The Merrow Mansion:

   Here we have a modest “secret supernatural” campaign setting all wrapped up in a single modest estate…

   On an alternate earth – a realm where magic is strong enough to be a daily part of life – the early European colonization of North America was interrupted by an outbreak of unimaginable horrors.

   One sizeable estate was held by the Merrow family – a cadet branch of the powerful Merovingian family of Europe and a notable bloodline of sorcerers. As the horrors approached, the Merrows prepared to defend their home, tenants, friends, and neighbors – and did so for weeks before, with the grounds of his house packed with refugees, Thomas Merrow died casting a spell that teleported the entire estate to that alternate earth’s “Scottish Highlands” – an astounding feat. Supposedly the spell would recoil, and return the estate to North America, when it was finally safe to return. Unsurprisingly, that never happened. There were too many horrors on the loose, and the local technology – limited to the Victorian era and to mid-level magic – simply could not drive them back, although constant vigilance managed to keep Europe relatively safe.

   When someone accidently bridged the gap between the worlds, unleashing an assortment of supernatural horrors and powers on an unprepared (and almost purely technological earth), they accidently sent along the Merrow family home as well. The estate abruptly materialized on earth-proper just outside of Boston – bearing with it the energies of it’s home dimension. Fortunately, Arselin Merrow – thanks to liberal use of hypnotic sorcery – managed to clear up the “strange discrepancies” in the records.

   The estate is, somewhat ironically, a nexus of Victorian Magical Horror reality, and has infused much of Boston with both magic and supernatural horrors. Fortunately, the house is protected by an assortment of powerful spells – although the grounds have far weaker protections. The most dangerous areas are the underground, the estate was built on an Indian burial mound, whose tunnels have been used as everything from crypts to wine cellars. They were sealed off eventually, and have been virtually forgotten – although things are now escaping from the tunnles into unsuspecting Boston. Partial maps from the period, as well as the spells used to pass the seals, are in the family archives. Sir Thomas Merrow was buried there, he has occasionally appeared to provide warnings, give advice or assistance, or act as a cryptic, mysterious, plot element. There are also some “lost” rooms hidden by old spells, for various reasons.

   Conforming to fantasy conventions and the nature of a mage’s mansion and its grounds, there is no floor plan, although rooms are described for scenes “set” in them. Arselin, as the current master of the house, should always know where to go; if everyone is in the drawing room when a scream is heard, Arselin may leap to his feet, abruptly exclaiming “The lakeside pavilion !” – and will be quite right. Most rooms do belong to particular floors however, as listed below:

  • First Floor: Reception Hall, Grand Ballroom, Lower Gallery, Grand Staircase (up), Music Room, Kitchens, Indoor Garden, Terrace, Formal Dining Room, Reception Hall, Grand Salon, Drawing Room, Hall of Fountains, Hall of Mosaics, Main Foyer, Cloak Room, Morning Room, Parlor.
  • Second Floor: Armory, Family Chapel, Upper Gallery, Grand Staircase (down), Schoolroom, Gunroom, Studies, Main Library, Smoking Room, Main Hall, Solar, Sickroom, Conservatory, Gymnasium, Veranda, Trophy Room, Music Room, Collection Rooms.
  • Cellars: Wine Cellar, Root Cellar, Wood Cellar, Carpenters Workshop, Toolroom, Billiards Room, Printshop, Assorted Workshops, Stillroom and Botany Lab, Chaos Well, Old Archives, Plate Room, Chamber of Spirits, Hall of Crystal
  • Towers: Observatory, Foucault Pendulum, Aviary, Sanctum, Main Vault (beneath the foundations), Studio, Maxim Guns, Dirigible Mast, Meditation Room, Dovecote.
  • Floors 3+: Nursery, Servants Rooms, Assorted Attics
  • Everywhere: Labs (some long lost), the Chamber of Extrospection (this can appear anywhere), Bedrooms, Sitting Rooms, Storerooms, Huge Fireplaces, Huge Bathrooms, Balconies, and Secret Passages.

   The mansion has been extensively renovated over the years. It was originally a sprawling sample of early American architecture, but it’s current incarnation is a classical, Victorian, English country manor and estate. Like all such, it is loaded with fireplaces, stairs, bellpulls, oil paintings, rugs, massive furniture, framed maps, and heaps of historical, or simply luxurious, bric-a-brac. By modern standards everything seems both overdone and overcrowded, an enclosed feeling reinforced by the gas lights and general dimness. Actually, there’s lots of room, but the dark wainscoting and mazelike arrangement tend to obscure the fact. The mansion does have basic electrical wiring, but it’s best not to rely on it too much – one reason why all the interior doors have glass panels to let light into the interior. The estate is, of course, walled, something no mages estate would be without.

   Some of the more common items found scattered about include; suits of armor, swords, decanters, paintings, chess sets, trophies (rugs, heads, and so on), spears, coat racks, oil lamps, crystal chandeliers, old books, grandfather clocks, telescopes, framed drawings and/or photographs, seachests, nautical maps, “kinetoscopes”, elephants-foot umbrella stands, walk-in closets, large wardrobes, mirrors, decorated ceilings, wall and floor mosaics, mirrors, humidors, porcelain figures, massive carved doors, assorted musical instruments, small book cases, roll-top desks, display cabinets (with assorted collections), archaic (or more “modern”) weaponry, and odd souvenirs of centuries of magic.

   Specific notes are given on rooms which are notably unusual, other rooms can be described as suits the GM. Beyond a few specific areas, the underground tunnels and caverns are not described, save to note that there are several independent regions; the cellars and constructed crypts, the old Indian tunnels, and the deep caverns. The cellars are generally stone and timber, and are fairly safe. The Indian tunnels were dug thru earth, and are full of restless spirits and occasional monsters. The deep caverns are relatively recent, and mostly seem to burrow through bedrock. Their exact origin is unknown and unexplained.

   To go with this network of underground passages the mansion has a number of secret passages, although many have been either opened up or sealed off during one or another renovation. Arselin explored many of the passages while he was young, and most of the others are on record, but that was a long time ago. He is unlikely to remember any given passage without either time or a stimulus of some kind. There are a variety of secret rooms and hallways in the network, most of them almost undisturbed. There is at least on laboratory that can only be reached through the passages since the mansion was last renovated, which is just as well, as it was a rather frankensteinish lab to begin with. In general, the secret passages go anywhere that’s useful for the plot, routes to inconvenient locations can be blocked by any number of things even if they were open last week. The passages do include an “escape tunnel” of sorts, leading to the stairs down to the underground docks. The main passage comes up concealed in a hillside at some distance from the house, near the pond. Passing through the escape route requires a set of special keying spells, as does going thru many of the passages – especially those that go down.

   The mansion is currently located a bit up the coast from Boston, a fairly convenient position that’s handy for the shops, airport, general hospital, and a selection of other things that adventurers are often looking for. It has a somewhat forbidding aura due to the number of warding spells around it, with the outer wall this tends to discourage casual visitors, but not overtly so.

   As a classic English estate, the manor is an almost self-sufficient community, with farmers, cottages, and an assortment of outbuildings and miscellaneous people who work in the area. While the pattern is a bit more feudal then Victorian, this is a direct consequence of the generally unpleasant supernatural “ecology” the structure has escaped from. The area supports some twenty-five families, and will doubtless continue to do so – although things may become a bit annoying if some alien invasion or realm overruns the surrounding area. Besides the usual assortment of sheds, barns, cottages, and so on, it has some more unusual areas, as noted below. As a massive dimensional hardpoint, the mansion carries it’s own reality – a Victorian horror-dimension with midrange magic – with it. That reality is found in it’s pure form within the manor, dominates the estate proper is a dominant zone, and can still be tapped into for several miles around the estate.

