The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CVI – The High Chancellor

Peanut butter is a semi-solid and can therefor...

Food of the Primordials!

The guest suite at the Pinnacle of Celestial Supremacy was actually very nice; practically everything but the walls was ambrosial, there was a nice view of the reclaimed territory from the window, and there was plenty of room – unlike the rather crowded Jorgensen nursery complex’s common room.

No food though! Fortunately, he had peanut butter!

He was halfway though his first sandwich when someone came knocking at the door,

(Charles) “Er… Hello?”

(Celestina) “Charles, are you up? Someone wants to speak with you before you and Harold head off to school.”

(Charles) “Uhm… OK!”

Celestina waited for him to open the door; the boy generally didn’t act like it, but he was – at least amongst the Bronze Faction – considered a powerful being… She escorted him downstairs, into a highly-warded chamber (mostly concentrated on privacy, non-detection, and anti-teleportation) while he offered her some peanut butter toast… The Breakfast of Guardians and Primordials!

Well, probably not really.

(Celestina) “Thank you dear. It’s okay if I call you that, isn’t it?”

(Charles) “It’s OK!”

(Celestina) “Coffee? Everyone around here drinks it.”

She had produced a cup from nowhere. It DID smell good – not quite Celestial coffee, but definitely ambrosial – but Charles had experienced the treachery of coffee before! It NEVER tasted the way it smelled!

(Charles) “I like Cocoa better!”

(Celestina) “Cocoa is it then!”

The liquid in the cup promptly changed to cocoa; it seemed to be… one of the Manse’s minor Magical Conveniences. That was handy!

About then, they crossed over the actual wards…

(Celestina) “Okay, Charles, I didn’t want to say it outside the wards, but Lady Rosa Cress from the Opalescent Gardens is here to see you. When I sent the message out last night, she was the first to respond. I have no idea what any of this is about, but it’s important to Father, and I don’t want to keep you or her waiting. Thanks for helping us out.”

(Charles) “You’re welcome! And Hello Mrs Cress!”

He hadn’t seen her for a bit!

She was preparing something on one of this room’s twelve blue jade screens, but gracefully turned towards him – although she was still looking far too tired.

(Rosa) “Ah, Charles! I didn’t hear you and Celestina come in. She must have left to prepare the other children for school.” (She motioned toward the long tablem where there were two seats). “Please, sit down. Before we started, the High Lord wanted to apologize for not being able to make it. There was a major fate breach several hundred light years from Earth, and he got tapped to lead the investigation.” (She frowned slightly as she said that.)

(Charles) “Well I hope it won’t be too much trouble!”

(Rosa) “Normally we’re not supposed to discuss these things, but he wanted me to let you know it was something he couldn’t turn down… and this is a well warded chamber.”

(Charles) “So what do you need?”

(Rosa) “Charles, what do you think about the state of the Celestial City? (Hurriedly) Other than that it needs to be fixed?”

(Charles, finding his usual answer pre-empted…) “It’s a bit of a mess!”

(Rosa) “To say the least… and what about the deiphage issue?”

(Charles) “That also needs fixing! It’s going to be awkward to satisfy everyone, but I think that I can find a way to manage!”

Rosa looked contemplative for a moment, then spoke again – looking a bit worried.

(Rosa) “It does need fixing, but we all know that… and hopefully we can do it before it reaches a certain percentage. Have you checked into the Celestial Bureaucracy’s evacuation plans in case the worst happens?”

(Charles) “I only found out that they had plans for that the other day!”

(Rosa) “Ah, I see. They’re… actually not that bad. They’re a joint effort of the Division of Endings and the Bureau of Heaven. In the event that the abandoned regions spread to more than eighty percent of the city – which would mean that they would be aboveground in the Central Metropolitan Zone – the Celestial Bureaucracy would be able to evacuate those gods willing to leave in a “mere” twenty years. They’re already setting aside aerial rickshaws and armed dhows for the process, and readying the former Blessed Isle gates.”

(Charles) “Hmm… twenty years is quite awhile, they’d be under siege most of that time, it would mean abandoning the Loom and a lot of other stuff… and there’s a substantial chance of geomantic collapse across the entire central region of imposed geomancy there!”

(Rosa) “Indeed. And that’s not even factoring in gods not wanting to leave, other gods deciding to turn deiphage… it would be a mess.”

Charles considered that. From the last readings he’d gotten, it was currently at 71%, and soon would be increasing more rapidly.

(Charles) “Maybe I should hurry up a bit!”

(Rosa) “Good, I’m glad to hear that. That enthusiasm – and your sympathy toward us – is why the High Lord wanted you to help us. And most of us think you deserve to know what we’re planning.”

(Charles) “What’s that?”

Rosa turned on the screen, displaying the progress of the abandonment in Yu-Shan. The worst increase seemed to be in the Lunargent Ecological Protectorate – about where Charles had expected it to be.

(Rosa) “Contrary to rumors you may have heard, we DON’T intend to flee Yu-Shan… at least not permanently. But what we have planned would cause the Bureaucracy to audit us. All of us.”

(Charles) “That would be a terrible pain!”

(Rosa smiled) “All worth it, though… if we can manage the operations required, we and our families won’t have to be in Yu-Shan while the process occurs. If, that is, we can find enough supplies for the inevitable exile.”

(Charles, with some surprise) “But supplies are easy!”

(Rosa) “Yes they are! We’ve had enough food for centuries, and we just need a few more void suits and parts for the space journey. Thanks to that prototype gate you told Valkith (the alien Chosen of Journeys) about, we might even be able to make it out in time. There’s just one problem, though. We… don’t have enough ships large enough to hold all our relatives.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well, there’s lots of space… Or do you just need some more ships?”

(Rosa) “Charles, I know it’s a major favor to ask, but could you build us a couple of large spaceships? I don’t want to leave anyone behind to face reprisals.”

(Charles) “How big do they need to be?”

(Rosa) “Well… one to hold Valkith’s family; his freighter won’t be big enough to hold them all for the long-term, no matter now nicely he sets things up. And one large enough to hold the entire population of the Occluded Observatory. Gustav said Astrid was very insistent on not leaving any of them behind… I can’t blame her . . . she has invested a lot in that place.”

(Charles) “Oh… That’s only about 250 I think!”

(Rosa) “Three hundred, actually – he still hasn’t signed the official residency papers for some of the families. But I suspect that won’t make much of a difference for your skills.”

(Charles) “Hm… Well, first up, just in case…

He made about five hundred Wyld Hart Stones (in necklace-settings) first…

Wyld Hart Stones (Artifacts **) are dangling orbs of opalescent jade that shine with an ever-shifting inner radiance when they’re attuned – a process which requires the expenditure (not the commitment) of three motes or one point of temporary will and touching the stone with a drop of the user’s blood – after which the pulsing of it’s radiance will keep time with the user’s heartbeat.

As long as the user carries the activated stone, it provides him or her with the equivalent of rating-1 graces – allowing the bearer sufficient shaping abilities to remain quite comfortable in the Bordermarches or Middlemarches without risk of wyld mutation. Unfortunately, they do not suffice for deeper areas, although they do reduce the effects of such wyld exposure by two levels.

(Charles) “There! One of THOSE for everybody… And then a few small Chancels! I might have trouble getting ships to people, but Chancels are very easily portable!”

(Rosa) “Thank you, Charles. We’ve already prepared anti-Wyld and detection wards for the ships we have, but if worse comes to worse, that should keep us protected and well-hidden.”

(Charles) “Oh well! This way… if you need to evacuate before you have enough ships, everyone can just take an amulet and duck into the Chancels – and the Chancels can be carried in a pocket after that! Or mounted in an existing ship to expand the cargo capacity to tens of thousands!”

(Rosa smiled) “I would almost say you’ve considered the possibility of fleeing yourself. I’ll ensure these are distributed throughout all the reclaimed territories.”

(Charles) “Well… I’ve got lots of refugees NOW, but they’re mostly from wars on Earth.”

(Rosa) “While we did consider the possibility of asking for asylum in your world body, the High Lord wanted to remain in actual space. No offense, dear?”

(Charles) “Why would I be offended? Not everybody wants to be a guest!”

(Rosa) “Of course not, dear.”

(Charles) “I’ll have to think about ships for a little bit… they’re complicated… but is there anything else you need in the meantime?

(Rosa) “Well… we could use a few more worksuits. While the void suits are nice, they’re made more for Essence channelers’ needs.”

Charles made a few batches of those too – and Mrs. Cress started looking a bit brighter. While she wasn’t unattractive, she generally looked pretty tired (it was HARD being the only Bronze Chosen of Serenity AND their best audit defender).

It was nice to see her perking up a bit!

(Rosa) “You’re too generous, dear. Anyhow… we were planning to initiate the process when the abandoned regions’ geomancy spread THIS far.”

She did some time-lapse projecting on the map – which now showed about 75%. Charles made a note to see that overseer and discourage him/her SOON!)

(Rosa) “We… had to ask you because you were the only friendly person we knew who might build a ship that fast. If this succeeds, we might be able to stop the spread… and over a century or two, remove it.”

(Charles) “Well, I’ll see what I can do!”

(Rosa) “Thank you! Do let us know if you have any additional questions!”

Charles was obviously too busy thinking about ships to have any immediate questions, so Rosa offered him a banana.

(Rosa) “It would go well with your sandwich, I think.”

(Charles, absently) “Thank you!”

And the servants took Charles and Harold to school as Charles drank his cocoa…

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CV – Violets On Television

Continuing in the Reclaimed Territories in Yu-Shan, at the Slumber Party…

As it turned out, Mr. Jorgensen had been called away on interstellar business, and so wasn’t expected back for at least eleven days – and while Charles was indeed enjoying the slumber party (and handing out a variety of gifts all around at whim), it really wouldn’t stretch that long. He had made some arrangements though; as the head of a generally-disliked faction, you stepped carefully with powerful people and potential allies.

Everyone was happy to be receiving presents – and hoped that Papa would get them some when he got back. They were curious though – and gathered around to ask about stuff happening outside of the reclaimed territory – which took some explaining.

Charles was rather curious too… little Harold and Celestina herself (who seemed to be in charge of the kids when they weren’t being attacked) were both apparently “Favored”. That seemed a little weird! Didn’t parent’s normally “favor” all their children?

Harold’s mother – a goddess of some sort, and beautiful in much the same way that a hurricane was beautiful – had come out of her chambers to see what all the fuss was about (and my, there were lots of red-haired, violet-eyed kids about!) in time to hear that question…

(Ardent Wave, Goddess of Postwar Reproduction on a no longer existent world) “Kristoff loves all his children… but we can’t afford the same level of training for all of them. The “Favored” ones, like Celestina and Harold, are first in line for Charms, Artifacts, and reclaimed territory administration training. I believe you’ve met Astrid? She’s Favored too.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well… Hm… what do you need?”

Harold and Celestina… abruptly looked slightly apprehensive, and tried to indicate caution… Papa had warned them about that question! (He was fairly sure that the entire “Lesser Exaltation” business had popped up because another child had asked him if he could find an enhancement device). If you asked Charles for something… he might well go beyond all reason to give it to you! After all, he HAD just… run off to soothe a horde of hungry deiphages without giving it a moments thought! You needed to give THAT question some careful thought!

(Ardent Wave) “The biggest priority right now is some way to train them for deiphage attacks without getting them right in the middle of a siege. You didn’t hear it from me, but Bureau training simulations on that are lacking. They assume that there’s no organization behind a horde, and I can confirm that more likely than not, there is.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well, THAT’S easy enough! I’ve got some Crystal Arena’s in here somewhere… (rummaging) Here we are!”

He produced a dozen. Why not? They were handy and the kids could play in them too!

(Kids) “Yay!”

(Ardent Wave) “Some kind of artifact? Well… I’ll have to set these up in one of the dojos.”

(Charles) “Hm… If I hooked up a training computer with the right programs… they could cover some of the martial arts and such too.”

(Ardent Wave) “Please, do so! Martial arts are great for teaching them confidence and keeping them fit.” (Her hair, which had been constantly shifting and blowing the whole time, momentarily froze.) “Hey, think you could set something up like the Resplendent Sifus, but for the Terrestrial forms? Kristoff is… picky when it comes to sifus.”

(Charles) “It should be possible! It may take a bit though; I’ll need to find someone who knows them and is willing to share a few forms…”

Ardent Wave’s hair had not unfrozen yet… and some of the kids who had been getting in some close time with Mommy were backing off.

(Ardent Wave) “Really? He’s been keeping things from me, not that it’s new!… Celestina, think you’d be willing to contribute some Falling Blossom Style to that?”

(Celestina) “Of course, Mother.”

(Ardent Wave) “And I suppose you could find more Terrestrial stylists easily enough; this is Yu-Shan.”

(Charles) “OK! Hm… we’ll need a recording of the essence patterns and of the physical side – but the easiest way to get that will just be for you to use one of the crystal arenas to practice in for a bit while I have a recording crystal hooked up!”

Celestina hopped in eagerly; she was quite good at that style. It made her a rather capable human shield.

(Charles) “Right… now, once we have a recording, the arena can reproduce it – but for training we’ll want to slow it down to show the form and the various charms. I don’t think that this will work for anything beyond the Terrestrial styles though! I’ll have to build a translator module and a limited-purpose AI… but that won’t take very long!”

(Ardent Wave) “Tell us when you’re done, dear. We’re quite used to waiting on these things.”

(Harold) “It won’t take him long, Mommy!”

(Charles) “Here we go!”

No one was THAT surprised… but still.

(Ardent Wave) “I was told you were powerful, but to summon artifacts from nowhere like this… no wonder he was so unhappy when he had to leave!”

(Charles) “I like artifacts!”

He said THAT firmly enough that it… actually seemed like an explanation for a minute or two.

(Ardent Wave, after a pause) “Very much, I see! But most beings need to do more than THINK to make them!”

Her hair had not unfrozen yet, and there were faint sparks coming off it.

(Charles) “Oh! I draw on Dudael for most projects!”

Well… she HAD known that he controlled a factory cathedral; a god-blooded kid heading one of those was good gossip grist!

(Ardent Wave) “I thought you had to be in one of those to use it. Some kind of trick?”

(Charles) “There are ways to tap into it through the Hearthstone!”

Perhaps fortunately, she was a goddess of fertility, reproduction, and storms – not one of artifice and manses. Her hair went back to moving again, and all the Jorgensens looked relieved. Any more surprises, and she might have started a not-so-miniature storm!

(Ardent Wave) “Such excitement – an attack and a major visitor all in one day! I hope everything has been to your satisfaction, Charles? My husband wanted to be sure it was.”

(Charles) “Oh sure! It’s always nice to visit friends!”

