Neko Miyako, Cat Clan Samurai

   Neko Miyako has traced an erratic course through the Legend of the Five Rings campaign – appearing, vanishing, killing someone, calling in a few favors, and vanishing again on her own bizarre quests. Most of the other characters she’s encountered consider her quite mad – but she’s dangerous enough in a fight that usually no one says so. Banished to Merenae, she popped up again to cause trouble for Alex, but helped fund his – and the Empress’s – return to the Empire, so she is currently more-or-less in the good graces of the Empire – for now.

   Miyako is – by a considerable margin – the most personally-powerful Cat Clan Samurai alive today. Unfortunately, she is far too impulsive, and far too inclined to rely exclusively on her own resources, to organize things on a large scale. While her skills are astounding, she hasn’t bothered to develop her Underworld Lore, Investigation, and Commerce skills enough to gain major favors – and still needs to develop her Void ring far enough to take full advantage of the number of raises her skills make available. Still, she was working on it when last scene.

Neko Miyako

   Rank 6 Cat Clan Bushi. Family Bonus: +1 Reflexes

.

Earth

3

Water

3

Void

5

Stamina

3

Strength

3

   

Willpower

3

Perception

3

   
           

Fire

4

Air

5

   

Agility

4 (5)

Reflexes

5 (6)

   

Intelligence

4

Awareness

5

   

.

Advantages:

  • Kibariyu and Kotanryu, a pair of legendary-quality parrying daggers that cause 2k2 damage. They must, however, be wielded as a set (8).
  • +1 Reflexes for AC (5) and Initiative (5) purposes.
  • +3K3 on Athletics and Stealth checks when not wearing Armor (8).
  • Ancestor: Hida Kazu. +1 Earth for the purpose of calculating wounds (0).
  • Great Potential/Knives (Raises are not limited, may take an extra technique) (8)
  • Heritage x3 (2): Corrupted Ancestor, Battle of the Cresting Wave (+2 ranks in a Crab school skill/Knives), Saved a Wounded Samurai (gain a 5-point ally).

Disadvantages:

  • Cast Out/The Order of Daikoku (-6) and Greedy (-4).
 

Skill

Rank

Roll

Style

Effects

Net Roll

FR

#

Athletics

5

9K4

2FR

+3K3 Adv

10K10+10

4

%

Ceremony

1

6K5

   

8K7+10

 

*

Commerce

3

8K5

FR

 

10K10+20

7

%

Courtier

3

8K5

FR

 

10K7+10

6

*

Deceit

1

8K5

   

10K10+20

2

#

Defense

5

10K5

+(2xRank) to AC

 

10K7+10

1

%

Etiquette

3

8K5

FR

 

10K7+10

2

#

Forgery

3

7K4

FR

 

9K6+10

2

*

Hunting

3

6K3

FR

 

10K7+20

3

%

Investigation

3

6K3

FR

 

8K5+10

6

*

Knives

7

10K7

FR, Add Skill to AC

+0K1

See Below

 

*

Lore/Under

5

7K4

2x FR

 

10K8+20

4

*

Stealth

3

8K5

FR

+3K3 Adv

10K10+20

8

%

Slight of Hand

3

8K5

FR

 

10K7+10

2

#

Swords

3

8K5

FR

 

10K7+10

2

.

  • # Neko Bushi School Skill: +2K2+[2x Void]+Free Raise. Does not lose honor for the use of these skills.
  • % Neko Courtier School Skill: +2K2+[2x Awareness]+Free Raise.
  • * Used by Both Schools: Apply both sets of bonuses.
  • +4 Free Raises with Commerce, Courtier, and Investigation

Combat Information:

  • 8 Wounds per Level.
  • Armor Class: 35 (Reflexes) + 10 (Technique) + 7 (Knife Style) +10 (Defense) = 62.
  • Initiative 10K10.
  • Magic Knives: Attack: 10K10+20 (+9 Free Raises), Damage: 6K3, One Additional Free Raise to Disarm.
  • Throwing Knives: Attack: 10K10+20 (+6 Free Raises), Damage: 5K2.

Technique Notes:

  • May make two attacks when wielding two knives. Immunity to Information-Gathering Techniques.

   Basic Equipment: Wakizashi, 12 throwing knives, 1200 koku, horse, traveling papers, several sets of high-quality clothing, sandals, chopsticks, grooming supplies, traveling pack with a prybar (1), rope and grappling hook (1), 12 throwing knives (2), 2 decorative fans, selection of antidotes (3), tea set (1), blinding powder (1), pipe (1), lockpicks (2), packet of sweets (1), garrotte (1), walking stick (1), flask of sake (2), cold weather gear (2), statuette of ancestor (2), incense sticks and burner (1), personal seal (1), writing kit (2).

Current Psychic Powers:

  • 3x L1: Burning Blade (+1K1 Damage with Blades), Shadow Weave, +1 Agility.
  • 2x L2: Danger Sense, Perception, Psychometry,
  • 2x L3: Mindriding, Psychic Bolt, Truthsayer
  • 2x L4: Ignore Pain, Psychokinesis
  • 1x L5: Cloud Minds

   Available Favors: Criminal L3, Investigation L2, and Commerce L2. May claim up to (Rank+2 = 8) favors each game session.

