Demilich: The Evil Plan!
by Noam Rosen
You were once an ancient, powerful wizard; your power unrivaled except by the Gods! Your magic even preserved you for a time. Flesh became gaunt; gaunt flesh became bones, bones became brittle, until finally you’re just a skull on a shelf. Sure, you still have eons of experience and knowledge at your command, but no hands!
So, you try and exert your influence over those that come across your path. Over the years, you’ve built networks of spies, hordes of minions and gotten comfortable in your new digs. But the luster of all that wears thin after a time. You grow to relish the adventurers and creatures unfortunate enough to have crossed paths with you; you spend much time wistful for an archenemy: at least they would break up the monotony. Time passes in decades...interminably lonely and boring. But then, it comes to you in a dream: a devious scheme!
Demilich - The Evil plan is a one player story strategy game where you will play a demilich (an ancient magical skull), build their fortress, minions and network of influence and execute their maniacally evil plan. It uses modified Klondike solitaire rules.
The assumed setting of Demilich - The Evil Plan is a semi-serious fantasy setting where adventurers are a scourge on hard working overlords and their increasingly pilfered fortresses. Think the assumed setting of a very popular alliterative fantasy setting from the perspective of one of its most iconic villains, with a little more humor and tongue placed in cheek.
You can feel free to expand your setting as needed. Let the setting accommodate the types of stories you want to tell. If you’d like your demilich to be extra-dimensional, from space, the head of a Fortune 500 company or all of the above, go for it!
If you’re stuck for ideas, please take a look at the section on role-playing at the end of this document (where you’ll also find information on using the Aethernet for demilich social networking).
You will need:
One Deck of Cards with the Jokers removed, 5-10 pieces of paper(or index cards), a pad of paper to narrate onto or perhaps a voice recorder, Pencil or Pen, A couple of d6
You may also use (and I recommend):
Infrequent access to the internet (to make an e-mail and social network account for your demilich.)
To get started:
...first, make your Asset Markers:
Take an index card and write Mook across the short end (top or bottom), leaving plenty of room to write.
Do the same for two more index cards, writing Clout and then Fort on them.
Answer these 3 questions!
Write down each of the first three answers on an index card. You will need another index card for your Evil Plan.
1. What is your name and reputation? E.g. Acererak the Mad, Bob the Pervy, Thasslewrath the Destroyer. Someone so powerful as you is sure to have garnered some sort of reputation prior to being trapped in this skull. Maybe your reputation has come after being trapped? E.g. are there tales of a rampaging skull in the country side?
2. How did you get trapped in the skull? The inexorable march of Time? That damnable do-gooder Sir Chumley? Your own hubris? This is most likely going to be your primary motivation for doing everything that you’re doing (and an excellent weak spot for your enemies to exploit!) Be creative! Write this under your name/reputation.
3. What is your great ambition? So you’ve got eternal life (effectively). What do you do? Seek more power? The love of a woman? REVENGE(against whom?)! What drives you? This is important because it will probably effect what sort of Evil Plan you concoct.
Distribute your build points. You get 6 build points total which may be distributed amongst your Skull Stats any way you like. If you spend no points on a Skull Stat, your score in that Stat is zero.
Influence - Representative of your network of minions, local nobility in your pocket, monsters in your dungeon - This is how you will determine your resources and defenses.
Knowledge - Representative of your intellect and education; academic, streetwise and/or arcane.
Will - Representative of your magical ability, willpower, and physical capabilities (you are an inanimate object, after all)
Ancient - This represents your age and the benefits that can be associated with multiple lifetimes of magical training. Your Ancient score determines how many Ancient points you start play with. Ancient points can be spent to add additional dice to challenges. Ancient starts at 1 (but you can spend build points to add to this at character creation). Once spent you lose those points until the pool refreshes (usually in-between sessions).
Write down your Evil Plan!
The only rules are that it MUST be dastardly and have four steps. Keep the steps vague; you will be adding details later. A sign of a good plan is one that has you, the player, grinning evilly. For sample Evil Plans, see the section: Evil Plan?
