Something Humour-ous..?

Published on 4 May 2020 at 13:23

I thought I'd give you a design blog post to start the week, exploring the idea of the bodily humours in the game, and how they tie in with your character. But I also thought I'd use the opportunity to show you all the book cover. 

Set in the eighteenth century, Newtonium Engine takes the characters back to a time when Science was in its infancy and learning was dominated by rediscovery of the works of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The understanding of medicine and psychology at the time was dominated by the idea of four bodily humours. This concept is at the heart of Newtonium Engine.

The Four Humours

These four humours were believed to be different fluids with differing biological properties that determined a wide range of things from physical health and well-being, to mental health and temperament.

Blood is described as a hot, wet humour, and is linked to the classical element of air. In terms of temperament, characters with a naturally high level of blood running through their system are considered to be gregarious and extrovert, and prone to the sins of Lust and Gluttony, finding it difficult to moderate their desires.

Choler, sometimes called yellow bile, is described as a hot, dry humour. It is linked to the classical element of fire and an aggressive, "choleric" temperament. Those with high levels of Choler are courageous and assertive, yet prone to wrath and a greed for power and attention are often short of temper.

Gall, or black bile, is a cold, dry humour, linked to Earth. Those with high levels of gall are believed to have a melancholic temperament, making them reserved and prudent, yet prone to dark moods that can leave them victim to sloth and envy.

The fourth and final humour is Phlegm: a cold, wet humour linked to water and the phlegmatic temperament. Phlegmatic people are quiet and easy-going, and are deep thinkers. This however can leave them cold and calculating, and suffering from pride.

These four humours are baked into the Newtonium Engine system in several ways, so let's a have a look at how they might affect your character:

Humour points

Firstly, all four humours themselves are each a resource that your character can spend to do things like reroll dice and fuel powers. Each humour provides an independent pool of points for you to spend that only apply in certain circumstances. If you want to reroll your shot with your musket you will need to spend a point of Phlegm, for example, or if you want to craft a fireball from your elemental control of fire, you would need to spend a point of Choler.


It is perhaps better to say that your humours are affected by roleplaying than the other way around, although both are true. The way you get most (spoilers) of your humours back is through roleplaying of temperament. When you more Blood points, you will need to play the sanguine temperament and be jovial and gregarious. When you need Gall points you will need to play being reserved and melancholic. Gaining humour points is a reward for roleplaying, but in some cases a chance to explore different aspects of your character so that they don't become too narrow of personality.

On the flip-side, if you store up too many humour points of a particular type you can find yourself prone to your vices and sins. Characters with lots of Blood points might find themselves overcome by one of their desires, whilst those with a high choler will find it difficult to keep their temper.


In most roleplaying games a character is has a set of traits that describe their natural talents and affinities: Ability Scores in D&D, Attributes in the Storyteller system, for example. In Newtonium Engine these are call virtues, and each one is tied to one of your humours.

Grace is the virtue linked to Blood, Prudence is linked to Gall, Reason is linked to Phlehm and Valour is linked to Choler. Each of these virtues represents an approach and areas of talent, but in different ways to traditional attributes or ability scores. Each virtue interacts with a set of seven skills in different ways. All virtues, for example interact with the Combat skill. Grace shows how capable you are with light, flashy finesse weapons, Valour with heavy melee weapons, Reason helps with your aim with ranged attacks, whilst Prudence determines your ability to defend yourself.

Newtonium Motor

Finally, each player character has a Newtonium Motor. This is the source of their superpowers and magical abilities. Your Newtonium Motor is a magical clockwork device that is grafted onto one of your organs to enhance the power of one of your humours. This gives you the ability to supercharge one of your virtues, gain control over the linked element, and master certain occult disciplines through the power of its magical energies. There are four different motors:

An Artisan motor connects to your heart and augments your Grace, providing control over the air and the Summoning discipline.

Militant motor is grafted to your spleen, augments grace and provides fire control and mastery of mesmeric techniques.

The Savant motor is connected to your brain stem, augmenting Reason and providing mastery of sympathetic magical tradition and the element of water.

Finally, a Shade motor, grafted to your liver, provides augmented Prudence, warding magic and control over the element of Earth.


The classical ideas of the elements and Hippocractic medicine are baked into the system, providing a unique angle on the system that creates both interesting characer choices and enhances your roleplaying experience.

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