City of Pillars

That is not dead, which eternal lies…

-Howard Phillips Lovecraft

Table of Contents

The Cultures-6

Character Creation-13



The City Quarters-17


I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert... Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear -- "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

Welcome to the world of antiquity. The year is 83 Anno Deum and the world as it will exist in the 21st century is as unimaginable as it is impossible. Rome languishes at the height of decadence, denounced only by a radical Jewish cult. Greece lives more and more in her jeweled past, coveting the achievements of Pythagoras, Plato and Diogenes to name a few. Parthia, shell of the mighty Persian Empire is an emasculated Roman vassal, but still produces some of the world’s finest art and poetry. Most of Europe is a backwater, inhabited by barbarians and harvested for slaves. The Arabian Peninsula is torn by tribal warfare punctuated by islands of civilization.

Irem is one of these islands. Rising like a forest of marble from the shifting sands of the Rub-Al Khali desert Irem is a dusty jewel where anything and everything has a price. Located on top of a lush oasis, the city serves a vital caravan stop for traders from across the ancient world, within its walls you will find merchants, thieves, scholars, priests, alchemists, mercenaries and cultists from nearly every corner of the ancient world. The metropolis spans for miles and holds thousands.

None of them know that Irem, City of Pillars is about to disappear.


To what green altar, O mysterious priest,

Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,

And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?

What little town by river or sea-shore,


Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,

Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?

And, little town, thy streets for evermore

Will silent be; and not a soul, to tell

Why thou art desolate, can e'er return

No one knows what happened to the real Irem. The city has been lost to history and archaeologist for nearly two thousand years. That’s about to change. As a resident or visitor of the city you are going to be present on the day Irem falls from the face of the Earth. What this means to you will depend on the character you choose to play. The city’s mysterious journey could be a pathway to arcane wisdom, riches, or unbridled freedom, the choice belongs to you,.

Players in City of Pillars navigate the in game world by taking on a 3 dimensional persona with a name, backstory, nationality, religion and culture. What all of those details are is largely up to the player, with only a few restrictions. Each player is required to select one of five possible cultures for their in game persona. Available cultures include:

· Barbaric (Celtic, Teutonic, Gaullish)

· Roman

· Greek

· Semitic (Proto-Arabic, Hebrew)

· Parthian

Each culture has its own ‘powers’ based (loosely) on actual history, as well as dynamic relationships with the other groups that inhabit the city.

The Cultures

Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The cultures that frequent the City of Pillars are as varied and nuanced as the goods that flow through its markets and rest in its warehouses. Greek wine, Roman silver, Parthian jewels, Barbarian slaves, all have a place in Irem.


The peoples of Northern and Western Europe are still largely split into fierce, warring tribes known for decorating the altars of their gods with the battered skulls of their enemies. In spite of this brutal heritage many barbarians have found a place in the society of the Roman Imperium, as soldier or bodyguards, some as simple farmers and craftsmen but most as slaves either sold by neighboring tribes or captured while raiding the Empire’s outermost provinces.

Players considering the barbarian culture should research the history of the Celts, the Gauls and the Teutons for inspiration.


· Male: Afi, Agautr, Thorolf, Hermann, Dromundr, Egil, Ketill, Thorkel, Arland, Art, Briac, Mirkjartan, Caedmon, Olaf, Otocar, Helgi

· Female: Alfdis, Ingrid, Boudica, Aund, Berkhildr, Dagrun, Dalla, Disa, Dis, Melkorka, Helga, Fedelmid, Morgayn, Igraine, Gwynhyffar, Brynhilda



The empire of Parthia occupied what is now Iran as well as much of the Middle East. Even in decline, Parthia is known and feared from Rome to far Cathay for their fabulous hordes of silk, jewels and spices and the armies that wealth can command. In Irem there is a saying, “If you can see both of a Parthian’s hands, it is because he has already picked your pocket.” Shrewd merchants are not the only Parthians in the City of Pillars. Suffice it to say that although some of Parthia’s sons ride through Irem’s gates leading camels laden with the wealth of the East, others skulk silently over the walls after dark, agents of the emperor working to secret ends.


· Male: Darius, Mithradates, Orades, Phraates, Sanabarus, Vologases, Tiridates, Cinnamus, Arsaces, Artak, Vurgun, Tigran, Zahruhi

· Female: Ada, Aghburik, Aida, Alvard, Berta, Berkrutha, Elfa, Elpis, Gyulbahar, Nasrin, Sanaz, Roshadi, Noushi, Zena, Zuleika, Vashti



Next to the Parthians, citizens of Rome make up the largest minority in the City of Pillars. Latins, Syrians, Egyptians, Phrygians and a multitude of others all are united under the purple banner of the empire, and all hold above all else their identity as Roman citizens. May have come, like the Parthians, as traders. However the majority of Irem’s Romans are of a more decadent sort, wealthy Patricians who have had enough of the endless politics of Rome. Many of them have brought full complements of house hold servants, family members, and in many cases grudges to their new home on the sand. Suffice it to say that more than a few sons of Romulus have been found floating in the oasis at the City’s center.


