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[Recruitment] Tails of Equestria Elseworlds: The Mare in the High Castle

Bremen

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"Did you not recall the legend? Did you not see the signs?"

Celestia's millennium long reign is over. On the longest day of the thousandth year, Nightmare Moon returned and overthrew the sun princess. Now a never ending night fills the skies above Equestria and a mad alicorn sits upon the throne.

By imprisoning Celestia in the moon, Nightmare Moon has created moonlight that warms the kingdom and nourishes plants, but it is still a harsh time for the ponies of Equestria. Creatures that once feared the sun now stalk the land openly, and ancient evils once wary of Celestia now see their chance. Nightmare Moon's callous and capricious reign is a stark contrast to Celestia's gentle leadership, leaving ponies divided when they need to be united most. Worst of all, constantly in the sky is a reminder of the imprisonment of the ponies' beloved princess.

But, when the going gets tough, ponies often find that they are tougher still. Some try to win favor with the new princess by flattery and gifts, while others hope to warm her heart and convince her to make amends with her sister. Meanwhile the plentiful shadows are full of ponies scheming of ways to bring about the princess of the night's downfall, or investigating ancient legends that might free their beloved Celestia.



In honor of Friendship is Magic coming to an end, I want to run one more MLP campaign. As you may have gathered from the description, I'm doing something different and setting this campaign in one of the alternate timelines from the episode The Cutie Remark. I know a lot of people, myself included, didn't end up sticking with the show for all nine seasons, so I hope this means everyone will feel welcome to play - perfect knowledge of the show isn't required, thanks to it being an alternate timeline anyways (I'd still recommend having at least some familiarity with the show).

Tone wise, I don't want to take ponies in a grimdark direction but am interested in a more serious adventure than the show goes for, and which fits the starting premise. Things like hard fought battles with monsters (or opposing ponies), dangerous intrigues, and serious consequences are to be expected - basically nothing too out of place in general for fantasy settings (though not Game of Thrones level), just with ponies.

For the system, I'm planning on Tails of Equestria. However, I won't demand everyone own the rules - it's a pretty niche system, after all, and with the series ending I think it would be too much to ask everyone to buy it. I'm willing to walk anyone interested through character creation and the game mechanics (which are not very complicated), so I think owning the rulebook shouldn't be necessary. I'm hopeful the system will handle a more combat focused game (more than the show, I mean, not more so than most RPG campaigns) than intended without trouble, though I reserve the right to house rule the combat a bit if it proves necessary.

I'm willing to accept up to six players (for probably obvious reasons), though this game is not first come first serve - if I get more than six applicants I'll pick based on previous gaming experience and who I feel will be the best fit. Tails of Equestria normally calls for starting at level 1 (a young pony who has just received their cutie mark) but as this is a higher stakes game with adult ponies dealing with a serious situation, we'll be using the advanced start rules and beginning at level 3.

Some advice for characters
Spoiler: Show

First of all, when I say advice, I mean all of this is purely a suggestion. I favor the collaborative storytelling approach to campaigns, and I'll allow pretty much anything if you have a good reason for it and it doesn't seem disruptive to the game. I was in fact originally planning to leave changelings and crystal ponies out of the list of races, but then I decided to throw it all in because who knows what interesting characters someone could come up with. What is going on with those two groups?

Characters from the show are fine, if you don't want to make your own (it is an alternate timeline, after all). If you do go this route, though, keep in mind that things might have gone very differently for your character. Did Trixie's boasting result in her getting drafted as a monster hunter, or did NMM start a war with the griffons that left Gilda a bitter rebel? Just because they're canon characters in the show doesn't mean they don't need a new background here.

If you're making a pony character, consider their cutie mark and in particular how they got it. I've played in an embarrassing number of MLP games, and in my opinion the cutie mark is the most important background info when coming up with a character; figure it out, and the rest will probably come naturally. Ponies also get a starting talent related to their cutie mark, and while you could pick one of the standard talents, it's an excellent opportunity to come up with something unique for the character, and I'm willing to give more leeway for a cutie mark talent than others.

While you shouldn't feel like you have to load up on combat ability just to keep up, I'd suggest considering at least one combat useful talent (unless you're deliberately going for a non-combat character who relies on the rest of the group). I don't plan for this game to be one unending brawl, but it's a dangerous time for Equestria and fights will happen.

