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New gods awaken.

A tabletop role-playing game from Sine Nomine Publishing, the people behind Stars Without Number, and with a similar debt to the old-school-rules movement. This time, though, the hack of early Dungeons & Dragons rules is paired with Exalted rather than sci-fi adventure.

Once, humanity had achieved incredible power through mastery of theurgy. Hunger, sickness, pain... all had been eradicated. However, because humans are still kinda dicks, the Former Empires struggled perpetually over ideology, until some bright spark had the idea of using the power of theurgy to go right to the Source's mouth and ask God exactly who was right. The resultant invasion did massive damage to Heaven, but eventually humanity saw the Throne of God...

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... and found it empty.

Some saw despair, some a divine judgment, and some... an opportunity. Some of the Former Empires crafted the Made Gods to claim Heaven and the Throne. This did even more damage, none who even touched the Throne survived, the Made Gods died in droves, and things just kind of went to Yeah That Place as reality began to decay without its governing systems, which would be why the Former Empires are not called the Current Empires.

Now, the world is a fallen, broken place, where people scratch and claw to survive in the ruins of what came before. However, one last glimpse of hope has appeared: ordinary men, women, robots, etc., have become touched by fragments of divine energy, possibly leftover from the destroyed Made Gods. These people, the Godbound, might be the world's last chance to be healed...

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... or, you know, they might grab what's left of the Celestial Engines, build themselves little sanctuaries to rule, and leave everyone else to it. Ultimate power is nice like that.

In play, Godbound bind multiple Words, which are basically power lists for various divine elements. If you can justify it thematically, you can buy lesser powers from out of your Words and not need to bind them with your oh-too-limited supply of Gift points (for example, your Earth Godbound who doesn't have Endurance might take Defy the Iron to represent their superhuman resilience, while a dragon might have Firestorm just to represent fire breath). You do still need to spend Gift points for the power, just not buy the full Word - although if you intend to take a lot of them it'll probably be cheaper just to bind it.

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Speak the Word of Knowledge and look upon these tropes