   The Boathouse is on the edge of the estates small lake and stream. It contains nothing larger then rowboats and canoes as nothing much larger can navigate the stream. It is sometimes used by those wanting to putter around on the lake, but is otherwise fairly quiet. Thanks to the water it is heavily populated with frogs and moss. The small second floor was originally used as storage, it was converted to an apartment/study by David Merrow about 15 years ago so he could look out over the water while he wrote. Presently its full of Michael Summers (a guest of Arselin’s and a character who was too amusing to refuse; a genetically engineered otter trained for espionage purposes) otter furniture and his multi-million dollar satellite link and “junior achievement global electronic espionage kit”. The gear was mostly “donated” by unsuspecting laboratories and cutting-edge intelligence operations, and is substantially ahead of the common state-of-the-art. As no one else knows much about his gear, and Michael is missing right now, it’s currently going unused. Thanks to Michaels own reality-tinkering, the second floor – but very little more – supports such high-technology shenanigans, if only barely.

   The Hedge Maze includes a fair number of tiny nooks, glades, trees, grottos, statues, and fountians. Outside of it’s habit of rearranging itself when no one is looking, it seems to be relatively normal. One grotto does hold a small cave, but it’s only 25 feet deep. It has a nice sandy floor, a small spring, and a couple of chairs as befits a fairly popular picnic spot. The maze has two “centers”, a classic Grecian court and a tiny oriental pavilion overlooking a small pond and a mossy garden.

   The Stables are fairly elaborate if a bit unmaintained since Aunt Elinora took to her bed. The small complex includes a smithy, tack room, hayloft, paddock, and so on. The stablemaster is sulking about the lack of fox hunting in the area, but the smith has found a new hobby – tinkering with automobiles. He can usually be found either here or in the carriage house. Like most such minicomplexes on the estate the stables include a set of apartments for the stablemaster, the smith, and up to four grooms, although there are rarely that many actually staying there, unless it’s foaling time.

   The Chapel has been in use for the past 240 years, and so has been imbued with a formidable spiritual energy. Clerical powers are amplified within it somewhat, and even amateurs occasionally get some results – which makes it a popular place to hide in a magical dimension with far too many horrors about. The chapel includes a small reliquary, vestry, belltower, and an attached cottage for the priest- at present the Deacon Aloysius Uwell, a secret follower of the Anselm Heresy.

   The Folly is a classical “roman ruin”, set on top of a small hill. It is in the form of a small “temple” and includes a replica, underground, Mithric chapel with a hidden stairway / trapdoor / entrance somewhere inside the surface chambers. Reputedly, the “chapel” connects to the underground passages underlying the estate. While the entrance has been sealed and lost for generations, it might provide an unexpected way down. According to one story, when the door was sealed, a dark mage and his followers were trapped inside, converting the rooms to a crypt. While this is probably an exaggeration it is quite possible that the area was actually used by some secret society at one point or another, after all, why waste a perfectly good, isolated, secret chamber?

   The Underground Docks are from after the estates teleportation to “Scotland”, and originally connected with the sea. They were used for a little genteel smuggling around 150 years ago, during a period of exceptionally oppressive government policies. Since then the docks, and their associated storerooms, have been almost forgotten. If they were included in the estates “return” trip, they probably still connect to the sea – although the new outlet is likely to be underwater. The stairs were constructed magically, but the underground cavern and small river were natural features, as was the link with the ocean.

   The Springhouse also served as the icehouse before the pantry was charmed to remain cool. Since running water is now available throughout the estate, it’s basically ignored today. Like any icehouse, it has enormously thick and virtually soundproof stone walls, no windows, a thick, heavy door, and is partially underground. It’s a very private place. Arselin has been thinking about letting the weird scientists use it as a lab.

   The Amerindian Longhouse is a remnant from America, it was built by a small group of Indians who were helping defend the estate against what they saw as an invasion of unnatural horrors. There are still a few people on the estate who’s ancestry includes them, they tend the place in an attempt to preserve part of their culture. It currently has a live-in maintenance man, one Jacob R. Ghostfire, a relatively minor student of shamanic lore and magic. Thanks to him the longhouse is part museum and part medicine lodge.

   The Tenant Cottages are unusually modern for Victorian structures, a consequence of the Merrows regular renovations (and the “frozen” technology typical of most fantastical realms). As “typical” English cottages they usually have a large, multipurpose, main room with a semi-separate kitchen, a master bedroom and a small second floor or “loft”, sometimes divided into smaller rooms for children or relatives. The cottages have modest cellars, usually reached by a trapdoor and ladder or from the outside, that serve as root cellars and general storage areas. The most recent renovations included adding addition of brick or flagstone floors, piping in gas for cooking and lighting, inside plumbing, and running water (cold, although copper heating tanks set into the fireplaces provide some hot water). This general rebuilding also required renewing the cottages assorted reinforcing spells, making them considerably tougher than solid stone. Combined with the various minor warding spells on the cottages, this gives the tenants a fair feeling of security.

   Other “standard” features of the cottages include a kitchen garden and a small barn / toolshed / workshop used to shelter livestock, farm wagons, and assorted tools. Some have been wired for electricity since the estates arrival in the USA, mostly for those guests who decide to take up residence in a vacant cottage as – in the Victorian-Reality dominant zone – it’s usefulness is limited.

   The Estate’s small Brewery is fairly typical operation for the period, when every tavern brewed it’s own ale. While more variable then commercial beers, the quality is generally superior and the potency is certainly far higher. The brewmaster (Dion O’Cyrus) also dabbles in distillation, mead brewing, and even winemaking, if only to the extent of 40-80 bottles a year. How he manages to get even that many grapes from his small greenhouse remains a mystery. Dion works out of his own somewhat modified cottage.

   The Gatehouse is a bit more substantial then it looks, unlike most Victorian gatehouses, it’s a lot more then a house for the gatekeeper. The gatekeepers window is enchanted to show the true form of those who pass thru the gates, penetrating disguises of whatever type – unless they’re very very good or are backed with considerable magical or psychic power. Similarly, the gates will resist attempts to open them from the outside; it takes a great deal of power to overcome their resistance. The house itself is quite defensible and well warded. Currently the gatekeepers major duties are announcing visitors and getting the mail. He’s also responsible for accepting packages, and sometimes for delivering pizza, a duty he usually gets well tipped for or sends one of his kids to take care of.

   The Pavilion overlooks the lake and the formal garden, outside of being used for occasional garden parties and shelter from the rain the pavilion usually goes almost unused. It does have a small “basement” set back into the hillside for storing such things as; crochet sets, tennis gear, cricket bats, and so on. Such sports are usually played on the courts in the formal garden.

   The Carriage House is by the stables, the second floor is a set of apartments for the coachman, now a sinecure for the most part, as Arselin prefers to drive his car. The lower floor is a towering space, designed to store coaches which often stand eight feet tall plus driver. It has several stalls, basic stabling arrangements for unusual occasions, several coaches, and assorted tools and supplies to repair them with. It also holds Arselin’s pet steam-powered automobile, plenty of tools, and often Jonathan Marden, the manorial smith, who has developed a keen interest in steam engines, automobiles, and odd mechanisms. Hopefully, no one will give him any Jules Verne novels for inspiration, otherwise he may well be the occult’s answer to weird science.

