In Nomine: Sakarit

   Here we have an enlightened character for In Nomine. Sakarit was noted for his cheery attendence to menial tasks (such as sweeping up, attending to the dying, and teaching students), for his innocent and oblivious helpfulness, for letting hostile individuals follow him across space and time – which they often found exceedingly awkward – and for somehow managing to frustrate quite a variety of demonic schemes through simply wandering through and talking to people.

Sakarit

   Bodhisattva, Path of the Enlightened One

   As an ascended human Buddhist, Sakarit is a manifestation of the Symphony itself, rather then of higher or lower powers. His purpose is to spread enlightenment – but both good and evil can be routes to enlightenment.

Corporeal

2

 

Strength

5

 

Agility

3

 

   

Ethereal

3

 

Intellect

8

 

Precision

4

 

Mind Hits

24

Celestial

5

 

Will

11

 

Perception

9

 

Soul Hits

55

   Path Attunement: Piercing the Veil of Maya. Sakarit may switch vessels or forms with a will check without spending essence. Roll (Will) to shift, (Will-2) to shift without taking a round.

Point Expenditures (36)

   Artifacts (7): Sutras (Reliquary [3], +1 Recharge [2], Sutra [3], +2 Essence Capacity [4],Requires lengthy invocation to use [-2], 1/day maximum [-4], must chant and gesture to use [-2], generates a Disturbance-3 when used [-3]. Net 1).

   Attunements (5): The Strength Within: Increases effective level of vessels by (Celestial Forces)/2, rounded down.

   Skills (3): Knowledge: History +1 (Int), Knowledge: The Planes +1 (Int), Emote +1 (Per).

   Songs (9): Roll [Relevant Forces + Level] to use.

  • Healing (Corporeal 3, Ethereal 1, Celestial 1)
  • Harmony (Ethereal 1)
  • Tongues (Corporeal 1, Celestial 1)
  • Form (Ethereal 1)
  • Symphony (Corporeal 1, Ethereal 1)

   Vessels (0):

  • Elderly Oriental Mystic (L5. Hits 35. Charisma -2 (Unworldly Elderly Weirdo, -4), +2 level bonus for type, net -1 effective 0).
  • Young Oriental Woman (L4. Hits 30. Cute but weird, for no charisma modifier), +2 level bonus for type, net 0, effective 0).
  • Ray of Light (L2, Hits 20. Charisma -1 (This is totally weird, -2), +2 points for strange quality (Very rapid flight), net 0).
  • Small Dragon (L2, Hits 20. Charisma -2 (Very odd reactions, -4), Natural Armor-2 (2), Winged Flight (1), Natural Weapons (claws, teeth, breathe fire. All with range roughly equal to a punch and a power of -1, like brass knuckles, cost of 1), net 0).
  • While one of the later books said “no dragons”, that one didn’t happen to be in use in this particular game… If no eastern-style dragons are allowed, simply substitute a Ki-Rin or some such.

    Self-Improvement (10): +1 Force

   Personal History: Sakarit Chogyal was born in northern India in 1897 and lived relatively uneventfully as a buddhist scholar-monk, concentrating on teaching and the doing of good works… He achieved his sixth force, and symphonic awareness, at age 28, and became a healer as well. At 73 he achieved Nirvana in a moment of enlightenment and merged with the symphony, abandoning his self.

   Thirty-three years later he elected to return to activity as a True Bodhisattva – a mortal who had achieved enlightenment during his natural lifespan and who has returned from union with the cosmos to help the inhabitants / aspects of the symphony achieve that same enlightenment.

   (those good Buddhist souls who reach heaven after their deaths are often referred to as Bodhisattva. This is not quite the same, since they’ve died, and so have trouble remanifesting in the corporeal realm without aid and generally haven’t achieved the Satori resonance).

   Favorite Hangouts: Sakarit enjoys the marches, and has been watching the rapid expansion of the d20 territories with some bemusement. The Leng Po tavern, made famous by several classical Chinese novels and supported by the occasional presence of Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, King Arthur, and several other old generals who like to argue strategy, is a special favorite, as is the City of Waterdeep – a place with many entertaining features (especially the way essence manifests as big bags of gold), no matter how fictional.

   On the corporeal plane he likes rock gardens, where he is often found meditating in the form of a beam of light, he still dutifully visits the Mirr Kel temple to study old scrolls and talk with the priests, and he spends a lot of time teaching wherever he can and doing charity work around whichever city or town the universe has seen fit to send him to at the moment.

   Notable Contacts: The militaristic patrons of the Leng Po tavern (Mostly generals and Sarge), Eric Within (Human Spiritmaster), an assortment of Ethereal Spirits, Massiniel (Friend of Christopher), Sophia (Elohim Angel of Enlightenment), Tulpu Vashna (Bodhisattva, path of Tao, a skilled artificer), Jigme Jinpa (“Fearless Activity”, a seeker of the way of the sword), and Bronwen (Malakim of Yves).

   The Music of the Sutras: Since the use of the Sutras produces a unique set of symphonic disturbances, here’s what they sound like… Kyattika Sutra (Chimes, in counterpoint), Anurada Sutra (Rushing waters, drums, and gongs), Migathi Sutra (Flutes, imitating birdsong), Nine Winds Sutra (Bamboo flutes and chimes), Forest Path Sutra (Wind in leaves, with occasional bagpipes), Four Blessings Sutra (Sonorous Chanting), and the Mountain Roots Sutra (Rain and thunder, with harps)

Advertisements

End of the year updates

   Well, there may not be too much going up today since – with the cancellation of the d20 license – I’m busy updating some of the free stuff and purchasable downloads.

   Yes, I know: “Free Stuff” always gets some attention. We’ll, there’s some in the download box on the lower right. The stuff that’s being updated is over on RPGNow.Com, and includes:

   Eclipse: The Codex Persona– a design-your-own races, powers, and abilities point-buy system for pretty much all open-game-license/d20 games. Since the d20 license has gone the way of the Dodo, this is now bundled with the OGL web expansion, covering how to get along without experience points and – if you want – without levels.

   The Practical Enchanter: Magic, whether as spells, psychic powers, or superheroic abilities, for – once again – pretty much all OGL/d20 games.

   Paths of  Power: A revised magic system for OGL/d20 games, featuring spells arranged in sequences of related effects.

   Other than that, I have a link for you to a sentient computer character built using Eclipse over on one of the player blogs. Little “Limey” is an NPC in the Federation-Apocalypse campaign, and will – hopefully – be both of great help and and perpetually frustrating to his owner – and throughly entertaining for the players.

   Regardless, if I don’t get back to put anything else up today, have a happy new year!

In Nomine: Raven Harcourt

   Raven Harcourt was designed under the rule that – to make humans playable – they got 10 bonus CP for every force they were short of 9. Raven thought he was a superhero. In fact, given his combat skills, he was quite right. Angels, Demons, and Ethereals might have more raw power, and far more versatility – but if it came down to a hand-to-hand melee, Raven was well up there.

Raven Harcourt

   (Human, 5 Forces, +40 CP)

Corporeal

2

 

Strength

4

 

Agility

4

 

   

Ethereal

2

 

Intellect

4

 

Precision

4

 

Mind Hits

8

Celestial

1

 

Will

2

 

Perception

2

 

Soul Hits

2

   Combat Statistics: Melee Dodge: 28-, Ranged Dodge 16-, Armor (-2 to be hit, +3 armor), Punch Attack 18-, Power +1, Hits 32.

Artifacts (12):

  • Amulet of the Tiger [Dodge +6 (12), Can be worn or carried in a completely hidden way (+3), Attracts other skilled martial artists (-4), User must diligently perform katas each day (-1), User must already possess Fighting and Dodge skills at +5 or better (-3), Bearer does not automatically regain essence each day (-3), net 4]
  • Crane Sigil [Acrobatics +6 (12), Can be worn or carried in a completely hidden way (+3), Attracts other skilled martial artists (-4), User must diligently perform katas each day (-1), User must already possess Fighting and Dodge skills at +5 or better (-3), Bearer does not automatically regain essence each day (-3), net 4]
  • Dragon Belt [Fighting +6 (12), Can be worn or carried in a completely hidden way (+3), Attracts other skilled martial artists (-4), User must diligently perform katas each day (-1), User must already possess Fighting and Dodge skills at +5 or better (-3), Bearer does not automatically regain essence each day (-3), net 4]

Discord (-30):

  • Aura-6 (-18): Every move he makes screams “This human is an expert martial artist!” Even other humans will almost automatically sense this.
  • Celestial Blindness-4 (-12): He’s just not very attuned to celestial things. Note that this means that he will only regain an essence point at noon one-third of the time.

   Status (10): Level 6 (Filthy Rich)

   Skills (52): Fighting (Str) +6, Dodge (Agi) +6, Acrobatics (Agi) +6, Psychic Shield (Will) +6, Climbing (Agi) +2, Computer Operation (Int) +6, Electronics (Int or Pre) +1, Escape (Agi or Pre) +2, Knowledge/Martial Arts (Int) +1, Knowledge/Geography (Int) +1, Language/Spanish (Int) +1, Language/Chinese (Int) +1, Medicine (Pre) +1, Move Silently (Agi) +1, Ranged Weapon/Pistol (Pre) +4, Seduction (Will) +2, Survival (Will or Pre) +1, Swimming (Agi) +2, Throwing (Agi or Pre) +2.

   Vessel (16): Basic Human Body (L2, Free), +4 Levels (12), Iron Fist Training (base power of punch is -1, not -3, 2 points), Stone Ox Training (natural “armor” giving Protection-1, 2 points).

   Equipment (0): Light Tailored Kevlar Clothing (armor, -2 penalty to attackers to hit rolls, +2 armor), Karatends (Reinforced gloves, +1 power to punch), .44 Revolver (Range 15, Power +3, 6 Shots) and concealed-carry permit, wallet with plenty of cash, credit cards, etc,

   Psychic Shield: The will-based equivalent of Dodge. Adds to willpower for defensive purposes only.

In Nomine: The Long March

   You’ve met him in a thousand tales and seen him in a hundred movies. The face may change a bit, but it’s always Him. He is invoked by everyone from method actors to soldiers in the field. He has fallen again and again, defending his homeland against the barbarians. He is tough as nails and he has no patience with mysticism, with foolishness, or with disobeying orders. A long time ago he was known as Centurion. These days he’s normally just called

Sarge

   (Ethereal Archetype: The Career Sergeant. 8 Forces, +0 CP)

Corporeal

4

 

Strength

12/8*

 

Agility

6

 

   

Ethereal

2

 

Intellect

2

 

Precision

6

 

Mind Hits

4

Celestial

2

 

Will

5

 

Perception

3

 

Soul Hits

10

   *12 for determining hit points, 8 for other purposes. Base of 10.

   Combat Statistics: Melee Dodge: 10-, Ranged Dodge 10-, Kevlar Armor (- 2to be hit, -4 vrs firearms, + 2 armor), Punch Attack 10-, Power -2, Combat Knife 10-, Power +2, .44 Revolver 10-, Power +3, Lawgiver 10-, Power +30, Justifier 10-, Power +0/4/8. Hits 84.

Artifacts (5):

  • The Lawgiver: Celestial Relic/Corporeal Song of Reloading-2 (6), Summonable (+3), Primary Form/4-Shot LAW missile launcher (0), Alternate Form/Ring (+3, variant on “can be hidden”), Disturbance-3 whenever used (-3), Attracts excessive human attention (-3), Requires two free hands (-2), Use requires Ranged Weapons/Missiles skill at 3+ (-1). Net 3. [LAW: Power +30, +60 versus inanimate objects, Accuracy 0, Range 20. While this is a shaped charge, anyone in a 3-meter radius will also take 3d6 damage].
  • The Justifier: Celestial Relic/Corporeal Song of Reloading-1 (3), Summonable (+3), Primary Form/American 180 Machine Pistol, Alternate Form/Ring (+1), Disturbance-3 whenever used (-3), Attracts modest human attention (-1), Use requires Ranged Weapons/Pistol at 3+ (-1). Net 2. [180 SB Machine Pistol: Power 0/+4/+8, Accuracy 0, Range 15, Shots 177 (Fires single-shot or bursts of 3 or 6 shots). Like any other machine gun it can be used to simply blanket an area, this attacks everyone there at power +2. Selective fire, threaded flash suppressor, laser sight [double range when in use], interchangeable barrels, fitted carrying case, fires at 1600 rounds per minute, relatively quiet. Overall an impressive toy].

Attunements (War, 20):

  • Immunity to Trauma (Free): It only takes Sarge 2d4 hours to show up again if “killed”.
  • Always in Uniform (10): Gets a 5-point bonus towards any middle-aged male human vessel. His vessels always come equipped with a full field kit, including current armor and weapons (In the current day this usually means kevlar, a knife, a pistol, and at least three grenades).
  • Weapons Master (10): Has a base skill of +2 with fighting, dodge, and all weapons.