That briefly confused Ardent Wave. She’d never met Charles before – and, being a faction head’s wife, always assumed that others making friends had some ulterior motive. Still… she recovered soon enough; Charles… had been nothing but friendly and generous and open.

(Ardent Wave) “I’m glad you think of us that way! Now… I think all you kids need to go to bed soon! We can’t have you nodding off during morning training!”

(Celestina) “Another half hour, Mother? I think they’re too excited to go to sleep at the moment!”

(Ardent Wave) “Oh, fine… but don’t tell your father!”

And there was much rejoicing among the children – who had already figured out that – if they wanted to stretch their time as much as possible – they could just play in the Crystal Arenas!

Charles socialized cheerily. He liked other children – and they didn’t have the rather creepy / sad / just weird overtones of having the teddies around. They were a bit distant though… Papa seems to think Charles was important, and that meant that he had to be really powerful or strong! But they warmed up to him eventually After all, Harold met him every day, and he’d done nothing but help him.

Eventually five of them even asked for Lesser Exaltations like Harold got – mostly the physically-weaker, shyer, or nervous ones. They wanted to be Favored just like him!

Well… he WAS supposed to have some left – and come to think of it, it was mildly surprising that no one else had asked yet… Of course, most of them weren’t talking, and few people thought of ANY kind of “Exaltation” (even if it was just a bundle of lesser artifacts and manse-effects) as being something you could just ask for… and there were probably other reasons. Still, they weren’t really anything big.

On the other hand… he’d gradually been becoming aware that becoming more powerful often had downsides!

(Charles) “Are you sure you want that sort of thing? It’s a big responsibility and can get you into rather a lot of trouble!”

(Helsie) “Harold scared away a bunch of deiphages with nothing but his doll!”

(Harold) “It’s a LION DOG, guys! And it really is hard being Favored AND Exalted! I have SO MUCH homework and training!”

Nevertheless, he did seem pretty grateful! Still… that dissuaded Helsie and her brothers, but not the other two.

(Charles) “Do you have any other reason for wanting something like that?”

Lisel… wanted to make sure that the “bad gods” didn’t harm her siblings, and Elgin didn’t want to be overly dependent on his father or the Bureau of Destiny for training.

Well, as long as they had a reason! They each got one privately…

They were quite grateful too!

(Charles) “It’s no big thing! They’re not much use if nobody is using them!”

The (closely, if subtly, monitored – not that Charles didn’t kind of expect that these days) play continued until Celestina called the children to bed – although putting that many children to bed was a rather large production; some of the other adults and Ardent Wave helped her out. There are many prayers this night: to Mercury to ensure their father had a safe journey, to Mars to guide his sword and gun hand, and to Saturn to remember her Harbinger as he worked. Charles – behind on sleep as always – feel asleep curled up in a big, comfortable, chair during those.

There was a bit of debate among the adults on moving Charles… but they assumed that he would understand… He woke up in the prepared bed the next morning. Little did they know that – for Charles – that was quite expected; the Inukami were ALWAYS putting him to bed after he fell asleep somewhere.

For once, a convenient coincidence; this game had several rather short sessions in a row and they’re coming up right when I’m short of time to catch up…

Exalted – Integrity Charms

English: Caption reads "Papuan charm".

No no… I HAVE Charms, I’m not Charming!

And here we have a little more of Charles’s eccentric charm research…

Destiny Manifesting Mastery

  • Cost: Special, Minimums; Integrity 3, Essence 2; Type; Permanent
  • Keywords: Realm (Creation).
  • Duration: Special
  • Prerequisite Charms: None.

Solars cannot be bound by the threads of fate, instead drawing them – and the less potent creatures and spirits that they entangle – in their wake. A Solar with this charm has mastered that effect, and may cast his or her personal threads of fate into creation to entangle creatures and events in his or her personal goals. The user may select a specific, narrow, purpose – such as defeating a particular creature – and gain a “-1″ target number modifier on rolls that are directly related to that goal. Sadly, once a Solar impresses his or her will on the cosmos in this fashion, he or she may not select a new purpose until the old one vanishes with Calibration – even if it has already been fulfilled. Fortunately, he or she may also may reflexively spend one point of temporary will to roll (Essence) dice in search of good luck (as per the Destiny background) at any time.

*”Realm” keyworded charms only work in limited areas of the cosmos – usually because they’re dependent on some special property of that area. In this case, “destiny” normally relies on the Loom of Fate, and so this charm only functions in Creation.

Contingent Destiny Assumption

  • Cost: —, Minimums; Integrity 3, Essence 3; Type; Permanent
  • Keywords: None
  • Duration: Special
  • Prerequisite Charms: Destiny Manifesting Mastery.

As the threads of fate may be manipulated, so may the seas of chaos which they bind. A character with this charm adds the Realm (Wyld) keyword to Destiny Manifesting Mastery, may purchase Raksha backgrounds, and may grant up to (Essence x 10) mortals and near-mortals (Awakened Humans, Jadefolk, Raksha, Dragon Kings, Et Al) at any one time a Destiny of “Work for Me” rated at (Occult). (Yes; that does mean that pretty much any roll meant to aid the granting character directly or indirectly, or aid the recipients own survival, qualifies easily). Dice added through Destiny are due to environmental circumstances, and do not count as dice added by a charm.

Phoenix Declaration Oath

  • Cost: Special, Minimums; Integrity 3, Essence 4; Type; Permanent
  • Keywords: None.
  • Duration: Permanent
  • Prerequisite Charms: Contingent Destiny Assumption.

Dedicating their essence to some great purpose with an oath, and drawing deeply upon the infinite possibilities of the Wyld, the user reforges himself or herself as a being of terrible purpose. He or she acquires a new and permanent motivation that may never be abandoned – and can only be violated with a D4 Will check. As the user becomes a new creature, and permanently sacrifices this charm to power the transformation, his or her pools are refilled, his or her wounds are healed, and he or she may bypass training time and simply spend XP to purchase up to three new charms that fit his or her newly-declared theme. In the process, the user may redesign his or her anima banner (which flares to the maximum) and add appropriate decorative touches to his or her caste mark. Every being of essence 3+ within a radius of (user’s essence x 100 miles) (on earth; 10,000 light years in deep space) will be aware of the new powers ascension and purpose, and may opt to either support or oppose it.

Anima Merger Prana

(A.K.A. “Gangnam Anima Style”)

  • Cost: Special, Minimums; Integrity 4, Essence 4; Type; Permanent
  • Keywords: None.
  • Duration: Permanent
  • Prerequisite Charms: Having (or having previously used) Phoenix Declaration Oath.

The user may permanently alter his or her personal lightshow (caste mark and anima display) to suit his or her personal style, has background music whenever he or she wants it, and may add a secondary anima effect (agreed on with the game master) to his or her original one.

Silly dance steps are optional – although you explicitly MAY take “Gangnam Caste Anima: Spend 3 motes to dance like you’re riding a horse, gaining (Essence) successes on rolls to make people laugh at you over and above any other bonuses you apply” if you so desire. Just how this meme got attached to an Exalted charm remains unknown, but it is getting in everywhere these days isn’t it?

Kadian Myths – Unicorns

The Unicorn Is Penned, Unicorn Tapestries, c. ...

They don’t actually put up with this.

The unicorn herds of Kadia have recently begun to play an important role in the campaign… So here we have how they came to Kadia – or at least how they would say that they did. “Truth” is elusive with the fey.

The past is a lie.

A thing of myth, of legend drawn from a thousand threads.

A common foundation, that ties together then myriad worlds of the Manifold in the bedrock of human consciousness.

Behind a thousand masks, ancient archetypes and tales are embodied.

Reborn and fitted to new narratives, worlds, and embodiments.

Yet ancient still.

The dragons had flowed down from the hills, the malevolent incarnations of a volcanic storm.

Herdmaster Lyas led his adolescent sons – including young Kirsyan – into battle, to cover the herds flight.

The herd guardians took up their stations around the mares and foals, to protect them as they fled.

The dowager mares fed their powers of healing and endurance to the herd guardians.

The younger mares fed their power to the foals, to give them strength to flee beyond what their small bodies contained – even as the pre-adolescent boys focused their tiny offensive powers ahead, to clear a path of escape while their young sisters supported them.

The Herdmaster fell, carving out a gap in the oncoming fires.

His sons fought more frantically, both to break the storm and to be the best, the leader and victor who would succeed – if they and the herd survived – their fallen father as Herdmaster.

Some, their talents insufficient, fell. Others fled or hid, and lived. Kirsyan… held, leading two of his brothers to emerge as the fires passed.

He gave pursuit, draining the strength of the now-split dragon-storm further with bursts of ice even as it approached the fleeing herd and struck the defensive barriers of the Herd Guardians.

Many of the guardians, supported by the strength of the mares far beyond the point of terminal burnout, fell – and some elder mares, too exhausted to survive, fell with the guardians that they had supported to the end.

But, aided by Kirsyan and his brothers frantic efforts, the massed barriers held.

The herd, through the foals and their young mothers, lived on.

Kirsyan claimed the herdmastery – and replaced the fallen guardians with those of his surviving adolescent brothers who had been cowardly or who had performed poorly in battle on the spot.

The two brothers who had followed his lead and stood by him received some of the Mares, Foals, and Guardians, splitting off their own herds and leaving to re-colonize areas once held by fallen herds.

The ancient pattern continued, as the diminished herd struggled to rebuild, to grow strong before the next, inevitable, disaster befell.

And then a young – but impressively powerful – shaper of worlds arose, creating a world… of vast scale and benevolence, if of curious rules.

And with a place for Unicorns in it, and natural laws that allowed them to… recruit humans to fill the ranks of the herd.

Kirsyan seized the chance, and wove the narrative of his herd into the forming world – becoming a long-standing part of a past which mere hours ago had not been.

And this is a lie.

For this is the tale as it was in Kadia, in a history which never was, but yet lives and breathes.

Such is the mystery of the fey.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CIV – Deiphage Slumber Party

Meanwhile, young Harold had called… he hadn’t been able to stay on long, but he wanted Charles to come over one night for a party. Papa had said that it was OK! Maybe after Evasion Club?

Charles was very pleased! He hardly ever got any invitations from other kids! He called back to say yes and after Evasion club would be just fine!

Saturnsday – and the club meeting – came along soon enough… The Half-Castes had mostly integrated into school – and most of them (helped along by Harold) were even unafraid of Charles now. Charles had extra time for socializing at school at the moment; having gotten his assignments in advance in preparation for leaving, he’d already completed most of them anyway… which left plenty of time to prepare for Evasion Club, which was held in one of the training rooms. This week’s training was for urban situations; as always, the person went unnoticed the longest won a prize. Those were never anything big – usually some trinket – but it was generally worth the trouble.

Charles had a minor god wheel in a rack full of Yu-Shan camouflage cloaks (covering sight, scent, and sound) with minor anti-detection charms on them and a sign on them labeling them as special prizes – while he sat quietly underneath the rack reading a book and let the massed array of anti-detection charms confuse things. The instructor groaned, but since only Sidereal Charms were explicitly forbidden, she let it slide.

Besides, Charles left taste open – and as the other kids grabbed the cloaks, it would weaken, even if everyone who grabbed a cloak would have been spotted already…

Charles had included enough cloaks for everyone in the club, plus about a dozen. You never knew! There might be some showing up who were so good at it that no one but the instructor knew that they were members!

That actually WAS considered the masterstroke of joining the Evasion Club! Only the instructor actually knew the full list of members… Members normally only learned who was who through spotting or being spotted – but Charles felt that it was better practice to evade people who were actually looking for you in particular.

In the end it was Charles, Harold the Lesser Exalt, and Hauvrick, son of a minor wolf species god as the final contenders… Hauvrick was known to have all sorts of sensory Charms – he was sort of a prodigy in that area.

Charles simply waited to see if someone actually looked under the cloaks – or whether the old purloined letter trick would work!

Several of the other kids DID see him – but only after they themselves had been spotted and they’d come to get their cloaks… They kept quiet – although he couldn’t tell if it was out of respect, if they were just embarrassed, or if they were thinking of how they could pull off the same trick…

In the end, it was Hauvrick who found him first. Harold was apparently really concentrating on not being spotted. Ah well! It had been worth a shot!

Hauvrick grinned at him; that was a fun trick! Nonetheless, he tapped Charles out – and Charles cheerily tossed him a cloak, which he accepted with glee before going off to find Harold. That actually took several hours… Hauvrick had to resort to shaking up the place by rooting around behind stuff (giving away his own position in the process) to find Harold, and finally caught him between hiding spots.

That made Harold the winner – but they both got cheerful applause from Charles anyway. They were both reasonably happy too; Hauvrick got a challenge, and Harold won! Hauvrick was going to get Harold good next time though!

Besides, everyone got a nice new cloak that would help them evade more!

(Harold, approaching Charles). “Hi, Charles! I’m sorry I took so long.”

The divine servant who had placed him in his seat that first day of class turned up, ready to take them to Harold’s home…

(Charles, to the servant) “Hello again!” (to Harold) and it wasn’t long!

The servant waved with a tendril and escorted the two of them to an aerial rickshaw – with considerably heavier armor than usual. It seemed warily respectful of Charles, but opened the door for both of them – and they were off, heading further west, their trip accelerated with a little travel magic. Once they were well into the abandoned regions, the servant put up a ward against deiphagy, using a thaumaturgical device. Harold… seemed to consider that perfectly normal.

Of course Harold had half a dozen of those on him now, still… safety was important!

(Yeva, the spirit) “I’m surprised that his father allowed you to visit. Our deiphage alert is at red at the moment.” (after a moment) “At least it’s not violet.”

Red? Oh; a standard reclaimed territory grading system for deiphage risk: Blue/Low, Green/Moderate, Yellow/Elevated, Red/Risky, and Violet/Imminent.

(Charles) “Oh dear! Well, I will have to see about that…”

(Harold) “Charles will be okay! And I can help him with Shenji.”

(Charles) “Yep!”

(Yeva) “Sigh… your father still says you are to stay out of direct battle, Master Harold. Though if we must, I suppose you can remain behind your siblings in the garrison.”

(Charles) “Yeah! That sort of thing is never really safe; you never know WHAT kind of odd stuff might happen!”

(Harold) “Okay…”

He didn’t look too happy, but did seem to understand.

Charles was considering… The vast majority of “Celestial” gods were originally Terrestrial, and were invited in after the Primordial War. There was no real Celestial Bureaucracy then, and the Tenders/greater deiphages didn’t really seem to have all that much organization other than “obey the Mighty Ones.” – or at least they hadn’t mentioned it if they did. Still, they seemed to have been basically maintenance. That didn’t require all that a long chain of command. Were they all operating independently these days?

