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D&D 5E [Let's Read] Brancalonia: Spaghetti Fantasy Setting

Libertad

Adventurer
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There’s been a growing trend of RPGs and campaign settings which move beyond the pseudo-British/Western European trappings of the fantasy genre. The increase in the use of cultural consultants and sensitivity readers for accurate and respectful portrayals has helped avoid the more unfortunate tropes for outside writers, and the rise of D&D’s popularity via livestreaming has only helped it reach a greater international audience who have their own takes and influences in the development of their own projects.

In the case of Brancalonia, this is a 3rd party 5th Edition setting written by Italian gamers deriving inspiration from the media and history of their home country. Set in a medieval realm of scattered fiefdoms and city-states, the PCs are Knaves: treasure-hunters, trouble-shooters, mercenaries, and other all-purpose “high risk professions” often on the move for the next big pay-off. It also has a bit of a humorous flair and an oftentimes frivolous writing style: in Brancalonia the PCs are lovable scoundrels who follow their gut over intricate codes of conduct, hard-luck slobs in search of odd jobs to fill their bellies, day-dreamers who seek to be the representation of an ideal in a world unwilling to live up to such standards, and similar kinds of flawed characters. To paraphrase a Drive-Thru RPG reviewer, It’s very much a “gritty but not grimdark” fantasy world, an emphasis on the little people “down in the muck” but not taking itself too seriously.

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The setting of Brancalonia is a peninsular region known as the Bounty Kingdom, or simply the Kingdom. Once the seat of the mighty Draconian Empire, it is now a political patchwork of various city-states, baronies, and regions ruled over by an array of stuffy nobles, clergy of varying degrees of piousness,, two-bit warlords with delusions of grandeur, and merchant guilds who are more honest than the other groups about prioritizing the accumulation of wealth. The PCs are Knaves, an unofficial yet recognized social group which people turn to for all manner of tasks. The jobs they are called to do are often of the more dangerous and/or thankless kind that needs more talented work than a peasant, yet some degree of plausible deniability for the powers that be. Knaves are organized into Bands, which are basically a single adventuring party, and Bands make up an entire Company which is a broader social network of allied Knaves. There’s no official hierarchy, registrar, or makeup of such organizations, as they tend to draw from people of anti-authoritarian streaks who don’t fit so easily into the mainstream social order.

Before continuing, we have some general explanations to help set the mood and theme of Brancalonia. First off, alignment is completely optional, and if it’s used it should reflect a PC’s personality type as opposed to some philosophical moral code. PCs are encouraged to be non-evil, given that Knaves should to some degree be likable people to root for; while distrustful of authority and many social mores, Knaves still have a code of conduct, and pointless cruelty makes the populace distrust them more than they already do. Second is that while full of magic, faeries, talking animals, haunted castles and other whimsical wonders, Brancalonia’s world is more down to earth in power level. The maximum level is 6, although PCs can still pick up more abilities and talents, being heavily inspired by the E6 house rules. Third is that while races, subclasses, and backgrounds from other sources can be used, Brancalonia’s new material of such types are encouraged. The GM, or Condottiero, as the book calls this role, should keep in mind the above themes and if any concepts seem too out of place. Beyond that, care must be taken to ensure that such imports are not overly hobbled by Brancalonia’s new house rules detailed later, particularly Shoddy Equipment and Knaves’ Rest which alter equipment and rest mechanics respectively.

Races of Brancalonia
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In the realms of the Kingdom, there aren’t many dwarves, elves, or other Tolkien standbys. Where they do exist they are often foreigners from other shores. Instead the following races comprise the bulk of the setting’s population. Each new race in Brancalonia also has a Brawl Feature, which is a positive quality that can only be used in a special new kind of non-lethal combat known as a Brawl.

Humans are the most common group of the Kingdom, comprising 90% of the population. They view themselves as special for being the only self-aware species without a magical origin in the known world, albeit all manner of talking animals heartily disagree, and the more magical races often find them to be banal and uninteresting. Statwise they are like the Player’s Handbook Variant Humans (Feats are a default option), and their Brawl Feature grants them +1 move slot.

Gifted are humans born with some kind of supernatural gift. The origin and circumstances differ wildly, so this is more of a catch-all term than an actual race. Statwise they gain +1 to two different ability scores, can cast a cantrip and 1st level spell of the same school of magic (Abjuration, Conjuration, etc) once each per long rest, can restore a 1st level spell slot at the end of a short rest, and their Brawl Feature lets them choose moves from the magic moves list in addition to general moves.

Morgants are big, sturdy figures believed to be descendants of the now-extinct races of giants, or perhaps another species of human that evolved alongside said race. They are as physically diverse as humans are but tend towards larger sizes (7 to 9 feet tall), are sought out for martial occupations, and known to have voracious appetites. Statwise they gain +2 Strength and +2 Constitution, are Medium but count as 1 size larger for lifting/pushing/etc, gain +1 HP per level, have advantage on all ability checks involving eating and drinking, and their Brawl Feature lets them collect epic props as a bonus action instead of an action.

Sylvans are a humanoid species who shun cities and other large population centers, preferring hunter-gatherer lifestyles. They do have a deep and complicated set of oral lore, and they look similar to humans but tend to be hairier and more physically fit. In the days of the Draconian Empire they were persecuted, seen as little more than animals, but in modern times such prejudices have more or less faded away. Statwise they have +2 Constitution, +1 Wisdom, and +1 to a third ability score of their choice. They are also proficient in Perception and Survival, can hide even when observed provided they are immersed in natural phenomena (leaves, snow, heavy rain, mist, etc), and their Brawl Feature lets them ignore the side effects of the first 2 levels of Whack.

Marionettes are artificial constructs created from magical lumber known as triflewood. They are free-willed and self-aware, and typically look like toys, puppets, and other such facsimiles. Fairies have been known to grant marionettes the choice to turn into flesh and blood beings, effectively becoming a new race. This was more common in the past in order to avoid fear and prejudice by “becoming a real boy/girl/person,” although such desires are far rarer in modern times. As of today they’re accepted in most lands, but often have to deal with stereotypes which associate them with the various entertainment industries. Statwise they have +1 Dexterity and Constitution, are Small, immune to poison, non-woodborne diseases, starvation, and suffocation, are vulnerable to fire damage, can heal +2d8 bonus HP during a short rest, and their Brawl Feature lets them detach a limb as a bonus action and use it as a common prop (but not broken or lost once used in such a way).

The two marionette subraces include Pinocchio (performs/actors) who have +1 Charisma and disadvantage on Insight checks, and Pupo (toy soldiers/knights/etc) who have an AC of 12 + Dexterity modifier + proficiency bonus in lieu of being able to wear armor.

Malebranche are devils who got tired of serving Lucifer and escaped from Inferno into the mortal world. A mass exodus of malebranche was known as the Great Refusal, and they view their entry into the material world as a form of rebirth where they can choose a new mortal form of their own. Although some people distrust them for their origins, the faithful of the Calendar* are quite fond of them. First off, they prove the existence of an afterlife, and how even evil souls can avoid such a fate if only they follow the teachings of the Saints. Statwise they gain +1 Constitution and +2 Charisma, have Darkvision up to 60 feet, and their Brawl Feature grants them advantage on all saving throws during a Brawl. Malebranche can also select two out of six unique traits, representing the diverse legions of devils: gliding wings, a hellfire breath weapon, goat legs which grant a 40 foot walking speed (base is 30 feet), a supernatural voice that lets them cast Charm Person once per long rest, gain claws as a natural weapon and a climbing speed to go along with them, and ears which grant proficiency in Perception and double proficiency for hearing-based rolls.

*Brancalonia’s pseudo-Catholic Church.

Classes of Brancalonia
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This section talks about how each of the 12 core classes fit into the Kingdom, and also provides one subclass for each such class. Given Brancalonia’s low-powered nature, each subclass only grants benefits up to 6th level.

Barbarians are not primitive marauders in the Kingdom, but instead are a subculture known as Pagans. They use violence and physical competition as a means of conflict resolution, and most live on the Pagan Plain and serve Ardarico who they refer to as “ye King” or “the king of all kings.” Their Primal Path lets them Dash as a bonus action and imposes disadvantage on ranged attacks targeting them while raging at 3rd level. At 6th level they become immune to the restrained condition while raging, and magical effects and difficult terrain cannot reduce their base walking speed, which applies both inside and outside of a rage.

This subclass is a bit like an Eagle Totem barbarian but with less utility and more mobility. They can move fast without much hindrance, but they feel kind of lacking in cool offensive uses like the Storm Herald.

Bards of the Kingdom are known as harlequins, and are entertainers much like anywhere else. But they often prefer the use of street plays and flashy acrobatics, which are most popular among the common folk. The College of Carnival focuses around showmanship and telling the audience a story: at 3rd level they gain proficiency with a variety of tools (disguise kit, weaver’s tools, one type of gaming set) and can spend 1 use of Bardic Inspiration as a reaction to Charm and foil an opponent’s incoming attack. They also have an Unarmored Defense that adds their Charisma modifier to AC. At 6th level they can cast any spell requiring a verbal component by replacing it with a somatic one, can cast Silence a number of times equal to their Charisma modifier (doesn’t specify if restored on a long or short rest), and can grant Bardic Inspiration to targets even if they can’t hear the bard.

The ability to use Bardic Inspiration to counter attacks can be good if you hit enemies unproficient in Wisdom saves, although unlike the Lore Bard’s Cutting Words it’s not as broad in focus. Unarmoured Defense is nice, but its 6th level ability is rather situational and doesn’t specify a refresh rate for Silence.

Clerics of the Kingdom serve the Creed, a religion that worships a single deity known as the Ternal Father and pays homage to mortal Saints of the Calendar. The religion is fractured and scattered, being made up of four different sects with a hierarchical order of priests and priestesses with a dizzying variety of titles. Saints are people who perform amazing deeds, earning their respect among the faithful and often blessed with divine power. A sidebar encourages players and GMs to come up with a Saint for any appropriate occasion and exclamation.

Clerics of the Calendar Domain are those people blessed with miracles like those of the Saints, although they can come from all walks of life, even sinful ones. The bonus domain spells are mostly defensive/helpful (protection from good and evil, enhance ability, dispel magic, etc), and at 1st level they can say a prayer as a reaction to add/subtract their Wisdom modifier to an incoming attack or failed roll a number of times per long rest equal to their Wisdom modifier. At 2nd level their Channel Energy grants allies an advantage on a single roll of their choice by the end of their next turn, and at 6th level they can impart their 1st-level prayer ability to a nearby ally and restore said prayer’s uses on short rests as well.

The domain’s 1st level feature is broadly useful and will see frequent use, and granting said ability as well as advantage to allies is always well-appreciated.

Druids are an old tradition of the Kingdom, local spiritualists tasked with protecting communities from monsters and other supernatural evils. They are known as benandante (singular and plural), and they may worship the Ternal Father or older gods. The Circle of the Dance Macabre focuses on knowledge of the afterlife and other unseen things, granting the druid the ability to see in darkness (magical and not) up to 120 feet and detect the presence of undead within 60 feet at 2nd level. At 6th level undead must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw to attack the druid, but are immune to that save for 24 hours once they make it. The Circles’ bonus spells are mostly of a defensive/restorative nature: lesser restoration, spirit guardians, remove curse, and the like.

It’s 2021 and the Moon Druid is still a top-tier choice. This subclasses’ focus on undead makes it a very situational subclass depending on the campaign, and as undead are no more prolific in Brancalonia than other fantasy worlds this doesn’t do the benandante any favors.

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Fighters are practically a way of life in the Kingdom. In fact, the political instability and decentralization after the fall of the Draconian Empire is referred to as the Thousand Years War on account of the myriad skirmishes and border disputes between such provinces. Fencing is a popular and well-respected fighting style, the various schools of swordplay in constant competition in proving themselves as the finest warriors. The School of Fencing martial archetype grants three new abilities at 3rd level: advantage on the next attack roll if the Fighter takes the Dodge action, +1 AC if they are wielding a melee weapon in each hand, and add proficiency bonus to damage rolls if within 5 feet of a creature and nobody else is within 5 feet of the fighter.

Alas, the Battle Master fighter’s maneuvers already do what this subclass can do, but better and with more choices.

Monks are more commonly known as friars and nuns, representing a religious subculture of the Creed. Their various monasteries are often focused around an occupation or lifestyle, although the Brawly Orders are those friendliest to adventuring types. Just as “the good shepherd must kick the wolf to defend his flock,” these nuns and friars practice self-defense and put themselves in harm’s way that is meant for others. The Way of the Brawly Rule Monastic Tradition lets the Monk add their Strength instead of Dexterity to their Unarmoured Defense and Deflect Missiles class features at 3rd level, and can spend 1 ki point to make an unarmed attack as a reaction when attacked in melee. At 6th level they can apply one of 3 effects to a target struck with Flurry of Blows: knock them prone on a failed Dexterity save, push them 10 feet away and apply unarmed strike damage if they collide with a creature or object on a failed Strength save, or impose disadvantage on all attack rolls for 1 round on a failed Constitution save.

While substituting Strength for Dexterity can be useful for a number of builds, Dexterity can already apply to unarmed strikes by default and it’s still a superior stat in other ways. As one of the 6th level abilities already does what a 3rd level Open Hand monk can do and another does the same thing but adds damage, this subclass lacks some unique pizzazz as a choice.

Paladins are most often Knaves who come from fallen noble houses or children of military officers, living like itinerant beggars but acting like aristocrats. The Oath of the Knight-Errant is a rather simple moral code not unlike the protagonist in a Western film: defend people from injustice, explore the world, don’t shy away from challenges, etc. Their bonus spells are evenly-split between travel-focused stuff and more typical cleric things: bless, command, find steed, and pass without trace. At 3rd level they gain 2 uses of Channel Divinity, and can either grant a bunch of minor boons to companions (temporary hit points, advantage on Wisdom saves, immune to the frightened condition) or defend an adjacent creature and impose disadvantage on all attacks directed towards them for 1 minute.

This class’ bonus spells are a bit situational, although its Channel Divinity boons are very nice. Advantage on Wisdom saves is great in resisting a variety of effects, and imposing disadvantage on enemy attacks is great when combined with a Rogue or other melee fighter at the paladin’s side.

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Rangers live on the fringes of society, as often by choice as by circumstance. Matadors are a special kind of ranger skilled in catching monsters to sell and train, and often face such beasts for show in arenas and other public spectacles. The archetype of the same name grants double proficiency in Animal Handling and Performance skills. Also at that level the Ranger can take a bonus action to focus on a single creature once per short or long rest, adding proficiency bonus to damage, critting on a 19-20, and adding Wisdom bonus to AC when fighting or being attacked by said creature.

