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Unbound Steel - Core Rulebook

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Unbound Steel is a fantasy tabletop roleplay game. The setting is Western Europe during an alternate version of the 1940s, with the backdrop of a fictional global conflict (technologically analogous to the WW2 period). The main theme is a Magical secret society operating below the surface of mainstream society. This Core Rulebook (CRB) outlines enough lore for a starting point and introduction to the current state of affairs.

 All Original Frontier games are designed for Player and Storyteller to work in conjunction for the purpose of advancing an Adventure. It is therefore encouraged for both Player and Storyteller to read and understand the contents of this Rulebook up to and including the Character Sheet on page 114. The Storyteller Section is provided to assist the Storyteller only, from page 115 onward.

The dice required to play will include a twenty-sided dice (d20), a six-sided die (d6), and a three-sided die (d3, or you may roll 1d6 and halve the result, rounding up).

You will also require a method to record notes in addition to the Character Sheet. If you wish to use maps, miniatures, tokens, and tech to enhance your Adventure, I wish you every success. I personally believe that the imagination is the greatest tool we possess, though I do not disparage the many ways available to enhance a gaming experience.

As with all Original Frontiers systems – the Storyteller has the final word on all outcomes. If a rule within this book comes into conflict with the good of the story, the Storyteller is free to bend, amend, or ignore that rule to their discretion.

Above all I wish you a fun, expressive and creative rpg experience.

P.G. Harrington

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INTRODUCTION

As the Great War between Imperial Ostermarch and the Union Alliance rages on, the world holds its breath waiting for a cessation in aggression. Three decades have passed and few even care to recall the specific triggers of this conflict. Thirty-three years has proved a long enough time for countless atrocities to stack up on both sides; blame is now a seemly call to arms rather than the currency of apology.

 Those who crave the fight need not look far, but those who wish to conscientiously abstain from violence despair by the million. The Universe, as it always does, hears the plea for the restoration of balance from the masses. Though the Deities of war provide immediate, and often unmanageable, succour to their adherents, the forces of Magic operate in a far more subtle manner. The chosen of this age are blessed by the Spirit Realm – a complex web of alternate dimensions home to powerful beings and to the source of Universal Magic. This source has chosen this moment in time to aid humanity and lend their support to those they deem worthy.

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THE SETTING

In 1784 the leaders of the Thirteen Colonies signed the Treaty of Equal Faith with the then United Kingdom of Great Britain. This new accord sealed the founding of the United States of America, which entered into the (also newly founded) Union Alliance (UA), along with Great Britain, the Free State of Ireland, and the Kingdoms of Spain, Portugal, France, and the Netherlands. Every leader of State within the UA, be they monarch or elected representative, were given the right of equal vote on the UA’s Prime Council.

 Meanwhile in the Danubian Grand Reich (a bloc of countries governed by the German Kaiser which included the Holy Roman Empire, Prussia, Austria, Yugoslavia, Poland-Lithuania, Wallachia, and Hungary) suspicion was growing. Observing the powers uniting along their borders, Kaiser Jorg Dettenmar invited his close allies, the Northern Empire (consisting of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, and Greenland), to establish 

the Imperial Ostermarch – the largest single united power in Europe. This entity, colossal in populace and might, agreed to be led by the Kaiser on his throne in Berlin, with those loyal to him ruling as Dukes and Counts throughout all of the new-found Empire.

 Both the UA and IO flourished in the decades which followed this initial show of solidarity, but so did a sense of supremacy on both sides. The leaders on the UA Council touted their penchant for individualism and the self-determination of their peoples, while the IO were keen to highlight the accomplishments and advancements made possible when the individual places the collective before their own needs. Distrust grew, and both nations began to spy on each other, sending agents to sample the way of life “over the fence” and attempt to gain strategic knowledge. Then came disruption and antagonism, as the United States of America evolved into an economic powerhouse and titan of industry. Though none could deny Imperial Ostermarch would easily hold sway over Western Europe should conflict 

become unavoidable, the succession of Kaisers feared the expansion of the United States in particular, and the alliances being forged by the UA in general overseas.