Meanwhile, the rickshaw was approaching the reclaimed territory – and the air was acquiring a chill compared to even the abandoned districts surrounding it. Violet was a dominant theme: violet walls topped with a few pieces of nonlethal essence-discharge weaponry, violet buildings with no windows or doors on the first floor, accessed by ladders or bridges, and violet streets… There was a towering (violet) Sidereal Manse at the center; where its Zone of Influence reached the streets glowed with a faint (violet) light… The territory was a big place.

The largest concentrations of people were around the outmost Quintessence fountains. They seemed to be fortifying the wards.

Oh dear! It looked like the Deiphages might be being pushy…

Harold was quite relieved to be back behind the wards safely, and pointed to the Manse.

(Harold) “We should be safe there… unless they dig again!”

Charles was probing for essence-traces… They weren’t actually under siege at the moment – but there was a large concentration of deiphagic energy coming from the east.

He focused on that, looking for an Overseer… The Essence 6 trace was easy enough to find, currently occupying an Essence 3 body.

(Male Voice, somewhat sad) “Uh…”

(Charles) “Hello!”

(Voice, now surprised as well) “Who are you? This… this doesn’t happen often… Oh, Mighty Ones? You’re finally going to do it, aren’t you!?”

(Charles) “Don’t know! I’m new! I’m Charles! Or Aden Shining Dream, they’re sort of equivalent really.”

There was a moment of stunned silence.

(Voice) “I… I’m not sure if that’s better or worse. You’re… not from Zen Mu, are you?”

(Charles) “Nope! I haven’t been there yet!”

(Voice) “That is somewhat of a relief. I might survive this after all.”

(Charles) “I think everybody should survive! It’s no fun not too!… So what do you need?”

(Voice) “I am the Overseer Six Ebb – what do I need? Everything back! They took everything from me? Do you know what this place is? The place that you are currently in?”

(Charles) “Not really… But if you let me know I’ll see what I can do!

(Six Ebb) “Then… can you reshape it to a Cytherea demesne for me? You might be able to do it slowly enough to let those poor people escape before the detonation. Meat-creatures shouldn’t be up here anyway.”

(Charles) “You need one of those? Does it matter much where?”

(Six Ebb, desperately) “In here. I would prefer it in this petal-they call it the Fulgent Administrative District these days – but any place would do! I just want my secondary domain back!”

(Charles) “OK! Do you need anything else installed in it?”

(Six Ebb) “You’ll do it?” (Oh dear! He seemed to be crying!.) “Thank you so much! Just cloak it from detection as best you can…”

Meanwhile, the aerial rickshaw had landed – and Harold was looking at him oddly. People were maneuvering outside to retrieve them both – and there was a notable family resemblance with some of them: they had the same sharp face, the same red hair, and the same violet eyes…

(Charles) “Hello everyone!” (And on the link; “You’re welcome! It will be a couple of minutes though! I don’t think it should take an hour though…”

(Relative) “Hi! You must be Charles. What a night to have a guest… but Father was very insistent that you visit Harold! Let’s get you two into the Manse!”

(Six Ebb, on the link) “Just tell me where… I won’t disappoint the Mighty Ones this time!”

(Charles) “Uhm… Could I take a couple of minutes first? There’s something I have to take care of. I’ll be right back though!”

(Relative) “Oh, by the Maidens… what is it?”

Meanwhile, another relative was hustling Harold into the manse.

(Charles) “Somebody who’s really rather desperate… That needs fixing!”

(Relative) “Well, Father DID say you could handle yourself if there was an attack. Okay, but if you’re not back in two minutes, we’re sending out a rescue party!”

(Charles) “Well… OK! But I might have to go back for a few minutes if I’m not done yet!”

He swirled into a cloud of little starships which vanished to go see Mr Six Ebb – who obviously desperately needed a small dimensional pocket with at least one domain and a manse in it…

He appeared in the middle of a large mob of lesser deiphages, one of whom was wearing the standard black robes… and weeping with joy.

(Charles) “Hello! Mr Six Ebb? Where would you like to put the entrance? It’s hard to move after it’s set up!”

(Six Ebb) “You really are going to do it, then? Place a Mighty One demesne here?”

The lesser deiphages were not attacking… they were sapient at the moment, and looking on in a combination of awe and disbelief.

(Charles) “I was going to put it in a side-dimension; it makes for much less disruption and will be much easier for you to keep private. Will that work?”

(Six Ebb) “I… it would keep it safe. Why not there?”

He pointed to a nearby alleyway.

(Charles) “OK!”

He set up a quick rank-2 pocket, and used the time-cheat that it made possible UNTIL it was shaped to get it shaped, and erect a suitable manse – throwing in the multipresence function so Mr Six Ebb wouldn’t have to feed any longer!

Six Ebb headed in immediately. He… wouldn’t be leaving for a while. It… looked like his secondary domain was the demesnes of the generative Primordials in general – those whose powers concentrated on life and stability. Those were potentially still pretty damaging to Creation… but even THIS restored that domain. It wasn’t much, but he would get better over time – and would likely ask for more.

Of course, there was no reason he couldn’t have another six major and fourteen minor relevant demesnes even in the pocket. One manse for each generative Primordial? That seemed like a fairly reasonable idea, both to restore the relevant domains and to test them – but it would take hours and he had to get back. Perhaps tomorrow? As long as Mr Six Ebb was happy…

The invasion force was starting to look more and more dead-eyed – so they got cured and Charles designated a couple of the Kickaha to escort them to Earth for now…

(Minor Deity) “Wow! That was neat, kid! And now I’m no longer a deiphage. Not sure how his partner’s going to react, though!”

(Charles) “Well, that might need fixing too!”

(Minor Deity) “Not my problem anymore! Thanks!”

(Charles, absently) “There are such a lot of things to do! You’re welcome though!”

Oops! He was a couple of minutes over! He’d better get back to the reclaimed territory!

He appeared in the midst of a rescue party, fully armored and equipped with stun guns, godsbane clubs, and warding talismans.

(Relative) “Whew! We were worried sick! But if you can teleport like that… this wasn’t necessary.”

(Charles) “I made an artifact for it; the only trouble with those is that they only work within a confined pocket dimension. But that problem is fixed now!… Well, not the artifact problem, but the person who needed help.”

(Relative) “I’ll have to ask you about it when we get in.”

Charles got hustled into the Manse, along with a bunch of other children. The glowing streets were quite cold to the touch on the way in – and Essence analysis revealed that it would be a bad idea for a deiphage to touch them. Still nonlethal – but so painful that even a deiphage would not be able to think of feeding.

They really were rather cranky! The Manse in general… the theme was being a bane to deiphages. It wasn’t exactly a Fortress, but it’s lovely towering architecture was very much optimized to keeping them out.

Inside the atrium, the scene was controlled chaos. The adults were suiting up for a conflict that Charles knew was not coming (although no one was really listening to him at the moment) and the children were either dismayed (the youngest) or stolidly waiting. The territory’s resident gods were helping out as best they could – and that continued until updated scouting reports came in and there was much confusion – and relief.

(Relative) “Okay… I’m not so sure what’s going on here, but Father said you might do something like this.” (She extended her hand.) “I’m Celestina, by the way. Sorry for not introducing myself earlier, but not being eaten came first.”

(Charles, taking her hand) “And I’m Charles and it’s no fun being eaten!”

(Celestina) “Welcome to the Pinnacle of Celestial Domination Reclaimed Territory then, Charles! And the Pinnacle of Celestial Domination, which is this Manse. What did you do, anyway?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Well they were desperate and hungry and sad, and people shouldn’t be that way and it needed fixing…”

(Celestina) “Who? It had to be important if you were willing to risk the deiphages!”

(Charles) “Well, it was the deiphages! That really needs fixing!”

Celestina – and everyone in the immediate area, including Harold – went suddenly silent and simply stared for a moment.

(Celestina) “Well… let’s get you set up. You’re a guest, and of Harold’s besides… And we can talk about it further in a more intimate setting.”

She took them upstairs, with Harold following. The interior decoration was nice, if a bit spartan. There were pictures of people on the walls: perfect likenesses made with Essence and long-lasting thaumaturgic illusions – every single one a High Lord of the Bronze Faction. Evidently this was the main Jorgensen household. No wonder Harold was so discreet about his father’s identity!

(Harold, who was quite excited) “Charles, did you really make the bad gods better!?”

(Charles) “That’s the best way to fix things!”

They wound up at a small set of chambers clearly set up for a child. It was definitely Harold’s quarters: the small horde of ambrosial lion dogs gave it away.

(Celestina) “Now I understand why Father was so adamant. You’re that wonderworker he was talking about, aren’t you?”

(Charles, consideringly ) “Er… that’s really hard for me to know!”

(Celestina) “He said you could cure deiphagy. That’s wonderworking to me. The only other person I know who can do that is my sister Astrid’s husband. He said you two had met.”

(Charles) “Ah. Well yes, it’s basically a geomantic effect.”

(Celestina) “Yeah… but you can do it instantly, without a ritual. Just like him. Hrm. Father was right. This might change things considerably… But in the meantime, while Father is off doing his work . . . did you have any idea how hard it normally is to cure deiphagy?”

(Charles) “Not really! I was just in a rush the first time!”

(Celestina) “Here, let me explain…”

It seemed that, normally, the abandoned districts lashed out against attempts to cure deiphagy, or even to ward against it, with an Essence 10 effect with doubled Might. That was well beyond the power of most thaumaturges, even Exalted ones, to counteract without a ritual. For whatever reason, Charles was not affected by that doubling. Neither were certain Sidereals.

(Celestina) “Always the Chosen of Venus or Jupiter for some reason…”

(Charles) “Hm. That would be hard to deal with!”

(Celestina) “And the worst part of it is, these Sidereals only started showing the talent seven thousand years ago. It’s not a big recruitment pool. The only thing we have in our favor is that the talent crosses incarnations.”

(Charles) “Hm. Have to work on a larger scale then!”

(Celestina) “Yes… and unlike our… protectors, you’re not constrained by the Bureau. Father wanted to discuss what he wanted to do with you. He got called off on a mission, though.”

(Charles) “I’m sorry about that!”

(Celestina) “It happens – although this was a case of bad timing. Thanks for helping us out, though. Overseer sieges are never easy to end.”

(Charles) “You’re welcome!”

(Celestina) “Anyhow… Father said you were free to have fun with Harold and his brothers until he came back. I guess you could try to find him – you might even survive whatever they’re putting him up against! – but he’s always been mum on where he’s going.”

(Charles) “I probably shouldn’t try; that kind of thing is almost always private business!”

(Celestina) “Smart boy. Well, I’ll leave you two to play, then.”

She did, although Charles was almost certain that he was being monitored. Not that that was anything at all unusual by now…

There were fun and relaxing games at the slumber party!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CIII – Multiplying And Dividing Factions

An artist's conception of 79 Ceti b (min mass ...

Wait, you went WHERE for lunch?!?!

Deep in their shielded headquarters, behind layer after layer of protective wards and artifacts and spells and charms, the Faction Councils of the Sidereals were discussing what just might be the worst-kept secret in the universe – the Celestial Exalted.

The fact that young Charles had apparently doubled their number by accident while experimenting with gates to alternate creations was arguably more secret – but almost everyone in Yu-Shan with any interest was already aware of that too. The habits of centuries were hard to overcome though.

Secrecy it was.

The “surely no one will mind if I turn the universe upside down as long as I make sure that they know that it was an accident!” attitude was disturbing! Having their numbers doubled up would be incredibly useful – at least once the newbies were trained – but another creation could contain pretty much anything imaginable and quite a few things that weren’t! Yes, Charles had said that he was laying off for the moment, but that would be so useful in so MANY ways…

On the other hand, while trying to take that resource away from a primordial – or was at least the blatant equivalent of one – was not an attractive option, there really didn’t seem to be any need to try; the boy was more than willing to help with almost anything! That made him – and it – a prime resource to exploit – and that exploitation had to be planned for carefully.

On the other hand… it might well just be a matter of who could speak with him first! Their information on him… all said that he’d give EVERYONE what they wanted if he could! They had to get to him before their factional rivals could…

Preferably, through secret and subtle manipulations that the boy would never even realize were happening! However hard that was to combine with high speed and the child’s tendencies towards honesty!

With their elders currently tied in knots by THAT little paradox several very VERY junior faction members took it up on themselves to simply call.

Mr Montague was first – albeit not by much – followed by Almata Sandovar (of the Silver Faction) and young Harold (Charles’s half-caste Sidereal friend from school).

Fortunately, while being in multiple locations at once while outside of Aden was proving mildly awkward, being in multiple locations at once inside Aden was a lot easier – and that let him talk to several people at once.

Mr. Montague was somewhere that was… definitely not on Earth, although he had taken steps to hide that on his end. Still, the illusion was easy enough to pierce – revealing a gas giant close in the background.

(Mr. Montague) “Hello Charles! It’s been a while. Got a moment?”

(Charles) “Sure!”

Anything for a diversion from considering the will-one kids!

(Mr. Montague) “Sifu Blossom wanted to talk to you again. So do some of my other sifus. We were going to arrange a meeting in Yu-Shan, but since they were having a meeting on – well, you can see where I am, right?”

(Charles) “Ur… near a gas giant? There are lots of those though!”

(Mr. Montague) “I was going to give directions if you accepted.”

Charles was glad to agree – and Mr Montague cheerily provided a set of interstellar coordinates, most appropriate for use with Mirror-Shattering Method, but easily enough applied to Charles’s methods of travel.

(Mr. Montague) “Sure you have the time for this… or do you have something under your hat?”

(Charles) “Oh, there are a couple of ways to do gates!”

That was one of the opportunities that Mr. Montague had been waiting for… This time he had plenty of analytical equipment available.

(Mr. Montague) “Well! I’ve got to see this. Mind demonstrating?”

Charles… usually used a Wyld Stunt if he was in a hurry. If he had a minute he could retarget a manse gate – first from Aden and then to where he wanted to go – or he could just build a manse with one in it. The easiest way was, of course, to have his quasi-Raksha do a pair of coupled Wyld gates – one to where he was and one to where he wanted to be – but anyone could block him from arriving that way with any kind of anti-wyld effect or by spending a point of willpower.

He went with the retargeted manse gate: it was slower, but more reliable.

Mr. Montague went with every kind of analysis he could think of – and found (as was almost always true with Charles) incredibly skilled thaumaturgy, which was being used to provide fine control for geomancy – in this case rerouting an interstellar manse gate, although tracing the gate went… outside of fate. MOST impressive – and it did explain some things.

Mr. Montague was in a cramped, but nice, hotel room. The aesthetic was definitely not Earthly though; from the lack of color it looked like whoever had decorated it was either over or under sensitive to it. From the view of the gas giant out the window… probably a moonlet.