The skill boosts are a bit situational, although adding Wisdom to one’s AC can be pretty useful when soloing enemies. It doesn’t have as broad utility as the Gloom Stalker or Horizon Walker, while the Monster Slayer (its closest thematic counterpart) has some broader-use features like bonus spells and divining enemy weaknesses.

Rogues are a dime a dozen in a land where even the lawful find excuses to get their hands dirty. But brigands are beloved by the common folk because they steal from and confound noblemen, tax collectors, loan sharks, and other people of means whose wealth comes from the meek and desperate. They take to the lives of Knaves as a fish takes to water, and so many style themselves as some kind of peoples’ kings that leaders of such companies are often jokingly referred to as “Copper Crowns.” The Brigand Roguish archetype grants proficiency in Nature and Survival, and also advantage on initiative rolls and on any action taken during the first turn of combat.

The skill proficiencies immediately make me think of the Scout, and the lack of doubling proficiency bonuses isn’t a good look in comparison. Advantage on initiative and the first turns of combat are nice, but as they stop being relevant every round after the subclass feels a bit lacking.

Sorcerers are those blessed with the raw power of Extravaganza, the origin and all-purpose term for magic and supernatural happenings. Supersticians are those who are versed in the ways of fairies, jinxes, and the power of superstitious beliefs in order to better counter such forces. At 1st level they can choose Abjuration spells from any class spell list to learn as sorcerer spells, and once per long rest can roll an additional d20 and use it as the new result if preferred (and can also specifically be applied to an enemy’s attack roll). At 6th level they can perform a 10 minute long ritual upon a target to grant them one of three effects: resistance against a single damage type, can reroll a natural 1, or drop to 1 HP instead of 0 HP which causes the ritual to immediately end. Otherwise this ritual lasts for 24 hours or until a new one is cast, and can be extended another 24 with 2 sorcery points.

Much like the Calendar domain Cleric, if there’s one thing I learned when playing D&D it’s that reaction-based die reroll/alteration abilities are very, very good. It’s more limited than Wild Magic’s die-rolling, but has no potential negative side effects of a Wild Magic Surge. The 6th level ritual is pretty good as well.

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Warlocks are mostly foreign magicians coming into Brancalonia from beyond the northern mountains. The most common kind serve an entity known as Madame Jinx, who directs mortal fortunes to the worst possibilities. Those who take her as an Otherworldly Patron mostly gain various debuffs as bonus spells (bane, blindness/deafness, bestow curse, etc with animate dead the exception). At 1st level they can afflict the Eye Eye upon an opponent once per short or long rest, albeit no action is specified. This ability imposes disadvantage on the next saving throw vs the Warlock’s spell. At 6th level they can invoke their patron once per long rest to appear as a ghostly form behind them for a number of rounds equal to their Charisma modifier, which imposes disadvantage on all d20 rolls to creatures within a 20 foot radius. At the end of the duration the warlock drops to 0 hit points.

The bonus spells are quite nice if a bit lacking in utility. The Evil Eye’s lack of an action is a point against it, while the dropping to 0 HP of the 6th level feature means that such an ability is going to be rarely used. Particularly if the party lacks a dedicated healer.

Wizards are scholarly sorts who often band together in guilds and colleges, pooling their resources and lore for the betterment of the many. Guiscards are one such guild, although they are less reputable sorts: tomb-robbers, spelunkers, and bookish thieves on the search for magical artifacts, particularly those with a connection to the fallen Draconian Empire. The Arcane Tradition of the same name grants proficiency in Investigation, Perception, light armor, and a single one-handed martial weapon of the wizard’s choice. They also double their proficiency bonus on all checks related to magic items, and can use any magical item as a spellcasting focus and gain a bonus Uncommon magical item from a new Magical Junk list in this book. At 6th level they can attune to 4 magical items instead of 3 and ignore any prerequisite necessary for attunement.

This subclass gets two very useful skills, although the light armor proficiency lacks some bite given that mage armor can serve the same purpose. The focus on magic items makes the class’ overall utility heavily subject to GM Fiat and the gifting of such treasure over the course of a campaign.

New Personalities and Backgrounds
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This section details 6 new backgrounds and the seven languages of the Kingdom. Language still works normally, although the languages more or less replace the corebook ones and are less ‘racial-based.’ As the default races don’t give you starting languages, only the new backgrounds grant you additional ones. Each new language has a list of common cultures and occupations knowledgeable in said tongue. The languages include Vernacular (the common tongue), Draconian (language of arcane magic and the fallen empire), Macaronic (bureaucratic jargon taught by the Creed and well-to-do people), Bedamn (language of Inferno and those affiliated with the dark arts), Lingua Ignota (virtually unknown language of angels that some drunkards gain temporary insight into speaking), Petroglyphic (prehistoric runes on monoliths and standing stones), and Racket (known by nomads, street actors, carnies, and the like).

Additionally, each background is different from their corebook counterparts in that their Features provide direct mechanical benefits in line with Brancalonia’s new system and house rules. This is in contrast with Features which normally are subjective roleplay benefits subject to DM Fiat.

Ambulants are those who found their calling in moving from place to place. They are proficient in Performance, History, and one set of artisan's tools, and due to the accumulated lore of the road their Feature grants advantage on all checks related to finding and traveling on Roads to Nowhere (a new terrain obstacle in the setting).

Brawlers are anybody who loves finding excuses to get into fist-fights and physical competitions. They are proficient in Intuition (didn’t they mean Insight?), Performance, two types of gaming sets, and their Feature grants them 1 additional move slot for Brawls.

Finaglers are bureaucrats with just enough understanding of the Kingdom’s maze=like build-up of laws, trade agreements, treaties, and bookish bric-a-brac to work and twist the system to their benefit. They are proficient in Investigation, Persuasion, Forgery Kits, and their Feature lets them remove one of their own Misdeeds or that of a fellow Company member via paying its Bounty Value before it’s registered by the authorities.*

*What this means is that it precludes future troublesome run-ins with the law when traveling about or on missions.

Fugitives are people on the run from justice, or the local province’s twisted sense of the concept. They are proficient in Stealth and Survival, and their Feature increases their starting Bounty by 100 gp. In comparison to other backgrounds they get the short end of the stick.

Rovers are lovers of nature, preferring a “simple” hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They are proficient in Animal Handling, Athletics, Herbalism Kits, and their Feature lets them and five other people avoid random encounters with hostile beasts (but not other kinds of encounters) when traveling through wilderness.

Toughs are those who grew up with hard lives and learned to find strength from struggle. They are proficient in Athletics, Intimidation, one type of gaming set, and their Feature treats their Notoriety as one level higher.

Brancalonian Feats

This section gives us 15 new feats. The book also says that existing feats from the official 5e rulebooks can be used more or less as is. I won’t go into detail for them all, but they include a diverse assortment, such as…

Ancient Culinary Arts lets one brew meals that grant temporary hit points and add double proficiency bonus with Cook’s Utensils as well as treat them as non-shoddy tools and improvised weapons; Apothecary grants proficiency in alchemist’s, brewer’s, and herbalism tools, doubles proficiency in Medicine, and those under their care can make new saving throws vs disease and add the feat-taker’s proficiency bonus to Hit Die rolled during short rests; Exceedingly Gifted is a Gifted-only trait, granting use of a 2nd-level spell of their racial trait’s school, can recover a 1st or 2nd level spell slot, and adds +1 to their spellcasting ability score; Jibber-Jabber lets one use a pool of Jibber-Jabber Dice to subtract from the results of a hostile target’s rolls; Malebolbe Nostalgia is a Malebranche-specific feat that empowers their 2 existing helltraits (ears grant 30 foot blindsight, wings grant 20 foot fly speed, etc); Patch Up grants +1 Constitution or Wisdom and lets the user ignore the shoddy quality of an equipment/service/etc for 1 hour once per short rest; Peasant Soul grants +1 Strength or Constitution, proficiency in Animal Handling, and threaten a critical hit on 19-20 with ‘farming’ style weapons; Throwance lets the user treat any weapon lacking the Thrown property as having it (at range of 10/20 feet), treats Thrown property weapons as being finesseable and increases their normal and long ranges by 10 feet; and Viperwolf Blood, which grants +1 Constitution and immunity to poison damage and the poisoned condition.

As Knaves aren’t going to be gaining a lot of feats via normal progression, the ones available in Brancalonia are pretty good in that each one more or less grants you a lot of new useful abilities.

Knaves Emeritus-Advances Beyond the 6th Level!

In true E6 style there’s still room for improvement even at maximum level. While Knaves are capped out in terms of class features and the like, for every 9,000 XP earned beyond 14,000 they can learn an Emeriticence. There are 12 such choices, some of which can be taken multiple times and are versatile enough to be useful for a broad variety of classes. Examples include Beefy which grants 6 + Constitution modifier hit points, Blessed Luck lets one add d8 to a d20 roll once per short rest, Gift of Feat grants a new feat, Improved Recovery chooses a single long rest-refreshing class feature to refresh on a short rest,* or Indomitable which grants immunity to the Frightened Condition.

*can only be taken twice and not for spells or spell-affecting abilities.

We have one sidebar before this chapter ends, explaining what is necessary in rounding out one’s Band of Knaves along with pointing to Chapters 2 and 3 for the necessary material: the Knaves’ Den, Brawling abilities, starting Misdeeds and Bounty, and new equipment.

Thoughts So Far: Brancalonia’s initial chapter does a great job at showcasing the kind of world that is the Bounty Kingdom and what makes it distinctive from other fantasy settings on the market. Although more or less entirely readable, the book peppers Italian words and phrases here and there, particularly when it comes to describing the myriad assortments of lifestyles and occupations for certain subclasses, backgrounds, and languages. This may not be to everyone’s liking, although their proximity to more familiar English phrases probably means that one can make some educated guesses. And for a few new phrases that are in English, the book doesn’t always define the concept until a later chapter. One example are beings known as turquoise, which are basically a more powerful form of fairy inspired by a character from Pinocchio. While the material is present in the book proper, the reference to later chapters can be a bit confusing on a first read-through.

The races overall left me ho-hum: Malebranche sound too close to tieflings in concept, while Gifted, Morgants, and Sylvans feel too close in being “like humans but X.” My major exception were Marionettes, who feel the most distinct. As for the classes, the E6-style rules throw things for a bit of a loop; the classes as they are aren’t easily portable into more typical campaigns given their limited nature, but as 90% of campaigns don’t go beyond 10th level this isn’t too big of a deal. There’s also the fact that in some cases certain subclasses get a better sense of progression. Clerics effectively get something new from their Domain at virtually every level, while the poor Fighter is stuck with beginning and ending their subclass at 3rd level.

I wasn’t as impressed with the subclasses proper; even keeping in mind the low-level nature, a lot of them didn’t stack up that well to the official material, with only a few choices jumping out at me. I did like the backgrounds and feats more or less. The E6-style advancement is more of a personal touch, but I do appreciate that there’s still a sense of improvement even if the PCs aren’t going to be raining down meteor swarms or summoning elementals by the end of their careers.

Join us next time as we check out the new setting rules and sub-systems in Tavern Fights and Empty Saddlebags!
 

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Davies

Hero
For once, this is one that I've already read and enjoyed quite a bit, though your observations are calling some of its flaws to my attention, which I appreciate.
 




Ixal

Adventurer
The setting sounds like nearly every D&D game in existence, only that people often do not realize or pay attention to it.
 

tommybahama

Adventurer
The setting sounds like nearly every D&D game in existence, only that people often do not realize or pay attention to it.

The only difference I see is that every shopkeeper and slack jawed guard in Faerun acts like the soup nazi towards the party instead of showing any respect. It's like the Sons of Anarchy walking into a Walmart and being asked by the greeter, " Whut da eff do you effing bastiges wont, ya fooking mother lovers?!"
 


Libertad

Adventurer
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This chapter houses a collection of new rules to better emulate Brancalonia’s Spaghetti Fantasy vibe. Some of which are used to round out character creation, which we’ll cover as they come.

Setting Rules

Beyond the new player-facing material in the prior chapter, there are some new broader rules in play. First off is that Brancalonia has fallen far from the heights of the Draconian Empire. The silver piece is the standard unit of currency rather than the gold piece, with costs of equipment appropriately changed. What would be 1 gp in other sourcebooks is 1 sp in Brancalonia. Most equipment is Shoddy, meaning that when rolling poorly during its use it breaks down or otherwise malfunctions in an immediately inconvenient way. Non-shoddy versions of items, animals, and such cost 10 times more. While it’s covered in Chapter 3, given how often we’re talking about money and to showcase the expensive nature of Misdeeds, we’ll discuss how currency is altered. The Copper Piece becomes the Silver Piece equivalent, Iron Pieces replace Electrum Pieces and are equivalent to 5 Silver Pieces, and Gold Pieces are also known as Big Pieces due to their prestigious nature.

Another changed aspect of the game are the rest mechanics, aka the Knave’s Rest. Short rests take 8 hours to do, while long rests take 7 days. Long rests are typically done after a mission when the Knaves are back at their headquarters or safehouse known as a Den, and long rests typically precede the new Rollick phase.

Speaking of which, Rollick reflects a general period of downtime when a Band of Knaves relax after a hard job’s work. Long rests should take place between medium or short length adventures, and not taken “on the job” unless the adventure in question is lengthy. A Rollick Sequence goes through several phases: the Band marks down their newfound wealth and equipment, they have the choice to improve their Den’s foundations via Grandluxuries or obtaining Favors for the next job, and engage in Revelry which provides a random table of shenanigans and their outcomes between adventures. Afterwards, everyone’s Misdeeds, Bounties, and Notorities are modified based on past actions, everyone makes preparations and purchases for the next job, and the GM rolls for the Band’s Job Hazard.

A Den is an all-purpose term for a location that the Knaves can use as a safe respite and can take all manner of forms along with some examples. Every Den begins with (and can gain) Grandluxuries, high-quality goods and services which can grant upgrades and various benefits to PCs before embarking on their next job. Grandluxuries come in levels ranging from 1 to 3 and cost time and gold pieces to upgrade, and for new PCs their starting Den should have 2 Grandluxuries, usually at level 1 each or a single level 2 one. The Grandluxuries provided are Black Market (can buy and sell equipment on the black market, gain access to magic items), Cantina (free days’ worth of rations at start of every job, recover more Hit Dice/exhaustion/inspiration during long rests), Distillery (start play with 1 flask of a special kind of alcohol detailed in Chapter 3), Forge (ignore Shoddy quality of items equal to Forge level, repair broken items, unlock sealed containers, gain access to non-Shoddy weapons and armor), and Stable (can borrow animals and land vehicles for a job).