 In 1914 a report was produced by the Swabian Collegiate (Ostermarch’s leading academic body) which convinced the young Kaiser Wilhelm III that if left unchecked, the Union Alliance would become the first global superpower and almost impossible to pacify in generations to come. The Kaiser panicked, and to legitimise his desire for war he rounded up political dissidents from within his own court and tried them for spying and treason. They were executed very publicly, which caused confusion among the politicians and the people of the Union Alliance; those executed were technically the Kaiser’s own subjects, but had been killed effectively as UA operatives. This proximity from blame satisfied the Kaiser and his advisors. The writing was on the wall for the UA, and the Special Services (a coalition of British and American elite operatives) were dispatched to infiltrate the Kaiser’s court and assassinate him, along with any other key 

players in his plans for all out war. This plot ultimately failed as the Special Services operatives were betrayed at the last moment by one of their own – Sapper Reginald Layton (the term “Layton” is still used to date by the UA for a person who displays cowardly or treacherous behaviour). All of the Special Services unit were executed in Berlin, again publicly, and the Union Alliance Council voted in favour of war against Imperial Ostermarch. Declaration of war was made by the UA on the 1st September 1915. Kaiser Wilhelm had used his time wisely, and initiated the invasion of the Netherlands as a pre-emptive strike, quickly establishing a foothold on the North Sea.

 By the end of 1916 the Greco-Roman Pact (Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania) joined the UA in retaliation against Ostermarch aggression, while Ostermarch found an unlikely ally in Grand Kievan-Rus following IO assistance in protecting the Tsar from an uprising in Moscow.

 This of course explains how global war came to pass, but 

the forces of Magic and the Spirit Realm do not adhere to dates, facts, and figures. Nor do the Deities of War trifle with the detail of the deeds of humanity. It was the outpour of aggression, rage, and wrath which sparked the first embers of the supernatural to be seen on the face of the Earth for quite some time. It started with an eager young combat medic – Sascha Fortescue – and an unexpected act of kindness. Born in the UA, Sascha could claim to be of Russian, German, and British descent. She had never placed stock in division based on borders, nor hatred routed in so-called patriotism. Even when soldiers of the IO came to take her prisoner she used her skill as a healer to save the life of a renowned Ostermarch warrior. Later when she faced execution she closed her eyes as the firing squad raised their rifles. When she again opened her eyes she found a hail of bullets suspended in mid-air mere centimetres away from her body, the sullen faces of the soldiers lined up before her frozen still in time. She had hurriedly removed her blindfold and climbed over a nearby wall and was running as fast as she 

could before she noticed that time had once again resumed its unforgiving pace. Somehow she made it unscathed to the UA border, and was safely returned to her home in Warwickshire, England. Convinced that what she had experienced was a pure manifestation of Magic, Fortescue founded the Temple of Ascended Thought along with a group of like-minded academics. As Fortescue grew more accustomed to using her new-found powers she found that she was able to teach others how to nurture their abilities. This secret society of Magic Users call themselves the Unbound. Though Fortescue is acknowledged as the founder of this movement, there is no single leader or leadership of Unbound society as a whole.

 The year is now 1946 and there are estimated to be thousands of Unbound Magic Users across the globe. The Great War shows no signs of stopping, but there are those within Unbound society dedicated to the pursuit of peace for humanity.

________________________________

UNBOUND SOCIETY

Groups of the Unbound are called Sects. Most Sects consist of between two and ten members, though some are more in number. Sects bind together for many reasons, and there is no prescribed reason for individuals choosing to do so. More than one Sect may work together from time to time. Sects sometimes expand into Chapters or Covens in different areas, while some Sects acknowledge a Sister Sect with common goals in a different location in the World.

 As a whole Unbound Society can be broken down into three ideological groups – those who seek to end the Great War, those who seek to keep the war machine rolling in order to gain from it, and those who do not wish to participate at all in the politics of non-Unbound society. Each of these sects have a voice and so far Unbound society has avoided civil war on this basis, though tensions have been known to rise. Those who are open in their view that war is good for the Unbound are 

sometimes labelled “warlocks”, and those who do not engage in the world of non-Unbound society are sometimes called “wanderers”. Non-Unbound society as a whole is referred to by the Unbound as the “herd”.

 A loose hierarchical structure based upon level of experience does exist within Unbound society, and follows as such:

NOVICE: A newcomer to Unbound Society, usually holding some of influence in the herd or known as a person capable of unfocused manifestation.

WARD: A fully initiated  member of Unbound Society, Wards form the bulk of the Magic-using populace.

CONVERSANT: Conversants are teachers, mentors, and leaders among Unbound society.

HERALD: Heralds are specialists in their area of Magic use and are often responsible for entire Sects and enclaves of other Magic users.

ZENITH: Zeniths are the pinnacle of experienced Magic Users in Unbound society.

THE NATURAL LAWS OF THE UNBOUND

Though every Magic-user is free to pursue their own interests, the Natural Laws of the Unbound have been broken down into the following three Tenets of adherence:

I. Do not impose your will unless to address an imbalance; if you seek to intervene do so fully and mindfully
II. Cause no harm to those without means of defence
III. Do not complain if your Magic does not serve you; re-focus your energy to make it serve you, or else refrain from its invocation

Though there is no official governing body within Unbound society to enforce these tenets, bad things are known to happen to those who fly in the face of the Natural Laws.