· Male: Julius, Gauius, Felix, Maximus, Pontius, Aegyptus, Cornelius, Manius, Ocatvianus, Numerius, Publius, Quintus, Caius, Marius

· Female: Bellatrix, Apollonia, Chthonia, Celia, Europa, Fabia, Hester, Lucia, Nox, Pax, Phylria, Phaedra, Priscilla, Samara, Terra, Thalia



The Greeks of the common era’s first century’s are a proud and erudite people, distinguished for their scholarship in the areas of philosophy and alchemy. It is no coincidence that the Greek Quarter of Irem is built in a ring around the Emerald Library. There is also a small but vocal minority of Cretan traders who lecture openly in the market place for their homelands secession from the fading Roman Empire. Most Greeks however, are content to plumb the depths of the Emerald Library or toil away in home-laboratories in search of the fabled Philosopher’s Stone.


· Male: Alexander, Phillip, Aesop, Agathon, Draco, Irenaeus, Daedalus, Epikteto, Herakleitus, Heliadorous, Heron, Hespiod, Evaristos, Zeno, Zosimos

· Female: Zoe, Ambrosia, Anastasia, Anthusia, Apollonia, Eudosia, Euanthe, Eugenia, Eutropia, Helene, Kallisto, Kallistrate, Korinna, Sapho, Thais, Theodora, Theodosia



The native people of Irem have more in common with their barbarian cousins than the Romans, Greeks or Parthians. The City of Pillars began its life as an oasis the Semitic tribes agreed to be a divine gift to the world from all of their disparate gods. As such they agreed to treat it as neutral ground in their endless wars, and erected there the Temple of All Faiths, which would later become the Emerald University. Not long after, the Temple became a popular stopping point for caravans in need of water and respite from the burning desert sun. A thousand years on, the City of Pillars is a beacon of civilization in an arid wasteland, but its native peoples are still in very in touch with tribal cultures and prejudices of their ancestors.

Players of the Semitic Culture should remember that the term Semitic does not only refer to Hebrew tribes, but also pagan Arabs.


Male: Ariistuun, Dipatusu, Hunzu, Kinaa, Kurigalzu, Rihat, Sargon, Zuuthusu, Gershon, Sarid, Bava, Nebachadnezzar, Sarid, Barak, Namaan, Avinoam

Female: Ahatsunu, Alitum, Amata, Ubalnu, Zakiti, Ia, Iltani,Hagar, Archinoam, Naama, Meira, Rivkaa, Baakul, Chaviva, Humusi, Rut, Yedida


The City Quarters

A tranquil city of good laws, fine architecture, and clean streets is like a classroom of obedient dullards, or a field of gelded bulls - whereas a city of anarchy is a city of promise

-Mark Helprin

Irem is divided into six districts, radiating out from the central oasis, and each has its own unique sights, sounds and dangers. From the palatial splendor of the Roman Cession, to the fetid poverty of the Leper-Home.

The Emerald Library

The Emerald Library is the greatest library of its day and the center of the known world’s most advanced alchemical research. The library exists almost as a city unto itself, crammed to bursting with dormitories, gardens and laboratories, all of which are connected by a series of crypts and tunnels. Some of the deeper reaches of the Library are said to be older than the City of Pillars itself. Although this has never been confirmed one way or the other it is a fact that in the deepest crypts of the Library rest tablets carved of a peculiar green stone. These so called Emerald Tablets are the namesake of the Library, and are scribed with glyphs of a sort that even the most learned scholastics of the Library cannot decipher.

Although this warren of reading rooms and bunkhouses is nominally ruled by the Pasha of Irem, its true master is The Trismegist. Rarely seen and even more seldom heard, it is rumored that The Trismegist is the immortal founder of the Library, an alchemist who deciphered the emerald tablets and achieved godhood, or perhaps a god with a love for alchemy. What is known for certain is that the Trismegist protects the Library fiercely. He (if the Trismegist can be said to truly have a gender) is said to have abducted and then driven mad more than a few scholars whose research endangered the library.


At the edge of the Emerald library sits a scabrous sore on the face of Irem. The Leper-Home, originally the site of a leper hospital dedicated to the Semitic goddess Inana, has become the center of a maze of crowded tenements, and dirty taverns. Streetwalkers, mercenaries, thugs, opium peddlers, the Leper-Home has it all but not without risk. Although the Pasha has assigned a large compliment of guards to the district, they are often more dangerous to passers by than the thieves and cutthroats they are meant to control. It is not uncommon to be rescued by one of the Pasha’s men only to be robbed by him, if not worse.

The Leper-Home is also the headquarters of the Lammasu. A secretive cult that is said to hold forbidden feasts late at night on the dunes that surround Irem, the Lammasu are feared and cursed alike by the denizens of the Leper-Home, who are regularly "taxed" by masked and orange robed Lammasu priests. Those who fail to pay, or pry into Lammasu affairs do not last long in the Leper-Home.

