February 19, 2020


On the path before the yawning wood, there stood a sign.

A crooked, nailed-together affair assembled from three planks and a rotting post. Covered in the crusty lime of lichen and dry bird droppings.

Down the path, from a sunny wheatgrass field, gained a sound of horseshoes. Two sets, and a jangle of spurs. Someone whistled. The steps slowed, stopped by the sign.

Two cutters in leather and dusty riding-cloaks peered, frowning at the sign. One scratched his unshaven chin. The other mouthed, frowned. She spoke. "'Bratton's Wood. Schedule 3 Forbidden Forest," she said, haltingly. "Passage unsafe between seven and sunrise." She raised an eyebrow, looked at her friend. "Forbidden forest?"

The scruffy man frowned, rummaged in his coat. A silver pocket watch glittered in the late-day sun. "Cor. Bloody twenty minutes till seven," he said, curling his lip, stuffed the watch away. "I know the lay of these parts: We'll never make it to Dunnoch in time, if we turn round now."

His companion stared into the trees, squinting. Black, drooping boughs of closely-packed firs. A floor of needles, pathless, full of white mushrooms. An owl called from the precocious twilight, within. "Ya' reckon," she said. "Tha' it's actually forbidden? Monsters, n' all? Or is it forbidden fer, like…" she waved a hand, made a face. "Tax reasons, or somut?"

"Nah, it's actually forbidden, so far's I recall," the man said, unhappily.

"Only now ya're remembering it's forbidden?" scoffed the woman. "After we com'all this way?" 

"Guess I misjudged the time."

"Well why's it so bad, huh? Wha's keepin' us from sprintin' through in time fer supper?"

He looked her in the eye, raised his eyebrows. "Massacre of the Hogshead was fought here, you know?" he shifted in his saddle. "During the Boundary Skirmishes of 223. Bad affair." He shook his head. "Baron Eaverson sent in a fair bit of an army to route the Lothrheimers and reclaim the goods they'd been stealing from travelers, keepin' them in here. Problem was, he never realised why the Lothrheimer's decided to put up in here at all: The bogs."

He scratched his chin, made a profound wag of his chin. "Bogs, deep in the trees. Had paths in 'em since the Dark Ages, all built up with field stones so they didn't flood." He raised his eyebrows. "Naturally, the Baron's men took the paths. Found out too late the Lothrheimers'd sapped 'em, months ago. You see, nitroglycerin explosives were quite new, at the time. Baron's men got blown to bits and scattered in the bog. And the Lothrheimers let it be their burial place."

"So?" said his companion. She craned her head, watched the sun begin to set over the treetops.

"So, they're still in there, the Baron's men. Sleepin' in the mud. Plagued."

"Oh." She shivered, averted her eyes from the trees.

"N' I hear the grues slinks around a bit after nightfall. Find new beds."

"Well, guess Dunnoch's gonna wait." The woman patted her horse, turned to go. "Bloody forbidden forest."


"Hey, how you know summuch about that wood, anyway?"

"Ach, simple, I guess." Said the man. "I know the lands round Dunnoch pretty well, though it's been a while."

He grinned. "I was born there, after all."

I Have Some Memory of This Place

The following is a mechanic from the Incunabuli Playtest:

If at any point a Lore topic becomes relevant but a character does not know it, they may choose to recollect it.

To recollect a topic, a character must reasonably possess some proximity to it. It must plausibly relate to their sort, species, background, culture, land of origin, or other experience that might provide range of knowledge.

If so, they may immediately learn up to 4 levels of Lore in the topic. They must spend XP to do so, as normal, and may apply any discount furnished by their Intellect.

The GM may offer characters the opportunity to recollect a topic if it becomes pertinent.

Making Lore Skills Work

I have long searched for some method of making lore/knowledge skills functional. Recollection is part of my dual solution.

It's an exceedingly simple one: Allow characters to retroactively gain lore topics/skills they might logically already have. In my system, skills are gained by spending XP, and the convenience of recollection comes at a cost.

Your system is very likely to differ. But so long as it involves discrete skills (some GLOG hacks, many d100 games, Troika!, etc.) you can integrate recollection. I recommend you do include some cost (perhaps XP, just like mine.) Otherwise, there's not much point in linking the dispensation of knowledge to skills, rather than simply doling it out as the narrative suggests. Discrete lore topics/skills are not everyday knowledge, anyway: They should provide something worth their cost, just like any other skill.

The "worthwhileness" of lore skills constitutes the second portion of my dual solution. In order to cultivate it, I do thus: While planning encounters/monsters/other content, I make a note of several levels of beneficial knowledge relevant to said content and lock it behind a corresponding Lore skill level. When that content comes up, I either dole out the knowledge as befits the party's preexisting, matching Lore levels, or I offer the group the chance to recollect and effectively pay for knowledge that will help them. (This also has the effect of making it very worthwhile to seek out and absorb the contents of books.)

For instance, upon entering the vicinity of the Northern town Silton, this info may be available to those with Lore: Firlund or Lore: North, or may prompt an opportunity for Northern characters to recollect:

Lore Firlund, Lore North, or relevant 1 or above:

  • Silton lies on the precious Bay of Grey: the world’s primary source of grisodate and the Firlish Empire’s trump card as a superpower. Like all cities on the Bay, Silton’s primary industry is salt mining. Salt, once dredged with painful slowness and great loss of life, is now extracted from brine wells hydraulically blasted into the shore, still with great risk to life. Salt is exported by sea, and by the huge Silton Canal.

Level 4 or above:

  • Silton is afester with Kingsmen: Mobsters from the Capital. Their rackets are prostitution, drug-running, and protecting, mainly in service to and in exploitation of salt miners.
  • Silton has been subtly rebuilt as a fortress city, over the last century. Its once-medieval city center, tower blocks, walls, and fort have been gradually remodeled as bombardment-proof, bunker-like fastnesses against would-be attempts to seize the Bay.

The above are examples from my own notes.That's it. There we are. I do not often do mechanical posts, but this is one. If you're eager for more normal Incunabuli content, don't fear: It's on the way (especially for you Patrons.)


If you like what you've read, r/Incunabuli and @Incunabuli are very fine ways to get updates served directly to you.