Discord (-30):

  • Tone-Deaf: Cannot use Ethereal (-5) or Celestial (-5) songs. He also tends to pretty much ignore any supernatural implications of the things he gets involved with. That’s for the officers to deal with.
  • Recognizable (-10). Anyone who sees Sarge gets a perception check at +5 to recognize his exact archetype – albeit not necessarily his supernatural qualities. Almost all humans will be quite sure that they’ve seen him someplace though.
  • Bound (-10). Sarge takes a -2 on any attempts to return to the marches without being “killed”.

Rites (9):

  • Clean and check his weapons
  • Offer rough practical advice to anyone who is having a personal crisis (Double if it’s actually a soldier in the field).
  • Go to a theater and see a war movie.

   Skills (22): Climbing (Agi) +1, Dodge (Agi) +4*, Driving (Pre) +1, Escape +1, Fighting +4*, Knowledge/Military +2, Language/Classical Latin (1†), Medicine (Pre) +1, Move Silently (Agi) +1, Ranged Weapon/Rifle +4*, Ranged Weapon/Pistol +4* (Pre), Ranged Weapon/Missile Launcher +4*, , Survival +1, Tactics +2, and Throwing +1.

   †Sarge speaks English. Almost everyone in the movies speaks English.

   Songs (6): Healing / Corporeal +2, Shields / Corporeal +3, Tongues / Corporeal +1..

   Vessel (0): Sarge’s vessels vary, but they’re all rough, middle-aged, a bit scruffy, and quite uncharismatic, for a net (L3 [9], -2 Charisma [-4], minus his Always in Uniform attunement [-5], for a net cost of 0.

   Equipment (0): Field kit and weapons as above. Normally has a collection of ID’s from a dozen or more major wars along with a diary covering the last thousand years or so.

   Sarge is, of course, a walking stereotype. Quite literally. There are more people who believe in Sarge then Odin has ever had, even if you add them up throughout history. Sarge is tough as nails, something of a country boy, has a gravelly voice, deals in tactics rather then strategy, and tends to try to give everyone in the party basic training. He’ll carry out his missions if it kills him. Quite often it does, but he’s not going to let a little thing like that stop him. He’s a soldier, not a god – which is why he’s good, but not overtly superhuman.

   He isn’t subtle.

   Fortunately, Sarge is invariably “on the side of the angels”.

   Whether they like it or not.

In Nomine: Bodhisattva

   Here we have a writeup of some eastern figures for the In Nomine role-playing game. Unfortunately, when both “the good guys” and “the bad guys” seem to be united as “The Crazy Guys”, it sometimes makes it hard to find something you want to play. Ergo:

 

Bodhisattva, The Ascended Ones

   But if God was the first, and only, god – the Alpha and the Omega – whose servants constantly intervene and who’s agents appeared to and taught the first men, the one to whom squads of angels stand witness where did the other faiths come from? Couldn’t any fool discover that they are false? If the great orders of angels and their fallen foes have existed since near the beginning of time, why are the first records of their existence to be found in books only a few thousand years old? Where was god for the first fourteen billion years of existence? If the more powerful angels embody words of the cosmic symphony, what does David have to say about the stones of Mars, Pluto, and the asteroid belt? Isn’t there an entire cosmos to run?

   Why command that “You shall have no other gods before me” if there are no other gods?

   God – backed by the power of two billion believers – has reordered much of the cosmos to suit himself (Page 52).

   There are still others however. Many have faded into mere Ethereals, remembered in tales and myth and by small cults. Others, however, can still boast hundreds of millions of followers. They should not be ignored.

   The Buddhists do not see the godhead as separate from the symphony, or as something separate from themselves. The godhead is the symphony as a whole, and their goal is unity with it. The Bodhisattva are humans who have transcended, and returned to help others do the same. Despite attempts to make “Heaven” synonymous with “Nirvana”, Heaven is a place, but Nirvana is a state of mind.

Game Mechanic Modifiers (A.K.A; The Eightfold Path):

  1. For Bodhisattva exceptionally good and enlightening results occur on a roll of “444” and exceptionally bad and confusing results occur on a “333”.
  2. The actions of Bodhisattva do not create dissonance in the symphony, They do create counter- and sub-themes which are almost as detectable (Roll at -4), but “sound” different. They each have their own identifiable “theme” however, making them easier to identify as individuals.
  3. Bodhisattva gain their daily essence point at Noon, like any human, rather then at Dawn or Sunset. They heal the same way.
  4. Unlike Angels and Demons, they cannot use their resonances through technological mediums.
  5. They have Paths rather then Superiors. These are difficult to negotiate with, but easier to mix.
  6. Bodhisattva can’t take “modern” roles and never have any status unless they gain it by hard work. They’re generally limited to Eastern Priest / Monk / Mendicant, Herbalist / Healer, and Martial Artist. On the other hand they gain a +2 bonus on the level of their human vessels.
  7. Buddhist Relics and Reliquaries may be taken as Sutras or Koans – mystical invocations. These can’t generally be taken away or broken, although this makes them more expensive (A version of “can be worn or carried in a completely hidden way, +3 points”).
  8. When slain a Bodhisattva fade into Nirvana – the universe at large – and will eventually return from it, just like a spirit of the Marches. Being one with the cosmos, they do not suffer Trauma.

 

The Bodhisattva Template

   “Only the sword which is no-sword is sharp enough to cut nothing.”

   “Let me help you.”

   Simplicity. Directness. Serenity. Action without self is the goal of the Bodhisattva, flowing with the music of the symphony and becoming one with it, rather then acting from expectations or to mask their natures and motives from others. They are teachers, but the lessons they teach are never easy to understand.

 

Satori (Resonance)

   Bodhisattva are attuned to the symphony as a whole and see time and place for the illusions they are. They may interact with regions of the symphony which are nowhere near them and, seeing no real distinction between selves, may share these strange insights with up to (Ethereal Forces) others within a radius of up to (2 * Celestial Forces) meters if they so desire.

 

Karma (Dissonance)

   Since their purpose is to teach, not taking any reasonable opportunity to attempt to reveal the wonders of the cosmos, or failing to make an attempt to keep humans alive to learn of them, results in Dissonance.

 

Bodhisattva Check Digit Results/Game Mechanics

   1+) You may shunt away excess energies (e.g. Radiation, Heat, and Electricity) and so avoid injury. This may be used even if the character cannot currently use his resonance otherwise.

   2+) You may catch a glimpse of the glories of the cosmos as a whole or reveal them to another. This is very strange and, twice per day per person, this allows them to regain a point of essence.

   3+) You may grant any target with total forces equal to or less then your Celestial forces one extra force or restore one lost force to anyone. Unfortunately, this will not work on any one target more then once per month and costs a point of essence when successfully invoked.

   4+) You may catch a glimpse of apparently-random events (as selected by the game master) that are distant in time and space. Such visions often reveal things that you ought to be doing.

   5+) You see a quick and easy route to reach an apparently-random but interesting location. The trip never requires more then a few hours, even if it’s halfway across the cosmos.

   6+) You may participate in an apparently-random scene somewhere else in time and/or space. This often involves an interaction with some other entity, which is how Bodhisattvas interact with their “superiors” (e.g; anyone from whom they can obtain an enlightening lesson).

 

Manner and Appearance

   Bodhisattva tend to be more then a little “childish” – always finding the world fresh, wonderful, and full of unexpected things. Their celestial forms run towards butterflies, beams of light, mythical forms, jade maidens, and elderly sages. Their physical forms are usually much the same.

 

The Paths Of The Bodhisattva

   There are four major paths for the Bodhisattva – the path of the Enlightened One, the Seeker of the Way of the Sword, the Shaman, and the Taoist Sorcerer. It is, in fact, quite possible for them to take multiple paths – but they must accept the Dissonance condition for each path they choose to take more then 5 CP worth of abilities from.

   Enlightened Ones are classical Buddhist monks, lamas, philosophers, and sages. They tend to be calm, ignorant of society, and quite unworldly as they attempt to see past the illusions of reality.

   Seekers practice the martial arts as a form of moving meditation, attempting to become one with the world around them, flowing with it without thought or sense of self.

   Shamans seek for the essence of the divine which lies hidden within all things, communing with the hidden spirits of the world – and seeing themselves in that mirror.

   Taoists seek to understand the great themes of the symphony, knowing that their own essence is a manifestation of those themes.

   Bodhisattva tend to get along better with Angels then Demons, although they may oppose either if they are interfering with their mission to bring enlightenment to humanity (and normally see nothing wrong with maintaining good relations with any powerful spirit). From their point of view, any human – or even those somewhat-deluded Angels and Demons – can eventually become one with the symphony, as they are. They may achieve distinction by becoming an example to others and/or through strange experiences in distant places in time and space. Oddly enough, the more they follow the apparently-random promptings of the symphony, the more likely such opportunities are to arise.

 

Dissonance

   Enlightened Ones must not indulge in lengthy schemes, lay complex plans, or worry much about the future. They must act with simple spontaneity.

   Seekers must never start a fight or use force beyond what is justified in defending themselves and others.

   Shamans avoid making any personal use of “high” technology – such as steam engines or current firearms. They will not use technological weapons, although they have conceded riding in elevators and in vehicles as long as someone else is driving.

   Taoists must never provide a straight or simple answer to any question and should never let anyone talk them out of whatever they have decided is the right thing to do.

 

Attunements

Enlightened One

  • Aura of Serenity: The character inspires trust and confidence in those he meets. This can be treated as a “charisma” bonus equal to the characters total celestial forces.
  • Currents of The Void: The character may add his total number of ethereal forces to either strength-based OR agility-based skill checks OR he may add his total number of celestial forces to either intelligence-based OR perception-based skill checks.
  • Master of Entropy: Once per day the character may touch a creature or item and adjust its age by up to (Precision) years for living things or up to (Precision x 10) years for inanimate objects.
  • Piercing the Veil: The character may switch vessels or forms with a will check without spending essence. Roll (Will) to shift, (Will-2) to shift without taking a round.
  • Pocket of the Void: The character may store up to 250 pounds of material in the distant reaches of time and space, placing it there or retrieving it at will. Time does not pass for items so stored.
  • The Excellent Advisor: The character intuitively knows just what any troubled, upset, or confused mortal needs to hear. Unfortunately, this may not be what they want to hear or have any immediate effect, but it can negate fear, soothe children, and get people moving towards their destiny again.

Seeker of the Way of the Sword

  • Earth Moving: You gain two points of innate armor protection against corporeal, ethereal, or celestial damage. This attunement may be taken repeatedly, but no single aspect may gain more then 6 points of armor in this fashion.
  • Fire Leaping: You may spend two points of essence to take an extra action once per turn.
  • The Strength Within: You may add one-half of your celestial forces (round down) to the effective level of your vessels.
  • Voice of Command: In any emergency or combat situation you may simply issue orders. As long as such commands are reasonably sensible and the targets have no compelling reason to disobey, such orders will be followed without question. In less urgent situations you gain a +4 bonus on Fast Talk rolls.
  • Water Flowing: You intuitively sense the general outline of everything within 30 feet, and can thus operate in darkness, sense people behind cover, or defend yourself against invisible opponents without difficulty. As a side effect you gain a +2 bonus to your Dodge check digit.
  • Wind Blowing: You may move with great speed and agility. The character’s movement allowance increases by 2 x Agility when Corporeal, 2 x Perception when Celestial. This attunement may be taken repeatedly, but may not more then triple your movement speed.

Shaman

  • Casting the Bones: You may make a willpower check one per day to direct the effects of Satori (check digit 4+) towards a subject you have an interest in. If successful, this will provide a bit of insight (Ethereal Forces facts by default) into your desired topic.
  • Channeling: You may call on the power of any entity which owes you a favor by simply expending an action to invoke it. Favors can be purchased for one character point each (the character is presumed to have earned them between games) or acquired through roleplaying. Using this ability requires a resonance check. On a success, the user can draw upon the spirits powers for a number of rounds equal to the check digit plus one, although effects can continue past that period.
  • Distant Call: The character may hold a brief ceremony requiring 1d6 minutes to “place a call” to almost any entity. As a side benefit, the user will find that anyone is willing to talk, to give him or her a fair hearing, and that he or she always “has an appointment”.
  • Mind Like Moon: The character receives a +2 bonus to dodge rolls and dodge check digits.
  • Smith of Jade: The character may create Talismans. It normally requires one week per point of the cost to create such items.
  • VisionQuest: You may seek out the personification of any mundane problem or event in the marches and attempt to deal with it as an entity. For example, uncontrollable flooding or a hurricane would probably manifest as a belligerent elemental creature. Successfully dealing with the personification will solve the problem.