   Spymaster Position Points: 10 (Techniques) + 15 (Rank) + 1 (Lore/Underworld) +3 (Enhancement Advantages) = 29. Expended on: Blackmail 4, Guards 4, Backing 4, Reputation 4, Preparations 4, Contacts 4, and Ninja 4.

   Thanks to her Great Potential advantage, Miyako has currently mastered both her clan schools – and has even invented a fourth level technique for the Cat Clan Courtier School.

.

The Neko Clan:

   Several emperors have recognized that crime, and the development of criminal organizations, is inevitable. Whenever you eliminate one criminal group, another soon arises. When you crack down in one location, crime in the surrounding areas rises. Law enforcement calls for ever-increasing allocations of resources in exchange for ever-smaller results in an asymptotic curve which will never reach zero.

   At least one emperor felt that truly managing crime would require working from the inside – steering the criminal organizations into paths that resulted in profit, but little damage to the empire as a whole. It was occasionally useful to have access to people who would do anything for a bit of cash and who – having no real connection to their employers – still could not betray their employers. Some tolerance was extended to those groups that remained within such limits – while their rivals were exterminated. Agents were sent in – liaisons instructed to become crimelords, organizing and channeling the criminal underworld in ways which would not damage the empire.

   And the Cat clan – the silent silken touch and hidden claws of the emperor – was born.

Neko Minor Bushi School:

  • Basic Modifiers: Agility +1, Glory 1, Status .5, Wealth 3, and Honor 1.
  • Skills: Athletics, Defense, Hunting, Knives, Swords, Commerce, Deceit, Forgery, Stealth, and Lore/Underworld.
    • First Technique: Immune to honor losses for using or raising low skills (5), One Free Raise on all School Skills (3), Takes no penalty for fighting with two knives (2), one additional free raise when attacking with two knives (5), Underworld Favors (5).
    • Second Technique: Extra Attack when wielding two Knives (5), +10 AC when using two knives (5), +2x Void on all School Skills when not wearing Armor (5), and +1 Reflexes for Initiative Purposes (5).
    • Third Technique: Add Investigation (may be used to gather information, to target a group for an official investigation, or to deflect or divert an official investigation) and Commerce Favors (5), Roll and Keep two extra dice with all school skills when not wearing armor (15).

Neko Minor Courtier School (Monk):

  • Basic Modifiers: Awareness +1, Glory 1, Status 1, Wealth 3, and Honor 1.
  • Skills: Ceremony, Courtier, Commerce, Deceit, Etiquette, Investigation, Lore/Underworld, Stealth, and one additional skill from each of the High, Bugei, Merchant, and Low skill lists.
    • First Technique: Immunity to Information-Gathering Techniques (5), a +1 magical enhancement to any one trait (3), and two L1 and one L2 Psychic Abilities (12).
    • Second Technique: Gain 5 Spymaster (crimelord) position points (5), +2x Awareness on all School Skills (5), and one L3 Psychic Ability (9).
    • Third Technique: Gain 5 Spymaster (crimelord) position points (5), one free raise on all school skills (3), and one L4 Psychic Ability (12).

   Members of the Neko family may freely mix the techniques of their two schools provided that they already have all the relevant skills and have a score of at least three in the relevant trait. Few other schools will admit a Cat Clan samurai at all, so it’s just as well.

   Miyako has developed an advanced (fourth level) Neko Courtier technique: Roll and Keep two extra dice with all school skills when not wearing armor (15), gets (School Rank) Free Raises with the Commerce, Courtier, and Investigation skills (5).

Bayushi Michio

   Michio is currently a devastating killing machine with hundreds of XP, a high rank, a maxed-out school, high rings (including a very high void ring), and a variety of other techniques – both personal and granted – as well as his personally-forged legendary jade blades. On the other hand, he started off as a fairly normal character, way back at the beginning of the campaign, nearly eighty sessions ago. Here’s his character sheet from way back near the beginning.

   The player has carefully avoided ever losing the “Unremarkable” heritage modifiers: he’s found it endlessly entertaining to have the character seeking glory that – somehow – always seems to wind up going to somebody else. Perhaps sadly, as his status has risen, so has his glory.

   Michio originally attached himself to Alex, Okari, and Kochige on the grounds that this wandering group of holy men obviously needed a protector – and he was on a warrior pilgrimage anyway. Oddly enough, circumstances – and the fact that everyone except his closest relatives tend to forget all about him – have conspired to keep him with them ever since.

Bayushi Michio

   Scorpion Clan Bushi. Family Bonus: +1 Initiative. Experience 12, Spent 12

Earth

2

Water

2

Fire

2

Stamina

2

Strength

2 (3)

Agility

3 (4)

Willpower

2

Perception

2

Intelligence

2

           

Air

2

Void

2

   

Reflexes

3 (4)

       

Awareness

2

       

.