At this point, you may read your plan aloud in a villainous voice. When you are done start chuckling, softly at first and slowly growing louder in a suitably evil fashion over the course of 15-30 seconds. Don’t be shy. Yes, this is mandatory.
You should now feel suitably unhinged. If not, try cackling again.
The Evil Plan uses the rules for Klondike solitaire, slightly modified.
Taking a standard 52-card deck of playing cards (without Jokers), one upturned card is dealt on the left of the playing area, then five downturned cards (from left to right). On top of the downturned cards, an upturned card is dealt on the left-most downturned pile, and downturned cards on the rest until all piles have an upturned card.
The four foundations (each one representing the completion of a step in your evil plan) are built up by suit from Ace to King, and the tableau piles (representing your assets) can be built down by alternate colors, and partial or complete piles can be moved if they are built down by alternate colors also. Any empty piles can be filled with a King or a pile of cards with a King. The goal is to move all of the cards to the foundation, where you have previously placed the Ace of that suit. Once you have done this, you have "finished" that suit (thus, completing a step in your plan)- the goal being, of course, to finish all suits; if you do, your plan succeeds!
Dealing out the Deck:
Turn three cards at once and set them one atop the other as you draw them. You may only interact with the top card.
Building your Assets
In the Evil Plan, each pair of piles is going to represent one of your Assets. An asset can be an individual, inanimate object, small group or large organization depending on type. You can assign any number of cards to an asset and they may be only be reassigned when moving a pile as per Klondike rules.
Examples of types of Clout: A network of lawyers, The mayor of a local hamlet, A local barmaid who directs drunken adventurers towards your cavern, King Axelrod’s slimy advisor, King Axelrod himself, The President of the local Parent Teachers Association.
Examples of types of Forts: A mobile golem body (with a handy storage area in the abdomen, to afford you a better view), A ramshackle hut that’s only defense is it’s unassuming appearance, a gigantic cloud castle in the center of the sky, a huge swath of suburban tract housing.
Examples of types of Mooks: Tucker’s Kobolds, A group of ineffective henchmen, Gognar the Barbarian, Flymebrythe the Red Dragon, X’ythlene - that friendly illithid who rents a room from you, Doug Brothman - Attorney At Law, Stabby Pete, that delightful homeless gentleman.
The four suits represent types of possible resources (with the exact iteration depending on the Asset Type). The higher the card value the better the effort (with face cards being worth 10 and Aces being worth 11).
Suit/Asset Type Clout Fort Mook
Hearts Valor/Loyalty Hearth Resistance
Spades Guile/Viciousness Deadliness Strength
Diamonds Resources Sophistication/Size Dexterity
Clubs Smarts Puzzles/Terrain adv. Intelligence
Arrange your tableau as per normal Klondike rules (moving piles if necessary). Once settled, place the three Asset Markers (one per two piles) overhead. The Asset Markers are there to remind you how you should interpret the cards (using the table above). On the Marker, write a name or short description the Asset. You will describe the Asset in more detail in your record (be it on the Aethernet or on a pad of paper). When you’re assigning details, I find it useful to think how or why the demilich would have encountered and overcome the person/place/organization. Think about the implications of that encounter. If it’s sufficiently interesting include it in the Assets description.
You must assign one of each asset type (one Clout, one Fort, one Mook). This is only required during the initial set up. Later on you can change the details of your Asset based on the different cards and may even have multiple entities under each Asset type. If your pile has multiple cards of the same suit, you may add them together, but you may only use up to 3 cards maximum for an Asset during an action.
Example of Built Assets
These are not all part of a beginning spread but as examples of how to interpret the cards.
KS and 2S: Famed yellow journalist Blab Onanon is on your payroll. He’s won’t hesitate to mar the reputation the any and everyone; though he’s a bit tough to get back on the leash.