Taoist Sorcerer

  • Fires of Peruza: The character may channel celestial energies into his or her physical body. Any vessel the user employs gains (Celestial Forces) character points worth of improvements for free.
  • Forge of the Divine: The character may create Relics and Reliquaries. It normally requires one week per point of the cost to create such items.
  • Invocation: The character may call on the assistance of major supernatural beings. Unfortunately, they charge for their assistance: Invoking a being for some minor service (e.g. calling on a spirit of fire to light a campfire) costs three points of essence – one to call, one for payment, and one to channel the effect) and two rounds (one to call and one to channel). A major service (calling up a firestorm to destroy a building) costs 1-3 character points but takes effect in the next round.
  • Master of Artifice: The character may simply “pull out” (Ethereal Forces) minor gadgets each day. Such gadgets may not weigh more then 10 pounds or be more advanced then a flintlock pistol. Typical gadgets include smoke bombs, melee weapons, sleeping drugs, small explosives, swords and daggers, grappling hook, healing ointments, crossbows, etcetra.
  • Stance of Tao: The character may spend a point of essence to shift one of his or her forces to another category. The force reverts to its normal state in (ethereal forces) hours.
  • Tulpa Master: The character may create temporary servants by spending points of essence equal to their normal cost. Such servants always obey orders, and so need only be purchased at level one – but they only last for (ethereal forces) hours. Tulpa may be rendered permanent by paying character points for them, but become less reliable; their creator has a +2 rank bonus on their effective resource level but will no longer have complete control.

 

Masteries (Servitor Attunements)

Enlightened One:

  • Aspect of Song: You may select a specific song and employ it up to three times per day with no essence cost. The song operates as if you had expended essence equal to your normal maximum as a base, any additional essence you expend adds to this.
  • Walk in Harmony: Your actions will not disturb the symphony at all unless you spend essence in some way that a normal human could not.
  • Sphere of Serenity: No one will attack you unless you attack them first. Even area effect attacks will leave you untouched. Unfortunately, there are limits: people can still refuse to let you into secure areas, throw you out, or take away that item you were trying to stroll off with – and superiors will eventually lose patience and lock you up.

Seeker:

  • Clouds Above the Earth: The character may walk on air, moving about as if winged.
  • Expertise: The character gains a +2 power bonus on any attack he or she makes.
  • Merciful Strike: The character may expend 2 essence points and attune a weapon to cause corporeal or ethereal damage for the next three rounds. Regardless of the type of damage it causes, the weapon will not cause more harm to a target then they truly deserve.

Shaman:

  • Mindwalking: You may take celestial form and return from it without disturbing the symphony.
  • Gate of the Marches: You may move to and from the Marches by simply moving to and from celestial form.
  • Personification: You can talk to things and try to persuade them to help you within their natures (for example, doors open, close, lock, unlock, and occasionally fall down. They don’t fly around hitting people). For you everything is intelligent and potentially helpful. Unfortunately, it can be very hard to get the attention of really large things.

Taoist:

  • Aspect of Song: You may select a specific song and employ it up to three times per day with no essence cost. The song operates as if you had expended essence equal to your normal maximum as a base, any additional essence you expend adds to this.
  • Master of Alchemy: The character can create objects and materials by expending 1 point of essence per 200$ worth of material to be created.
  • The Wheel of Jade: The character may store twice as much essence as usual.

 

Distinctions

Enlightened One:

  • Querent of the Heart: You understand others motivations. You can tell what people want, how serious they are about something, and how much they’re willing to risk for it. You may also use Fast Talk (a.k.a: “counseling”) to instill new motivations, calm irrational or hysterical individuals, soothe emotional distress, and remove addictions.
  • Aspirant of Healing: You receive +4 effective levels in each aspect of the Healing Song.
  • Sage Transcendent: Given a week, you may expend 10 essence to remove a level of discord from yourself or from someone else.

Seeker:

  • Querent of the Skies: The character may spend a point of essence to call up a cloud to ride on. Such a cloud can transport up to six characters, travels at anything up to the speed of sound, and lasts for two hours.
  • Aspirant of Invulneribility: The character’s vessels become impervious to damage from any single element chosen from among Earth and Stone, Heat and Light, Water and Corrosives, Air and Electricity, or Metal and Plastic. For a point of essence, this can be shared with anyone the character is touching (and continues to touch) for 1d6 minutes.
  • Sage of Steel: The character becomes so skilled in defense that – while he or she opts to hold a position and defend only – he or she cannot be harmed or passed in any space less then thirty feet wide. In any other situation the character may roll their dodge twice, taking the better result.

Shaman:

  • Querent of the Winds: Anyone with this distinction can listen in on any conversation in which they’re mentioned by name, regardless of who’s speaking, where they are, or what precautions they may take.
  • Aspirant of the Overworld: This distinction grants the character a +2 bonus on any roll made while in Celestial form or in the Marches.
  • Sage of Resonance: The character gains any one Celestial or Demonic Resonance, but must accept the Dissonance rules of the source choir or band as well.

Taoist:

  • Querent of Essence: Given an hours study, the character can precisely evaluate the nature of any item, compound, plant, creature, or artifact.
  • Aspirant of Alchemy: The character may brew Elixirs. When empowered with 2 essence and applied these can enhance or damage vessels (+/-2 levels), provide a temporary corporeal or ethereal force, heal wounds (As per the Song of Healing/5), or dissolve solid matter (1d6 damage per round for up to 20 rounds). Effects other then dissolving matter last for 1d6+24 hours.
  • Sage of Distillation: The character has learned to channel the fundamental energies of the symphony through him- or herself. He or she gains an extra 2 character points per session and may allow up to four other characters to gain an extra character point each session. He or she may also purchase Bodhisattva attunements, masteries, and distinctions freely – or allow others to do so through him.

 

Basic Rites

  • Meditate for three hours (styles vary. Seekers practice kata, Shamans dance or beat on drums, and Taoists contemplate obscure formula).
  • Spend two hours teaching someone about the cosmos.
  • Succeed with a skill roll using a skill at 6+
  • Enlightened: Share enlightenment with a new and worthy/innocent person.
  • Seeker: Convince someone to rebel against authority.
  • Shaman: Spend four hours touring a place of unspoiled nature.
  • Taoist: Spend an hour distilling essences in an alchemical laboratory.

 

Chance of Invocation

   A normal angel or demon can call upon his superiors when things are really going down the drain, when they need advice, or for various other kinds of assistance. While Bodhisattva can call on their paths for a few specific effects, they really can’t get the kind of assistance that angels and demons can. On the other hand, paths aren’t as demanding and judgmental as superiors are. This is basically up to the GM. If superiors are generally well worth having in a game, Bodhisattva get +12 character points during character creation. If they’re fairly often helpful, Bodhisattva get +6 character points during character creation. If they’re a balanced deal, no points. If they’re a severe pain in a given game, game masters may quite reasonably charge a 6 character point fee for the privilege of being free of them.

   Enlightened (4) Still The Sands: The character steps outside of time for a subjective interval of up to one minute per celestial force the user possesses.

   Seeker (3) The Doom Slash: The character may open – or seal – a rift across space, time, and dimensions. It will remain open for up to one round per celestial force the user possesses. If used to seal a tether or similar anchorage the effect is permanent.

   Shaman (1) The Tolling: The character may attempt to invoke any major entity. It is best to have a very good reason, since the character generally won’t be in service to them.

   Taoist (2) Transformation: The character may attempt a transformation ritual to change almost any willing entity into any other entity.

   Invocation modifiers are up to the game master.

Federation-Apocalypse: Jamie Wolfe

   Jamie is a splendid example of the kinds of things you can get when you pile a throughly cheesy template – and a great heap of astoundingly advanced cyberware – on top of some lucky die rolls; a character who’s personal abilities no longer matter very much compared to those of a pile of equipment and modifiers which might as well go off adventuring by itself. Why are we allowing this again?

   Oh yes. It’s because a melee-combat-monstrosity really isn’t particularly unbalancing in a game which revolves around menaces to entire dimensions, vast mystical forces, personal nuclear weaponry, starship combat, and politics.

   Plus, of course, most of the same technology and enhancements are available to anyone in the setting who wants the stuff.

   In Jamie’s bizarre version of the Earth, 21’st century-style vehicles and weapons co-exist with quarrelsome early 21’st century politics, a cheerily undefined economic system, massive armies, a scattering of individuals with genetic and cybernetic enhancements which belong to an era six hundred years later, and experimental warp drives – developed just a few decades after mankind first reached the moon.

   The rest of the group suspects that the entire realm is the product of some current core youngsters really BAD attempt at writing a novel. The scattering of random historical details from various conflicts over a mostly-modern culture and economic system just seems like it somehow.

   Anyway, the powers-that-be created a group of nigh-unstoppable killing machines, started World War III, told said inhuman killing machines to go out and win at any cost – and were TERRIBLY startled when this resulted in a wide variety of atrocities!

   Who would ever have suspected that youngsters with reptilian-killing-machine genegrafts, lifelong training to kill as efficiently as possible, a complete lack of normal socialization, total alienation from humanity, and massively powerful weapons implants might be dangerous?

   Afterwards, the few who were (somehow) more-or-less normal and sane were decommissioned – but were assigned to interstellar exploration, piloting their lonely – and virtually untested and somewhat unstable – experimental warp-drive ships out into the galaxy to find new worlds for humanity!

   Anyway, deep in the isolated depths of space, Mary Sue – er, Jamie Wolfe – encountered a strange cosmic anomaly, a plot device unlike anything ever before observed!

   Suddenly transported to an unknown realm, with the drive half burned out, systems failing, and air leaking dramatically, Jamie struggled to bring the ship safely down on that conveniently-habitable planet nearby, holding the ship steady by yanking on the ship’s controls with her full superhuman strength!

   Jamie crashlanded on a fantasy-medieval anime world, and was promptly caught up in a quest to destroy a dark overlord as the “party ranger”.

   Oddly enough, this was the closest to what most people thought of as “reality” that she’d ever come.

   From there it was a short trip to a more familiar-seeming technologically-based anime realm – and from there, it wasn’t that far to get involved with Core.

   There WAS someplace in the universe that made sense.

   It seemed worthwhile to help defend it.

 

ML-ELF Cyborg Super-Soldier Template (+1 ECL):

   The complete template can be found HERE. Given that most of it’s abilities are already included in the statistics provided below, suffice it to note that it also provides low-light vision, the ability to recover 1d8+5 damage OR 1d3 points of attribute damage OR one negative level once per three levels per day or part thereof (although it takes a few hours), a greatly extended lifespan, and a -2 penalty on all charisma-based skills.

   Available Character Points: +10 CP (Disadvantages: Healing Resistant, Irreverent, and Outcast) +12 CP (L1 and L2 Feats) +48 CP (L1 Base) + 62 CP (Experience) = 132. Level 3 (10 CP to go to L4). 126 Spent.

   Languages (8): English, Russian, Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish.

   Basic Attributes: Intelligence 18 (24/+7), Strength 17 (27/+8, provides DR 8/- per world laws), Wisdom 16/+3 (provides Defense 3 when unarmored or lightly armored), Constitution 16 (22/+6, provides 6 magic points), Dexterity 16 (22/+6, provides 12 CP worth of weapon proficiencies), and Charisma 14/+2 (provides 4 free contacts).

Combat Abilities (76 CP):

  • Saves:
    • Fortitude +1 (3 CP) + 6 (Con) +2 (Gear) = +9
    • Reflex +1 (3 CP) + 6 (Dex) = +7
    • Will +1 (3 CP) + 2 (Wis) = +3
      • +2 versus Disease, +4 versus Chemicals, +6 versus Poisons.
  • Hit Dice: Upgrade template 2d0’s to 2d8 (16 HP, 16 CP), L1 2d8 (16 HP, 16 CP) +2d4 (L2 and L3, 2 and 4, 0 CP) + (6x Con Mod) + (42+2x Con Mod Template) = 128 HP and 32 CP.
  • Proficiencies: All Simple and Martial Weapons and Infantry Weapons (15 CP, -12 from Dex = 3 CP) plus Light, Medium, and Light and Medium Powered Armor (15 CP).
  • Move: 30 Base + 30 (Acceleration) + 10 (Cybrenetic Augmentation) = 70
  • Initiative: +8 (+6 Dex +2 Improved Initiative)
  • BAB: +3 (18 CP)
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) + 6 (Dex) + 3 (Wis) + 6 (Cybernetics) +3 (Natural) +2 (Leather Armor) = 30
  • Damage/Energy Reduction: 8/- (Str) +6/- (Cybernetics) + 2/- (Racial) = 16/-

   Favored Weapons: (Base abilities include Combat Reflexes and Improved Disarm).