A quick probe showed it to be… indeed a moonlet, barren and with no atmosphere. The window was protected by a thaumaturgic ward; evidently the owners saw no sense in taking chances when one puncture could cause the air to leak!

(Charles, absently) “Huh… Why a barren place? Those are no fun at all!”

(Mr. Montague) “Wow, that’s fast! I’m honestly jealous… and it was best for everyone to get here! Besides… in a few hours, we’ll be able to see the big storm on Mannix. Until then, I’ve got to take you to the meeting. One moment while I put on my disguise.”

(Charles) “Being barren makes it easier?”

(Mr. Montague) “I’d rather not get into it, but there was an argument over meeting places. Mannix 9 has some of the best security in this part of space-and Sifu had an assignment here.”

Charles was feeling out the local geomancy… the place was less than a hundred miles across… It still had SOME potential, but not enough for more than one waypoints worth of demesnes, if that… There was a minor (frozen, in pretty arches and spirals) rank-1 air demesne about fifty miles off and a minor artifact boosting the local gravity enough to make things comfortable. The local geomancy was especially weak because most of the interior was liquid water – not enough structure there to generate much essence!

Charles… had an impulse to wrap the place up in an air-retaining ward, do some terraforming, upgrade the demesne, anchor the ward to it, and make it a nice place to be… but refrained for the moment. Besides, that demesne WAS awfully weak; the place was big enough to generate a little more power than that even WITH the liquid interior. Too much essence draining into those weak interplanetary and interstellar dragon lines perhaps? But he hadn’t been having that problem with the new planets…

Ah; the drain hit moons, moonlets and asteroids pretty hard, since most of their links went into space. Sort of a critical mass situation. Big planets, like Earth, had enough dragon lines to allow feedback and internal circulation. This place… not so much and the liquid mass didn’t help a bit. Oh well! To the meeting!

Mr. Montague promptly used a bit of illusion to adopt some alien features – so Charles did as well (a greenish skin tone and Mr Spock ears); he didn’t want to upset people – and, judging from Mr. Montague, funny ears and a change in skin tone would suffice.

He spotted several aliens as they head over: four-armed and eyed-golden beings much like the Bronze Faction Chosen of Journeys he met before, a scaled species with catlike features, and a fishy creature in a life support suit. That was neat!

Mr. Montague groaned a bit internally. Was it some sort of magical compulsion? You could always tell a first time spacer from earth; they ALWAYS went for the “Spock” look at some point! OK, so there really were plenty of “aliens” who were that close to the human norm – but it was still kind of disappointing when none of them turned out to be especially alien.

The security at the conference room was indeed excellent; while it didn’t approach the level of Yu-Shan, it was obvious that thaumaturgy was in MUCH more common use outside of Earth.

The meeting was in a conference room tucked away near the hotel-space station’s center… The room was understated, but elegant. Inside were Blossom of Blissful Dreams, an older, lithe man in violet, and a younger-looking woman with red eyes and a designer suit – and Mr. Montague dropped his disguise.

Well, that had hardly been worth bothering with a disguise in the first place!

Charles dropped his, and cheerily waved hello!

(Blossom) “It’s good to see you again, Charles!”

(Charles) “And nice to see you too! Do you need something?”

(Blossom) “Well… we won’t waste your time.”

There were introductions. The man in violet was Shadows of the Coming Dawn (Hmm! Wasn’t that Demien’s sifu?). The woman was Sorina Chisaru, Chosen of Battles, who was training Rachel before all that trouble with Deva Cutter.

(Blossom) “I wanted to ask you about two things today. First, the number of Sidereals doubled recently, and I heard you were responsible. (She shook her head.) And this was an accident?”

(Charles) “Well, yes… I was experimenting with alternate-creation gates, and a batch were still hanging around in the nearly-destroyed creation I was looking at! I really wasn’t expecting that; I would have thought that they would have wandered off into infinity long ago even if the destruction of the sponsoring Incarnae hadn’t rendered them vulnerable to millennia hanging suspended in the deep wyld. So I’ve been mostly leaving alternate creations alone for the moment; adding features to our universe at random can really complicate things!”

There were some SERIOUSLY forced smiles. The child was… being awfully blithe about such things!

(Shadows) “That is good. We have experienced… complications with the new Exalts. Since you were the one who released them into our Creation, we thought you would be the best one to ask.”

(Chisaru, rubbing her left temple) “On that note… what was this place like? If there are any threats that could come through, we need to know.”

(Charles) “Oh, it was a version of Creation that fell to the Balorean Crusade; the Dragon Kings had been warned of an oncoming disaster – the Great Contagion – by a Deathlord who felt that he or she owed them some old debt and had created a pocket dimension and retired to it. Without them contributing to the defense, the Wyld onslaught had come too far before the Scarlet Empress tried to use the defense grid; it detonated and destroyed the elemental pole of earth instead of destroying the Raksha. Balor forced the gates of Yu-Shan, the geomantic collapse and the loss of creation destroyed the Incarnae, and – in the end – all that was left was a few little pockets in Elsewhere that even the Raksha couldn’t care less about. I was looking for Dragon Kings at the time, but opening a gate there and letting a few people stay there apparently attracted the Exaltations – and when I opened the gate again, they all came through! There’s nothing much else besides the Dragon Kings left there though, so that shouldn’t be a problem!”

(Chisaru) “I see. So, according to you, the worst already happened. Any way you could help us send a team there, to investigate? It would be instructional in case the Deathlords try to do that to a portion of our universe.”

Hmm. And a strong possibility for where Rachel was when she was out of dimension. She’d have to ask about that some time… the girl was a capable fighter.

(Charles) “Well, it is the Dragon Kings realm, and they don’t like Sidereal Exalts or the Dragon-Blooded too much… They kind of think that they share some of the blame for the destruction of their universe. Humans and God Bloods and Lunars and so on are just fine though!”

(Shadows) “We might have to send in a squad of near-mortals, then. It will take some time to arrange the expedition, but if you are willing to open a gate, we will let you know when it is ready.”

(Charles) “OK! I’ll check with the Dragon Kings; it IS their universe now after all!”

The Sidereals sighed, almost in unison. That wasn’t as discreet as they would like to be, but it wasn’t a particularly big restriction to impose on access to another universe and whatever else it might contain. After all, if the exaltations had survived, presumably many other indestructible items had as well…

(Shadows) “Very well then. Now, about those complications. Our new comrades have caused a bit of a mixup in the filing system.”

(Charles) “Well… they weren’t really supposed to be here I suppose!”

Apparently the Sidereals actually numbered their Exaltations and those of the Solars: 1-20 for the Journeys, 21-40 for Serenity, and so on. Solars went by sets of 60, of course – and considering that most of them were no longer Solars at the moment, the numbering was not currently continuous. Lunar castes were too mercurial for anything but a numeric designation – and they didn’t know if the Nocturnals could be numbered yet, so they’d been going by which Sidereal was bonded with them – and that was actually where the problem was.

(Shadows) “This part of the issue is not major, but it is bothersome. Take young Mr. Montague’s partner Vaal, for instance. He has a metaphysical tie to the boy, and the boy to him. The trouble is that there is also an Exalt from your batch of Sidereals with a tie to him – and she is a Harbinger, like myself.”

(Charles) “Oh dear! there may be interactive energy flows!”

(Montague) “If I may speak, Sifu.” (They nodded) “Sometimes I hear that Sidereal’s thoughts through him. Nothing too bad so far – she’s in academy, how could there be? – but it is annoying. Do you have any ideas on what that might be Charles? I’m wondering if he’s developing a Charm somehow, but if he is, he needs to work on it some more!”

(Charles) “Hm. I suspect that that’s just a poorly-controlled communications link… I suppose I could try making something!”

He whipped up a selection of “Rings of Mental Privacy” – very minor artifacts, only meant to help keep surface thoughts from leaking over links when you didn’t mean for them to leak – using several different approaches so that Mr. Montague could see which one worked best!

Mr. Montague – who had gone to refill the Sifu’s coffee (they’d brought their own from Yu-Shan) appreciated that! While it was nice to get an occasional review of the stuff he learned in the academy, it really was annoying otherwise. He’d definitely let Charles know if they worked or not; he loved testing out new artifacts!

(Shadows) “We must monitor our peers and the new Exalts for more interactions. The issues have been interactions like Mr. Montague’s so far, but Essence is nothing if not unpredictable.”

(Charles) “Well, I hope that it’s nothing major!”

(Blossom) “I suppose we will see! I certainly hope not – it’s… comforting to have those bonds. And that ties into my second request! How would you feel about helping us nurture people like Rachel and Aikiko?”

(Charles) “There’s nothing at all wrong with that! People need taking care of! At least sometimes…”

(Chisaru) “Heh. If I’m reading you take on it correctly, you want them to be strong, like I do. Since you were so helpful with Rachel’s foulup… we were wondering if you’d be willing to keep them in Aden. This would require that you let us set up training facilities there-but from what I know of its properties, training injuries would be nonexistent. If not… we can work something out, I’m sure.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well, I can certainly set up a training facility! It will take a little expanding over the ones that are already there for higher-level stuff, but that’s pretty easy… And they can spar with the Kickhaha a bit; they tend to like a bit of rough-and-tumble!”

(Blossom) “Would you also be willing to let them use the entryways to Yu-Shan? It would be easier on the instructors, and make networking with gods more discreet. We would have restrictions, of course, but that is a necessity.”

(Charles) “Well, I can set them up with a few private ones if that will help!”

(Blossom blinked, then smiled) “Wonderful!”

Wow. That was an awful lot of help, in exchange for… well, nothing much. Sure, it got him counted as an ally and a resource… but he could have gotten himself considered invaluable with a lot less work than THAT. His obliging nature was at LEAST as strong as she’d heard… Still, they didn’t want to push things TOO far.

(Blossom) “Now if we cloaked this from our colleagues with reservations, would that bother you?”

(Charles) “Well, lots of people want to keep some things private; as long as it’s not hurting anyone there’s nothing wrong with that!”

(Shadows, looking vaguely guilty) “I’m glad to hear that. In any case, we must watch over the Solars. I would rather not risk any more like Miss Aikiko, Miss Reku, or Master Windhiam were.”

The Arnmalassaris incident… and the resulting Cauldron-Born – was still not clearly understood – but if there was one thing they surely did not need, it was more wyld-warped Exalted!

(Chisaru) “We’ll work on means of stopping that, sir. After all, if we have them in one place, we can give them countermeasures.”

Chisaru carefully didn’t say it, but it was hard to think of an effective countermeasure against foolhardiness though. Although… on reconsideration… it was a lot easier to see how Charles had survived Arnmalassaris! A “mortal thaumaturgist” indeed! The boy was just so… amiable that he somehow managed to never have to USE those incredible resources for anything but giving stuff away! If he hadn’t fallen asleep in front of someone – and gotten probed – they might STILL think he was just a god-blood!

(Charles, with concern) “Did something happen to Aikiko? Last I heard she was doing just fine!”

(Shadows) “Well, we lost contact with her since Rachel attacked that Jorgensen woman. Our field agents have been attempting to contact her, but… she is a Night Caste, and living up to the name. I would track her down myself, but my schedule barely allowed this meeting, much less chasing a Solar.”

(Charles) “Hm! She’s been around several times… I think she’s on some sort of mission!”

(Chisaru) “Let her know we want to talk the next time you see her. We aren’t mad about it. Hell, from some of the reports, she may well have saved us from a political incident.”

After all… the girl had stopped Rachel from finishing Astrid off, even if she had been in disguise at the time!

(Charles) “OK! Hm. That reminds me… I never did find out if there were any more booby-trapped artifacts floating around!”

(Shadows) “I had heard of a few at my division. It would take some favors, but I could provide you access. It is most worrying!”

(Charles) “Oh. Well, I could certainly try to analyze them… I’m not sure that there’s any good general process for finding them though!”

(Chisaru) “Scouring the abandoned regions and slums with mortal agents, mostly. That seems to be where most of them are.”

(Charles, with some surprise) “Just left lying around for people to find? That’s… weird. An awful lot of them could wind up in the possession of people who couldn’t even use them, or didn’t know that they were important that way.”

(Chisaru) “Yeah, I know. I’m not sure why someone would do that at random. I’ve got my people on it, but they haven’t been lucky enough to find someone actually dropping the blasted things!”

(Charles) “Huh! I will have to think about a way to look into it!”

(Chisaru, throwing her hands up in exasperation.) “And while we DO have your analysis – the Bronzers gave that up handily – whoever’s doing it is good at covering their tracks. If you could help us, I’d appreciate it.”

(Charles) “I’ll try!”

(Blossom) “Well, now that we’ve gotten our answers (and gotten even more help than anticipated!), is there anything you need from us?”

It was hard to imagine him really needing anything, but just in case – and favors were standard Celestial practice.

(Charles) “Uhm… There was something I noticed… Was anyone being sick? That’s not really supposed to happen to Exalts, but I saw some signs of that even before the new Exaltations arrived.”

(Blossom) “How so? It’s true that we don’t get sick, but we certainly feel stress.”

(Chisaru, with some startlement… what they could do for him was… provide more problems? Presumably to fix?) “Yeah… hits the youngest of us the hardest. Speaking of that, how have your hands been, Sasa?”

(Mr. Montague, blushing) “Uh… not too bad lately!”

(Chisaru) “Uh huh. I hope not – I was thinking of microgravity training while you were between missions.”

(Charles) “Only stress? Well, maybe something can be done to reduce that.”

(Chisaru) “I gave him some of my aspirin, but even the Celestial stuff doesn’t seem to help.”

(Charles, speculatively) “I think it needs to be more fundamental!”

(Mr. Montague) “With all due respect, Sifu, I’m fine! I’m sure once all the Exaltations are settled in, it will stop.”

The elder Sidereals – guessing at just how likely THAT was – just looked at each other. Even Charles could pick up on the attitude!

(Blossom) “We’re just concerned. That isn’t supposed to happen – and in any case, that’s a bad thing for an artificer. I’m sure Charles would agree.”

(Charles) “Definitely! It will need fixing! (Sadly) So many things do…”

(Shadows) “I agree…” (To Blossom) “Is that all you wanted to ask him, my dear? We have gone long enough already, and destiny will not wait for us.”

(Blossom) “I believe so! It was good to speak with you again, Charles. Unless you have another accident, I believe we will next meet in Aden, when the training facilities are ready.”

(Charles) “OK! It shouldn’t take very long!”

(Chisaru) “Well, let us know. It’ll take us time to recruit instructors, but we know you’ll have the facilities up in no time.”

(Charles) “OK!”

The elders departed for the mission, leaving Mr. Montague…

(Montague) “Well, I guess it’s time for me to try out Mirror-Shattering Method. Er, unless you wanted to take me back with you.”