A Band of Knaves can have more than one Den, although upgrading multiple Dens quickly gets expensive.

Favors are just that, and reflect specialized services a Knave can call upon between jobs. Every Knave gains 1 free Favor per Notoriety bonus and must spend 100 GP after that. There are 7 Favors provided: Ransom (company frees a hostage, be it a PC Knave or someone else), Evasion (get someone out of jail), Expert Companion (gets a specialist to come along for a particular task for the next job), Barratry (cover up a Misdeed before it gets registered in the Kingdom’s records), Safe Travels (safe transportation to or from any region of the Kingdom), Information (gain valuable information about a job/place/person/object/lore), and Borrowed Grandluxury (receive one extra Grandluxury’s benefit among those available to their Den).

Misdeeds, Bounties, and Notoriety
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It’s inevitable that Knaves will run afoul of some big shot or get chased out of town. Reputation matters and word spreads; such things are subjective, for some of the most famous Knaves cannot risk walking the open streets undisguised without town guards and bounty hunters descending upon them. There are three different values that determine a Knaves’ overall reputation. Misdeeds are actions and crimes frowned upon by lawful society: they range from nuisances and petty crimes to greater crimes (mostly of a financial nature) including treason and espionage. More classically villainous crimes such as torture, plague-spreading, and the like aren’t listed as options for character generation due to the fact that Knaves are supposed to be “lovable rogues.” Misdeeds that become known add to a character’s Bounty Value, ranging from 2 to 20 gold pieces depending on the severity (or up to 1,000 for a table of Misdeeds earned during play, covered in the next chapter). At character creation players choose a number of Misdeeds equal to 3 + their PC’s level to be known and “unpaid for,” giving them a starting value, or roll randomly on a convenient d20 table. Bounties can be paid off during a Rollick phase, as the Royal Bounty Agency updates the Kingdom’s records to show that a former scoundrel has paid their debt(s) to society. Otherwise, PCs with an active Bounty on their heads risk said Agency sending people after them during jobs to bring them to justice. And yes, bounty hunters do have their own stats, but we’ll cover them in the appropriate bestiary chapter.

Notorieties represent how well-known an individual Knave is among their peers and the Kingdom at large. Higher Notoriety encourages more respect from fellow Knaves and admirers of the lifestyle, and fear from others. A Notoriety Bonus ranges from 0 to 3 and is based upon their current Bounty Value, along with six titles (Cheap Bounty, Bounty Fella, Old Bounty, etc) with a brief description of how they’d be treated in the Kingdom. Said titles also inform how likely others are to report them, how far law enforcement and greedy third parties will go to catch them, and other such inconvenient risks. In terms of game mechanics, Knaves can add their Notoriety bonus to appropriate Intimidation and Persuasion checks, and the higher their Notoriety the more extreme a Job Hazard is likely to be (d100 table, roll twice and keep lowest/highest for low or high scores respectively). Notoriety is determined by their current Bounty, which seems a bit counterintuitive. You’d assume that a Knave’s reputation will carry far for actions even if they have their dues paid.

Hide Outs and Job Hazards

This section is pretty brief. Hiding Out is an action a PC can do during a Rollick phase in lieu of Rest and Revelry activities, basically avoiding notice. For every week they apply a -3 modifier to the next Job Hazard, and is cumulative with other PCs doing the same action and other conditions that would affect this. There doesn’t seem to be any downsides to this, beyond perhaps certain PCs missing out on adventures or time-sensitive job offers.

A Job Hazard represents mishaps, old grudges, and other complicating factors which can show up to make a Band’s mission tougher than usual. The GM rolls on a d100 table and adds the combined Notoriety Bonus of each PC along with any appropriate modifiers based on past actions. There’s a lot of possibilities, ranging from peasants recognizing the PCs and blowing a whistle/ringing a bell/etc to bring attention to them, someone with a grudge seeking revenge against the party, another company taking the same job, a company member trying to steal from/betray the company, etc.

Brawl
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The Kingdom, and the various dive bars Knaves frequent, is a rough and tumble place. But while things can get violent, there are socially-recognized levels of degree between blowing off steam, pre-arranged duels, and outright murder. Brawls fall into the first category and reflect a special kind of combat. Albeit optional, they can be used to simulate tavern brawls and more slapstick kinds of fights where the stakes aren’t life-or-death. Brawls are treated like typical combat, but with changes to hit points, damage, movement, and alternate abilities in lieu of ‘active’ class features (passive class features such as Unarmored Defense still apply). In lieu of Hit Points, everyone has Whack Levels: at 0 Whack you’re uninjured, but every level imposes a cumulative -1 AC until you’re KOed at 6 Whacks. Typical attacks are Beatings (proficiency bonus + Strength modifier) that deal 1 Whack, but there exist special moves that require the use of a move slot (like a spell slot) which refresh at the end of a Brawl. At 1st level a character has 2 move slots and gains 1 more every odd-numbered level. Other benefits are gained via leveling up, such as a General Move at 3rd and 5th level, Heroic Ignorance at 2nd level (use a character of choice when making a Beating), Iron Jaw at 5th (spend a move slow to remove a condition as a reaction), and an Ace in the Hole special ability at 6th level.

Participants can also use Stage Props, typically improvised weapons to impose benefits during an action or move, after which said Prop is destroyed. Common Props represent small handheld objects that can add +1d4 to an attack roll, +2 AC vs a single attack, or do a Beating as a bonus action. Epic Props are larger objects with greater effects and take an action to pick up rather than a bonus action (unless you’re a Morgant), and do +1 Whack on a hit, inflict the stunned condition, can hit two targets at once, or add +5 AC vs a single attack.

We have 5 tables of actions characters can take during a Brawl: thi include General Moves (things anyone can do), Magic Moves (which I presume only spellcasters and Gifted can do, the book doesn’t specify), Class Brawl Features (a class-specific Move), and Ace in the Hole (a powerful class-specific move usable only once per Brawl). The moves include a diverse assortment of actions, bonus actions, and reactions that impose various conditions and/or Whacks, or special features like transforming a Common Prop into an Epic Prop, granting advantage/disadvantage to a nearby target, hitting multiple opponents at once, and other things.

There are Stray Dangers, conditions imposed by the GM during a Brawl, usually up to 3 during a single Brawl but once per round. They can include things like slippery beer covering the floor, flying stools and objects that can stun, a rolling barrel that can impose 1 Whack and knock people prone, and so on.

Our section concludes with two sample stat blocks for members of angry Mobs (simple but numerous) and Heavy Hitters (stronger-than-normal brawlers) for Brawls. There’s also a half-page list of gentlemen’s agreements for Brawls that are socially accepted in most areas of the Kingdom: don’t use weapons or strike to kill, anyone found unconscious in an inn (or similar establishment) or 10 steps outside can have their possessions taken by the owner as compensation for damages, and a Brawl’s ‘winning team’ may take a single trophy from the losing side, such as a Memorabilia, a coin, or a Celebratory Slap in the Face:

a last, hard slap given to the losers' Heavy-Hitter with all the hubris possible. You don't take any material Trophy, but… what a satisfaction!

Dive Games

Taverns, inns, shops, and other such places frequented by Knaves and travelers are frequently host to people whiling the hours away with various games and sports. Four new types popular in the Kingdom are provided, along with rules for simulating play. They include Poppycock (card games), Barrel Beating (everyone puts loot into a sturdy barrel and contestants take a drink for every shot with a ranged weapon they take; whoever breaks the barrel wins the contents), Brancalonian Buffet (competitive eating), and Poorman’s Carousel (two teams of two people engage in jousts with brooms and armor made from pots and pans, one person the “knight” and the other the “horse”).

Revelry
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While the more serious Knaves invest their funds back into their Dens and companies, all too many are more than happy to use their wealth to live it up. PCs who choose to spend one week in Revelry during a Rollick phase must do so in a nearby settlement, and can spend a certain limit of gold pieces based on the community’s size. A 1d20+Notoriety Bonus+gold piece is rolled and compared to a d20 table of events. They range from positive to negative consequences, with the better results being the higher ones. They include such outcomes as getting robbed, owing a favor/debt to a local criminal figure, having a duel challenge issued to you, ending up with a windfall of cash, or finding a strange item in your pocket.

Thoughts So Far: I like the rules for Brawling, although I have yet to test them out in play; they seem versatile and fun enough to have enough options given the lack of typical combat options, and races and classes getting special Moves and features adds for ways to make PCs feel and fight differently in what is effectively an unpredictable and chaotic throwdown. The use of Dens and Grandluxuries as upgradeable headquarters is a cool idea, if a bit simplistic in comparison to some other “domain/stronghold building” systems I’ve seen for 5th Edition. Revelry, Notoriety, and Job Hazards provide for a good means of showing how the PC’s actions have consequences due to their growing fame and mischief without being grueling punishments. Grandluxuries, Favors, the ability to buy off Bounty Values, and non-Shoddy upgrades all give desirable things for PCs to spend money on between adventures, which is rather lacking in core 5th Edition.

I am not as fond of the altered Rest and Shoddy Equipment rules. First off, while the sample adventures in this book and the supplemental Macaronicon tend to be on the shorter side of things, the elongation of rest periods to “per day and per job” heavily favors short rest-based classes and features. Secondly, Shoddiness rules are just like Critical Fumbles, which in practice inconvenience PCs more than NPCs. Although Brancalonia is a bit more of a humorous setting and I can see such things being a faithful emulation of slapstick humor, in practical terms this means that many party members will favor cheap equipment that they can easily buy non-shoddy versions of to avoid said Fumbles. It’s a lot easier to afford a non-Shoddy Mace or Pike than a non-Shoddy Scimitar or Greatsword.

Join us next time as we learn where the Bounty Kingdom gets its name with Money and Equipment!
 


ccooke

Adventurer
I am also waiting for my physical book. It's good to see someone else's opinion on the book.
(I love the concept, and there are a few things I will be mining from it. I probably won't run it, but I know a number of people who this is a perfect fit for; I already know the first group I'm going to lend my copy to)
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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This chapter is super-short, but covers some important rules in addition to new items.

Shoddy Equipment reflects the hand-me-down, well-worn gear favored by Knaves, common folk, and others short on goods. Such poor equipment is obviously inferior in some way: food smells unappetizing, animals are old or lame, armor is dented and roughly held together, and so on. Basically tools and general equipment break when a check involving them fails by 5 or more, shoddy weapons come apart on a natural 1 and impose disadvantage on all attacks until it’s kit-bashed back together with an action, and shoddy armor comes off in pieces on a critical hit (shields go flying out of the user’s hand), imposing a -2 AC until the pieces are retrieved and put back together with an action. Horses, mounts, and other types of animals who are shoddy become lame and suffer a 10 foot movement penalty on a natural 1 on ability checks.

There’s even shoddy material components for magic, although they merely alter a spell’s appearance rather than its actual effects. Summoned monsters look grotesque or comically ridiculous.

So casters suffer the least from these rules, basically.

For items not covered by the above, there’s a small list of sample malfunctions, ranging from increased DC for related checks to containers leaking stored items that are lost during travel. Every piece of equipment obtained during character creation is considered to be shoddy.

There’s also Counterfeit equipment, which doesn’t have any special rules beyond the fact they look like common equipment but function as shoddy equipment. There’s a list of sample counterfeit equipment and what common purposes they’re used for in the Kingdom along with costs. One can make a lot of money as a forger, although being caught carries some hefty additions to one’s Bounty Value: usually four times the value of the authentic version of the item.

Brancalonian Equipment covers new weapons, armor, and adventuring gear. At a mere one page, there’s not a lot. We have two martial versions of common peasant tools (martial mattocks and pitchforks), a matador’s tongue which is a whip that lets one gain advantage on certain checks (Acrobatics, Athletics, and Animal Handling/Intimidation when relating to beasts), and a Schiavona which is a basket-hilted sword that is like a longsword but can deal piercing as well as slashing damage. Scudetto is a parade shield with the emblem of a city’s heraldry, favored by fans and athletes of Draconian Football games (+1 AC but grants +1 to Charisma checks with members of the appropriate city). Our new piece of adventuring gear, Saddle of the Damsel in Distress, has a hidden mechanism that can shift the rider sideways to make them look like they’re unbalanced (grants advantage on related Deception checks).

Concoctions are 11 consumable items often used for recreational and medicinal purposes. They vary in price from just a few gold pieces to as much as 20. They all have one or more beneficial effects while drunk and sometimes side effects. For example, Concoction of Might grants advantage on all Strength checks and doubles base carrying capacity, Dead Water can restore 1d4+1 hit points but imposes the poisoned condition for 1 minute on a failed Constitution save, Hair of the Dog lets one re-roll a saving throw against a disease or poison, and Presinthe allows one to make contact with a dead spirit or another otherworldly entity, possibly bestowing answers to a question on a successful Intelligence save or dealing psychic damage and temporary insanity on a failed one.

Concoctions can be shoddy as well, and we’re provided with a d10 table of negative effects that occur when such a tincture is imbibed.

All of the equipment above has costs listed in gold pieces. I’m unsure if these tables are meant for adoption into other worlds or are in line with the default setting, but I’m leaning towards the latter. As to why, the Dead Water concoction is very cost-efficient for healing in comparison to the base Potion of Healing if its 3 gp value is 3 sp.

Magical Junk gives us 16 new magic items ranging from common to legendary rarity. They’re often considered junk by professional spellcasters due to having side effects that make them less than ideal or hard to take seriously. A few interesting ones include Boring Essay of the Kingdom of Extravaganza (lets one pay half cost for scribing spells into spellbook but to non-attuned looks like the most dull treatise ever written), the Dagger of Terror (screams “Run, they wanna stab ya! Run!” whenever someone makes an attack with it), Moody Weapon (weapon changes to a random type of weapon when a natural 1 is rolled for attacking with it), Saint Eathan’s Cutlery (treats any edible item as one ration and grants +5 bonus on rolls when competing in a Brancalonian Buffet game), and the Vintner’s Chalice (can remove poison and disease from any fluid placed inside, provided the attuned person waves it around, smells the liquid, and tastes it with a classy and concentrated look).