Just for simplicity in getting everyone together, it's probably best if every PC has a reason to be in or near Canterlot - they could be locals, they could be travelers passing through, or perhaps they drew the short straw and their village sent them to petition Nightmare Moon on some issue. Or maybe the latter was true and they just finished a month in the dungeons, and now the rumors of a resistance are looking rather tempting. It's good to have an idea of what your character's short term goals are as well.


There's a quick guide to the Tails of Equestria system and character creation guide written up in the seventh post.
 
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Bremen

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Excellent! If both people who expressed interest in the meta thread are still interested, that gives us three players, which I think is enough (I'd still welcome up to 3 more).

I'm currently typing up an abridged summary of the rules and character creation guide, I should have it up later today.
 

Bremen

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Still interested and thinking of character I'd like to play.

Edit
Also found character creation chapter on the official site
Nice find. I'll still write something up since the bestiary has expanded rules for dragons and griffons and such if anyone wants to play those, but having the official rules is nice.
 

Herodarwin

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Setting question how long since Nightmare Moon's take over? As while on on hand I'll like to have a pony character an origin for a dragon really speaks to me but might require a reign long enough.

"After cementing Her rule of Equestria Nightmare Moon looked beyond the borders, seeing future threats and potential resources. She sent out her armies conquering the neighbouring lands. In the Dragon lands her attack was ruthless and using magics nearly completely enslaving the dragon race but before all could be captured Ponies of the rebellion helped the dragon smuggle out their as many of their children and eggs, a hope of the future. X is one of these refugees and while still young wishes to help the rebellion that raised him and find a way to free the dragons from Nightmare moon's spell" (as a character I'll see them as Spike or Smolder's age.)
 

Bremen

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And a quick summary of the Tails of Equestria system for anyone who doesn't have the books:
Spoiler: Show
Character Creation
(Or, skipping straight to the fun stuff)
Spoiler: Show

Step 1: Pick a race.
In addition to the three types of ponies, who are the most versatile options, the books include rules for a multitude of races. I've gone ahead and included the full list (but don't be quick to dimiss the flexible pony races), though any of the more exotic races should have a good background explanation for why they're around.

Standard Races (Core, Bestiary, and Movie Sourcebooks)
Spoiler: Show

Earth Pony
Starting Talents: Stout Heart D6, Choose One Cutie Mark Talent D6
Starting Quirk: Choose One

Unicorn
Starting Talents: Telekinesis D6, Choose One Cutie Mark Talent D6
Starting Quirk: Choose One

Pegasus
Starting Talents: Fly D6, Choose One Cutie Mark Talent D6
Starting Quirk: Choose One

Dragon
Starting Talents: Fly D6, Fire Breath D6
Starting Quirk: Dragon Greed

Griffon
Starting Talents: Fly D6, Talons D6
Starting Quirk: Choose one

Buffalo
Starting Talents: Special Skill: Stampede D6, Thick Hide D4
Starting Quirk: Choose one

Diamond Dog
Starting Talents: Burrow D6, Special Skill: Tracking D6
Starting Quirk: Choose one

Changeling
Starting Talents: Fly D4, Telekinesis D4, Stout Heart D4, Morph D6
Starting Quirk: Changeling

Crystal Pony
Starting Talents: Choose Fly D6, Stout Heart D6, or Telekinesis D6; Choose One Cutie Mark Talent D6
Starting Quirks: Crystal Heart, Choose One


Step 2: Assign Traits, Talents, and Quirks
Assign D6, D6, D4 among the three traits (Body, Mind, and Charm); Pony races must always assign one D6 to Charm (this is technically a house rule that other races don't, but I feel it fits the setting).

For races that choose talents or quirks, choose as required. The pony races start the game with the choice of one talent that matches their cutie mark; I'm willing to be particularly flexible as far as creating new talents for these, so don't feel limited when coming up with a character concept.

In addition to your starting quirk (which may be determined by your race), you may pick a second one as well (Crystal ponies always start with two quirks).