   The Stanley Steamer is a Victorian-age automobile – albeit one capable (once the steam has built up) of exceeding 100 MPH and far more sturdily built than most current cars. The Stanley Steamer has only fifteen major moving parts, gets about 60 miles “a gallon” and – as the engine need not contain a series of explosions – is virtually silent. The engine takes anything burnable, including kerosine, paraffin, gasoline, and coal. It has no transmission, gearshift, clutch, or spark plugs and travels in reverse at full speed. Sadly, the Steamer does require 2 to 25 minutes to build up pressure (depending on the weather) unless special measures are used.

   Arselin has magically rendered his pet vehicle even tougher than it used to be.

   The Formal Garden is really almost normal, at least to look at. Despite the fact that the gardeners never go near the place it is impeccably maintained, persistent rumors about walking, talking, rabbits can probably be traced to the works of the Reverend Charles L Dodgson – or at least the Merrows hope that they can. They include a selection of statues, fountains, benches, paths, small fruit trees, tables with umbrellas, arbors, gazebos, and sundials. The formal gardens form a semicircle around the lake and slope gently up to the surrounding hills.

   The Kennels are near the stables and house the estates various dogs, mainly a pack of fox hounds. Other dogs kept here include a pair of Irish Wolfhounds and a few bird dogs. Sheep dogs and such are kept by individual tenants as are a few “second sighted” watchdogs. Such animals are highly valued in the estates home universe – and make good plot devices.

   The Bestiary was/is a small zoo, dating back to a very enthusiastic naturalist (Samuel Merrow) about a century ago. Today, the only buildings in regular use are the aviary and the cattery, both due to the hobbies of the current generation. The aviary is stocked with a fair collection of tropical birds, mostly hummingbirds. It has recently attracted the attention of the curator of the Boston Museum, an avid student of unusual species. The cattery still provides quarters for David Merrow’s favorite hunting cats, a breed related to the cheetah. Thanks to their naturally domesticateable nature and to a bit of magical training, the cats can safely be left to roam the estate, although they do startle visitors.

   One of the Wells reportedly connects to the old Indian passages through an underwater passage or sliding section of wall. As just which well it is remains unknown, all the wells have been magically warded.

   The Mews are a remnant from a period around 120 years ago, when hawking extremely fashionable. The building is now used as a storage area, although one small room is still used for birds by the stablemaster, who likes the hobby.

   Despite the oddities, the estate includes a great many perfectly normal places, such as the fields and hedgerows, the kitchen garden, the laundry, the smokehouse, and (despite expectations) the church graveyard. Even the family crypt is quite normal and, like most burial sites in the horror-reality of the estate – will probably remain that way as long as regular maintenance is performed. Sadly, with the estate spreading its reality to the surrounding area, other abandoned graveyards in the area are likely to become perilous places all too soon.

   Part of the old Indian Mound still stands on a section of the grounds, primarily because the ground around it is a bit swampy due to a small stream. Odd activities are sometimes seen there during solstices, equinoxes, and eclipses, but the place is otherwise quiet enough. It’s even a popular spot to pick berries in the fall.

   Several adventurers used to spend a good deal of time around the estate, including Arselin Merrow (a cryptomancer and the current owner), Bryan Daniels (an expert on weather and purification magic), Maria (an enhanced – and more or less benign – werewolf), “Robin Hood” (a skilled scout and minor telekinetic), Michael Summers (a genetically-engineered otter trained for espionage operations. If he ever gets back from his attempt to rescue the other otters in the project he’s likely to settle down and become a family otter, although he’s likely to continue as a communications and research coordinator), and Eugen Slade (a psychic hacker).

The Mansion Proper :

   The Trophy Room is a veritable museum of odd wildlife, creatures, and mementoes. While hunting trophies are the most numerous type of exhibit, the collection includes many such oddities as; a blasted suit of once-animated armor, two life-like posed werewolves in stasis fields (good for many centuries), a weretiger skin rug, a set of fangs from a sea serpent, a couple of stuffed carnosaurs (Theron Merrow went to great lengths to find new places to hunt), fragments of the shattered Corpsefire Ruby, a headless mummy, the Akenaten Scepter, a pair of stuffed Minotaurs carrying submachine guns, and many other oddities. Assorted family mementoes and journals are another large category, mostly commemorating “high points” in the family history. Most of this stuff has little, if any, “power” remaining, outside of possible clues about the nature and weaknesses of any recurring menace from the past, it probably has little relevance today – although it does tend to startle visitors.

   The “Conservatory” is actually a good-sized greenhouse wrapped around the southern corner of the mansion. The associated rooms include (a); stillroom, potting room, drying room, compounding room with medicinals cabinet, and assorted storage rooms. It’s primarily devoted to exotic, unusual, medicinal, and/or magical, plants and herbs. Things which merely need a bit of a “start” on spring are planted in cold frames in the garden rather then in the conservatory. The complex also includes a physicians apartment and a small infirmary, conveniences which are rarely used unless there’s an epidemic.

   The Chamber of Extrospection is an enormous hall lined with mirrors which, if gazed into, present scenes from other times, places, dimensions, and aspects of reality, or the depths of the viewers mind. This power can be purposely activated, used to communicate, or even used as a portal – but the scene cannot be shifted and the trip is sometimes one way. Only skilled mages can use the chamber, even the time required to reach it depends on how skilled the seeker is in the arcane arts. Selecting the “correct” mirror requires skill in divination, parting the curtains requires knowledge of manipulative magic, and activating a mirror requires skills in conjuration. Depending on the user’s skills, this can result in an uncontrolled portal, (semi-) controlled scrying, communication, opening a controlled portal – or even keying the portal to allow reopening the rift for a return trip (an ability requiring a true master of the recondite arts).

   Note that – for the purposes of this room – it is possible to try to use magic “unskilled”, but this means that the GM rolls the dice; you never know how good your results are.

   The “Indoor” Garden is much larger then can reasonably fit in the house, it includes a modest henge, grottos, groves of trees, fountains, flowerbeds, and a small forest of oaks. It’s occasional “wolf-howls” seem to be nothing but atmosphere, although there have been some very odd reports of phantom beings and ceremonies. The gardens exact nature is unknown, it simply “appeared” when the estate arrived in Scotland. As it roughly matches the estates size and layout it could be the area’s original landscape “displaced” by the estates arrival – although the mechanism remains mysterious. It is surrounded by mists, the doors that enter it seem to be freestanding portals from inside, and can be walked around. Wherever the garden is really located, it’s a bit friendlier to magic then most of the household – possibly due to some touch of faerie. Fantastic visitors are commonly more comfortable “camping” in the garden then using a guest room, provided that it doesn’t rain.

   The Library is a complex of cubbyholes and nooks, with winding stairs, sealable vaults, closed and open stacks, and a balcony running around its upper floor. While some books have individual sealed rooms, most of the occult or magical books are in the bottom, warded, section of the stacks in an annex to the family archives. Various methods of cataloging the library have been tried, but with little success, as books sometimes simply appear. These volumes (occasionally collections) are rarely of much use, but are always interesting, as well as being neatly filed on the shelves. On a more practical note, the library is an excellent place to do research, anyone doing so gets a fair bonus on anything related to scholarly research, the sciences, magic or the occult, languages, and medicine – provided that he or she has at least 48 hours to spend researching the subject.

