, and you want to turn the handle. You hear the twisted geometries beyond the fragile skin of spacetime, and can practically see the cogs turn, and no one else will believe you, and you can’t be mad, right? 

The Spiral is the Entity dealing with the fear of madness, the sense that the world isn’t right, that something in your mind is lying to you. Fractals, labyrinths, lying, hallucinations, alternative dimensions, and doors are all part of its portfolio. Clay is a common association with too, a material that can be shaped and moulded, a material that could be anything the sculptor desires.

Boons

Burdens

Already Mad

Character can shrug off mind-based effects with greater efficacy.

I’m Not Mad!

Character is possessed of an ironclad certainty that they are correct in their madness.

World Isn’t Right

Character is better equipped to spot the places in the world where things are wrong.

Twisted Geometries

Character is hampered in any navigation they need to do, getting lost or worse. 

A Little Twist

Character’s body has been warped positively by their brush with madness.

You Don’t See It?

One specific thing is not the same for the character as it is for everyone else.

The Stranger

Outsider, The Face that is not a Face, I Do Not Know You

Your friend is knocking at the door, but their face is not your friend’s face, their eyes are wrong, their gait is off. Your mother asks you about your day once you get home – your mother never asks you about your day, nor do you live with her any longer. You smile at your classmates as a greeting, and they smile back. They never stop smiling their wide, unfeeling smiles. 

The Stranger is the Entity of the fear of the unknown and uncanny, the things that seem like humans but are not, the creeping sense that something is off. It frequently manifests with mannequins, wax models, taxidermy, and other things that are so close to being a person yet wrong in some particular and key fashion. Apart from those associations, it is connected to skin, faces, and identity – stealing, manipulating, copying, all sorts of things. 

Boons

Burdens

One Of Those Faces

Character can impersonate other people with uncanny ease.

You Are Not You

Character believes they are an imposter, and perhaps is an impostor.

Dollmaker

Character’s ability to create and manipulate simulacra is enhanced.

Face Fits Wrong

Something is undeniably off about this character’s appearance.

Smile!

Character is able to elicit a wide grin by saying a single phrase, no matter the situation.

Something’s Missing

Character displays some startling lack in skill set or basic knowledge.

The Vast

Towering, The Falling Titan, I am too Small

Something approaches in the distance, a great titan, an awesome horror to grand to comprehend. You run away, hoping beyond hope to catch a better glimpse of the thing’s fullness, of that overwhelming, all-consuming thing, but each step only reveals yet more of the being. It looms over all reality, exerting a pressure on all things, a yardstick by which all things are measured, all things are found wanting. It is immensitude, and you are nothing. 

The Vast is the Entity whose domain is the fear of insignificance in an enormous universe, of losing oneself in too much space, of heights and falling and open areas. Anything terrifying involving openness, void, falling, and vertigo is likely part of it. Lovecraftian horror – monstrosities too immense to comprehend that consider humanity like a single ant in the garden – is under the wing of this Power. It can also manifest in deep water, a point of common contention with the Buried.

Boons

Burdens

Area Knowledge

Character has a deep understanding of space, the sky, or other associated biome.

Pathetic, Insignificant Ant

Character sees themself as disposable and insignificant.

Lovecraftian Perspective

Character benefits from an increased field of vision through extra eyes or similar.

Stare Into The Void

Character has looked into some unknowable void and broke from the strain.

Land On Your Feet

Character can survive long falls with minimal or no injury.

Agoraphobe

If stuck in an open area, character is liable to freak out or panic.

The Web

The Spider, Mother of Puppets, Why am I doing this

Just another taste, another whiff, another line, another fish falling hook-line-sinker. You fire a pistol, bought with money you never saw, never knew the origin of, at a person you don’t know. Red splatters on your hands, incriminating evidence. Who pulls your strings? You don’t know, can’t know, but the thought lurks at the back of your mind, in your fever dreams. A grinning spider, each of its eight spindly legs tugging eight more strands of web… 

The Web’s domain is the fear of being controlled or trapped without knowing it, of your will not being your own, of being manipulated for some ineffable plan. As the name implies, it typically manifests in spiders, spiderweb, patterns like webs, but also puppets and addiction. Hypnosis and patterns that ‘trap’ attention are also common manifestations of the Web’s power. In contrast to most other Entities, the Web seems happy with the world as is. As such, GMs are encouraged to have players who work under the Web figure out a different goal for their character.