The Roman Cession

Although the City of Pillars was never conquered by Rome, Irem was briefly occupied when the Empire was at its heighth. In the time since, Roman merchants and politicians have flocked to Irem, on the one hand to trade for the wealth of the East and the other to escape the turmoil of political life in Rome. The Roman Cession is less of an urban district than it is a region of wide, palatial villas owned by a few wealthy Roman families and populated by their servants. The Roman Cession is the only district besides the Crimson Tower that touches directly on Irem’s oasis. True to form, the Romans take advantage of this proximity and are often heard across the city, loudly feasting and debauching on their pleasure barges.

The walled gardens of the Roman Cession have seen their fair share of intrigue. Although many Romans have come to Irem as an escape, the strict codes of honor that govern Roman society often cause old grudges to flare up when rivals meet in the City of Pillars. Even those few Romans with no political ties are often involved in smuggling goods in and out of the city to avoid paying the Pasha's taxes. Black market contacts and back room deals have left more than one patrician floating face down in the oasis.

The Crimson Tower

The Crimson Tower is located directly across the oasis from the Roman Cession and directly under the limestone overhang which shades the city. From its highest turret, it is said one can run his finger along the bottom of the rock face. Built from rose hued limestone,the Tower is the home and stronghold of the city’s Pasha. From the Tower radiates a series of guard barracks that house the soldiers with which the ruler of Irem protects his city and enforces the few laws by which it is governed. The tower dungeon has not housed prisoners in years, because every crime is punished with either a fine, maiming, or death. It has however been repurposed to house the Pasha's harem. Decadence has become the rule in the Crimson Tower as, recent Pashas have grown distant from their subjects.

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar skirts the edge of the Roman Cession and is the most active part of the City. Although there are a few permanent buildings in the district, most structures are temporary cloth stalls put up by merchants to house their wares, and if they cannot afford an inn, themselves.

In the Bazaar one can find most anything for sale, although the slave merchants take up the most space. Located at the center of the bazaar is the Martyrs Mount, a large hill on top of which rests a wooden scaffold. It is here that the Pasha’s justice is meted out with public executions and maiming. It is also here that those unlucky few who find themselves slaves traded in Irem are brought to auction.

The Warehouse District

Adjacent to the Grand Bazaar is the Warehouse District. It is here that the wares of the bulk merchants are stored, as well as Irem’s emergency grain supply. It is also home to several caravan companies and their numerous camels. Although it is not as flashy as some of the city’s other quarters, the Warehouse district is perhaps the most important neighborhood in Irem. Here is where merchants from near and far make their real profits, selling ivory and silk by the crate to either retail within the city or transport by caravan to lands where even more money is to be made.

Character Creation

In City of Pillars character creation is a simple, streamlined process. There are no character classes, and only six stats to keep track of. These stats are:


Your constitution score translates directly into hit points, and is also used to decide checks pertaining to physical hardiness (ie-poison, starvation)


Your intelligence score is used during checks that have to do with logic and puzzle solving as well as alchemy.


Charisma is used in persuasion checks and to determine your character’s general reception by other people


Dexterity is used in stealth checks and ranged weapon checks


Spirit is used to determine how effective players are when attempting to use magic and how often they can use magic (spirit score +1/2 Mysticism= number of divine interventions per day)


Strength determines the ability of your characters muscles to act on the world around them as well as playing a role in melee attacks

At character creation the player begins with a score of one in each ability, and is given eight points to distribute amongst the abilities. No ability may have a raw score of more than six points this is a key element in the realism City of Pillars aspires to and makes the threat of character death very real. Also note that no skill may exceed its governing ability in value.

City of Pillars is not a level based game, although the Game Master may award skill points as he/she sees fit at the end of any gaming session. Very rarely, ability points may be awarded as well at the Game Master’s discretion. Ideally this will occur after the completion of a storyline, or a particularly strenuous series of tasks.


At character creation a player begins with 10 skill points to distribute as they see fit among the skills available to them. Although it is largely at GM discretion, it is important to remember that since City of Pillars is a classless game it is generally a good idea to require the skill purchased to be justified by the character's back story.

Skills in City of Pillars are excercised using skill checks. A skill check takes place when a character adds the number of points he/she has in a skill to the number shown on a D6 rolled by the player. The total of these two numbers is the player's score on the check. These checks are either passive or opposing.

Passive skill checks occur when the player is trying to act on an inanimate object or in a way that will receive no direct resistance. To succeed on a passive skill check a player must meet or exceed the difficulty value assigned to the action by the GM. These typically will follow as

1-Free Action, no roll required

2-Very Easy




6-Very Hard

For example, Gunnlaud, the Barbarian acrobat is trying to jump between rooftops. The GM has decided that given the distance between rooftops, this would be a moderately difficult feat to accomplish. She rolls a 2 on the die, and has 2 points in the acrobatics skill, giving her a grand total of four. Her score is just high enough to safely cross the gap between buildings.Had Gunnlaud been trying to execute a triple back flip during her jump (or was trying to jump in an unfavorable condition such as strong wind, or onto a burning building) the GM would change the difficulty of the role as he/she deemed fit.