Memorabilia are objects that have no commercial value or straightforward use. They are never shoddy and every Knave has one automatically during character generation. They can be used once (and only once) to provide an unpredictable effect of the owner’s choice provided that said effect doesn’t stretch logic too much. There’s a 1d50 table of sample Memorabilia that includes a variety of strange things: a pair of mismatched boots that happen to be a perfect fit for the Knave’s feet, a ravenbar which is just a larger-than-normal crowbar, a Corkscrew of Wonders that causes bottles of bad wine to explode if uncorked, and a magical triflewood lute that can memorize up to eight songs “but has no intention of doing so.”

Thoughts So Far: This is perhaps the shortest chapter of Brancalonia, but it still has a good amount of material. I’m quite fond of the concoctions, as they allow PCs to have a variety of purchasable potion-type equipment beyond the basic healing one. The weapons and armor provide for some flavorful and cheap gear, although the Matador’s Tongue may be a bit too good given the advantage on some common skill rolls. Anyone who specializes in shoves, grapples, and tumbling through an enemy’s reach is going to want to use this weapon.

The Magic Junk and Memorabilia are quite amusing and do a good job at emulating the strange nature of Extravaganza and the charmed lives that Knaves lead. I’ve elaborated on my distaste for the Shoddy rules in the prior chapter, so I won’t repeat them here, but I do like how the chapter goes into some detail for PCs who want to be involved in the trade of forgery and counterfeiting.

Join us next time as we learn how to run a Spaghetti Fantasy campaign in Running Brancalonia!
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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This section is entirely for the Condottieri/DM. It’s part new rules, but mostly advice, charts, and tables for bringing the setting’s more unique elements to life.

Spaghetti Fantasy talks about what distinguishes Brancalonia from other settings. First off, it’s “low-magic” in that while the supernatural is common, the level of magical power available to the PCs and most of the populace is overall quite minor and not something that can be relied upon to replace skill. It’s also more light-hearted, where while serious issues can be inserted, the overall mood should be a party game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Daily life and adventures focus more so on the regular Joes and Janes versus that of nobles, rulers, and prophetic heroes destined to change the world. In terms of describing “special effects” the GM should go for a low-budget movie: recycled character actors, natural backdrops, monsters popping in and out of view, and abandoned farmlands and crumbling ruins of former empires. Additionally, liberal use of Brawls to keep a level of dramatic violence without turning every fight into a bloodbath.

There’s also a short entry of “Attitude at the Table,” which kind of goes for a safety tools approach but has some guidelines on behavioral policies that set the standard for official events, sessions, and channels. Violence shouldn’t focus on the gruesome and lurid, and Knaves who act like murderhobos you hear from online horror stories are universally loathed. Sex and romance can happen and be motivation for characters, but X-rated scenarios aren’t the focus and things should be closer to PG-13. Finally, discrimination of various kinds exists, but it doesn’t approach the systemic level or outright contempt and hatred.

Granted, this last part is more or less subverted in the realm of Penumbria, although that region’s a Ravenloftian dark fantasy place which few people are eager to visit.

The last bit of advice talks about Session 0 expectations and ideal starting regions for the game based on themes and common adventure material. Nothing we haven’t heard before in other GM advice books, and the regions we’ll get more into in the next chapter.

Knaves and Kingdom Justice

Barring a few places, roaming packs of monsters aren’t a common occurrence in the Kingdom’s countryside. While skirmishes and border conflicts do arise there is still the rule of law, twisted and biased as it can be. It’s expected that Knaves will not be model citizens, but as long as they can do their job relatively cleanly and without too much bloodshed this is considered a more acceptable level of violence. The slower rest rates and Brawls as alternate combat are meant to help reinforce this mentality.

Still, there are Knaves who become so inconvenient and dishonorable that their peers cannot stomach them and thus become liability. There are three broad categories universally respected by companies throughout the Kingdom: don’t snitch or sell out your fellow Knaves (includes collecting Bounties of non-Infamous), only engage in “criminally correct” behavior (no torturing of people and animals, killing children and the invalid, or similar acts of brutality), and don’t cheat your company out of money or stir up wars between companies and established governments. Knaves guilty of violating these rules become Infamous, and lose the membership and protection of their company and all other Knaves. Knaves are free to turn over Infamous and work with the authorities in order to capture or kill them, and companies encourage this to help retain goodwill with the rest of society.

When Knaves are wanted by the authorities, simple guards and militia aren’t their most common enemies. As such people vary wildly in training (often on the lower end of things), the kinds of people tasked with going after semi-nomadic outlaws are members of the Royal Bounty Agency. These specially-licensed hunters are paid by the various governments of the Kingdom in bringing criminals to justice via Bounty Values. And yes they do have their own stat blocks, although those will be detailed in a later chapter. Bounty hunters aren’t criminals per se, and as such are bound by local laws in the course of their duties.

Here we have an expanded table of Misdeeds committed during play, with values much higher than the 2-20 gold piece offenses in the second chapter.

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As you can tell, the kind of stuff that turns Knaves Infamous are the kinds of things that are prohibitively expensive to pay off. Don’t forget that gold pieces are effectively platinum pieces in Brancalonia. In some cases criminals who repeatedly offend can be branded with a certain mark, showing to others that they are troubling reoffenders. Finally, most of the Kingdom doesn’t practice the death penalty, but this is more due to economic concerns than moral ones. The cheap labor of prisoners is considered highly convenient by governments to adopt. There’s also non-numbered tables for Royal Bounty Laws (talking about how the agency and bounties function on a bureaucratic level), and Unwritten Laws (not technically laws but social conventions and expectations that can alter public perception of crimes based on circumstance).

Creating Adventures Is a short one-page list of four tips. Although Brancalonia and its supplements are very generous with sample adventures, there will come a time when the DM must turn to their own imagination. First off, it discusses some already-covered material like what kind of Band the PCs belong to and appropriate regions for favored sub-genres, as well as two new bits of advice. The book notes that some opponents cannot be beaten; this most commonly reflects otherworldly immortal creatures or the more established political power structures. For the former, it suggests doing alternatives like exile, exorcism, and games of skill and chance to bind the entity in such a way that it cannot menace the mortal world for a time. In the case of the latter, nothing less than a colossal company with hundreds of members can be a threat to a regional power.

Additionally, the GM is encouraged to plan for the Big Heist, the climactic event at level 6 that concludes the Band’s story and allows them to retire in wealth and (hopefully) comfort. It doesn’t have to be a typical heist, but can be all manners of colossal hoaxes and treasure-seeking that makes their names legendary among all the companies of the Kingdom.

Brancalonia works very well if the endgame’s goal is constantly considered as something to be completed between the 6th and the 10th character level.

I have to wonder if this is a relic from a former version of the book, as nothing in the rules supports going beyond 6th level.

Dive Generator is a two page section, with tables for generating inns, restaurants, bars, brothels, and other such establishments frequented by Knaves and their allies. The first table determines the establishment’s purpose, the second a name and descriptive sign. Four more tables detail a sample list of owner names and personalities, peculiarities that make the Dive stand out from others of its kind, house specialties, and local brands of alcohol and their tastes.

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Roads to Nowhere represent the many overgrown trails, remnants of paved Draconian-era highways, fairy-altered terrain, and other such avenues that seem to have no practical purpose or lead anywhere useful. Most people stick to what they know and ignore them in favor of trusted routes, but rumors, folktales, and desperate Knaves in need of evading the law may provide incentive in using them. We have four tables: one to determine the type of road (sheep track, magical path, etc), another for how to follow it (maneuvering through difficult terrain, overcoming a dangerous guardian, etc), who can be met there (a marionette friar preaching to trees, a witch with a favor to ask, etc), and where the road goes (literally ends in trackless wilderness, the Den of a local company, a convent of isolated nuns, etc).

The third table has some entries for figures not detailed elsewhere in the book, or are actually entities from Brancalonia’s later supplements such as the Macaronicon, or more obscure yet still existing terms such as a postilion. One such result is “a pair of elusive spaturnums,” which a CTRL + F search reveals to be the only entry of its kind in the book.

Placing Prophecies is a short one-page rule for a cultural variation of gambling. Games of chance done for money are illegal in the Bounty Kingdom, so to get around this loophole Knaves and other such people place “prophecies” instead of bets. Basically someone approaches a bookmaker posing as an oracle with a written prophecy. In order to be legitimate, said prophecy must have a verifiable time and place of its fulfillment, and contain 1 to 4 elements formulated in a precise and specific sentence. Said elements must be cryptic in formulation but clear when fulfilled, and for each element fulfilled the stakes are doubled up to a maximum of 16 times the original bet. Use of masks, shape-shifting, and disguises are not valid, and one cannot place identical prophecies with different oracles or multiple prophecies before the previous one has been fulfilled or disavowed.

Thoughts So Far: Overall this is a fine chapter. The tables for generating Dives and Bounty Value for Misdeeds are likely going to see the most use. The rest of the chapter is more or less situational, more for local color on the DM’s part. The Prophecy system is likely subject to abuse, although I can see pulling off the faking of a prophecy (or getting one to come true as part of a job) can be a good adventure hook.

Join us next time as we tour the Brancalonian Peninsula and surrounding environs in The Bounty Kingdom!
 



Libertad

Adventurer
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Welcome to the longest chapter in the book, detailing the major regional setting. This chapter starts out with a short history followed up by 15 regions, the major seas, and what is known about lands beyond the Kingdom’s borders.

Hasty History of the Kingdom

The earliest known civilizations in what is now the Kingdom were inhabited by ancient populations of sylvans and cyclopes, the latter of whom were wiped out by the seafaring Pelagians. Other foreign conquerors soon followed, and the major coasts and waterways became settled for farmland. Soon a federation of villages would turn into the kingdom of Plutonia, which would soon conquer the entire Peninsula along with neighboring islands and territories. This mighty civilization remained stable for centuries until plagues, invasions, civil wars, and other maladies forced a noble by the name of Dracone to ascend the throne and turn Plutonia into a harsh dictatorship. He was able to quell the various wars, cementing his power base and founding what became known as the Draconian Empire. In spite of the harsh laws the era of Draconia also saw great progress in science, technology, and the literary arts.

But nothing lasts forever, and Draconia fell. Not to the whims of mortals, but that of nature. An earthquake unprecedented in size and scope opened a rift beneath the capital city, killing millions of people and creating a major power vacuum. Even worse, said earthquake opened the Eternal Gate linking the mortal realm with Inferno, allowing legions of devils and other monsters to spill forth into the Empire’s remnants. This not only caused many subjugated peoples to take the opportunity to declare independence, but this apocalyptic series of events caused many to turn to a religion known as the Calendar Creed, faced with a literal Hell being right on their doorstep.

Historians have found out that not a single year has passed since the Draconian Empire’s fall without a war, marking the era as the Thousand Years’ War. What was once the Empire’s outermost territories were the most peaceful, giving rise to independent kingdoms such as Altomagna, Soldania, Frange, Great Brigantain, and other clever allusions to real-world countries. As for the Peninsula proper, it has been cursed to be uniquely unstable with all manner of bandits, mercenaries, and nobles of questionable lineage and even more questionable morality.

There was one major attempt to pacify this region. One hundred years ago the Brancalonia Peninsula and neighboring islands were territories of the Empire of Altomagna, whose ruling Catozzi dynasty wore an Iron Crown as demonstration of their right to rule. But after said dynasty was torn apart by intrigue and back-stabbing and thus the loss of the Iron Crown, an alliance of various bandits and local lords in southern Brancalonia joined forces. With their combined power they countered Altomagna’s rule and turned much of the Peninsula into an unofficial self-governing territory. A big bounty was placed on Buemondo the Fat, who was most responsible for this rebellion, and whoever could capture or kill him would gain regency of the Kingdom.

That of course never happened, and Altomagna’s Catozzi line became less able to enforce its edicts. In an odd way, this helped bring about a common cultural unifier among what became known as the Bounty Kingdom. All manner of nobles both real and frauds have sought to claim the title of “legitimate Bounty King” and try to become a new Dracone, but so far none of them managed to attain large-scale control of this fractured land. The Iron Crown has long since been missing, and thus far all attempts foreign and domestic to reunify the Kingdom have failed.

Regions
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What follows is Brancalonia’s major regions. Each of them has an overriding theme that makes them different from the others, which is most evident in their title section which describes their major features in an interesting way. For example, the province of Quinotaria is listed as “Quinotaria, or of Ancestral Ruins, Sea Monsters, and Gorgons” while Alazia is listed as “Alazia, or of Lost Empires and Descents Into Inferno.” It’s a bit wordy to list each such title for this review, but the book does a good job telling you right up front what kinds of adventures can be had in this region

Quinotaria is a coastal region whose seaside villages are isolated and often practice local traditions and religions not found elsewhere in the Kingdom. The Father of the Deep is a popular god among local pagans, and the sylvans living here have more amphibian features. Inland things are just as wild, with mining towns in the mountains supported by far-off merchant investments, and the vicious warrior known as the Black Dog defends these places from foreign intruders...while forcing the local populace into forced labor.

Quinotaria’s largest city is Lungariva, a thriving port whose ruling band of merchants monopolized virtually every local service industry. Nicknamed Hoteliers, they are known for the Alberghi franchise, buildings that function as multi-purpose inns, taverns, shops, and money-changers. Even castles have been converted into hotels, but are out of the price range of all but the richest of the rich.

Common jobs in Quinotaria involve meetings with the rich and powerful in Lungariva, finding more illegitimate purchases in its back alleys, freeing people imprisoned by the Black Dog, and exploring the various caves and ancestral ruins of ancient seafaring civilizations.

Falcamonte is a forested region ruled over by the Falcamontese, a noble family which has overburdened itself with a confusing array of titles, writs, and licenses that leave many people unsure of who is in charge of what. The capital city of Tauringa is home to noble estates and merchant villas, with vineyards run by monasteries as is tradition and their wine a prized export. Beyond these walled bastions are no man’s lands full of robbers, local witches known as mascas, and an underground civilization known as the gobbolini who live in the mountains and have a tendency to insult and attack passersby.

We also have a notable non-binary noble, albeit described with a bit of an unfortunate turn of phrase:

A perfect and disturbing union of both worlds, the gloomy Count Notte, in his domain in Castelletto, is at once masca and nobleman, man and woman.

Jobs in Falcamonte likely involve being hired by Count Notte for various sensitive tasks, being paid by a noble family to find their missing daughter who may very well be the new Queen of the Gobbolini, and getting involved in schemes and celebrations during the Palio of Alferia. This last one is a local holiday held at the end of the harvest which sees a flair-up in family feuds.