  • And Man Grew Proud: The Former Empires are as dust after the War in Heaven, and the remnants of their technology are flickering candle flames as the realms wind down to oblivion.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Celestial Shards. They do basically anything, from making awesome weapons to running reality.
  • The Archmage: "Archmage" is a term for someone who has completely mastered a school of low magic. On a Godbound scale, this means that they've got the basics down, and are ready to start studying theurgy and playing with real power. The in-universe term for someone who actually fits this trope is "Eldritch," which refers to theurges capable of wielding magic on par with the divine.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: This can be true and false. The adventures, like Storms of Yizhao and Ten Buried Blades, make it clear that a number of leaders are weaklings who the godbound can kill with a casual backhand. That said, in a world like Arcem you don't get to be a powerful leader in a world of Parasite Gods, Eldritch, Made Gods, evil Angels, and divine trolls without some way of handling danger. Most notably, the Church of the One doesn't grant any magical powers in its own right, but you can expect a Patriarch to be among the most powerful Eldritch in Arcem.
  • Badass Normal: It's theoretically possible to be a Heroic Mortal with no supernatural abilities of any sort who can still throw down with minor Godbound. In practice, though, such an individual will find or attract magic items, teachers or allies of a sort who'll pull them out of this trope.
    • The Lexicon of the Throne introduced the Peak Human Concept Word, making any character who has it just a really, really impressive human. Unlike Heroic Mortals, a Peak Human can stand toe-to-toe with their divine counterparts since they can still purchase Gifts and preform other miraculous feats.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: It's not really clear what happens to Godbound when they die. They're too powerful to go to Hell, so they're basically just... not here anymore. It's possible for them to come back to life if they're worshipped for around a thousand years, though that's not really feasible for a campaign. Or the world, really.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Big Feet Zu in "Ten Buried Blades" is a bandit boss without supernatural powers who controls all commerce in the town of Gongfeng, and he exists to show the players exactly how helpless such local fat cats are when they roll into town. He doesn't have any combat stats because he's useless in a fight; one attack by the PCs will splatter him across the wall.
  • Black and Gray Morality:
    • The Uncreated Night and the angels of fallen Heaven are utterly inimical to humanity and anything good in the world. PC Godbound are heroic individuals who tend to have very particular ideas of the world they want to create and aren't afraid to wreck things to build their new order. Most people in the world are people, with their own goals and failings.
    • "The Storms of Yizhao" exemplifies this trope. The Big Bad is an Evil Sorcerer who's interested in expanding his personal power through mass rape, but the situation that he's sparked has led six individuals of varying heroic character and ability to reap personal advantage from saving the city (or in the Governor's case, stabilize the situation without it backfiring on him).
  • Black Magic: Pacting with the Uncreated Night is a fast way to Eldritch levels of power. It's also a fast way to bring yourself and everything you used to care about to ruin. The Black Academies of the Raktine Confederacy have the highest concentration of Eldritch in Arcem, and their adepts are not good people.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The Former Empires adhered to some pretty strange ideals that may or may not have had anything to do with what either we or modern Arcemites would consider reality. The ideotribes of the Polyarchy of Kham, for example, each adhered to a particular concept of physical excellence such as surpassing pain through willpower and thus becoming invulnerable despite having one's flesh flayed off.
  • Bonus Level of Heaven: Shards of Heaven are extremely dangerous dungeons, filled with angels and the most powerful sorcerers in the multiverse. They also contain the celestial machinery that governs the functioning of the cosmos, which can be salvaged for raw material to either fix other engines... or just build cool artifacts and materials from the wreckage.
  • Brought Down to Badass: Cold Breath or powerful Wards can prevent a Godbound from using their active powers, but it can't take away their passive ones. Just because a Godbound of Might can't turn you to paste with Loosening God's Teeth doesn't mean he can't beat you to death with his bare hands.
  • Captain Ersatz: The writer is really not trying to hide what he's doing with Themed Godbound, which are taken straight from Exalted, only with the celestial iconography gone.
    • Exemplars are Solar Exalted, as iconic forms of human capability.
    • Proteans are Lunars, perfect shapeshifters with exceptional physical capabilities.
    • Undestined are Sidereals, fate-weaving martial artists whose identities are concealed by their own lack of destiny.
    • Elemental Scions are Dragon-Blooded, elemental demigods who are inherently weaker than other Godbound and unable to utilize cult worship for power.
    • Arrayed are Alchemicals, artificial cyborg Godbound who swap out their abilities through slots instead of having a permanent set of abilities, and who are created by mortal-run organizations.
  • Clock Punk: The maestros of Vissio can craft theotechnology with this aesthetic, most famously their clockwork cybernetics.