   The Solar was designed to let the sunlight inside, its light wooden paneling, waxed floor, large windows, and many skylights make it seem almost luminous during the day, while even a crescent moon fills it with a serene sea of light during the night. Aunt Dorothea used the solar as an embroidery room until she disappeared some 15 years ago, leaving it unused. Currently the room proper is almost empty, although the entranceway holds a few short book racks and benches. There is, however, a small altar here – set up by a visitor who followed a semi-abstract faith in the powers of light and who felt that the room was an appropriate place for a chapel.

   The Bedrooms are classic Victorian rooms, and normally part of a small suite (bedroom, sitting room, dressing room, and bathroom). The standard furnishings include a; four-poster curtained bed, claw-footed bath, wardrobe, thick rugs, heavy upholstered chairs, wainscoting, and other “antique” furniture. Despite the great amount of space in the suite, it always seems a little crowded.

   The Gunroom is a dark-paneled, circular room near the study and the trophy room. While it (obviously) holds a wide selection of “modern” (Victorian) small arms and ammunition, it also holds a small stock of explosives, grenades, and even a few exotic/heavy weapons from other realms. There is a brass plaque on the wall dedicating the gunroom to the memory of a “Major Colin Barrington”. No one knows why. Common Victorian and items are virtually always available, but the exotic weapons inventory varies quickly as weapons are lost or added. In general, there’s about a 25% chance of locating any general type of weapon, and about a 5% chance of finding a specific one.

   The Armory dates back many generations, and is primarily devoted to such antique weapons as flintlocks, swords, daggers, crossbows, shields, and bows. While the mansion holds quite a bit of armor, only the lesser pieces are in here, the better ones are displayed on racks around the house. The armory does have an adjoining practice room/dojo, notable for its animated practice dummy, if not for its extensive use. While the items stored here are usable in a pinch, they all need some work to make them really effective. The fencing foils are about the only exception, Andrew Fogg (the butler) secretly puts in half an hour or so against the “dummy” almost every day, enjoying thinking of himself as a dashing swordsman. He actually is very good.

   The Kitchen is at the center of a network of pantries, storerooms, sculleries, brewing rooms, spinning rooms, rear stairs, servants passages, laundries, and quarters, which seems to include far more rooms, nooks, corners, poorly – lit passages, old barrels, strings of herbs, and casual obstacles then could reasonably be fit into the available space. Anyone unfamiliar with the area is likely to get lost within moments of venturing into this maze, even the servants get lost sometimes. The kitchen proper is a massive, “unfinished” room with a high ceiling and exposed beams – which support a huge array of tools, spices, and supplies, with shelves that go all the way up to the ceiling (several ladders are available to reach the upper shelves). The fieldstone walls and floor are blackened and stained by centuries of smoke, as is the massive hearth which dominates the room. A small gas range – a recent addition – looks very much out of place. While running water is on tap, the old pump is still intact. The kitchen is the private domain of Telerie Kant, who is very critical of anyone invading her kitchen.

   The Hall of Fountains is wrapped around the first floor of the house, and contains eleven fountains. Most of the fountains are unremarkable, although their styles vary from Grecian to small and mossy. The halls centerpiece is the firefountian – which enhances its spouts and pool with a crackling aura of light. The precise purpose of this display is unknown, but the energy involved seems to have something to do with time.

   The Gallery is a two-story hallway with an open center and adjoining one-story alcoves. It is primarily devoted to paintings, although some statues and other artworks are included. Most of the pieces are normal, although some have a disquieting “photographic” quality or give an odd impression of depth. The really odd pieces and collections are kept in closed alcoves. These include everything from the nightmarish Pickman paintings to a few that move, and/or, speak. One picture provides its own light, the sunbeams shining from it pool warmly on the floor of the gallery. According to the archives, a few of the ancestral portraits can be used to speak to the people they represent, as such communication is on the telepathic level, such reports may be nothing more then self-delusion.

   The Terrace is a bit peculiar, while perfectly normal if reached by the main door the side door leads to a different prospect entirely, a terrace on an outcropping of rock jutting from the side of a plant-covered mountain. It is always night on the terrace, a dim light provided by the blaze of alien stars, above, below, and to the sides. While the gravity of the terrace is normal, there seems to be none beyond the railing.

   The Family Chapel is a fairly typical layout, paneled in dark wood, and somewhat severe – an impression moderated by older design touches. Unlike most chapels, the small vault which usually serves to store records and church paraphernalia, is magically, occultly, and religiously, warded inside and out (opening it normally requires an invocation from a mage, a priest, and a warrior – all free of spiritual corruption and including the lord of the manor). No one recalls what might be in the thing, and no one in generations has had the nerve to find out.

   The various Laboratories are the result of generations of hobbies and the “frozen” technology of the original world: unlike earthly labs, those of Victorian horror-realities rarely become obsolete. The labs include; biological, chemical, physical, photographic, alchemical/occult, magical, electrical, metallurgical, geological, archaeological, and botanical laboratories, all set up by enthusiastic amateur hobbyists. They have an eclectic assortment of equipment; while there are “gaps” that no professional would tolerate, other bits are magical substitutes for items far beyond Victorian technology. Some do really weird things,

   The Vault is the repository of genuinely dangerous, or otherwise upsetting items; in general, if anything gets out of it, it’s likely to be a serious problem.

   There were other rooms and notes of course, but that’s all that’s organized enough to be put up at the moment. If anyone can guess what game this was originally written up for, they will get the grand prize of their guess being confirmed in the comments…

Federation-Apocalypse Session 53: Holographic Chaos

   Led by Pynthas, and escorted by a group of Martian Marines, the group headed for the emergency shelter.

   Lets see; they were being escorted by Marines (on a world with no oceans), trying to reach shelter before they were attacked by solid holograms projected from orbit (all right, there were all kinds of weapons systems that could be deployed from orbit, but even for the Manifold, that was silly), and… Ah, never mind. Sometimes you just wanted to hunt down the current incarnation of whoever had created a setting and slap them silly. It looked like both the Marines and Pynthas had souls (they must be really near the center of the action: the High Lord was probably one of the main characters), so they’d probably wind up having to protect them; the place was obviously space-opera, so the chances of a clean escape were virtually nil.

   Rushing through a series of corridors into the depths of the palace seemed a bit silly too really. In a spacefaring civilization? Something like a linear accelerator tram to a point a few miles away and deep underground seemed like the only practical way of escaping an orbital attack, at least barring some grotesquely powerful force field or something – and even if you had that, you’d want a way to wait out the molten rock period and a way to secretly drill your way out again afterwards. It’d be a huge waste of time.

   The alarms started going off before they got too far. Sirens, klaxons, viewscreen messages, pre-recorded messages, the whole bit. Warning: Palace Grounds are under attack. Warning: Palace Grounds are under attack.

   Pynthas seemed to be quite used to running as he talked;

“We should almost be to the shelter, it is hidden in the center of the courtyard up ahead. Once we get there, we should be safe!”

“Well, now that you’ve said that, we can expect to be intercepted. I presume the Machine Master knows all about this shelter anyway, doesn’t he?”

“At least we can still duck and cover.”

   Pynthas looked at everyone with a face filled with dread. Marty had to prop him up so that he wouldn’t trip over himself.