KC and 9S: You have an organization at your disposal known as the Snakes, a loyal network of spies, blackmailers, moles and corporate saboteurs that have infiltrated most of the political movers and shakers around. They can deliver swift and painful retribution if needed.
3D and 5H: You’ve ensorcelled a local street musician named Rainbow something-or-other. He doesn’t seem to notice that his lyrics have been changed to sing your praises. Think of all the passer-bys he’ll effect!
QH and KD: The duchess Perirgrew has been under your thumb for years; she herself is getting on a century and half but, thanks to your rejuvenation techniques, still has the youthful looks of a quinquagenarian! All of the local wives admire/fear/hate to her (and in turn, their husbands do, too).
QS and 8C: High atop a cliff that affords a view of the surrounding countryside, your fort is well garrisoned with terrible goblin defensive weapons and gnarled hobgoblin archers.
KC and 5H : A complex series of corridors surround the area around your fortress, and there’s only one way in. Inside your fortress...more corridors. It’s not exactly homey (what with the endless empty halls) but there’s a central safe room that you’ve furnished modestly.
JH and 2D: The ramshackle house that you were born in, a millenia ago. Now it is flanked by enormous modern buildings, but inside, childhood toys and trinkets, photos of you when you had a lot more hair (and skin, and flesh..) and maybe even mummified remains of your family. In other words, it feels like home.
2H and QD: A enormous and ostentatious, but cold and impersonal fortress. You had this build back during your heyday and it still holds up. Walls of faerie wings designed to blind those who still have to resort to mundane means of sight are still fashionable right? You really should have thought more of your comfort though; you have no more furnishing then a drawer (which doubles as your bedroom).
8H and 4H: Crumbles, a loyal daschundoole lap dog who drives away any enemies with that incessant yapping!
4D and 7C: Yabi the kobold sorcerer has been your loyal thrall for some time, he’s quite clever and eager to please as well. He keeps himself well equipped with scrolls and utility items. He also has his own apprentice, Bauble, a gnome youngling who was adopted by the otherwise heartless sorcerer. Bauble (4D) is a little less bright but quicker and more apt to throw himself into danger.
JS, and JD: A fearsome two headed giant named Mun-Go (at least you think that’s what he’s called) is in your employ/trapped in your fortress. He also has a keeper, a horribly mangled hobgoblin named Reaker(JD). He’s seems to have quite the arsenal for dealing with large monsters.
2S and 2C: Skeletons; Hordes and hordes of skeletons for adventurers to wade through. You really should have invested in the deluxe model. Now those have some stopping power. At least they seem to amuse you with some of their stupid antics.
Once you’ve built your assets
and written their names on their Asset Type card and fleshed out the details in your record (you may proceed to play!
When you pick up an unheld resource (a card you can legally pick up) and add it to your Asset, you may narrate and write down how that happens. I recommend using the lowest card on the pile that is being added to as the “acting” card for narration purposes. You may use any of your other Assets and their relevant skills to color this, but you must narrate how the loose resource gets added to that Asset’s pile. You always get to pick up an unheld resource, as per normal Klondike rules.
If you move a pile onto another pile, you narrate how this happens using the method above.
If you are dealt three cards and cannot pick up the top card, you may either:
1. Put the cards face up next to the deck and deal out three new cards.
2. Attack it! First, assign details based on the cards in the waste (a maximum of 3). These cards should represent some sort of Opposition to your demilich; meddlesome kids, wandering adventurers, or curious monsters, just to name a few examples. Use the same guidelines for building assets. Again, I recommend thinking of why/how they would be interacting with your demilich. Are they raiding your Fort? Run afoul of your Mook? Entangled in a web of intrigue with your Clout? This will also give you some fodder when you attack.
The player acts using any individual Assets Relevant Skill (or skills) that the player finds acceptable. You narrate how that Asset and the demilich act against the Opposition.
Roll the relevant Skull Ability + Relevant Skill vs. Opposition Target # (equal to the top 3 cards in the waste). If the skills that you are using add up to more than the card target #, you don’t have to roll.
