Knave Hacks

By Tim Koppang


Substitute in the spells and magical schools from Wonder & Wickedness along with Marvels & Malisons. Spells from each school are contained within shards of a common crystal,1 and all shards from a single school come from the same original crystal born in the fires of creation. Thus, there are a limited number of shards in existence – each of immense value, but not necessarily rare in the fiction. Referees should decide if spells are unique, or if multiple shards containing the same spell exist in the world.

After finding a shard, the character must attune it to himself before using it to cast the spell contained within it. If the character is ever more than 100 yards away from the crystal, it will gradually revert to its un-attuned state over the course of 24 hours. During that time, no one else may use the crystal, but may begin the attuning process. Attuning always takes a minimum of 24 hours, but may take longer if the crystal still bears the residual aura from the previous owner.

Shards are often embedded in amulets, wands, staves, and other accessories of value, but these are purely decorative. It is the shard itself that holds the magical energy, and many people choose to wield them without adornment. Shards must not be split, modified, or worked into traditional gemstone shapes – else they become magically unstable or lose their power outright.

Shards are immediately distinguishable from mundane crystals of the same mineral because they emanate a focused yet faint light. The light is visible from some distance, but is not bright enough to light the way through a dungeon, for example. Each shard is roughly half the size of a human fist. Shards come in a variety of rough, natural shapes, and all are heavier than expected.

To use a shard requires a combination of verbal and physical incantations. As part of the attunement process, the owner of a shard intuits the specific rituals required to activate its powers.

Wonder & Wickedness Schools and Associated Stones

Diabolism Scapolite Grey
Elementalism Iolite Indigo
Necromancy Sulphur Yellow
Psychomancy Emerald Green
Spiritualism Lapis Lazuli Blue
Translocation Obsidian Black
Vivimancy Quartz Pink

Marvels & Malisons Schools and Associated Stones

Apotropaism Pyrite Gold
Arachnomorphosis Agate Scarlet
Physiurgy Amethyst Violet
Cunning Craft Opal Rainbow
Rope Tricks Topaz Orange

Incompatible Magics

There are four elemental magic groups. While shards from within each group are magically symbiotic, the practical effect is an otherworldly resonance that wreaks havoc on those who wield them without taking the proper precautions.

  1. Apotropaism, Vivimancy, Elementalism (Gold, Pink, Indigo)
  2. Arachnomorphosis, Necromancy, Spiritualism (Scarlet, Yellow, Blue)
  3. Translocation, Diabolism, Cunning Craft (Black, Grey, Rainbow)
  4. Physiurgy, Psychomancy, Rope Tricks (Violet, Green, Orange)

Shards originating from crystals of incompatible groups cause magical disturbances, much like magnets pushing against each other. If a character is within 100 yards of an active incompatible shard when he activates his own, he must save to avoid a spell catastrophe of the type being cast (or random if casting from a school in M&M).


Knave doesn’t make use of classes. This is a design feature, and not one I wish to circumvent. However, there’s something to be said for gaining confidence and familiarity with a particular realm of skills common to adventuring. Most notably, using magic doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that would be easy for first-time casters.

Building off the three basic class archetypes from Whitehack (Strong, Deft, and Wise), each character has five specialties. Or rather it’s better to think of these areas as “doubts” that hinder the character until he gains some experience.

  1. Wounding – Seriously injuring someone else in a fight, including death.
  2. Manipulating – Lying, misrepresenting, or influencing for personal gain.
  3. Slinking – Breaking the law or social norms through physical intrusion.
  4. Daring – A physical stunt with a high risk of bodily injury to yourself.
  5. Casting – Wielding crystals for their magical effects.

Each doubt has two levels, represented as empty checkboxes on the character sheet. The first time each day a character attempts an action associated with each of the five doubts, he must make a save to overcome his lack of self-confidence. As with normal saves, remember to add your bonus for the relevant ability. You gain advantage on the save if one of the two checkboxes is ticked. If both checkboxes are ticked, no save is necessary.

If the character makes the save vs. doubt in an area in which he has no checkmarks, two things happen. You tick the first checkbox for the doubt, signaling the character’s growing confidence. Second, you gain advantage on the subsequent roll, representing the surge of adrenaline associated with trying something for the first time. Of course you only get this bonus once. When you succeed on subsequent attempts, you don’t fill in a checkbox and you don’t gain advantage.

If you fail the save vs. doubt, you still attempt the action as normal, but the character suffers an unexpected consequence. Roll on the appropriate table below. Note you might continue to use these tables for critical failures in certain circumstances if you so choose.