  • Unarmed Combat:
    • Deathstrike Style (“Unarmed”): +16/+16 (+3 BAB +2 Gear +7 Str +4 Martial Art, Haste), 1d12 (1d10 plus a die upgrade from the Martial Art) +13 (7 Str +6 Gear), Crit 20/x2. Has Improved Trip, Sunder, and Versatile (may opt to inflict lethal, subdual, bludgeoning, slashing, or piercing damage without penalty). Gains a +2 to Acrobatics while using this style.
    • Krav Maga Mark II Style (“Unarmed”): +14/+14 (+3 BAB +2 Gear +7 Str +2 Martial Art, Haste), 1d12 (1d10 with a die upgrade from the Martial Art) +13 (7 Str +6 Gear), Crit 20/x2. May inflict lethal or subdual damage without penalty. Knows Crippling (may do 1d4 Dex damage on a critical hit instead of normal damage), Mighty Blow (automatically trips opponents on a critical hit), Prone Combat (no penalties/opponent bonuses for fighting while prone), and Weapon Kata/Dagger (which actually reduces her effectiveness drastically).
  • Weapon Implants
    • Plasma Projector: +9/+9 (+3 BAB +6 Dex), 2d10 fire damage, Crit 20/x2, 40′ range increment, 50 shots before recharging, can be adjusted and used as a tool.
    • Minigrenade Launcher: +9/+9 (+3 BAB +6 Dex), 4d10 damage in a 10′ radius, 40′ range, 12 Shots, Cannot Critical.
    • Micro-Missile Launcher: +13/+13 (+3 BAB +6 Dex +4 Smartlink), 4d8 damage, Crit 20/x2, Range Increment 80′, 25 Shots.
  • Weapons
    • Urban Staff Style (Staff): +11/+11 (+3 BAB +7 Str +1 Martial Art, Haste), 1d6 +7 (Str), may inflict lethal or stun damage without penalty, +4 to AC when using this style, allows use of Expertise, Improved Disarm, Whirlwind Attack, and Reach.
    • Machine Pistol: +9/+9 (+3 BAB +6 Dex), 2d6 damage, Crit 20/x2, 40′ range increment, 100 shot magazine, selective fire (may expend five shots to gain either a +4 bonus to hit, to hit 1d4 members of a small group on a successful attack, or to inflict double damage against double any applicable DR [criticals obey normal rules for adding multipliers, normally inflicting x3 damage], at the user’s option)

Purchased Abilities (30 CP):

  • Improved Disarm (6 CP)
  • Reflex Training/Combat Reflexes Variant (6 CP)
  • Berserker/”Emergency Boost” (6 CP): +4 Str and +4 Con when triggered.

   Jamie isn’t quite sure how she wound up with a certain amount of magic – it’s just something that seemed to stick after that interlude with the group of “adventurers” who insisted that she was a “Ranger” – at least by “class”. Where had that been? Lodoss! That was it.

   Now if only that meant something.

  • Power Words (6 CP): Specialized (Non-personal spells must be cast normally, can only store personally-cast spells, can only store Druid spells of up to L3 and Wizard spells of up to L2): Can store up to 2xCon/3 (15) levels of spells.
    • Currently Stored:
      • Mage Spells: Magic Weapon, True Strike (+20 to one attack), Bull’s Strength (+4 Str), and Rope Trick.
      • Druid Spells: Cure Light Wounds (1d8+5). Speak with Animals, Heat Metal, Cat’s Grace (+4 Dex), and Cure Moderate Wounds (2d8+8).
  • Inherent Spell with +4 Bonus Uses (6 CP): Specialized (takes several minutes to cast, double effect for a level six “anyspell” effect capable of supplying spell effects of up to level three to store for the inherent spell, reduced cost for the Bonus Uses), Corrupted (Can only be used to fill Power Words slots, reduced cost for both the Inherent Spell and Bonus Uses, reducing them to 4 and 2).

 

Skills:

   Skill Points: 20 (CP) + 42 (Int) +24 (Dex) = 86. 62 Used. Yes, that’s a lot of unspent skill points. Enough to allow some extensive customization…

Broad Skills (All +7 Int):

  • Physical Skills: Acrobatics +14 (1 SP +6 Dex), Krav Maga Mark II Martial Art +19 (6 SP +7 Str), Urban Staff Combat Martial Art +19 (6 SP +6 Dex), Deathstrike Martial Art +20 (6 SP +7 Str), Stealth +18 (1 SP, +6 Dex, +4 Racial)
  • Knowledge Skills (all +7 Int): Computer Operation +15 (1 SP), Electronics +15 (1 SP), Fieldcraft +15 (1 SP), Medicine +15 (1 SP), Starship Piloting +15 (1 SP), and Tactics +15 (1 SP).
  • Perception Skills (all +3 Wis): Spot +17 (1 SP, +6 Gear), Listen +17 (1 SP, +6 Gear)
  • Other Skills: Driving +14 (1 SP +6 Dex), Gadgetry +24 (4 SP +6 Dex +7 Racial for Cyberware), Gather Information +8 (1 SP +2 Cha -2 Inept), Repair +21 (4 SP +6 Dex +4 Gear), Search +15 (1 SP +7 Int), Temperate/Tropical Wilderness Survival +11 (1 SP +3 Wis), Systems Operation +15 (1 SP +7 Int).

Narrow Skills (All +7 Int +5 Training):

  • Physical Skills: Climb +32 (1 SP, +7 Str, +12 Gear), Escape Artist +24 (1 SP +7 Str +4 Gear), Jump +19 (1 SP, +6 Dex), Swim +28 (1 SP +7 Str +8 Race)
  • Knowledge Skills (All +7 Int): Cryptography +20 (1 SP), Cybertechnology +20 (1 SP), Radio Communications +20 (1 SP), Sensor System Operations +23 (4 SP).
  • Other Skills: Cello +24 (2 SP +6 Dex +4 Gear), Demolitions +23 (1 SP +6 Dex +4 Gear), Electronic Security Systems +24 (1 SP +7 Int +4 Gear), Violin +28 (6 SP +6 Dex +4 Gear)

   Usual Gadgets: repair kit (1) and medical kit (1). Also usually packs a basic camping kit, heavy pistol, survival knife, a tough leather outfit and a change, extra boots, and a personal kit. Few universes are so alien that a sleeping bag, tarp, leather clothes, or a knife fail to work – although the gun does get weird at times. The rest of her gadgets fall under….

   Cyberware (22 Points), equivalent to: Special Service Smartclothes, with the Exoskeleton and +30 HP modifiers (8), Plasma Pistol (1), Minigrenade Launcher (2), Micro-Missile Launcher (1), Enhanced Claws (2), Cybertendrils (1), Medical Module (2), Linespinner (1), Orientation System (1), Chemical Analyzer (1), and a Chemical Synthesizer (2).

  • Smartclothes System: These provide personal-computer and HUD functions, IR, UV, low-light, magnification, and flash suppression visual enhancements, personal and environmental monitoring, encrypted radio communications, comfort from arctic to tropical desert temperatures, an environmental seal (allows space survival for up to 48 hours and provides a +4 bonus on saves against chemical agents), +6 AC “cyberarmor”), +6/- DR, universal energy resistance 6, +6 to Listen and Spot (already included), +4 to Unarmed Damage, +4 To Hit with smartlinked ranged weaponry, +4 Strength (already included), +2 Dexterity (already included), and +10′ Move (already included).
  • Plasma Projector: 50 Shots before recharging, 2d10 damage, Crit 20/x2, 40′ range increment, can be adjusted and used as a tool.
  • Minigrenade Launcher: 12 Shots, Cannot Critical, 4d10 damage in a 10′ radius, 40′ range.
  • Micro-Missile Launcher: 25 Shots, 4d8 damage, Crit 20/x2, Range Increment 80′, +4 bonus to hit.
  • Enhanced Claws: +4 to Climb, +2 to “unarmed” attacks and damage
  • Cybertendrils: These are micro-manipulator tendrils, and provide a +4 bonus to Escape Artist and any check requiring fine work, such as lockpicking, most repair checks, and many craft checks.
  • Medical Module (2, +2 on Fortitude Saves, adds +2 Bonus Uses to innate Grant of Aid)
  • Linespinner: “Throws” a fast-polymer sticky-tipped line up to 80 feet, it will support up to 600 pounds and rewind bearing up to 400. +8 to Climb.
  • Orientation System: Provides limited sonar (20′ radius), automatic mapping, and can usually determine directions and locations on available maps.
  • Chemical Analyzer: Provides basic analytic functions with an Int check. At the moment, this is mostly slaved to the medical module, since her chemistry skill is limited to general knowledge checks.
  • Chemical Synthesizer: Produces five doses of substances with L2 effects per day). Again, mostly slaved to the medical module to produce medications and antidotes at the moment.

 

Jamie’s Martial Arts:

Deathstrike (Str)

   The Deathstrike art is only for those who have natural claws, talons, or similar innate weapons – and who wish to put them to the most effective possible use. Unlike many martial arts, there are no “occult” techniques associated with Deathstrike: merely an efficient system for removing vital internal organs from your enemies.

  • Requires: Natural Weapons/Claws (or talons or whatever) capable of doing 1d6 or more.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Defenses 2, Power 3, Synergy (+2 to Acrobatics), and Strike.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Improved Trip, Sunder, Versatile, and Improved Disarm.
  • Occult Techniques: None
  • Known Techniques: Attack 4, Power 1, Strike, Synergy (+2 to Acrobatics), Improved Trip, Sunder, and Versatile.

Krav Maga Mark II (Str)

   Krav Maga Mark II is loosely based on an art for normal humans – hence the weapon kata, but has been reworked to exploit the superhuman strength and durability of its practitioners – smashing bones and ripping through flesh. Unfortunately, it’s origins limit the style: it has no occult techniques and is suitable for teaching to almost anyone – which means that it lacks the advanced abilities that an art designed for more talented individuals might possess.

  • Requires: Strength 20+, DR 4 or better.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 2, Power 3, and Strike.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Crippling, Mighty Blow, Prone Combat, Weapon Kata/Dagger
  • Known Techniques; All of them. This art has been completely mastered.

Urban Staff Combat (Dex)

   The Urban Staff Combat system is actually a stripped-down version of the ancient – and far more mystical – Garuda Stave style from India. Truly advanced practitioners – those who come to truly understand the patterns of the basic moves incorporated into USC – may move on into the Occult Techniques of the Garuda Stave style.

  • Requires: Dex 12+ and BAB 3+ for USC. Moving on from the basics and mastering the Garuda Stave without a teacher also requires Wis 14+, Dex 14+, and BAB 6+. Obviously enough, this is a weapon-based art.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 2, Defenses 4, Power 2, Strike, and Synergy (Theology).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Expertise, Improved Disarm, Whirlwind Attack, and Reach
  • Occult Techniques (Garuda Stave Only): Inner Strength, Ki Block, Wrath (Sacred Energy, grants resistance to Negative Energy – reducing attribute drains and damage from negativ energy by 4, reducing level drains by 2, and +6 on saves versus undead powers), and Vanishing.
  • Known Techniques: Attack 1, Defenses 4, Strike, Expertise, Improved Disarm, Whirlwind Attack, and Reach.

   Like all the Federation-Apocalypse characters, Jamie is built (in her case, by abusing) the rules from Eclipse: The Codex Persona – available in print HERE and in a shareware version HERE.

Shadowrun: The Gang Wars Log

   Here’s an account of an old SR II campaign – from about ten years ago now: It didn’t run all that long – which was something of a disappointment, since it was one of the few that I got to play in, rather than running. Still, there are several useful ideas to be found in it, so… Most of it’s from Douglas’s viewpoint, but it does try to at least describe what everyone else was up to.

Prequel: Douglas Parente’

   Douglas has a few vague memories of somewhere else before he came to live with Lehlan Parente’ – but the scattered images of his very early childhood tell him very little. He’s not even sure of just how long ago that was; even a “photographic memory” starts getting unreliable about early childhood. He thinks he’s 19 – but he could easily be a year or two off. Lehlan was unwilling to talk about how Douglas came to live with her – or about where he’d lived before.

   Perhaps she didn’t know.

   Lehlan’s little scams and connections supplemented the subsistence-level freebies that supported most of the barrens-dwellers a bit, but Douglas still spent a lot of time running the streets and scrounging for extra supplies. The local gangers took him in young; he had a talent for hacking vending machines and dispensers, low-security warehouse doors, and similar systems, with a cheap pocket cyberterminal. It wasn’t a big income in absolute terms – but it meant plentiful food, warm clothing, and a few extra NY. Not enough to draw the notice of the real heavy hitters, but it made a big difference on the street.

   He didn’t get in on the fights much. He was young and small – and his talents were handy otherwise.

   Over the years Douglas acquired a series of better terminals, a few bits of the cheaper, hacking-related, cyberware (but not much; it made him feel pretty odd), and a powerful loyalty to his gang. They’d taken him in and protected him when he needed help. Lehlan’s relatives were family as well, but they were a lot more distant – and a lot less plentiful.

   Douglas was in his teens, and adolescent, when his magical abilities began to unfold. He’d always had a superb memory, a remarkable ability to concentrate on things, and a vivid imagination, but he wasn’t really prepared for summoning spirits or casting spells.

   He did the same thing he always did when he wanted to know about something; he got on the matrix and began rummaging around.

   It was pretty confusing. Like most untutored mages he started off relying pretty heavily on fetishes and concentration (especially for the utility spells that helped support his relatives and gang), but he was clever enough to realize that he needed a teacher. Some more searching turned one up; “Lo Sung Wang”, an eccentric hermetic mage of Chinese extraction.

   Master Sung had gathered several adepts and lesser talents under his tutelage (His reasons for gathering a private magical group remain unknown), but was more then happy to recruit another full-powered mage. They were hard to find. Most of them left the barrens soon after coming into their power.

   Lehlan died when Douglas was around 16 (by his count anyway). There simply came a day when she didn’t wake up. If she had known anything more about Douglas’s past, she took it with her. Her relatives certainly didn’t; as far as they knew she’d simply picked him up somewhere and then decided to keep him.

