"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."

THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Drives & Epic Passions, a Sneak Peak at THE FINAL RIDDLE

The following is a snippet from the upcoming "Characters" chapter of THE FINAL RIDDLE.

Drives (A Character Option)

Characters in film and fiction often behave differently than their RPG counterparts. In many horror films, someone comes up with the bright idea to split up and explore the haunted house. Your average group of Call of Cthulhu Investigators are far less likely to do so. In literature, the private investigator will accept the offer of a drink from a suspect only to get drugged. In an RPG, the character that NEVER passes up a drink will suddenly do so in the same situation, suspicious of the offer. Players know they are in a game, and many play to win, even those who are roleplay inclined. They exercise a degree of caution that characters completely under authorial control seldom do.

Lady Amarj’s characters have misgivings about their mysterious Esrolian employer from the start, but they consistently set them aside, or make excuses to themselves to justify her actions. Why? Each of them has a strong motivation to go with her into the desert. They are not gamers. They are desperate people driven to follow her.

While your players may very much be into deep roleplaying, The Final Riddle is a potentially lethal one-way journey filled with horror and Chaos, especially if you are trying to run it close to the original pillow book. To “sweeten the deal” for them slightly, we suggest the following option rule system. Drives.

A Drive is a Passion, but it starts at 90% and never changes. It can be used to augment any roll that is made in service of that Drive. With a critical, special, or regular success, the roll receives the usual 50%, 30%, or 20% bonus, BUT if the roll fails—even with a fumble—there is no penalty. There is none of the usual despondency or despair. The character doesn’t get a bonus, but the Drive remains.

On the other hand, the Drive dominates the character’s psychology. A character whose Drive is “Revelation” should always prioritize that over any other Passion. If choosing between seeking forbidden knowledge and putting their family in danger—assuming they have Love (Family) at less than 90%—they will always seek the knowledge. A character whose drive is “Opportunity” will set aside any Loyalty, Love, or even Hate in pursuit of riches…again, so long as they are under 90%. If the other Passions are equal to or greater, they player should roll both against each other.



The thrill-seeker. The adrenaline junkie. The one with a death wish. The character with the Adventure Drive does not feel truly alive unless they are risking that life. They do not run from danger, but towards it. Depending on their other Runes and Passions, this Drive might take many forms. A character with high martial skills and Honor might always be seeking to test their prowess, to demonstrate they are the best in the land. A character with a high Death Rune might secretly wish for death, while one with a high Darkness Rune might feel cold and empty inside and only peril makes their heart race. A character with a high Disorder Rune might just be out to watch the world burn, and if they burn with it, so be it.

Bound To Another

The servant. The shield-bearer. The lover. The follower. The custodian. The character feels they are in some way obligated to someone else, bound to them even in life and death. It doesn’t matter if this is technically true—and indeed there are many slaves who have no love for their owners—this character feels it. With high Love or Loyalty the motivation is obvious: the character feels they must do anything for the object of that Passion. With high Devotion, the character might be an initiate assigned to a higher ranking cultist and feel Bound to them. The character might be a junior officer, a batman (in the World War I sense) dedicated to a superior, or an “Alfred” (in the Batman sense). They might be a parent risking everything for a child. The crucial thing is that the character with the Bound passion will go to Hell and back for the person or persons they feel Bound to.


The treasure hunter. The beginner seeking to make a name. The social climber. The one looking for the big score. The character lacks something—wealth, fame, reputation, recognition—and they are desperate to achieve it. A character with a high Man or Harmony Rune is probably looking for status, while one with a high Fire/Sky Rune wants recognition. A character with high Earth might want wealth. While all characters with an Opportunity Drive will risk anything to get what they seek, one with high Honor or Truth will probably not be willing to throw others under the bus for it. One with high Disorder or Illusion will gladly lie, cheat, and steal to get that they believe they deserve. 


The penitent. The disgraced. The dishonored. The character has had a fall from grace, and will do anything to clear their name. There is “red in their ledger” that they will risk their lives to wipe out. A character with a high Honor is motivated by that…perhaps their Honor was once even higher until they lost it. A character with high Love or Loyalty might have betrayed the focus of that Passion, and are desperate to prove themselves once more. With a high Death Rune they were once perhaps a cold-blooded killer until something turned them from that path. Perhaps the character is tainted with Chaos somehow and seeks to wipe away the stain.


The truth-seeker. The zealot obsessed with Things-We-Were-Not-Meant-To-Know. The mystic. The spy. There is a secret out there, tantalizing, out of reach, and this character needs to know. Combined with a high Moon Rune, the character is likely on the Sevening path. With a high Truth Rune, like a certain television special agent they know the Truth is Out There and will risk anything to find it. With inclinations towards Chaos, the character might be a full-on Lovecraft-style cultist. Those with a high Death Rune might, like Dr. Frankenstein, be obsessed with the secrets of Life and Death. With a high Man Rune, they might be an information broker, a spider in a web of information for sale. Regardless, they are after secrets, and will risk anything to obtain them.

Amarj’s Suggested Character Drives

If you are playing the pre-generated characters from Lady Amarj’s pillow book, we recommend the following Drives for each.  

Darana is desperate. She is caring for her siblings in a hovel in Oldtown, and there has been no work in nearly twelve weeks. She needs this job to feed them (Bound to Another). Possibly she sees this as a way to never worry about money again (Opportunity).

Sarokar and Jolar might both be driven by Opportunity. They are swords for hire and the money is running low. However, one or both might be Bound to Another, each doing this because the other needs it. Sarokar might also be doing it for Adventure…in the pillow book he does nothing but drink when not fighting and there are hints before Jolar he longed for death. Finally, Jolar owes money to his Black Fang superiors, so Redemption might be a motive to get back into good graces with them.  

Shi’an was in Pavis looking into their father’s connections to something called the “White Bull Society” when the Windstop fell, and Revelation might be driving Shi’an as they continue looking for him. Tun-Bak was sent to watch over them by Shi’an's father (Tun-Bak is also a member of the White Bull), and is Bound to Another through through either obligation to Shi’an's father or Love for Shi’an themself.  

Simios was disgraced in Jonstown for falsifying records, and came to Pavis for a second chance. In his mind, this expedition might be it…a lost city from before Time? A forgotten goddess? This could make his name amongst the Lhankor Mhy. We think this is Redemption, but it could be played as Opportunity.

Zarxis is also a Danfive Xaron cultist working to lift the stain upon his soul (Redemption). On the other hand, he is also pursuing the Lunar path of Sevening (Revelation). 

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