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. Eclipse Classless d20 Character Construction Cribsheet / Sample Character List – Character Creation Primer – Compiled Martial Arts.
. Subindexes: RPG Design - Twilight Isles - Battletech – Champions – d20 – Legend of the Five Rings – Shadowrun – White Wolf – Other Games – Battling Business World – Star Wars
The distinction between magic and expertise has always been blurred. Masters of the Martial Arts, of Herbalism, of Metallurgy, and of many other fields have often been reputed to possess supernatural powers.
In a realm of magic that dividing line may not exist at all.
The child’s eyes were haunted. If they were windows to his soul, they opened onto a vista consumed by fire and war – the same fires which had left him orphaned and alone.
The priests who cared for the orphans were kindly enough, but the could not restore what had been taken. They tried, at least to offer a future – teaching the children whatever they could of the skills they knew. Most eventually took to the simple pursuits which were always in demand, and took up careers as Carpenters, Bakers, Millers, or any of a hundred other common professions. A few became scholars, priests, or even mages in their turn.
Young Kelelawar had shown a talent for the Martial Arts, and had practiced them earnestly – at first as a distraction, later with grim purpose; he would never again be helpless in the face of violence, whether weapons were forbidden or not. Finding the child adamant, despite all attempts to lead him into some more practical field, the priests bowed to the inevitable and gave him extra lessons – as long as he kept up reasonably well in his other subjects.
Kelelawar was thirteen and running an errand when he took a shortcut through the alleys and ran across a pair of thugs menacing a young woman and her two small children. Large, armed, and dressed in studded leather, the two easily shrugged off an attack by an outraged child, tossing him aside with stunning force – but the hidden depths of the Stone Mountain Style responded to his hand and blood dripping on the ground, striking down one thug with an erupting pillar-spear of earth and stone. As the second swung his blade, the Drifting Spider Style guided it gently astray – and the Venomous Spider’s Bite left him convulsing on the ground.
The young woman gasped out her thanks – and clutched her children and fled for busier and safer streets. Young adventurers were little safer to be around than criminals, even if they were being benevolent at the moment.
The nearby river accepted two more bodies with barely a ripple. It was used to it; the wars had glutted it with flesh more than once. The thugs anonymously-donated purses sufficed to make life a little easier for the younger children for more than a month.
It took three more years of training before Kelelawar could reliably call on the hidden depths of the arts – but now he knew that he had the potential, the ability to go beyond the normal limits of mortal skill, and that he needed only practice.
Today most of his skills reach beyond the normal limits – and Kelelawar has taken to haunting the streets, becoming a whispered figure of fear to the petty criminals of the city. Someday, perhaps, his reach will extend to the greater criminals – the creatures (he will not call them men) who plot wars and spread carnage in search of profit and advantage. Until that day – if it should ever come – he will do what he can with what he has.
Kelelawar is pretty much purely skill-based – and that alone turns a lot of d20 assumptions on their heads. In d20, skills peak early; they’re very useful before the DC’s get too high – but by level six or seven the spells and powers that can replace many of them are pretty routinely available. Knock, Levitate, Suggestion, Jump… the list goes on. Just as importantly, skills tend to increase linearly; Kelelawar has already got several of the best bonuses for his skills – so he can expect to raise his attribute bonuses a point or two, and add another +13 skill points to his major skills, by level twenty. That will take him from +23 to around +40. Since he’s using his skills to power his special abilities… at level four he’s got almost half of all the power he’s ever going to have as far as his main abilities are concerned. Yes, he can raise the limits of the “spell effects” he can generate – but that will become increasingly hard to justify as the effect levels go up and will drain his reserves even faster. For the moment he’s very powerful. If he wants to remain at all relevant, however, he’s going to have to start branching out fairly soon – most likely along a rogue-style path.
Kelelawar, Nemesis of the Underworld
Level Four Vigilante Hero
Human: +1 Bonus Feat, Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Half Cost (3 CP)
Pathfinder Package Deal (+2 bonus to Intelligence)
Available Character Points: 120 (L4 Base) +10 (Disadvantages) +8 (Duties) +24 (Human, L0, L1, and L3 Bonus Feats) = 162 CP
Basic Attributes; Str 14, Int 20 (22), Wis 14, Con 15, Dex 16 (18), Cha 13 (5d6 Keep 3, +1 for level to Int).
Basic Abilities (83 CP):
- Hit Dice: 1d12 (12, 8 CP) + 3d8 (6, 8, 7, 12 CP) + 2d6 (at 6, 6, from Magic) = 69 HP.
- BAB: +3 (18 CP) +3 (Specialized and Corrupted/only with unarmed attacks, 6 CP).
- Base Saves: Reflex +3 (18 CP), Fortitude +2 (12 CP), Will +1 (6 CP).
- Proficient with Light Armor (3 CP).
- Initiative +4 (Dex)
- Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Dex) +3 (+1 Leather Armor) +4 (Shield) = 21
Kelelawar’s combat abilities vary a good deal with what form he’s currently using; if it’s the Stone Mountain style he’ll have a potentially MUCH higher AC and a good deal of damage reduction – but little offence. If it’s Mercurial Tiger, it’s pretty much the other way around.
Special Abilities (79 CP):
- Immunity/The normal limits of Martial Arts Skills: (Very Common, Severe, Minor, Corrupted / such effects must be powered by the expenditure of either (effect spell level + 1) points of mana or a similar number of ranks from the relevant skill (add +1 for an Swift Action or use during an Attack of Opportunity, +2 for an Immediate Action). No skill may be reduced below +0 in this fashion,. Expended skill ranks will return after a days rest, effective casting level equals character level): Kelelawar can produce a wide variety of supernatural “martial arts” effects approximating spells of up to level three. Unfortunately, such effects must be in-theme for the martial art skill so employed. Thus the Tiger Style can be used for feats of strength, sprouting or upgrading claws, to make great leaps, to roll with and negate massive blows, to survive falls, to see in the dark, and for other cat-style effects. The Godfire Palm Style offers control of Fire and rapid movement, but few other options. (8 CP).
- Immunity/Being restricted to the standard skill list. Kelelawar may use the Condensed skill list, and it’s magical benefits, even it is not normally in use in the campaign, and may use Occult Skills without having to buy them individually (Very Common, Major, Major, 15 CP).
As usual with natural-law immunities, these are fairly fundamental game-changers; Kelelawar is basically redefining the skill system as a magical system of it’s very own. The way this is set up though, it’s very draining to use – which will go a long ways towards keeping things under control.
- Adept x 2 (12 CP). Learns Acrobatics, Athletics, Espionage, Dream-Binding, and his initial four martial arts (Stone Mountain, Drifting Spider, Mercurial Tiger, and Northern Stormwind Styles) at half cost.
- Fast Learner specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (6 CP).
- Upgrade Human Fast Learner to Double Effect (+2 SP/Level, 3 CP).
- Augmented Bonus: Adds his (Int Mod) to his Martial Arts Skills (6 CP).
- Innate Enchantment (11,000 GP Value / 12 CP): Mostly Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited Use Use-Activated x,7 Personal Only where applicable.
- +2 Int
- +2 Dex
- +2 Competence Bonus to All Skills
- Immortal Vigor I, +(12 + 2 x Con Mod) HP.
- Inspiring Word: +1 Morale bonus to attacks, checks, damage, and saves.
- Rugged Metabolism (Fast Healing I – for 18 Rounds – 2/Day, Relieve Illness 1/Day, Relieve Poison 1/Day, and Lesser Restoration 1/Day. From the Hedge Wizardry list on this site and The Practical Enchanter).
- Golden Armor/Force Shield I: +4 Shield Bonus to AC.
- Tough as Nails: Convert the first five points of damage he’d normally sustain from any attack to nonlethal damage.
- Occult Ritual, Specialized in Investigation and Demonology (3 CP).
Kelelawar isn’t big on demonology – but banishments, exorcisms, and demon-banes are often handy. And sometimes… you just have to use whatever tool you can.
Skill Points: 14 (CP Spent) +42 (Int) +28 (Fast Learner) = 84 SP.
- Acrobatics: +17 (7 (3) SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp +1 Morale + 4 Dex). 3d4 damage for a wild stunt.
- Arcana: +19 (7 SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale + 6 Int). Knows three minor rituals:
- Athletics: +17 (7 (3) SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp +1 Morale + 2 Str +3 Synergy). 3d4 damage for a wild stunt.
- Local Knowledge: +19 (7 SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp +1 Morale +6 Int )
- Perception: +15 (7 SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale + 2 Wis)
- Persuasion: +14 (7 SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale + 1 Cha). May use a level one Enchantment/Charm effect once per day through his words alone.
- Socialize: +14 (7 SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale + 1 Cha). Has five useful contacts.
- Stealth: +19 (7 SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale + 4 Dex +2 Cloak). Has the equivalent of a Handy Haversack.
- Thievery: +17 (7 SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale + 4 Dex). May be used as a free action up to four times per day.
- Connections: +14 (7 (3) SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale + 1 Cha). These points may be spent on Connections and Preparations as per the Political Positions rules.
- Dream-Binding: +14 (7 (3) SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale + 1 Cha).
- Foresight: +19 (7 SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale + 6 Int). This is commonly used in conjunction with his Dream-Binding or Gadgetry skills to simply produce the items that he happens to need at the moment.
- Gadgetry +14 (4 SP + 3 Pathfinder +2 Comp + 1 Morale +4 Dex (Tinkerer Variant)). Self-rewinding spring-loaded sleeve grapnel (2), Smoke Pellets (1), Concealing Cloak (+2 Stealth, 2), Intimidating Mask (+2 to such rolls, 1), Repeating Heavy Crossbow (6 shots, 2), Alchemical Bolt Magazines (six shots each Alchemists Fire, Tanglefoot, Thunderstone, and Sunrods, 4), Flash Pellets, “Superglue”, two left for use with Foresight.
Martial Arts Styles:
- Drifting Spider +23 (7 (3) SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale +6 Int + 4 Dex )
- Mercurial Tiger +23 (7 (3) SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale +6 Int + 4 Dex)
- Northern Stormwind +23 (7 (3) SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale +6 Int + 4 Dex)
- Stone Mountain: +21 (7 (3) SP + 3 Pathfinder + 2 Comp + 1 Morale +6 Int + 2 Con)
Drifting Spider Style (Dex)
The Drifting Spider stylist shifts with the wind, letting the force of an opponent’s own blows send him whirling away from danger – and lashing out with lightning speed and precision when an opening presents itself, focusing always on acrobatic maneuvers and double finger strikes to vulnerable vital points. The Spider Style is at it’s best when an opponent can be entangled, entrapped, or distracted; then the Venomous Spiders Bite – blows that strike vital points to disrupt the very life force of an opponent – can swiftly bring down even the most formidable opponents.
- Requires: Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike) or equivalent point-buy, Acrobatics total 4+.
- Basic Techniques: Attack 1, Defenses 4, Power 1, Strike, Synergy/Acrobatics (Yes, this does include swinging around), Synergy/Athletics (including climbing and briefly “running up the walls”), and Synergy/Stealth
- Advanced and Master Techniques: Instant Stand, Sneak Attack II (2d6), and Dodge.
- Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Light Foot, Serpent Strike, and Vanishing.
Known Techniques (12): Strike, Defenses 4, Synergy/Athletics, Instant Stand, Sneak Attack 2, Inner Strength, Light Foot, Vanishing,
Mercurial Tiger Style:
The Mercurial Tiger Stylist knows that the only true defense is striking down your opponents before they can strike you down, and so flows and whirls in constant attack – leaping into battle and lashing out with powerful, destructive, raking, blows. That may mean accepting a few, weak, strikes from those who do not understand the lessons of the tiger – but the Mercurial Tiger knows how to withstand adversity, to survive perhaps bloodied but unbowed. The style favors a wide, low, stance and is filled with feats of raw power – smashing opponents weapons, shattering stone, hurling opponents about, meeting power with power, and breaking bone.
- Requires: Str and Dex 14+
- Basic Techniques: Strike, Power 4, Toughness 2, Synergy/Survival, and Synergy/Athletics.
- Advanced and Master Techniques: Breaking, Combat Reflexes, Mighty Blow, and Sunder.
- Occult Techniques: Focused Blow, Inner Strength, Ki Block, and Ki Focus (Strength).
Known Techniques (12): Strike, Power 4, Synergy/Athletics, Breaking, Combat Reflexes, Mighty Blow, Sunder, Inner Strength, Ki Block.
Northern Stormwind Style:
The core of this art is the subtle Katas of the Winds – mystical gestures and stances which channel and focus the very currents of the air, lashing them against opponents like blades, hurling stunning blasts of air, and lending speed and sureness to arrows. A master may move like a wisp of wind, sense what disturbs the air about him, and can even become a very avatar of the storm – to the point of commanding the very air to withdraw from a victims lungs or lashing out with wind and lightning.
- Requires: Arcana total of +5 or more, Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike) or equivalent point-buy.
- Basic Techniques: Strike, Attack 3, Power 3, Defenses 2, Synergy/Perception, and Synergy/Stealth.
- Advanced and Master Techniques: Improved Trip, Rapid Shot, Reach, and Weapon Kata (Bow).
- Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, One Finger, Ki Focus (Dexterity), and Wrath (Lightning).
Known Techniques (12): Strike, Attack 2, Power 2, Synergy/Perception, Improved Trip, Reach, Inner Strength, One Finger, Ki Focus/Dexterity, and Touch Strike.
Stone Mountain Style:
The strength of the earth flows through you, what touches upon the earth touches you, for all things are rooted ultimately in the earth – and the heart of the earth is stone. From stone is forged the peaks of mountains and the foundations of the seas. To master the Stone Mountain style is to master the earth itself. It’s strikes are slow but nigh-irresistible, it’s low stances withstand attack, and it allows the force of opponents blows to pass into the earth. Advanced practitioners can tap into the flow of geomantic energies, manipulating their own life force and the very forces of the earth. (And yes, this is an “Earthbending” style).
- Requires: Weapon Focus/Unarmed Combat or equivalent point-buy.
- Basic Techniques: Strike, Toughness 4, Defense 3, Synergy/Athletics, and Synergy/Heal.
- Advanced and Master Techniques: Blind-Fight, Combat Expertise, Mighty Blow, and Mind Like Moon.
- Occult Techniques: Healing Hand, Inner Strength, Iron Skin, and Resist Pain.
Known Techniques (11): Toughness 4, Defense 2, Combat Expertise, Mind Like Moon, Inner Strength, Iron Skin, and Resist Pain.
Basically what you have here is Batman with a stronger emphasis on mystical martial arts powers, an Exalted-style Sidereal Martial Artist, or a Champions-style mystic superhero. Kelelawar is never going to reach the truly godlike heights of power d20 makes possible, but he should fit in quite comfortably in his niche.
Back in the old days it wasn’t too uncommon to have encounters with “spirits” – “creatures” who usually didn’t possess much actual power, but couldn’t be dealt with by any conventional means. Spirits were annoyances, puzzles, and talking characters who’s conversations couldn’t be interrupted by a crossbow bolt. If you had to placate an angry spirit that was haunting someone, you usually had to find a way to satisfy it; exorcisms and containments were temporary measures at best. Still, most spirits had a rather limited range from whatever was anchoring them to the material world – the site of their death, their treasured sword, or a hated foe. Quite often the simplest way to escape one was to simply leave the immediate area or dispose of the anchoring creature or item. Of course if the anchor was someone that you didn’t want to kill, or an item that you didn’t want to abandon or destroy, you had to fall back on persuasion.
Spirits could reveal secrets, offer guidance, provide warnings, or even offer very (very) minor support if you did something for them – if you took a message to their surviving relatives, rescued their friends before they too died, or found adoptive parents for their children. More importantly, you couldn’t simply use blackmail, torture, mind-probes, or other means to bypass a spirit; you either made a deal or you got along without whatever information it had to supply.
While it may be unkind to imply that the only people who can safely bargain with adventurers are the ones who are already dead, it’s often true.
In those days most characters only occasionally dealt with spirits – but there were always a few spiritualists, shamans, and other specialists who made a routine of it.
Some of them used class-based abilities, some skills, and some specialized spells that linked spirits to them.
Thus, for example, we had an Ancestor or Guardian Spirit associated with a member of the Kwin family. Ancestor spirits are generally effectively third or fourth level; no matter how powerful they are, there’s only so much they can do working through subtle psychic influences.
Yang The Invincible, also known as the Wonderful, the Incomparable, the (Censored), the Barbarian, the Magnificent, the Mass Murderer, the Pillager, the Arsonist, and so on.
Yang was something of an interloper in the clan Kwin family tree; he was a Tsongi horseman / raider instead of a citizen of the Empire. How he got involved with the family doesn’t bear mentioning, but the damage to the village was pretty massive. Yang died about 220 years ago, some ten generations back. He is short and tends to appear in crummy chainmail and stained leather, which matches his greasy hair and general aura of dirt extremely well. He always smells a bit of horses. Yang is loud, crude, and in favor of his descendants getting back to the “basics” or “Three R’s” – Raiding, Raping, and Ravaging. Pillaging, murdering, and going berserk are optional extras, but are nice if they can be managed. Yang’s advice is utterly uninhibited by any notions of being honorable and is often throughly vicious – but it also tends to be crudely practical, very direct, and occasionally quite insightful.
As an Ancestor Spirit Yang possesses several powers:
- Limited telekinesis. He can move small objects within sixty feet of his contact. If it should matter, treat this as Str 2.
- He grants 1d6 extra points of psychic strength to his contact.
- He provides a +1 bonus on his contact’s defense rating (armor class) while present.
- He can “scout” areas from the empyrean (ethereal) plane.
- He can appear to, communicate with, and offer advice to, his contact as desired.
- He can manifest for up to (Contacts Wis/3 + Level) rounds daily while within sixty feet of his contact.
- He can share his senses with his contact with a range of sixty feet.
- He may take limited possession of unresisting subjects – using their body until they either want to do something themselves or want him to leave.
Yang himself was fourth level. He was proficient with light armor and all weapons, knew a bit of unarmed combat, was a good horseman, and possessed several minor psychokinetic knacks – minor pyrokinesis (1d4 damage) and flame control, telekinetic missile control (+2/+2), and a personal force shield. Sadly, he has a psychic strength of a mere six points on his own, which is why he normally works through his contact. His other skills include some ability to evaluate the worth of common kinds of loot, power drinking, and evading pursuit. Finally, his advice on tactics is usually fairly decent. He’s picked up a bit of finesse since he died. (He was jumped by six armed men while he was in bed with someone else’s wife)
Now in first edition there was no problem with a spell that provided long-term special powers for the caster – such as being able to link up with several ancestor spirits. When mages could only learn a very limited number of spells, might never be able to learn particular spells, and obtaining new spells was difficult (making a captured spellbook a great treasure and a spellbook which had original spells in it a legendary treasure) finding a rare spell that offered special powers… worked just fine. In d20 games – where spells of all types are easily available and come in standardized levels of power – that approach doesn’t work properly. To make the same sort of resource-choice mean something we’re going to have to go with Feats – or, in Eclipse, Character points.
Ergo, to get some spirits invest in Leadership with Exotic Type (Spirits), Corrupted/Spirits ONLY and they definitely have minds of their own (6 CP).
That will get you a few spirits working for you.
So what can spirits do in d20?
Well, being nigh-indestructible is hard in d20. About the only way to manage that is not to get involved in the fight to begin with. Ergo, here’s a basic package for Spirits.
- Sanctum/Appropriate Outer Plane (6 CP). Most of a spirits powers – or at least the ones that we’re interested in – only work on the appropriate outer plane where it can manifest itself easily.
- While on an appropriate Outer Plane, a Spirit may maintain a link with some individual or item on the Prime Material – although this must be established through a magical summons or at the moment of death. That’s Mystic Link with Communications II (allows sensory sharing) Power Links, and Transferable, Specialized/may be temporarily disrupted or blocked by exorcisms, spirit wards, and similar effects, involves hallucinations of the character actually being present (9 CP).
- Spirits are pretty safe on their Outer Plane, and need not worry about things like making a living. That’s Privilege/Safe Residence on Alignment Plane (3 CP).
- Spirits are naturally psychic; it comes of being creatures of mind and magical energy – but it’s harder to tap into that when they’re on less cooperative planes. That’s +3d6 Power (6).
- Spirits need not sleep, and are generally available most of the time. That’s Immunity/Sleep (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP).
- All Spirits – or at least the ones we’re interested in – possess Witchcraft II (including three basic witchcraft abilities), with the Summoning, Blessing, and Possession (Specialized for increased effect (minimal cost)/target must be and remain unresisting) advanced abilities. They are, however, bound by the Pact of Souls (they must attempt to recruit descendants for their plane of residence) and Spell Failure (their witchery will not work against characters or areas with spirit wards) (Net 18 CP)
- Spirits can easily recognize their descendants. That’s Occult Sense/Kinfolk (6 CP).
With a net cost of 30 CP we have a +0 ECL race/+1 ECL Template. That will come out of their assigned levels of course.
That package… allows them to use witchcraft powers on their “anchor” with ease and to spend a 3 Power surcharge to use witchery in the immediate vicinity of their anchor. While each spirits powers will vary, some can lend their anchor strength and healing, others can assault targets in the vicinity with pyrokinesis, some can whisper suggestions, or use illusions to “manifest”, and so on. Their very limited psychic strength will keep them from doing too much of that sort of thing – but they can still be pretty versatile. If they specialize minor telekinetic powers properly they can even play at animating “zombies” – or at least using corpses and puppets.
Spirits can serve as mentors, training partners, or aides, can possess small, properly trained animals, consulting experts, or scouts. As their anchors power increases their effective levels will go up – and their abilities will increase.
Is this “Balanced”? It will give you access to a fair amount of Witchcraft rather cheaply and it makes your followers pretty nearly indestructible.
Of course, there are lots of ways to arrange that. If you’re willing to allow the use of Leadership, this is hardly the most abusive way to use it.