Opposing skill checks are just that, two dice rolls by opposing forces. These most often occur in combat. Rather than a passive skill check wherein your goal is to have the die fall between two given numbers, the goal of an opposing skill check is to have a higher total score (dice roll+skill) than your opponent. For example, Xenophon the Greek thug is in an argument with Mithradates the Parthian grain merchant. Xenophon would like to persuade Mithradates to let him purchase some supplies on credit, Mithradates is opposed. So, Xenophon attempts a persuasion roll. His total persuasion skill is 3. He rolls a six on the die, giving him a total score of 9. Mithradates has a persuasion skill of 4 but only rolls a 2 on the die, giving him a grand total of 6. The ever smooth Xenophon is succesful in convincing Mithradates to allow him to open a line of credit. As with passive skill checks, the GM may modify noncombat opposing skill checks to reflect the disposition of participants. If say Mithradates was for whatever reason virulently prejudiced against Greeks, the GM would be fully within his/her rights to add an additional bonus to Mithradates roll to prevent him from acting in opposition to his character. Any tied opposing skill checks always favor the defending party. In a situation where no defending party can be determined, the situation is solved with a coin flip.

Skills/Governing Ability

Acrobatics (Dex)

  • Acrobatics is used to to determine success in situation that require agile jumping or balance. For example, walking a tight-rope, or jumping off of a building safely.

Appraisal (Int)

  • Appraisal is useful in determining the value of goods and treasure. This skill would be used in determining if a merchant were offering a fair price for his goods

Blunt Weapon (Str)

  • Blunt weapon skill refers to the use of maces and clubs and a characters efficacy with them. It is used in combat to determine whether or not a player lands a succesful hit with his/her weapon.

Climb (Dex)

  • Climb refers to a characters ability to scale vertical or near vertical surfaces. For example, attempting to climb up a rope, or the side of a steep hill would both be instances in which climb would be used.

Crafting (Int)

  • Crafting is a generic skill used as a placeholder for any trade or trades that a character may know. These can range from the every day to the esoteric, from blacksmithing to wine-tasting and anything in between.

Persuasion (Char)

  • Persuasion is, as the name says, the skill that governs attempts at persuading characters and npcs to perform actions or hold opinions they may not do or have normally. Talking down a merchant on a price is a good example.

Long Blade (Str)

  • Long blade skill determines the characters efficacy in the use of long bladed weapons (ie-longswords, scimitars) and determines the characters chance to hit with those weapons in combat

Mysticism (Spir)

  • Mysticism is the skill that determines a characters efficacy in performing magic, and increases the chance of success at casting.

Performance (Char)

  • Performance is a generic skill that refers to a characters showmanship and skill when performing with musical instruments or doing another performative act (ie-Acting, telling a joke). The type of performance a character is skilled in must be selected at character creation.

Short Blade ( Dex)

  • Short blade skill determines a character's efficacy using short bladed weapons (daggers, knives) and increases a character's chance to hit with those weapons during combat.

Pole Arm ( Dex)

  • Pole arm skill refers to a characters efficacy using poled weapons (quarter staves, glaives, spears) and increases a characters chance to successfully hit with those weapons during combat.

Shield (Str)

  • Shield skill refers to a character's skill in using the surface of his/her shield to strike enemies in combat. This skill increases a character's chance to succesfully hit with this weapon during combat.

Archery (Dex)

  • Archery refers to a characters skill at using bows and bow-like weapons in combat. This skill also increases the character's chance to hit with these weapons during combat.

Stealth (Dex)

  • This skill governs a characters ability to hide, move silently, steal/conceal objects or otherwise perform actions without arousing the attention or suspicion of others. Stealth checks are active skill checks in which the stealth score of a player is pitted against the intuition score of his/her antagonist.

Swim (Con)

  • Swim refers to a characters ability to stay afloat and move through water without becoming too tired to swim or overtaken by rough conditions.

Alchemy (Int)

  • Alchemy refers to a character's knowledge of alchemical concepts and skill at using alchemy to create items.

Dodge (Dex)

  • Dodge refers to a character's ability to dodge objects that may strike him/her and is used as an alternative to block during combat.

Block (Str)

  • Block refers to a character's ability to use a shield to deflect incoming blows during combat.

Intuition (Spir)

  • Intuition refers to a characters ability to sense the motives of others or simply when something is a miss. For example, to determine when a character is a lying, or if someone is hiding nearby. This takes the form of an active skill check, in which the player's intuition score is pit against the stealth or persuasion score of his/her antagonist.

Geography (Int)

  • Geography refers to a character's general knowledge of the world around them and how it tends to be lain out. For example, trying to decide where to look for water in the desert would be a geography check.

