How Shall I Strive, inspired by the work of Nicholas Roerich! ('d-Infinity Live!' Fine Art Challenge)

Clint Staples

Below is my entry in the Art Challenge RPG. This is the main post about the setting and system. The challenge calls for three statted up, environments, challenges or creatures, for the game. I will post these later on. I welcome your input and comments, and direct you now to the Nicholas Roerich website, sop you can see his works, and appreciate his vision!


How Shall I Strive!: A Roleplaying Game based on the life, art and writing of Nicholas Roerich – Visionary Artist of Supereality!

In How Shall I Strive, the heroes are Devae, the superheroes in the worlds embodied in the painting of Roerich, an idealized supereality of elemental majesty and power, but also one of purification, hermeticism and magic, that lies like a veil over our own Mundane World. This mundane world may be a fantasy world of the GM's creation, a hisotrical world from some period in the past, even our own modern world. The Supereal is generally unknown, and invisible, to those who inhabit the Mundane. To those who inhabit the Supereal, the Supereal is another existence, contiguous with the Mundane, affecting, and being affected by it, but richer, more vibrant, more powerful, and far, far, more deadly.

Heroes strive toward Enlightenment and the Ideal, through acts of personal, magical, and social transformation. By doing so, they approach the Ideal – the purest form of existence and energy. But the path of the Those Who Strive is fraught with peril. The “Beasts” await those who slip along the path, and many monsters lost to the normal world inhabit Superreality. In addition, Devae who fail, often fall into the clutches of a Beast or its minions. These fallen Devae are often among the most dangerous of foes.

Elements as Characteristics: Devae are creature of elemental power, a comingling of many elements that, depending on the amount of each, determines their powers, personalities, often their methods and goals. In addition to actually manifesting as the elements in question, each element represents certain more ethereal qualities. The traits below are examples. Players are free to choose ones that more closely fit their interpretation of the element in question. For example, a deva with strong scores in Earth and Fire may choose to express Magic (under Fire), as Lignite Sorcery. It is still a Fire trait, but his version is Lignite Sorcery.

Earth – Strength, Healing, Obstinance

Air – Agility, Freedom, Movement

Water – Constitution, Adaptability, Resolution

Fire – Magic, Intellect, Change

Soul – Energy, Enlightenment, Otherworldliness

Shadow – Stealth, Charisma, Damnation

Each Element is rated from one to six. The higher your Element, the more it dominates how you think, act and feel. Beginning player characters have stats between 0 and 6 in each attribute. There are two arrays from which you can choose when creating a character. Neither is inherently better.

Extreme: 0, 1, 3, 3, 4, 6.

Balanced:  1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5.

EX: Asdrubaal, a Deva with high Air and Fire values freedom and intellect, probably is a potent mage (especially with those elements) and likely cannot sit still, preferring action to planning. Given a choice of action, something that alters the status quo is preferred. Even a negative result is a change that can be exploited in future to better effect. Physically, Asdrubaal could be relatively normal, with red-hair and fiery eyes, have wings, bright red skin, even appear as a humanoid shape of whirling flame. He might even be a shape-changer. 


Dice Rolling:

All die rolling is based on 3d6+ relevant Element, vs. a target number. The higher the number the more likely one is to succeed. The standard difficulty is 12, Burt easier tasks could be set at 8, while difficulty can increase the target number to 14, 16, or considerably higher. One of the three dice should be of a different color - this is your Karma die.

Each die roll includes the possibility to Transcend. You can Transcend by rolling doubles with your Karma die and another die your pool, at the number or lower for the governing attribute. So if you are using your Intellect to solve the riddle of the sphinx, you would roll on Fire. Let’ say you have a 4 in Fire. If your Karma die doubles with another die at 4 or less, you Transcend. Which means you roll your Karma die again. If your new Karma roll matches again, with either of the other dice, you keep going, until you do not match. Then total the results.


There are a couple of other dice effects to be aware of:

Gaining Karma

If you roll three of a kind on you initial roll, you gain a bonus Karma die, which you can hold until you wish to spend it. Note, you do not gain Karma if you get three of a kind when rerolling for doubles involving your Karma die, only on the initial roll.


Losing Karma

If the other two dice (i.e; not the Karma die) come up double ones, you lose the value of those dice from your roll (just about always -2), AND the GM gains a die in his Karma Pool, which he may chose to spend at any time, to affect ANY NPC roll he makes. He may spend multiple Karma dice if he has them, even those gained from different Devae.  He may also expend his Karma dice to impose narrative complications against you. He may not, however, affect your rolls directly: your karma, good or bad, is your own.


Levels of Effect

For each full 4 by which you exceed the TN, you have an additional level of effect. You can use this to increase any aspect of your action by one increment. The freedom you have in this is largely dependent on your description of your action, so think about WHAT you are doing, but also About HOW you are doing it and HOW you describe it.


EX: Asbrubaal is defending a fishing village from a minion of the Leviathan when he gains an additional level of effect. Asdrubaal’s player relates how the Deva summons a fiery wind and hurls it at the minion. The extra level could easily be damage. But it might as easily force the surf away from the village, impeding the aquatic minion’s movement toward the village. Or perhaps the fiery wind picks up the sand and rocks of the beach (possibly some fishing boats too, if the GM has any Karma dice to use against Asdrubaal), and hurls that at the minion, potentially blinding it as well as wounding it.



Shadow is a special element. It is a useful element, and can make for great play. But is it also the surest path a deva can take toward their Fall. Deva with high Shadow are devious, secretive, and charming as hell. They can also be their own worst enemy. If a Deva’s Shadow ever rises above 6 via experience rolls, she begins to Fall. So long as a Deva has a positive Soul score, she may recover, even revel in the darkness of her acts, yet not be consumed by them. But for each point above 6 in Shadow, the Deva loses a point of Soul. When her Soul drops to 0, the Deva has completed her Fall and is removed as a player character, joining the host of the Beasts.