If has your Asset has no Relevant Skill, your demilich can just use a relevant Skull Ability.
It may be to your advantage to not use your highest Relevant Skill (see the Opposition Acts).
If you succeed, the top card goes to the bottom of the deck. If you fail, you have to take a counter attack from the Opposition. (go to The Opposition Acts!) Narrate the results either way. You may now take the new top card (if you can) or attack again! You may also deal out three new cards instead.
Variant: Persistent Opposition; you can say that once you’ve assigned details to Opposition, they will stand opposed to you until you deal with them. In this case, once you’ve assigned details to Opposition, set the Opposition aside from the waste. At any time, you may attack the top card using the above rules. Every time you cycle through the deck, the Persistent Opposition gets to Act using the rules below.
The Opposition Acts!
If you fail on an attempt on an Opposition, you have to defend against the fallout. Narrate how things come back to haunt the Asset you used. The Opposition Value is equal to all the cards in it’s draw (up to 3). You defend with the highest value card you utilized in the defending asset’s pile + any one other Relevant Skill + the relevant Skull Ability. If the Opposition Value is higher than the total after rolling, that asset takes damage equal to the difference between the totals. You take any cards that are damaged and put them at the bottom of the draw deck.
When the Opposition does damage, it can only damage up to the value of the highest card you used in your attack. This creates a high water mark of sorts so that you don’t have to risk your whole Asset. Alternatively, you could put your more worthless minions in harms way as to be able to get to the face down cards below them.
End of Deck
Every time you cycle through the deck, make a mark next to your Evil Plan. Once you have three marks next to your Evil Plan you may no longer cycle through the deck. If you reach the end of the deck a fourth time, your Evil Plan fails!
Narration/Writing Things Down
In the Evil Plan! you should narrate when you do most actions from Klondike. Narration is not mandatory so don’t feel you have to force it. You will have an opportunity to narrate at each action, so there will be plenty of opportunities for awesome. Just go with it when inspiration strikes.
That said, I strongly recommend both narrating and writing in the following situations:
When you first formulate your Evil Plan
When you first assign each of your Assets
Any time you interact with Opposition (succeeding, failing, being attacked)
Every time you begin a step of your Evil Plan.
Every time you complete a step of your Evil Plan
Here are some example Evil Plans:
Grognalius wants to destroy the entire Chumley bloodline. So he outlines this plan.
1. Research a spell to travel back in time and obtain the arcane (and difficult to find) components to execute said spell.
2. Hire deadly assassins of the highest caliber.
3. Send Assassins back in time, armed to the teeth.
4. Assassins kill Chumley’s parents, mid-coitus. Problem solved.
The Doom Skull wants to make Princess Gallina fall in love with him
1. Abduct the princess.
2. Sequester the princess in your fortress.
3. Woo her until she relents.
4. When she doesn’t, destroy everything she holds dear until you are her best option!
Each time you put an Ace into your Foundation area, you have set one of the steps in motion. Even though the Ace is worth 11, it is the first step indicating that you are starting strong. You have built the doomsday device (yet to really field test it) you have obtained the components for your spell (but yet to cast it), you have written your subliminal message (yet to put it into the new Gentleman Goo Goo song).
If your Evil Plan Succeeds:
Once you have completed your all the steps in your evil plan, begin laughing. Sparsely at first, but slowly more and louder until it is sufficiently villainous.
Narrate/write down the result in your record. You’ve succeeded! Brag! Gloat! Challenge the Gods themselves to come down and destroy you. Whatever!
If your Evil Plan succeeds, you add one build point to your pool.
If your Evil Plan Fails:
Even a meticulously crafted plan such as yours isn’t prone to goof ups. If you pass through the deck and can’t take any more hits (usually 3 times)
When the Evil Plan goes wrong: The steps happen in the wrong order or don’t complete. Look at the step (Ace) that has the least cards on it and using that and the details table describe what went wrong. A step with no cards counts as the lowest. Even if you’ve set some really high stakes, for the fallout of Evil Plans, consider them more of a setback than a defeat. You don’t get to be a demilich without some serious contingency plans.