  • Corrupt Hick: Big Feet Zu from "Ten Buried Blades" is the medieval Chinese version of this. He's a rich merchant and slaver who's hired bandits to enforce his will and collect "incense money" from everyone who does business in town, and has the town's official magistrate on his payroll
  • Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: The supernatural agents of the Bright Republic's Special Resources Department star in in-universe comic books while carrying out mercenary work for the Republic's corporations.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The Bright Republic is a representative democracy with all the conveniences and wonders of the modern world in a world mostly stuck in the late middle ages, and many of its morals as well; it's explicitly accepting of homosexuality and opposed to slavery, in contrast to much of the rest of Arcem. It's also incredibly corrupt and, without Godbound intervention, the etheric nodes that allow its technology to funcion will decay in the very near future.
  • Crapsack World: Let's see... God is gone, his Angels drag any human who is unlucky enough to die without burial rights into eternal torture in hell and the laws of reality are slowly decaying. Lom, the Bleak Reach and Ancalia deserve special mention.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Cybernetic integration with human flesh (or a Nezhdovan boyar's mechanical body) will always degrade the body, mind or spirit in some way. For Godbound, this reduces their Effort pool; for mortals, it can do that, reduce their attributes, or they can spend talent points to adapt to the cyberware.
  • Cyber Punk: The Bright Republic has shades of this, with corporations and criminal organizations controlling much of the government, node-powered cybertech, widespread moral decay, and rebellious heroes from the gutter starring in comic books.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Words like Death and Night can be used for good, while Words like Health and Fertility can be used ruthlessly (Fertility, for example, has a power that, depending on use, can cause instant miscarriage).
  • Deal with the Devil:
  • Deity of Human Origin: Made Gods, Godbound and parasite gods are all divine entities that are either human in origin or were created by humans.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: You can fight angel lords, massive corrupted monsters, and even powerful Made Gods and win. On the other end of the spectrum, it's not impossible for a powerful Heroic Mortal to kill a Godbound.
  • Eldritch Abomination: No-one's quite sure what lurks in the Night Roads.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: A mortal hero can use artifacts to gain Godbound levels of power, but not without a price.
  • The Engineer: A Godbound with Artifice can make and repair practically anything. Only Artificers can make artifacts based on other Words, and Artificers can always tell what a Celestial Engine does.
  • Enlightenment Superpowers: Developing the final technique of a True Strife turns a common mortal into a Heroic Mortal.
  • Evil Counterpart: Parasite Gods to Godbound. Both were randomly granted divine powers and the ability to spread their divine influence over an area, but it's Addictive Magic for Parasite Gods. Given enough time, even the most noble Parasite God will break.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Most of Arcem's countries fit.
    • Ancalia is The Good Kingdom from a Standard Fantasy Setting crossed with Ethiopia and ruined by a Zombie Apocalypse.
    • The Bright Republic is probably the most notable: it's a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the GM's home, to the extent of using the same currency. (The default version is a hybrid of the United States and Japan.)
    • Dulimbai is fantasy China.
    • Nezhdova is Fantasy Russia ruled by robots.
    • The Oasis States are Fantasy Ancient Egypt.
    • Patria is Fantasy Rome with shades of African culture.
    • The Raktine Confederacy is Eastern Europe as Überwald.
    • The Toban Plains are a mix; the lamaseries are more Tibetan, while the tribes are Mongolian.
    • The Ulstang Skerries are Fantasy Scandinavia with necromancers and zombie pirates.
    • Vissio is Fantasy Renaissance Italy.
  • Family Extermination: The "Sever the Line" power from the Fertility word renders the target sterile, and does damage (which if they are ordinary humans will likely kill them) to all descendants up to the fifth generation. The user may choose to spare particular descendants.
  • Functional Magic: Lots of it.
    • Words of Creation are the Inherent Gifts of the Godbound, essentially giving them dominion over aspects of the world. Mortals can also develop lesser Gifts as inherent powers.
    • Rule Magic comes in two forms, the "low magic" of mortal traditions, and "theurgy," which gives the user direct control over the mechanics of Heaven. Neither is as powerful as a Word, but they can be learned by mortals, and theurgy is probably more versatile than any single Word. A mortal theurge is serious business, though most have made some unpleasant supernatural bargains to get that far.
    • There's a lot of Wild Magic going around, such as the Night Roads which connect the Realms, open up out of nowhere, and often disgorge monsters from the Uncreated Courts. Generally, this stuff is bad news.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: More powerful Godbound can draw a lot of Dominion from their cults.
  • The Good Kingdom: Until five years ago, Ancalia was a prosperous and noble medieval kingdom, ruled by the High Negus and administered by families of nobility descended from the ancient transhuman lineages of the Polyarchy of Kham, as well as a Saintly Church, the clever, mercantile coin lords of the cities and the royal knightly orders. Then the Uncreated invaded the kingdom and left it a ruined wreck circling the drain. (And, of course, ripe for salvation by the PCs.)