Galaverna is a land of greed and progress. At once it is blessed with wealth of many kinds: its workshops and factories turn out expert craftsmanship, its abundance of water basins and waterways leads to vast farmland, and guiscards and other spellcasters form companies to ply trades supplemented with arcane arts. And yet it is also cursed by such bounty: everything has a price, and the ruling merchant princes known as the Greats are all too willing to spill coin and blood to get a leg-up on the competition. The water basins also create as many uninhabitable marshes as farmland, and its capital city of Tarantasia is believed to be secretly ruled by a dragon known as the Chief of Chiefs. If this is true, then the city’s feuding families above would be but mere upstarts who deluded themselves into thinking they’re the real rulers. The region is also home to the Heretic Alps believed to contain vast stores of untapped mineral wealth, and from Overmountain come occasional bands of foreigners. This makes Galaverna a good ‘starting point’ for PCs not belonging to expressly Brancalonian races and classes.

Jobs in Galaverna involve discovering mountain tombs in the Heretic Alps, being hired by one of the factions of Tarantasia to establish dominance over the region, and being hired by greedy tax collectors, soldiers of fortune, or as like-minded minions for Galaverna’s “captains of industry.”

Vortigana is the largest region in the Kingdom, so-named for the many whirlpools that dot its waters. The local climates vary the most, ranging from marshes and lagoons to woodland hills to rugged valleys and mountains. The capital city of Vortiga, also known as Vortiga the Black, is a cyclopean city connected by a maze of bridges, walkways, and canals ruled over by a masked assembly known as the Great Council. The city is known for hosting great Carnivals, but other notable metropoli include the fey-ruled city of Aurona, Perdenza which is known for bizarre foods, and the artistic city of Patavia home to a prestigious college. Beyond the major population centers include autonomous mountain villages who govern themselves, marauding pirates along the coast, disbanded soldiers from Altomagna, a high population of sylvan tribes who often war against each other, and local varieties of marionettes. Cabin dolls are made from triflewood built from shipwrecks, while saintlets are made as living symbols of Saints to be used in rituals of the Creed. Although not present in the corebook, these marionettes are detailed as subraces in the Macaronicon supplement.

Jobs in Vortigana involve piracy (fighting or contributing to the practice), exploring the wilderness for legendary treasures, or having the bad judgment to cross Vorgita’s Council.

Pianaverna is located south of the previous three regions and ruled in name only by Galaverna’s Greats. Holding only a sparse population, this mist-shrouded region has a reputation for fell magic and monsters such as hags and bavalisks. There also exist more “human” dangers such as forts of mercenary companies and the violent inhabitants of the Pagan Plain. The faithful of the Creed view Pianaverna as a challenge, seeking to preach the teachings of the Saints to the heathens “most in need of help.” The Pagan Plain’s “king of all kings” is Ardarico, a fool who manages to hold onto power for his unmatched physical might and little else. More competent dangers in the region include the Lowland Brigands who are a small yet professional army ruled over by a morgant known as the Queen of Batons, the Passers who engage in smuggling and illegal trafficking throughout the Kingdom’s northern regions, and the Duchess Spinella who leads a group of women warriors known as the Nooserippers so named for saving their own and commoner women from hanging.

Jobs in Pianaverna involve defending smaller isolated villages from greater threats (and sometimes monsters and said threats from villagers), panning for gold in the delta region that is too close for comfort to Penumbria’s Mistide, and hiding out from authorities in this trackless yet dangerous region.

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Penumbria is perhaps the most dangerous and feared region in the Kingdom. It is surrounded by the Mistide, a magical curtain of sulfurous mist believed to be the result of fell magic and requires skilled guides to cross (and there are rules for braving this harrowing journey; the greatest danger is becoming lost and gaining Exhaustion levels from the dread aura). While Penumbria has an aristocracy in the form of the Dukes of Castel Notturno, the real power in the region is the Criminese Cupola, an assortment of family-based organized crime syndicates who hold sway over specific kinds of illegal activity. Their power and wealth reaches far beyond the Mistide, and their agents can be found all over the Kingdom. The region overall has little in the way of centralized power. Beyond the Crimini gangs whose alliances are subject to fraying and refastening, there’s the swampland of Morassi whose population center of Feretro is home to smugglers and pirates, pagan tribes of sylvans known as the Hoodlums, and the Kingdom’s most feared mercenary company, the Dragoons. Known for their distinctive armor that covers them from head to toe, they are prized for their ruthless skill but not often hired due to their propensity for turning against their former employers if they become weak enough to plunder at war’s end.

Penumbria is also notable for being an exception to the Kingdom’s shrugging tolerance. The Gifted, marionettes, and members of magical classes are hated by the populace; most of the time this is represented as mocking crowds and hateful barbs, although violence can occur and is tolerated by the authorities. Such people crossing the Mistide do well to avail themselves of a Crimini don, earning protection for their stay. A subrace of marionettes known as the guignols implant themselves as cysts in living creatures, growing over time until they burst forth fully-grown.

Jobs in Penumbria are nasty, brutish, and often lead to dramatically-shortened lifespans. There’s always work to be done for or against the region’s power players, and precious few people trust each other, knowing that today’s employer can be tomorrow’s target.

Torrigiana is the most magical realm of the Kingdom. Extravaganza is strong and omnipresent, manifesting as a pleasant sunlit climate, vast forests of triflewood from which the marionette race was fastened, the everyday presence of Turquoise fey and talking animals in villages and the countryside, and settlements with interesting features such as Frittole which is believed to contain portals to other times and places. The district of Cuccaigne, which surrounds the capital city of Cucca, is perhaps the strangest place of all: the surrounding landscape is entirely edible, ranging from salamis hanging from orchards, rocks made of cheese, breadsticks growing like grass, and local fauna which comes ready-to eat such as flying spit-roasted birds. However this is a trap, for those who partake of these natural magical meals soon become enchanted to eat until they literally explode. Cucca itself is known as the City of Toys for its Permanent Fair, a 24/7 parade of games, shows, and other attractions whose participants often find themselves befalling some misfortune such as a companion vanishing into thin air or all of their money replaced by colored paper. The boggy marshland of Maremma Impestata is home to the region’s greatest and strangest dangers, such as mosquitoes that bite other mosquitoes, bandit horsemen who ride on other horsemen, and cutthroats who specialize in cutting the throats of other cutthroats. Finally there’s the Mount of Fiascos of Hyena, the richest bank in the Kingdom whose malebranche owner is believed to launder money from Inferno. All attempts at pulling off heists have caused some degree of unconventional tragedy to befall the would-be robbers, which is where the bank gets its name.

Jobs in Torrigiana always have some additional layer of magical weirdness stacked on top of an otherwise conventional adventuring scenario.

Borgo Stricchiano is technically part of Torrigiana but lengthy and self-contained enough to merit its own section. It is an archipelago of three islands, one of which is home to a race of horses whose queen is appointed by a blind black stallion every year. The islands are home to only one inn known as the Marbowl, and ancient pacts with nature spirits cause curses to befall those who needlessly cause harm to the local flora and fauna. The archipelago is also home to the Monastery of Saint Patron, home to the most skilled scribes of the Kingdom who dispatch members to travel the lands and collect rare tomes to bring back to the Monastery. There’s also the Swamp Hag, a legendary figure possessed of unmatched magical power, and the de’ Vasi family whose royal bloodline is full of strange beings. The family villa houses a large library whose most famed text is the Book of Secrets of Villa de’ Vasi. It can only be read by those willing to write a secret of their own onto one of its pages. Once that occurs the ink fades away, replaced by someone else’s secret and a related task or job to fulfill.

Jobs in Borgo Stricchiano involve the local deals and goings-on of the above; the adventure hooks practically write themselves!

Spoletaria was designed to act as a buffer zone against the dangers of Penumbria. Once part of the now-gone Kingdom of the Two Scyllas, the former fortresses are now occupied by sellswords and Penumbrians fleeing their homeland. The region is also famed for its many skilled fencing schools that teach a variety of sword-fighting styles, including a few forbidden techniques. The rural places are wastelands of poor soil whose populations are eager to fight at the drop of a hat. Its most civilized city of Aquilea is still home to its fair share of problems, such as the unfortunate pattern of its rulers turning into birds.

Jobs in Spoletaria tend to involve fighting of various kinds, as the Spoletarians aren’t ones for subtlety. There’s also hunts for the legendary sarchiapone, said to be as treacherous as the foioncus and as elusive as the rumphus, but nobody has any idea of what such a creature looks like.

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Alazia once bore the administrative hearts of Plutonia and the Draconian Empire, home to the largest city in the known world that brought people and riches from all over. Now it is a forsaken land, home to innumerable ruins inhabited by devils and undead. A volcanic mountain range known as the Four Devils is home to the only remaining fire dragons of the Kingdom, whose ferocity was so infamous that the Draconian Empire derived its many symbols from them. But in spite of such dangers, civilization thrives: first there are the pagan Rupi who worship a hybrid faith of old Draconian religions and the Creed, the Buri hills known for fine wine and beautiful people, sylvan and pagan pilgrims who pay homage to the Draconian goddess Thumpa whose cult is ruled over by the Masked King of the Wood, and the city of Ophitia that reveres the Mother of Serpents. This last city is home to scoundrels and villains of all kinds, ruled over by a renegade noble known as the King of Knives who has one of the highest Bounties in the Kingdom.

The former Draconian capital is known as the Wasteland, and looks like an endless series of ancient Roman-style ruins spaced haphazardly along cracked ground. It eventually ends in an abyss of sulfurous water and mud known as Hell’s Mouth, home to the Eternal Gate sitting at the bottom of the ruined city. Sitting mere miles from here is Vaticin City and Port Patacca. The former is the first sect of the Creed, a near-impenetrable fortress of churches and monasteries who administer affairs to the faithful of the Kingdom. Port Patacca is a city ruled over by representatives of trade guilds who dub themselves the “Free Commune of the People.” They have a steadfast alliance with Vaticin City, which no plot or political strife has managed to sunder.

Jobs in Alazia specialize in ruin-delving and spelunking, as the innumerable treasures of the Draconian Empire lay buried beneath the earth just waiting to be found. Not to mention the above-ground ruins which are still protected by curses and monsters of all sorts. Port Patacca is full of urban intrigue of various kinds, and Ophitia much the same but with the worst humanity has to offer.

We also get two sidebars expanding upon the Creed. Basically it’s a monotheistic faith that venerates a creator deity known as the Ternal Father, the Godhead, and various other names. They believe that the Seven Heavens of the Firmament are a reward for those who lived just lives, much as Hell/Inferno is the punishment for those whose lives were wicked. The Creed is an evolution from an older religion known as the New Doctrine dating from Plutonian times, and there are other theological interpretations besides the Creed that are popular in other areas of the world. The Creed itself is split into four Patriarchates which in theory have equal power and coordinate efforts, although the Patriarchate of Vaticin City is the oldest and most powerful.

Alongside Saints and celestial beings, the Creed recognizes other prominent divine figures: the Double, or Divine Twins; the Quaterne, or Four Mothers of Earthly Elements; the Cinquain, or Five Archangels, representing the Hand of the Godhead; and Bingo, namely the Supreme Roster of the Ninety Heavenly Governors. For this reason, “Double, Ternal, Quaterne, Cinquain, and Bingo” is the Creed’s classic greeting, blessing, and protection formula imparted with the famous “Sign of the Bingo.”

I have no idea if an angel named Bingo is some sort of cultural in-joke referencing something I’m not aware of, or if the name alone is meant to be ridiculous on its own.

Thoughts So Far: The first half of the Bounty Kingdom has a pretty strong start. The regions are thematically distinctive and full of interesting people and places with built-in adventuring ideas. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite as any comparisons are going to be apples-to-oranges. Torrigiana’s magical weirdness aside, there’s quite a bit of regions with roaming monsters. This stands in a bit of a contradiction with the prior chapter’s claim of humanoid threats being the more common hindrance to roaming bands of Knaves. But this isn’t really a complaint, as I feel that such things enhance the setting rather than detract from it.

Join us next time as we cover the rest of the Bounty Kingdom in Part 2!
 

Libertad

Adventurer
Additionally with his permission, I got a rather informative response from an Italian poster on GiantITP:

Maan said:
Friendly italian forum user to the rescue! :smallbiggrin:

The "spaturnum" is most likely a reference to a book by a famous italian comedian: in the book the biblical god, among the other animals, creates a non-better identified creature named "spaturno" (in italian). The creature doesn't survive long, because "god soon realized it was totally useless and disintegrated it".

I don't own the book myself but from what I've gleaned of it, it seems the authors have filled it with references to italian comedy (both movies and literature).
The whole setting looks heavily inspired by the movie L'Armata Brancaleone and its sequel Brancaleone at the Crusades.
They never spawned a real genre on its own like it happened with Spaghetti Western, though I can think of a couple other movies like these. However they had the same general aesthetics, borrowed from neo-realism but used for comical contrast with the solemn tone of the chivalric romance classics in literature (these poems are part of the course of study in italian compulsory schools, so everyone here knows about them).
The art in the book, too, features characters that are clearly modelled on some actors of the period (the cover is pretty much Vittorio Gassman in the role of Brancaleone).

So, it seems there are many little nods to the genres that inspired the authors; I can understand how they can be confusing for anyone who isn't familiar with italian pop culture (especially at the time around the 80s; I think many younger folk here would find some of the references pretty obscure!).

I also posted in that thread the reference and inspirational user the authors used in making Brancalonia, which I'll also repeat here:

Zappa e Spada’s “Spaghetti Fantasy”, an anthology series published by Acheron Books, and Ignoranza Eroica’s “Fantasy di Menare” (Fantasy of Hard Knocks) join forces in Brancalonia, the campaign setting for the 5th Edition of the most famous role-playing game of all times.

A “back-to-front” version of Medieval Italy, this fantastic, fairy-tale influenced, roguish world quotes, collects, and mixes contributions from contemporary and classic Italian fiction, pop culture, and collective imagery:

• Traditional Italian folklore and fairy tales, from Le Piacevoli Notti (The Pleasant Nights) by Straparola to
the eighteenth-century Lo cu*nto de li cu*ntoi (The Tale of Tales); from Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio to the most popular collections of folk tales of the Bel Paese.
• The chivalrous and courteous tradition, from medieval “cantari” (minstrel ballads) to Renaissance epics.
• Our period movies, such as For Love and Gold (or The Incredible Army of Brancaleone) and The Profession of Arms; and international blockbusters with Medieval and Renaissance settings, like Ladyhawke, The Princess Bride, and Flesh + Blood.
• Twentieth-century Italian fantasy masterpieces by writers such as Pederiali, Eco, Buzzati, and Calvino.