Step 3: Pick an Element of Harmony
Pick Honesty, Kindness, Laughter, Generosity, Loyalty, or Friendship/Magic according to which best represents your character. You don't have to pick a unique element, the same element can be shared by multiple PCs (The Elements of Harmony may or may not come up in the game, but they're definitely around somewhere)

Step 4: Advance to Level 3
Since your character is meant to be somewhat capable for this adventure, we'll be using the higher level start.

For each level (so do this twice):
Increase a trait by one step.
Upgrade up to two talents
Upgrade a third talent or learn a new talent at D4

Step 5: Determine Maximum Stamina
Your stamina is the sum of the maximum results of your body and mind die. For Crystal Ponies, use Body and Charm.


Traits

Traits are the three core stats of ponies (and indeed, all characters and NPCs in Tails of Equestria): Body, Mind, and Charm. Rather than a static value, each one is represented by a die (from D4 to D20).

In addition to your three traits, you also have a maximum stamina, which is the combination of the size of the body and mind dice (for example, a d6 body and d4 mind would mean 10 stamina)

Talents

In addition to the three traits, your PC may acquire any number of talents, representing skills and abilities they have. Each talent has a description which specifies when (or if) their die is rolled as part of a test, and also what other bonuses it grants a character.

Only a small number of talents specify that they are rolled in addition to your trait on certain tests; when most talents are rolled they are rolled instead of a trait.

Though some example talents are provided in the rulebook (and the two additional sourcebooks I have), they are intended to be open ended and players are encouraged to work with the GM to come up with their own talents if none of the provided ones fit. Most talents fall into a few broad categories.

Talents that provide new abilities
The most common type of talent, these let you take actions someone without the talent couldn't do (thus Fly or Telekinesis fit, Running would not). If that action requires a test or challenge, it's rolled using the talent die instead of a trait.
Examples: Fly, Telekinesis, Fire Breath, Burrow, Morph, Teleport, Cloud Wrangling.

Talents that make you better at certain activities
These talents indicate your character is particularly skilled or has an advantage in certain actions, and are rolled in addition to your trait (or possibly talent) on those actions. Creative Flair, Special Skill, and Keen Knowledge are flexible versions of this, with various specialties to represent nearly any activity (and representing charm, body, and mind respectively).
Examples: Creative Flair:Leadership, Special Skill:Sports, Keen Knowledge: History, Talons

Talents that specialize traits
These talents can be considered a specialization of a trait, and indicate that rather than just being good at all body/mind/charm related tasks, the character is good at only certain aspects. They step up the trait in some circumstances and step it down in others, and can also be added to a suitable test once per session.
Examples: Nimble, Bulky, Booksmart, Worldly

Other
Some talents just don't follow the normal patterns.
Examples: Stout Heart, Pet, Thick Hide, Pony of All Trades, Rogue

The following is an abridged description of all the vanilla talents for PCs
Spoiler: Show