Boons

Burdens

Look Into My Eyes…

By locking gazes with someone, character can subtly influence their mind.

Spin A Tangled Tale

Character lies compulsively, even about things that don’t matter.

I Wouldn’t Lie To You

Character gains increased proficiency at telling lies to people who trust them.

Like Flies To Honey

Character is addicted to some sort of substance to a life-destroying extent.

Let’s Make A Deal

Character can find what other people most desire with a conversation.

Pull My Strings

Character is subservient to a different, powerful entity and must follow their orders.

Optional: The Extinction

The Terrible Change, The Future Without Us, The World is Always Ending

With a push of a button, humanity has become death, destroyer of worlds. Flense the skin of reality, scour what was from the face of the earth, lay waste to all that we were. What lies ahead are cold metal angles that cut the fallible human mind, a thousand years of waste plastic, and complete, catastrophic annihilation. There is no place in this new reality for humanity, no slot in the new world order for its creators, and so homo sapiens dies, sacrificial lambs at their own altar. 

The Extinction is a hypothetical Entity that deals with the fear of catastrophic change, the extinction of humanity as a species, something else crawling in to take its place. It is especially potent when it comes to the fear that humanity did this to itself, that our doom came at our own hands. Common associations are with doomsday weapons like nuclear weaponry, man made catastrophes, code, numeric strings, and the destruction of human flesh.

The status of the Extinction as an Entity proper is debatable. Some may say it’s powerful enough to have its own avatars and manifestations, others may claim it’s just a nascent Power, and there are others that deny the Extinction as a fear altogether, grouping it under a different Power. The powers afforded to those under the Extinction’s wing may also be deemed ‘game-breaking’ in scope or power, impossible to run as a PC. As such, GMs do not have to include the Extinction in their games. 

Boons

Burdens

Nuclear Touch

Character is able to radiate a destructive, corrosive nuclear energy.

Cut My Mind

Character’s brain has been modified, causing damage when their thoughts don’t line up.

Embrace Blessed Metal

Character is partially or fully robotic, and gains benefits associated with that.

No Longer Human

Character is a mutant, robot, alien, or other nonhuman entity with nonhuman morals.

Without Us

Character has seen the future without humanity, and gleans knowledge from that.

There Is Nothing

Character has glimpsed the future without humanity, and it brings them despair.


Artefacts, Places, Monsters

“an ornate wooden thing, with a snaking pattern of lines…”

The world of the Magnus Archives is full of all manner of dreadful beings and baleful locations, from the uncanny pair of Breekon and Hope, the mystical gravitas of the Web Table, to the terrifying grandeur of the Panopticon. These Artefacts, Places, and Monsters are all represented in MagnusDice as a collection of Traits and Aspects, much like the player characters themselves.

Creating an artefact, place, or monster follows similar guidelines as creating a player character – a few questions are asked, and the answers are distilled into Lasting Aspects, generally Supernatural in nature. After all, these are supernatural things being described. Some Traits are added to flesh out its abilities and qualities, and you have an artefact, place, or monster.

Concept

First and foremost, the Concept – What is the thing in question? Is the place a nexus of power for The Flesh? Is that knife cursed by the End to always kill its owner? Was the faceless monster once an ordinary man, but an encounter with his doppelganger changed him? Distil the answer into a single Lasting Aspect such as House Claimed by The Flesh or A Twisted Man, Once Ordinary and move on.

Legend

Behind every mystical staff, every haunted mansion, there is a story. Whether this is rooted in history and fact, or conjecture and urban legend, it can be hard to tell. The question, What does this thing do? looks to establish a standard throughline from all the rumours. Urban legends about the band Grifter’s Bone attribute many things to the band, but a common idea is that the band Plays Music That Induces Violence.

It is important to note that artefacts, places, and monsters only have one Legend, even if they may manifest many different-seeming abilities. This Aspect is the core of everything that artefact, place, or monster does. The Web Table’s Power could be Can Trap Anything, as it is able to trap the attention of those who look at it and the monster that impersonates Sasha. 

Face

The Face in a character is someone the character knows – similarly, the Face in the creation of an artefact, place, or monster is someone tied deeply to said thing. Ask the question, Who is inextricably related to this thing? For example, all Leitner books would likely have the same Aspect for the Face, From the Library of Jurgen Leitner. If the author of a specific book is more memorable than Leitner in the creation or history of the book, they would be that artefact’s Face instead.