References and Inspiration
An exhaustive list of all the movies, books, and comics that have been inspiring to Brancalonia's authors and contributors would require many pages. Here you can find a short selection and a good start. Enjoy the Italian style!

Comics
  • Magnus & Romanini – The Company of the Gallows
  • Magnus & Bunker / Cimpellin & Bunker – Maxmagnus
  • Pratt – Corto Maltese series
  • Rastrelli & Nuti – Giovanni delle Bande Nere
Battaglia – Gargantua and Pantagruel, Il Corsaro del Mediterraneo,
San Francesco, and others
Magnus – Ten Knights and a Wizard
Marini & Desberg – Lo Scorpione
Toppi – Cavaliere di Ventura, Europee, Mediterranee, Bestiario,
and others
Wood & Salinas / Gomez – Dago

Literature and folktales
  • Basile – The Tale of Tales
  • Calvino – The Baron in the Trees, The Cloven Viscount, The
Nonexistent Knight, Italian Folktales, Orlando Furioso, The
Castle of Crossed Destinies, Invisibles Cities
  • Collodi – Pinocchio
  • Pederiali – Il Tesoro del Bigatto
Buzzati – The Secret of the Old Woods, The Tartare Steppe, The
Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily, and others
Eco – Baudolino
Pitrè – Sicilian Fairy Tales, Stories, and Folktales
Rodari – The Road to Nowhere, and other stories

Essays
* Cattabiani – Calendario, Lunario, Santi d'Italia, and others

Movies
  • Tale of Tales
  • The Rogues
  • For Love and Gold and Brancaleone at the Crusades
Attila Flagello di Dio
Bertoldo, Bertoldino and Cacasenno
Cinderella Italian Style
Fantaghirò
The Profession of Arms
Captain Fracassa's Journey
The Devil in Love
Ladyhawke
Flesh + Blood
The Princess Bride

* indicates the "highly recommended" titles

But now stop reading: the Bounty Kingdom is waiting... For the Bounty!
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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The Bounty Kingdom, Part 2

Ausonia is located by the Zigane Sea, named after the people of the same name who came to Brancalonia from western shores. The native Ausonians are believed to be descendants of the Esperians, who not much is known about but whose traditions survive into modern times such as summer-time dances honoring spider spirits. The region has a higher than normal proportion of reptiles and reptilian monsters, believed to have a common ancestor in Mamma Tarasca, a legendary monster said to still sleep in the deepest caves. Ausonia lacks a central government, and most of its villages are self-governing walled settlements and citadels who occasionally pool resources against foreign incursions. The region is also home to the Trollis, a race of hostile giants who live in ancient tombs in the mountains.

Jobs in Ausonia involve hunting monsters, searching for treasure in semi-abandoned castles and towers, and participating in jousts in the cities and safeguarding shipping lanes.

We have a one-page sidebar talking about nomadic occupations and ethnic groups of Brancalonia. Said lifestyle is rather common and doesn’t merit any automatic suspicion or distrust: approximately 10% of Brancalonia’s population falls under the semi-nomadic label. Ziganes are people who hail from a western land across the sea, and the ones who settle in the peninsula are known for magic, artwork, toy-making, swordsmanship, and seafaring. The latter group is believed to know the language of cormorants and pelicans, which they use to better traverse the major bodies of water. There are also the Lacklands, a mostly-impoverished people from Zagara who work in modest jobs of manual labor. The criminals among their people consider themselves a more honorable sort, and for centuries have been known to go after bandits and brigands. They mostly live around what was known as the Kingdom of the Two Scyllas, living mostly in Volturnia and Alazia. The Norcitans are a clan of sylvans who come from the Black Valley of Spoleteria and are famed for their cuisine and count skilled doctors among their ranks. Last are the Falcamonte Caravankers, a profession of mobile bankers who arose from a law that prevents the religiously devout from participating in financial occupations (bankers, loaners, etc). The Caravankers disproportionately come from a small group of families between Quinotaria and Falcamonte who started moving around in huge “caravanks.” They make regular stops around the Kingdom, lending money and providing letters of credit which are honored by all other Caravankers. There’s a rumor that they’re participating in a secret plot to steal everyone’s wealth after dismantling their banks, and the book notes that “there might be some truth to this.”

The Forgotten Counties are a region located somewhere between Alazia and Torrigiana to the north and Ausonia and Volturnia to the south. Although Brancalonia is home to some absurd places such as Cuccaigne, there are plenty of people who have evidence of their existence. Precious few can say the same for the Forgotten Counties besides the ramblings of a few adventurers. From what little could be ascertained, this region is home to extinct creatures, whose inhabitants have no use for coinage, and where flying flocks of migratory ostriches can be seen crossing the sky. Said ostriches are believed to have magical powers which make onlookers forget everything they saw in the Forgotten Counties. The pages also have dark splotches of wine stains which cover large portions of text. Text which doesn’t exist if you try to highlight it with the Select Tool on a PDF.

Jobs in the Forgotten Counties are not taken lightly. Most Knaves aren’t eager to go on a wild goose chase in search of such a land, and those that do are often stranded and desperate to rob their peers of what little they have. We also have a sidebar of common races in the Counties. There’s a higher number of Gifted, as well as a group of people known as Nonexistents. Said race is detailed in the Macaronicon as animated cloaks, armor, and other apparel which present the facsimile of a person when “standing up.”

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Volturnia was one of the oldest provinces of the Draconian Empire, blessed for generations with wealth and high living standards. Such resources made them targets for the Plutonians in times past, and through careful diplomacy they managed to peacefully assimilate rather than be violently conquered. The fall of the Draconian Empire saw much of this prosperity gone, where the vaults and villas of the wealthy were robbed and fought over by all manner of greedy warlords. Still, the legacies of former eras persist, such as abandoned amphitheaters surrounded by slums and noble estates whose descendants have learned to farm themselves in the absence of hired servants. The people of Volturnia have learned to find the bright side in suffering and adversity, knowing that in times long past their people stunned the world with what they could create. In an ironic twist of fate, the region is also home to some of the best forgers in the Kingdom. Volturnia is also known to produce a higher than usual number of witches, fairies, and ghost-haunted abodes, particularly in the Duchy of Acquaiviva whose capital is cursed to be destroyed for whoever speaks its true name. It is now called the City of Names for this reason.

Jobs in Volturnia involve confrontation with echoes of the past: princes are so impoverished that even the greenest Knaves can get an audience with a local ruler, and people are so desperate in reclaiming treasures that there’s just as much profit to be had in finding clever forgeries as the real deal. Cities are in dire need of exorcists and benandante to drive out unwanted spirits, and wicked hags and heretical cults are the most common dangers in the wild reaches beyond the towns.

Piccadora is a realm almost entirely given over to wilderness, the bulk of its population secured in the ports. Mountains, forests, hills, and valleys are home to animals, hermits, outlaws, and those seeking to escape wider society. The region is notably crawling with magic, often due to the touch of foreign visitors and secret wars between spellcasters, which have left their mark in the southern sections with small villages of mystics and miraculists. The nearby city of Sibaria is one to the Royal Mavaria College of Abracalabria, one of the Kingdom’s few magic academies. The courses here specialize in jinxes and other dangerous spells. Piccadora is also home to a religious tradition known as paradoxical monasticism, a religion descended from the New Doctrine but distinct from the Creed. The practitioners have a higher than usual number of Nonexistent members for unknown reasons.

Jobs in Piccadora usually begin in one of the realm’s strategic port hubs, although the mages of Sibaria are always willing to hire people to collect rare material components for their research. It’s also believed that the ruins of the kingdom of Morgantia (the last kingdom of said race) lay somewhere in the wilds.

Zagara is one of the three major islands of the Kingdom, just barely touching the southernmost tip of the Brancalonian Peninsula but connected by a massive bridge that was the pride of the Draconian Empire. Its people are quite multicultural due to colonization and occupation by many different powers over the eras, with features and cultural influences of fantasy counterpart Arabs, Italians, and Western European cultures. Its many convents and monasteries have a diverse religious tradition, ranging from the Creed to the less-populous Paradoxical Faith. Its people are notoriously accepting and resolute in changing times, claiming that “everything must change for everything to remain the same” whenever some new force lays stake to Zagara. The island is also home to Typhon Mountain, the tallest volcano in the Kingdom and all of Occasia. The volcano is still active, and some monsters and people (mostly fearsome warriors) are crazy enough to live there.

Zagara’s current political structure is divided into four major factions. The first is a collection of cities in the north, with the metropolis of Elefanta the most powerful whose governors are controlled by the viceroys as the powers behind the throne. The middle valleys were once under the iron grip of the La Grua family, infamous for their use of vivisection and Black Alchemy, but upon being overthrown the region has been in a Balkanized state of warring factions of brigands. Finally, the southern reaches of Zagara are ruled over by Emirs hailing from southern Sidonia. The cities here are bastions of art and science, but whose warriors are also known as ferocious raiders that tax their subjects heavily. Many villages are caught between a rock and a hard place, viewing the Sidonians as conquerors but also not being fond of the older barons and feudal lords in the rest of the island. The fourth faction is not officially recognized; the Vicaria is an organized crime syndicate that squeezes the life and wealth from citizenry and who none of the local rulers have been able to drive off.

Jobs in Zagara commonly involve contributing to the feuds between the island’s power players, and sometimes between the rich and poor.

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Tasinnanta is one of the two major islands east of the Brancalonian Peninsula. A rather poor and inhospitable climate, its people are proud of their generations-long independence from foreign powers. Remnants of lost cities from forgotten eras dot the landscape, providing passage to subterranean tunnels and lost treasures. It is filled with lagoons and dominated by a mountain inland, which the Draconians and other would-be invaders have learned the hard way will not be tamed. Pagans of various races are common here, particularly the Barbariccia clan of malebranche known for an inflexible moral code.

North of Tasinnanta is Callista, a mostly-forested region exploited by Vortigan’s lumber industry and naval garrisons. The furthest interior reaches of the forest haven’t been explored, and the Vortigans living on the island may know what lurks there but are tight-lipped about it. Reports from expeditions speak of monster-filled ruins.

Jobs in Tasinnanta aren’t for those seeking a good amount of money; the settlements are independent, self-sufficient, and prefer to keep it that way. All that said, there are some people in need of specialists, such as Lionadia who needs a protective escort into the forgotten cities to perform a “procession of the dead,” or Mariano di Torre who has been cursed to drink only spring water. He will pay handsomely for Knaves who bring him water from the most inaccessible and holy of springs.

Callista on the other hand, is in need of hired help to map the island’s interior, and some corsairs claim to have seen a colossal statue of precious metal in the heart of the forest.

The Seven and a Half Seas of the Kingdom covers the major bodies of water in the setting. The northwest Sea of Towers is dark and dangerous, so-named for impossibly-long spires peeking up from beneath the waves. To the west is the Zigane Sea, its waters blood-red and the major trade route to Frange and distant Illusitania. Tristopher Colombrus was said to have discovered new lands by plying these waters far west enough. Directly west of the Peninsula is the Sea of the Shadows, whose storms are so dire that they seem to compete with each other in how many ships they can sink, and are home to innumerable shadows and ghosts of the drowned.

The Sapphire Sea which links the Peninsula with the major islands is incredibly well-traveled, home to all manner of sailors, smugglers, pirates, merchant fleets, and kingdoms’ worth of dumped contraband. The seas are also home to the tempestarii, spellcasters capable of controlling storms. East of Tasinnanta and Callista is the Murky Sea, home to the best navigators as well as the dangerous pirates of Istrania. These buccaneers are continually on the hunt for inexperienced crews to capture and sell to Vortiga as slaves. To the south of the Peninsula is the Sea of the Charybdis, well-patrolled by Sidonian warships.

The Monstrum Sea is the smallest of the seas, being located entirely in Penumbria’s Mistide. Crossing through by sea is even more deadly by land, as the lack of visibility has been the end of countless ships crashing into rocks, islands, and shoals. Not to mention the various nameless horrors that lurk beneath the surf. And not located on any credible map is the mythical Half Sea, whose island of Alcina is rumored to house a grand treasure...or nothing at all, causing disappointed explorers to never speak of it again, unable to face the shame of it.

Jobs at sea range from all kinds. There’s money to be made in the various maritime trades, and the strange monsters of the sea care little for whose flag flies on vessels bearing precious two-legged meat.

Beyond the Kingdom’s Borders covers the rest of the known (and theorized) world. The mortal realm is known to be spherical and called the Orb, and the people of Brancalonia are aware of the existence of peoples and regions beyond their peninsula and surrounding waters. East of the Peninsula is the kingdom of Istrania, and east of that coastal land are hundreds of mysterious lands and caravan routes. To the south is Sidonia, located on the continent of Meridiana which is home to vast jungles and deserts. Vortigan outposts can be found here, as well as the Golden City of Constantinaples whose scenic atmosphere is the retirement home of many a Knave who made it big. To the west of the Sea of Shadows and the Zigane Sea and north of the Crown Mountains is the continent of Occasia, home to the kingdom of Frange notable for its various pirate cities. Further west of Frange is the kingdom of Illuistania, which is distant enough that many Brancalonians are unsure of its existence. To the north of the Brancalonian Peninsula is the Altomannic Empire,* and further north is Great Brigantain, the Boreal Kingdoms, and the Varag domains which all share and fight over the Hyperborean Sea.

*I don’t know if this is a variant spelling of the Empire of Altomagna or a separate land.

As for lands beyond the Orb, the Creed teaches of other planes of existence. The Seven Firmaments and Inferno are where the souls of departed mortals go off to, their respective physical portals located at the bottom of Plutonia and in the city of Urania on the other side of the world. Supernal Spheres float beyond the Orb, and the outermost one is where the Ternal Father resides.

Thoughts So Far: I’m also fond of the later regions of the Bounty Kingdom, although some of them felt a bit shorter and more specialized than previous entries. I did like Volturnia’s emphasis on “those living among the ruins of a supposed Golden Age,” and Zagara is home to a large number of rival groups and factions to spur many opportunities for Knaves. Piccadora felt like a subtler Torrigiana. There was more emphasis on isolated reaches of wilderness and the dangers of magic rather than the fairy-tale-like whimsy. On the flip side of things, the Forgotten Counties felt like a lot of word space for “these lands are unknown and supposedly have weird stuff happening there,” and Ausonia was too brief for my liking in being a mere one page long.