   By then Douglas was a fairly advanced young mage – and one of the Wraith Masque’s major resources. He’s never tried to get beyond “lieutenant”; he feels that any gang leader needs both formidable physical combat and intimidation skills – neither his forte.

   Douglas has never really added up just how much the Wraith Masque relies on his powers. He heals their wounds and diseases, changes faces on those who get too hot, provides a sizable chunk of the drugs they sell, acts as magical backup in maintaining their territory, can swiftly locate valuables during break-ins, does their hacking, has watcher spirits keep an eye on the rival gangs, enhances their abilities – and makes sure that they have enough to eat.

   While it is possible that Lehlan really did “just pick up” a stray kid off the streets, it’s really far more likely that she had some ulterior motive to take care of him at first. She probably got attached to him pretty quickly – his innate charisma, minor psychic talents, and the natural adhesiveness of a small child would make that a foregone conclusion – but it’d still take time. The fact that she was never willing to discuss the matter pretty much implies that there was something a bit odd about her motive; she might’ve been making up for something in her past, or doing someone a “favor” out of friendship – but, knowing her, a bribe to keep a kid safely out of sight for a while seems likely.

   So; was he kidnaped? A hostage? Part of a study on the development of clones in various environments? Child of some mysterious occult entity? A genetically engineered experiment? An embarrassing bastard? Hidden from enemies? Why hasn’t anyone ever come to get him? Did someone die? Do they think he died? Did someone lose track of him? Will they be coming later – or if something happens? Would there be competitors? Would his life suddenly change drastically? Would there be more then one “claimant”? Were some of the minor odd encounters he’s had more meaningful then he felt they were? What will the GM elect to do with a young mage with a mysterious past? For answers to these and other questions, we must refer you to the actual game.

 

Episode One : Deathbringer Versus The UPS.

   Douglas was rummaging around on the matrix looking at spell formulas – the online temples of Bast and Loki offered some for free that looked pretty entertaining – when a massive, armored, monstrosity of a cyber-troll came stomping up and banged on his door.

   Douglas nearly bailed out the back then and there; the damn thing was carrying around enough weapons and explosives to level the building. The only thing that kept him from doing so was that the – the whatever it was – was claiming (loudly) that Master Sung had sent it.

   It was too big to get in the door anyway. He left it on the lawn – with a masking spell, god alone knew what kind of trouble something like THAT would draw – and called Master Sung.

   Master Sung HAD sent it. He had an errand that he wanted Douglas and Seriv to run and had thought that it “might be useful”. He never did explain where it’d come from in the first place. The “errand” was simple enough; it seemed that he’d had a crate full of herbs – some sort of ritual component – shipped from China, and some miserable bureaucrat had refused to turn it over to him. He wasn’t too clear as to why. It might’ve simply been that he’d upset the guy somehow (He often seemed to have something of a talent for that) – but, knowing Master Sung, it was probably simply that he’d neglected to get all the paperwork filled out. There was probably some inspection, or permit, or something required to bring vegetation into the country.

   As for why he hadn’t simply taken it – the offices were just across from the local Lone Star station. It wouldn’t have been a good idea. By now it would have been shipped back to the warehouse. He wanted Douglas and Seriv to drop by the place and swipe it for him.

   Fortunately, the shipping and storage depot was down near the docks instead of next to Lone Star. “Armed” with a description of the crate, their magical skills – and a an eleven-foot tall golemesque monstrosity with assorted heavy weapons under a mask spell – Douglas and Seriv headed down to check out the warehouse.

   It was pretty basic. A low-power electrical fence behind a light security fence, a warehouse, a vehicle shed for the forklifts and trucks, and a yard full of shipping containers. A few security types keeping an eye on the trucks that went in and out.

   Douglas and Seriv were trying to figure out how they could sneak in when the troll-thing announced that it had detected enemies, stomped in through the gateway, and blew away the security guard who tried to intercept it’s advance. Douglas and Seriv pulled back under the cover of one of Douglas’s minor air elementals. This wasn’t what they’d had in mind. Douglas dropped the masking as well – hopefully the guards would join the rout just as soon as they saw what they were actually up against.

   They never got the chance. Deathbringer had it’s machine gun out, and was spraying the entire area. This was hard on the guards and those employees who hadn’t managed to hide in time.

   Douglas wiped the “signature” of his magic off the lunatic thing; he didn’t want to risk being connected to THIS. Everybody was out of sight, or dead, and cops with heavy weapons were likely to be showing up in the next few minutes. There wasn’t any hope of survival for the troll-thing now.

   That was probably a good thing. Those poor buggers on security detail had only been doing their jobs.

   Still, after this the security would tighten up, and Lone Star would be all over the place. They wouldn’t have a chance this good again for weeks. Douglas and Seric used levitation and invisibility to hop the fence and get in while the getting was good.

   The offices were none too impressive – it was just a warehouse after all – and the secretary was huddled under the desk. A quick mindprobe courtesy of Seric got them the access code to the computer. Sadly, the place had nothing that was really worth stealing and it looked like the Masters herbs had already been transshipped. Seriv’s nature spirit couldn’t find the crate either, and the shipping code explanations were encrypted.

   The blast of an assault cannon shot, followed by a sudden drop in the gunfire, pretty much told them the fate of the cybertroll. Douglas sent an elemental to check; he was dead alright. How had he ever survived long enough to grow up and collect all that gear with that kind of mentality?

   The secretary didn’t have the encryption key. They tried the computer in the administrator’s office, but it actually had some active security programs on it – more then Douglas felt like sticking around to tinker with while the cops closed in. They considered simply lifting the damned thing – there wasn’t anything else around the warehouse light enough and valuable enough to snatch – but they didn’t want to attract attention to their intrusion with that many cops about. Douglas settled for copying the files over to his terminal; the system didn’t really object to running the backup subroutine.

   They skipped out just ahead of the cops. Between Seric’s spirit “concealment”, Douglas’s invisibility spell, levitation, and the confusion – and bomb disposal team – surrounding the troll’s corpse, no one noticed them leaving.

   Master Sung was not pleased to hear that his herbs had been shipped with no forwarding address. Douglas offered to try to get him more herbs by sending a few elementals to China, but Sung wanted HIS crate; it’d been sent by a friend of his.

   Douglas settled down to cracking the encryption. His cyberterminal wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t like the lousy warehouse was going to have heavy security. After all – the system hadn’t made any fuss about him simply backing up everything on it.

   It took some fumbling, and a fair chunk of the night and morning, but he got it deciphered eventually; The box had been shipped to some sort of magical security group – “Federated Company Enterprises”, specializing in bodyguards and magical aides. It looked like they only had 6 people – and no offices – but it was still dismaying. Their edge was magic; they weren’t really up to dealing with magical security specialists.

   Douglas let the Master know about it. He seemed pretty – amused? He said that there was actually only one guy in the “company” – and that he was incompetent. He’d encountered him awhile back. He just liked to use multiple ID’s, so that the amount of failure that “stuck to” any one of them would be limited. His real name was Vetari.

   The Master faded off into grinning memories. He still wanted his herbs though – although he was up to offering a specific (5000 NY) fee for them though.

   Douglas settled down to trying to trace Mr Vetari. It wasn’t hard to locate his real address. Evidently he really wasn’t all that competent, at least when it came to dealing with the Matrix. Mr Vetari lived over in Renton.

   Seriv elected to simply call him – and to try to set up a meet under “cover” of trying to hire on. He told him about some horrendous things he’d supposedly been up to (Douglas listened in a bit. Wasn’t that from episode 217 of “Rampage The Mage”? Still, he told it really convincingly). The guy didn’t even want to turn on his video pickup – much less meet him. It might’ve – OK, almost certainly had been – a mistake for Seriv to go on so about his raw destructive power.

   Douglas had to check in with the gang a bit. The lookout was so looped out on Bliss that an army could have wandered by him. Douglas telepathically fed him a horrendous little nightmare about “What happened to the last guy who zoned out on guard duty” to make the point. Pretty much left him quivering. Still, there didn’t seem to be anything up at the moment. They had some time.

 

Episode Two : In which there are yet more dead guys.

   They went to check out the physical address. It turned out to be a small southwestern style home with a tiny patch of lawn, a conventionally-dull exterior, and a fairly high-powered set of wards – but no signs of physical security beyond the usual cameras.

   There wasn’t supposed to be anything illegal, odd, or even really valuable, about Master Sung’s package. They weren’t here to get into a war. Douglas and Seriv decided to simply ring the doorbell and ask about it.

   Nobody answered and the door was open. Seriv stepped in and asked a minor hearth spirit to look around; it reported that there were several dead people – but no live ones – around. Not so good, but if anyone wanted to set them up it was already too late.

   The dead guys were in the kitchen. Two in business suits, one in regular street clothes. He had a bullet through the head. The suits had apparently suffocated; it looked like something had clamped across their noses and mouths hard enough to squeeze the blood out. they’d all been around a table and had fallen back. No ID’s, no apparently magical traces – although they could’ve been “Silenced” or “Cleansed” – no obvious clues, and no herb package – although there was an impression on the bedroom rug which would’ve been about the correct size. One of the dead guys had some red marks around his wrists; could’ve been cuffs, but it could’ve been a lot of other things too.

   Douglas tried Cataloging the place. Maybe there would be something worthwhile about – and the spell was a lot faster then a physical search.

   All that turned up was a newly-arrived package out on the porch – and some sort of communications setup in the attic/crawlspace. Seriv had his hearth spirit get the gear while Douglas checked the package.

   The “gear” was a secure comlink setup. The package was a series of photographs demonstrating that they’d been under surveillance for hours now – and a computer- enhanced photographic threat, depicting Master Sung’s boarding house exploding with a time stamp indicating 45 minutes from now.

   Douglas sent a lesser spirit – which was apparently banished along the way – called (no answer), tried to get one of the other students to go over (no luck), and headed out with Seriv. They had to park the bikes – rush hour was holding them up too much – but a bit of elemental help boosted Seriv’s “Flight” spell nicely.

   They sounded the alarm – and sent spirits to hurry everyone out – as soon as they arrived. Douglas ran down to Master Sung’s suite and found it locked. No one answered either – but he could sense someone alive in there.

   He had Centaurous “manifest” inside to let him in. The door was jammed shut – so they just kicked a hole in the plasterboard.

   Master Sung was there all right. He’d been shot, poisoned, and otherwise abused. If it hadn’t been for his enhancement spells, he’d have been dead. Douglas could heal him enough to stabilize him – but he still needed hospitalization.

   Douglas had Centaurous manifest around Master Sung to stop the bleeding and levitate him out of the building. They made it out a minute or two ahead of the explosion. It took out the entire building. Must’ve hit a major support pillar. Either excellent planning – or really bad luck. Either way, there were no survivors, and very little to salvage – at least according to the spirits they sent to look.

   As they found out later, someone blew up the bikes they’d parked at about the same time. So much for the fancy communications gear.

   They airlifted Master Sung to the public hospital.

   The emergency room took him, but wouldn’t let them in at all; too dirty. There wasn’t much they could do for him anyway.

   “Cutter”, leader of the Wraith Masque, called them about then. It seemed that the Kinsmen were pushing the turf borders, and there was about to be a rumble. Douglas swore to himself; he’d barely be able to make it there in time. He wouldn’t be able to get any real preparations in.

   The contingent from the Kinsmen was mostly dwarves and trolls. Fortunately, the rumble was still at the insult-trading stage when Douglas and Seriv arrived. It gave them time to get a few spells and spirits ready. They sent a couple around to try to chase away “stray witnesses” – since keeping your resources quiet was always a tactical plus – and stayed back to provide fire support.

   The spirits ran off a few observers, and things were just getting serious when somebody threw some sort of linear (?) area-effect elemental flame blast thru the middle of the Masquers. Most of the ones who took the full blast were incinerated instantly.

   The Kinsmen hadn’t been expecting THAT. They began falling back in a panic; they didn’t want to get into any major magical confrontations. Unfortunately for them, falling back didn’t help them a bit. Cutter had gone berserk, while Douglas and Seriv had just seen a dozen friends burned to death. Seriv uncorked his own fireballs, while Douglas sent lesser elementals to kill whoever’d thrown that spell and went to work with his own arcane weaponry.

   Most of the Kinsmen contingent didn’t make it very far. Those who got away had watcher spirits on their tales, so as to lead Douglas and Seriv to anyone else who might be in the gang.

   Douglas had some problems of his own however. A heavily armed operative of some sort had a very heavy pistol pointed at his head. He was going on about how much trouble it had been to keep Douglas out of some operation – and how it was now time for Douglas to die.

   Douglas had his fire elementals try to set fire to the bastard, but he had some sort of protection.

   At least two mages and a heavily-cybered operative type? What the hell was going on? Why Him?

   It was at about that time that Centaurous told him that someone had just stripped away the man’s magical protections. Douglas’s street reflexes kicked in; the man’s guard was down; hit him now, ask questions later.