“But he shouldn’t know about this place, or the others. We built them in secret!”

“From the guy who designed all your ways of keeping things secret, has various unknown abilities that you don’t understand and can’t duplicate, and whom is the greatest master of technology – that is, finding out how things work – in this dimension?”

“Are we doomed then?”

   The marines seemed a bit indignant about that question.

“Maybe. But if the shelter has booze, we can drink it up and won’t care anymore. And I’m the seven foot tall man!”

“Oh, not at all. Being doomed is boring. Remember! I have diplomatic immunity! And don’t forget the large cats! Smile! You’re not really a target here you know!”

   Kevin considered some wisecrack about keeping the narrator too occupied to launch the attack until they were already safely inside the shelter – but, as expected, a group of five figures dressed in (yet another) weird uniform materialized out of thin air in the courtyard in front of the shelter door just moments before they’d have entered the courtyard themselves. The marines swore quietly and Pynthas actually managed to get even paler. Blasted space opera. Oh well, there really was no fighting the plot. Oh well: the two thralls being cats should be able to look after the two kids, Pynthas, and the marines while the rest of the group handled the “holograms”.

   Well, at least the silly things didn’t appear to have noticed them yet.

   The marines promptly took up positions to try and assault the courtyard, talking to each other and trying to stay out of sight. Looked like they considered surprise and cover pretty vital when fighting “holograms”. The group decided to keep up the “emissaries” routine if possible – which meant sticking to the lower-powered stuff.

“I must ask you to try and keep out of sight, these things can’t hear you, but if they see you, it isn’t going to be pleasant.”

“Easy to do.”

“Do they have any notable weaknesses? Are they stupid?”

“They aren’t intelligent, there is usually a device at the center of the forcefield construct that acts as a focusing lens for the satellite. Finding it is difficult though. Especially in the heat of battle. Otherwise the thing is a nigh invulnerable projection of light and force. I give them a 10 for speed, a 10 for precision, and a big fat 0 for tactics.”

   Well, that might make it awkward for Marty to hit: he was VERY good with a knife, but he still wasn’t at his best attacking targets that he could neither see nor know the location of.

“Well then: shall I send out a few illusions?

“If you can do that, then please do so, that is likely to at least split them up.”

   Kevin sent out a few witchcraft-illusions of the entire group looking at courtyard from down another corridor and then making a break for it. They were only light-images, and would blink out after they got out of range – which seemed to be only a few hundred feet locally – but they might work, and all they needed to do was turn a corner ahead of the “holograms” before they vanished. It might work.

   Meanwhile, Marty was having one of his pocket-Thralls put a “Detect Gadgetry” spell on him. If he could spot the focus-gizmo, he should be able to take it out without much trouble. They couldn’t work much magic in a technological universe, but they should be able to manage a few spells like that.

   Three of the holograms zoomed off after the illusions. The speed was impressive, even if they were just floating gizmos (that weren’t bothering with any kind of an illusion of “running”; they just zipped along an inch or two off the ground. The remaining two took up positions by a bank of shrubs and a fountain near the end of the courtyard.

   Marty’s divination spell worked just fine: it looked like the focusing device for a “hologram” was a three-inch sphere floating inside each one, shifting position pretty much at random.

   Meanwhile, the marines were positioning themselves to take advantage of the momentary distraction Kevin had provided.

“Alright guys, we have two left, we need to destroy these two before the others finally catch on and come back behind us.”

   The marines opened fire, Marty charged in to strike (although the thing dodged a bit faster than he’d been expecting), and Kevin simply tried a bit of area-effect telekinesis: if he could hold the focusing-devices against a wall, presumably the things wouldn’t be able to move – and they hadn’t used ranged attacks against his illusions, so either they didn’t have any or they were relatively ineffectual.

   None of that worked very well. The fool things were incredibly “slick” in Kevin’s telekinetic grip – something to do with their construction, or how they levitated about, or the energy-field they were swimming around in, or something. It was like trying to squeeze wet soap – although he was disrupting things enough to stretch and distort the holograms like cartoon characters. At least it was holding them back a bit – although he wouldn’t be able to do much more in a technological universe. Marty slipped and missed, while the massed fire of the marines had very little effect; they hadn’t gotten lucky. Brief disruptions at most.

   The blasted things struck back with incredible speed too – although they seemed to regard a man with a knife as less of a menace than the marines (the more fool them). It looked like they could “stretch” (or fire concussion-beams) somewhat – but the pillars the marines were using for cover took the brunt of the damage, although they threw off enough shrapnel to seriously injure both of the men. Fast, precise, deadly, and difficult to kill, if not very smart. No wonder the High Leader had been pleased with them. Looked like this one was pretty much up to Marty.

   Marty’s second blow didn’t make it to the sphere either – but it did disrupt the thing enough for Kevin’s push to rip the sphere free of the hologram. It dissipated for the moment.

   Meanwhile, the Thralls in cat-form were healing the two injured marines; they’d still been firing, albeit not with any accuracy – but they hadn’t been in good enough shape to walk. The other two marines, however, had gotten lucky: with only one target to concentrate their fire on, they’d actually taken it out.

   There was something of a mad dash to get into the shelter; judging by the sounds, the other three seemed to be on their way back. They shoved the kids and the wounded in first, then Pynthas, and then themselves (since the marines insisted on going last). The remaining sphere was starting to form another hologram about itself – but Marty simply smashed it in passing.

   With everyone inside and the door closed, Pynthas collapsed into a corner crying, the leader of the marines started punching frantically at a keypad, and the other three took stock of the situation – although the taking stock of the two who had been wounded (the Thrall-Cats were finishing healing them) was a bit confused, and Marty was delighted to find that the shelter was indeed stocked with booze.

“Pynthas? Have a drink. Faerie wine. Good for whatever it is that’s bothering you”.

“Here, use my personal glass!”

   Kevin was a bit doubtful about that – Marty’s personal martini glass held about two quarts – but it wasn’t like Pynthas was much help anyway – and a drink that size got him calmed down soon enough.

   The shelter was well stocked with food, drinks, and other amenities. There was a sizeable cache of weapons, and some kind of power generator. Still, Kevin was pretty sure that the Machine Master could find them if he wanted, if only due to the massed power-signature of Kevin, Marty, and the Thralls, whether they sent up any power-flares or not. Still, the place seemed to be rocking slightly – like a ship on calm waters.

“Assaulting the door or walls are they?”

“No Sir! That would be the forcefield system responding to our movements. This shelter is floating inside a fully enveloping shield. There is a bit of a time delay, so as we move around the place, the system has to adjust accordingly to keep the room level.”

“Well, that’s handy!”

   Ah, military people. Always well informed as to defenses and weapons systems.

   Marty found it kind of relaxing, and sat down to have a drink.

“Well I have entered my lock code into the door, unless they have a lot more at their disposal then the usual holograms, that should stop them for the time being. Enough at least for the high command to respond.”

   Kevin decided to try and startle some useful information out of the marines; he announced “Service Please!” and used a bit more Witchcraft to animate a bunch of utensils and have a light meal assemble and serve itself. Waffles, bacon, coffee, etc – with any missing ingredients either being substituted or produced from nowhere in particular.

“A real chef does a better job of course, but we didn’t happen to bring any”.

“Is that French toast?” (Marty settled down to eat).

   The marines quickly stopped what they were doing to watch the spectacle. Each one of them kept calling the attention of the others to something unusual in the process – a lot like children watching a store window display.