Note: all of the following occurs as part of or after the current attack. So you could, for example, make a successful attack and also drop your weapon in the process. You could also miss your attack, but nonetheless inflict bonus damage connected with the “overeager” result.

1 Panic: you must retreat during your next turn.
2 Stunned: you may not attack during your next turn.
3 Shaken: you gain disadvantage on your next attack this combat.
4 Nerves: you drop your weapon or shield, which also loses a point of quality.
5 Overeager: roll a bonus damage die and inflict the damage on both the target and yourself.
6 Haunted: record the name of your victim as an item on your character sheet.2


1 Can’t stop talking: you don’t know when enough is enough, and reveal something you shouldn’t.
2 Wrong tone: you’re nice when you should be tough, or mean when you should be gentle.
3 Physical: without realizing it, you allow the subtle threat of violence to do the talking.
4 Skittish: your body betrays an underlying anxiousness, making you appear untrustworthy.
5 Oblivious: your target becomes attached or even infatuated with you before you realize what’s happened.
6 Resentment: your target will hold a grudge against you until you repair the relationship.


1 Pounding heart: your next save while perpetrating the crime is with disadvantage.
2 Unwitting evidence: you leave behind a sign of your intrusion without realising it.
3 Unnecesary caution: you are twice as slow as you should be.
4 Paranoia: you believe you’ve been detected and must spend the next 1d6+3 minutes hiding unless a trusted companion calms you down first.
5 No restraint: you purposfully taunt the target or commit an additional crime for which you will be caught.
6 Crisis of conscience: record your crime as an item on your character sheet.3


1 Hesitation: you poorly time your feat, resulting in poor position after the fact.
2 Insecure gear: you lose or break a piece of equipment, reducing its quality by 1d4.
3 Unsettled: your stunt leaves you intimidated and immobile for 1d6+3 minutes, or until a companion inspires you to continue.
4 Reckless: you cause 1d6 damage to someone nearby.
5 Wild abandon: succeed or fail, your attempt is worthy of tall tales, but you inflict 1d4 damage to yourself in the process.
6 Maimed: you suffer a permanent, disfiguring injury plus 1d6 damage.


1 Catastrophe: the spell goes off, but also causes a catastrophe.4
2–4 Threatened: same as above, but the catastrophe only lasts a number of minutes equal to the roll (i.e., 2–4 minutes).
5 Tempted: a dark power takes over your body for 1d10+5 minutes or until violently jostled back to yourself by a companion.
6 Frightened: you drop the crystal and are unable to pick it up for 1d4 rounds; when you do, you must re-attune yourself to the crystal.

Overcoming Doubt

Every character starts play with two checkboxes of their choice filled in. These may be in the same or different doubts. As mentioned above, you fill in the first box of a doubt during play after you successfully save vs. that doubt. In addition, every time you roll a natural 20 on a save vs. doubt, you may tick a corresponding checkbox.

You may never tick more than one box at a time, and there is a limit on the number of ticked checkboxes for your character, determined by your level.

Levels Max. Checkboxes
1–4 Four
5–7 Six
8–9 Seven
10+ Eight

Assuming characters retire at level 10, you’ll note that no character may ever tick all their doubt boxes, and thus will always have at least one or two areas in which he feels uncertain.

Encumbrance Search Time

Inspired by the encumbrance system in Maze Rats, the first four item slots represent items carried in hand or on your person (belt, strapped to an easily accessed section of your pack, or the like). Everything else is stowed away on or in your backpack. When retrieving an item during combat, the first four slots are always available. For anything else, it takes 1d6 rounds to find the item.

Shields Will Be Splintered

An easy import from Maze Rats – a player can sacrifice his character’s shield to ignore all damage from a single attack. The shield is splintered and rendered useless in the process.

  1. Credit for the original idea of how to use crystals as the basis for a magic system in Knave goes to Mark Hunt in a post to the now defunct Google+ Knave Group. My expansion builds on Mark’s work and integrates the spell and catastrophe lists from Wonder & Wickedness by B. Strejcek and Marvels & Malisons by Paolo Greco.

  2. The name takes up an item slot, and may be removed the next time you advance your wounding doubt (i.e., fill in a checkbox) or repent. If you have no available item slots when you become haunted, you must immediately drop something else to make room.

  3. The guilt of your crime hounds you, filling an item slot until you reverse your actions (e.g., return what was stolen) or earn a checkmark in slinking. If you have no available item slots when you suffer a crisis of conscience, you must immediately drop something else to make room.

  4. Use the catastrophes beginning on p. 40 of W&W, or create your own if using a different magic system.