Shiba (Phoenix) Bushi School:

  • Basic Modifiers: Reflexes +1, Glory 1, Status 1, Wealth 1, and Honor 2.5.
  • Skills: Defense, Sword II, Bow I, Meditation (Void Recovery) I, Spears I, and Theology I.
  • Special Technique: May choose to add Void Ring to either your TN to be hit, Attack Rolls, or Damage Rolls when selecting a combat stance. May spend as many void points as desired on any action.

    Bonus Points (60) + Disadvantages [Idealistic (2), Obligation (2), Social Disadvantage (-2 effective Glory, 6)] = 70

   Point Expenditures: Exotic School (18), +2 Rolled and Kept dice with All Weapon-Related Rolls (Attacks, Damage, and relevant Craft checks, 42), Lesser Tattoos/Innate Permanent Spells: Wrath of the Tides (+1 Str, 3) and Limbs of Air (+1 Ref, 3), Swords III (3), and an Extra Heritage Check (1).

Heritage Rolls:

  • Unremarkable. Anyone who attempts to remember or recognize you have their TN’s increased by 10. Your Glory cannot be higher than your status until you either spend 10 XP or reach Level 6 in any High or Bugei skill.
  • A Hero’s End. An ancestor was killed in battle saving a wounded samurai during the Battle of White Stag. Gain +2 Athletics and a five-point ally.

   Expended Experience: Lesser Tattoos/Innate Permanent Spells: The Inner Fire (+1 Agility, 3), Forge of Silk (Clothing provides +5 AC, 3), Biting Steel (+1K1 damage with all metal weapons and weapons with metal blades, 3), and Reversal of Fortunes(May opt to reroll one die on each roll, 3).

   Combat Information: 4 Wounds/Level, Armor Class: [Reflexes x 5 (20) + Armor (5)] = 25, Initiative 5K4, Katana 9K6 Attack, 9K5 Damage, Bow 7K6 Attack, 7K4 Damage.

   Basic Equipment: Katana, Wakizashi, Yuri Bow and 20 Arrows, Naginata, Light Armor, Kimono and Sandals, Traveling Pack, 2 Koku.

“Smoke” Balamada, Senpet Heka Mage

   First up for today, it’s one of the older characters – a temporary replacement for Alex, back when the campaign hadn’t yet hit 200 XP. Smoke eventually retired to become a Demon Ninja Cat – or simply a cat shapeshifter with a few Shadow Points, depending on how you looked at it. Not coincidentally, that decision came only a few sessions after Alex became available again.

   Not, of course, that having “retired” keeps Smoke from turning up now and again.

.

“Smoke” Balamada

   Rank 4 Senpet Adventurer/Heka Mage. Family Bonus: +1 Awareness. 180 XP/180 XP Spent.

.

Earth

3

Water

2

Fire

3

Air

3

Void

4

Stamina

3

Strength

2

Agility

3

Reflexes

3

   

Willpower

3

Perception

2

Intelligence

3

Awareness

3

   

Preservation Slots

 

Destruction Slots

 

Transformation Slots

 

Creation Slots

 

Universal Slots

 

.

  • Senpet Lesser Priest-Mage, Temple of Adithep:
  • Basic Modifiers: Will +1, Glory 1, Status 1, Wealth 1, and Ma’at 2.5.
  • Skills: Ceremony 2, Divination 1, Meditation 1, Theology 1, Lore/Senpet Religion 1, and Spellcraft 1. Heka Magic: Creation 1, Preservation 2, Transformation 2, and Destruction 1. Affinity for Transformation, Deficiency in Creation.
  • Special Technique: Spellcasting 1 (Roll Ring+Skill, Keeping Ring, vrs [10+SL*5]), gets two spellcasting actions per round.

   Bonus Points (60) + Disadvantages (Bad Reputation/Priest from Senpet -3, Doubt/Meditation -4, and Fascinated with Exotic Magics -3).

   Basic Setup: School (15), +1 Reflexes (12), +1 Awareness (12), +1K1 and a Free Raise with All Spellcasting (16), Gift/Magic Resistance II (4), Psychic Powers: Empathy and Shadow Weave (both self-powered L1, 6 total), Hunting 1 (1), Swords 1 (1), Commerce 1 (1), Upgraded Ally/Kothara, Goddess of the First Rays of the Dawn (Influence 2, Devotion 0, Eccentricity 0 [as the first divine patron spirit for a Senpet character], Inconvenience -1 [special prayer every morning]. Net cost 1, bestows Solar Regeneration: you recover [Void] wounds every half an hour you spend exposed to sunlight), Speaks Ruumal (the Ivory Kingdoms tongue, 1).

   Heritage: Smoke carries ancestral memories of military training and the Battle of Ikan, from which he gains Swords +1 and Lore/Military History +1.

   XP Spent: +1 Stamina (12), +1 Agility (12), +1 Reflexes (12), +1 Intelligence (12), +2 Void (28). Spellcasting +2 (3 total, 24). Skills; Investigation 2 (3), Slight of Hand 2 (3), Stealth 3 (6), Deceit 2 (3), Divination +1/Net 2 (2), Courtier 2 (3), Commerce +2/Net 3 (5), Defense 3 (6), Horsemanship 1 (1), Hunting 1 (1), Sword +1/Net 3 (3), Spellcraft +1/Net 2 (2), Etiquette 1 (1), and Athletics 1 (1). Heka Magic Skills: Transformation +4/Net 6 (18), Preservation +4/Net 6 (18), Destruction +1/Net 2 (2). Language: Rokugani (2).