“What’s your poison? Pancakes? Waffles? Bagels?”

   Each of them replied with a different response. The head marine did manage to regain his composure, announced his choice, then wandered off to the weapons cache to take inventory.

“I have never seen anyone do something like that before.”

“Not even the Machine Master has done something like this.”

“Well, yes, but would you expect the bastard too?”

“Good point. That one has no sense of humor, drama, time, or tact.”

“Well, you’re a more-or-less scientific world. There are lots of other ways to do things. I’d suspect that the Machine Master hasn’t really shown you much of the fun in the Multiverse.”

“Yeah, like dying and waking up in bed the next morning.”

“What?”

“Oh, Marty’s from a universe where you can’t actually die. They take advantage of it to express all the violence inherent in the system on a casual basis!”

“It’s fun. Especially when we have elections.”

“Great place for military-types to train too. Practice, get shot or blown up, wake up at home with the wife! Still, what does usually go on around here? So far, it’s been security detail – party – war – hide from war…”

“For the most part it has been more or less just like that. We run security detail these days as those blasted holograms have taken over most of the combat operations. We had been running various exercises in maintaining public order along with the occasional hunt for the pirates. At least until the Machine Master started to act differently.”

“Got a little odd did he? Warping reality with your mind can do that if you’re not careful. Especially if you’ve got no sense of humor. How long has that been going on?”

“Well it started becoming a lot more prominent awhile back. He used to just hide in his workshop all day and the High Leader went to him. Nowadays he is coming to the High Leader with new inventions the High Leader would have had to threaten death to get a few years ago. That was also about the time he started wearing those robes to cover the mutilations.”

“Mutilations?”

“Let’s see, that would be about 3 years or so now.”

“Well, that would explain it; he’s probably gone completely over the edge by now.”

“I am not sure of the circumstances of how he got them myself, other than that he refused to get them fixed. But somehow he has had a lot of skin and flesh surgically removed. He’s missing toes, fingers, cheeks, ears, nose, eyelids, and other bits. I have even heard that he has the skin on his torso peeled back in places, although that I have not seen that for myself.”

   Now that made Kevin wonder if an undead type had moved in. The locals certainly wouldn’t be expecting that – or have any idea of what to look for.

“That’s disgusting.”

“The man is a certifiably nut, that is what he is.”

“Now, now he is the High Leader’s Machine Master, it does no good to talk ill of him.”

“But he has just attacked the palace!”

“He has a point there.”

“Ya, I can’t see the High Leader tolerating this blatant an attack on his authority. I don’t care how useful you are, you pull something like this and you’re as good as dead.”

“Oh, I’d guess he’ll simply disappear into another dimension if he’s not coming out ahead on this one. “

(The head Marine returned) “Alright I have taken stock of our supplies, we have enough food and drinks to last about a month. Enough fuel for three months, and more than enough weapons to withstand a minor siege. We should be all set to sit this one out until help arrives.”

“Oh, if it gets that boring, we’ll leave a note and go somewhere else.”

“Still able to do that portal thing? Looks like you and the Machine Master have similar talents. I wonder if that is why he pulled this stunt? It certainly seemed like he was trying to lead the High Leader by the nose with some of his “achievements”. I am beginning to suspect he isn’t all he is cracked up to be.”

“Well, we’re mostly waiting to see if he shows up in person really. This is a bit excessive as a way to arrange a private appointment, but you never know what an eccentric will think is reasonable and it Is my job to talk to people.”

“How about we get it over with and call him?”

“I suspect the force field will block most local communications, since the Captain here hasn’t been monitoring since he entered the sealing code, and – in a technological universe – most of our magical and psychic methods have too short a range to scan for him. He knows where this is, or he wouldn’t have sent troops straight here – so if he wants to drop by and talk, it’s up to him.”

   That got them some really funny looks from the marines. Most of them were looking like they were seeing the group for the first time.

“So you guys really are from another universe then? Worlds not like this one?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh yes. Pretty much any world you can imagine is out there”

   They gave a brief introduction again, explaining that Marty was from Battling Business World, Kevin was from Faerie, and Jamie was from another weird alternate.

“I just figured it was more crazy diplomats here for the High Leader’s amusement. No offense please.”

“That’s okay, a lot of people think a walking talking cartoon character is nuts.”

“I thought he pretty much ran this solar system. Where would he get other diplomats from around here?”

“Well some of the other worlds in the Solar System make the appearance of going through negotiations with the High Leader. This seems to be mainly a pastime for the High Leader. Stereotypical, silly and amusing diplomats that cater to his personality tend to be encouraged. It also helps pacify the other worlds by giving the illusion of having input on the decision making around here. Let there be no mistake in who is actually in control though.”

   A translucent image of the Machine Master appeared in the center of the room just then.

“Ah, there you are. I was wondering when you’d get here.”

“Well bother”

“You can’t have any lunch though, since you’ve only sent an image.”

“Cute.”

“Oh come on, we can try!” (Marty attempted to feed the image a bagel)

“Now, you have gone to a lot of trouble to make this a private appointment; shall I have the marines here wait over in the armory? They’re military, they like weapons anyway.”

“I am going to have to ask you to please stop that with the bagel.”

“Ah well, it was worth a try.”

“Alright, although I suspect anything we say will be over their little heads anyway.”

   Kevin sent the marines away, and had them carry Pynthas. He was pretty well out anyway: Faerie wine was potent stuff. The cats kept the kids with them though: they were beneath the Machine Master’s notice anyway.

“Alright, we shall leave, but if you find yourself needing assistance, do not hesitate to call.”

   The Marines eyed the Machine Master as they left.

“Certainly. It’s always nice to meet people who take their jobs seriously but know when they’re over their heads. Now then: how can I help you?”

“Now why are you here? It is certain that there is more to your visit than mere trade and vacation agreements.”

   Kevin had to think about that for a moment and consult Marty. Was there really? Even snagging the kids with souls was really just trade, the only other reason was to keep the locals from bothering people. They had been trying to trace the meme-inventor, but – even if he was actually the Machine Master or something – the man was obviously mad enough that this really looked like a complete dead end. Any information to be found here would be filtered through the minds of complete maniacs, and wasn’t likely to be of any use.

   Marty couldn’t think of anything either.

“Primarily a courtesy call: you happened to be involved with a realm that we were working on yet another negotiation with, so we dropped by. Trade is good, the Fey like hosting vacationers, and I don’t like to see dimensions blown up with no good reason – and, since we didn’t know who or what was making gates, or on what system, that was quite possible. I’m sure you have already looked at the agreement we arrived at with the High Lord.”

   The Machine Master’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the group;

“Is that so? So people are not liking my opening gates for the “High Leader” (as he likes to call himself). I guess this was to be expected, funny that the response should take the form of ambassadors. Well bother. It appears that I may have overreacted then. Yes I did look at the agreement – although probably not as promptly as I should have in hindsight.”

“I suspect that every word the High Leader says is recorded for posterity anyway. As for not liking you opening gates – personally, I don’t especially care. Some realms react badly to intrusion – as noted, doing things like sending singularities back. Others are simply dangerous to open gates to. Since there’s no end of safe ones, it seems reasonable to show a few of them to anyone who needs space or resources. Personally, I wouldn’t have that Battletech universe for anything. Is there anything you need?”

“Yes, it did seem that that place was in heavy need of someone with half a brain.”

