Micia delle Ombre – Catarina Anna Orgoglio

Lost: Ω

  • Power: Not Entirely of this World: she stands apart from this world
  • Weakness: Magic of other realms can always reach her
  • Quirk: can always interact with intangible items—and them with her

Known: d6

  • Gifted student of math and engineering: she would be a master engineer, if she weren’t 13 and unapprenticed

Dynamic: d6

  • Expert swordswoman: deadly with all forms of swords and daggers
  • Talented dancer: she could be a professional dancer

Static: d10

  • Power Stunt: Phasing: by concentrating, she can pull a little further from the world, becoming intangible so that she can pass through anything or let anything pass through her
  • Flaw: young: at only 13, she doesn’t have any authority and is often not taken seriously by adults

Passion: d8

  • Power stunt: Draco: her otherworldly nature has given her an unbreakable telepathic bond with a small dragonette the size of a dog


Catarina is a young woman living in Roma, the daughter of successful tradesmen. She showed an aptitude for her father’s engineering, but also a mastery of her body that let her quickly learn to dance and fight as well as many who have spent decades honing their skills. She had always been a bit of a distant child, seeming out of touch with the world around her despite her physical gifts and brilliant mind, and as she grew she discovered that it was more than a personality quirk: she is partly of another realm, and can “phase” out of touch with the regular world, enabling her to pass through objects. This otherworldliness also let her befriend a small dragon who is now her boon companion. 


Catarina is a not-quite-playable character. To be played as a Guest character, she should have 1 more Known trait, and her Static Flaw (or Power Stunt) wouldn’t come into play.

As a Main character, she would need 2 Known, 1 Dynamic, and 2 Passion traits added. Perhaps her brilliance gives her other aptitudes? Does her otherworldly nature connect her to any particular realm? Maybe she has a connection to the fae or to other mythic creatures besides Draco? A 13-year-old young woman with her talents and background is likely to have some strong passions about how the world does or ought to work—there’s nothing in her Traits about why she is a hero—or is she a villain? A more-experienced version of Catarina might have learned to use her phasing ability selectively, or to affect objects or other people.

The Bishop of Arezzo

Lost: Ω

  • Power:  “fighting with all the energy with which he so mightily endows me.”: Can absorb and store all types of energy.
  • Weakness: …but not energies from beyond the mortal sphere. 
  • Quirk: his eyes glow when he is charged

Passion: d6

  • Power Stunt: “like a hammer that breaketh the rock”: can release stored energy in powerful concussive blasts.
  • We are All Children of God: Tries to help everyone find their best divine self.

Dynamic: d8

  • Power Stunt: “The Lord is my Strength and my Shield”: can use stored energy to supercharge his body with supernatural strength and durability.

Static: d10

  • Power Stunt: Cannot be harmed by energy attacks.

Known: d6

  • Respected instructor of the Medici Academy: poet, theologian, and orator.
  • Knows the inner workings of the Church.

The Bishop of Arezzo grew up hearing the stories of the nobility and divine purpose of the Church, and joined as soon as he could. Eventually, he was sponsored by the Medici and appointed the parish priest of San Giovanni in Florence. Later he became a canon of Pisa Cathedral and then the bishop of Arezzo. But then he was caught up in a conspiracy of political intrigue and assassinations—sanctioned by the Pope! Realizing that not everyone in the Church lives up to its ideals, the bishop used his extensive knowledge of the workings of the world to take on a new mantle as The Bishop, his mission to bring the noblest elements of the Church out into the world to do good. He won’t directly attack the Church because he still recognizes its divine authority, but he now knows that even Church members are fallible, and strives to help them live up to their best selves.

This is the first of a series of character sketches for Four Colors al Fresco. The goal is to give you a better feel for the world of Italia and show you what sorts of heroes and villains live there. Some will be complete characters, ready to play, but most will be incomplete. I want to give you inspiration for the many ways you can make a character that works in a pseudo-Renaissance Italy. You can take these characters and use them, adding any missing Traits to flesh them out. Or you can steal bits of them for your own characters. Or maybe one of them will inspire you to make your own character.

The Bishop of Arezzo is fully statted as a Guest character; if you want to play him as a Main character, he would need several more Traits.

Four Colors al Fresco: 20th Anniversary Edition

We’re creeping up on Four Colors al Fresco being 20 years old. I released the beta (what I’d now call an ashcan) in 2001, and it was already a largely complete game, mostly lacking in examples and setting details. But the game’s design dates back to the winter of ’99-’00, so I’m thinking it’s about time I produce the “finished” version of the game. So this blog post is the first in a series, serving two purposes: to show you snippets of the finished game, and to publicly announce a deadline in order to help me get it done.