   Style Modifiers: Stealth and Commerce: Free Raise. Defense and Sword: Add to AC. Transformation and Preservation: Free Raise, Reroll one die per check.

   Combat Information: Six Wounds per Level, Armor Class: [Reflexes x 5 (15) + Armor (0)+ Skills (6)] = 21, Initiative 7K3, Shortsword 6K3 Attack 4K2 Damage

   Basic Equipment: Sandals, kilt, cloak, assorted priestly ornaments, shaving apparatus, eating knife, coin purse, minor pocket junk, assorted scrolls and satchel, shortsword, pens, inks, paper, 70 golden aphos, 16 silver rada, 20 bronze kelen, slave-attendant, two pack animals, traveling kit with 20 items (to be selected by the player).

Halloween

   Unfortunately, it looks like halloween will make playing this friday a bit impractical: there would be constant interruptions – and some players will be attending halloween parties anyway. Sorry about that. If anybody wants to put in a few online notes about what their characters will be up to, go right ahead. Legend of the Five Rings will resume normal play next week. If anyone wants to do some online character updating, discussion, secondary experiments, or anything similar, either note them here or we can try a chat session.

Continuum II Ceremonial Magic

   Today it’s another segment from the Continuum II RPG – and one of the oldest sections at that. The original Ceremonial Magic system goes back about 25 years and – like most of the Continuum II rules – is modular enough to fit into most games. It also tries to reproduce the general feel of actual historical magical practices, and so I suppose I must include a disclaimer: if you attempt to use this section as a guide to actual ceremonial magic, and expect it to work, you probably need to be laughed at a lot more.

   Ceremonial Magic taps the inherent energies hidden materials, places, times, astronomical events, symbols, and living or once-living things – the small reserves created by the natural seepage of magical energy through the material plane. Materials, beings, and supernaturally dedicated items accumulate such energies, symbols focus the natural “background” energy flow, and times and astronomical events influence the flow itself.

   While such energies are trivial compared to those that can be accumulated by a skillful mage or psychic, or drawn directly from the major sources and channeled, they place no particular personal demands on the operator. There is no need to have the talent to reach out and tap external power sources, to harden yourself against the strain of handling vast energies, or to maintain mental focus and discipline in the face of such internal stresses. All a ceremonial magician needs is a bundle of appropriate supplies, a workspace, a bit of time and relative quiet, a modest amount of magical lore, and the tiny amount of personal power that everyone gets just for existing – all easily within the reach of ordinary people.

   Unfortunately, this means that a ceremonial mage generally doesn’t have much actual power to work with – and the complexity of the effects they can channel it into is limited by the necessity of working indirectly. Secondarily, the results which can be obtained through ceremonial magic are limited by the properties of the materials the user draws upon, environmental factors, and the symbolism employed. It is usually best for the operator to have an extensive knowledge of such things before attempting to design a ceremony. Given these difficulties, the general weakness of ceremonial magic, and the complexity of any worthwhile ceremony it is easy to see why such magic is usually restricted to hedge-wizards, wisewomen, and others who lack the talent needed to master significant spells.

   There are three major types of ceremonies; arcane, activating, and talismanic.

   Arcane Ceremonies have immediate effects, such ceremonial magics are similar to spells, if weaker and more troublesome. This type of ceremony is generally divided into subgroups- warding ceremonies, circle magics, healing charms, etcetera. The most effective ceremonies are defensive, such charms can absorb power from the effects they defend against. Many conventional spellcasters make some use of this type of magic, usually in the form of protective inscriptions when dealing with supernatural beings. The classical “village wise- man or -woman” makes more extensive use of arcane ceremonies, usually specializing in healing, protective, and divinatory effects. Classic examples of arcane ceremonies include seances, norse “seidhr” or divination, healing ceremonies, purification ceremonies, protective circles, sandpainting, fertility charms, and so on.

   In general, quick arcane ceremonies – such as drawing a magical circle or reading tarot cards – are limited to power-1 and complexity -3. Full-scale arcane ceremonies are limited to power-2 and complexity-5, although especially potent materials (unicorn’s horn, dragon’s bone, actual magical devices) or working at a power nexus may raise the limit to power-3. Beyond that point there just isn’t any way to properly focus or channel the energy indirectly. If you want to surpass these limits, you’ll just have to develop the ability to control the energies you’re using directly – which takes things into trained spellcasting and full-blown ritual magic. Neither of those are topics for dabblers.

   Arcane ceremonies can also be used to try and invoke spirits of various kinds, or even to invite them to possess the user – but offer little or no control over such entities. This is an extremely specialized field, and it is wise to stick to established contracts and entities you have already established working relationships with when attempting such acts.