While it doesn’t matter as much to the campaign at large, I was happy that there was some space given over to detailing the lands beyond Brancalonia, including some of which still touched the region through trade, conquest, foreign faiths, and settlers. This gives the setting a more lived-in feel as opposed to a land that is boxed off from the rest of reality. I also like how the planes of existence aren’t set in stone (Inferno a notable exception), with the realms espoused being that of the Creed’s teachings and thus taken on matters of faith.

Join us next time as we embark on a half-dozen prewritten adventures In Search of Quatrins!
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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Our penultimate chapter provides six adventures set in the Bounty Kingdom. Taking the form of jobs in need of some Knaves, individually they are rather short, and barring a company leader in the first two are more or less disconnected from each other in terms of plot.

Little People of the Grand Mount is our first adventure, suitable for 1st level characters. While in some remote village somewhere between the borders of Torrigiana, Alazia, and Quinotaria, the PCs are approached by Roughger of Punchrabbit, a company leader and Knave whose fame precedes him. He offers the group silver and to join his company if they help out with one “easy-peasy job.”

The nearby Grand Mount is home to many tales about fairies, witches, and other sorts. One such folktale is of a child who climbed up and met a clan of fey known as Goodfellas, obtaining great riches from them. Roughger’s client is a local landowner who wants the PCs to retrieve one goodfella alive in exchange for as much silver as they weigh. Unfortunately it’s the rainy season, and climbing up the Grand Mount is easier said than done. Also, Roughger already hired and lost half a dozen henchmen on this very same quest and doesn’t believe in the sunk cost fallacy.

The adventure overall is low in lethality, with the greater dangers being the suffering of exhaustion, traps, and dangers of the environment. The PCs can gather rumors in town about the Grand Mount, while climbing it involves overcoming the fairies’ misleading magic, avoiding sliding down steep inclines, and hunting for food if they run low on rations. A supernaturally-fast donkey with golden hooves can help lead the party further up, or if they show it disrespect will lead them back to their starting point at the foot of the mountain.

The Goodfella Refuge is guarded by a pit trap that is a mossy hole in the side of the mountain that causes characters to slide rather than fall to their deaths. The goodfella fairies are cooking a meal by the time the PCs arrive and are quite hospitable. There’s a small table of possible interactions the PCs can do to get on their good sides, such as winning a game of Poppycock which uses petroglyph numbers and symbols (disadvantage on gaming set rolls if PC cannot read them), making their meal taste better with salt, or going along with a joke where one of them insists that they’re “goonfellas, not goodfellas” and to not get the name wrong next time only for the next one to make the same statement but in reverse.

The job is completed if the PCs convince one of the fairies to accompany them to Roughger and the client’s estate, with the goodfella making a strange ticking sound all the while. After being paid and the party leaves the estate, the villa’s roof explodes. Otherwise if the PCs fail in their quest (at some point an approaching storm makes the Grand Mount unclimbable), Roughger shrugs and promptly forgets about the job.

We also get a stat block for Roughger, a CR 5 Chaotic Neutral humanoid with Legendary Actions that allow him to move and attack additional times a round. He is otherwise built as a melee fighter, having multiattack with two-weapon fighting: a +1 mattock called Headcracker and +1 handaxe called Cleaver. He’s a military veteran whose former soldier buddies have all died in battle and thus nobody remembers his name. He founded a company known as the Punchrabbits made up of scoundrels and pillory scum. Their headquarters is the Punchrabbit’s Den, which has a level 1 Cantina and Stable as Grandluxuries and is located on the road between Frittole and Tristoia in the northern part of Torrigiana.

Rugantino: Tales of Love and the Knife is another 1st level adventure. Roughger or another appropriate company leader has some undefined business in Port Patacca in Alazial and asks the PCs to accompany him there. And by “business,” Roughger means “squandering money for several days in unrestrained revelry.” During the trip he gets to know them better as a means of some character development. After reaching the city and partying at the Cockrel Inn (along with some sample NPCs to interact with), a puppeteer by the name of Gheraccio approaches the party for a job. He used to do performances with a marionette he created known as Rugantino. The marionette disappeared one night and Gheraccio is worried that he was kidnapped for ransom or even worse, thrown to the fire.

But before the PCs can take the job a group of rival Knaves known as the Snakes will approach Gheraccio, talking down the PCs and claiming to be better-suited for the job. Naturally the PCs will have to engage in a Brawl in order to avoid losing a client and prove their worth. If they lose then they’ll wake up in an alley with Gheraccio (who decided to go along with them anyway), but with 1 coin or 1 memorabilia each missing due to Brawler’s Etiquette.

The PCs can gather clues in town, first by meeting an old woman who speaks an obscure Alazial dialect that can be sussed out via an Intelligence check or with the help of an NPC from the Cockrel Inn if a good relationship was established. From her they’ll learn that a red-headed woman visited one of Gheraccio’s shows and left with a “little boy” who is likely the marionette. There’s also a rude child who points them in the direction of a friar that knows the name of the red-head. The friar tells the party that her name is Rosetta and frets about her safety due to her falling in love with Ninetto. Ninetto belongs to a group of thieves known as the Freeloaders who are hiding out in the Gropewood.

The Gropewood is a supernaturally-dark forest that must be navigated via Survival, with failed checks causing risk of Exhaustion and random encounters. The Freeloaders are 3 bandits led by a morgant, and Rugantino, Rosetta, and Ninetto are among them. Rugantino is not actually a hostage; he got tired of Gheraccio’s shows, but was unable to communicate such fears as he never seemed to get through to his creator. He ran away with Rosetta for a new life, although he doesn’t find a life of crime to be a worthy replacement for his old job. Additionally Rosetta is having second thoughts about her relationship. Due to these factors it is possible that the PCs can talk them into voluntarily coming back with them, although the rest of the bandits will not see reason and are eager to fight.

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The Forest of Howling Boars is an adventure for 2nd-level Knaves. This job comes from a community of charcoal burners on the border between Torrigiana and Pianaverna. A group of howling boars have been terrorizing hunters in the region with greater frequency, and the community saved up money to hire some “Professional Boar Exterminators.” While the company’s leader would ordinarily send their best henchmen for this kind of job, such Knaves are still in prison and so the task is passed on to the PCs.

The job is located in the village of Ponteratto, home to a bridge spanning a river, and the village is honest about being in need of aid from dangerous boars and hosts a feast in their honor (with quite a bit of boar-meat). However there are rumors that these aren’t ordinary boars, possibly being wereboars, boar-men, or even giant boars! PCs can gather information and rumors by participating in various Dive Games.

The truth of the matter is that the boars of the forest are gaining intelligence. Led by a particularly smart member of their species known as Biggerboar, they are forming the basic foundations of a system of government, including mass gathering of truffles to be used as a trade good. The howls in fact come from the Boaryguards, soldiers among their kind seeking to scare away intruders. Since the villagers are unaware of the boars’ intelligence they’ve been eating boar meat earned through hunts, which doesn’t endear the animals to their humanoid neighbors.

While talking animals in the Kingdom aren’t normally cause for alarm, the chances of opening up peaceful relations with Ponteratto are quite slim. A pair of sylvans known as Rind and Knuckle have been playing off both sides. They’ve offered to do tasks for the boars that the animals are unable to do due to lack of opposable thumbs, while stashing away a large share of wealth from the truffle trade, slaughtering wild boars to create sausage to sell to Ponteratto, and playing upon the villagers’ fears with rumor mongering. Nero is a wereboar and a spy for Biggerboar, posing as a human in Ponteratto; he does hope that the two communities can find peace, but he’s also aware of the mutual enmity and is really torn up inside.

The adventure is a bit open-ended in how the Knaves go about their mission. While investigating the nearby woods they can come upon or run fall afoul of Rind and Knuckle’s traps, and can find the sylvans’ hovel which has Roastporker’s Cleaver to be used as evidence of their guilt...although the rest of the adventure doesn’t mention Roastporker at all. Presumably one of the villagers or a wereboar?

Additionally, the PCs can come upon Swinotopia, a mini-dungeon system of caverns guarded on the outside by patrols of boars. If the PCs manage to avoid violence such as by sneaking inside or declaring themselves as diplomatic envoys, then Biggerboar will hear them out. If they killed any boars in getting to him he would not be willing to negotiate and instead declares a call to arms by attacking the party.

The adventure can be resolved in various ways. Wiping out the Swinotopia community is one, or just running away which fails the job. Determining Rind and Knuckle’s guilt will do much to quell hostilities, although it’s a first step rather than a permanent solution. A form of trade agreement or compromise where Ponteratto and Swinotopia respect each other’s autonomy and provide goods and services to each other is a longer-term solution.

The Good, the Bad, and the Marionette is for 3rd-level Knaves and meant to take place at a hard point in the PCs’ lives. The guards of Tristoia have adopted a “scorched earth” policy to the company, and Rougher (or another company leader) has long since disappeared. Jobless and with nothing to do, their company leader returns out of the blue one day with a happy declaration: “I have a job for you!”

Embarking on horses, the leader explains that they’ve been employed by the Sublime Doctor Azimut to retrieve some goods he paid for in the swamps of Maremma Impestata located in Torrigiana. Azimut is a snake-oil salesman who’s been chased out of various places for his fake elixirs, but has apparently found an alchemical formula that actually works. One of the ingredients is the plumage from a rare beast known as a Foioncus Albinus, and the elixir can bestow upon its drinker otherworldly beauty. The last known Foioncus Albinus was owned by the befana* by the name of Veriana, who cut off all contact with Azmiut after receiving payment.

*a monstrous species of hag native to the Kingdom.

Doctor Azmiut will inform the party of all this upon meeting him in Deadman’s Crossing on the edge of the swamp. Payment is secured once they return with the monster alive and well, and they only have a day and a half to do the job. This time limit is due to the fact that the person seeking the elixir has their personal guard showing up at the Crossing, and if it’s not ready then then the deal’s off.

The swamp is a treacherous wilderness crawl, with potential monstrous encounters such as a herd of boars led by a giant one, and a swamp monster known as a Catsnake which is fond of dragging a boat’s oars, poles, and occupants beneath the swampy water. Veriana’s shack is silent, and its sole occupant has died within the last 24 hours. A group of butterati did her in via juniper cordial, an extremely strong alcoholic beverage. The louts happened to leave one of their number behind: Cinnamon, a marionette hiding with a sack of stolen goods. She can be found and chased, fooled due to her gullible nature, or turned against her former gang for leaving her to fend for herself in the swamp.

The butterati’s den is a network of islands and stationary boats connected by bridges. The occupants range in stats but borrow statblocks from the Monster Manual and NPC entries in the final chapter of this book. They predictably draw from brigand-themed entries, such as Bandit, Thug, Duelist, and Cutthroat. There are also sleeches beneath the water, which Cinnamon won’t tell the party about if she was chased or forced to accompany the PCs. The Foioncus Albinus is a three-legged cockrel that is easily frightened and can suffer a heart attack if suddenly surprised. It is ornery and will fight the PCs if they try to take it, although it can be tamed with juniper cordial.

See Acquaviva and Die! is an adventure for 3rd-4th level PCs set in the Duchy of Acquaviva of Volturnia. The Duchy’s ruler, Duke Arpaxio de Seevedra, sends a missive to the PCs’ company to go to the Holey Gate and learn from a spirit where a witch buried an immense treasure.

In reality there is no treasure, and the Duke plans on using the spirit to determine which three young men is his legitimate heir. In life a befana known as Whooppee claimed that all three of the boys were his, causing a bit of a succession crisis. The witch lied, and the Duke found this out over time but not the identity of his true son. The Arpaxio lineage has been cursed so that every descendent will be afflicted with some type of mental disorder; the Duke is obsessed with dairy products of all kinds and his castle stinks to high heaven as such foodstuffs are in every room. None of his supposed sons demonstrate any forms of insanity, which makes determining their heritage all the more difficult.

The Holey Gate is a supernatural back-door leading to Inferno that shows up in a different place every month in the dukedom, which everyone knows about but avoids due to its great danger. The Duke will lend to the party the son living with him, Basset the monk, to conduct a ritual to summon a backbiter (a spirit tied to a departed soul) via a special scroll.

Basset has stats of an acolyte and healing potions to use in case of an emergency, and the PCs must first visit the Ditch of Serpents to meet one of Whooppee’s disciples in order to find the location of the next Holey Gate. Once there she can tell the party a bit about Whooppee, and may even give them a powerful artifact known as the Mantle of Snakes in exchange for candy, an entertaining tale, or entering into a relationship or having sex with a PC that catches her fancy. The Mantle grants several minor passive defenses: invisible to the walking dead, +1 AC and saves, blindsight 10 feet, resistance to poison damage, and can summon a swarm of poisonous snakes out of the mantle to attack adjacent targets.

Alternatively the PCs can learn the Holey Gate’s location from a warring group of bandits and guardspeople by siding with one or the other faction, and whose respective leaders (Shady the bandit captain and Sarino the guard captain) are two of the three heirs. The Gate itself can be opened by petitioning the flocks of ravens guarding the gate with an appropriate ability check or bribing them with shiny valuables. The area beyond the Holey Gate is known as Limbo, a mausoleum of the dead whose locations have titles such as the Gallery of Nouns, Hall of Adverbs, Crypt of Adjectives, and the Cell of Swear Words. Innumerable undead can be found here, either as blind and deaf zombies with 5 foot blindsight or specters known as backbiters. The latter type are linked to the tongues and mouths of departed souls, separated into alcoves by types of speech. The PCs have various means of finding Whooppee’s backbiter, such as conversing with other backbiters or bypassing riddles and traps (to be made by the DM). Once found Basset will unfurl the scroll and cast the spell to ask the question. Whooppee is a smartass and while forced to tell the truth, she will tell unrelated truths first, particularly embarrassing secrets about the PCs, Basset, and anyone else present. If asked the same question three times she will give the answer, and the heir is determined by the DM and needs of the plot. If the PCs get on the backbiter’s bad side then she’ll summon a horde of the undead to attack.

Upon exiting the tomb the true heir will suddenly adopt some offbeat behavior the next morning: Basset will talk to plants, Shady will become obsessed with his own reflection, while Sarino will become paranoid of all horses in the belief that they want to kill him.

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Penumbria Jeez Festival is a job for 5th level PCs that takes place in the most deadly region of the Kingdom. The PCs’ leader has to settle a prophecy debt with Lapidario de Mali, an impoverished nobleman in the city of Crimini. Once there the PCs meet a messenger of their employer in a dance hall just after said messenger wins a knife fight. Lapidario explains that a group of people are breeding monsters and selling the creatures’ poison without the permission of the Criminese Cupola. Located on a farm somewhere, the PCs must find the location, overcome the responsible parties, and bring back evidence of the unapproved crimes.