History (Int)

  • History refers to a character's general knowledge of past events and may provide important clues during quests. For example a history check may reveal the origin of a mysterious piece of jewelry or other artifact.


  • The heal skill is used to stabilize injured characters after combat and dress wounds so that they will heal properly over time. It is also used to determine the cause and time of death of dead characters.

Perception (Con)

  • Perception deals with a characters ability to notice details that would escape others. For example, a succesful perception check could allow a character to notice that man with a Roman signet ring has been watching him/her from across a tavern.

Sense Magic (Spir)

  • Sense magic is the skill used by a character to sense the stability of reality around them. If a magical item or a character nearby is using an intervention, a sense magic check may pick up on the resulting instability as well as its source.

All players may attempt any skill they would like to, regardless of how many points they have placed in it. That check will be performed as normally, but without the bonus and with the addition of a -2 penalty for having little to no experience in what they are attempting.


Combat in City of Pillars takes place on a grid of hexagons each taken to be five square feet.

At the beginning of combat all participants involved will roll D 6's to determine turn order. Each turn in combat can consist of two actions and one five foot shift. Examples of actions are: drawing a weapon, swinging a weapon, moving 30 feet, getting up, using magic. A typical round of combat lasts 10 seconds.

The attacking player will make a skill check with their weapon, and the defending player will make a block/dodge skill check. If the attacking player receives a higher score they will then roll damage. A tie always favors the defender. Any successful roll of six on an attack is a critical hit and adds one half of raw damage inflicted

All weapons in City of Pillars do a maximum of six damage, however weapons that have a higher a chance of inflicting a lethal wound or maiming will roll multiple D 6's. For example, a dagger does 1d6 damage. A battle axe does 2d6. {C}{C

If any participant’s health is reduced to 0, they are knocked unconscious, and any further damage will instantly kill them. If they are not attended to immediately after combat they will begin to bleed out. Every 10 minutes in game results in a separate constitution check, any failure results in death. *A succesful constitution check is one in which the number rolled on the die falls between 1 and the player's constitution score. For example, if Olaf the barbarian has a constitution score of 3 and is bleeding out, and rolls a 1 a 2 or a 3 on the die, he will pass the check. However any higher result will be a failed check, resulting in Olaf's death.

Armor in City of Pillars functions as a supplemental health source. If a player is wearing armor and is struck by an opponent, half of the damage incurred will be absorbed by the armor, reducing the armor’s hit points and potentially saving the player’s life. For example, Darius the Parthian has 5 hit points and is wearing chainmail that has an armor rating of 4. Olaf the barbarian stabs Darius with a dagger, rolling a 2 on the die. Because Darius is wearing armor, he only loses 1 hit point, but so does his armor, giving Darius 4 hit points and his armor 3 hit points. If Darius’s armor is reduced to 0 hit points, it will be broken beyond repair.

Sneak Attacks are any attacks that occur by a player who has not yet entered combat and are performed on an unaware target. These take a similar form to an attack role. The player performs a stealth check in opposition to his/her targets intuition and if succesful rolls damage and ignores the target's armor rating.

Attacks of opportunity are free attacks made by combat participants outside of their turns due to a vulnerability on the part of another combatant. These attacks are always considered a success and require only a damage roll. These are incurred when:

Passing through an enemies space

Exposing your back to the enemy within reach

Drawing a weapon within reach of the enemy

Drawing a bow

Performing magic within reach of the enemy

Nonlethal Damage may be inflicted by a player if they so choose. A nonlethal attack occurs just like a regular attack but at a -1 penalty to the attack roll, with no change to the damage roll. If a character is brought to half of their hitpoints by nonlethal damage they are knocked unconscious.

Movement in combat that occurs on terrain that is slippery, moving, or unusually rough (lots of undergrowth, rubble) will require an acrobatics check to avoid falling


In City of Pillars, rather than having a fixed spell book from which to select spells knows, magic takes the form of a divine interventions. The universe is literally bent to the players will by his/her tapping into their connection with the divine. For atheistic characters this can take the form of a zen-like mental focus, and for more religious characters a prayer to a deity. The number of interventions possible to cast per day is determined by combining the players spirit score and half of their unmodified mysticism score. Interventions can take any form the player wishes, from a fireball to a flood. The grander the magic, the more difficult it will be to accomplish and the more likely it will be to back fire.

Success will be determined by two elements. The player’s mysticism check, and the GM’s discretion as to what is and is not possible. For example, if Archimedes the Greek magister is trying to cast a fireball, and he simply says to the GM “I cast a fireball” any number of things could happen. The spell could fizzle. The spell could succeed, but materialize inside of Archimedes’ mouth. A ball of rabbits could appear instead. Archimedes will need to make a skill check.

Our hypothetical GM has decided that this is fairly difficult feat to accomplish, and so has assigned a difficulty level of 3. Archimedes' mysticism score is 2 points. Fortunately, he rolls a 2 on the die, giving Archimedes a total score of 4. He passes the check, and so creates a ball of seething fire in his hand. Had Archimedes been in combat he would then be allowed to use the ball as a thrown weapon which would dissipate on contact with an enemy.