   Activating Ceremonies are designed to activate the magical potentials of your materials or some portion thereof. Such ceremonies result in one-shot magic items, the equivalent of potions or magic powders. Such charms may then be employed on a moments notice by anyone who happens to know what they’re for. Unfortunately, once the magic is activated it slowly drains away whether it is used or not, remaining potent for 2-4 weeks at best. It’s fairly practical to make up a couple you know you’re going to need, but trying to keep a lot “in stock” will only lead to unnecessary expense, expenditure of resources, and loss of time. Examples of such devices include the celtic “tathlum”, holy and unholy water/salts/earth/whatever, attraction charms, and many more. In general, such items are limited to effects of up to power-1 and complexity-3, although especially potent ingredients or working at a power nexus may increase the power limit to 2.

   Talismanic Ceremonies create permanent magical devices, if weak ones. Each must be constructed for a specific person and is only useful to that person. Talismans can have multiple functions but any single being can only benefit from three talisman functions at a time; since talismans draw on ambient magic for power, there simply isn’t enough energy available to any single person to power a lot of effects. Talismans have some advantages over more conventional magical devices: they have no magic above the natural background level and so are extremely difficult to detect. They have ne external magical links to block, disrupt, or break, and so generally cannot be cut off from their power sources. Perhaps most importantly, they are relatively cheap and easy to make, and so are widely available. Examples include amerindian “sacred bundles”, Aztec ceremonial masks, necromantic fetishes such as shrunken heads, good luck charms, sacred scriptures and other paper charms, cave paintings designed to influence game, new-age crystal talismans, gris-gris, and hundreds of other devices of folk magic.

   Talismans can have effects of up to power-1 and complexity-3. Since their power depends on ambient magic, neither using unusually potent ingredients nor working at a power nexus will help increase the available power – but actually using a talisman in an area with an unusually high ambient magic level may enhance its effects.

   In general, ceremonies are complex and somewhat unpredictable things, unlike spells, any ceremony requires a success roll to determine if, and how well, the operator pulled it off. The characteristic used depends on the operators style; secular ceremonies usually require intellect checks, while religious themes usually require wisdom checks – but there are always exceptions; summoning ceremonies usually require charisma checks. The base difficulty is equal to the complexity of the desired effect if an immediate effect is desired. Attempting to store an effect for later increases the complexity by one. Attempting to create multiple effects increased the complexity by the number of effects attempted. Attempting to create an ongoing permanent effect or talisman increases the complexity by two. Penalties for rushing, injuries, and other bad conditions apply as usual. Bonuses for assistants, references – and doing a good job on describing the ceremony – also apply.

   For those in search of greater realism, a wide variety of sources can be consulted concerning the magical properties of particular materials, places, times, items, and symbols.

   As for a couple of sample ceremonies:

   Curing ordinary diseases is a relatively reliable and widely-used effect, although the number of variations is immense. This particular “Sweat Lodge” ceremony can fairly be taken as representative of the general theme. Variants are common among village healers, wisewomen, and such. It is of moderate complexity but at least does not call for anything too exotic.

   The ceremony should take place in the afternoon and early evening, in a field by a clear running stream. It calls for several rocks from the streambed, a tightly closed shelter, a supply of well-seasoned oak for a fire, three pounds of sandlewood or other fumigant, red ochre, a bunch of fern, and a quantity of a local restorative, such as ginsing, plum sap, or peppermint.

   The operator should cleanse and close a ceremonial circle around the shelter using water from the stream sprinkled with the fern and inscribe the symbols of guardians appropriate to his or her beliefs at the cardinal points, invoking each as he or she does so. Once the circle is prepared, the operator should fumigate the shelter by burning the sandlewood in it and heat the rocks from the stream in the fire. While the rocks are heating, he or she should draw the symbols of the (local) god of healing on the body of the patient with the red ochre. Infuse the ginsing (or substitute) in water from the stream and pour the water over the heated stones. The patient should remain inside until the water has been poured seven times. Break the circle and bathe the patient in the stream. At this point the patient should be cured – presuming that he or she had the strength to go through the entire ceremony.

   This particular ceremony calls for power-1 and complexity-4, and thus usually requires a 4d6 roll against the operators appropriate attribute.

   Protective charm-bundles are a relatively common form of talisman, and come in a wide variety of styles and types. This particular version is designed for an adventurous youth.

   The ceremony is best performed during the autumn season. It should be performed in an open field in the hills, preferably someplace with at least one oak tree growing nearby. It requires a leather pouch made of bullhide, sewing equipment, an iron scriber set with a ruby, red ochre, cypress, rosemary, and vanilla oils, yarrow, garlic, and amaranth, a piece of white cloth, an earthenware mortar and pestle, a small copper box, a jade ring, a bears tooth, and three drops of the recipients blood.

   To perform the ceremony, mix the protective herbs (yarrow, garlic, and amaranth) with the first drop of the recipients blood, grind them to a powder at noon in the mortar, and dry the resulting mixture in the sun. The powder should then be wrapped in the linen, stored in the copper box, and carried by the prospective recipient for at least three days before it is needed to complete the ceremony. The oils and the second drop of the recipients blood should be mixed in an hornbeam bowl stirred with rod carved from oak. The bears tooth should be left in the mixture overnight before the mixture is used.