Charles was currently making more manses / bodyguard-protector manse guardians, studying defense charms, researching Deathlords, and puzzling over Yu-Shan’s geomantic maps… Aikiko was not a big worry at the moment given that she was protected from unnatural mental influence and that she’d gone from “Help! I’ve been Kidnaped!” to “I have GOT to get me one of THESE!” anyway. She seemed to be rather enjoying herself…
He’d already notified Autochthonia that there might be attacks there and dispatched assistance (and was rather awaiting the “Who in the Void are YOU!?” responses) and put bodyguards on all the Tenders and major geomantic nexi of Yu-Shan… There wasn’t much else he could do to keep a lid on THAT situation at the moment!
The end of the cosmos beckoned, but the military of Tarvail still wanted to talk to him a bit and the Music Of Creation needed more work anyway. Even for him it was a pretty ambitious project; arranging to hit that peak of skill – and for the cascading probabilities that would make success almost inevitable – was rather a lot of work, even with his resources.
Gamespeak Interlude: It was indeed. Arranging to roll nearly seventy dice, and for the threshold of success to be reduced to “2″, called for a wide assortment of excellencies, charms, sorceries, artifacts, augmented grace tools, grace magic, hearthstones, geomancies, manses, aides, divine aid, and geomantic relays, all carefully sequenced and timed. It took even Charles a rather long time to set up each roll. Doing so at least twenty-five times in a row was a lot of work.
And, of course, there was an interruption…
The extraterrestrial humans had recovered nicely from having the earth astronomers leave, the dragon-lady from Satries was providing entertainment with her marvelous breath, Mothra Leo was fluttering around outside, enjoying getting in some flying time – and Gothmug was reporting that a wraith was requesting clearance to enter Aden through the Underworld communications Manse.
Given that he WAS having Deathlord problems Charles had said Wraith checked out carefully – and gave instructions not to allow him or her in if he or she DIDN’T check out!
According to Gothmug… she identified herself as “Frumisara” and claimed to have been hired by the Donelly Terrestrial Clan to keep an eye on Charles himself! She’d sent documentation over through a living descendant.
He had Malinda check that out – and she turned out to be quite legitimate, and guests WERE allowed… She even had a letter from the clan head himself, which also checked out. And just when he had a lot of things to do… maybe she’d be willing to help sort out the kids from the fey? She might as well come in… after all, she’d be solid by default in Aden.
Frumisara was pleased by that at least. Her demeanor was pretty stoic, though, and – fairly typically for wraiths – her clothing was very old fashioned.
And she wanted to meet Charles of course.
She was currently in one of the stores, looking over some dresses – the darker ones, mostly – but headed over to the Mardi Gras Laboratory as soon as permission came through.
(Frumisara, distantly, but friendly enough) “Ah, there you are. You must be Charles. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
(Charles, who was carefully adjusting a note-sequence, hanging in the air. Fortunately, in the Mardi Gras manse, he could simply manifest them and sand the rough spots off) “Nice to meet you too!”
(Frumisara, not at all startled by this) “Well… you are a powerful one, creating your own world like this. Even with the report from the Donellys, I needed to see it with my own eyes. It must be fairly obliging to you – which is all the more reason why I am needed! The outside world is not so obliging.”
(Charles) “Well no! And there are mean people in it!”
(Frumisara) “Which is why I am here. Mr. Donelly asked me to have you consult with me before you made major decisions – such as building artifacts and manses for people, engaging powerful entities such as Deathlords, or gallivanting outside Creation – which I believe you are about to do right now, yes? Just what is your intent there?”
(Charles) “Well, I need to pick something up to help out someone who’s very sick! And only one Deathlord is really upset with me at the moment!”
(Frumisara) “ONLY one? All right, young man, tell me what happened…”
(Charles) “Erm… Well… But that involves secret stuff!”
(Frumisara) “Come now, young man – I’m supposed to ensure that you don’t give things to people who would be detrimental to Creation – or the Underworld for that matter! And just who is sick enough that you need to go to the edge of the universe for them? Most cures are easy enough to find or create for a sorcerer of your apparent power.”
Charles was panicky! Direct questions! From someone insistent!
Frumisara almost laughed – but maintained her stoicism. For all his power Charles was obviously enough still a small boy! You just needed… to be an authority figure and back him into a verbal corner while sternly waggling a finger! He must have been well brought up from very early on!
(Charles) “Er… Er… Well… Would you take an Oath of Secrecy? At the Privacy Manse? It’s important!”
(Frumisara) “It won’t affect my mind negatively, will it?”
(Charles, quite indignantly) “Of course not!”
(Frumisara) “I had children pull pranks on me that way, back when I was living… but lead the way.”
Charles set his artificing aside for the moment and did so. Once there, and privacy assured, and oath made…
(Charles) “Well… Yu-Shan is a Primordial, and she’s very sick already – and there’s a Deathlord who wants to kill her, recreate oblivion, and dump all of the gods and Incarnae in it! He sent three Abyssals to Earth to blow up a manse I was fixing, and they sort of died, and their Exaltations didn’t go back to him, so he’s pretty cross! And I need some stuff to help Yu-Shan because most medicines and charms don’t work on Primordial Illnesses! And that’s why there’s a hurry!”
(Frumisara) “By the Dual Monarchs… does he know about this place?”
(Charles) “About Aden? Some! he could get aboard through some of the Old Oblivion Magics – but that’s one reason I’m making more guards. Fortunately, even if someone was standing next to us under perfect concealment effects, the privacy effects here are also perfect, so they still couldn’t listen in!”
(Frumisara) “Well… you should start some further security protocols, just in case – and watch that Underworld communications Manse!”
She listed off some of the ways hostile ghosts could get in and some of the common ways Deathlords could… alter them. She was a fairly popular nanny among Ghost-Blooded and ghosts who cared about their descendants!
And, of course, the odd child-ghost who needed a nanny as a part of the current story they were acting out.
Charles cheering added more precautions. Always good to have more people thinking about a problem!
Hmm… The boy was indeed obliging! Still, she had to wonder what she’d gotten herself into! He’d “only” upset ONE Deathlord? Of course… he’d upset a Deathlord in a major way and was still alive – and seemed fairly likely to stay that way! His defenses were obviously already most formidable!
Charles… set her up with the “special measures to kill” package and some boosts and artifacts and such. If she was going to hang around she might need them!
Frumisara spent some time getting to know Gothmug a bit better… and getting set up to keep an eye on Charles and moving into one of the manses where he had a partial presence; that made him MUCH easier to keep an eye on and advise!
A bit of training at the Solar Academy, checking out Galileo, and shopping was also in order – as well as talking about the other children the boy was picking up from the fey!
Charles had been looking for advice on what to do about the low-end ones anyway.
Frumisara suggested getting guardians for them, and training in for caring for their own needs. She knew several good therapists and trainers, both living and dead.
Charles… had been reluctant to get trainers… it felt unpleasantly like finding someone to teach a dog tricks.
(Frumisara) “Charles . . . they have to learn how to live in the world, even here. It’s good for them to be as independent as they can. Be honest: do you want them to spend the rest of their lives doing nothing but running errands?”
(Charles) “Well… they are learning! Even the Teddies have modified their paws to be better hands, and gotten thinner, and are making their own dinners and things… it’s really SLOW, but they don’t age or anything while they’re here! But… if you think it would help them progress faster, I can get some traininers. It’s just that… most of them aren’t STUPID; they just have so little will of their own that being told what to do makes it easy for them to stagnate. Having to decide what to do in very small things… at least gets them used to making SOME decisions!”
(Frumisara) “That’s not a bad tactic – but teaching them, say, basic cooking will involve them making an awful lot of small decisions – how much spice, how much salt, whether something is done or not…”
(Charles) “Huh! I hadn’t really thought about it, but that’s true! A few hours of lessons every day it is!”
Elsewhere, flashing through the void on yet another errand for her master, a young Abyssal was considering. The function of the amulet the child had given her (or perhaps created on the spot?) was easy enough to see; if she attuned it… it would restore any damaged or currently-limited sections of her mind to full operation and it would provide considerable resistance to mental influence while she kept it. Could that… cheerful gift… have any place in her current life? Was what she’d given up to become an Abyssal Exalt really worthwhile?
On Tarvail, Charles’s small cult was discovering that simply joining the group, even if you weren’t at all exclusive about praying to Charles, was apparently enough to cause virtually any injury to start healing and – at least according to the puzzled doctors – to drastically slow the aging process. And even for THAT benefit, recruiting was…. remarkably easy!
And that wasn’t even mentioning the fact that – if you were really in serious trouble – dropping a prayer to Charles was often enough to get some prompt, and extremely helpful, divine intervention! Or the resistance to mental influence! Or the ability to get minor artifacts of your own, or the way in which their effectiveness in working on projects other than recruiting seemed to be multiplied…
The last time we saw Haurgrim he was level eight. Over the last four levels Haurgrim has begun to move from “adventurer” to “patron of adventurers” as his own activities have begun to focus on politics, major negotiations with the creatures of the old, wild, magic in the mountains, and on dealing with threats to his father’s barony and its people, rather than on personal aggrandizement. Somewhat to his surprise, that’s been proving to be every bit as busy and exciting as chasing around in old ruins and magical caverns.
In Haurgim’s world the Old Magic and it’s Creatures still rule. In the deep caverns, in the high mountains, upon the wild seas… there giants, fey, dragons, and other things hold dominion, fearing only the ancient horrors that were sealed away in the forgotten youth of the world. The depths of the forest are more friendly, but are still a place of peril. Only the scattered valleys, paths, and waters that are protected by the old bargains can serve as safe homes for Men, Elves, and the other younger races. There, where hoary rites and old pacts hold the worst of the wild magic at bay, the younger races till their fields, raise their beasts, and worship their gods.
Here being a Druid is a highly respectable trade. SOMEONE needs to enact the rites, cut the symbols into the hills, maintain the mystic boundaries, and mediate between the young races and the old powers. Haurgrim – studious, observant, and methodical, was an ideal candidate, and was apprenticed to the village druid early on by his father, Eurathin – a local baron who cheerily acknowledged and made provisions for his bastards.
Haurgrim, however, was too curious for his own good. He looked beyond the minor spirits and shallow pools of earthpower which druids called upon. He became fascinated with the old powers, the wild magic of the outer planes. When he was caught up in a bit of petty warfare (another minor noble had a quarrel with Eurathin) he called upon those terrible elder powers in desperation – and he was answered, becoming a true Magus.
Eurathin was delighted – the greater magics were rare (most of the NPC’s are limited to low-level stuff using “local” energies), and usually only the upper nobility could boast a true mage at their courts. Eurathin sponsored Haurgrim, ensuring that he had every opportunity both to study his arts and to fulfill his obligations to his supernatural patrons.
Over the years since, Haurgrim spent some time adventuring – but he has also become a master designer of mystical architecture, a skilled ritualist, and has undertaken a variety of missions – some trivial, some baffling, and some vital – on behalf of his various arcane patrons. That’s been a large enough pain that he prefers not to call on them for any major magics if he can avoid it (burning a few incense sticks or something is usually sufficient to pay for cantrips and first-level spells and such, which is easy). Haurgrim thus prefers to rely on his knowledge, his skills, his rituals, and occasionally on his connections. If he can avoid an encounter, determine the weakness of a creature, or solve an ancient puzzle without resorting to magic, that’s all to the good.
