The Thrall

The Thrall

The Thrall

In #Stonetop, we use Death’s Door instead of Last Breath. And here’s what happens on a 6-:

On a 6-, your time has come. Choose 1:

• Step willingly through the Black Gates

• Refuse to go; gain the Revenant or Ghost insert (your choice)

• Call on one of the Things Below by name and beseech it to intercede; gain the Thrall insert

The Ghost and Revenant have been done for a long time, but I’ve been putting off the Thrall for a few reasons. I wasn’t quite sure where on the “dead man walking” vs. “sorcerer” spectrum I wanted to go. I wanted the specific Thing Below that you made a deal with to be important, but didn’t want to give up on their ambiguous, mysterious nature. A fair number of the Things Below are associated with Major Arcana, and didn’t want to crowd those out (either their moves or their consequences). And, of course, I wanted it to all fit onto one 1/2 sheet, front & back.

I’m basically using my rules for long-term enchantment & mind control for this (from here, but with Favor instead XP. The GM picks the Impulse and the first Mark, allowing them to set the initial tone for this specific Thing Below.

As you continue as a Thrall, you both gain new Marks and lose access to future marks, sort of burning the candle at both ends. When you run out, you’re done. You’re no longer a PC; you’re a monster now.

Anyhow… I’m honestly not sure if anyone would every actually choose this insert. I’m almost positive that none of the players in my long-running game would (well… maybe one of them). But that’s okay: I’m pretty sure that the mere _existence of this insert adds texture to the game, establishing part of the mythology in a way that describing sorcery just couldn’t quite do.

As always, feedback and questions are welcome and appreciated!

11 thoughts on “The Thrall”

  1. Torment’s Blessing has fallen off the bottom on the sheet — is says to pick from two options, but doesn’t list them or the 6-

    That said? This is awesome. Very lovecraftian elder god. I almost want to see a campaign that starts (or takes a hard left turn) with a TPK, and everyone comes back with a different dark master. Can you still accomplish the great good before you are completely lost?

  2. Interesting concept. Where did you get the ideas for the Marks? Is there a certain overarching theme you’re going with? If it were a case of demonic possession, it would be easy to reskin Marks as Sins.

    I think it’s going to come down to what in it for the Things Below and what their agenda may be, since that would influence which Marks make sense, and which ones don’t. Can you share your thoughts on this?

  3. I especially like that any three marks makes for a nuanced and thematic monster.

    In fact, if there was a more gradual, nuanced way to do resisting impulses, it could be a base for a game.

    Is the ghost/revenant insert available as well?

  4. Peter J the Marks are mostly boiled down from the 12 “aspects” of the Things Below on the Minor Arcana table. It was a bit of a process to get to where they are. I’ll try to walk through it a bit more tomorrow.

  5. Peter J: So, the Marks and where they came from…

    The original-original Stonetop game was an attempt to slap some of the structure from Vincent Baker’s Storming the Wizard’s Tower onto a D&D game. We hashed out the idea of a village built around a huge monolith that was often struck by lightning, abutting a vast woodland with now-missing elves, and low magic. The PCs would all be human or half-elf, with martial or divine classes.

    Additionally, the players in that game asked for two key details:

    1) Fear of deep water: Lakes and big rivers and gods forbid seas were something that humans just instinctively new held terrible evil

    2) Supernatural evil would be more Lovecraftian than Judeo-Christian; no angels/devils, but lots of ancient, horrid, alien stuff.

    One of the players later made a passing reference to the source of the Hillfolk’s disdain for Gordin’s Delve as: the Hillfolk think that the metal in the earth is imprisoning demons, and that the miners are weakening those prisons. And while that didn’t become cannon, it spurred (combined with 1 and 2) spurred the idea of the Things Below.

    So…the Things Below are ancient, and evil, and inscrutable. They are jealous and chaotic and corrupting. They were imprisoned in the world itself by the world itself. And mostly they sleep. But there are cracks in the world, where their influence bubbles up. Deep water is the surest of those cracks, which is why it’s usually filled with awful. But they’re there. They hate life and love and natural order. They’re sadistic and hungry and greedy. And they’re trapped, mostly. But not entirely. And the past 10 years or so, their influence has been growing.

    Now, for the Marks… when I sat down to create to the Minor Arcana generator (, I had some themes in mind for the Things Below and the awfulness they manifested as. It was mostly born of instinct and folklore and imagination.

    My original plan was to list 4-5 of the Things Below, each with a list of 3-4 “Themes” from the Minor Arcana generator. Each Theme would have it’s own Impulse, it’s own “Mark” or marks (negative manifestations of taint), and it’s own “Gifts” (things you can do by spending Favor). But that was just too much. I was able to cram the impulses and the gifts for 12 themes onto a single half-sheet, but not didn’t have any room at all for the negatives. Plus, the Moves structure to support that didn’t leave room for a “your master keeps you alive” move.

    So, that led to aggressively pruning and cutting the themes down to become the surviving Marks. And the Impulse was separated from the Marks. And the Marks each have their own negatives and positives.

    But they largely map back to those themes that are still on the Minor Arcana generators.

    Anyhow… not sure if that’s what you were asking, but that’s the high-level path.

  6. That’s exactly what I wanted. Cheers.

    If this is the case, then maybe each of the Things has their preferred Marks to give to their Thralls? I don’t know how much room you have left on the sheet, but just listing a preferred Mark to each would be a good starting point. Unless you intend to have each group come up with their own things?

  7. I do want each group to have to/get to define the Things Below themselves.

    Even if the Thrall somehow gets triggered before a table has developed a sense for any particular Thing Below, the titles should help, right? Like Daagon is pretty clearly going to favor Child of the Deep and Ravenous seems like a no-brainer match for Yn-Dhi’gao.

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