Four Colors Al Fresco

Pulp-style superheroes in an alternate Renaissance

Four Colors

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.

This game is currently in development and is available for playtesting.

For playtesting materials, please refer to the Four Colors Al Fresco Resources section, below.

About Four Colors Al Fresco

What are pulp style superheros?

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.

Power level: 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.

Game style: 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.

Tell me more about this “alternate Renaissance.”

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:

  1. Dynamic
  2. Static
  3. Lost
  4. Known
  5. Passion.

These five forces govern the existences and interactions of this world. Every action, every happening, every thing in the world is caused by the interactions of these five 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, the rock stays put.

Omegas: Throughout most of the world, the five forces are in balance. But a few exceptional individuals exist outside this balance. These are the Omegas, individuals who have been “forgotten” by one of the forces and thus, can defy the normal laws of nature. Omegas who are the superheroes and super-villains of this world.

Four Colors Al Fresco Resources

This game is currently in development. The game resources below are free and available for playtesting.

All of the material in the following links is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License and the WotC Open Game License. Learn more.

  • Game Text (beta): A draft of the complete game. Includes the rules, a sketch of the setting, a glossary of terms, character sheets, and dice guides. Also available in an editable format.
  • al fresco quickstart: 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
  • Omegas: Some of which are detailed in the main game book, 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 world of Four Colors al Fresco: Available as both a PDF and a PNG.
  • Storypath cards and other sundry design notes
  • Sample 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 players may want a detailed description for every Descriptor, others may prefer to rely on the name of the Descriptor as much as possible.