(Charles) “Well, I can jump you wherever you need to go! And it’s quicker!”

(Mr. Montague) “You’re too nice, Charles! Thanks! I can get another mission in faster… Maybe see Vaal and the wife too.”

(Charles) “Well why not? I think you need to relax more!”

Mr. Montague slapped Charles on the back – although not too hard; he looked so fragile that it was hard to remember that he was probably ANYTHING but.

The Orrery was quite busy these days – it gave out a lot more than the Quintessence fountain dole, to be sure – but Charles had a LOT of places to check on now and there were more people wanting to talk to him. Almata Sandovar (of the Silver Faction)… was actually already there. It WAS known as Charles’s residence after all.

(Charles) “Oh, hello!”

(Almata) “Good day, Charles. And hello Mr. Montague! Surprising to see one such as yourself outside the high-end districts; business with young Charles, I assume.”

(Montague) “Just visiting! See you later, ma’am!”

Mr Montague got out rather hurriedly – before the Chosen of Secrets attempted to pick his brain.

(Almata) “Charles, were you planning any trips to space soon?”

(Charles) “At least one! I have to visit the far end of the universe!”

(Almata) “I see… you seemed like a smart boy the last time we spoke, so I’m sure you’re preparing quite well.”

(Charles) “I hope so!”

(Almata) “Could you tell me what you are doing?”

(Charles) “I was picking up something for Gaia!”

Almata seemed quite legitimately surprised at THAT. That certainly wasn’t the “normal” sort of mission!

(Almata) “Let’s see what you’re packing on your craft, then. That sounds dangerous!”

(Charles) “Uhm… Well mostly I was taking me along, and the Tsunami, because she hasn’t gotten out much…”

(Almata) “And other cargo?”

(Chrles) “Well, as long as I’m there everybody is really.”

(Almata) “Hmm… of course, the world-body. In that case… I would have the factories in there produce a good deal of salt, holy water, and the like. I understand your security is good, but just in case.”

(Charles) “Ok!”

(Almata) “And if you see any black ships heading your way, and they’re not hailing you, you need to run. I can provide a list of some good places to hide near the border of Creation, if you like…”

Letting the Abyssals get their hands on Charles… would be a potential disaster!

(Charles) “Why not? The people in those ships usually aren’t at all nice!”

Almata provided the list… several asteroid boltholes run by the Bureau of Destiny, a few Lunar demesne-outposts, and one alien world close to the Empirical Galaxy.

(Almata) “Then you have some idea of the threat. That was more than I expected, to be honest. Have you had run-ins with them before?”

(Charles, very sadly) “Once!”

(Almata) “I see… I won’t pry. They can be quite vicious. Be careful out there. My associates and I are curious to see how this turns out.”

(Charles) “Well, nicely I hope!”

(Almata, nodding) “As do I… now what are you doing here? It appears that you are trying to beat the Bronze at their own game.”

(Charles) “A test really! But it seems the abandoned districts and deiphages are more complicated than a simple economic failure!”

(Almata) “Really now? Well, gods normally don’t eat their own without some provocation. I’ve always been curious about why that was. In academy, they said it was due to domain loss, but I’ve never believed it was that simple.”

(Charles) “It’s related to the geomantic conflict! The changes that were made to allow normal gods to operate comfortably here conflict withthe original geomancy – and the deep levels of that are indestructibly built into the foundations of Yu-Shan; Domain loss simply opens a god up to that conflict for some reason – perhaps an early precaution against gods with no business here hanging around in Yu-Shan. That needs fixing too!”

(Almata raised an eyebrow at that.) “Er… be careful who you tell that to. Say that to the wrong gods and you could be in trouble.”

(Charles) “Oh, it wouldn’t be much of a fix if it didn’t work for EVERYBODY!”

(Almata) “Such things are found in the Record of First Days. Not even we Oracles are allowed to read that without clearance. Still, good luck with that. The approval process would be MURDER.”

(Charles) “Oh well! Most things can just be figured out if you look at them closely enough!”

(Almata) “And then you’d have to organize the work crews unless you had some trick. You DO have one right? (She smiled) “Goodness knows we could use the fix. It would make everyone’s life much easier.”

(Charles) “Oh lots!”

(Almata) “Well, I hope your journey goes as you plan… and that nobody interferes with this. We could use more independent charity efforts around here. As for me, I have some business with a coworker. I will see you later-and let me know when you start that fix.”

(Charles) “I will!”

Almata departed – although she looked back with some concern before she got into her aerial rickshaw though – but that passed, and she left. Vast power, innocence, helpfulness, more information than he had any right to have, and a tendency to meddle. Concern… was justified – but it could have been much worse! The boy was pretty responsible at least!

Having to hold back on some of her information… was regrettable, but it just wasn’t the time – and her job (sadly) did require that she keep a good deal back.

Charles knew that much, and considered it quite all right. After all, No one EVER told him everything – which just meant that he had to talk to lots of people and assemble bits!

The Reiskaer: An Exalted Enterprise

20110511 Flying Saucer Armada

They are coming!

With the energies of the Elemental Pole of Earth spread over a radius of fifty million light years, the Jadeborn have a hard time locating their deceased brethren – who may be anywhere within that radius – to once more release them from their stony slumbers.

Of course, the Jadeborn’s answer to any difficulty is always the same; “build more”. Today the Great Search has been underway for more than thirty thousand years, it’s fleet is vast, and it’s base “ships” – the flying cities called Reiskaer – are quite impressive indeed, capable of transporting millions, colonizing worlds, enabling interventions on a tremendous scale, continuous operation across millennia, and supporting hundreds of lesser ships. They’re crewed by Earthfolk (the “Grays”), Humans, Jadespawn (and other godbloods) – and usually only captained and regulated by a small group of actual Jadeborn. Their limited population is spread fairly thin. In it’s true (and rarely-seen) form a Reiskaer is a ten mile across hemisphere of stone, supporting the towers, parks, and waterways of a gleaming arcology-city, bordered by an eternally-spinning ring of jade and steel, and wrapped about by a an atmospheric seal of magic and warped space. In some ways, the classic “flying saucer”.

As observed from the outside, the Reiskaer may take a wide variety of forms – but they are always mighty ships of space.

Fortunately, however, the Reiskaer need not be built as artifacts. They’re actually built around rank-5 Lunar Manses, and they solve the problem of separating a manse from it’s demesne by simply… taking the demesne along.

Creation Points: 10 (Rank) +5 (No useful Hearthstone) +9 (Boosting Artifacts) +4 (Maintenance 4) = 28.

  • Extended Zone of Influence (4): At rank five the powers of a Reiskaer Central Manse cover a five-mile radius – almost eighty square miles and far more than enough room for a substantial city.
  • Advanced Magical Conveniences (2): The manse provides modern water and sanitation services, power and lighting, a normal-gravity environment, computer services, and communications throughout it’s zone of influence.
  • Comfort Zone x2 (2): The environment within the Zone of Influence is always livable – with clean fresh air, comfortable temperatures, and related benefits. Thanks to the Metric Isolation power (below) even without magic the conditions within a Reiskaer are pretty much unaffected by conditions in the greater universe.
  • Central Control (2): The manse’s central control room offers control of the primary manse’s functions, as well as (thanks to the Harmonic Convergence power, below) control over those of any associated manses.
  • Integrated Utility Artifacts (3): These complex control consoles each provide their operators with +10 successes on a particular Thaumaturgic Art or Science – but are quite immobile, occasionally zap their user’s with energy feedback, and require considerable expertise to get the best results from – problems which, reduce them to one-dot artifacts. The standard selection includes:
    • Alchemy (synthesizers).
    • Detection (sensors).
    • Energetics (the weapons console and array; attacks are often referred to as “phasers” since they phase through the metric distortions surrounding the ship without difficulty – although massive blasts of explosive electromagnetic energy are also known as “photon torpedoes”).
    • Healing (sickbay).
    • Illusion (the holodeck, displays, and various deceptions).
    • Technomancy (the engineering room).
    • Telekinesis (“impulse”drive and tractor/presser beams).
    • Telepathy (communicators, universal translator, and hailing frequencies).
    • Travel (the “warp drive” and “transporter”).
    • Warding (shields and the brig).
  • Wyld Revocation. Thanks to these being lunar-aspected manses, the cost of Wyld Revocation is a mere three points – and it’s used several times to provide…
    • Wyld Spaces (3): Further incidences of Wyld Revocation can be purchased at half cost, rounded down.
    • Geomantic Bounding (1): The manses energies are turned back on itself, making it independent of external geomancy beyond it’s own boundaries.
    • Metric Isolation (1): The area within the Manses Extened Zone of Influence is warped into a private pocket realm, much like a Freehold (and, like a freehold, tends to appear to outside observers as some acceptable sort of feature – a ship or planetoid or some such). Unlike a freehold, the area is only loosely anchored within space; and may be relatively easily moved around without respect for inertia by any form of internal drive – including thaumaturgy (although it usually takes at least a dozen thaumaturgists or some artifacts even with this effect running; Reiskaer are BIG even with the Spatial Scaling effect below).
    • Spatial Scaling (1): Thaumaturgy worked within the area uses space scales rather than measurements suitable for a planetary surface. Thus “drive” effects will allow the Reiskaer to far exceed the speed of light, short-range apportion will allow groups of people and stockpiles of supplies to be transported to and from any convenient planet, communications magic operates over many light seconds, and magical attacks can be launched at incredible range. Sadly, there’s a slight problem with this near Earth; while the rest of the cosmos was shaped out of a rather limited amount of space, the geometry near Earth is a lot more stable. Thus the unfortunate need to land to try to retrieve Jadeborn entrapped on earth.
    • Harmonic Convergence (1): The powers of any secondary manses constructed within the manse’s Zone of Influence will ALSO extend throughout the zone – and can be controlled through the central manses control room. Unfortunately, this is limited by the usual limits on demesnes (no more than ten levels of demesnes within any single “waypoint” sized area, and no more than one of them may be of rank-4 or above).
  • Factory-Cathedral (5): Yes, they generally are – with most of the facilities located underground, in the main structure of the supporting disk. The manufacturing capacity of the Jadeborn is quite immense – far, FAR, more than it was in Creation Classic.
  • Network Node and Geomantic Nexus (2): Not only are the Reiskaer equipped with geomantic communications links, but they can be powered with the vast geomantic energies of the far-flung Jadeborn Empire… A Reiskaer that’s under serious attack can usually pull up near-limitless reinforcements through gates, erect massive energy barriers, power up arrays of essence weaponry, erect citywide perfect defenses against pretty much every keyword, and infuse it’s structure with enough essence to render it quite indestructible. They’d be vulnerable to a mass attack – since even the Empire doesn’t have the geomantic reserves to reinforce more than a few Reiskaer that way at once – or to sabotage aimed at their planetary bases and manses – but few entities or groups can seriously threaten a Reiskaer through direct assault.

A “Standard” Reiskaer will be equipped with two support manses of it’s own:

  • Wood Manse-3 (Creation Points: 6 Rank +3 Hearthstone +4 Maintenance +3 Artifacts) = 16. Spent on Life-Sustaining (2), Advanced Provider (3), Advanced Archives (a so-called “Thought Depository”, 3), Archiv
    es (2), a Master’s Workshop (specialized in artifact vehicle maintenance, 2), Network Node (1), and Geomantic Relays (3).
  • Earth Manse-2 (Creation Points 4 rank +2 Hearthstone +4 Maintenance +3 Artifacts) = 13 points. Immutable (2), Masters Workshop (2), Geomantic Subtlety (2), Magical Conveniences (these vary with the individual Reiskaer, 1), Jadeborn Soul Anchor (Earth Favored, 2. This power will – provided there are sufficient massed of Jade aboard – pull in the spirit of any Jadeborn who dies within the Zone of Influence to await rebirth), Well-Favored Aspect (the Jadeborn, 1), Network Node (1), and Geomantic Relays (2).

The geomantic energy points from those are most often used to add life-sustaining to the primary lunar manse – giving everyone in the area of influence near-immortality. Of course, in a serious emergency, they can easily be switched to something else.

Feat Research in d20

A Very Complex Sandwich

Yes, you can have “expert sandwich maker” for free. Who cares?

Today, it’s another question…

Have you ever thought about rules for researching feats? There are feats that should not be researched, such as background and many racial, but then there are those that should, including metamagic, fighter bonus feats and (for kicks) spelltouched. The first two would go a long way in customizing characters in a regular (i.e. non Eclipse) game.

-Derek

That’s potentially awkward. Spell Research at least has some guidelines and a pile of well-established spells – many of them tested across multiple editions – for comparison. Feats… not so much. Even the official d20 feats range from the useless to the ludicrous. There are feats that do virtually nothing on one end, like Toughness, on through feats like Spellfire – or the one that can let you base your per-die hit point bonus on Int instead of Con if you spend some time engaging in a little whoopy each day with someone. (Yes, sex IS good for your health, but can it really give you an extra couple of hundred hit points for the day? Even at level twenty?)

Other things have been turned into feats that really… make no sense. At it’s most basic, a Feat really should have something to do with your personal abilities. Feats like “Dragon Friend” or “Ennobled”… just don’t. If you’ve managed to befriend a dragon, or acquire a title, you shouldn’t need a feat slot for it – and if you haven’t and want to, it really ought to involve actually doing something more than having a few encounters, going up a level, and taking “Dragon Friend” as your new feat.

Still other Feats focus on developing innate racial abilities or other preexisting talents. Naturally enough, researching these only makes sense for characters who actually have the prerequisite talents already unless they’re also researching some major mystical ritual to change themselves to have those abilities.

On the other hand… while feats COULD all be gifts from the gods or some such they really don’t look like it. Presumably someone, somewhere, somehow developed whatever feats are already in the game.

All right then. To research a feat, the first thing you need to do is write it up. If you want some guidelines on that use Eclipse and just come up with something worth about 6 CP. Otherwise just go for it. After all, pretty much the worst that can happen is that your game master will say no.

Very Simple Feats – the ones that just give you minor bonuses – don’t require any research. If you want to learn to run better, or to be better at a particular skill, or learn to wear armor, or something similar… you just practice. Sure, you can get into the details of endurance training for running or some such – but this is d20, where you can learn to breathe fire from your nose with a little training. Mastering marathon running – even if there are a few tricks to it – just doesn’t compare.

Ergo, if you want to learn Rapid Shot, Power Attack, Skill Focus, Iron Will, Run, or some other simple “gives me a bonus due to intensive practice” feat, you just do so. If your game master doesn’t want to allow your twenty-year veteran of the seas a feat like “Expert Sailor”… well, ask them why not.

