Lurking in the shadowy corners of the universe are dark entities far beyond our understanding. They gaze upon mortals with equal parts disgust and hatred, patiently plotting ways to plunge the world into darkness and misery. Wise men turn their backs on these dark entities. But for some adventurers, ambition far outweighs wisdom. Power-hungry cultists and warlocks readily embrace these dark patrons, signing infernal contracts to sacrifice their souls in exchange for unnatural power. You could join them… all you need to do is sign a contract in blood. After all, when it comes to fulfilling one’s darkest desires, everyone has a price. What is yours?
A warlock signs a contract with a demon to gain infernal power in exchange for servitude.
An astronomer gazes into the stars and discovers a dark, primordial entity that grants her forbidden knowledge.
After getting lost in the woods, a young girl meets a twisted spirit of the forest that allows her to join in the eternal hunt.
Once each round, at any point, you can take one-tenth damage (absolutely nothing can prevent this damage) and bolster.
Hex • Action
Describe how you hex someone → Bolster. Hex a creature within a close distance with bad luck. Whenever it attempts a combat action, something bad occurs in addition to its normal action regardless of how well it rolls (the GM decides what).
Pound of Flesh
At any point, write on your character sheet all of the effects of a single attack made against you. For the next 5 minutes or so, you can’t write down new attacks in this way and you can cross off the attack to inflict identical effects against a creature within a midrange distance.
When you see a creature die, you can send its soul to your patron and choose one of the options below. The soul takes several minutes to arrive. Your patron can only hold 1 soul at a time.
Barter: Your patron holds the soul and contacts you to negotiate its release. If you meet agreeable terms, the deceased returns to life in the next day or so indebted to your patron; otherwise, it dies normally. If you die, you can similarly negotiate for your own life.
Offer: Your patron does whatever it pleases with the soul. This improves your patron’s opinions of you.
Sacrifice: Write the creature’s name on your character sheet. At any point, cross it off to gain a fraction of the deceased’s power (a boost to a stat, a temporary trait, a physical feature, etc).
Summon Servant • Action
When you gain this trait, work with your GM to determine what types of creatures you can summon, and restrictions (you can only have 1 at a time, the process is draining, they’re rebellious, etc).Describe how you summon a minion → Summon a creature that is your level or lower. It will do whatever it pleases, but it will obey you if your orders coincide with its instincts.
Unspeakable Horror • Action
Describe how you horrify a creature → Bolster. Terrify a creature within a close distance. Resisting.
Circle of Binding • Slow Action
Describe how you create a binding circle → Walk in a circle that is no more than a far distance across. When you are finished, you create an impervious barrier that no creature can pass or circumvent. Work with your GM to determine what causes the prison to end (time passes, a certain item is brought before the prison, an event occurs, etc).
Conjuration • Slow Action
Describe how you complete a conjuring ritual → You separate part of your or a willing creature’s soul into an object (an infernal contract, a crystallized fragment of your soul, a vial of your blood, etc). The possessor can expend it as a simple action to summon that person to their location.
Defile • Slow Action
Describe how you imbue a feature of the terrain that you are touching with your patron’s power → So long as the feature of the terrain remains intact, corruption gradually spreads outward (the GM decides how quickly). Your patron changes the surrounding area to better suit its tastes (a demon makes it rain ash and fire, a fey queen makes an area dangerously overgrown and enchanted, an entity from beyond fills the area with shadow and madness). Creatures in the area increase rolls they make to take advantage of the modified terrain.
Portal • Slow Action
Describe how you create a portal → You create a portal to your patron’s home, allowing travelers to freely pass between realms. Anybody near the portal can directly contact your patron, and your patron can manifest through the portal if the conditions are right.
Trial by Fire • Slow Action
Describe how you leave your plane → You enter the border between realms, taking willing travelers with you. This allows you to travel very long distances in a short amount of time; however, you may expose yourself to the dangers of planar travel.
If you like, contracts and agreements that you sign, notarize, or mediate are fully binding. Their terms are magically enforced (If someone signs a contract saying they will never speak of an event, then they forever lose the ability to speak of it). You must mention that the terms are fully binding (mentioning it in barely readable fine text is acceptable).
Blissful Agony • Action
Describe how you inflict physical sensations → Force a creature you are touching to experience any physical sensation you want. This doesn’t deal damage.
Blood Link • Slow Action
Describe how you create a blood link → You must destroy something that is important to someone (a vial of their blood, their relative, their prized possession, etc). Then, work with your GM to temporarily gain otherworldly power over them (force them to experience pain, temporarily steal some of their power, paralyze them, etc).
At any point, gain creative license to temporarily channel your patron’s power (gain one of your patron’s traits as a temporary trait, call your patron to this plane, learn the answer to any question, etc). However, this power comes at a price (you permanently change to become more like your patron, you must fulfill a favor, you must make a sacrifice, etc). The more power you channel, the greater the price.
Dark Visions • Slow Action
Describe how you manipulate someone → Choose one option for a creature that you’re speaking with:
Dark Desires: Learn their darkest, most twisted desire.
Twisted Thoughts: Make the target permanently insane (they gain a phobia, they hear voices, they hallucinate, etc).
Increase all rolls you make to negotiate, exploit the law, and corrupt.
Patron Creation Guidelines
In Tavern Tales, you get to decide what sort of patron you follow. You can create a patron for your character to follow by using these patron creation guidelines. However, check with your GM first. Your GM may want to use a unique setting where the patrons are already established. In that case, you may be able to work with your GM to modify the established patrons to suit your tastes.
Step 1: Write a Description
First, write a basic description of who your patron is and what it seeks. Is your patron a demon from hell? Is she a fey queen who delights in tormenting mortals? Is it a dark monster that dwells at the bottom of the ocean? Be creative as you come up with the origin of your patron.
Step 2: Determine Your Patron’s Stats
The biggest difference between patrons and gods (from the Faith theme) is that patrons are much more involved with the world. Gods are cosmic entities who work in subtle and mysterious ways. They have millions of worshipers and rarely speak to any of them.
Patrons are less powerful than gods, but they make up for it by being more involved in the lives of mortals. Because patrons have fewer followers, they can afford to interact with each individual follower. When you call out to your patron, your patron will probably answer you.
As a result, there might be a situation where you encounter your patron face-to-face. Work with your GM to stat out your patron. In addition, all patrons are immortal in one way or another. Killing your patron may get you out of a deal you made with them, but sooner or later your patron will be back.
Step 3: Determine Your Patron’s Personality
You have some control over how your patron acts and behaves. Give your patron 2-4 instincts (corrupt the innocent, spread nightmares, destroy beautiful things, etc). However, for every personality characteristic you give your patron, the GM can give it an instinct as well.
Expect to disagree with your patron, even if you design your patron so that its motivations and personality coincide with your own. Patrons treat their followers like pawns or playthings, forcing them to make sacrifices or perform favors in exchange for power.
Is your Patron Evil?
The Occultism theme is perfect for morally ambiguous characters who want to serve dark entities. However, you are under no obligation to make your patron evil. It’s entirely up to you to decide what your patron is like as long as you and your patron disagree from time to time. For example, you may want your patron to be a benevolent angel who spreads happiness throughout the world. Perhaps your angel patron wants you to sacrifice your health and happiness to serve others, or perhaps your angel demands that you purify yourself through self-mutilation whenever you do something sinful.