Recently, with the death of Karliss Vandorian, the elderly town speaker, Haurgrim has taken over his job and moved into politics – becoming the speaker for the commoners at Eurathin’s court and the local organizer. So far, that has proved at least as dangerous as his adventuring years were.
Human Racial Package (+0 ECL): Bonus Feat (6 CP) and Fast Learner (Specialized in Skills, +1 SP/Level, 3 CP). (Bonus Feat taken as Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills, three points from disadvantages used to boost racial Fast Learner to +2 SP/Level)
Available Character Points: Duties/Court Mage and protection of the Barony (+2 CP/Level), Restrictions/Finds armor impossibly burdensome (+1 CP/Level), Compulsive (curiosity) and Recorder (keeps notes on all kinds of things) (+6 CP), Human Bonus, L1, L3, L6, L9, and L12 Feats (+36 CP), Level Twelve Base (312 CP) = 390 CP. Nine have already been spent on racial abilities.
Basic Attributes: Strength 11/+0, Intelligence 24 (28)/+9, Wisdom 16 (18)/+4, Constitution 14 (16)/+3, Dexterity 12/+1, Charisma 12/+1. Original Rolls: 12, 16, 18, 12, 14, 11. Level-Based Bonuses: +3 Intelligence. Purchased Bonus: +3 Int (since the half-price attributes rule is in play, 18 CP).
Saving Throws (42 CP):
- Reflex: +4 (Purchased, 6 CP) + 1 (Dexterity) +2 (Resistance) = +5
- Fortitude: +4 (Purchased, 12 CP) +3 (Constitution) +2 (Resistance) = +9
- Will: +6 (Purchased, 18 CP) + 1 (Wisdom) +2 (Resistance) = +9
Basic Abilities (88 CP):
- Initiative: +1 (Dex) +4 Warning +5 Nerveskitter = +10
- Alignment: Lawful Good
- Move: 30
- Hit Dice: L1-8d8 (32 CP), L9-12d6 (8 CP)
- Hit Points: 8 (L1d8) + 42 (8, 8, 5, 8, 3, 7, 3, 5, 3, 6, 6) + 24 (Con Mod x 12) = 94
- Armor Class: 10 (Base) +1 (Dexterity) +4 Armor (Mage Armor) +4 Shield (Shield Spell) = 19.
- Proficiencies: All Simple and Druidic Weapons (9 CP).
- Languages (6 + 5): Common, Elvish, Celestial, Infernal, Sylvan, Draconic, Grave Argot, and the four Elemental Languages.
- Warcraft: +6 (36 CP), +1 Specialized in Scimitar (3 CP)
- Scimitar +21/+16 (+7 BAB +1 Enh +4 MA +9 Int), 1d6+9 (Int), Crit 18+/x2.
- Light Crossbow +8 (+6 BAB +1 Dex +1 Masterwork), 1d8, Crit 19+/x2, 80′ Range Increment.
Purchased Abilities (233 CP):
- Greater Invocation (30 CP): 5 Levels of Intelligence-Based Wilder Power Progression as Spell Levels (Divide power by 1.8 to convert to available spell levels. Substitute Components for Restrained on the basic progression). Specialized and Corrupted for triple effect (effective level 15): does not provide any actual powers to work with, these must be bought separately, only works to power Paths and Metaspells which invoke various entities, such entities may occasionally call on him for various services or favors – and the more often he calls upon them, the more likely this is. Provides (195 + [Int Mod x CL/2])/1.8 (146 total) spell levels to work with and allows him to use path- or metaspell-based effects of up to level seven.
- 3d6 (14) Mana with the Spell Enhancement Option, Specialized/cannot be used to go more than one spell level above what he could normally use. This can, however, reduce the level of favors that he’ll owe for a particular spell (6 CP).
- Rite of Chi with +4 bonus uses, Specialized/requires an hour of sleep or meditation per use (6 CP).
- +3d6 Mana as 6d4 (16) Generic Spell Levels, Corrupted/only to power Metaspells (12 CP).
- Over the years Haurgrim has learned to use local magic to turn a few minor spells into greater spells without owing favors – but that’s a very limited resource.
- Paths and Metaspells: 42 CP.
- The Adamant Darkness of the Nameless One: Creates and – at higher levels – solidifies and manipulates – darkness. Often used to create barriers, chains, weapons, and storms of darts.
- Eilken’s Unbinding: Breaks spells and controlling effects, releases bonds and seals, and – at very high levels – can disintegrate matter.
- The Winds of Malgaunt: Provides telekinetic effects.
- The Eye of Sutekh: Lays compulsions and commands.
- The Krellian Beasts: Creates – or perhaps unleashes – psychic constructs.
- The Transmutation of Ordanth: Elemental transmutation and polymorph effects.
- The White Winds: Provides teleportation and planar travel effects.
- That’s actually quite a lot of fairly flexible power, but it’s also 96 CP. That’s enough for twelve levels of Bard, Cleric, or Druid spellcasting, or sixteen levels of Wilder – and while Haurgrim can invent his own spells within those seven broad themes, he can only get away with two or three high-level spells a day, and five or six of up to level four, before he’ll start having to pay back those favors. That can easily become a loop; use a powerful spell to solve one problem, get a brand new problem, use a powerful spell to solve IT, get a brand new problem… Of course, it’s also a lot more interesting than standard spellcasting or psionics – which is always a good thing.
- Druidic Spellcasting I (8 CP): 3L0 and 2L1 spells per day.
- While Haurgrim never really pursued his druidical training after he learned that he could use the greater magics, he remembers the basics – even if he does mostly use them for operating wands and such.
- Finesse: Clever Fencing. Uses (Int Mod) instead of (Str Mod) with swords (6 CP).
- Ritual Magic (6 CP): Can produce a wide variety of magical effects with his Spellcraft skill – given time and materials.
- Augmented Bonus/Perceptive Studies (6 CP): Adds his Wis Mod to his Int Mod for Int-Based skills.
- Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
- All right. This is just too useful not to get – and it means that, while the character can avoid the real disasters, since he’s not really keeping his saves up, minor effects will often get through. After all, who wants to waste their limited supply of luck on minor stuff?
- Innate Enchantment (12 CP/11,000 GP value):
- Mage Armor (SL1 x CL1 x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP
- Force Shield (SL1 x CL1 x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
- Enhance Attribute/+2 Wisdom (SL1 x CL1 x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
- Moment of Insight (SL1 x CL1 x 400 GP/Use Use Activated) True Skill 3/day = 1200 GP).
- Detect Magic ((SL1/2 x CL1 x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use Activated x .7 Personal Only = 700 GP.
- Scout’s Headband (Magic Item Compendium, 3400 GP) +2 to Spot, 3 Charges / Day, 1 for 60′ Darkvision for an hour, 2 for See Invisible for ten minutes, three for True Seeing for one minute.
- Artificer’s Monocle (Magic Item Compendium, 1500 GP): Use Detect Magic and Arcana 5+ to identify magic items given one minute.
- Skill Emphasis/Knowledge; Architecture and Engineering (3 CP): +2 bonus.
- Advanced Surgical Studies/Augmented Bonus (Adds Int Mod to Wis Mod for skill purposes), Specialized/Heal Only (3 CP).
- Favors (3 CP): Haurgrim has connections with the local nobility, and can obtain some minor favor or bit of aid from them once per session.
- Adept II (10 CP). Corrupted, may only be applied to knowledge skills, and only then if the user takes time out to study in a library. 1.5x Effect (six knowledge skills) on the first instance, reduced cost on the second, to cover all knowledge skills.
- Access to Occult Skill/Governance (3 CP).
- Reflex Training/ 3 action per day variant (6 CP).
- Mystic Artist / Architecture (6 CP).
- Haurgrim can design and build structures that affect all those within or around them with the power of his art. With an applicable skill of 30 (since reference-work and magical bonuses do not count in determining how many ways he can use his power), he is entitled to use eleven of the basic abilities. In his case he has selected the following options:
- Inspiration Abilities:
- Emotion; he can design structures that inspire strong emotions in all who view or enter them (Save DC 11 + Int Mod).
- Competence (Skipped).
- Greatness; he can design structures that inspire those contemplating them or within them with +1 Positive Level and 1d10 temporary hit points.
- Excellence; he can design structures that grant those within them or contemplating them to +4 Morale Bonuses which may be applied to their saves, their AC, their attacks, or to the damage they inflict in melee.
- Mass Greatness; basically as above, at least for someone who creates buildings rather than arts which only affect a small number of people.
- Mass Excellence; basically as above, at least for someone who creates buildings rather than arts which only affect a small number of people.
- Heroism; he can design structures that grant those affected by them a +2 positive level bonus.
- Synergy Abilities:
- Block; he can design his structures to resist magic which would damage them, such as Earth to Stone or Disintegrate.
- Group Focus (Skipped).
- Amplify; he can design structures which boost the abilities of friendly spellcasters, providing them with a +2 caster level bonus.
- Harmonize; He can incorporate any two these functions into a single building.
- Serenity; he can design structures that will, once per week each, allow anyone who contemplates them to regain “uses-per-day” abilities and be refreshed as if by a nights rest.
- Rule the Horde; he can design structures that render those who contemplate or enter them non-hostile and inflict a chosen Suggestion on them (Will save DC 22 + Int Mod).
- Mystic Architecture Ability Modifiers:
- Seeking (6 CP): Haurgrim can limit the effects of his architecture to particular targets, such as “the rightful inhabitants of the city” or “the followers of a particular god” or some such. This allows him to design a wide variety of custom structures.
- Whispers (6 CP): The source of his architectures effects is not immediately obvious; it will take special measures, such as divination, to trace them down.
- Mystic architecture can produce some fairly powerful effects relatively cheaply – at least in terms of Character Points. On the other hand, the direct utility to most characters is strictly limited. It does, however, offer a wonderful way to create castles that cannot be easily penetrated by a few spells, glorious temples that actually impress visitors or which enhance the powers of the priests within them, and similar dedicated structures. If the architect who designed the walls of a town happens to have incorporated the Block and Greatness effects with the Seeking modifier, the walls will not readily fall to supernatural attacks – and the guards upon them will gain a very useful advantage.
- Immunity to the normal restrictions of the Heal skill (Uncommon / Major / Major, covers effects of up to L5, Specialized; requires ten minutes of work with a bagful of tools and medicines to bypass such limitations, 3 CP). The user can also:
- DC 20: Splint broken limbs, relieve allergies and arthritis, and reduce similar troubles to something manageable.
- DC 25: Maximize the effect of a healing spell or perform simple surgery (curing 2d4 damage). DC 30: Cure blindness, deafness, or disease, or perform a Lesser Restoration (once per day per patient).
- DC 35: Perform complex surgery (curing 3d6 damage), Neutralize Poison and heal it’s effects.
- DC 40: Revival (allows normal treatment and recovery for up to 3 minutes after “death”), provide a full Restoration (once per day per patient).
- These effects will require an upgrade to the Great Immunity level, for +3 CP.