   On the night of the ceremony, bless your workspace, lay out the materials and dedicate them to the gods (giving preference to any local gods of youth, protection, and heroes) in the name of the recipient the bundle is designed to protect. Mix the red ochre with part of the oil to form a paste. Use the paste and the iron scriber to incise the runes of the Wild, the Warrior, and the Shield upon the pouch. Polish the pouch with the remaining oil and allow it to sink into the leather. Meditate upon the pouch, the ring, and the box of herbs until the moon reaches its culmination then place them within the pouch. Have the recipient prick his finger upon the bears tooth and place the tooth, with the third drop of his blood upon it into the pouch. Sew the pouch closed permanently, finishing the last stitches with the dawning of a new day and present it to its recipient.

   The resulting talisman should be a small pouch – suitable for wearing around the neck or secured to a belt – which will provide it’s bearer with (1) Protection from the effects of the environment, as if the user was sensibly dressed for the season., (2) Protection from injury; the first two points of damage is subtracted from each attack on the bearer – albeit to a minimum of zero, and (3) the ability to locate wholesome food and drink in the wilderness.

   This particular ceremony calls for power-1 and complexity-3 (the highest among the effects), but is also combining three effects (+3) and creating a permanent item (+2), and thus usually requires an 8d6 roll against the operators appropriate attribute. Most characters will need some substantial bonuses – such as an enhancing effect, assistants, and either a memorized ceremony or references – to pull this off, even if the game master knocks off a die for a good description of the ceremony.

   Ceremonies are a long, complicated, messy business.

The Allomancer Template

   Relatively recently, I was asked about a series called “Mistborn”, in which there was a system of magic called “Allomancy” – an innate ability to ingest and “burn” chunks of metal to gain various special powers.

   Well, the various special powers are each easy enough to design individually. Requiring access to the appropriate metals to use them would count as either a Corruption (for readily available metals) or a Specialization (for rare ones), and thus would reduce the cost by either a third or a half.

   The problem is a little deeper than that. The series covers the effects available from the use of seven pure metals – Iron (attracting metals), Zinc (amplifying emotions), Copper (concealment from magic), Tin (sensory enhancement), Gold (seeing alternate realities), Aluminum (neutralizes your own powers), and Atium (a fictional metal that allows short-term precognition).

   The series also includes Steel (Iron and Carbon – or sometimes manganese, chromium, vanadium, or tungsten – which allows you to push metals away), Electrum (Gold and Silver – which allows you to see into your own future), Duralumin (Aluminum and Copper, the mix allows the user to “burn” other metals in a massive burst), Bronze (Copper and Tin – or sometimes phosphorus, manganese, aluminum, or silicon – allows the user to detect other people using metal-magic in the area and sometimes analyze what they’re doing), Brass (Copper and Zinc, which allows the user to manipulate emotions), Pewter (Tin and Lead, or sometimes copper, antimony, or bismuth, which enhances the user’s physical attributes – strength, speed, agility, and ability to withstand damage), and Malatium (Atium – however fictional – and something else, allowing the user to see who people have been in the past).

   The trouble is, this list only covers six of the twenty-eight known natural metals (Lithium, Beryllium, Sodium, Magnesium, Aluminum, Potassium, Calcium, Titanium, Vanadium, Chromium, Manganese, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Zinc, Arsenic, Zirconium, Molybdenium, Silver, Cadmium, Antimony, Barium, Osmium, Platinum, Mercury, Thallium, Lead, and Uranium) and one fictional metal out of an unknown quantity. It only covers seven alloys, out of hundreds of relatively common ones. What do the rest do? If nothing, why not? At least some of them must be magically active in some fashion, otherwise alloys using them wouldn’t be magically different from the metals they’re alloyed with – and there are alloys already in the system that are.

   I won’t even get into the fact that Aluminum is murderously difficult to extract: it was first crudely purified in 1825 – and even then only in tiny qualities. For a considerably length of time – until an electrical extraction process was developed in 1885 – it was far more precious than gold.

   Now that author has apparently hinted that only eight metals and eight alloys have supernatural properties, although apparently without providing a reason “why”. It also isn’t clear whether or not Atium is a part of the original system. Personally I’d guess that Atium and its alloy Malatium are supernatural additions to the system, that Lead and Silver – since neither got a mention directly yet both are prominent components of mentioned alloys – are the remaining two magical metals, and that there are two additional magical alloys available, for a total of eighteen. If you want to use this branch of magic in a game, go ahead and make something up.

   Still, this is a pretty straightforward system of Talismanic Magic – and systems like that are fairly common in fantasy fiction. They’re all pretty straightforward: you have the proper talent and/or training? You have the appropriate talisman or material? You may then use it to produce a particular effect, or modest range of related effects, until you deplete said talisman or material – permanently or temporarily draining its magic.

   This sort of thing is relatively easy on authors and game masters: the variety of powers available is strictly limited, they can easily be supplied to – or removed from – the characters, and there’s no need to have any real underlying system: the interactions can be defined pretty readily.

   So here’s how to build it in Eclipse: The Codex Persona (available in print HERE or in a shareware version HERE).