Booksmart: Raise your mind die one step when relying on book knowledge, but reduce it for situations using intuition or empathy. Once per session you may add this die to a test of knowledge.
Bulky: Raise your body die for feats of strength, but reduce it for feats of agility. Once per session you may add this die to a strength test.
Burrow (Diamond Dog): Can move by digging through the earth. Tests involving digging use this die.
Cloud Wrangling (Pegasi): May test Cloud Wrangling to influence the weather.
Creation (Unicorn): May create a limited number of inanimate objects with magic per session.
Creative Flair: Choose one art or performance specialty and add this die to applicable Charm tests.
Fire Breath (Dragon): Can create and unleash fire, and make an area attack with the same.
Fire Control (Unicorn): Can control but not create flames
Forcefield (Unicorn): Can test forcefield to create and maintain a barrier to protect an area.
Fly (Pegasi): Allows a pegasi to fly and walk on clouds; fly die is used instead of a trait in tests involving flying.
Healing Touch: May heal another pony once per session.
Honorable: May roll instead of a trait when commanding respect, and may inspire an ally (giving them a bonus die) once per session.
Invisibility (Unicorn): May make a challenge to every target that could see you to remain unseen. May make no actions other than moving while invisible.
Keen Knowledge: Choose one area of expertise and add this die to applicable mind tests.
Locate (Unicorn): Choose one type of object when you take this talent and when you upgrade it; may test Locate to find that object.
Magic Resistance (Earth Pony): May test magic resistance to ignore or reflect magic.
Message (Unicorn): May use magic to send a limited number of messages per session.
Morph (Changeling): May imitate a target, gaining all their talents (capped at one step lower than the Morph talent), but suppressing all of the changeling's other talents.
Nimble: Raise your body die for feats of agility, but reduce it for feats of strength. Once per session may add this die to an agility test.
Pet: Has a pet with traits and a single talent (all d4). When you upgrade this talent, upgrade the pet's talent and one trait.
(Pet talents: Special Skill:Scuffling/Sneaking/Tracking/Running/Swimming, Teeny Tiny, Fly, Thick Hide, Spider Climb, Poison Spray)
Pony of All Trades (Earth Pony): Can add the talent die to any test, but can only use its result once per session.
Pony Sense: Can test pony sense to sense trouble coming a number of times equal to the value of this talent per session.
Rogue: Three times per session, may downgrade your trait die to bank this (rogue) die for any later test.
Shock (Pegasi): May make a challenge to reduce a target's stamina. Target also loses one stamina if they were touching metal.
Shrewd: May roll instead of a trait when determining truthfulness, and once per session may test your shrewd die to improve your reputation with a target.
Speak With Animals: Choose one type of animal when you take this talent and when you upgrade it; you can talk with those animals.
Special Skill: Choose an area of physical skill (ie running, juggling) and add this die to applicable body tests
Stout Heart (Earth Pony): Upgrades your Body trait (and derived stamina) one step. Once per session, may add Stout Heart to a body check.
Stun Ray (Unicorn): May make a challenge to reduce a target's stamina.
Swashbuckle: May roll instead of a trait when taking a daring action with flare and style; if successful, may roll charm instead of body or mind on your next test in the same scene.
Talons: May roll the talons die in addition to other dice in physical combat or on tests to manipulate fine objects.
Telekinesis (Unicorn): Can move objects without touching them, and also generate light. Large or difficult objects require testing Telekinesis.
Teleport (Unicorn): May test teleport (minimum difficulty 5) to move short distances with magic.
The Stare: May make a challenge to keep a target frozen and unable to act.
Thick Hide: When taking physical damage, may reduce the damage by half the maximum die result to a minimum of 1. Thick Hide d20 reduces damage by 6, minimum 0.
Tremor Sense (Earth Pony): May test to locate something by sensing vibrations in the ground.
Water Control (Unicorn): Can control and freeze water.
Worldly: Raise your mind die when relying on experience, but reduce it for situations using knowledge or study. Once per session may add this die to an mind test when relying on experience.


Quirks

Quirks are aspects of your character that cause you problems. They could be physical, such as shortsightedness or even a crippled limb, psychological such as a phobia, or even social like offputting behavior. What matters is that they cause you problems.

The fixed racial quirks may provide bonuses as well as penalties, but normal quirks are always negative. However, to make up for this, when a normal quirk keeps you from accomplishing something important and you are unable to find a workaround, you gain a friendship token.

The books include the following quirks, but even more so than talents they are intended to be suggestions rather than a definitive list:
Spoiler: Show

Allergy
Asthma
Blunt
Bossy
Easily Distracted
Fear
Forgetful
Mememememe!
Messy
Naive
Neat Freak
Needs Glasses
Overconfident
Short Attention Span
Short Fuse
Shy
Too Silly


Additionally, racial quirks deserve a bit of elaboration:

Changeling: Changelings are versatile, but don't excel at any one thing. Their traits all begin at D4 (though the Stout Heart talent still increases their body die).
Pre-Reform changelings must also feed on stolen love.

Crystal Heart: Crystal ponies use their body and charm traits to determine stamina, instead of body and mind.

Dragon Greed: When Dragons indulge their instincts to hoard sufficiently, they grow, but also become brutish and even more greedy.
When a dragon (successfully) acts greedy, they increase their body die and decrease their mind and charm dice. Further greed may continue the process until their mind or charm is at D4, at which point they may no longer grow. The growth only ends when or if their friends can convince them to return what they've taken (and one friend spends a token of friendship).

Tests

One of the core mechanics in Tales of Equestria are Tests, where your character has to accomplish something difficult (thinking skill tests from other systems isn't far off).