If his goal had been a bit more lofty, say, to call down a fiery meteorite from the heavens and crush Irem, then not only would the skill check be a level 6 difficulty (or even higher) but Archimedes would also be in serious danger of damaging the fabric of reality. Magic in City of Pillars occurs as the literal bending of the universe's laws to the mystic will of the caster. Any law bent too far will break.

What this means that any spell of epic proportions attempted can have serious unintended consequences, even if successful. Sure Archimedes may successfully call down that meteorite, but he may also lose his memories, or become horrifically and inexplicably disfigured. Perhaps a transdimensional entity takes notice of Archimede's and uses the weak space he has created in reality to break into the everyday plane of existence.

The GM will keep two different decks of cards with different "misfire" effects written on them, to be drawn by the caster on a failed spell attempt. These decks will be divided into Major Effects, and Minor Effects. Major Effects range anywhere from random teleportation to sudden, inexplicable death. Minor Effects are not life threatening but still undesirable, ranging from disfigurement to the sudden loss of a player's inventory. One way of calculating these misfire effects to consider the difficulty level of the spell the player intended to cast, and then calculate how many points off from that value their score was while attempting to do the magic. For example:

-1) The spell fizzles, no ill effect

-2) The spell fizzles, no ill effect

-3) The spell misfires, draw from the Minor Effects deck

-4) The spell misfires, draw twice from the Minor Effects deck

-5) The spell misfires, draw from the Major Effects deck

-6) The spell misfires, draw from both the Major, and Minor Effects deck

-7) The spell misfires, draw two Major Effects cards.

All magic attempted in combat occurs at an automatic -2 penalty, to reflect the strenuousness of the situation.

Sample interventions and their difficulties:

Light a lamp-1

Create a gallon of water- 2

Summon a fireball-3

Read another character's mind-4

Transfigure a small (under 1 lb) living thing into an object or other living thing-5

Heal a player 6 points-6

Transfigure a players body-7

Raise the dead-8

All difficulties are of course up the GM's final discretion. Although there are few guidelines given for what can, and cannot be done through divine interventions in City of Pillars it may be wise on the part of players jot down potential ideas pregame.

Major Misfire Effects Deck

  • Mind Wipe: The energy you are challenging becomes too much to handle psychologically, you are afflicted with amnesia and can no longer recall your identity. You also take a penalty of one point to all of your previously learned skills.
  • Grotesque Mutation: You bent reality, and like a green twig it snapped back into place. Not necessarily the right place, however. Although you retain your attributes and skills unchanged, common folk will find you too terrifying to speak with unless you cover your disfigurement. A random body part has been replaced by that of one of the following animals. Roll to find out. Body parts- 1-Right Arm 2-Left Arm 3-Right Leg 4-Left Leg 5-Hands 6-Head Animals- 1-Octopus 2-Hyena 3-Bull 4-Fish 5-Fly 6-Lizard
  • Entropy Shuffly: Your character and that of the player to your left switch bodies. You both retain your personalities and skill knowledge but must readjust your skill levels to fit your new body's abilities.
  • Haunting: The magical energy you released has made you into a beacon for the Earth's unhappy dead, who will now invisibly dog your footsteps and haunt your dreams. You cannot distinguish their voices from those of the living. Halve your Persuasion.
  • Like Staring at the Sun: Your spell fizzled in a flash of ethereal brilliance. It was at once the most beutifal and the most gastly thing you have ever seen. It also blinded you. Lose all skill in archery. You may now only move ten feet per action in combat without making an acrobatics check as if you were in rough terrain. If moving through rough terrain, you may only move ten feet per action and take the regular acrobatics check.
  • There were no Words: You lose your ability to speak and so all skill in persuasion.
  • Withered: The stress of your lates attempt at magic has aged you considerably. Halve your constitution and age ten years in appearance.
  • Merciful Death: You pushed your mind and spirit too far in your quest to exert your will upon the world. You just feel so... tired. Your character is now dead.
  • Voidsong: The energy of your magic has simultaneously ripped a whole in reality and attracted a hostile creature from beyond this dimension.
  • Transmuted: Your physical form loses cohesion. Although you may influence the world around you via divine interventions, you may no longer physically interact with anything. You may still take physical damage at a 50% reduction.
  • Metatron: Your voice is no longer your own. You are not sure whether you are channeling a thing that is good, evil, or beyond either but every time you speak you run the risk of doing so in the voice of a being both ancient and terrible. Roll a mysticism check every time you speak. If your total score is less than 4 your voice becomes soul shatteringly loud and does 4 damage to everyone within one a 20 foot radius of you.