“Well, as I informed the minister of foreign affairs, it was created for a game that enjoyed a brief popularity about 500 years ago, and is a rather silly place.”

“Yeah, that place is silly. How are they supposed to keep those damn things up? My car’s not that complex, but I need to take it into the shop every few thousand miles for something! And why the hell do they even use mechs anyway! Stabbing’s more fun! And throwing them out the executive suite window!”

“Er… In Marty’s world, if you “die” you just wake up in bed – so they tend to settle all disagreements with low-level warfare. It’s very good for stress relief”

“Cute, sounds very much like a cartoon world to me.”

“Oh, it is.”

“Doing it in a nice suit is much less stressful too! You don’t get hot, you don’t have to worry about exploding, and it costs only a few hundred dollars to replace! I . . . just . . . don’t . . . get . . . it! (Marty wiped his head). I need a drink. But yeah, I’ve seen a lot of weird worlds. Like Baelaria, and Faerun.”

   Kevin handed Marty one of the leftover bottles from lunch.

“Sigh, it looks like I let my imagination get away from me. Now I will have to smooth things over with the High Leader. Curse my impatience. I suspect you will be leaving soon now that your negotiations are concluded?”

“Well, tell him you realized that the system would react to a gate in the palace as an attack, and send “holograms” to deal with abnormal intruders – and that you were trying to shut it down. As for leaving, certainly: we will, of course, uphold our end of the agreement before leaving.”

“I suppose that will work. It still might be prudent to eliminate those pesky witnesses you have stashed away in there with you. Although Pynthas may prove difficult to dispose of. The High Leader seems oddly fond of him.”

   Did this guy have the slightest idea of what he was really doing?

“Hmm . . . would taking them out of this universe do? I’m in the market for combat-trained people.”

“Well, the Marines know only that you dropped by, and wanted to talk amicably and privately – and that’s all that Pynthas knows either. Otherwise they just know that there was an attack by the defense system on the palace, and everyone around here knows that.”

“Well that would work. Call me paranoid I guess.”

“Ergo: you dropped by to apologize for the flaw in the defense system sensors, and didn’t want to do it in front of a bunch of people.”

“Fair enough.”

“After all, words to assist people in reaching amicable agreements is my job – and this is hardly the most confused or troublesome negotiation situation that I’ve encountered in the multiverse.”

“Now in about five minutes I suspect the Commanders will manage to get their overrides running. At which point the marines will arrive to “rescue” you. I shall speak with the High Leader in the meantime… I apologize for the disturbance.”

“Not a worry. I hope it goes well with the High Lord.”

   On the private channel, there echoed a single phrase – “Deserve each other do those two says Yoda.”

   Marty was willing to drink to that.

“Oh I haven’t lived this long in his presence by relying on luck.”

“Oh, I’d presume not, but it never hurts to have some.”

“Farewell then” (The image flickered and disappeared as Marty and Kevin bowed politely.)

   Marty and Kevin went back to the secure line…

“So, what do you think? Pull everyone we can out of here and let them bite each other to death?”

“Hey, it’s what I’ve been for the whole time.”

“We do seem to be singularly short of sympathetic types who need help around here – unless it’s the Pirate King Wrath Pei.”

   It was almost guaranteed that some of the marines had been spying – and a bit of thoughtsensing confirmed it; two of them were staying out of sight and within hearing distance. Kevin sent them a little voice;

“Well, that was silly. Do you REALLY want to be involved in this sort of thing? You might as well come out”.

“Noticed we were here huh? I suspect your weird talents is what helped you find us and not something we did wrong. Am I right?”

“Well. mostly it was logic. Talents only help if you know what to do with them.”

“Well, I find it best to at least have a cursory knowledge of what is going on so that I can make an informed decision about what to get involved in or not.”

“Well, in this case, if there is a war between the Machine Master and the High Lord, there will be a great deal of pointless destruction, possibly – if the Machine Master opens a gateway into a big bang or something equally silly – to the point of destroying your solar system. This would not be helpful. Ergo, best to defuse things, and I would recommend that you stay out of it – although, if you would like a job elsewhere, Marty is always hiring.”

“You can kill people for annoying you . . . and nobody does anything about it!”

“I’m not sure that that’s really a feature Marty…”

“I think it should be.”

“May not be a bad idea, working for a cartoon character can’t be much worse than this place.”

“Oh yeah, and we have more water than you might have seen in your life. And our meat is real.”

“I take it that you can resign if you want, but that normally you have nowhere else to go? Our agreement covers hiring people to assist with the training program for Gatekeepers, so if you want a job with Marty and I, you’re covered. If your friends would like one too, they’re covered as well.”

“I think I will take you up on the offer. And I suspect the others will too. Who knows, maybe in a few years all that will be left is the High Leader and the Machine Master yelling at each other.”

“Great! We can always use people who know how to kill in battling business!”

“I just hope that I don’t live to regret this.”

   (Kevin looked patient) “and there are lots of other jobs too. Multiversal trading calls for a big organization”.

   The rescue party arrived about then. There were several minutes of code confirmations and identity matches before the Captain opened the door.

“I am pleased to say that it is now safe to go outside.”

   Outside is a mess of smoking craters, glass shards, rubble, and occasional bodies.

   Kevin voted for making the contracted gates, delegating a few Thralls to operate them for the moment, getting the neodogs in to pick candidates (any kids with souls), and getting the hell out of the place: he hadn’t seen a side yet that he actually had the slightest desire to help do anything but escape.

   Marty agreed completely. It was one thing when he knew everybody would pop up fine the next day, but he had a lower tolerance for this thing when he was away from home.

   The neodogs could offer jobs to the adults with souls too. Excluding the High Lord, the Machine Master, and Pynthas: there COULDN’T be that many souls around the Five Worlds. Who’d want to live in it if they had a choice? The lifespans seem normal enough, so they’d be having the same sort of soul-fertility problems as Singular, and whatever souls they originally got surely wouldn’t have wanted to keep reincarnating in the place. Somebody could have stashed a lot of souls here somehow – but it was a lot easier to keep them in a place that they don’t mind being, so who’d bother? That was an “I made vast amounts of useless work for myself” strategy – unless, just maybe, the point would be to try and get them sick of being human.

   Fortunately they hadn’t wasted too much time on the entire project.

   They needed to check back on the Linear Developments – Kevin had started a pickup sweep there anyway – and they had a LOT of small projects running. They’d have to compile a list and see what they could delegate.

   They made their own gate to get out. It fit with the image they’d been projecting better than going back to the space station. Running the neodogs initial reports past a few statistics experts projected about 50,000 souls in the Five Worlds – and a fair chance at getting most of them out.

Munashii Ji (in Merenae, Volgaren) Courtier School.

   First up for today it’s a polished-up version of a school proposed by one of the Legend of the Five Rings players – an advanced school specifically for practitioners of Gaijin Void Magic.

   For many, the subtle and versatile power of the Recondite Weave – the Gaijin Void Magic of Merenae – is quite enough. After all, fully mastering the intricacies of its applications would require many lifetimes.

   Others search for deeper mysteries – and those too the Weave can supply; one need merely master the Relationship Theme and weave a link to a spirit who can instruct you in the lore you seek.

   Despite the fact that the secret lies within their grasp, and they need but close their fingers to claim what awaits them, many adepts never turn the key within the lock.

    For those who do, there is the Munashii Ji (Volgaren) Courtier School.