   Douglas’s sphere of lightning took him out – along with anyone else who might have been lurking about to back him up. In fact, the electrical pulse messed up the power grid – what there is of it in Redmond – for several blocks. It didn’t leave much to investigate, or to salvage. The mage’s dead body – the elementals had found him unconscious from the drain of his spell – didn’t yield much either. A phony ID, and a few NY worth of ordinary gear.

   No sign of whatever had persuaded him to take that kind of drain for a strike against some gangers.

   Douglas and Seriv joined the hunt. Between their occult talents, knockout drugs, and Cutter’s rampage, they captured or killed the remaining Kinsmen and their hangers-on – claiming everything they’d had along the way.

   It wasn’t much compared to the cost, but every little bit was a help.

   Douglas spent a couple of days working on the ones he’d captured. Four were suited to join the Masque’s string of prostitutes. He prepared the rest for sale; that fate would be a fitting vengeance for their part in the deaths of his friends. Drugs and magic would leave them docile and healthy, he hadn’t time for the extensive alterations that would have increased their value. He barely had time to kick them around a bit.

   They brought a decent price, although the Komun’Go claimed their usual share. Most of the rest of the loot, along with a boost to the Masque’s supply of drugs, went to building up the gang again. They’d taken part of the Kinsmen’s old territory – but were undermanned enough that they’d lost several blocks to other gangs.

   Meanwhile Douglas moved, went on some minor astral quests, joined a health club, and visited Master Sung (Who was pretty cross. He felt abused and that all of this had been aimed at Douglas. It was not the place of the student to get the master into such trouble!!! Besides, he was very tired of hospital food). Douglas was pleased he’d made it anyway.

   Whisper got into touch despite the move. He/She/It had a message for Douglas; He should expect a letter from a potential patron.

   It arrived the next day.

 

Episode III : Plumbing The Depths.

   With the gang seriously undermanned it looked like they needed some better weapons. Holdout pistols were all very well, and were usually enough, but the heavy ones had more authority and intimidation value.

   They also cost money.

   That was a small problem; they didn’t have much in the way of cash. Still, with magic there was always a way.

   Douglas and Seriv dropped by the “working” side of town with some binoculars. With Centaurous to help, it wasn’t too hard to probe the minds of some factory workers. Bachelors with a little bit of spare cash were the best for the purpose.

   Good candidates got mind-controlled and steered into weapons shops – where they bought a few heavy pistols and whatever random accessories they had the spare cash for and the salesman was pushing today. They then left the package in a nearby alleyway (Where a city spirit collected it as soon as their backs were turned), got told to “Forget”, and had the magical signature wiped away – all at long range.

   Just for caution’s sake, Douglas and Seriv kept up some concealment effects, and skipped to another part of town every few victims.

   It didn’t take them long to acquire a fair pile of guns. Making them untraceable took a bit longer, but everyone on the street knew how to do that. Not a bad haul for a few hours work.

   That made it almost time for the meeting with “Mr. Johnson”. They’d been a bit paranoid about that, but there were easier methods to set up a trap. Hell, a sniper could probably take out any one of them easily enough.

   “Mr. Johnson” turned out to be a short and lightly built human by the name of Janus. He was a go-between for some people who wanted to remain anonymous, at least for the moment. He also liked art, which was why he’d set up the meet at the Almarin Gallery; they had a fairly decent exhibit on “Sketches Of The Great Naturalists” this week (reproductions, but good ones) – and he didn’t like to negotiate. He approached Seriv first – and tried to just hand them the “job” without any mention of payment. Seriv and Douglas, on the other hand, felt that that was missing an important middle step… What was wanted was fairly simple; a minor Wuxing office was going to be getting an important EMail in about two hours. Their would-be employers wanted it. They were supposed to get into the appropriate third-floor offices, download it from the recipients’s system, and get out. In exchange they’d each get a modest payment – 3000NY – and learn who it was that was trying to kill them and/or their friends.

   They took the job.

   There was no time for anything too elaborate. It’d take close to fifteen minutes just to get there.

   At least the building didn’t look to have all that much in the way of security. Presumably there wasn’t much call for it normally – and any business hated to spend unnecessary money. Hmmm.

   It took about thirty minutes to get a battered toolbox full of old wrenches and such. Magically changing their clothes to damp stained overalls, ragged work gloves, and soggy shoes – without their gang colors – only took another couple of minutes.

   On their way through the door, Serivsent a hearth spirit up to make a mess of the third-floor plumbing. Some fast talk, grease on the secretary’s desk, water trickling down the stairs (courtesy of a little water elemental), and some debate with the building manager got them sent up with a guard to repair things before too much water damage was done. Ok, they were being accompanied by a guard – but they could probably deal with him without much trouble. There was less then an hour to go now.

   Douglas kept claiming that he had a feel for these things (An almost reasonable claim for a minor talent these days). He got the guard to hold a wrench while Seriv “went to shut off the main valve”. Seriv actually sent the hearth spirit to do that – while he looked for the office they wanted. Some pesky minor executive was using it.

   Seriv had his hearth spirit spill his (hot) coffee in the man’s lap. He headed for the bathroom, where Douglas doused him with water. (Don’t yell like that! It’ll stop the burning and keep the stain from setting! Keep calm, here, just step into the stall and give me your pants and coat, I’ll dry `em out with the blow drier.)

   The executive promptly drafted their guard to keep everybody else OUT of that third-floor bathroom until he had his clothes back. Douglas had to soothe him a bit with mind control once – but it kept him out of the way.

   Some mending spells, some cleaning – and some help from a “great form” water elemental behind the guards back – got the plumbing repaired and the mess cleared up in short order.

   Seriv got the file and the all-clear from Douglas, and had the hearth spirit turn on the water on again.

   They then headed down to the front desk to present their bill. OK, it was 3000NY for less then two hours work – but they HAD fixed the plumbing and it was still cheaper then most plumbers.

   Nothing like getting the victim to pay for burglarizing his place.

 

Episode IV : ARRRGH MATIES! We Be Spelljamming!

   Being incurably nosy, Douglas made a spare copy of the Email. It was encrypted of course – but you never knew; people hardly every used high-order encryptions on their Email. After that, it was time to head for the meet. It was at a nearby “Golden Archers” – part of a major sloppy soy chain, famous for it’s “Archburgers”.

   This was not going to be a good experience.

   The service was awful. The guy behind the counter was an idiot. The food was HORRENDOUS. If it hadn’t been for the fact that it would probably have sparked a massive surge in business due to the improvement in taste, they might’ve given into the urge to shove the guy behind the counter thru the french-fry strainer and deep-fry him.

   Douglas and Seriv managed to restrain themselves – although it wasn’t easy. Still, if the “you are what you eat” routine was accurate, most of the customer’s should have been oozing out the door. Maybe it was an invasion scheme by the “Slimes From Saturn”. At least new coke VI wasn’t THAT bad – compared to the food.

   “Mr Johnson” wasn’t happy with the food either. He also looked exactly like Janus – but claimed that his name was “John”, and that “Jason” was his twin brother. He stuck the downloaded disk into a pocket secretary, looked at it, and handed it to them. They thing was apparently loaded with a decryptor program; the EMail contained a bunch of information about some weird old stone tablets – extremely illegal to export under the antiquities laws alone – and the picture-signature of one “Shin-Chin”, a major figure in Wuxing. It seemed that “John’s” employers had an ongoing feud with him.

   It also seemed that the tablets contained ancient, vastly powerful, and severely illegal (If anyone knew what they were) magical formula – and had been smuggled out of China in Master Sung’s herb crate. Shin-Chin’s counterparts in China had kidnaped and/or eliminated Master Sung’s brother – since they needed his box and it’s magical ambience to conceal the tablets in – and he was one of the few living Wu Yen who might be able to translate the runes or who knew enough spirit lore to defend against those spells. THEIR elimination had apparently been ordered locally as a “minor” security precaution. Mr Shin-Chin was a Wu Jen, a student of both Lao-Tzu’s “The Art Of War” and magical tactics – and was very clever to boot. He believed in “eliminating” potential “difficulties” before they became problems. He was currently working out of Wuxing’s primary west coast facilities – right next to the magical security offices and research labs.

   This was not good. Trying to negotiate would just reveal that they knew who was after them, making them an even BIGGER target. John might be lying of course – but why bother? THEY could’ve been bribed for a lot less then that sloppy “hit” would’ve cost (Whether in money, loyalty, or favors), their little run would’ve sufficed for a trap, and using someone else’s attempt at a hit to manipulate them required a coincidence of knowledge and motive that looked pretty unlikely.

   Wuxing – or some group therin – was trying to kill them using corporate resources – and had already killed a bunch of their friends.

   Weeeelllllll SHIT.

   Douglas and Seriv quietly collected a bit of info on Wuxing, and about their main North American facility. It was, of course, in Seattle. Down by the docks and company warehouses. Evidently keeping everything in one place made it easier to maintain security – which was a fairly typical mid-level corporate setup. After all, it was their main business office. People had to go in and out all the time.

   Security was probably much tighter on the really important areas.

   They did a little brainstorming. They could skip out of course, but that left their friends unavenged, might not work, and took lots more money then they had. Getting the hit order cancelled had the same problems squared and would probably take a run as well. Getting “protected” would leave them so obligated that they’d never get our from under. Ignoring it would be fatal. Well – what you can’t evade, deflect, defend against, or ignore must be confronted.

   At least if they took out Wuxing’s local resources it was pretty likely that the kill order was a purely Seattle-office matter – especially if it’d originated with some internal faction.

   So how could they accomplish that?

   A direct strike looked sort of suicidal. Going up against an experienced mage-tactician and the magical security department of a major corp was not a job for a couple of gangers.

   They thought about indirect methods while going to inform Master Sung about his brother (And to warn the gang to try to keep under cover a while. Poisons and bombs and such were so unfocused. They didn’t have a handy horde of samurai and they didn’t have the time to try to manipulate someone else into attacking. Maybe a water-based attack? There’d be some security there as well, so a ride in would be better. Hmm. A ride. Wuxing did a lot of shipping out of the place. Major ships in and out all the time.

   There was nothing for overcoming tactics and skill – or age and treachery – or numbers and resources – like overwhelming force.

   The plan was simple enough; They’d take one of the Corps major ships, use spirits to multiply it’s speed and crash it straight into the building. If they used a big enough ship (and spirit) there would be nothing left.

   They’d need a rigger. They’d also need some idea of what what kind of security Wuxing had on their big ships. Fortunately, the Komun’Go had access to both, and they could supplement that information with a bit of magical spying.

   Douglas and Seriv did say that they’d consider the Komun’Go’s offer of employment, but that they weren’t quite ready for that yet. They couldn’t abandon their friends in the Masque. Fortunately, the Komun’Go was willing to settle for a shot at Wuxing and their usual share of any loot.

   The ships had pretty good physical security; quite a contingent of guards and heavy weapons traveled on the bigger ships. They had good instruments as well. They didn’t have much in the way of magical security. There might be some minor mystic aboard – but it just wasn’t likely.

   The biggest one leaving in the next few days would be a major cargo carrier headed for China. It would be carrying a selection of manufactured goods, lower-end electronics and computers, and other junk. Valuable in bulk, but not really worth any massive efforts.

   The Komun’Go rigger was a Korean Elf with no lower legs. He – inevitably – went by the name of “Stumpy”. He had a small fast craft of his own – although it wouldn’t be possible to load more than .5% of the 1200 cargo-container capacity of the target ship on it – but the bay was full of similar small craft. Less loot, but it would make it fairly easy to get close.

   Douglas stocked up with chemicals, some plastique, gas masks, and radio detonators – just in case. There was always the chance that something’d go wrong.

   Seric got some heavier guns and, with some help from Douglas, called up a powerful sea spirit and arranged for some basic physical disguises.

   The spirit proved more then strong enough to cloak Stumpy’s boat. Once they were within a few hundred feet of the ship, Douglas had all of his “great form” air elementals “suck up” a supply of contact knockout gas and board while an earth elemental blocked access to the communications gear. Thanks to Seriv’s flight spell they boarded right behind the elementals.

   With the air elementals to take it around and engulf people the gas attack proved extremely effective. It took less then a minute to knock out everyone aboard. Thanks to their ability to engulf small groups, there was no alarm. With no one to oppose him Stumpy easily took over the ships piloting and security systems. It went so nice and clean that Douglas didn’t even have to use any of his contingency plans.

   Sort of disappointing that.

   They stashed the crew, then probed the captain for all the passwords and scheduling data and put him under basic mental control. They needed an excuse to turn around. Fortunately it was easy enough to fake a minor engine problem that would drastically delay the ship without a few hours work in port.

   Meanwhile, Stumpy set the course, and began stealing what he could. His ship could only handle six shipping containers but – thanks to their access to the manifest – they were some of the most valuable. He swiped quite a lot of the ship’s weapons while he was at it – with the help of Douglas’s elementals in moving crates and operating the winches and hoists.

   They dropped a few more shipping containers over the side for possible later salvage, but that was all there was time for.