Alchemy in City of Pillars goes far beyond the traditional stereotype of old men trying to create gold. Alchemists in this universe, however capable some of them may be of making gold, are primarily concerned with unfolding the mysteries of life and how life is perpetuated. As in our world, the ultimate goal of the alchemist is eternal life. Alchemists regularly use their findings to create homunculi, poison their rivals, or synthesize potions and salves. All of this can be accomplished by the player in a process very similar to that by which magic is performed. For example, Pontius, a Roman alchemist, would like to develop a potion that will temporarily allow his body to move through solid objects. He will begin by consulting his ingredient list and considering the properties of the ingredients, and the effects he would like to produce. Pontius sees that quicksilver, bonemeal, and luminiferous aether all have properties that would contribute to this affect. Quicksilver will act as a catalyst, bonemeal as a force to dissipate the particles of his body, and luminiferous aether to suspend them. Pontius has these ingredients, and access to the necessary equipment, he will make another alchemy check. How succesful he is will rely on the result of the check. Generally, a system similar to that used in skill checks can be used to determine this.

Score of 1- Failure

Score of 2- The player produces a substance that looks like his/her goal, but may or may not have the properties he/she desired

Score of 3- The player produces a weak/diluted form of their goal product.

Score of 4- Player produces a moderately strong form of their goal product

Score of 5- The player produces a higher quality form of their goal product

Score of 6- The player produces an exceptional product

So if Pontius ended up with a total score of

1- His ingredients were destroyed

2- He produced a silky black potion that when drank left him intangible, permanently.

3- He produced a potion that allowed him to move through solid matter, but for only 5 minutes in game.

4- He produced a potion that allowed him to move through solid matter for 10 minutes in game.

5- He produced a potion that allowed him to move through solid matter for 15 minutes in game.

6- He produced a potion that allowed him 20 minutes of intangability in game witht he ability to solidify parts of his body at will.

If he is successful, the potion is successful. If he is not, any number of things could happen to the drinker of the potion, at the GM's discretion. If the GM determines that an alchemist is attempting to mix ingredients with opposing properties {C}{C a failed alchemy check will result in a potion that does 2 D 6 damage to everyone within a radius of 5 feet/gram of reagents.

When players are performing alchemy, the GM should take into consideration what a player would like to accomplish, and then from that consider what materials have characteristics that may be involved. Don't be afraid to get creative or even make up your own materials, and bear well in mind that it would be wise to treat alchemical materials as the rare and wondrous substances they are intended to be. Any other such treatment runs the risk of either overpowering any alchemists in your group or running the GM ragged keeping up with recipes and item generation.

Note on the Creation of Life

Creating a life form is one of the most difficult tasks an alchemist can perform and alway requires a full alchemy lab. Difficulty is determined differently than that of creating inanimate objects. A player must clearly outline what he/she is trying to produce to the GM and then the GM will apply that goal to difficulty matrix.

Score of 1-Failure

Score of 2-Failure

Score of 3-Failure

Score of 4- A mindless homonculus of 15 pounds or less is created and can follow simple 1 word commands and has a score 1 in each ability. The creature begins with no skills and can learn none.

Score of 5- A creature weighing between 60 and 90 pounds is created with a score of 1 in each ability and ability 3 points to be distributed by the creator. Has two skill points that can only be put into skills shared by creature and creator and can follow two part commands.

Score of 6- A creature weighing between 120 and 150 pounds is created with a score of 2 in intelligence and 1 in each other ability, with 3 ability points to be distributed by the creator. Begins with 2 skill points that can only be put into skills shared by the creator and creation and can follow complex commands.

Score of 7- A creature with a weight of the creator's choosing and a natural intelligence of 2 is created. 5 ability points are available to be distributed by the creator. The creature can follow complex commands and learn up to 3 skills.

Score of 8 or higher- A fully sentient life form with free will and a personality is created with 6 ability points to be distributed by the creator and a full ten skill points that it will distribute as it chooses to skills shared by it and its creator.

A player can only create the creature he/she has set out to create. A score of 6 when trying to create a basic homunculus will still only create a basic homunculus.

Materials required for creating life can take the form of actual parts cobbled together from different creatures, or a piece of flesh to grow in agar like a culture, as the GM sees fit. The creation of life must take a minimum of 1 in game month and for more complex creatures it is strongly recommended that the GM require greater lengths of time, ranging all the way to an in-game year.

Special creature abilities such as flight, water breathing, or any other attribute nonstandard for ingame humans may be built onto the creature, but only at the point of initial design.

Note on alchemy*

In game players will have the option of using a portable alchemy kit, but for more esoteric/large effects a full laboratory will need to be accessed.

Alchemical Ingredient/Principal Effect


  • Extracted from red tides on distant shores agar is a sweet, burgundy colored gelatin used for its healing effects, as a growth stimulant, and to nourish artificial life forms before they come to term.


  • An oily black powder with a nasty habit of sticking to anything it touches, Phlogiston is the derived alchemical essence of fire, and is used in warming draughts and dangerous explosives.


  • A noxious grey gas gathered in the Swamps of the South, scholars theorize that miasma is the essence of decay and the cause of all disease.