   Like most abilities with semi-unlimited use in Eclipse, our system of Talismanic Magic will have to be built around either Innate Enchantment or the Path of the Dragon. Both of them are good at producing a relatively limited set of effects. Innate Enchantment is simpler to build – simply buy the appropriate spell effects and limit them by requiring the appropriate talismans – but it requires buying specific spell or psionic effects, and I haven’t actually read the series to know what to get. I’ll stick with Path of the Dragon, which allows a more general framework, even if it does often cost a bit more.

   So: Path of the Dragon. Shaping (6 CP), Pulse of the Dragon (6 CP), Heart of the Dragon (18 CP worth, for L1 spells). Specialized and Corrupted: the user can only produce a very limited range of game-master set effects and must possess and deplete the appropriate talisman or material to use each effect. Triple Effect (allowing effects of up to level three). That’s 30 CP – a +1 ECL template or pretty much the full allowance of points for a +0 ECL race. The effective caster level is equal to the user’s level and the game master may or may not choose to enforce the minimum effective caster level (Effect Level x 2 -1) for producing various effects. If he or she does, Talismanic Mages will start weak and have to learn to use their abilities. If he or she does not, they’ll principally be limited by the Talismans or Materials that they can obtain and haul along.

   The fun part of doing it this way is that you can use that template/race for a wide variety of magic-users. Want a character who ritually folds paper talismans under the light of particular astronomical events? A Mistborn Allomancer? An Alchemist or Herbalist who compounds weird powders and potions with odd magical effects from rare and expensive ingredients? An artificer who builds complex magical mechanisms? This will cover it.

   So, how many abilities should the game master allow for something like this?

   Well, for 30 CP with those limitations you could buy 11 levels of – say – druidical spellcasting. A dozen or so reasonably general abilities, or at least twice that many highly specialized ones, are probably in order. After all, if they become problematic, it’s going to be relatively easy to restrain characters with this kind of magic. Simply take away their talismans.

Large Changes

   Some time ago I put up an essay entitled Small Changes – a discussion of how relatively minor game-characteristic changes in a species can lead to massive social changes. This time around, it’s a look at the opposing position; sometimes you can make massive changes in a species basic abilities without changing their social organization much at all.

   For an example, lets consider a mild variation on the Elan – changing them into a natural species by simply throwing out the near-immortality and the inability to reproduce naturally. If we replaced the usual human racial modifiers with those for the Elan, what’s going to happen to human society?

  • -2 Charisma (-12) (this is half value, since penalties are less important than bonuses).
  • Immunity/Spells that affect humanoids only, such as charm person or dominate person (Uncommon/Major/Great, 12 CP).
  • Mana/+1d6 Power (2 CP)
  • Resistance +4 to all saves: Specialized: counts as a supernatural ability, requires the expenditure of one power point when used to activate through your next action, although this can be done as an immediate action. (18 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (Psionic Variant): Vitality Diversion (L2, May divert damage to Power reserves, at 2 HP to 1 Power, 8400 GP for Personal Only, 9 CP as Innate Enchantment).
  • Bonus Psionic Spell, Non-Augmentable (2 CP): Repletion, L1, lets you go without food and drink for 24 hours.

   Well, to start off with, they’re less charismatic. While a “-1” isn’t a big modifier on a d20 die roll, people interact with other people many times every day; every so often a social skill roll that a human would have made will fail, and so there will be a cumulative effect. These people are going to be just a bit less cooperative, to have a slightly “cruder” culture, and will tend to organize themselves in slightly smaller groups. Where they do form large groups, they’ll probably need a slightly more rigid social organization to help them manage. A certain stress on manners and social classes can be expected.

   An immunity to a few specific spells is pretty well irrelevant for social purposes. They don’t have innate spellcasting abilities, so such spells are going to be relatively rare in their culture, just like they are in most d20 cultures.

   The +4 on Saves is a notable bonus – but it does cost Power to activate, so the average man or woman in the street won’t be able to use it very often. Presumably it will still render them more resistant to toxins, irritants, diseases, and pollutants than normal humans are, since – in d20 – such things simply require periodic Fortitude saves. They’ll be able to drink contaminated swamp water, grow up breathing industrial smog, recover more quickly from disease, and otherwise survive for longer in hostile environments. They’ll be better at avoiding most accidents as well. Thanks to their boosted Reflex save they’ll be able to use rugged paths that would lead to an unacceptably high casualty rate of falls otherwise, work more safely with unshielded industrial equipment, and otherwise evade many accidents that would do serious harm to a normal human.

   Next up, they can get along on considerably less food and water – although not if there are too many other demands on their (very limited) natural 1d6 power reserve. This would be a really major change if they could actually get along without food entirely, but it seems likely that there are limits to how often they can use that “Repletion” ability without renewing their reserves. Still, they can probably reduce their average need for food and water to a half, or even a third, or normal. That will free up a good many people who would otherwise have to be farmers: expect denser overall populations, a considerably higher percentage of craftsman and other professionals, and for countryside farming villages to be considerably closer together.