A test always has a difficulty and has you roll one or more dice you roll. In many cases it's as simple as rolling the associated trait die and if the result is the difficulty or higher, you pass. For example, avoiding a falling object might be a body test of 4; roll your body die and if it's less than four, you don't avoid it and lose one stamina.

A talent may state that you get additional dice in tests; if so, roll them all and take the highest single result.

Impossible Tests
If the difficulty of a test is higher than you can roll, you may still attempt it. Roll one die (usually your highest), and if you get the highest possible result, roll again with a die one size larger. Continue doing so until you either pass the test or don't get the highest result.

Bad Luck and Amazing Success
A result of 1 is not only always a failure, but indicates something bad happens, determined by the game master.
Conversely, a result of double or more the difficulty of the test means you succeed spectacularly, again determined by the game master.
Some talents have special rules for what happens on a 1 or an amazing success.

Challenges

A variety of test, a challenge happens when two characters oppose each other. Instead of rolling to beat a standard difficulty, they roll to beat the other's result.

If both sides get the same number, the result is a draw. The rules for Bad Luck and Amazing Success apply the same as with tests.

Scuffling
The most basic form of combat, also called scuffling, is treated as a challenge. Both sides roll the appropriate dice (usually body and any applicable talents such as Special Skill: Scuffling and Talons), and the side with the lower result loses stamina equal to the winner's roll.

Special combat actions (such as a unicorn's stun ray and a dragon's fire breath) have their own rules and do not normally work as a scuffle; however, if both sides attempt to use the same ability on each other, the GM may count it as a scuffle.

Tokens of Friendship

Friendship is magic in Equestria, and tokens of friendship are a resource you can use to modify the game.

At the start of the game, you receive a token of friendship for every player, including yourself and the game master (Note: I may house rule this down if we have a full roster, as I feel everyone starting with seven tokens is quite excessive)

You also receive a token of friendship when behaving as a very good friend to a fellow party member, or when a quirk causes you problems.

Tokens may be spent in several ways:

Spend 1 token to reroll a die
Spend 2 tokens to reroll a die as a D20
Spend 3 tokens to ignore a rolled die and automatically succeed at an action.
Spend 1 or more tokens to modify the story in some way.

Note some very powerful opponents have a talent that can negate spent friendship tokens.

Equipment and Money

All characters start with 400 bits (in coin or belongings). A simple meal normally costs 3 bits.

The rules provide an example list of equipment, and you may start with any of it you wish:
Spoiler: Show

Barding, Light (100 bits): Lose 1 less stamina from physical damage, minimum 1. Downgrade fly and telekinesis while wearing.
Barding, Metal (200 bits): Lose 2 less stamina from physical damage, minimum 1. Downgrade fly and telekinesis, as well as body while running, jumping, or swimming.
Book, Common (10 bits)
Book, Rare (50 bits)
Bucket (5 bits)
Cart (100 bits)
Clock (10 bits)
Clothes, Elegant (100 bits)
Clothes, Simple (20 bits)
Food, extravagant (10 bits)
Food, simple (3 bits)
Food, snack (1 bit)
Gems (20+ bits)
Helmet (50 bits): Lose 1 less stamina from physical damage, minimum 1. Downgrade mind when testing to spot, hear, or observe.
Kit, Hobby (15-50 bits): Upgrade your die for the relevant activity (ie art, party, cooking, etc)
Ladder (25 bits)
Lam (10 bits)
Musical Instrument (50+ bits): Upgrade your die when making music.
Pole (3 bits)
Ponybalm (5 bits per dose): Can use to recover 1 stamina for the target once per day.
Rope (5 bits)
Saddlebags (25 bits): Provides storage for small items.
Shovel (20 bits)
Spade (20 bits)
Telescope (50 bites)



Setting question how long since Nightmare Moon's take over? As while on on hand I'll like to have a pony character an origin for a dragon really speaks to me but might require a reign long enough.