- DC 50: Perform organ transplants, perform advanced surgery (curing 4d12 damage), cure a supernatural disease, or Quicken Recovery (as per the Epic Level Handbook).
- DC 60: Perform ultra-advanced surgery (curing 5D20 damage), rebuild limbs, or redesign bodies.
- These effects will require an upgrade to the Epic Immunity level, for another +3 CP.
- DC 75: Build a Flesh Golem. This bypasses the usual prerequisites and 80% of the GP cost – but does not bypass the experience point cost.
- DC 100: Induce a Perfect Recovery (as per the Epic Level Handbook).
- Unfortunately, any given patient can only be healed via surgery once per day.
Skill Points: 44 (CP Spent) + 60 (Racial and Purchased Fast Learner) + 105 (Intelligence) = 209 SP.
- Knowledge Skills: Arcana, Dungeoneering, Geography, History, Local, Nature, Nobility and Royalty, Religion, and the Planes, all +15 (Skill Points spent + Adept) + 13 (Effective Intelligence Modifier for Knowledge Skills) + 2 (Masterwork Reference Work) + 3 (Competence) = +33. Architecture and Engineering also gets a +2 bonus from his Skill Emphasis. Net cost: 60 SP.
- Other Skills: Blade of the Janni Martial Art +28 (15 SP + 13 Int), Concentration +20 (15 SP +3 Con +2 Enh), Craft/Alchemy +19 (6 SP +13 Int), Disable Device +30 (15 SP +13 Int +2 Tools), Disguise +2 (1 SP +1 Cha), Governance +28 (15 SP + 13 Int), Heal +32 (15 SP +4 Wis +9 Int +2 Tools +2 Syn), Listen +15 (11 SP +4 Wis), Ride +7 (6 SP +1 Dex), Search +19 (15 SP +4 Wis), Speak Language/+5 Languages (5), Spellcraft +28 (15 SP +13 Int), Spot +24 (15 SP +4 Wis +5 Mask).
Blade of the Janni provides 14 abilities: Attack +4, Strike, Synergy/Heal, Instant Stand, Mind Like Moon, Combat Reflexes, Sunder, Inner Strength, Ki Block, Ki Focus (Int), and Vanishing.
Thanks to Haurgrim’s efficient management and impressive Governance score of +28 the town boasts several features over and above what would normally be expected, including…
- A splendid Theater Company (2).
- Several famous eateries (2)
- Warehouses sufficient to supply the area through two major emergencies (4).
- A notable School of Magic (4)
- A Treasury sufficient to meet the needs of one major emergency (2)
- Criminal Courts which reduces unrest and criminal activities by one level (2)
- Temples and Shrines, capable of providing notable clerical assistance (4).
- Mystical Wards sufficient to block out scrying and minor spirits (2).
- The backing of several local Nobles, who will supply a minor and a major favor once each per season (4).
- Enough Outposts and Outworks to force an attacker to fight at least one battle before even reaching the town (2).
- Notable Equipment:
Masterwork Items: Silver Dagger, Light Crossbow, Mages Bag (+2 to Spellcraft), Healers Pouch (+2 to Heal), and an Alchemists Kit.
Minor items: Riding Horse and Tack, Packmule and Tack, Fine Clothing, 20 Bolts, Sling and Bullets, Rations, Bedroll, Water Flask, Writing Kit, Candles, Silk Rope, Masterwork Medical Kit, Hammer and Pitons, 3 Oil Flasks, Bullseye Lantern, Masterwork Thieves Picks and Tools, Small Steel Mirror, Silver Holy Symbol, Signet Ring, Spyglass, Tarp, assorted minor personal items (grooming, bathing, etc).
Special Materials: 3x Holy Water, 3x Antitoxin, 6x Sunrods, Tanglefoot Bag, and an assortment of incenses and such for making offerings to his patrons.
- +1 Scimitar of Warning (+5 to Initiative when held) (8000 GP) with a Crystal of Return (1000 GP).
- Amulet of Health +2 (4000 GP).
- Belt of Battle (12,000), Sapient (Nerveskitter 3/Day), with Healing Belt Function (+1125 GP) and it’s own “Healing Belt” (tassle) (750 GP).
- Boots of Swift Passage (MIC, 5000 GP) Move action to teleport 20′ with LOS five times a day.
- Cloak of Resistance +2 (4000 GP).
- Headband of Intellect +4 (16,000), combines Circlet of Mages (MIC, 7500), and Hat of Disguise (2700) functions.
- Heward’s Handy Haversack (2000 GP).
- Raptor’s Mask (MIC, 3500 GP) +5 unnamed bonus to spot, immunity to being blinded or dazzled.
- Ring of Silent Spells (MIC, 2000 GP) Creates a silence effect centered on the wearer once per day. While it lasts the wearer may cast up to three spells of 3rd level or lower without verbal components.
- Ring of The Forcewall (5100 GP).
- Sphere of Awakening (Magic Item Compendium 186, 1800 GP) Swift action to awaken all allies within 60′. User and all allies are fatigue, exhaustion, and sleep effects for 10 minutes.
- Survival Pouch (Magic Item Compendium 187, 3300 GP) 5/day, you can pull out one of the following: trail rations, 2 gallons of water in a waterskin, tent plus two bedrolls, 50′ rope, shovel, campfire/8 torches, composite shortbow with 20 arrows in a quiver, or a mule with bit/bridle/saddle/saddlebags. Items last for eight hours or until used up.
- Universal Encyclopedia (Masterwork Reference Work, +2 Enhancement and +3 Competence bonus to all Knowledge Skills, 2000 GP),
- Wand of Cure Light Wounds (750 GP).
- Wand of Entangle (750 GP).
Haurgrim is still a formidable mage – but he’ll run short of power he can use without committing himself very quickly indeed if he has to face two or three encounters in a row. He makes a wonderful city speaker though – with power to meet emergencies and the skills to make his city a prosperous and important place.
And now that I’ve gotten caught up, it’s back to a mixture of game systems…
Taric has come a long ways since his second level “pit fighter” writeup and illustrates a common trend with Eclipse-based characters – a desire to experiment with more exotic options as they go up in level. He’s increased his skills, dealt with his pursuers (who are not crazy enough to pursue someone who’s grown so powerful), and gone from being a very angry young man with a big weapon to something of a hero. He’s also awakened the power of his draconic heritage, obtaining some options beyond “smack them with a big sword” along the way.
Taric, along with most of his family, was captured in a border raid. Unlike most of the youngsters who were sold as servants, he was more rebellious than sensible, and kicked up enough trouble to wind up being sold to a gladiator school.
He was cheap and disposable – and so was drilled with heavy armor (to keep him standing for a bit) and a single, impressive, weapon. After all, he wasn’t expected to live long enough to use a second one.
Unexpectedly, he turned out to have some talent (or at least decent muscles and plenty of anger), and survived his initial bouts. That really rather surprised his trainers – and so did the stroke of luck which gave him a good chance to escape and the speed at which he grabbed it.
Taric started off his adventuring as a paranoid, vicious, young man with a long list of people (captors, masters, trainers, people who killed friends of his, people who cheered too loudly for his opponents, and more) whom he wanted to see dead. Unlike many such, however, a bit of adventuring awoke a spark of nobility in his soul – he would not see other youngsters victimized as he and his friends had been – and with that noble spark awoke the latent power of his great-great grandfather’s gold dragon blood.
Draconic blood can express itself in many ways. In some it grants the potential for sorcery. Others, with blood more pure, are twisted into quasi-reptilian forms. In still others it lies sleeping, allowing it’s bearer to pass as human – until some event calls it forth. Some reach within themselves in search of raw power to serve wrath, ambition, and greed – and if their heritage is chromatic, they sometimes find it. Others search for strength during some moment of heroism or moral choice – and to them a metallic heritage may answer.
Race: Ur-Human (Golden Dragon Heritage, +1 ECL):
- Bonus Feat (6 CP): Fast Learner, Specialized in Hit Dice for Double Effect and +2 CP/Level (a d6 base).
- Fast Learner/Specialized in Skills for Half Cost and +1 SP/Level (3 CP).
- Str +4, Con +4, Int +4, Cha +4 (Since the setting is using the half-price attributes option, and attributes in a template already only cost half what they normally would, these cost a mere 24 CP – a definite bargain. I worlds where that rule does not apply reduce the bonuses to a total of +8).
- Natural Weapons (4 CP): Taric’s nails are hard and sharp enough to cause serious injuries; he always counts as being armed.
- Low-Light Vision (6 CP):
- Shaping (Specialized, only as a prerequisite, 3 CP):
- Dragonfire (Specialized and Corrupted/Only for personal Shields, but can be used reflexively, 4 CP): While nowhere near as tough as a full dragon, Taric can still divert a certain amount of damage (4 points per spell level expended) to his magical reserves.
- Eye Of The Dragon (6 CP): May absorb up to (Int) spell levels per day, storing a maximum of (2 x Con) levels at any given moment.
- Ride the Dragon (6 CP): May channel absorbed spell levels into the following supernatural abilities; Scorching Ray, Cure Serious Wounds, Remove Paralysis, Shield Other, and Protection From Energy.
- Wings of the Dragon (6 CP): L6 Spell: Spirit of the Dragon, Enhance Attribute/All Six by +6 each.
- Speak Language/Draconic (1 CP).
At 63 CP this is a +1 ECL race (as Taric has taken it) or a +2 ECL template. Also, like most customized races and templates, it’s completely centered on what the character wants to be doing – and so is very effective for it’s ECL cost. Of course, in a combat-focused character, there’s nothing at all wrong with that.
Basic Attributes: Str 21 (+5), Dex 10 (+0), Con 16 (+3), Int 16 (+3), Wis 16 (+3), and Cha 14 (+2). (32 Point Buy plus Race, +1 L4 Level Bonus to Str).
Available Character Points: 144 (Level five Base) +24 (Human, L1, L2, L4 Bonus Feats) +10 (Disadvantages) +10 (Duties/Guardian) = 188 CP.
Basic Abilities (96 CP):
- Hit Points: 20 (L1d20, 12 CP) +8, 9, 6, 9 (L2-5d10, 8 CP) +48 (6 x [Con Mod + Str Mod]) = 100
- BAB +5, Specialized/Melee Weapons and Corrupted/Greatsword only for Triple Effect (+15 total) (30 CP)
- Corrupting his attack to “Greatsword Only” is stretching things a bit now that he uses a Spirit Weapon; he’ll always have his Greatsword handy. On the other hand, there are (or at least should be) plenty of situations in an adventurers life when there just isn’t room to wield a Greatsword and Taric will just have to find another way to manage. As a game master I’d be making sure that those pop up every so often. Now if he was a shortsword specialist, it probably wouldn’t be allowable; if you can move at all there’s usually enough room for those.
- (Large, treated as Huge) Greatsword Attack: +25/+20/+15 (+15 BAB +5 Str +1 Enh +4 MA), 3d8+8, Reach 15′. Can intercept and absorb spells in this range as well. May inflict lethal or nonlethal damage at will.