   Stumpy “disposed of” the Captain and wiped out any computer surveillance records while Douglas and Seriv wiped out the magical traces. Maybe some backup they missed (and which somehow survived the coming catastrophe) would show people with gas masks on, but there would be no other traces for anyone to find.

   They abandoned the ship and went fishing.

   The ship went to full, emergency, speed about half a mile out from Wuxing. With the assistance of a very powerful sea spirit it hit at almost 400 MPH.

   There wasn’t much left, even before the fuel and the armory went up. Douglas didn’t even need to send in a fire elemental to make sure of the destruction.

   Wuxing was out a pile of executives, their primary facility in North America, their security department, and hundreds of millions of NuYen. The North American division was GONE -along with those weird tablets.

   Hopefully the kill order had gone with it – or was at least in the “obsolete” pile. They’d have to sit on the loot for quite a while – but there were enough generic weapons in a couple of the crates to make the Masque one of the best equipped gangs in Seattle.

   Lone Star was besieged by theories (Most of them a lot more likely-sounding then the truth), but brought in a verdict of “Accident”.

 

Episode V : The Gods Must Be Crazy

   Things were quiet in the barrens. The local `Stars were having a major crackdown, the Wuxing disaster in Tacoma had the corps split between rampant paranoia and eager attempts to seize Wuxing’s remaining assets and North American market share, and the politicians were busy posturing between campaigns. Even the Seattle crime syndicates seemed to be between wars.

   Dull, Dull, Dull.

   Douglas and Seriv were celebrating. Master Sung’s latest “graduate” (a young master conjurer) was ready to go forth and summon. They were even considering forming their own initiatory magical group. It seemed like a good idea. Of course, a magical group needed an avatar spirit to guide it. Normally it took months to summon one – but most groups didn’t have a genuine master summoner who could conjure almost anything.

   The more they drank the more the idea sounded like it’d be worth a try.

   They laid out an uneven circle of couch cushions and embellished it with mystic runes made out of pretzels and the watchtowers of light (two lightsticks, an old flashlight, and a citronella candle). Mage, Conjurer, Shaman, and Allies – variously intoxicated – gathered about a keg to intone their badly-slurred invocation.

   And they were answered. A waiting for promises to be fulfilled. Svaha. The time between the lightning and the thunder.

   The powers spoke. They proclaimed “THE MICHJENSIN MICRO-BREWERY MUST BE KEPT FROM GOING UNDER! THIS IS YOUR PURPOSE MAGES: TO SAVE THE HOLY BEER!”.

   Well – Avatar spirits were supposed to reflect the nature of the group that summoned them. This seemed a bit extreme, but the three were inebriated enough to go along with it.

   It seemed that the brewery had insufficient orders and exposure to the general population. It was having trouble with the “Seattle Temperance Union (Pennfield Independent Delegation)” and had been having some minor equipment problems, which they couldn’t afford to fix until they got more orders.

   The quest lay before them.

   The first thing to do was to get into a few of the local restaurants. It was easy enough to simply “fade into the background” and wait until the places closed… Between invisibility, hearth spirits to conceal them, magical searches for security systems and various other tricks, it wasn’t hard. Douglas really wasn’t up to major hacking, but getting into restaurant inventory and ordering systems wasn’t exactly in that category.

   Ordering massive quantities of Michjensin beer was pretty easy. Setting up some links so that any future beer orders would be automatically shunted there was a bit harder – but he managed. They’d have to restore their entire system, or hire a serious (and expensive) programmer, to get rid of his modifications.

   They pulled the same routine at a bunch of places.

   A few complimentary kegs delivered to local Thrash Metal bands, fraternities, and bars, got the word out fairly quickly.

   They helped out at the brewery by calling up a few hearth Manitou. They could handle minor repairs, help out with minor tasks in the brewing, and otherwise be helpful. With Douglas’s enhancement spells to help them out, they called up some pretty potent spirits.

   Dealing with the people from S.T.U.P.I.D was next. Fortunately the group didn’t contain any magi or even anyone important. They were just a bunch of “normal”, if pretty puritanical, busybodies.

   You’d’ve thought that they could find some genuine issues – BTL’s, the nastier drugs, organlegging, and so on – to get up in arms about. Was it just that booze was traditional or something?

   They attended a meeting – and proceeded to wreak a little havoc. They loaded the punch with Vodka, made sure that enough coffee was served to make wide-awake drunks out of everyone, and made liberal use of mind- control spells to wipe out the groups treasury (investing half of it in a difficult-to-revoke booze stock fund – and using the other half to fund their depredations), set some of the men up with street prostitutes, set women to heaving rocks through liquor-store windows, made a mess which’d cost them their deposit, stopped payment on their advertisements – to ensure that no one would take one from them again – and put “Ninety-Nine Bottles Of Beer On The Wall” on the sound system on a perpetual high- volume loop.

   The various members had never been so humiliated and embarrassed in their lives.

   They tried not to make it obvious, but the members soon noticed that the newcomers were not suffering as much as they were. They couldn’t prove that most of it was the groups doing without any magic of their own – but they made them really unwelcome.

   The hall manager gave them 5000NY each to go away.

   The beer gods paid well. There was a side benefit as well; it’d be a long time before anyone would give a story that they’d been involved in anything serious any credit at all.

 

Episode VI : A Corpsicle From The Evil Humor Spirit

   In the morning there was an unpleasant surprise in the street – Cad, one of the newbies in the gang, had been stabbed, desiccated, and frozen. Serious overkill; he was really, throughly, dead. There were a few traces of some sort of “cold” astral signature about him, but not much; it was only a few hours old, but it had been pretty throughly erased. They managed to trail it about half a mile before the trace faded out. Either better shields, time, masking from other disturbances, a departed spirit – or whoever had been leaving it had shifted modes of transport.

   No physical clues, no description, no witnesses.

   Well bugger.

   At least the newscasters said pretty much the same thing about the Wuxing disaster.

   Come to think of it they hadn’t seen Jimmy (one of the older gang members) in several days. That wasn’t too unusual, but it might be worth a look.

   Nobody else had seen him either. Jimmy actually had a regular job at a local bar, so he had a SIN – which made it easier to go looking. Douglas checked the arrest filings, the news reports, and various matrix entries. Seriv went around the area and checked with everyone there, while Yohan checked the bar where Jimmie worked, his boss the usual bar patrons, and his route home.

   All they turned up was one drunk, who thought that he might’ve seen somebody go down a dead-end alleyway and not come back.

   Well what the hell. It was the only thing they had that even made a pretense of being a clue.

   The alleyway wasn’t quite a dead end. It has a few locked doors that opened into it (they looked through them astrally and found nothing much), some old fencing sealing the gap between buildings (no big deal to get over), and a lot of scuffed-up trash. Maybe a fight? A quick search turned up some bits of bloody cloth and a knife with blood on it – but not much else. The blood was too old to be a very good link, but it was better then nothing. They used it to provide a “scent” for some searching spirits.

   That was still absurdly difficult, but it led them to Jimmy’s corpse. It was in a sewer just past the edge of their turf. He was in about the same shape as Cad had been – stabbed dozens of times, desiccated, and frozen. The signature had been wiped again, but there were astral traces of some sort of self-sustaining mask that made it hard to locate the body magically, much less find out anything. Now that was something new (and would be a very handy technique if they could figure out how to duplicate it. There didn’t seem to be any robbery-motive involved anyway; all of his stuff still seemed to be on him. Late night in the barrens nobody’d seen a thing. No physical clues, or at least nothing they could sort out from the mess in the sewers. They checked the general area, just in case there was a ritual chamber, cult temple, or some other lead in the vicinity. Hopefully no one would’ve wanted to haul a body too far.

   No clues, no witnesses, no magical traces, nothing on the matrix (including the paranormal critter database), no pattern of disappearances, no references to anything that killed like that, no motive or suspect, and any amount of opportunity. Even the other gangs’d been being quiet recently.

   Well bugger.

   They arranged a funeral of sorts. It wasn’t like he’d had any deep religious convictions or any family that they knew of outside the gang.

   They got a break a little later. Somebody had seen something; A short Ork in a big hurry. “Sort of weird looking”. Not much of a trail, but it did match what little they’d been able to find of the magical one, even if there were no physical traces.

   They got it “narrowed down” to nine square blocks. Even in the barrens that covered a lot of buildings and one hell of a lot of people and places to hide – and they had nothing but a capsule description.

   Worse, even the discription might not mean anything. The guy had, or at least had access to, serious magic. A disguise was pretty easy when you just wanted to change your looks a bit – even without powers – and whatever-it-was had already demonstrated the ability to cloak it’s astral trail beyond their ability to detect it.

   So; One or more persons, who might or might not be Orks – and who might or might not have anything to do with the murders – might or might not be somewhere in any one of nine blocks. He, she, or it might or might not have an “aura” of cold that a mage could assense.

   Well bugger.

   Oh well. Whatever-it-was might have left some magical traces if it did “live” around here. They could send out some spirits to look for that. They could do some astral peeking of their own. Yohan consulted spirits and Loa, Seriv went sniffing around for Orks, and Douglas simply went around asking about general weirdness. It was the one thing they knew for sure; whatever-it-was was very dangerous and VERY weird, and barrens-dwellers were soon either very good at spotting that – or were very dead.

   Of course they usually didn’t talk about what they saw, but Douglas was a telepath. Admittedly not much of one, but it helped.

   Yohan and Douglas didn’t have much luck. There did seem to be traces of that “cold” aura about, but they couldn’t pin it down. Seriv’s direct approach proved unexpectedly fruitful; an Ork in a bar tried to shoot them.

   They blasted him unconscious almost as a reflex.

   Well he fit the description. The gun he was using looked a lot like the one they’d given to Jimmy. The aura was a bit “cold”, he had some cash – and he had no credstick or other ID.

   The bartender wanted them to kill him outside. It looked like they didn’t put up with anybody pulling a gun inside.

   The group took him elsewhere.

   They had some elementals stand guard and set about trying to get something out of his mind. They didn’t have much luck – until 10:00, when he abruptly got up and slammed Douglas across the room. Douglas replied with a lightning bolt which virtually incinerated the Ork – and unleashed some weird, skull-like, spirit that let lose a supernatural wail and a subzero tornado. It blasted the elementals as it emerged and hit Douglas hard enough to disrupt his allied spirit. Fortunately Seriv was pretty good at fire magic.

   Of course that left them with a large crater, and no information at all. Douglas put out a report on the incident – he might as well put his name on a strange new form of spirit and hope that it helped screw over any more of them that turned up.

   Seriv was getting nervous. It looked like their concentrated talents were drawing magical creatures and putting their friends in danger. He’d had some dreams that his totem was calling him to spend some time out in the wilderness as well recently.

   Something about too much beer.

   Douglas felt that they needed cash NOW. He turned the loot from the ship over to the Komun’go for a far lower cut then they’d been hoping for.

   Oh well, the money had never been the real point.

 

Episode VII : Departures

   Meanwhile the Komun’Go were getting nervous. It didn’t really look like anyone would be able to trace the destruction at Wuxing back to them easily, but it was still a risk.

   Master Sung didn’t really know what had happened – but he suspected. He was unlikely to tell; Wuxing had murdered his brother and tried to kill him – but even a little knowledge could be deadly. The few surviving Masquers who’d been undrugged enough to know what was going on when Douglas and Seriv warned them that Wuxing had been behind the attack were unlikely to link them to destruction on such a scale. They’d probably think that that was what the guns had been for. They could be memory-wiped at leisure once Douglas and Seriv were out of the way anyway. “John” knew that Douglas and Seric had been targeted by Wuxing, but that wasn’t too uncommon – and what he’d seen of their style had looked a lot softer. The actual Komun’Go members could be managed easily. The lower level ones could get a bit of memory-wiping and the higher-ups were safe enough.

   There wasn’t much physical evidence. Stumpy’d made sure to wipe the security recordings. There’d likely be enough physical evidence to prove that the wreck’d been intentional, but there really wasn’t anything to actually identify anyone.

   They hadn’t stolen much of the cargo – and what they had had been pretty generic. The Komun’Go could dump it totally anonymously with ease.

   It was witnesses that they were worried about. Had some satellite been focusing on the area? Even with a sea spirit hiding Stumpy’s little ship could somebody have seen too much? Those were risks that they had no way to anticipate. They might be small, but there was a lot at stake.

   Seriv was leaving anyway. If they just got Douglas and Yohan out of Seattle it’d break the major links and let them cover up the little ones.

   It should be easy enough. Just appeal to the pairs paranoia and slip them some NY. Their share in the cash from fencing the cargo should cover that.

   It was easy. Douglas and Yohan took the hint – even if Yohan didn’t really know what it was all about.

   They didn’t have any records. They promptly wiped out their physical and mystic traces, changed their appearance and physical characteristics, and skipped out. Some high-powered concealment, a change of clothing and minor items, and some footwork pretty much guaranteed losing any tracers or followers.

   That left them wondering where to go from here. Of course, if they didn’t yet know, they’d be truly hard to anticipate.

   Transport wouldn’t be easy. Most of the routes in and out of Seattle would require major tinkering – or a valid ID.