Bane

All things have points of weakness, such as the mythological vampire’s tendency to immolate in sunlight, or the legendary Achilles and his heel. What can work against this thing? is the last question on the list. Aspects drawn from this are almost always Mortal, and may sometimes even be trivial. A magical book would have the Bane of Fire, while a Reaper of the End may have the Bane of Challenge Me At Chess

While Banes function as a way for those in the know to overcome their supernatural antagonists, this does not always mean that a Bane can destroy the thing in question. In fact, it may seem that Banes merely postpone the supernatural’s eventual victory. Sometimes, a Bane simply wards the monster off, or shuts the cursed board game down for a year. In some circumstances, the Bane has an unknown side effect, and those that use it are doomed.

Final Touches

All artefacts, places, and monsters are tied to one of the Powers – which specific Power will likely become clear in creating the thing. The artefact, place, or monster gains the fifth Lasting Aspect, Of the [Fear], to indicate that it belongs to that Power. Going back to the example of the Web Table, it would have the Aspect Of the Web.

Finally, select or create a handful of Traits to model the properties and powers of the artefact, place, or monster in question. All Traits chosen should tie into the thing’s Legend Aspect – a monster with the Legend Bringer of Bad Dreams would have a tough time justifying a Trait that lets it manipulate fire, but it would likely have a Trait that makes it intangible.

Optional: Dice & Strain

Artefacts, places and monsters don’t always cleave to the rules of reality as we know it, but there are still many examples that do. For these situations, MagnusDice can model their capabilities with similar rules to player characters – a Mortal and Supernatural die, and a Strain track. 

Both dice start at d6 in size, then increase or decrease based on how dangerous you want the thing to be. Something posing a minor threat like a soldier touched by the Slaughter may drop to Md6+Sd4, while a supernatural terror, fattened on fear may have Md2+Sd10. For simplicity’s sake, GMs may decide to not roll, instead assigning DCs to abilities and such. Use the standard DC chart to assist in fleshing out the numbers to meet.

Monsters follow the same rules as player characters with regards to Strain and Injuries. Artefacts do not suffer dice size decreases with Strain, instead having a number of Strain boxes – generally 3 to 8 depending on how tough it is. Once all boxes are filled, the artefact no longer functions. Places do not suffer Strain, as they are too large to really be destroyed. Note that not all types of attack will be able to damage a monster or artefact – a stone altar would not take Strain from mundane fire.

Example

John, the GM of an upcoming game of MagnusDice, wants to create a cursed sigil that drives those who look at it mad. This is a simple idea, which John creates the Concept Aspect Sigil of Insanity for. Its Legend Aspect comes easily, Stare At This And Go Mad

However, the Face Aspect is challenging, but then John decides that a rare few people gain madnesses that leave them able to communicate. This becomes the Face Aspect Cult of the Sigil. John knows the sigil can be easily wiped away or destroyed, but this doesn’t seem like the sigil’s true weakness – but sight is a key factor. He creates the Bane Aspect Warped Glasses, reflecting how one might counter the sigil.

Finally, John adds the Aspect Of The Spiral, then looks at Traits. He gives the sigil the Trait Your Eyes Deceive You, and a Shaping Trait to inscribe itself into cultists’ foreheads.


Terminology

Patron – The entities that lurk beside reality, driving all supernatural events in the world. Also: the Fears, the Powers, the Entities.

Mundane – The untouched and unaware, the masses, Muggles.

Scarred – People who have been touched by a Power, but are unaware of the truth. Most statement givers are Scarred.

Marked – In the know and claimed by a Power. Sometimes referred to as nascent Avatars. Players generally begin as Marked. 

Avatar – A Marked character who has undergone physical or metaphorical death, and thus become truly in tune with their Patron. 

Aware – Untouched by the Powers, at least directly, but this character has become aware of the supernatural side of reality.

Aspect – A quality of a character or a situation. These can be anything from supernatural boons and burdens, injuries sustained, people a character knows, and even an event in the past.

Mortal – Flesh and blood and things under natural laws. Things with the Mortal tag function in accordance with standard reality.

Supernatural – Things that break the laws of reality, that should not be, that are spooky, weird, and definitively of the Powers.

true death – Many supernatural things can seem to die, or die but come back. This refers to a state of death that no supernatural power can overcome.

MagnusDice is distributed and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.

The Magnus Archives is a creation of Rusty Quill, and is distributed and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

MagnusDice is not affiliated with or endorsed by Rusty Quill. 

MagnusDice should not be distributed for any commercial purposes.

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