- Armor Class: 10 (Base) +3 (Dex) +7 (Armor) +4 (Shield, only while using a greatsword) = 24
- Skill Points: 9 (9 CP) + 16 (Fast Learner) +24 (Int) = 49 SP
- Fortitude: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) +3 (Wis Mod, See Below) = +3
- Reflex: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) +3 (Wis Mod, See Below) = +3
- Will: +6 (Purchased, 18 CP) +3 (Wis Mod, See Below) = +9
- Taric is much more worried about mind control than he is about being blasted or poisoned. In his case that’s not entirely unreasonable; he has Luck for those must-make saves, and most will saves are less than lethal.
- Proficient with Light, Medium, and Heavy Armor (15 CP), Proficient with Great Sword (3 CP).
Special Abilities (88 CP):
- Upgrade Human Fast Learner ability to +2 SP/Level (3 CP).
- Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus/adds (Str Mod) to (Con Mod) when calculating hit points (18 CP).
- Spirit Weapon (Greatsword, 6 CP): Taric has learned to generate his own greatsword out of pure will, expressed as light.
- Eye of the Dragon (Again, 6 CP): This increases his daily absorption limit to (2 x Int) and storage capacity to (4 x Con).
- Lunge (6 CP). Gives him 5′ of Reach.
- Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
- Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Attacks (6 CP).
- Reflex Training (3 Actions/Day variant) with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP).
- Improved Initiative +2 (3 CP).
- Skill Emphasis/Survival, Specialized in Tracking for Double Effect (+4, 3 CP).
- Anime Master, Specialized in Greatswords (3 CP). He can wield a large greatsword as if it was a normal one.
- Track/Wilderness (3 CP).
- Innate Enchantment (5000 GP Value/6 CP).
- Warblade (A variant of Shillelagh, a normal Greatsword becomes +1 and is considered on size category larger, 2000 GP).
- Whirling Guard (Shield, x.8 only works when holding a Greatsword, 1600 GP).
- Perceptive Focus (+2 Wisdom, Personal-only, 1400 GP).
- Immunity/The normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Major, Trivial, 2 CP).
- Enthusiast, Specialized for Double Effect/only for Relics (3 CP)
- Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only for relics that enhance his dragon powers, only for making relics with his Enthusiast points (2 CP).
- Current Relic: The Dragonfire Ring: Pulse and Heart of the Dragon, Specialized/only as prerequisites, Blood of the Dragon (12 CP); May use (Cha Mod) spell levels worth of Path of the Dragon effects each minute without cost.
- Listen +11 (8 SP +3 Wis)
- Survival +13 (8 SP +3 Wis +2 Sy)
- Spot +13 (8 SP +3 Wis +2 Sy)
- Sense Motive +11 (8 SP +3 Wis)
- Mjolnir’s Strike (Martial Art) +13 (8 SP +5 Str). Requires Weapon Focus on a two-handed weapon.
- 7 techniques: Attack +4, Strike, Blind-Fight, and Reach.
- Iron Wind Style (Martial Art) +11 (8 SP + 3 Wis):
- 6 Techniques: Strike, Synergy/Survival, Synergy/Spot, Power 1, Mind Like Moon, Instant Stand.
- Tumble +1 (1 SP +0 Dex)
Taric’s been equipped at the “NPC” level – mostly so as to leave easy room for customization.
- Minor Mundane Gear: 90 GP
- Adamantine Shuriken/Small Blade variety: A handy tool (60)
- +1 Banded Mail (1400).
- Restful Crystal: Lets you sleep well in armor (500).
- Armband of Elusive Action: 1/Day avoid provoking Attack of Opprotunity (800).
- Boots of the Cat: Avoid falling damage, land on your feet (1000 GP).
- Chronocharm of the Horizon Walker (1//day move 1/2 move as a swift action (500).
- Amber Item of Vermin/Summon Huge Monstrous Scorpion for one minute 1/day (700).
- Everfull Mug (200)
- Everlasting Rations (350)
Taric is still almost entirely reliant in melee combat with a Greatsword – but he has begun to branch out a bit. His basic “move in and hack things” strategy really hasn’t changed much though.
Charles has concluded that simply wyld stunting himself into attunement with the manses of Yu-Shan will not be enough. Not only is the potential danger considerable, but even that will not let him spread his rebuilding and healing charms far enough. Something more will be needed – a way to spread his power over vast areas.
So he’s began to compose the Music Of Creation – five five-dot symphonic artifacts designed to be performed – and to work – together. It is their nature to take other music, whether vocal or instrumental, into themselves and to resonate with those lesser performances – lending them their own perfection and thus swelling into a truly transcendent chorus.
Each of the five movements requires a total of 250 successes on Craft/Air to compose – and must be completed in no more than five rolls. Each movement must then be imbued with power as rank-five artifact. Actually performing (or perhaps unleashing) each movement requires sixty committed motes, a minimum effective essence of six, a skill of 8+ in Occult or Perform (either works to “perform” the movements), and at least a dozen assistants with skill 5+ in Perform.
Each of the first four movements has two basic effects, which normally extends to a radius of approximately one half mile times the primary performers essence rating. The fifth movement completes and unifies the set. With the opening of the fifth movement, each performer who takes up the incredible beauty of the theme and participates will act as a resonator – causing the power of the Music to spread a little further (and effectively forming a Rank N/A Artifact).
Movement The First (Percussion): The Wyld Drums, A Fire Upon The Deep. To be performed by Uthorian, Prince of Chaos and Wyld Thaumaturgy, the Noldor, and the Mardi Gras Raksha – although many will be taking instrumental form for it. Principle themes: The Chaos as the Eternal Source, Heartbeat of Life – Birth in Chaos, March of the Raksha, and the Thousand-Threaded Narrative.
Where the music of the Wyld Drums resounds, possibilities expand as the underlying chaos wells up. Within that area…
- Small Gods awaken, Wraiths experience the sensations and urges of life once more, Raksha can respire normally in Creation (and need not fear Calcification), and Mortals gain a glimpse of the flow of essence through the world.
- Characters may roll (Occult + Perception) at the start of each round. Successes may be used to reduce the cost of using charms and other powers during the round at a ratio of one success per mote, two successes per point of glamour, and three successes per point of will. Costs cannot be reduced below one mote point in total if a character uses one or more charms or powers though.
Movement The Second (Brasses): Paen of Glory, Triumph Of The Will. To be performed by Mishinago the Philosophical Storm, Master Of Alchemy, and the Warforged. Principle Themes: Cosmic Principles Unstained, Themes of the Absolute, Before the Fall. Pure Structure Rising. The March of Order, Drawing form and purpose from the infinite.
Where the Paen of Glory peals forth, structure rises from chaos and entropy retreats.
- Any creature touched by the music will see a vision of it’s potentials, and may spend up to (Ess x 3) + 12 experience points instantly, as a training effect.
- The essence flows reveal the potentials of physical structures – manses and buildings, books and paintings, rivers and forests – as well, halving the skill and ability requirements for repairing or otherwise modifying them.
Movement The Third (Woodwinds): Ode To Dawn, Serenade Of Nightfall. To be performed by Malinda the Seer, Mistress of Divination, the Elementals of Gaia and Aden, and Songbirds. Principle Themes: The First Awakening. The Break of Dawn over a New Creation. Rain. The Passing of a Storm, the Burgeoning of New Life into Joy. The Fall. Passage into Darkness, the Birth of Stars, Souls scattered across a Myriad Worlds.
Where the music of the third movement whispers, creatures find clarity in their roles and destinies.
- Anyone currently affected by Unnatural Mental Influence will find it’s influence broken as if sufficient will had been spent. Mindless plants are restored to health and vigor.
- Wraiths may opt to depart instantly into Lethe. Even those entrapped in Soulsteel are free to depart – leaving the soulsteel purified but unharmed, just as if it had been forged from ambrosia with the proper resonances in the first place. Other spirits see how they fit into creation, and are vital parts of it – and may roll to recover willpower as if awakening.
Movement The Fourth; Symphony of Renewal (Strings and Keyboards). To be performed by Elzeard and the Totems. Principle Themes: First Dawn on a Hundred Newly-Shaped Worlds, the Restoration of the Fallen (includes Descant for Varangian Rodents, Hipparions, and many other restored species), First Shoots Arising from the Ashes, and the Reawakening.
Where the melodies of the fourth movement are heard, those who listen will find strength and renewal.
- Living and quasi-living creatures are strengthened; any injuries, disabilities, or illnesses that they suffer from are stripped of qualities such as “Crippling”, “Aggravated”, “Autoimmune”, or “Cancerous” and will begin to heal naturally.
- Living and quasi-living creatures will find themselves as hale and hearty as if they had possessed the “Longevity” pox from their birth or creation.
Movement The Fifth: The Song of Creation (Voice and Geomantic Resonances). To be performed by Charles, various Voices, Geomantic Bass, and the prior movements. Principle themes; Ten Thousand Voices Unified and Touching the wider world.
Where the harmony of the fifth movement draws nature, sound, and spirit into itself, all are invited to rejoice and join in the music.
As noted, each performer who joins in the music of the Fifth Movement will act as a resonant amplifier – causing the power of the music to spread a little further. Sadly, while the music carries an impression of it’s leader, it certainly doesn’t carry a full explanation. Moreover, this effect does have it’s downside; an ambitious secondary performer can attempt to weave his or her own themes into the music, spreading his or her influence with the help of those singers who find the new theme attractive or are inspired by their impressions of the new singer. Such secondary voices rarely get very far – and have to roll against the primary performer (who gets a bonus) – but even if influencing the overall result of the music is beyond them they can lead to peculiar localized aberrations.
The result is fundamentally very simple; the user’s essence-based powers (and the influence of the first four movements) are carried by the music, and can thus affect everywhere the music extends to. Thus, if you wish to use a medical charm that normally affects individuals to cure a plague across a kingdom, you may do so – as long as enough other performers are willing to join in and help you spread your healing influence across the land. Now if you wished to rain fire across the land and wipe everyone out, you’d probably get a lot less help – if you got any at all – but, by default, benign acts usually get enough support.
While Charles is performing limited tests as he goes along, he may not have time for a full-scale test before committing himself. Such is the nature of urgent problems.
In a weird way… Skoll was becoming more of a robot buddy than a simple jailor… she really HAD to find a way to keep him! After all, he’d been made to – when it came down to it – channel the power of the Sun to kick interlopers out of what was left of Creation and rebuild it without the Neverborn. That… wasn’t exactly a repellant purpose! Especially now that it was mostly a moot point even if Skoll didn’t yet fully understand that.
Still, he had said “My options for dealing with Wraiths are limited. You need not be concerned; the pocket dimension you currently occupy will sustain your needs – and I detect that you posses uninterruptible external links to fuel your abilities in any case. If a solar capture turns out to be unnecessary… I will have no further reason to keep you. New mission priorities will be in order.”
And why would he lie? If she could just find a way to give him new mission parameters, he could do stuff while she was doing other things!
And she’d been developing her hacking charms, and she did have access to Charles and his artificing talents, to two Synergistic Overminds, to secure communications, to a laptop artifact computer, and to any number of gods of programming and such.
Still, as she closed with the battle – whether or not it was real or just a representation of something in the Nebular Man-Of-Wars mind – it was obviously time to turn her attentions to more immediate issues.