For example: Acerius skull’s plan to capture the misery of the villages fails. He looks at the steps and sees that clubs has the least steps. Looking at the table (smarts) he decides that the WoeCatcher wasn’t properly field tested and started smoking when provided with misery. Back to the drawing board.
Narrate/write down the result in your record. You’ve failed! Blame your minions, enemies, current political climate. Maybe leave your enemies with some choice parting words.
If your Evil Plan fails, make a mark below your ancient. When you have three marks you get a build point.
Roleplaying with Demilich
Remember that you are OLD. Even the youngest demilich is probably got at least 100 years under their belt. You’ve probably lost a fair number of your marbles by now. Existence as a demilich is largely about creating comfort for yourself; building lavish throne rooms, collecting and arranging your various trophies...long empty halls of meaningless baubles that are meant to give your life some significance. But what was it all for? You killed your childhood rival (and your sweetheart in the ensuing blast) and now you’d give anything to see either of them again. Being a demilich means being alone forever.
When you’re a magical skull on the floor (or shelf, sewn into teddy bear, whatever) the world can feel maddeningly immense. Maybe that’s why you lash out. You don’t know; you fed your therapist to your Chompasaurus decades ago. That’s another thing, YOU ARE BORED! There’s almost no one at your power level around and many of those are all stuck up about hanging out with evil magical skulls. Time passes sooo slowly when your best hope of intelligent conversation is soliloquy.
So, how do you interact with other demilich? Through magical, catty demilich social networking, of course. Oh, that’s not how they think of it. To them it’s a direct link of communication amongst their puissant kind, an unalterable record of their combined history and great triumphs. Also, there’s a LOT of shit talking. After all, when you’re a powerful magical skull, things get really boring after the first couple of ages. So feel free to issue edicts and taunts to your fellow demilich and their hordes.
I recommend using twitter because the character limit will restrict your record/failings/taunts to a text format and makes them a bit more pithy and less rambling. If you’re so inclined you could use a more lengthy medium, such as a blog or tumblr.
If you are sending a message into the Aethernet, please be aware of how it might appear to non-demilich. We don’t want to frighten them, now do we.
Please don’t threaten/bully anyone who isn’t playing and play nice with each other. The author is not responsible for anything anyone says but himself. This game is for entertainment purposes only. Results may vary.
Fringe cases/Playtest Notes
You may notice that if you successfully build up your minions (or in Solitaire terms, your piles start with K, Q, J or other high value cards) you have the ability (if you can reasonably narrate it) to have up to 30 as the strength of you effort; thus making attacking most Opposition very easy. This is intentional. You are supposed to be an extremely powerful being. Relish it when you get the opportunity to absolutely trash the enemy!
Ties: Break it with the highest value card. In case of same value face cards, use traditional face ordering. In case of same value cards, use suit (Spade, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs from highest to lowest). Otherwise, just roll the dice again.
Demilich was originally designed in 24 hours for Ron Edwards’ Ronnies 2011 contest using the ingredients Old and Skull. The Evil Plan! was a modified version of those rules for Emily Care-Boss’ RPG Solitaire Challenge
The Tomb of Horrors: for Acererak
The Dresden Files: for Bob
My Grandmother: for teaching me Klondike solitaire
Thanks to Ron Edwards for giving the 24 hour version a runner up spot; The praise and feedback that I got was very encouraging to me and is what spurred me to adapt it for solo play. Thanks also to a stranger at my house (Mary?) for the catty Facebook for lonely skulls idea. And to my friends, for providing feedback and support.
The Klondike solitaire rules text was taken from wikipedia (though I modified it substantially for my purposes). The article can be found here:
If you’d like to see some examples of using social networking, check out AceraiusSkull on twitter. here @AceraiusSkull
You may contact the author here: email@example.com