   Fate presented them with Ken, a talented pickpocket who had a serious fascination with magic. Given a supply of low-level credsticks to tinker with it was easy to usurp some identities. It wouldn’t last for long, but it’d do for a train trip. Keeping the original owners out of circulation for a day was the easy part; there were any number of drugs that would suffice for that – and plenty of coffin motels.

   New York seemed like a decent destination. All the way on the east coast. They had a bit of trouble with getting aboard (they hadn’t had much time to practice jiggering credsticks), but they managed. The trip was fairly uneventful.

   Douglas spent his time composing some spells – but the young pickpocket nearly caused a disaster. He got bored and started “finding” small items that people had “accidently dropped”.

   Douglas and Yohan practically had to sit on him.

   Once they’d arrived they changed their appearance, their clothing, and their minor gear again. That should break the trail pretty throughly.

   Settling in would take a bit. They elected to play tourists for a bit to see the city. Unfortunately, it looked like fate had other ideas again; somebody went and pulled off a bank robbery right in front of them. Yohan tried to crash the getaway vehicle on impulse – but something dispelled his spirit.

   Maybe it’d be wise to get out of town again. Maybe up the coast a bit. Boston was supposed to be nice and very historical.

 

Episode VIII : At Loose Ends

   The “group” – however loosely associated – elected to simply leave the immediate vicinity.

   Being somewhat at loose ends they “played tourist” for a bit, but rapidly began finding it boring. The fact that most of the truly historical stuff had been leveled by the earthquake in `05 (And replaced with a bunch of sanitized corporate buildings) didn’t really improve matters. The outlying regions were more their style anyway. They were used to slums. They seemed homelike and were certainly a lot less conspicuous.

   Finding a place to stay wasn’t hard. There were a lot of coffin motels and such – as well as any number of places to pay minimal rents or simply squat in.

   They spent the next week or two getting acquainted with the area. Yohan wandered off to talk to spirits; it seemed that there were some things the Loa wanted to show him. Douglas passed the time designing a few new spells, downloading some minor stuff, and exploring the New York Public Library. Ken spent his time out picking a few pockets and looking for trouble.

   It wasn’t long before he found some. He tried, and failed, to pick the pockets of a troll ganger and got punched out for his pains. Times square was no longer a “nice” neighborhood – if it ever had been.

   The only bright spot was the Renraku Arcology East (Which had a very nice public shopping level and subway nexus). Unfortunately, it also had heavy security. A good place for legitimate business though.

   Douglas decided to look up a few street Docs. They knew everybody – and they always needed supplies.

   He didn’t have much luck. It looked like it would take time to build up some local contacts. Of course that gave him an idea for a spell. He wandered off to do some more research.

   Of course, if Douglas had ever had any initiative to go with his magical power he would never have settled for being a minor gang lieutenant. He needed someone else to give him some direction.

   Ken occasionally got him out on the streets again. He wanted to see some more magic – and possibly to find a few local contacts of his own.

   He didn’t have much luck either. What they did run across was a young elvish “amazon” (straight out of a dreamsim – save for the fact that her clothing wasn’t being torn off) fighting a bunch of troll gangers. It was really none of their business, but…

   The Trolls abruptly made it their business. One of them spotted Ken and started a chase; it was the same one he’d tried to pickpocket earlier. Ken took off. Fortunately he was fleet of foot. The troll-stampede simply knocked Douglas out of the way however. Still, that didn’t leave too many after the amazon. Douglas decided to help out; a basic masking spell turned her into a towering, flaming, horror from a seriously bad movie.

   The gangers opted to run away; whether or not this was real, it now involved genuine magic. A bit of fun – or even a serious argument – just wasn’t worth that kind of complication.

   Douglas dropped the spell before Gabrielle noticed it, introduced himself (as originating from Chicago), and waited for Ken to come back. He always tended to loop back if you waited for him. One of these days somebody else was going to figure that out and he was going to turn a corner and run straight into a baseball bat.

   Miss Gabrielle turned out to be more then a little bit crazy. Addicted to hallucinogens and movies, she apparently took the whole “Amazon Warrior” but rather seriously.

   On the other hand she was fairly friendly, and was extremely skilled, if pretty bloodthirsty. She had an “appointment” for a bit of pit-fighting later on, but had no objection to showing Douglas and Ken – Yohan was still out to lunch with his spirits – around the city until then.

   It seemed that the pit-fighting was pretty lethal. Douglas threw a few helpful spells on Gabrielle, just as a precaution. having a local to show them he ropes was just too useful to risk.

   He also did some careful telepathic probing. It looked to be entirely voluntary. He wouldn’t have to rescue anyone at the moment.

   Gabrielle’s first opponent was pretty pathetic. A fool zoned out on “Neil The Ork Barbarian” BTL chips.

   She didn’t really need to smash his skull.

   She promptly demanded another opponent and got Thorn – a hulking troll with a morningstar. He died pretty quickly too. She did get out a sword for him though.

   She tried to do the meditation/vigil bit, but they insisted on cleaning up the ring with a flamethrower. They had another fight to get ready for.

   Ken decided that if he wanted to see some “serious magic” he’d have to get Douglas into serious trouble. Gabrielle knew a fixer – and Douglas was easy to steer. He set up a meeting at “The Hippo” – an Ork and Troll bar – with someone who needed a few shadowrunners.

   Their “Mr Johnson” promptly labeled them; Fingers, The Butcher, and the Imp.

   On the other hand, Runners were always very weird.

 

Episode IX and X: An Infiltration Job

   The job was a simple extraction run – except for the fact that it was a high-security corporate compound, and the target was in a heavily-protected, electronically-isolated, lab in the center of the place.

   It also meant working with Gabrielle and Gav, who whom Mr Johnson had hired to fill out any need for muscle on the run.

   After a great deal of poking around, they managed to list and trace most of the employees that went in and out. Looked like there were a fair number of low-grade contractors going in and out too, as well as the ones that were actually employed there full time… Quietly extracting some information from one or two took a little work (and erasing all memory and traces of their intrusion took a lot of magic), but proved to be quite possible.

   It looked like the contractors were working on renovating a secondary building and had very limited access – but they were still going in and out. Of course, they went through quite a security gauntlet: there re were scans and occasional searches and some paranatural animals. There might even be an active mage too.

   Well that was going to be impossible to get much of anything past: they might be able to cover up some cyberware with spells that were low-powered enough to conceal with more spells and a touch of masking metamagic – but they weren’t going to be able to carry much of any gear. After they voted down Gar’s idea of an open attack, they spent some time designing some special spells and picking a few careful targets: with a little flesh-shaping sorcery, Douglas, Ken, and Yohan could could match a few of the contractors well enough to get in. What little cyberware they had – a bit of headware – could be covered up or tweaked to match what some of the contractors had with some very small and concealable magics.

   So: they’d need some very quick and quiet snatches, last minute tweaks on the impersonations, to strip themselves of all weapons, to get in – and then find some reason to visit the personnel office: that would get them into the main building. They could complain about a credit transfer error or something; people were always messing up their banking forms. From there, they’d have to improvise – but if the could get in without raising the alarm, they could probably escape, if only by turning loose every spirit they could summon.

   Of course, if something went wrong they’d be in serious trouble – but most of them had vast teenage overconfidence anyway.

   Gabrielle and Gar were a bit too conspicuous to sneak through – and Gabrielle was a known local psychotic. So, she could run overwatch and keep an eye on the contractors guys they’d be kidnaping and doping. Gar could… Hmm… Gar could get some fleshsculpting and identity-concealment and come by and apply for work shortly after they went in! He was enough of a monstrosity that – if he could simply keep talking – he should divert a fair chunk of the sites security just by being in the area. He didn’t even need to try to get in for that: just talk to the guards.

   There were some tense moments with the scanners, and with the paranatural animals, and with the limited mage who ran magical security (fortunately he was no match for Douglas and Yohan) – but they eventually managed to get inside.

   From there, the personnel office was an easy jump. Ken ran distraction with the foreman while Yohan and Douglas managed to work themselves a private office with the guy in charge of banking forms.

   They’d pay for this much cosmetic transformation later, but they promptly got the security monitors fooled with an illusion, knocked the fellow out, made him look like Yohan – and BOTH took his form. Yohan could stay in the office, and call up a hearth spirit to help guide Douglas, and set his ally to keeping the apparent-Yohan apparently talking to the apparent-paperwork guy him while he ran any necessary interference.

   Forms… They were here to pick up a short-tempered genius.

   They checked for forms she was behind on filling out, loaded them all up onto a datapad – and Douglas called her, made an appointment on the grounds that not having at least a FEW of the forms filled out would interfere with her equipment orders, and set out with the hearth spirit for guidance and the paperwork specialists ID’s and access codes to try to get her to fill a few things out.

   Getting past the guards took a good deal of doing. It took some fast talk to get her to open up the door too – but the armored lab was VERY private. The local systems were isolated from the outside for absolute data security.

   Dougles ran a remote link into her biomonitor and put in a temporary override to keep it from reporting anything wrong while she was thumbprinting priority requisition forms – it was just a special-purpose microcomputer after all – and took her down with a massive stunbolt before she could even reach for an alarm. So: use her own codes and computers to keep the overrides going on the biomonitor, dope her to make sure she stayed quiet, wrap her in his allied spirits clothing form – it was quite strong enough to easily levitate her – let the hearth spirit conceal her while he ran his own concealment effects on her – exit and leave a minor elemental to seal the doors, reactivate the primary wards, and turn on the “do not disturb” indicators.

   With any luck it would be two days before they started to suspect that she was gone. She had a cot and plenty of snacks in there, and was apparently known for pulling overnighters when she got interested in something. The biomonitor and location tags steady reporting of “all is well” should keep security calm for the first few checks.

   Back past the guards – promising to expedite some of their paperwork on the way, since they had form problems too – and back down to personnel.

   Meanwhile, Yohan had accumulated entirely too many unconscious people and had had to work far too many mind-control and memory-alteration spells for comfort. He hadn’t wanted to run any risk of people seeing the form expert in two places at once – which meant attempting to ensorcell everyone who came by. Fortunately he had several different kinds of spirits to call on, as well as his own witchcraft.

   Douglas frantically went to work fleshsculpting, while Yohan inserted vague memories of time spent gossiping and in the bathroom and such (fortunately, he only had to cover up fifteen minutes or so). A few cleansing spells to make sure they hadn’t left any personal traces, wiping away their signatures, and – oh yes. They gave the forms guy a memory of getting rid of them after fixing a few stupid errors on forms, and them of getting the genius to fill out some forms, and of leaving her working. So: back in their first set of disguises, out into the compound – and let Ken off the diversion-hook for the foreman (he’d managed to produce a modest tangle in the construction proceedings).

   They left for lunch.

   Gar had already come and gone – he’d mostly just talked at people, and offered a few demonstrations of his incredible strength when interest seemed to flag, and frustrated the people in charge of personnel interviews with randomly confused explanations. Overall, he’d had an easy time of it. All he’d had to do was talk and be prepared to fall back, send the truck full of explosives crashing into the gate, and bombard the place for a bit before getting the hell out if things went badly wrong.

   Fortunately, the emergency diversion plan hadn’t been necessary. It would have been really hard to cover up that one.

   Gabrielle had had to run off a few people, but had managed to keep anyone from getting in to where they’d stashed the contractors. She’d apparently had a lot of fun posturing and threatening the gangers who’d been by; her reputation as an insanely murderous pit fighter had actually come in handy.

   So: they returned the ID’s and clothing to the contractors their ID’s back, wiped their memories of being assaulted, filled their heads with some slightly-vague memories of the mornings work (and dealing with the forms guy), put them back into their vehicles with some lunch (courtesy of Gabrielle), wiped away their magical signatures, and sent them back to work.

   OK: the security department would be able to trace back to the forms guy in personnel quickly enough, from there, they could trace back to the contractors – and from them they could eventually determine that they’d been knocked out – but there wouldn’t be much of anywhere to go from there: they’d been unconscious when they were stashed, and had never seen anything except some false ID’s. Gar had been fleshshaped – and had never actually gone in to leave any usable traces – and they’d made damn sure not to leave a signature or anything. As soon as they unloaded their kidnaped scientist, they should be fairly well clear.

   That actually proved kind of awkward: since she wasn’t even known to be missing yet, convincing their Mr Johnson that they had the right person was more than a little awkward. Still, once he was convinced, he even threw in a small bonus for the head start on the search. It wasn’t often he had an extracted scientist in his hands even before the alarm went off.

 

Afterword:

   Unfortunately, he game ran down at that point: the game master was having a hard time dealing with both the level of magical power the characters had been constructed with and with the way they swung back and forth between extreme stealth and extreme violence at a moments notice. Of course, the initial decision to ask for young ganger and rising-from-the-street characters – light on resources and skills and virtually all human – meant that the points had to go to either attributes or magic, and most of the players still had plenty of points after buying the attributes they wanted, hence magic.

   The final couple of sessions have been reconstructed from memory: I’m not sure where the original notes are now. If any of the original players, or the original game master, has a correction or note they’d like inserted, please let me know.