A Bow who wanted for nothing and had the world at her fingertips before suffering a rude awakening. A Sword who never understood other humans, instead being raised and taught life’s lessons by the wilderness, his only kin the wolves. A Shield who was haunted by the city their parents brought them to, a stranger in a land where they didn’t belong. All three have died. None know how, or even really who they were. As the Boatman delivers them to the shifting sands of the Tenebris, though, these Wanderers will grasp at glimpses of memory and start their journey to the Beyond in this Meet the Party for Afterlife: Wandering Souls!
Given how important the randomized character creation and its results are to the gameplay of Afterlife: Wandering Souls, you can count this particular Meet the Party as one part player resource and one part follow-up review of the system. As you’re reading through, remember that checks in Afterlife are going to consist of a Core Stat such as Soul along with a linked attribute such as Charm; this way you’ll be able to see who is, generally speaking, good at what. Also, when we get to the mystical Death Marks, they’re presented by name, the dice roll that earned them, and a wisp of memory that they’re based on. Remember, however, that none of them have manifested quite yet…
Manoeuvre: 1 Overcome: 0 Withstand: 1
Ferocity: 2 Health: 3
Apply: 0 Precept: 0 Reason: 1
Lucidity: 3 Hunger: 4
Charm: 1 Create: 1 Understand: 0
Generosity: 1 Will: 2
My life was… Whip (6,1)(I wanted for nothing. The world was at my fingertips. I never knew a challenge and the world bent to my will.)
What I learned… Holy Symbol (6,5)(My faith in my view of the world was tested), Crying Eye (4,5)(I pleaded my case to a person I cared for), Red Flag (1,5)(I’m in a battle for my sanity), Pile of Bodies (5,2)(I’m in a warm and crowded place; my objective is here), Drowned Body (5,6)(I was drowning by the hand of someone I knew well),
What I know now… Moon (6,6)(Magic shaped my life), Potion Bottle (5,5)(My heart was torn between two), Sloth (6,2)(I was lazy)
Talents: Deathplay (Inspire a person to accomplish their goal)
Curiousa: Good bottle of whiskey which gets you drunk after only a sip, Compass that always points to the nearest mirage.
Valeria, armed with the Bow Approach, is going to be at her best when she can be witty, quick, and intelligent. She’s not too shabby on the social front either, particularly when her Deathplay Talent makes inspiring others easier. Then we come to the Death Marks. When unlocked Whip will allow her to regain a point of Lucidity when things don’t go her way. Holy Symbol will reduce the Challenge by 1 when Valeria questions something more powerful than herself. She’ll gain +1 die when trying to convince someone of her point of view after unlocking Crying Eye. Red Flag will allow her to reduce a Challenge by 1 once per session. Pile of Bodies will reduce the challenge by 1 when trying to spot something. After unlocking Drowned Body Valeria will regain a point of Hunger whenever she is near a large body of water. Moon will grant her a Trick: “I hear a soul’s song.” She’ll unlock another Trick with Potion Bottle: “I am desirable.” Finally, Sloth puts one more Trick up her sleeve: “People often give me a pass.”
Manoeuvre: 0 Overcome: 1 Withstand: 0
Ferocity: 3 Health: 4
Apply: 1 Precept: 2 Reason: 0
Lucidity: 2 Hunger: 4
Charm: 0 Create: 1 Understand: 0
Generosity: 1 Will: 2
My life was… Animal Footprint (3,4)(The Wilderness raised and taught me life’s lesson. I never understood other humans. They were strange, alien creatures.)
What I learned… Forked Tongue (6,2)(I was caught in a terrible lie and it made things worse), Holy Symbol (6,5)(My faith in a higher power was tested), Snake (3,3)(I broke a best friend’s trust), Red Flag (1,5)(I’m in a battle for my freedom), Target (5,4)(I am the leader of a group of brutes)
What I know now… Cat (6,1)(Pride was my one flaw), Rose (5:2)(I was unsatisfied), Clawing Hands (3,6)(I could not escape my cravings)
Talents: Beastspeak (Transform into a creature equal to/larger than you)
Curiousa: Pair of ballet shoes that makes you an excellent dancer when worn, Wind resistant umbrella that never breaks
Kent, wielding the Sword Approach, is going to thrive while being passionate, strong, and decisive. His Beastspeak Talent was a natural fit for his history, allowing him to transform into animals equal to or greater than his size. Then we come to the Death Marks. When unlocked Animal Footprint will let him regain a point of Ferocity when he deals with a situation in an animalistic way. Forked Tongue will allow Kent to spend a point of Will to make an NPC believe a lie without making a check. Holy Symbol will reduce the Challenge by 1 when Kent questions something more powerful than himself. Snake will let him reduce the Hunger cost to make a promise by 1, once per session. Red Flag will allow him to reduce a Challenge by 1 once per session. After being unlocked, Target will grant +1 die for checks involving leadership. Cat will unlock a pretty synergetic Trick: “I can grow”. Rose unlocks another Trick: “Thorns dance under my skin.” Clawing Hands closes things out by unlocking a social trick: “I know what others want.”