Expert Sailor” (as built in Eclipse): Augmented Bonus/Adds +3 Skill Specialities in Survival Checks (that have to do with the Sea), Knowledge: Nature (the sea and it’s creatures), Balance (aboard ship), Craft (ship and sail repair), Climb (in the rigging), Swim (remaining afloat), Use Rope (aboard ship), Knowledge/Local (bars and other recreational facilities in port cities), and Spot (upcoming islands, ships, or bad weather at sea). Corrupted/the character is readily recognizable as a master sailor, must have spent many years as a sailor, is well known in ports, and the GM is free to consider them drunk whenever they’re in port and it would be convenient… Nine specialities at one character point each, corrupted for two-thirds cost or a total of 6 CP – the standard cost of a Feat.

And yes, that DOES provide a lot of bonuses, and may well be quite worthwhile for a sailor – but “I am an expert seafarer” is not exactly going to break the game and it’s pretty obviously only a matter of practice.

That still leaves an wide range of feats that will require research though. I’ll call them Simple, Complex, and Very Complex feats. Sadly, this is going to be a judgement call – but there’s really no way around that.

Simple Feats include things like Cleave, Combat Expertise, Martial Weapon Proficiencies, Mobility, Scribe Scroll, Spell Penetration, and Improved Bull Rush. The stuff that makes you say “!@# but he’s good!” – but which (and this may be the best available guide!) wouldn’t make you bat an eye if it came up in an action movie.

Complex Feats include things like Blind Fight, Exotic Weapon Proficiencies, Snatch Arrows, Improved Precise Shot, and Finesse – the stuff that makes you say “and just how in the world is THAT supposed to work?”

Very Complex Feats include Item Creation, High Ritual Magic, Eclipse-style Metamagical Theorems, Leadership, instant skill use, and anything else that simply pushes beyond the bounds of the normally-possible to add entirely new capabilities to a character.

As for the actual research… Well, there’s really only one research system in the game now, so we might as well use it. Ergo, researching a feat is a lot like researching a spell.

  • Simple Feats are researched like third level spells, Complex Feats like sixth level spells, and Very Complex Feats like ninth level spells.
  • Apply a -1 “spell level” modifier if the researcher has seen the feat in action or had it at least briefly explained by someone who has it or by some other in-game source, if it’s derived from a widely-available feat, if the researcher is part of a team or has competent assistants available, and so on. If several of these factors apply, the modifier increases to “-2″.
  • In place of Spellcraft use whatever skill or ability fits the feat. BAB will work for most combat feats, Caster Level for metamagics, Listen for a feat that builds on blind-fighting to eliminate attackers flanking bonuses, and so on. If you’re using the more elaborate spell research rules from The Practical Enchanter, you’ll have to consider what equates to a library and a laboratory – a practical dojo? Hiring a bunch of people with similar skills as consultants? – but that’s not really much of an obstacle.

Eclipse d20 Superheroes – Wildfire

 

English: Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) portrait a...

So I like these guys…

Today it’s a sample character for an anthropomorphic low-grade superhero setting. In this particular setting “Supers”…

 

  • Start off at level three – instead of being stuck at levels 0 or 1 like most of the population.
  • Get an attribute array of 10, 12, 14, 14, 16, 18 and may buy up their attributes for half price.
  • Get an extra bonus feat at level one.
  • Are presumed to have a 20-HP “unconsciousness buffer” (normals get a 10-HP buffer) and so don’t actually start dying until -21 HP.
  • Must be Anthropomorphic Animals – although they may spend some of their level one point allotments to buy down the cost of their race if they wish and do get the price break on any attribute enhancements in the package.
  • The Superheroic “Free Mana” rule is not in effect – so most heroes have either relatively minor or easily-exhausted powers.
  • Magic Items and Relics do not exist. Characters are presumed to have appropriate equipment to go with their skills however – including weapons if they’re skilled with them and light kevlar armor if they want it.
  • Characters may start off with no more than 6 CP worth of Innate Enchantments, although the limit increases to 12, 18, and 24 CP at levels 4, 8, and 12.

Of course, when most of the people in the world are permanently stuck at level zero or one, a level three superhero is pretty formidable.

 

“Wildfire” is an adolescent Cheetah-Morph “mutant” (fortunately for him, a superhero-style mutant rather than one that makes biological sense) who’s powers are still emerging. At the moment he has a boosted metabolism and minor flame-projection powers – but those abilities can reasonably be expected to become more formidable as he matures. Like so many adolescent males he’s a lot like the Homeric Greeks – excitable, touchily honorable, fiercely loyal to his friends (even if he changes them often), and rather impressed by, and torn between, both impulsive heroism and cunning trickery. At the moment… he could still go either way, turning his nascent powers to villainy (most likely as a henchman or part of a gang) or becoming a real hero if he falls in with a decent mentor or a heroically-oriented group.

 

Presuming, of course, that he doesn’t get himself killed.

 

Anthropomorphic Cheetah Racial Modifiers: Str +6 (18 CP), Dex +8 (24 CP), Con +4 (12 CP) (as adjusted for the half cost rule), +1 Natural Armor (6 CP), 1d6 Natural Weapons (6 CP), Occult Sense/Scent (6 CP), Celerity/+10 Ground Movement (6 CP), +1 eight-sided hit die (12 CP), and Occult Sense/Low-Light Vision (6 CP). The anthro-animal packages are considered Specialized however: such characters are subject to strong instincts (occasionally requiring will checks to resist them), suffer from various minor physical limitations and species-related social prejudices, have assorted dietary restrictions, are somewhat limited with regard to equipment (a lot of it must be especially-fitted for particular species), are readily described and recognized, and may have special requirements. In particular, their Natural Armor does not increase with level and is generally blatantly obvious. That gives this package a net cost of 48 CP – requiring 17 CP from Wildfire’s level one allotment to bring it down to a +0 ECL.

Available Character Points: 96 (Level Three Base) +10 (Disadvantages; Accursed / weirdness magnet, will ALWAYS be running into absurd situations and flamboyant super-beings, Hunted / some nemesis to be acquired in play, Compulsive / either a heroic code or tendency to gloat over his victims and explain his plots in a monologue, depending on whether he winds up as a hero or as a villain) +18 (2x L1 and L2 Bonus feats) +6 (Duties; either heroic or villainous as appropriate to the character) = 130 CP, or 113 after reducing the race to +0 ECL.

 

Yes, those are fairly generic “super” disadvantages, and might well be close to universal in the setting – at least for major characters.

 

Basic Attributes: Str 22, Int 12, Wis 10, Con 18, Dex 26, and Cha 14.

 

Languages: English and high-school Spanish.

 

Basic Purchases (60 CP):

 

  • Warcraft (BAB): +3, Specialized for Double Effect (+6)/only with claws (18 CP).
  • Hit Points / Dice: 16 (L1, 2d8, 4 CP), 8 & 6 (L2 & L3 d8’s, 8 CP) +12 (Immortal Vigor, 2d6) +24 (6x Con Mod) = 66 HP.
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons, Pistols, and Light Armor (9 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +8 (Dex) +2 (Kevlar Vest) +2 (Martial Art) = 22
  • Initiative: +8 (Dex)
  • Move: 60′
  • Save Bonuses:
    • Fortitude: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +4 (Con) = +5
    • Reflex: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +8 (Dex) = +9
    • Will: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +0 (Wis) = +2
  • Skill Points: 9 (Purchased, 9 CP) +6 (Int Mod x 6) +8 (Fast Learner, starting at level zero) = 21 SP.
    • Acrobatics (Dex): +11 (3 SP).
    • Disable Device (Int): +4 (3 SP).
    • Martial Art/Cheetah Style Kung Fu. Dex Based +13 (6 CP): Provides Defense 2, Strike, +1d6 Sneak Attack, Rapid Strike, Combat Reflexes, and Light Foot.
    • Driving (Dex) +11 (3 SP).
    • Stealth (Dex) +14 (6 SP).

Other Abilities (41 CP):

 

  • Upgrade Natural Weapons to 1d12 (2d6) base damage (9 CP). Wildfire strikes so quickly that he does extra damage.
  • Split Movement (6 CP): May split his movement around attacking.
  • Celerity (+6 CP): Add an additional +20 ground movement (for a total of 60′).
  • Augmented Bonus/Precise Control (6 CP): Adds (Str Mod) to (Dex Mod) when determining attack bonuses for ranged attacks.
  • Grant of Aid with +2 Bonus Uses, Corrupted / requires several minutes to take effect (6 CP). Wildfires hyped-up metabolism allows him to heal wounds with startling speed – at least until his bodies reserves run out, which – at his age – happens all too soon.
  • Fortune/Evasion Variant (6 CP): Wildfire takes no damage when he makes a successful reflex save; he’s just that fast at getting out of the way.
  • Innate Enchantment (7 CP) + Immunity to the XP cost of buying level zero and level one Innate Enchantments (1 CP).
    • Ranged Strike (Personal-Only, 1400 GP): Gives the user’s melee attacks a 60′ range increment.
    • Immortal Vigor I (Personal-Only, 1400 GP): Adds (12 + 2 x Con Mod) HP.
    • Resist Energy (Personal-Only, 1400 GP): Provides Energy Resistance 10.
    • Burning Rage (Personal-Only, 1400 GP): Adds 1d6 flame damage to the user’s unarmed or natural-weapon attacks; if he or she wishes, the entire attack may be considered a flame attack.

Wildfire will probably be acquiring another speed-boosting ability, and another damage-booster, later on – but at the moment his powers are relatively weak and erratic. He’s already very good at connecting though; seeing the world in slow motion will do that…

 

Current Attacks:

 

  • Ranged Strike: +20/+20 (normal attack) or +20/+20/+15 (full attack), either 3d6 Fire or 2d6 Physical (either lethal or nonlethal) and 1d6 Fire, in either case Crit 20/x2, 60′ range increment, +3d6 Sneak Attack, 9 AoO.
  • Hand-to-Hand: +12/+12 (normal attack) or +12/+12/+7 (full attack), either 3d6 Fire or 2d6 Physical (either lethal or nonlethal) and 1d6 Fire, in either case Crit 20/x2, +3d6 Sneak Attack, 9 AoO.

At the moment, Wildfire usually prefers to go for nonlethal damage; it’s a LOT less likely to get him into real trouble.

 

 

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CII – Hooked On A Story

carp

NOT the way to live!

Aikiko didn’t rush overly on her return from the far east… She needed some time to think!

COULD she talk to Charles about all this without violating her oath? Was Mechagodzilla going to pop up again? Which of her possible clues should she try next? Should she DO something? What? She had… Mechagodzilla running around grabbing Exalts, a mortal cult working with a minor deity to revive component souls of the Neverborn, Cauldron-Born, whatever was going on with the Nocturnals, Charles, more possible Kaiju manses, four more possible quasi-primordials developing… She hadn’t even gotten involved in BASIC Exalted tier politics yet and she seemed to be jumping right on up to the cosmic stuff!

She’d have to learn a charm or two that protected secrets!

Besides… it would be nice to find the stuff that Lytek had actually hired her to look for! He wasn’t at all a bad guy and he was paying pretty well!

In the Jade Pleasure Dome, Luna – the Incarnae least affected by the Games of Divinity – was in the lead on considering other matters… The Nocturnals had… never actually been created as far as she knew, yet they were here anyway – with no trace of the forces that creating them should have unleashed. And someone had… somehow doubled up the number of the Celestial Exalted, a project that… should have been impossible.

She might contain a multitude – but not even she contained infinity. The boundaries about the tree of possibility that she had carved out in the beginning, held secure by the pattern-exclusions of the Loom… could they be narrowing? Had someone outside of fate pierced the ancient barriers? What were they doing NOW?

It was time to manifest some avatars, and once more walk the world.

In Aden the refugee rescue efforts had been continuing – and a substantial number of them were looking forward to colonization… Aden was just too… full of strangeness, culture shock, and powerful creatures for most humans to really be comfortable in it, no matter what the benefits were.

The Kickaha too were growing in numbers – and beginning to get rather… territorial, at least with respect to their own packs. While there WAS a lot of space in Aden, it certainly wasn’t infinite. The eagerness to induct more youngsters as full members of the packs was fading – and contention loomed.

Fortunately, the warring human ethnic groups were being kept apart – and strictly monitored – by the Baalgrogs and Kickaha and other Citizens. Anyone who INSISTED on visiting their traditional opponents and making trouble was simply being shipped off to become mandatory early colonists… It wasn’t like it was easy to get hurt in Aden anyway. Anything that could get around the Guardians – such as meddling with Charles’s internal geomancy – would be pretty hard to stop.

Charles made a note to add more defenses for his geomancy anyway.

For good or ill, Charles still had no defenses against perhaps the simplest attack of all… “Do what I want or I will HURT LOTS OF PEOPLE! REALLY BADLY! Ha-Ha! Ha-Ha!” – or even “If you give me what I want I will give you these CUTE HAPPY FERRETS (or puppies, or whatever)…!”.

Eventually someone was going to stop peering into the clouds of obfuscation and look at the utterly obvious way he could be dragged off course by a smaller child crying… Still, that was one of the things that made him horribly hard to predict. Who knew which way he’d go next? He might react to any form of distress; fuzzy or cute things were only the most blatant.

With much subtle (but no overt) encouragement from their caretakers, the Teddies had… used their own initiative and their Resplendent Butlers Accouterments to subtly reshape their paws into paw-hands and to make themselves less clumsily tubby… Hands did make things a lot easier! They could get their own dinners and things now, and so had been quietly provided with plates and cups and utensils in pastel colors…

Charles found that quite cheering! Certainly it was a small thing – but it was showing some initiative, and some desire to take care of themselves… They WOULD learn to be people instead of pets eventually! And – in the meantime – they were still really REALLY cute and fuzzy!

Of course, that drew his attention to the fact that… there had been quite a lot more purchases of youngsters from the Raksha – and not just from the freehold in Atlanta. The Raksha liked stuff that they could show off, minor artifacts, items that hid their freeholds from mortal eyes, and goods that facilitated travel between Wyld zones – all things that Charles’s representatives were more than willing to provide.

Quite a few of the purchases were equally oddly mutated – but the procedures had been set up, and even somewhat refined by trying variations on what worked especially well. The sorting into trainees, minor “employees”, and – sadly – pets had continued – and as long as they were mostly content, things were fine.

Perhaps sadly, the weakest willed kids seemed fond of whatever mutations they had at the moment. The most notable grouping was a collection of kids who had been collected by an aquatic freehold. They had scales, fish eyes, and vibrant color patterns – and seemed to have been trained to be decorative carp. They liked to swim around in artificial pools and lakes, eat other fish, and eat worms and things.