SECTS

A Sect is a group of Magic-users bound by a commitment to pursue a common goal. They may institute a code of conduct within the Sect to ensure all know what is expected, but a loose policy of “fit in or leave” is usually understood to be the basis of Sect life. Sects may align with others around the world and as such are known as Sister Sects. Larger Sects with holdings and permanent presence in more than one area are broken down into Covens.

THE COLOURS OF MAGIC

Most Magic is bound to the Spirit Realm, often represented by the colours purple or black. Spirit Magic works on the principle of summoning “something from nothing” and is such is considered far more difficult to accomplish than Elemental Magic, draws upon the elements which can be found around us. The elements of Ground (represented by green or brown), Sea (represented by shades of blue), Sky (represented by white or silver), and Flame (represented by red or orange), are the four elements of Elemental manifestation. There is some rivalry between the schools of thought on which Magic is “best”, though this rivalry is usually transcended by those who choose to multi-skill their Magical ability.

 Some Magic-users do not use Magic directly, rather they use the benefits of their connection to Magic to enhance their non-Magical Skills. This is accomplished by way of study called Unbound Ascension.

_______________________

GAMEPLAY

The dice required to play are a d20, a d10, and a d6. A d3 is also useful, however if you are not able to obtain this simply half the result of a d6 roll, and round the result up. It is a good idea to keep more than one of each of these dice to hand as sometimes a Bonus Die is allowed by the Storyteller, which means a Player may roll two of the same dice and choose the most favourable result.

THE DIFFICULTY RATING

All Actions which require the dice to be rolled are assigned a Difficulty Rating. The Difficulty Rating is determined by the Storyteller between a scale of 1 – 20 (or more). Players must attempt to equal or exceed the Difficulty Rating using a d20 in order for the Action to be a Success. If the Difficulty Rating is not equalled or exceeded the Action is a Fail. There are many factors the Storyteller may use to decide the Difficulty Rating, and their decision is final. 

ROLLING FOR ACTIONS

The Players, via acting with role-play or by giving a narrative description of what their Character is doing, will have the chance to take Actions as the story unfolds. The Storyteller will decide whether a description or role-play is sufficient for the Action to succeed, or if an Action dice roll is required from the Player. When the Storyteller calls for an Action Roll they will assign a Difficulty Rating to this Action. The Difficulty should take into account the circumstances, surroundings and the purpose of the intended Action. The d20 is rolled by the Character attempting to take the Action, or the Storyteller if the Action is being attempted by an NPC. In order to Succeed, the Difficulty Rating must be equalled or exceeded by result of the Roll. An additional d20 may be rolled if the Storyteller chooses (called the Bonus Die). When this takes place the highest result is used for the roll. This is to represent an advantageous circumstance for the Character or NPC making the roll.

SKILL RATINGS

An appropriate Skill Rating from the Character Sheet may be used to positively modify the result of the Action Roll. Some Specialities also provide a bonus modifier, or even a re-roll of one or more dice.

ACTIONS PER TURN

When the Storyteller has called for a dice roll to resolve an Action, each Player may take one Action per Turn. There is no particular order in which the Party or the Storyteller needs to decide which Player acts, however all Players must have described or acted out their Action for the Turn to be completed. This is to encourage Players to role-play their Character without rigid limitations.

ACTIONS IN COMBAT

To regulate the course of Combat it be necessary to establish who will strike first in Combat. This should flow narratively and depend upon the situation, however if it is 

ever in question as to who will strike first in Combat, each Character and NPC involved makes a Perceive Roll of 11. This represents making ready for impending conflict. The Perceive Rolls continue until all but one have failed - that Character or NPC strikes first, The next Action is taken by the person who was last but one to fail their Perceive Roll, and so forth. The Turn of Combat is completed when every Character and NPC has  taken Action.

SNEAK ACTIONS

When a Character or NPC wishes to conceal themselves or specific Actions, the Sneak Skill is used to determine the outcome. The Storyteller assesses the intricateness of the task and what the person is hoping to accomplish.  If the person wishes to remain undetected indefinitely, this is considered going into Sneak and also requires the Sneak Skill. This carries a base Difficulty Rating of 9 (increasing by 1 per every other person within a five metre radius, to a maximum of 15). Sneak is maintained until an Action taken causes Sneak to be broken. Breaking Sneak can be avoided by the successful concealment of this Action, again using the Sneak Skill. Physical Actions which affect others, including Attacks, have their Difficulty Ratings reduced favourably by 1d6 while Sneak is unbroken.

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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on November 10, 2023.