The latter purpose needs a little explanation. I’m a one-person shop, here, and gaming time hasn’t been as abundant as I’d like of late. And without gaming, for me, game design and game writing tend not to happen, either. I was frustrated with Four Colors al Fresco’s not-done-ness. Plus, I was in grad school for several years there, earning my MLIS, while still working full-time, which pretty much ate up my free time. Those are reasons, but they’re also maybe excuses. I work well with deadlines, but find it easy to leave things 80%-finished if there isn’t pressure to finish. I’m hoping there’s still some interest in Four Colors al Fresco, and I want to get it done, so by making a public announcement, I’m putting myself on notice so that my friends and the game’s fans (if it has any) will help me get this done. Is this going to be the first RPG whose 1st edition is also it’s 20th-anniversary edition?

The former purpose, you’ve seen before. I’m excited about this game, but it’s a little unusual in setting and mechanics, so I want to share it with you.  There’ve been lots of little (and one big) changes to the rules since the 2001 ashcan. I’ve refined how I explain some of the mechanics. At some point, I’ll probably get over my fear of the camera and put up some short (<5 minute) videos showing some of the mechanics in action. I’ve clarified how the various genres interact in Four Colors al Fresco and how you can lean into them in your play. I’m hoping I can make you as excited about Renaissance superheroes as I am, and make you want to play Four Colors al Fresco to satiate that excitement.

So, bookmark this blog or set notifications, and you can look forward to lots of talk about the writing of Four Colors al Fresco. Plus, there may be ideas for characters and adventures and snippets of setting that won’t make it into the final game, but I feel are worth sharing.

#RPGaDay2015: 25 – Multi-Axis Die Rolls

Not sure I could pick just one “favorite” revolutionary mechanic, since I’m constantly discovering them. I won’t talk about fan mail, since I just did. I’m gonna skip character questionnaires because that’s tooting my own horn, and they’re most useful in a particular playstyle.

But a mechanic that was revolutionary, broadly applicable, and continues to be explored, is the multi-axis die roll.

Continue reading

#RPGaDay2015: 19 – Simulating Powers and Influencing Stories

It’s probably no surprise that the supers RPG I wrote is, most days, my favorite. “Why” is hopefully the more interesting question.

When we wrote Four Colors al Fresco back in 1999/2000, the supers RPG scene, even moreso than RPGs in general, was very different from today. With two minor† exceptions, all supers RPGs up to that point had the same fundamental structure, focusing on modeling superpowers with varying degrees of detail and complexity. Marvel Superheroes (and others) had extensive lists to try to cover every power imaginable. Champions (and others) instead provided a system to build your power, detail by detail*.

Continue reading

#RPGaDAY 12: Four Colors al Fresco

Well, there’s “still play”, and then there’s “still play”. The oldest published RPG I have played recently is probably The Shadow of Yesterday (we’re playing it now). I also regularly return to Primetime Adventures, though it’s been a couple years since we last played it. And Primetime Adventures is pretty much my go-to game when I don’t have some other game specifically in mind, so I’m sure I’ll play it again some time soon. 

And then there are several older games that I would play at the drop of a hat, but it’s been many years since I last have: Ars Magica, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Underground, The Babylon Project, Everway, Fading Suns, Deadlands (the original), or Over the Edge. I still buy all the Ars Magica supplements as they come out, and try to find time to read them. 

The oldest published game I actually have played semi-recently is Rolemaster: I played for a bit about 4 years ago with a group that is still playing the original edition, 30 years later. But I don’t really think it’s fair to say that I “still” play or read it—I haven’t touched it since then, didn’t read any of the books at the time, and before that group I had last looked at a Rolemaster book in about ’85. 

The only games older than The Shadow of Yesterday that I’ve both recently played and intend to play again in the future would be my own Four Colors al Fresco, created in 1999, released as a free beta PDF around 2004, but not yet properly published. It will be this fall/winter, if I can make the time between school and work. 

X + Y = Z


I Have Superstrength Because

Just a quick thought here. I’ve been working on writing up guidelines for character creation in Four Colors al Fresco. Unlike most RPGs, balance and point costs aren’t really a concern–but that doesn’t always mean it’s easy. Because unlike most modern supers games, not just anything goes–if your character doesn’t fit into the pseudo-period setting, it can be jarring. However, in my experience, both creating characters and watching others create them, the hard part is not fitting into the setting, it’s worrying too much about “logic”. 

Continue reading

What Are the Odds?

Probably the central conceit of the dice part of the rules in Four Colors al Fresco is that it’s the step size between the dice, not the actual sizes of the dice, that matters. But is this true?


Four Colors al Fresco isn’t a number-cruncher’s dream system, but I still want the rules to actually do what they supposedly do and thus stay out of the way. I’ve played some “story-oriented” RPGs (and even some that were actually concerned with the math) which didn’t stand up to scrutiny, so I don’t expect you to just take my word for it. So here is where I show my work. 

Continue reading