  • Good Powers, Bad People: There's no reason a complete jerk couldn't be bound to words like Passion and Fertility. In fact, the book's example for Health's powers is repeatedly reviving and killing a man as torture.
  • Götterdämmerung: The Last War claimed the lives of most of the Made Gods, and most of the survivors are either fortified in their Paradises or hiding in lost shards of Heaven.
  • Have You Seen My God?: Nobody's quite sure what the deal is with the Creator. He just isn't there.
  • Healing Factor: Amaranth Vitality from Endurance gives you minor regeneration.
  • Hollywood Atheist: The Atheocracy of Lom was founded by those who fled a brutal theocracy, and has kind of overcompensated to the point of being run by an "anti-priesthood".
  • Hope Bringer: As the only one who can stop Ancalia's downward spiral, a Godbound will automatically become one to the downtrodden population. For better or worse.
  • Humans Are White: Averted. Fantasy counterparts to Africans, Asians and Caucasians are all present, and the races and cultures don't all map where you'd expect.
  • Infinite Supplies: The Word of Wealth.
  • Immortality Immorality: For mortals, immortality requires great theurgy and normally takes Human Sacrifice. Godbound have ways to avert this, but it's not precisely easy.
  • Immune to Fate: Undestined or Godbound tied to the Word of Fate have learned to slip through the cracks of fate. They can use this to invoke either Screw Destiny or You Can't Fight Fate when it benefits them.
  • Jerkass Gods: While this may or may not apply to Godbound, it's baked into the other kinds.
    • Parasite Gods suffer from a sort of Horror Hunger for worship and require more and more prayers to keep their bottomless needs fed, regardless of how many mortal lives this ruins. Eventually, they'll all turn into this.
    • Made Gods theoretically can have any morality, but any surviving Made Gods are the ones made as the exemplars of conquering, fundamentalist Former Empires, and they are literally avatars of fundamentalist conquest.
  • Just Before the End: While it's already After the End, the world is also this. Due to many of the Celestial Engines falling apart or being raided, the world is slowly slipping into the end. Sooner or later, an engine that controls life or gravity is going to go out and that'll be that.
  • Light Is Not Good: Angels may look holy, but they're currently on a 'kill and torture all mortals' bend, bar a few rare exceptions like Sammael.
  • Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: This was more or less the problem during the war in Heaven.
  • Lost Technology:
    • It started with most of theurgy and has gotten to the point where only a handful of places even have electricity. Of note, only some of this is because the science behind it is lost; some is because the laws of physics are literally breaking down around you and they can't work any more, even if you have blueprints. With enough dominion and wealth you can stabilise inventions, and powerful ancient devices may be stabilised.
    • The Bright Republic has lost the necessary knowledge to build, repair, or properly maintain the Etheric Energy Nodes that power their civilization. They've resorted to massive imports of raw materials and spare parts to maintain the kitbashes and jury-rigs that keep the nodes working, but absent PC intervention, the lights aren't going to stay on much longer.
  • Lovecraft Lite: The Uncreated are generally more of a mid-level challenge for a PC pantheon.
  • Magitek: Normal modern technology doesn't work anymore; the laws of physics are too broken for that. Only magical "theotechnology" still functions. The Bright Republic in particular uses magic to create power and areas of stable natural law where technology can work.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Angels, to the Atheocracy of Lom.
  • Man of Kryptonite: Anything with Cold Breath is one to a Godbound.
  • Mana: It's called Effort and it represents stretching yourself with divine power. On a larger scale, there's Dominion, which moves beyond mere miracles and into Reality Warper territory.
  • Mechanical Horse: The autocossacks of Nezhdova are robot centaurs.
  • Muggle Power: Almost every nation in Arcem is either governed by supernatural beings, or has a mortal government with a doctrine and tools for dealing with external supernatural threats.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: Enemies aren't designed the same way PCs are. They do more damage, have more actions, and more attacks. Normally, dangerous foes are made as Glass Cannons, to encourage Rocket-Tag Gameplay and get players to kill them quick before they can massacre the player pantheon.
    • Godbound themselves have this as well. Their divine powers trump the rules for mortal magic, so a Godbound of Fire can casually burn an Archmage of the Cinnabar Order to death despite their immunity to all fire, magical or otherwise.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: You don't have to buy all your new abilities the moment you level up, and can save them until an important moment. Miracles also work, in a pinch.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot:
    • The Ulstang Skerries are ruled by Viking necromancer queens, while Nezhdova is ruled by robotic boyars and Cossacks. Both of these are acceptable player character backgrounds.
    • This happens by definition if you take multiple Concept Words, since one of those makes you a peerless example of a particular type of being. For example, it's perfectly legal to take Lich King (Zombie) and Artificial Intelligence (Robot) Words, becoming a cyberlich of some kind.
  • No-Sell: Deny the Iron from Endurance lets you shrug off any one physical attack. There are quite a large number of invincible defence gifts.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Common mortal PCs (if for some reason you're playing them) have one hit point at first level, unless they have a Constitution bonus.