   Similarly, the ability to transfer damage to their power reserve will make them a little more resistant to injury – but not that much so unless they develop a lot more Power. That does seem pretty likely given the number of their abilities that depend on it. Regardless, they should be able to hit their thumbs with hammers, withstand the occasional rebounding axe-blow when they slip up chopping wood, and survive kicks from horses and so on, without serious injury – but occupational injuries like that are far less serious in d20 universes than in reality and have never had a major impact on civilization anyway. They simply drag down overall productivity a bit.

   They don’t get the usual “human” bonus Feat and extra skill points – so their population will include a few less specialists, and most of them won’t have as broad a range of skills as a normal human will. That will tend to drag productivity back down, although probably not enough to make up for the effects bringing it up – as we’d expect for a race that uses most of it’s character point allowance rather than a mere third of it. We can expect this society to be somewhat more prosperous on the average,

   Still, humans have always fought each other at the drop of a hat, consumed marginally-edible and slightly-toxic stuff, drunk disease-laden water, and put up with the injuries suffered while working. Similarly, they’ve often had to get along on too little food, and have put what they want ahead of other people’s safety. This variant species is simply better at living with it, instead of dying young. Hopefully, living longer on the average will make up for them learning a little slower.

  So: we’ll have fewer farmers, slightly smaller groups on the average (but more of them), slightly cruder behavior, and a greater tolerance for nasty living conditions and risky behavior. “Safety First” isn’t going to make much headway here, although “Productivity at any cost!” may. Overall, this is going to be a pretty recognizable culture; you could easily portray it as Victorian. When you come right down to it, most cultures have been rude, crude, violent, and with little respect for the comfort and safety of the lower classes. “Dystopian” is a pretty familiar setting, and they’ll fit into it nicely.

   What kind of secondary effects are likely?

   Well, most of them will be spending their level-one Feat on getting the 3d6 extra Power that will enhance their survivability so much. They’ll probably be more likely to colonize difficult areas, and will maintain larger populations than humans normally do in deserts, swamps, poison-laden tropical jungles, and arctic locations. Psionics will be studied far more commonly and intensively than usual – but the equivalent magical studies will probably be less common. Members of other races had better keep an eye on the food, since this species is likely to use a lot of “spices” that other races may find pretty indigestible. Long-range trade may be a bit less important for the same reason: with a wider range of local “spices”, and less need to eat perishable foodstuffs that are past their prime, spices will be less important and desirable. Technical progress may be slower, since people will be less social and thus less inclined to share ideas, but technical progress was never that fast in most cultures to begin with.

   So: why should adding a single, cheap, ability – darksight – have such enormous cultural and social ramifications, while making massive changes has relatively little effect?

   In this case it’s simple: the Elan template simply enlarges on a few existing strengths while slightly reducing others. It doesn’t really add anything new to the mix. Human cultures don’t respond much to changes like that. Would human cultures change much if we subtracted two feet and some strength? Evidently not: the pygmies culture is pretty easily recognizable.

   There are limits of course – and the range of normal variation within a species is a pretty good guide to them – but within them tweaking racial characteristics isn’t going to have much effect. That’s why most authors and games stick with that kind of change. It’s a handy shortcut. The local “human” variant is blue, scaly, a bit thick, and stronger than normal humans? If they think and act like humans, so what? Readers and players will be able to relate to them easily. Are they short, light, quick on their feet, and extra-sneaky? Then they’ll make great thieves, and you can throw in a quick cultural oddity or two – such as living in underground homes and a love of meals and gardens – and call them a unique race.

   If you throw in darksight, flight, the ability to breathe fire, short range teleportation, enough telepathy to bypass language difficulties, or any of a thousand other radically new abilities, things change drastically.

   For example, one author wrote a science-fiction series wherein some weird mutation had affected humanity: one type was much stronger, much faster, relatively short-lived (about 40 years), and had to suck the life out of a member of the other subtype once a month to survive. Members of the other subtype apparently healed faster and got some other advantages, but not nearly enough to stand up to the first type in a fight. Two-thirds of the births took the parents type, one third took the opposing type, and births from mixed pairings were 50-50. Either way, the mutations did not come into effect until puberty.

   Now, the general notion was interesting – but a minimal ratio of “vampires” to “humans” of one to two simply will not work. First month: the “vampires” kill one-half of the donors. Second month: they kill the rest of them. Third month: all the “vampires” die.

   You could stretch things out by killing off all the children who went “vampire” in donor-dominated areas, by having a lot of the “vampires” die during the transition of natural causes, or by other drastic measures – but a stable, large-scale, primitive-technology (oxcart-style transportation) region dominated by the vampires just will not work: either you’ll have too few vampires to really dominate or they’ll kill off everyone else and then starve to death.

   That constant nagging “this would never work” really undermined the series for a lot of people – and that kind of thing is death on serious roleplaying in a setting. How can a character make rational decisions in a setting that makes no sense? Why bother trying?

   And that is why it’s always important to consider the implications of your changes. Sometimes they can be glossed over. Sometimes they can’t. Either way, with some advance thought, at least you’ll know what issues are likely to come up – which makes game mastering a LOT easier.