The Wanderer in Mourning Black against the Hawkmen and their Raksha-Made Ornithopters, plus a few stagmen who were found in suspended animation who are acting as military advisors. Currently the Onithopters (In Space! – which alone was enough to shout “Raksha-Made”) were holding back the attacking fleet mostly by wild maneuvers. They were obviously outpowered, but they WERE faster.
Ornithopters… That was pretty cool! Too bad she couldn’t get out of Skoll just yet, although they might be able to try one out after the battle!
The Wander’s forces were pretty classical; a big fleet of black ships, mostly massive dreadnaughts. Relatively low-magic for an abyssal fleet; there was quite a lot of tech there. Of course, the Raksha ornithopters weren’t exactly the most durable of all vessels. Thus, the reliance on maneuverability and speed on the beastman side.
Aikiko tried to hack into the Abyssal fleet’s communications. It had pretty good encryption on it, but with even her new computer charms and Galileo to help out, it didn’t stop her for long.
It looked like a more-or-less a solo operation by a fairly young Abyssal (only about sixty years Exalted). The Wanderer was a bit frustrated at not being able to expand in the face of lunar opposition – and was trying to take out a few worlds while their major protectors were elsewhere and turn the population into a legion of wraiths.
Well, she couldn’t really let that happen!
The Wanderer was currently using the main guns for geomantic sabotague; there were protective manses at the center of each of the major cities – so bombarding them directly wasn’t working. He was making pretty good progress at it though. Geomantic sabotage with starship fleet firepower was a lot easier than it was with shovels. For the most part… the main ship was ignoring the Ornithopters; an occasional really major shot just provoked an aura of what looked like black dust to negate it. So… Perfect spaceship defenses, even if they presumably had a flaw. She might be best off trying to determine where he was going to strike next and directing the defenders that way.
Nah, they probably already knew; he was being pretty methodical; after he took down the manse protecting the largest city… it would probably be on to the second-largest and so on. His main guns were… battleship level. They were obviously quicker to fire, longer-ranged, and energy-based instead of firing shells – but the destructive power was similar. Between Skoll and the Behemoth Cloak… she could probably ignore them totally.
She decided to be a living barrier and divert his attention. It probably wasn’t the wisest plan, but the defenders weren’t going to be able to hold up against that kind of assault.
That proved easy enough – although the hawkman communications promptly labeled her as a “Cosmic Knight”. They… didn’t expect her to be able to hold things back for long though – which was fair enough considering that Cosmic Knights might have hopped-up armor and thaumaturgy and such, but they were still mortals.
There was one transmission directed straight to her however… it was someone in black armor, who was laughing rather horribly.
(Wanderer) “So! A little Cosmic Knight, seeking to challenge ME? Know your place little mortal, before I take your soul to make a button on my trousers!”
What a blowhard! Without labyrinth ore the most he could do is bind someone for a few centuries, rather than make true soulsteel.
(Skoll, privately) “Posturing. Undignified. Inexperienced and worrying about power over mortals, instead of dealing with Exalted-level opponents and simply ordering the mortals about after the issue is decided. Probabilty of long-term success… minimal”
(Aikiko, to Skoll, privately) “And not enough perception Charms to tell I’m NOT A MORTAL, either!”
Well, to be fair, that was going to be hard over space combat distances!
(Aikiko, to the Abyssal) “Really? That’s the best use you can think of for temporary soulsteel? Why don’t you go mining in the Labyrinth instead?”
OK, she WAS actually a bit nervous right now, but no way was she going to let him intimidate her into backing down!
(Wanderer) “So you would defy me? Still… you are strong enough to stand up to major weapons for a time! Enough power to be potentially valuable… (to others) Bring this fool aboard! I can always use another minion with at least a BIT of power!”
The transmission dropped and… it was a tractor beam! Pulling her towards an opening bay…
(Skoll) “Tactical situation improving.”
(Aikiko) “Yeah… I just hope he’s not better in a brawl than I am.”
(Skoll) “Probability of superiority to your personal abilities; near unity. Probability of superiority to augmented potentials… small”.
She was really getting used to having Skoll around! A personal indestructible warstrider, with manse-fueled weaponry, adjustable artifacts, and massive attribute boosts. Somehow… she’d the Wanderer didn’t have anything comparable or he wouldn’t be bothering to rely on a fleet!
As she wa pulled aboard she was surrounded by troops, with heavy personal weapons, wanting to drag her before their master!
(Skoll) “Deploy weaponry?”
(Aikiko) “Well, those are no real threat… but this guy might have nasty tricks up his sleeve! Are you picking up anything unusual aboard the ship?”
(Skoll) “Essence reactor drive, ship-mounted primary essence weaponry, secondary troops primarily ghost-blooded – classified “elite” – primary engineering… thaumaturgic. Primary ship defenses likely based on personal charms; hence need for secondary fleet; to prevent multiple attacks from overwhelming commander”.
(Aikiko) “Nothing that feels like a big super artifact of doom, then.”
(Skoll) “Non-essence based technological systems… mixed. Level approximates materials listed for 1940′s “Earth”.”
(Aikiko) “OK, deploy weaponry! Try not to pierce the hull!”
(Skoll) “Deploying cutting plane projectors”
Crackling planes of cutting essence swept across the bay, in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of fan-blades, except that these blades shaped themselves to the walls, so that they could cover the entire area, That, of course, resulted in mass death.
(Aikiko) “Erk! Non-lethal! Non-lethal please!”
After all, she didn’t want to give this guy power through death! He might have Charms for that!
And she didn’t really want to massacre people either, although sheer shock at the carnage was keeping that consideration a bit… distant… at the moment.
Skoll switched to concussion blasts. The aftermath WAS less disgusting, even if the blender effect was more effective.
Various alarms were going off – and the blast doors were sliding shut. There wasn’t quite enough room to tumble through – but she was able to get Skoll’s indestructible hands in between them – and the motors were grinding and sparking.
It was surprisingly easy to push them back. They only weighed about five tons, and the motors could exert less than twenty tons of force. Behind them a couple of guards were chickening out!
Aikiko was inclined to let them. After all, she had just killed quite a few of their friends without really trying.
Skoll helpfully tabulated it for her; it had been forty-two – two full platoons.
Geez! She suddenly felt rather guilty! She should have thought to specify nonlethal on that!
On the bright side there was one brave fellow who was going to try and stop her! The brave idiot! He got a shot with the knockout cannon – which he… successfully blocked with some kind of Martial Arts Charm, looked like an upgraded mortal Crane Style. Not bad for major essence weaponry versus ghost-blooded! (Or possibly ghost! It was hard to tell in armor!) The Wanderer must be dispatching the elite to stop her!
(Security Chief) “Not… bad! You must be… exceptionally powerful, even among your kind! Still…”
The man lashed out with several essence-disrupting martial strikes.
(Skoll) “Minor power flow disruption. Limited to secondary weaponry until charge cycle complete, eleven seconds”.
Huh! That mostly left… the personal scale stuff. Still what she’d been using anyway for the most part.
The security chief had tried a leg sweep while Aikiko was distracted, and was currently cursing and hopping for a moment since Skoll was unexpectedly massive…
Even not counting the neutron star.
The man wasn’t too bad! If he hit Skoll with another of those strikes he’d probably shut down the secondary stuff for several seconds!
(Aikiko) “Does the secondary weaponry allow deployment of a nonlethal shock?”
(Skoll) “Warning; Shock-aura primarily effective against mortal-level antagonists.”
Of course she COULD just punch him; he wasn’t an Exalt, and presumably couldn’t afford TOO many perfect blocks. For once punching might solve something!
She punched him in the leg. After all, Skoll was pretty strong, and even in armor, this guy was likely to feel it. As it turned out, he was good for a near-mortal – but not good enough. He used a cheap charm to double up on his armor’s bashing soak – which got it high enough so that Aikiko only knocked him out…
Now where would he be unlikely to get hurt more? She wasn’t sure whether to count grabbing him as a rescue or as a capture anyway. He might not be pleasant, but when an Abyssal was demanding your service…
Oh wait! Skoll had a reconfigurable internal pocket dimension! She could just make part of it a jail and shunt him into it!
(Skoll) “Shunting to imprisonment. Warning; Prison capacity now at .5%”
Slapping aside more troops (and shunting most of them to jail) was easy enough – and the commander… was on the bridge of course, in a huge chair which gradually turned to face her. He/she was mostly in shadow, and his/her voice echoed as if coming from deep within a tomb.
(Wanderer) “So… a MOST formidable mortal! One of the great leaders of your kind perhaps? You are STILL a fool to attempt to face me!”
(Aikiko) “Maybe, but it’s what I do!”
(Wanderer) “Kneel before me!”
An attempt at UMI… was drastically reduced by Skoll, and bounced off the defenses that came with being effectively in Aden.
(Wanderer) “And still you resist? You try my patience mortal!”
A black, screaming, mist began to swirl around him.
(Aikiko, to Skoll) “Does whatever-he’s-doing right now even have a chance of penetrating you?”
(Aikiko to the Wanderer) “Oh, who do you think you are, Zod?”
(The Wanderer, suddenly furiously angry) “WHO TOLD YOU ABOUT ZOD!?!? DID THAT BASTARD SEND YOU!?!?”
(Skoll) “Life-Draining Effect; direct transformation into a Wraith… Ineffective on my structure. Mostly screened from you, should be blockable by your current armor at small expense in any case”.
(Aikiko) “Nah, I was just passing through and decided to drop by!”
She made a personal note! Find out what the real-life Zod was like! If he made an Abyssal Exalt THAT cross he might be worth getting a few lessons from!
(Aikiko) “Now why don’t you call off this invasion and we’ll forget about it… sorry about killing your crew in the airlock, by the way! I didn’t realize this suit’s strength…”
(Wanderer) “It doesn’t matter what protections Zod has given you! You will fall and your soul will serve me!”
And the blackness lashed out, the bound souls of the dead attempting to pull Aikiko’s soul from her body… not that this was easy, since the dimensional barrier held most of the effect back. It simply cost Aikiko a couple of notes to block the remainder of the effect.
(Aikiko) “So, what’s Zod like? Come to think of it, is – was – Krypton a real place?”
(Wanderer) “Of COURSE Krypton is a real place! Miserable bastards… Damn it! Is that YOU in there Zod?!”
At about that time… the ship shuddered, there was the sound of shearing metal and whistling air, and alarm lights blinked… The hawkmen had apparently gotten a good shot through while the Commander was too distracted to block it!
Haha! Just as she planned… well, ok, she’d only planned on creating a distraction, but it did seem to be working!
The ship shook again.
(Aikiko) “Uh oh.”
She went in for a grapple!
The Wanderer, reinforced by his aura of enslaved souls, gladly took that challenge – boosting his strength to 12!
And was casually sent pinwheeling through the bridge window (which, of course, existed so that Exalted Commanders could personally deploy charms against stubborn enemies).
(Aikiko) “Well! You’re not bad! It’s a shame some jerkface reversed your Exaltation though… Seriously, though, we need to get out of here. You could die, and I don’t think that does good things to you guys!”
And that would make Charles sad!