  • One-Man Army: Godbound with the right Gifts can wreak unimaginable havoc on large mobs. Then there are the really nasty enemies, such as Made Gods, powerful parasite gods, and angel tyrants, who can go toe-to-toe with entire parties of Godbound and still stand a reasonable chance of victory; Made Gods in particular are terrifying due to their unlimited supply of Effort.
  • Orcus on His Throne: In Ancalia, the rulers of the Uncreated Courts aren't in any hurry to wipe out what's left of the population, and are mostly just enjoying the suffering they cause, and thus will still be there when the PCs are ready to take them down.
  • Our Angels Are Different: They are furious, for one thing. A lot of cults, anti-religious movements, and the like, are secretly backed by angels trying to get the maximum number of humans sent to Hell. Ironically enough, demons don't really get much of a look-in.
  • Path of Inspiration: The Atheocracy of Lom's Cult of Reason, designed by angels to lead people away from belief (so they'll be trapped in Hell after death). It's a nasty, corrupt and hypocritical antireligion where lay reasoners are supposed to blindly obey the antipriests, but even the reformers who are trying to get rid of the corrupt aspects are flat deluded.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: For the good of your health, try not to piss off the Godbound. Godbound, for the good of your health, be careful to avoid angelic tyrants and similarly beefy monsters.
  • Personality Powers: Averted. A Godbound's Words are hers, not the other way around. A calm, responsible person may use Gifts of Fire differently to a Hot-Blooded type, but she's not prohibited from buying the same ones, and will have no less power.
  • Reality Warper: Godbound are this, although they need to spend Dominion points to do it on a large scale.
  • Royalty Superpower: In Ancalia and the Oasis States, the royal and noble families are descended from the transhuman lineages of the Polyarchy of Kham. In Ancalia, this trope is also reversed in a sense, as individuals with inborn superpowers are by default considered blood nobility.
  • Saintly Church: Ancalia's Church of the One, before the Fall, was one of the most pious in Arcem, if a little sexist and homophobic, and led by the wise and noble Patriarch Ezek. Since the Fall, the Patriarch and the bishops have been sacrificing their holy relics and their very lives to power a rite that has saved every soul in Ancalia since the Fall, while the priests on the ground fight to give comfort and hope to the people of a darkened realm.
  • Satan is Good: Sammael, formerly the Warden of Hell when it was a place of purification rather than eternal damnation, is one of the few angels who doesn't now want to see every human soul chained in Hell for all eternity. He'll help any Godbound who seeks to either free damned souls, or restore Hell to its previous purpose.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: Every Made God is the ultimate expression of the ideals of a fundamentalist Former Empire. There were Made Gods created by more peaceful and tolerant ideals - but after centuries of cosmic warfare, they aren't around anymore. The survivors expect you to convert to their ideals or die, or preferably convert to their ideals and then die for them.
  • Shout-Out: The notion of people invading heaven and finding an empty throne, which subsequently leads to everything going down the crapper, may be familiar to those who have played the Dragon Age games.
  • Soulsaving Crusader: Bishop Lazar of the Mercymen. He's aware that Ancalia is doomed and that the prayers that save the souls of Ancalia's dead are going to fail soon, so he wants as many people shoved into the grave before the Patriarch dies and his ritual stops, because those dead will be forever safe from Hell's torments.
  • Spiritual Successor: Exalted using a Dungeons & Dragons-based engine. It's also a spiritual successor to Scarlet Heroes, another game by the same developer where the "heroic" modification to the D&D combat engine was first used.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Martial Strifes. True Strifes are martial arts based on the very principles of Creation, while Lesser Strifes are faded echoes of True Strifes that contain a little magical power and can be learned by mortals. (Mortals can learn True Strifes, either through a supernatural bargain or plain determination and practice, but then they're no longer fully human.)
  • Überwald: Raktia is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Eastern Europe with terrifying monsters from the Black Academies roaming the wild. It's not a place where you go into the forest at night.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: Any Godbound can craft artifacts related to their Words, but Godbound bound to Artifice can create artifacts of any Words.
  • The Undead: Created in large numbers by Godbound of Death, and fairly common in the Ulstang Skerries and Ancalia.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Dulimbai's Taoist magic is inhibited by eating cereal grains.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Mortals can use artifacts and their powers, but will begin to develop a madness associated with it. Godbound can use artifacts freely.
  • World Half Full: The basic reason the default setting is so awful and the guide suggests other settings should be similarly troubled? The Godbound are powerful enough to change the world on an epic scale, and the bleakness around them is intended as a potential motivation for them to do just that.
  • World's Strongest Man: A Godbound of Might breaks the Attribute cap, sitting on a beefy Strength of 19.
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