Ew! Oh, they couldn’t possibly… Aargh! Some of them were even willing to bite on hooks! The weakest willed of the bunch, who took most easily to the “training.” And they could only live out of water for short periods! Not more than a few hours!

Elzeard would NOT have much patience with THAT. He fixed THAT first!

They just looked at him with their fish eyes…

Good grief. There was one with a hole in his or her (it was hard to tell) lip that looked like it might have been from a hook.

(Charles, rather appalled) “Kid… would you bite on a hook again?”

(Kid, looking at him pleadingly) “Don’t want to…”

(Charles) “Good! Why did you do it in the first place?”

(Kid) “I thought it was a yummy worm, but it was just plastic.”

Yeah. Right. “Yummy Worm”. The “fish” training was REALLY shining through with this one!

(Charles) “Gaah… Did you have any others in your group who got pulled out of the water and didn’t come back?”

(Kid) “Uhm… I haven’t seen Coral and Flotsam in a while.”

Ergh! Hopefully “Coral” and “Flotsam” were just in someone’s private fishtank or sold elsewhere, not… pulled out and left to die or served for dinner!

(Charles) “Now that it entirely TOO MUCH. Water is fine, but you can be Otter-Kids instead!”

(Kids) “Okay Master!”

Charles made the changes…

(Charles) “Silly children! Hooks are for IDIOTS.”

(Kids) “Yes Master!”

Charles sighed… evidently even the Raksha had a hard time coming up with anything useful to do with kids defective enough to have the minimum possible will… Thus using them as a part of repetitive amusements such as catch-and-release fishing. At least in the freehold, they apparently DID usually get some treats – but this time it hadn’t quite worked out that way. Well, otterlings were cute enough – and they could get out of the water, and have cooked food, and so on!

Wait. Was this kind of… defectiveness… at all hereditary?

He cast some testing spells and asked Elzeard. At least none of them were pregnant…

OK; a few were just deeply drained of their will (and would be moving up to the trainee or at least the “employee” categories as soon as they recovered a bit), but most of the others… it was indeed at least partially hereditary. It hadn’t occurred to most of those to reproduce yet – but some were getting to be around that age…

That was a problem! They were WAY too easy to order around and wouldn’t have much self-control in any case. Worse… as long as they were in Kadia – and he didn’t have anywhere ELSE to send them – they’d swiftly regenerate things like vasectomies and tubal ligations…

Elzeard recommended tinkering with their hormone production to keep them… perpetual kids, applying a few mutations so that they’d never actually reach puberty.

Ugh. He didn’t want people taking advantage of them, and he didn’t want them breeding, and he didn’t want to make a regeneration-exception to allow sterilization either… Was perpetual pre-puberty the way to go? Was there really any difference between that and just… mutating them to be unsexed?

Charles tried asking the Kickaha; they were usually pretty practical and they did quite a lot of the looking-after anyway… After being briefed, they voted for unsexing. After all, they WERE in the “pet” category anyway!

That… was rather more practical than Charles really liked – but nobody seemed to have any BETTER ideas about what to do. At least the mutations would be stable for the moment and easily reversible later – and there might not really BE a truly good solution.

Wait, THEY were most involved; it was only fair (if a little desperate!) to ask THEM about it…

(Charles) “Hello Kids! I hate to tell you this… But I don’t think any of you are ready to be parents – and you must know that you’re not exactly normal people and it’s partially inherited. I know you’re not unintelligent though… What needs to be done there?”

(Kids) “Um… we need some way of not being parents!”

(Charles) “That’s true. And to make sure that no one can just order you to discard whatever that is. Preferably it would stop them from taking advantage of you too. What do you think?”

(Kids) “Okay!”

(Charles, sighing) “I MEANT do you have any other thoughts on what to do? Or just whatever I think is appropriate?”

(One kid) “Um… we could keep all the boys and girls in separate pools!”

(Another) “What do you want to do, Master?”

Oh well. Evidently there weren’t going to be any suggestions from them.

(Charles) “I’m going to make a few changes in you for the time being. I’ll see if I can’t come up with something better later, but this will work for a stopgap.”

He made the changes – and left most of them saying “What? Did you do something?”.

(Charles) “Not to worry! I’ve taken care of it! You can all run along and play!”

They… pretty obviously wouldn’t protest even when they noticed. That was REALLY SAD – and it made him feel… rather dirty.

Charles went to have a bath and do some rescue work. That would help!

Shamanic Conjuration Revised Rules

Shamanic Conjuration

-Alternative Shadowrun Rules-

English: Yukaghir shaman. Česky: Jukagirský ša...

What do you mean “All Spirits Busy, Please Try Again Later”?!?!

Mages vs. Shaman. Hermetic vs. Shamanic. Focused, methodical and intellectual vs. Perceptive, intuitive and active. They both cast spells, but the Shaman narrows in on certain sets and excels at them while the mage is reasonably good at everything.

And that works.

However, in the realm of summoning spirits, both kinds of magicians aren’t all that different, and the advantage is almost entirely with the Mage. Shamanic spirits probably have the better abilities overall, but the Shaman has a lot of negatives in dealing with them. First, they can have only one spirit active – where the mage can have many. The shaman must summon the spirit when he needs it. This isn’t a good thing, as this is often in the middle of and fight (and so he’s dealing with Drain and often withholding dice for other problems or dealing with penalties or damage). The Mage can summon a spirit well in advance, not even using an action to get several magical allies into a desperate fight or have one perform an action when needed, and can use other dice pools to make sure the summoning very successful. The Mage can also afford a lot more risk than the Shaman – taking a lot of Drain is less dangerous when summoning under controlled conditions than when you may have to defend yourself against goons, ninjas, ghouls or whatever in the next two minutes.

This is, suffice it to say, not in keeping with real-world Shamanic lore, the in-universe descriptions where Shaman are supposed to have a strong relationship with spirits, treating them as individuals and with respect. In practice, the Shaman just has one disposable minion he can summon – a minion likely less powerful than the Mage’s. Worse, the Shaman has even less relationship with the spirits he summons than the Mage has with even the most mindless elemental.

So, I had an idea – why not give the Shaman summoning rules which back up the way they’re written? Mechanically, it’s be a bit more even with the Mage’s ability – although that’s less about balance and more about the fact that they writers didn’t notice how the specific advantages they handed Hermetic magic worked in actual gameplay. Specifically, the disadvantages they hand Hermetics are disadvantages for the character, not the player. The disadvantages for Shamans can effectively lock the player out of choosing certain courses of action, but don’t really affect the character.

I’m actually good either way. Different games have different ways of handling this. For example, Dungeons and Dragons is a classic player-oriented game. Sure, you can go into doing roleplaying, but at its heart, the character is mostly a sheet and you play the game directly. There’s nothing preventing you as the player from making decisions. Sure, the GM may give you a swift kick for making decisions based on out-of-game logic, but it’s not really against the game and it doesn’t interrupt gameplay. Likewise, a great many people don’t really distinguish their character with that much personality or backstory, because it’s not important.

Exalted is completely the opposite. In Exalted, the character may have extensive backstory and personality unto him-, her-, or itself. Exalts are supposed to be extremely distinctive, even down to personalized powers and characters flaws. And while not everyone does things the intended way, you’re supposed to look at the rules as more of a “broad guideline” rather than rules for defining how the characters interact with the world.

In short, you can either play the character, or you can play the game. Shadowrun has some rules which trend both ways – and most games do. There’s no law which says you have to do only one or the other. However, you do need to be very careful about how and when you cross these up. Hence the problem here: Mages are limited by in-game elements. Shaman are limited by out-of-game elements. Or, to put it another way, the GM must go out of his way to stop a Mage from using his spirits in the exact way the player desires. However, the GM must deliberately choose the circumstances which allow a Shaman to use his spirits.

Here are a few examples: If both a mage and a Shaman are sneaking into a corporate facility, the Mage can just call up spirits. He summoned them a while ago, and while it cost the character money, it didn’t require any thought or limited resources from the player. The character may have quite a few, and they can go anywhere and act at the same time. If he’s skilled enough, the mage may have half a dozen spirits nigh-invulnerable to physical attack, all smarter, stronger, and faster than a peak-performance human even aside from their innate magical talents. And he can do the difficult work in relative safety, protected by assistants or the party, off-screen with everything decided by die rolls.

The Shaman, instead, must summon his spirit (yes, just one) on the fly and carefully balance the risk of Drain or an out-of-control spirit against the need for its aid. The Shaman can’t even decide which kind of spirit he gets: that’s determined entirely by the local environment – i.e., by the GM. If the Shaman moves from one environment to another, the spirit does not follow, and the Shaman may waste some of the success he had in summoning the spirit. Before you ask, no, it’s not always easy or even possible to know which domain you’re in.

That’s definitely a conflict. One set of restrictions affects the player. But the other affects the character, but may not hinder the player at all. And this is the basic problem. The trade-offs involved aren’t even related.

So, what are my specific recommendations? If we feel that there is a problem (and you might not, which may work perfectly well for your games) how we do deal with it?

Let’s take a look at the idea I pointed out above and use them as a guideline, as well as bringing out some important points from Shadowrun lore and the game’s style.

  • First, the Shaman should have an ongoing relationship to certain spirits.
  • Second, Shaman are generally more flexible than Mages.
  • Third, Shamanic Spirits have domains – places or regions in which they have special power.
  • Fourth, I don’t want to change anything about the general summoning rules or spirits, because that gets to be a big pain and makes the whole thing less modular with the existing system.

The first thing that comes to mind is the idea of giving Shaman specific spirits. The player characters will just have to deal with them. If the GM wants, they can even develop the spirits as personalities over time, but that depends on the group. If you do, then keep in mind that Shamanic spirits definitely remember how you’ve treated them. They can’t disobey the summoner, but they may “interpret” demands in very unpleasant ways.

In this version, the Shaman always summons a particular, named spirit when he summons one of a specific type.

This has some advantages. For one, unlike an Elemental, the spirit can and will protect the magician, at least as long as it has services left. Note that the Shaman doesn’t have to order this; the spirit will reasonably interpret his desires or needs within the bounds of its intellect. The spirit can also act if the shaman is helpless, unconscious, drugged, or otherwise incapable of requesting aid.

More importantly, the Shaman can store a number of Services equal to his Magic score. He must perform a summoning ritual at a specific Force, and does get any totem bonuses as long as he carries out the ritual in an appropriate domain. It’s easiest to conjure and store all services at the same Force, but it’s not required. These services are available for any spirit the shaman conjures. Note that while the Shaman doesn’t require costly components to summon a spirit, he does need them for these generic Services. Part of the cost involves making pleasing sacrifices. Shaman with appropriate skills can locate materials as per usual the Enchanting rules.

The Shaman does still need to make a conjuration test to call up a spirit. However, shamanic spirits can also call upon lesser spirits of their own type once summoned. A Spirit of Man, or Spirit of the Wild, of Spirit of (Whatever) automatically has unlimited services of another spirit of the same type one-third its own Force (rounded down). Of course, the minor spirit is pretty pathetic, but unlimited services are pretty handy. Note that the minor spirit will only obey the greater – it does not listen to the shaman.

So far, this is just a testbed for rules.  IF anyone would like to try them out, feel free to comment here how it functions in actual practice and if the players like the change.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CI – To Dance With The Devas In The Pale Moonlight

"Hamatsa emerging from the woods--Koskimo...

A bit beyond your basic initiation!

Aikiko was tempted to look around some more – but these guys actually had a fair amount of supernatural power, and they’d recognized her as a Celestial Exalt, and… wait.

They were familiar with the Solar Exalted – and they knew that they’d returned. How could ANY mortal possibly know that much? That was… rather disturbing! Even if Wenjioth was sharing his information with them… the fact that the Solar Exalted were BACK wasn’t exactly common knowledge even amongst the gods!

Well… they wanted to discuss some things with her in the morning, above and beyond the tournament – and had been polite enough.

Aikiko sighed, and decided to be prudent for once, and really did settle down for the night. She didn’t even know how she’d been detected – but he HAD noticed that she was wounded… Was that some aspect of their apparent power over entropy and dissolution? Was sensing that in people easy for them? Besides… despite her caste and her mundane stealth skills, she wasn’t really all that far into the Stealth trees. Sensing her footsteps on the floor or her motion through the air as she passed by would not be that difficult if they had abilities that let them do it…

She was quite prompt in the morning.

The two priests – Loram (of the shattering touch effect) and Chandath – and the elderly fellow who was one of the people passing on this tournaments prize – (the Ri’kienthi, involving control of electromagnetism) were waiting for her – and handed her a bowl of rice, a glass, and nodded at the breakfast table; it looked like the meeting wasn’t going to be very formal.

She nodded back in a respectful but friendly manner, and ate.

(Loram) “Ms. Aikiko? I may have been wrong; on checking the records… It might be possible for you to host a portion of the prize. Although I strongly suspect that it could not work, I was unable to find any precedent or instruction covering the possibility. That inability is… very odd in itself.”

(Chandath) “I will admit that I was opposed to this meeting at first; the power you bear… has a history of leading to destructive madness. You, however, appear to be sane enough for the moment – and if you were to turn that power against us directly… You are outnumbered, and young in your power – but it is very great.”

(Chandath, at Loram’s disapproving look) “And, since you seem to have invested at least a portion of that power in discovering secrets – otherwise you probably would not be bere – I see no point in trying to conceal that apprehension from you.”

(Aikiko) “I understand. I’ve actually seen some of what you’re talking about, so I’ve taken some steps to prevent it.” (She is wearing her dreamstone right now, and will show it to them.) “It’s not perfect, but I’d rather not hurt those around me when it does happen to me.”

(Loram) “Well, if you recognize the peril so early, that shows considerable hope for the future.”

(Aikiko) “Uh… so, what are you going to do about the tournament? You say I might be able to host some of the Ri’kienthi, but can you tell me what that normally involves? It’s got to have some drawbacks.”

(Loram) “To tell you more… I must ask you to swear to not interfere and to not reveal our secrets to any save the very highest powers if you will not aid us.”

(Aikiko) “I think I have some idea of what you’re talking about. By highest powers . . . I assume Incarnae means something to you, sirs?”

What were they up to? Reviving and mending the Neverborn? Hadn’t most of them departed into chaos with the Reshaping anyway?

Wait… could they SERIOUSLY be attempting something of that order? After all… since their remaining souls could not die, what else could you do with them other than to try to send them through the Lethe or some variant thereof? But that would mean… this project had to be tens of thousands of years old!

Surely not! Still… she just HAD to know what they were up to! And just how binding could an oath be?

(Chandath, sourly) “It’s the perscribed form… I believe that the Emerald Mother is the last of the Highest.”

(Aikiko) “That secret…”

Ugh! She wasn’t big on oaths, but she HAD to get to the bottom of this – and there were lots of things that would lay within her powers even if she couldn’t tell anyone else what she was up to without backlash!