However, the Criminese Cupola aren’t going to hedge their bets on a single band of Knaves and thus hired a rival Band of the Shrimp who have even less scruples than the PCs. Lapidario will tip the party off about the rivals but decline to inform them of said Band’s true employers. The PCs have the option to confront the Band while in town or head off on their quest immediately.

While traveling north in search of the monster traffickers, the PCs will come upon evidence of burned farmsteads, looted granaries, and the corpses of peasants rotting under the sun. Survivors will tell the PCs that the responsible parties are a mercenary group known as the Bounty Bludgeons. The next village the PCs come upon is Malconvento, which has thankfully not been destroyed. A local vintner can tell the PCs about a safe trail to find the monster traffickers somewhere within the Forest of Nests, but in exchange they must help defend the town against the Bounty Bludgeons who are bound to come in several days.

PCs who offer to help the village can undertake various tasks to shore up defenses, train commoners to fight, and lay traps which will kill off the weaker enemies once the Bounty Bludgeons arrive. If the Band of the Shrimp hasn’t been dealt with, they’ll assault the village alongside the Bounty Bludgeons. The PCs will have 20 commoners fighting at their side, but it can be a potentially deadly battle due to enemy numbers. Victorious PCs will be held as guests of honor in a local celebration, and can avoid an encounter with a swarm of spidercrows when taking the vintner’s safe route. As the spidercrow swarm may not be as punishing as the mercenaries, this is very much a “moral dilemma” kind of choice, but one I can see many gaming groups choosing to take the high road.

But there is one mandatory encounter where the PCs come upon a corpse pile of the monster trafficker’s previous victims. The pile is watched over by a pair of Anguane (naga-like snake-women), and the gear of the bodies are mostly shoddy. However, there’s a breastplate as well as a rapier which is actually a legendary weapon: Fraudo’s Brand, once owned by a legendary King of Thieves. It’s a +1 weapon that still has the shoddy quality.

The farm within the Forest of Nests is watched over by five criminals, 3 of who use the bandit stat block and 2 have different stats. One is a Dragoon, the other an Explorer, but I cannot find such a stat block for the latter either in the Brancalonia sourcebook or the core Monster Manual. There’s a litter of viperwolf pups and an adult mother that are being milked of poison. The PCs can do what they want with the viperwolves, but bringing back the poison as evidence along with any prisoners taken alive will help finish the mission.

And Now? talks about potential future options for the gaming group’s band of Knaves. It outlines the next books to be published: the Atlas of the Kingdom will give further detail on the setting of the Kingdom, from greater details in culture, regions, adventure hooks, and gameable material such as equipment and monsters. The next book is the Knives, Carafes, Clubs, and Coins that is a complete campaign with new adventures as well as Den options, four new factions, leaders, and four Big Heists. The book mentions that a mini-series known as the Daily Jinx contains more short adventures in the here and now.

While there are Daily Jinx products (up to #3) published as of this writing, the two above products have not been released. The two Brancalonia supplements in English are the Macaronicon and the Digital Lasagna. I happen to own both, and this is a guess on my part but the former seems to cover a lot of the material that the Atlas of the Kingdom would highlight. The Digital Lasagna is a collection of small supplementary material, such as maps, updated pregenerated PCs, an official artbook, figure flats, and the four current issues of the Daily Jinx.

Thoughts So Far: The adventures are short and have a good mixture of combat, investigation, and socialization. While most of them are linear, several have various open-ended means of finishing the job. The ones I liked the most include Little People of the Grand Mount which makes for a good low-stakes “tutorial session,” the Forest of Howling Boars for its emphasis on investigation and sandboxy means of resolution, and Penumbria Jeez Festival in thematically showing off said region’s deadliness while also allowing the PCs to feel like Big Damn Heroes for taking the high road. I wasn’t as fond of See Acquaviva and Die in that it felt a bit too linear and the possibility that the PCs may not even get the chance to meet the heir at all during the quest.

Join us next time as we finish this book with New Monsters and Enemies!
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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Our final chapter of Brancalonia is the bestiary section, containing new creatures and foes likely to run afoul of our Knaves. There are two cases where the size, type, and alignment are in untranslated Italian, although the rest of them are in English.

Anguanes (CR 3) (singular anguana) are amphibious swamp-dwelling creatures with the upper halves of humans and the lower halves of snakes. They are fond of using illusion and enchantment spells to befuddle prey, and they can also constrict and grapple opponents.

Bavalisks (CR 3) are a species of six-legged dog whose breath and bite can turn targets to stone. They are animal-intelligence melee combatants with a bite that can restrain and eventually petrify a target, while its breath is a rechargeable cone attack.

Befane (CR 4, 6, & 9) (singular befana) are old witches whose true origin is unknown but surrounded by a variety of folktales. They aren’t exclusively women either, nor of evil alignment, but tend to be more malevolent than benevolent. They are primarily spellcasters with multiattack claw weapons and lair actions, and their levels of power are measured in Malevolence Levels from 1 to 3. The higher this level, the greater variety of spells they can cast (tend to be debuffs) and each Level bestows upon them a Unique Power. Such powers are diverse in nature, such as possessing a Broom of Flying, an entangling ball of yarn, the ability to haunt one’s nightmares, and creating wax figurines that can harm the doll’s likeness provided they’re within 100 feet. At Level 3 they gain legendary actions.

The Bigat (CR 5 & 8) is a unique creature of legend residing somewhere in the northern reaches of the Kingdom. It is said to be either a wingless dragon or gigantic worm. The “default” version is a big melee brute with a burrow and swim speed, can multiattack with various natural weapons, and a rechargeable Brutish Roar that deals thunder damage. The “ancient” version is much the same but with better stats.

Confined (CR 7, 9, & 13) are the most powerful variety of undead encountered in the Kingdom. They are creatures cursed to haunt the places of their deaths which they cannot leave, but as such places tend to be quite large like dungeons, villages, and castles, this is not much comfort for those who come upon them by chance. Statwise they are incorporeal undead with a lot of damage and condition resistances and immunities, lair actions, and primarily fight with a life draining touch that can temporarily reduce a target’s maximum hit points. They can be destroyed if their mortal remains are found and given a worthy burial, or if the ancient wrong responsible for their existence is righted. Like the befana they also increase in power via Malevolence Levels, gaining Legendary Actions at Level 3 and the ability to learn various ghost-themed Unique Powers such as possession, summoning zombies, and telekinetically moving objects.

Catsnakes (CR 1) are a very common and loathed species that looks like a cross between an ocelot and python with a single pair of legs. They are mobile fighters, capable of knocking targets prone and getting a bonus attack when moving at least 20 feet in a straight line.

Foioncus (CR ⅛) are a rare species of animal that looks like a cross between a weasel and a hairy bird. They derive sustenance from sucking the blood of creatures via a beak attack, and if they succeed on a Stealth check they can feed upon an unaware target without them noticing the injury.

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Malacodas (CR 14) are high-ranking devils of Inferno who sometimes visit the mortal realm on some kind of mission. They despise the Malebranche for defying their master, and look very much like the stereotypical bat-winged devil. Statwise they are incredibly powerful beings, possessing Legendary Actions, a variety of AoE innate spells, automatically creatures within 20 feet become frightened or charmed on a failed Wisdom save, and they can multiattack with claws, pitchfork, or hurled hellfire. Their major weakness is that they cannot remain outside of Inferno for long, losing 20 HP per day (max HP is 199); upon reaching 0 HP they are forcefully summoned back and cannot leave their home plane for a year and a day.

Marguttes (CR 7) are solitary giants who enslave the smaller races to use as cattle and the marionettes for firewood. In spite of being universally feared and loathed they like to pretend at being people of influence, dressing like nobles and rich merchants but living in dwellings closer to that of common folk. A few do attain their perceived status, ruling over humanoids like tyrants, although an extremely rare few are good-aligned and do care for their subjects. Statwise they are melee brutes, with a multiattack cleaver, a close-range AoE poisonous breath, a diverse assortment of innate spells, and can frighten opponents within sight by feasting on the corpse of an enemy target.

Sleeches (CR 5) are huge, gross crosses between slugs and leeches. They have a sucker-mouth full of sharp hooks and lurk beneath the waters of marshes. They have a multiattack bite and constrict attack, and their skin emits corrosive acid that can damage manufactured weapons made of metal or wood which strike it.

A Swarm of Spidercrows (CR 1) is made up of crow-arachnid hybrids found only in Penumbria. They hunt their prey in overwhelming numbers, taking down larger creatures via death by a thousand bites. They can climb on surfaces like spiders can and their bite attack can inflict poison damage.

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Viperwolves (CR 6) are two-headed wolves native to Penumbria whose mouths contain powerful venom. Their dual brains allow them to take an extra reaction per round that can only be used for opportunity attacks and renders them immune to mundane and magical sleep (when one head sleeps, the other remains awake).

Non-Player Characters and Common Enemies
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This section details new types of people Knaves are likely to encounter during jobs. There’s a sidebar noting that NPCs in general have shoddy equipment unless otherwise specified.

Commanders (CR 5) range from pagan warlords, leaders of Knave companies, military officers, and other exemplary leaders. Statwise they are like more powerful Knights, fighting with a schiavona instead of a greatsword and also have Legendary Actions.

A Crowd of Peasants (CR 6) represents your typical torch and pitchfork-bearing mob. They are treated as a gargantuan swarm with a prone-inducing Trampling Charge attack and can make three multiattacks with any combination of Stomps and Pitchforks.

Cutthroats (CR 2) are your generic criminal statblock, Knaves and otherwise. They have 2d6 Sneak Attack and the Cunning Action of Rogues, and can multiattack twice with any type of melee or ranged weapon.

Dragoons (CR 3) are the most experienced heavy infantry soldiers in the Kingdom, most coming from Penumbria. They are heavily-armored fighters who have Pack Tactics (advantage on attack rolls when they and an ally are within 5 feet of an enemy) and can multiattack with melee weapons.

Duelists (CR 1) are professional sword-fighters who serve in a variety of roles. They are predictably melee combatants, who can multiattack 3 times, Parry as a reaction, and deal a bonus 1d6 damage when hitting an adjacent target and no other creatures are within 5 feet of the target.

Queen’s Guard (CR ⅛) were a militia company founded by Queen Menalda of the Altomagna Empire. Although the Bounty Kingdom is now more or less autonomous, their surviving forces exist as parolmen, jailers, city guards, and the like. Statwise they’re like the Guard stats from the Monster Manual but with slightly better ability scores and fight with maces instead of spears.

Chief Guards (CR 3) are the higher-ranking officers of the Queen’s Guard. While those who coasted on by due to nepotism have the same stats as their rank-and-file peers, this stat block represents those worthy of the title. They have better stats, equipment, and can multiattack with melee weapons.

Pagans (CR 2) are no strangers to fights and won’t shy away from one, even with Knaves! Statwise they cannot Rage oddly enough, but instead they have Pack Tactics and deal one extra die of damage with melee weapons. As their default weapon is a greatclub they can deal 2d8+3 bludgeoning damage, none too shabby!

Slickers (CR 4) are unaffiliated street magicians of the Kingdom, making a living by rendering their services to whoever can pay the price. Statwise they cast spells as 6th level wizards and typically carry 2-4 magical items on their person. They can attune to 4 such items and ignore any prerequisites required for their use.

A Royal Bounty Agent (CR ½) is the kind of foe Knaves face when they attract too much attention or a job goes south...which is to say, quite often. Those represented with this stat block are the lower-ranking ones who go after small-time crooks and usually call in reinforcements only when a threat increases. They can multiattack with a short sword and dagger, and have a heavy crossbow and net as ranged weapons.

A Royal Bounty Hunter (CR 5), on the other hand, are those types of people who regularly deal with mercenary captains, gang leaders, and other violent types of people and somehow avoided the fate of ending up six feet under. Thus, they are “among the biggest sons of a donkey that Knaves will ever encounter.” Statwise they are more powerful versions of a Royal Bounty Agent, with advantage on Perception checks relying upon hearing or sight, benefit from Pack Tactics, Legendary Actions, can multiattack three times in melee or twice in ranged, can Parry, and has a 4d6 Sneak Attack.

Talking Animals are not so much a stat block as a template. Virtually any beast affected by Extravaganza can become a talking animal, and such creatures range the gamut in personalities, alignment, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. They speak Vernacular by default and can learn other languages given time. We have a sample stat block for Francesco the Talking Mule, which is just like the mule stat block but with the aforementioned adjustments.

Thoughts So Far: I like a lot of the monsters provided here. There’s quite a number of them which are some variety of hybrid animal, and CR-wise a lot of them hedge closer towards the Tier 2 power level (5th to 10th) which I found a bit odd for Brancalonia’s E6 format. The befana is perhaps my favorite, if only due to the large amount of Unique Powers allowing for a very customizable foe. The Malacoda and Malevolence Level 3 Confined feel a bit too powerful for Brancalonia. While I understand that they can be overcome or outlasted in ways besides combat and Knaves should know when to cut and run, it’s often common sense not to drop monsters into campaigns that’d be 5 or more CR higher than the average party level.

I do wish that talking animals could be a PC race given their commonality in the setting. While such options exist in products like Blue Rose’s 5e conversion and the Awakened sourcebook by Metal Weave Games, it may take some imagination in coming up with appropriate Brawl Features.

Final Thoughts: Brancalonia rates quite highly as a 5th Edition setting. While its races and classes aren’t anything to write home about and some of the new rules rub me the wrong way, the book more than makes up for it in the rest of its material. The setting alone is very thematic and an interesting place to explore, and the rules that simulate the risk-filled lives of Knaves do a good job at supporting this playstyle. There’s also a lot of things for PCs to spend money on, which is one of 5th Edition’s major weak points. The sample adventures give the DM a good sense for construction for their own jobs and challenges.

My greatest criticism of Brancalonia would be that it is in need of a good glossary. The book’s peppered with liberal use of setting-specific and untranslated Italian terms. While not omnipresent to the point of making sections unreadable, it can leave a reader second-guessing a lot of the time.

But all in all, Brancalonia is a worthy purchase, whether for gaming groups seeking to adventure in the Bounty Kingdom themselves or mining it for material for their own settings.

I am unsure of what book I’m going to review next. I’ve focused quite heavily on settings for the moment, so I may do another kind of sourcebook type for my next review. I’m leaning towards a double-review of Spheres of Power & Spheres of Might (5th Edition versions) or the Eat the Rich! Series of adventures.
 

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