"After cementing Her rule of Equestria Nightmare Moon looked beyond the borders, seeing future threats and potential resources. She sent out her armies conquering the neighbouring lands. In the Dragon lands her attack was ruthless and using magics nearly completely enslaving the dragon race but before all could be captured Ponies of the rebellion helped the dragon smuggle out their as many of their children and eggs, a hope of the future. X is one of these refugees and while still young wishes to help the rebellion that raised him and find a way to free the dragons from Nightmare moon's spell" (as a character I'll see them as Spike or Smolder's age.)
I was thinking a few years (it was originally based on the scene in the Cutie Remark, where Nightmare Moon says "My sister has been imprisoned in the moon for years!"). All the canon characters are still around and about the same age, but she's been around long enough to be the established ruler. Her having attacked neighboring realms is definitely a possibility.

Though I might suggest softening that background a little just so your character can interact normally (if the dragons are all enslaved a young dragon walking around Canterlot would probably attract a lot of suspicion). Maybe Nightmare Moon just stole all the dragons' hordes and is holding them hostage to force them to acknowledge her as queen, or something?
 
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Herodarwin

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Though I might suggest softening that background a little just so your character can interact normally (if the dragons are all enslaved a young dragon walking around Canterlot would probably attract a lot of suspicion). Maybe Nightmare Moon just stole all the dragons' hordes and is holding them hostage to force them to acknowledge her as queen, or something?
Totally agree, the main idea is a majority of dragons have been placed under a yoke and a large number of "war orphans" have been raised by Ponies.

On character building: I'm reading it correctly that dragons start with both Fly D6 and Fire Breath D6 and not their choice of fly and dragon breath.
 
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Bremen

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Totally agree, the main idea is a majority of dragons have been placed under a yoke and a large number of "war orphans" have been raised by Ponies.

On character building: I'm reading it correctly that dragons start with both Fly D6 and Fire Breath D6 and not their choice of fly and dragon breath.
Yeah, they start with both. Most races start with two talents, Dragons' starting talents are just set instead of open for choice. Though you can still add new ones through the leveling process.

There's special rules for level 0 PCs (no cutie mark, IE the CMC) and if a dragon PC were level 0 they'd probably lack flight.
 
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Herodarwin

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First Ideas. and instead of a final sheet level 1 plus levelling as separate sections so here's Mutter a messenger dragon

Level 1

Race:

Dragon

Based on the my little pony wiki dragon pages
Gender: Male
"under" colour/ scales, main and underbelly: Sea blue main with cream/Light yellow underbelly
"over" colour/ spikes or hair: Dark blue, hair
Eye colour: Yellow (more intense version of underbelly)
(lazy description a recolour of this guy with out horns, larger hair, wings and rounder eyes)

Traits
Body d4
Mind: d6
Charm: d6

Talents
Fly D6,
Fire Breath D6

Quirk
Starting Quirk: Dragon Greed

Element
Kindness

Leveling

2nd

Increase trait Body d6
upgrade fly d8, Fire breath d8
Learn nimble d4

3rd
Increase trait charm d8
upgrade fly d10, nimble d6
Learn keen knowledge geography

History

"After cementing Her rule of Equestria Nightmare Moon looked beyond the borders, seeing future threats and potential resources. She sent out her armies conquering the neighbouring lands. In the Dragon lands her attack was ruthless and overpowered the dragons. Claiming the bloodstone scepter for herself, she used it as a focus to bind the strongest dragons to her will. The rest where enslaved with the capturing of their hoards and gem supplies. During the war many of the pony rebellion tried to aid the dragons and when it looked like the worst would happen helped move many of the youngest dragons into the pony land, ironically the farthest from the spell cast by Nightmare Moon.

Now many dragon live in the pony land as servants of Nightmare Moon or refugees fleeing the lost of their homeland. The Dragon lands are now being replaced with labour camps, prison towns and military bases making the dragon land a strong symbol of Nightmare Moos control of the greater world.

Mutter as one of the many young dragons brought over during the capture of the dragon lands. Adopted by a pair of pegasi members of the rebellion, Mutter gained an appreciation of dexterity and flight over raw strength or power long before his wings came in. As like his Pegasi Parents Mutter mostly uses his flight and nimbleness to deliver messages across Equestria and not just for the rebellion but keeping separated family and friends connected in these dark time.

Mutter has just finished delivering messages to the ponies around Canterlot and is hoping to make contact with some friends near by (Blatant hook to have connection with other players) before heading home.
 
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