Luminiferous Aether/Suspension

  • Luminiferous Aether is a glowing gas that accumulates at the peaks of high mountains. Alchemists believe it to be the physical component of space and is used in potions for its lifting properties. A skilled alchemist can even parlay this quality into a means of flight.


  • Alkahest takes the form of a milky white liquid harvested from captured sunlight, Alkahest is the only known universal solvent, a liquid in which any substance can be dissolved. Alkahest is used by alchemists to break substances down to their constituent components, and is less of an ingredient than it is a means of harvesting them.

Bezoar Stone/Cure Poison

  • Harvested from the stomachs of cattle, bezoar stones take the form a peculiar waxy ball that can be eaten plain to counteract the effects of ingested poison or used as a base for healing ungents.

Toad Stone/Poison, Aspiration

  • Harvested from the bellies of toads, toad stone is a hard black substance that if ingested pure will cause death within seconds. It is also diluted and used to treat ailments of the heart and lungs



  • Also known as deadly nightshade,belladona is cultivated by alchemists and priests alike to invoke a state of visionary clarity conducive to both contemplation and prophetic visions


  • Also called mercury, quicksilver has the uniqure property of transforming substances without destroying them. It is thought to be a key ingredient in the production of gold.

Human Fat/Magnifying

  • Rended from the corpses of criminals executed in the bazaar, human fat is capable of magnifying the properties of other alchemical ingredients.

Human Bone Meal/ Dissipation

  • Gathered form the bones of criminals, bone meal causes substances to gassify and dissipate when properly utilized.


  • Also called brimstone, sulfur has produces a much slower, smoldering burn than phlogistan

, and has even been used by some alchemists to create torches that can burn for years on end.


  • High quality waxes are often used by alchemists to capture and hold the effects of other reagents that would be useful to adhere to one another or another object. For example a ball of sulfur wax can be shaped and then ignited to burn through the foundations on a building.


  • Known for its bizzarely human shape and hallucinogenic properties, all that can be said for sure of the Mandrake plant is that it is poisonous to both the mind and body.

Valerian Root/ Sleep

  • For thousands of years the valerian root has been used for its sleep inducing properties.

All alchemy ingredients listed are merely a sample and subject to change/addition by the Game Master.

Sample Alchemy Recipes

  • Fever Powder- Miasma, Phlogiston- Fever Powder is a uniquely subtle poison, that when prepared properly will slip its victim into a state of burning fever that will increase over the coarse of 3 days, culminating in death on the third night. Improperly prepared Fever Powder has been known to either be completely impotent, or to lay dormant in the system of its victims until randomly causing them to spontaneously combust.
  • Levitation Potion- Luminiferous Aether, Human Fat, Quicksilver- A succesful levitation potion will allow is user to control his/her movement in three dimensions until it wears off. An improperly prepared levitation potion has the potential to send its user flying uncontrollably upward.
  • Sleeping Draught- Valerian Root, Human Fat, Quicksilver- A Sleeping Draught will send its consumer into a deep sleep from which they cannot be woken. An improperly prepared Sleeping Draught has the potential to send its consumer into a coma from which they may not wake for weaks, if ever.
  • Sleeping Gas- Luminiferous Aether, Valerian Root- Sleeping Gas occurs as a blackish smoke trapped by alchemists in bottles. When broken in an unventilated area, a vial of sleeping gas has the same potential effects as a sleeping draught on anyone who inhales it.
  • Noxious Fumes- Toad Stone, Miasma- Noxious fumes occurs as an oily green gas trapped by alchemists in bottles. If inhaled will it cause its victim to fall to the ground wretching until the gas dissipates or he/she is moved out of the area. Improperly prepared it can acidify the air inside of its victims lungs.
  • Balm of Creativity- Belladonna, Agar- Balm of creativity is a purplish unguent that when applied to the users temples allows them to take a temporary +1 bonus to all intelligence rolls. Improperly prepared, the Balm of Creativity can impair the ability of its user to focus and decrease their effectiveness at intelligence related tasks


Armor-Armor Rating


Studded Leather-2



Breast plate-6

*Wearing armor heavier than studded leather adds a -2 penalty to stealth checks and mysticism checks


Dagger-1d6-1 hex melee/5 hexes thrown

Gladius-2d6-1 hex melee

War Axe-2d6-1 hex melee/ 5 hexes thrown

Pila-2d6-1 hex melee/ 6 hexes thrown

Xiphos-3d6-1 hex melee

Glaive-3d6-2 hex melee

Short Bow-2d6-15 hex melee

Battle Axe-3d6-1 hex melee

Spiked Shield-2d6-1 hex melee

  • Range= The distance within which a character may strike between with a weapon.


Portable Alchemy kit

Healing kit




Papyrus, Pen

Rope (50 ft)

Musical Instrument


Currency used in game consists of Parthian and Roman coins, generally referred to as gold. Bartering will also be an optional method of exchange.