Manoeuvre: 2 Overcome: 0 Withstand: 1
Ferocity: 1 Health: 3
Apply: 0 Precept: 1 Reason: 0
Lucidity: 2 Hunger: 3
Charm: 0 Create: 0 Understand: 1
Generosity: 3 Will: 4
My life was… Sailing Ship (2,6)(The city haunted me at every turn. I did not belong in this land. My parents were from shores far flung)
What I learned… Magnifying Glass (6,6)(I cleverly discovered something of a lost power), Pile of Bodies (5,2)(I’m in a warm and crowded room. I have to get out), Crying Eye (4,5)(I pleaded my case before a judge), Cocktail Glass (1,6)(There is a party. I love it here), Question Mark (1,3)(I lost something important)(It meant a lot to me.
What I know now… Present (3,3)(I was a caretaker), Rose (5,2) I was unsatisfied), #1 (5,1)(I was infamous)
Talents: Leyline (See into the near future)
Curiousa: Harmonica, when played, sings a sad tale of woe, Backpack filled with non-melting candy and snack cakes
Morgan, carrying the Shield Approach, will shine brightest when they are wise, protective, and hardy. Generally good at perceiving things, their Leyline Talent even lets them catch glimpses of the near future. Then we come to the Death Marks. When unlocked Sailing Ship will let them regain a point of Lucidity when they interact with an unfamiliar culture (easy enough in the Tenebris). Magnifying Glass will let also let them regain a point of Will when they discover something new. Pile of Bodies will reduce the challenge by 1 when Morgan tries to spot something. They’ll gain +1 die when trying to convince someone of their point of view after unlocking Crying Eye. Cocktail Glass will reduce the Challenge by 1 when they’re in a large group of people. Morgan will get +1 die on checks involving noticing something after unlocking Question Mark. The Trick they gain by unlocking Present is quite empathic: “I feel others’ emotions.” Rose unlocks another Trick: “Thorns dance under my skin.” Last but not least, #1 unlocks a duplicitous Trick for Morgan: “I have a second face.”
Overall, this character creation was a lot of fun as I got to gather together glimpses of who these characters were and are. I did get a little frustrated with the Clarity mechanic for re-rolling dice, though. I didn’t spend any dice on Valeria, and her stats and attributes were about where I wanted them to be, but I spent all three of Kent’s dice on trying to get more unique results just for the heck of it – I didn’t succeed on any of them. For a more positive result, I did succeed on re-rolling Morgan’s My life was…, which was good because I really wanted to have one of each type of Approach in the party. My second roll at least got me to a point where I reserved one Clarity die to move a point from Mind to Soul for them. My third Clarity die for Morgan was another bust.
I think that making players call even or odds after having them spend a Clarity die might be a little much; you’re already giving up a chance to move your stats and attributes around, why only have a 50% chance at getting something for that research expenditure?
Of course, random character generation is going to be random, so perhaps I’m getting lost in the weeds, there. I’m pretty happy with how Valeria, Kent, and Morgan turned out mechanically and narratively, regardless.
Who They Are
Well, the ‘Who They Are’ part of this is kind of a sticky question, isn’t it? Wanderers only have the few wisps of memory determined by My life was…, What I learned…, and What I know now…, so not even the characters themselves nor the players really know who they are yet. Those wisps do give hints, though, and since the dice love telling a story they’ve given us something of an outline. Valeria was coming across as a rich person and maybe even a noble to me, and she might very well be one of those still, but “Magic shaped my life” makes me think she could have also been a powerful/influential archmage or something. Kent comes across as a druid, it’s remarkable how well the dice lined up on that one, but he had a lot of personal turmoil in his life. Morgan comes across as part street waif and part investigator, and I don’t think the two sides are mutually exclusive.
Then there are the additional questions that would be put to the players regarding their My life was… results.
