A Roleplaying Game of Pulp-Style Superheroes in an Alternate Renaissance

Four Colors al Fresco is a roleplaying game of pulp-style adventure, set in an alternate Renaissance. The setting is Renaissance Italy -- as it might have been. Had there been fantastic, pre-industrial advanced technologies in the hands of a few. Had the Black Death never come. Had the remnants of highly-advanced civilizations been scattered around the world. Had reality been governed by mystical Forces instead of scientific laws. Had there been maniacal geniuses constantly plotting to take over the world. And, most importantly, had there been superheroes to thwart them.

But these are not the superheroes of our times, or even our parents' times -- these are the superheroes of our grandparents' times, the action heroes of the pulps. Before the term "superhero" was coined. Before spandex costumes. When a man with a maniacal laugh, a pair of six-shooters, and the sole power to "cloud men's minds" had the power to send villains scurrying for their holes. Pulp heroes are only slightly better than the rest of us, not the breed apart of the modern superhero. They may laugh in the face of an armed man, but it is not because they are unthreatened. They may operate outside the law, but only because the authorities have chosen to allow it. And they rarely have the luxury of existing outside the norms of society for more than an evening at a time. In short, while they have exceptional powers, pulp heroes are not so powerful that they may ignore the rest of society.

The style of this game is one of action and adventure in a morally-clear world. The villains are Evil, and the heroes are Good, and rarely is there any doubt as to which is which. Doing good doesn't result in unintended bad consequences, and the bad guys are not just misunderstood or misguided. Your characters are the heroes of this world, people gifted with extraordinary gifts and driven by moral principles.

The world, as well as all those within it, is governed by five mystical Forces, the interactions of which determine everything that happens and exists. Much as our own world is governed by the forces of electricity, magnetism, gravity, and the nuclear forces, which together can explain why everything is the way it is, and why everything happens the way it does, the world of Four Colors al Fresco is governed by five Forces. Dynamic, Static, Lost, Known, and Passion are the Forces that govern the existences and interactions of this world. Every action, every happening, every thing in the world is caused by the interactions of these 5 forces, but, generally, one or two of the forces so strongly govern a particular activity that the rest are overshadowed. When the Dynamic Force holds sway, the rock falls. When the Static Force holds sway, it stays put. Throughout most of the world, they provide a sort of balance -- some things and situations are governed more by one Force or another, but on a broad scale everything balances out. But a few exceptional individuals are not in harmony with the world. The Forces do not pay equal attention to them. Some of the Forces pay them more heed, while others seem to give them short shrift, and still others apparently just overlook them on occaision. These are the Omegas, individuals who have been forgotten by one of the Forces, and thus defy the normal laws of nature in some small way. It is these Omegas that are the villains and heroes of this world.


Open Material

All of the material in the following links is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License [b]and[/b] the WotC Open Game License. We've put together a short page explaining these licenses, and how to use them, here.

  • The game rules, as a downloadable PDF of the complete game. Includes the rules; a sketch of the setting, Italia, including several of the more notable Omegas; glossary of terms; character sheets, dice guides, and other handouts; and more.
  • The game rules, in an editable format. It needs a few tweaks, and it's not very pretty if your browser doesn't do CSS2, but it's all there. [n.b.: at the moment, it's not very pretty even if your browser does do CSS2--i haven't had a chance to put together the style sheets for the website, yet.]
  • Quick-start rules. Include a summary of character creation, a brief intro to the mechanics, an abbreviated glossary of terms, and a character creation worksheet. Grab this and a character sheet, and you've got all you need to get started. n.b.: these rules do not completely agree with those in the beta version of the game, linked above; resolve any contradictions in favor of the quickstart, which is newer.
  • Character Sheet
  • Title Sheet
  • Villain Character Sheet
  • Mastermind Character Sheet
  • Glossary of terms, extracted from the main gamebook.
  • Omegas, some of which are detailed in the main gamebook, some of which are summarized, and some of which are new. And we've carefully left some of the ones listed in the gamebook undetailed.
  • Map of the larger world of Four Colors al Fresco, as both a PNG and a PDF
  • Storypath cards, and other sundry design notes, extracted from the main gamebook.
  • It appears that an editing mistake was made in the assembly of the Four Colors al Fresco 1.0beta, and a sidebar was left out. So, here it is. It should have finished out the 6th chapter, "Panels, Pages, Issues, Miniseries, and Titles", and has already been edited back into the HTML version online.
  • Example filled-out character sheet. Here's what a ready-to-play beginning character sheet might look like, if you had terribly neat handwriting. You'll note that the degree of detail for the Descriptors varies considerably -- some may want a detailed description for every Descriptor, others may prefer to rely on the name of the Descriptor as much as possible. We tend to take the middle route, adding additional description where necessary or entertaining.
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