(Aikiko) “Okay then, I’ll keep quiet and not interfere.”

The oath… was in an impossibly archaic form of Old Realm – although Aikiko could understand it with some difficulty. The primordial dialect? Hey, a loophole! She might be able to talk to Charles without violating it… After all, if he WASN’T a Primordial, he was certainly well on his way… It looked like she was going to be dealing with the creators of the universe whether she liked it or not.

At least most of them were more alien and hard to comprehend than evil.

(Savryath). “Yes there are. Most importantly, while the prizes grant health, power, longevity, and many other benefits, they have wills of their own; they must be contained, their destructive and irrational sides discouraged and undermined, their sanity and benign sides encouraged and strengthened. While that task becomes easier with each transfer, it is still a grave responsibility. It is their nature – at least for now – to drain power from the land and from those around; one must either remain at a site of power or move around constantly to avoid having baleful effects on the earth and on those you spend too much time with… Although that is an advantage at times; I once spent some years at the court of a rather ruthless warlord, and by the time I left his kingdom was crumbling, he was prematurely aged and senile, and his power was broken.”

(Aikiko) “I see. About how much would one have to move around, sir?”

(Savyrath) “Generally swapping cities every few months will do. I have found that a much easier thing to do these days; trains, planes, and credit cards have made my last few decades a great deal easier. There is also an obligation to protect this temple and the secrets of the Besi Hantuperajin from outsiders. In addition, each “prize” carries minor drawbacks and advantages according to it’s nature. For example Chandath here carries the Goronkoth – which comes with a tendency to be somewhat secretive and to hide things, to be compulsive about relationships, and to have to eat a great deal.”

Chandath, who was on his fourth bowl of breakfast, gave him a slightly irritated look.

(Aikiko) “I travel a lot myself, so that part won’t be a problem. I’ve met your god, and like him, and he’s a LOT better than the terrorists. I… guess I’ll just have to see which prize I get.”

(Savyrath) “Well, the prize this time is – of course – the Ri’kienthi I demonstrated yesterday. There are no longer enough of my circle to carry the burden; and so it is time to pass it on – and pass on – before we lose control. That peril is less than it was with each tournament and passage – but after twelve hundred years I think that I could use a rest. (Softly) So many things have passed… and the lands of my youth, the clans I founded, and everything I knew… have vanished with the centuries. Not even the great powers of the Besi Hantuperajin can hold back time and weariness. Perhaps, in the power you carry, you are more fortunate. For your sake, I hope so.”

(Aikiko felt – and looked – sympathetic.) “I can’t even imagine what it’s like to see all that go away… but I can only hope.”

After all, according to the records in Yu-Shan, that was about the average Solar lifespan!

(Loram) “That is the problem of course… Are you sure that you wish to enter the tournament? You will likely be among the winners if you do – but you already bear a terrible and maddening power. If you can turn that power to completing the taming and recreation of the Ri’kienthi, you will greatly shorten our work and perhaps make that power a true boon to the world. If you cannot bond with the Ri’kienthi, that will merely increase the burden on the other winners and somewhat shorten their time – although it will still be extended for many centuries. If, however, you prove unable to tame that power… in combination with the power you already possess you could be transformed into a walking blight upon the earth, as destructive as any tsunami.”

(Aikiko) “What, exactly, is the Ri’kienthi-or is that something only the people with the prize can know? That’s going to help me decide.”

They DID seem benevolent enough; if it was something only the winner could know… she’d withdraw from the tournament – but still try to keep an eye on the place. It sounded big!

(Loram) “In certain places – and with certain meditations – it is possible to tap into some very old, and very damaged, powers. Our order… and the tournament – exists to ensure that those powers are bound to people capable of handling them.

(Chandath) “Hopefully!”

(Loram, sighing) “… using them wisely, and reforming them – souls of iron, who can reforge those powers into the shining things that Wenjioth says that they once were. It has been a project of millennia.”

Oh by the Incarnae… They really WERE meddling with something on the Primordial Level! Sure, she’d had the thought – but she hadn’t really believed it! Were they out of their minds?

It took a few minutes before she could do more than listen. They… were following instructions left from before the Primordial War. While many of the Primordials had not believed that THEY could lose, many of their component souls were not so sanguine about THEIR chances; the great ones might be near-invincible, but THEY were not… On the advice of the White Ram, they had hidden fragments of themselves in the one place that they were sure that the Exalted would never strike against – the racemind of humanity.

Thus, a living spark of their essence and selves had survived the war, unsuspected and buried out of reach of the victors. A fragile hope for the future.

Awakened and directly bonded to small groups of humans, the fragments imbued the humans with true power – and gained access to the essence of their hosts and to the geomantic energies of Creation. Slowly they had begun regenerating those portions of their selves that had been cast into the underworld when slain by the Exalted. It had been a process of many, many, centuries; reconstructing their ancient patterns from the traces remaining in resisting necrotic essence of the underworld was far more difficult than the simple healing they had anticipated… While they were fed and aided by the life force and imaginations of their tiny “cults”, the task was immense – and they were forced to rely on the discipline of their human guardians to guide their development.

With the Reshaping the Neverborn departed into the Wyld to recreate themselves – but the resurgent sparks of their souls were entwined with humanity – and were left behind.

Their nurturers do not know if – when the task is at last complete – the reborn primordial souls will once more join together to become new primordials, whether they will remain to empower humanity as a whole, or whether they will simply become free and independent beings – but if forty thousand years of sharing human minds isn’t enough to socalize them a bit, nothing ever will be.

(Aikiko, thoughtfully) “So you are healing them.”

Thinking about that rationally… well, the primordials may have been idiot-savants, but the subsouls certainly were not – and they were well aware that they were not invincible.

(Savyrath) “I suspect that it is closer to a recreation – nursing a spark back into a roaring blaze.”

(Aikiko) “Big isn’t the word for a project like that… I don’t know what is. Still, I’ll keep my end of the deal.”

Huh! So the Incarnae had been quite right to be suspicious of old Wenjioth there… Of course, there was the possibility that the White Ram lied to some mortal pawns about what it was all about… just as it was possible that they were a smokescreen for something, or some other possibility.

Still, if she hadn’t already thought that the entire Primordial War situation was ambiguous, this would have been more than enough to make her lean that way… What if the White Ram wanted to turn the tables on the masters? Make them components of himself? After all… had it gone this route itself?

At least now she knew where the power was coming from… This was definitely something that Heaven would want monitored and supervised – and it was right on Earth, too! She wouldn’t tell them – it would take a LOT of thought before she attempted to interfere with a hope that had endured for forty millennia and through multiple cataclysms – but she’d HAVE to research this one a bit more.

Besides… While the tournament didn’t actually start for nine days and she had a little time to decide, she was already pretty sure of one thing; she didn’t really want to find out what would happen if she tried to bond a primordial soul living in the human racemind to her own mind when an Exaltation was already linked there… She gracefully bowed out – although not before making sure that she got a good look at the people who would be competing, and having the coatl note faces, though! It might be instructional seeing who won and what effects it had on them, and seeing who got that kind of power – and that wouldn’t interfere with them at all!

At least they did seem to have a reasonable handle on who could handle that power without making trouble – although, from the sound of things, the process wasn’t perfect. There had been rare individuals who took that power and lost control or just gave way to the desire to rule and did some fairly dreadful things with it. Fortunately, the one-by-one, you-are-known, nature of the tournament usually guaranteed that there were plenty of people around with similar powers and far, FAR, more practice than you had to stop you. Still… no one who was subject to occasional random bouts of insanity needed a secondary power source that would exaggerate the problem.

(Aikiko) “Just out of curiosity… What is the “Goronkoth” and how did you detect the fact that I was injured?”

(Loram) “The Goronkoth manipulates gravatational fields and wormholes, allowing travel, defense by sending attacks elsewhere, collecting missiles, and similar tricks. The Rursurkireth manipulates vibration, the pulse of the world; you observed the sub-aspect of Vhendal’ithe (the sussuration of destruction) used on a slab of rock. The ability to sense vibration is well suited to keeping an eye on the temple here – and for sensing internal details. I believe the process is now called “sonar” or “ultrasound”.

So they really were channeling the power of Primordial subsouls, at least after a fashion. Well, that was quite neat! And it explained some things about that terrorist attack, even beyond Wenjioth’s abilities.

Wenjioth was actually a bit desperate; the Primordials were pains sometimes, and didn’t pay a lot of attention when they stepped on things – but the Exalted had nearly wrecked the world how many times? Keeping the area he was responsible for intact and prosperous was his purpose, and if he had to be part of an eons-long conspiracy project to do it… well, so be it.

It also rather neatly explained the villages eon’s long run of unbroken “peace and prosperity”. They had… a god who’d been building defenses since the primordial war and probably at least three or four people around who were channeling differing primordial subsouls to protect the place. A rare instance of divine-deva cooperation! And, once again, on Earth… She’d have to keep an eye on all of them! They did seem to mean well – but this was a bunch of mortals and an essence-four god trying to nurse a bunch of Deva’s back to health and teach them to play nice with mortals. It was just a BIT above their grade…

Bother! It looked like “keeping an eye on” was going to mean some frantic research and checking up! There were an awful lot of ways that could go wrong… Still, a bunch of mortals working together could do a lot – and they had been at it for a LONG time and were a lot less mortal than most mortals were.

Was that the biggest secret of all? That – while the Exalts had all been away – the humans and Raksha have gotten up to all kinds of things. They… no longer NEEDED the Exalted to run their world – even if they could use their help on the bigger projects. The might not even need THAT if the Devas – as revived by their human “cultists” from seeds in the Racemind – wound up empowering all humanity. Not only would that be a suitable “reward” – but it would assure their ongoing safety… from the Exalted.

No wonder they wanted her to swear an oath!

Aikiko spent some time talking to Savyrath… There probably wouldn’t be another chance; once he transferred the link… he would be once again merely human – and 1250 years old.

He had… a very interesting prospective on history. There were lots of minor supernatural influences that didn’t make it into the books – but he, of course, saw them. He’d been a minor player – if subtly – in trying to maintain the balance of power across China and India for a thousand years, and had had many centuries of watching people there, occasionally quietly intervening, and – sadly – often seeing the same foolishness play out generation after generation. Still, that did at least make it easy to steer things towards the better outcomes after a few times around.

Aikiko… retreated to regroup a bit. That was a lot to absorb, and Savyrath’s opinions on what the major upcoming problems would be was a very different prospective! At least it was likely that the man would stick around as a Terrestrial god… his essence was FAR too high for him to simply die as a human. She’d have to see if he did!

Besides… So far, in her hunt for new quasi- primordials… she’d found a quasi-primordial manse and a bunch of Devas allied with humanity… What would she find next? Should she head for Peru, or for Yu-Shan to do some more research?

True Love Beneath The Eclipse

English: True Love Couple

Yeah. This stuff again.

True Love… it drives lovers to heroic feats on each other’s behalf, it both empowers and shatters curses, it breaks limits, it can draw it’s target back from death itself. In many tales, it is one of the ultimate powers of the cosmos – and it is a power that is available to anyone. Parents may feel it for their children, siblings or mates for each other, and the occasional saintly individual may feel it for all creation.

On the other hand, sometimes… love fails. Sometimes, even true love is not enough – and sometimes it simply drives a melodramatic death or quest for revenge. Before you go relying on True Love, remember how that worked out for Romeo and Juliet.

In gaming terms, that’s a good thing. Sure, it can be fun to trot out that ultimate “I Win!” card during some mighty confrontation or to recover from some terrible disaster – but True Love isn’t generally a one-shot thing that goes away. If you can just pull it out whenever you need it… it’s like playing in “god mode”. It’s amusing for a little bit, but it rapidly gets boring.

So… how can build “True Love” in Eclipse?

First up are the limitations. Obviously enough, “True Love” is ONLY going to help when the task at hand is vital to the love interest; True Love may give you the strength to swim on through the storm-tossed waves, but it won’t help you navigate well enough to have avoided striking the reef in the first place. It won’t help you escape the city watch either – unless, perhaps, you’ve got the stolen medicine that will save your true love in your possession. Occasionally it just won’t work anyway; True Love is a narrative force, and tragedy is ALSO good narrative. Would the Titanic have done so well at the box office if Jack had survived, run off with Rose, and they’d sold the gem to pay for the honeymoon and a house?

I certainly can’t prove it – but I doubt it.

In Eclipse “only works for actions involving a particular individual”, “only works when the GM thinks it should”, “only has the effects that the GM thinks it should”, and (especially!) “Sometimes blows up in your face” are some pretty big limitations – more than enough to make it specialized and corrupted.

So what do we need to buy?

  • The go-to power for unique, spectacular, once-in-a-great-while feats is Action Hero / Stunts. That lets you – every so often – pull off some unique trick that you’ll probably never use again, or push way beyond your normal limits, or make a roll which should have been impossible. Even better, with those limitations… you can have it for a mere two character points – one third the cost of a normal feat!

Now, True Love is notorious for being inspiring people to greater efforts when in the presence of the loved one – or occasionally elsewhere through some sort of flashback, memento, or other token of love. Unlike the wild stunts, this is often somewhat reliable – if far less spectacular. So to buy this take…

  • Mystic Artist: Specialized (again!) for Double Effect (does not really require a skill or roll) / only to provide basic Inspiration abilities, only covers the abilities through Skill 12 (Excellence), and – of course – only works on the user and the other limitations of “True Love”, as above. In essence, the user can handle a token, have a brief flashback, or otherwise be reminded of, and inspired by, the power of his or her love every so often – and as long as what they’re doing relates to that love, they’ll be getting some morale bonuses. Once again, thanks to the basic limitations on True Love, this will only cost two character points. Double-specializing something is normally a pretty serious red flag in Eclipse – but in this case… it seems pretty unlikely to break the game.

Don’t you just truly love it when the game master lets you stretch a point?

Ok, sorry.

  • Now, being inspired by your love often seems to happen in an instant – especially when you decide that it’s been inspired by a flashback. Normally using Mystic Artist abilities takes up a round or so… So to make it instant we’ll need Reflex Training (the Extra Actions variant), once again Specialized for Double Effect / the extra actions are full-round actions that can only be used to inspire yourself with the power of love.

By no coincidence, that’s double-specialized again – and is also two character points.

Thus your character too can have True Love, and be inspired by it’s power, for a mere six character points.

Not coincidentally, that’s the cost of a normal feat. True Love is an especially powerful feat of course – but in the usual Eclipse trade-off, that also means that it’s especially limited. There really shouldn’t be that big a problem porting it into a more standard d20 game as a more-or-less “normal” (if exotic) feat.

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