Valeria, regarding “I wanted for nothing. The world was at my fingertips. I never knew a challenge and the world bent to my will,” would be asked “What was your rude awakening?” I think a good answer for this would be “I witnessed first-hand the results of my actions.”
Kent, for “The Wilderness raised and taught me life’s lesson. I never understood other humans. They were strange, alien creatures,” would answer the question “What animal called you kin?” It’s a bit cliche, perhaps, but for this one I’m going to go with “Wolves”, which implies a few things.
Morgan, because “The city haunted me at every turn. I did not belong in this land. My parents were from shores far flung,” would have to respond to “Why did your parents move to a new country? What were their hopes for you?” I’m going to give Morgan’s parents good intentions: “They moved to protect me from those who would persecute me, hoping I would have a life of freedom to find my happiness.”
How They Interact
For this, I can lean pretty heavily into the Death Marks; while none will have appeared on the skin of our Wanderers as they begin their journey in the Tenebris, the fact that several are shared among the Crew tell us a decent amount about them as a functioning group.
Holy Symbol tells us that both Valeria and Kent are questioning things about their world, whether it’s their own view of it or a higher power – or both.
Crying Eye sees both Valeria and Morgan pleading their case to someone, so as they unlock those memories they may both find themselves trying to find vindication.
Red Flag lets us know that Valeria and Kent both feel embattled, but while Valeria’s fight is very personal Kent is focused outwards on whatever is attempting to curtail his freedom.
Pile of Bodies is another contrary one: the crowded warmth holds Valeria’s objective, but all Morgan can think of is making their escape.
Rose tells us that both Kent and Morgan were unsatisfied with their original lives; perhaps they can work together to reach a sense of satisfaction in the Tenebris?
Here’s something interesting that I didn’t cover in the main review: the state of the Tenebris is randomly determined as well! For every power, faction, or group the GM rolls 1d6-1. The resulting rating tells the GM how likely the players are to encounter or otherwise be affected by that power over the course of the campaign. Powers also have a Disposition that dictates how they’re going to behave towards the Wanderers; at the start everyone is Neutral, except for the Unrequited, who are Aggressive. So how does the world look?
The Serpents: 2
- Unseen creatures who live under the sands of the Tenebris.
- Inhabitants of the dark who appear human, but with no Death Marks, and believe in knowing others through their anima.
- Inhabitants of the dark with human upper halves and serpentine lower halves who live in a hierarchical society.
- Inhabitants of the dark with brightly coloured skin, two sets of arms, and the ability to use magik.
- Inhabitants of the dark, small bipedal bears who craft wondrous inventions.
- Inhabitants of the dark, hooved humanoids who are ferce warriors.
- Ex-Wanderers who live in anarchist societies and loathe Wanderers.
- Wanderers who believe they are food for a great beast hungry to devour all.
- Wanderers who hold to mortal religions and see the Tenebris as a purgatory.
- Wanderers who believe the Tenebris is the final plane of existence before true death.
The GM also determines the goals of each of these powers, which I’m not going to do here, but the results still tell us quite a bit about what this campaign will be like. First of all, the Wanderers are going to be up to their eyeballs in half-snakes and bear people. Second, the closest thing the Tenebris has to its own gods, the Serpents, are going to be an infrequent but tangible presence in the game. The Unrequited aren’t going to be hot on the tails of our Crew, which is something of a relief, but they’ll still pop up to cause trouble from time to time. Finally, aside from those Wanderers who don’t know what to think one way or the other about the Tenebris, our Crew’s wandering fellows are either going to be religious or kind of worryingly convinced that everyone’s going to get devoured; Wanderers who just think of this as another, final life are noticeable by their absence.
What are the Nagiin and Usurii after? What interest do the Serpents take in ongoing events? How will the Aberrant and Devout Wanderers interact with our Crew? Will Valeria, Kent, and Morgan unlock their memories, come to terms with their lives, and pass through their Requiem to the Beyond? Will they instead fall into despair and Stagnation to join the ranks of the Unrequited to plague other Wanderers? As always, that’s for you (and your dice) to determine!
Like what Cannibal Halfling Gaming is doing and want to help us bring games and gamers together? First, you can tell your friends about us! You could travel through one of our fine and elegantly crafted links to DriveThruRPG which, thanks to our Affiliate partnership with them, gets us funds to get more games to review! Finally, you can support us directly on Patreon, which lets us cover costs, pay our contributors, and save up for projects. Thanks for reading!