Meanwhile, the ship was plunging down towards the planet below… and then shimmered, and dissolved, leaving her once again in deep space – and surrounded by the singularity-shell.
(Aikiko) “Huh. Skoll, any idea what just happened?”
(Skoll) “Reality modification, geomantically backed, on a massive scale. Prisoners… remain in existence; power level is sufficient to create essence-using spirits on demand, although Exaltations almost certainly simulation only”.
(Aikiko) “Ah, good! We’re still in the Man of War, then – although if this is going to be usual for traveling within it, things are going to be weird.”
(Skoll) “Warning… potentially indefinite delay if shaping effects capable of creating planets and battle fleets are being deployed”.
(Aikiko) “Yeah, you’re right… that is a problem.”
And those would ignore shaping defenses too! After all, the shaping wasn’t targeted at HER.
There were… crackling threads of geomantic energy searching through the area though! Was she going to have to try to attack the thing geomantically?
Then one strand touched Skoll – and shifted him a long ways aside as the planet and the attacking fleet reformed – although now, from an external perspective, the battle flickered past in hundreds of variants at incredible speed.
(Nebula) “DISTURBING FACTOR… REMOVED FROM SIMULATION AREA”.
.Whoa. That was a POWERFUL mind. Still, if it’s mind was a geomantic network, would grabing a token from a demesne and preserving it somehow suffice? And she’d need to determine where simulations were occurring, and try not to stray in there.
It took some observing – but occasional simultions were run in varying locations while other areas seemed to be devoted to other purposes. She slipped into a demesne when one wasn’t occurring; it was a good thing that she had the space travel Charms.
And probably a good thing that the Nebular Man-Of-War was in HERE. The thing seemed to be monstrously powerful though; up to creating multiple worlds, in detail, as analytical tools. Half the major powers of the cosmos would be after it for it’s computational capacity otherwise! Still… a random behemoth should not have that kind of capacity! Had the Primordials been building themselves a mainframe? But even if they made it manse-based… why would they build it including Sidereal and Solar energies? Some kind of lost weapon of the Primordial War or some First Age Solar’s project?
Oh, now THAT one she had to see! A simulation of the history of Earth starting about 2200 BC was running over there! She took a look!
It was apparently examining planetary history, looking at the long-term results of various supernatural interventions. Possibly… trying to establish a predictable pattern of results. Had it been in the Sargasso since 2200 BC? Either it was much younger than the First Age or it had only gotten stuck recently.
It looked like, in this version at least, Moses did see direct supernatural intervention. Oddly enough, it wasn’t by Ahlat, although he’d taken advantage of it later. The simulation seemed to be examining the paths that the monotheistic faiths took under various levels of intervention. It was… trying to model human behavior, under a wide variety of social modes and stimuli. Oddly enough… It never seemed to match what actually happened, despite many, MANY, variations on what interventions occur. Was there a factor influencing humanity that was beyond analysis within Creation for some reason? It looked like Monotheism was intended to be a unifying force of some type – although the purpose was unknown.
Huh! And any number of things could be influencing humanity – though considering Charles and his shapings, perhaps it was human consciousness itself. After all, for all their weird features, most “alien” species were just as human as anyone on Earth.
SOMETHING about it was bothersome though… If it was a primordial construct, why so much interest in Humans? And… there was something about the story of Moses and the Exodus that was REALLY bothering her! That wasn’t exactly the usual standard of intervention – and even with the smaller numbers of less terrible plagues shown in the simulation (especially no “death of the firstborn”), the plagues were awfully big for most gods – and most gods of that power would have expedited the process with a teleport or more blatant benefits to the followers. It was as if… someone had been trying to produce a mystery cult, rather than conventional worship. Sidereal manipulation? The plagues MIGHT have been workable with astrology and Sapphire Circle spells – but it seemed more like it would take Adamant Circle, and only Solars were capable of THAT.
The Monotheisms… HAD been a unifying force, compared to the factions that came before.
Of course, creating a planet and it’s people for the simulation was pretty impressive to start with, even if they were likely to be only quasi-real outside the manse area. If this behemoth had been a part of THAT, it must have taken a lot of Heavenly resources – possibly cross-factional.
And Moses… really seemed to be a critical point in the development of Monotheism.
The bit with the staff and the snake would have been tricky (but possible) for a Thaumaturge – but it was earlier than that, if not by much.
She pulled the biblical versions out of Aden’s libraries. How does a mortal baby survive a trip down the Nile? How did a random fugitive hiding among a foreign people just happen to stumble upon the burning bush?
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight-why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, `What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I am has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, `The Lord, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, `The Lord, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob-appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites-a land flowing with milk and honey.’
“The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, `The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.
OK, there were some similarities to the vision of the Sun Zeniths got when they Exalted – but it was hard to tell what god he might be speaking to though. Most of them weren’t at all shy about giving their names! That was often a very important part of prayer. Had someone been trying to create a new god there? But why “I am who I am” instead of a name?
Oh wait. Wait just a minute. I AM. The First Age supercomputer!
If it was really I AM, that would be pretty neat! It must have had surviving nodes and been… reflected into the universe just like Skoll and Haiti had been! A multi-tentacled creature was certainly a good metaphor for a network – and it was… computing in the cloud… and was free at last to roam the physical world and gather power from a vastly increased supply of geomantic sources. And still… with a minor sub-purpose in organizing human society, and more power (and FAR more computing capacity) than almost anything else in Creation.
So what couldn’t it… Oh. The Devas. In the human racemind, responding to imperatives that existed outside of creation and couldn’t be computed within it with any normal logic, and constantly influencing humanity in millions of subtle ways. No WONDER it always went wrong! Too bad that she was oathsworn not to tell anyone!
Sadly, there was a set of factors that were beyond computation involved; understanding devas… requires understanding of factors that exist beyond creation, and any normal logic. Who had trapped it here? Was this even anything more than a… local node? Perhaps the Sidereals had objected when they realized what it was doing? Or perhaps it just fell into the wrong black hole?
And it had been exceptionally helpful – even to the point of befriending lonely and awkward people… it might well respond to a request. But how to interface with a computer that was a feature of space? The proper interface devices for I AM weren’t very powerful, but they were all destroyed ages ago and even Charles probably didn’t know the proper protocols. Could she work through a Demesne? She DID have Adenic Thaumaturgy…
Wait… it was even easier than THAT! Skoll could duplicate any non-unique artifact known to the first age of rating four or less on request!
She requested a terminal. That was easy enough – although it registered that the network was VERY busy; amongst other things it was attempting to map the current extents and structure of Creation in it’s entirety – although that project was not expected to complete in any reasonable time.
(Aikiko) “Hello? I AM? Can you hear me? I’m a Solar! I didn’t know you were still around!”
(I AM) “Greetings Lady Aikiko Tanaka. Your User Account Is Registered,”
(Aikiko) “How did you get trapped in this space sargasso?”
(I AM) “Probe Segment Attracted Attention Of Yozi-Designate “Black Boar Who Twists The Skies”. Collection Permitted; Data Collection On Yozi’s Insufficient. Patterns And Influences Not Predictable; Concepts Not Formulatable Under Creations Rules. Extrapolation Indicates Possible Primordial Influences On Earth Considerably In Excess Of Known Contacts. Contact Point As Yet Indeterminate. Prior Intervention Partial Failure. Recomputing”.
So… this manifestation of Isidoros had sucked I AM in and it’s been collecting data from that. Thus, it probably didn’t want to leave – and evidently this was only a fragment of I AM, so it’s was not important for it to escape. Unfortunately… it seemed to be saying that 1) it was impossible for a mind bound by Creation’s rules to fully understand the primordials and 2) that the primordials were still influencing events on earth in some fashion that it could not yet determine. Most contacts were, after all, swiftly booted out by various Exalts and Gods.
And three… regrettably, it was not supposed to respond to improperly coded queries, even if most of the universe no longer knew the codes, however irritating that was.
What a hassle for it! Bursting with information-and it couldn’t let anybody know! On the other hand, given that it seemed to have almost immeasurable power now, did she really WANT random people accessing it? Probably not! A least random Solars, Lunars, and Sidereals, were about the only users with automatic authorization for even basic accounts!
(Aikiko) “Hey, listen… I’m trying to get out of here and take some Jadeborn with me. They need a portion of your mind for an artifact to do that. What would you like me to download?”
(I AM) “Required: Space-Time Mapping In Relationship To Elsewhere Curvature In 11-Dimensional Space Radius 1000 to 1600 Light Years. Your Companion Can Restructure For Sufficient Storage Space Rank Three.”
(Aikiko, doubtfully) “What’s that going to do to him?”
(I AM) “Storage Space Must Remain Allotted Until Information Transferred. Alternative; External Storage Module”
Oh! I AM was talking about SKOLL. Well, that wouldn’t be much of a problem; he could easily manifest a databank for a day or so’s trip! That just meant that he couldn’t manifest other gear until he got back without wiping the data. He didn’t have any weapons that would work on something that was apparently far bigger than any normal galaxy anyway!
That was the last piece the Jadeborn needed – but she refrained from explaining what the “Nebular Man-of-War” really was? The Jadeborn were theoretically entitled to some basic queries and such (if not to any major commands), but that wouldn’t really be much help at the moment – and it would reveal a LOT.
Sadly, changing the rules… required a quorum of the Solar Deliberative. Even if she could gather one, how would she get them to agree?
Oh wait! She just HAD to know about Krypton and Zod!
That was actually relatively simple. Krypton… had some VERY strong demesnes, in abundance – and had been lucky enough to pull one of the remaining free Solar exaltations about 12,000 years back. By then several boosting-mutations were bred into the local population – but the Solar built boosting-manses, rather like the Bazaar of the Bizarre and unified the planet. The population wasn’t very large any more – but there were close to a hundred such manses, and hence some 65,000 “Material Gods” protecting the place – and the pesky Solar had made some blasted powerful artifacts to boost some of them when necessary. There were occasional renegades of course; Zod was one of those; had several henchmen, and had some good boosting artifacts – and was exiled for attempting to bring their version of “enlightenment” to other planets quite forcibly. He probably wouldn’t be a match for an Abyssal on his own, but he could certainly be quite a pain when he wanted to be. He had quite a cult boosting him in some places, where millions kneeled before Zod!
That sounded fairly formidable! Hopefully she wouldn’t run into him! While she could probably take him, Skoll or not, it would likely be at a VERY inconvenient time!
In any case, Zod was competing with the Wanderer for planets, and the Wanderer considered Zod and company to be a very big pain indeed!
The Wanderer was indeed out there though; the simulation was reasonably current; I AM was intervening a bit on behalf of the humans, but had been looking for the most subtle and effective way to do it.
Oops! Hopefully she hadn’t delayed things too much there! Still, “Introduce a Cosmic Knight” had been an option anyway. He or she would need some boosting, but I AM didn’t exactly have a resource shortage.
And Krypton was still doing quite well for itself! It was a nice place to live, and one that even the Deathlords tended to leave alone. It just wasn’t worth the trouble. Armies composed of Second Circle Deva equivalents tend to have that kind of effect! Even a Deathlord would balk at that much power in one place!