   Of course, they can also find a more mundane teacher, do the research themselves, or use the Learnings Theme as a shortcut – but where’s the fun in that?

   Munashii Ji focuses on awareness of the threads of elemental energy that hang within the Void and make up the great Tapestry of Reality – a multidimensional network of fathomless complexity. While the ordinary practitioner of the Recondite Weave focuses on gently attaching and manipulating individual threads, the practitioner of Munashii Ji first learns to effortlessly see the energies of the void and then learns to see the endless tides and patterns of universal energies and flow with them – gaining a quicksilver grace on both the physical and magical levels. True masters may easily strike at the fragile threads of magic or even let the echo or another’s pattern guide him in the use of their techniques.

   Still, not even the masters of the school truly know whether they wield the power of the void or whether that power wields them.

  • Basic Modifiers: Void +1, Glory 1, Status +1, Wealth 2, and Honor 2.5.
  • School Skills: Ceremony, Commerce, Defense, Divination, Lore / Magic Theory, Meditation, Investigation, Language / either Read or Speak Merenae, and any two other Lore Skills.

School Techniques:

   First Technique / The Eyes of the Void (Minimum Void of 3): You are now able to able to see the energies of the void at all times – perceiving magic, the auras of living creatures, and enough of the traces of void in all things to provide limited night sight (L3 Self-Powered Innate Supernatural Power, 9). Thanks to this enhanced perception you also gain double the normal Style bonuses from the Meditation skill (5) and a +1 on your effective Void rating when making rolls related to Void Magic or Meditation (5). As a side benefit, practitioners always learn to either read Merenae if they only speak it or to speak it if they only read it (1).

   Second Technique / Dancing with the Void (Minimum Void of 4): You are now attuned enough with the void to flow with it, gaining one extra action per round that you may use as you please (15). In addition, if given time – one full round in personal combat, one hour for battles, social, and other complex situations – you may study the flow of energy through situation and flow with it, allowing you to roll and keep one extra die when making skill or attribute checks dealing with a situation or opponent that you have thus studied. Sadly, you may only keep track of a total of (Intelligence + 2) specific situations and/or opponents at a time (bonus die in an uncommon situation, 6)

   Third Technique / The Threads of Fate (Minimum Void of 5): Your perceptions of the Void through the Eyes of the Void expand to the point where you can peer slightly ahead in time – gaining enough Combat Precognition to provide a +2K2 bonus to attacks, defense, and attempts to avoid other immediate menaces (increase Eyes of the Void to a L5 Innate Supernatural Power – which is what requires Void 5, +6). This heightened sensitivity also allows you to trade up to 4 rolled dice for kept dice on rolls for the Recondite Weave (5), allows you to take Weapon Style Elements in your Meditation Style or take a Style bonus which adds your Meditation skill rank to your Magic Resistance (Immunity to a rare limitation, 5), and adds +5 to your effective Meditation Skill Rank when calculating the number of Style Bonuses available (+5 Dice, counts as Skilled, but never rolled, 5. Note that additional Style bonuses accrue at effective skill ranks of 12 and 15).

   Fourth Technique / The Voidstorm Hand (Minimum Void of 6): Your mastery of the void enables you to attack spells, magical links, and void threads. To do so, you must study the effect for three rounds and then make an opposed void check against the creator of the targeted effect. If successful, the target effect is destroyed (15). Your ever-deepening perception of the Void also grants you double effect when you spend Void Points on Weave-related rolls (5).

   Fifth Technique / Echoes in the Void (Minimum Void of 6): Your perception of the world through the void is so great you may now copy any single technique you have recently witnessed up to (Void) times daily, maintaining the effect for up to (2x Intelligence) rounds. Unfortunately, you may not copy more than one technique at a time. (This is a level six self-powered innate spell, thus calling for the minimum void of 6. 18 points).

   Despite it’s throughly mystical prospective and focus on improving the user’s skills with Void Magic, Munashii Ji offers surprisingly good combat bonuses as well – albeit merely as a side effect of various void manipulations. For a character who is actually focused on the Recondite Weave – a field of magic which is versatile, subtle, and powerful, but which is also generally slow and has no direct combat applications at all – this is often vitally necessary. It still won’t make a specialist in the Weave a match for a serious combat specialist, but it should be quite enough to allow the user to defend himself or herself from bandits and other casual menaces. Of course, scraping up enough points to buy Void, levels in this school, weapons skills, AND ranks in the Recondite Weave may be somewhat difficult.

Latest Material Index

   Updated March 30

  It is once again time for a new Latest Material index, and for updating the main index tabs. As usual, you should be able to find most of the stuff that hasn’t made it into the main index tabs here. For the very latest material, you may have to just scroll down the page. The previous Latest Material index can be found HERE.

General Material:

d20 Material:

Legend of the Five Rings Material:

Godlike Material:

Shadowrun Material:

Exalted and World of Darkness Material

GURPS Material:

Taimushifuto Mugen Courtier School

   Today it’s something for the Legend of the Five Rings game – a very obscure Courtier School.

   Many people vaguely realize that Yume-Do stands outside of time – although few ever think on that fact too deeply. They dream of spirits, of people long dead, of possible futures, of strange (or nightmarish) alternate worlds – and they dismiss those dreams with the dawn, allowing them to vanish like mist. Some few have learned to exploit such visions, drawing a rich harvest from the seas of dream – sending dreams to themselves and others in the past, foreseeing possible futures and preparing therefor, and revealing long-set plans to meet contingencies that they had not even imagined an hour ago.

   Sadly, there are reasons why humans do not normally sail and trade upon the seas of dream. To do so too much or too often will lead to confusion over time and place within Ningen-Do, to a tendency to be bemused by the realm of dreams while waking, and even – in extreme cases – to memory-problems such as the Nezumi (who too walk within the realm of dreams) are prone to.

   The Taimushifuto Mugen Courtier School focuses on using the timeless properties of the realm of dream – and every mortals regular nightly access thereto – to arrange the world to suit themselves. While it offers little or nothing in the way of direct “power”, it is a manipulators school Par Excellence. Indeed, it’s practitioners rarely confront any situation directly: it is easier to set things up so that someone else will deal with a situation for you than it is to do anything about it yourself. Unfortunately, for all the power they can bring to bear, the Taimushifuto Mugen practitioners tend to be personally abstracted, confused, and distracted to the point where they need a personal keeper. A loyal Yojimbo is highly advisable.

  • Basic Modifiers: Void +1, Glory 1, Status 1, Wealth 4, and Honor 1.5
  • School Skills: Courtier, Defense, Divination, Etiquette, Investigation, Lore/History, Meditation, Spellcraft, Theology, War Fan, and two of choice.

   First Technique/Souseiki: The user will have nightly precognitive dreams (5). He or she may claim (Rank+2) Favors per session, ranked at (Skill Used/2) using Courtier to obtain political favors, Etiquette to gain items of equipment, Battle to obtain military services, Commerce to obtain funds, and Investigation to obtain various sorts of information (15). May spend a Void Point up to (Rank+2) times per session to obtain supernatural services ranked at (Skill Used/2) – using Spellcraft to obtain spellcasting and magical services, Divination to attempt to manipulate Fate, and Instruction to attempt to gain training and aid from various types of spirits (10, -5 for the Void Point requirement = 5). Unfortunately, thanks to his or her strong attunement to the realms of dream, he or she suffers minor difficulties in paying attention under casual circumstances – often bumping into walls, stepping into holes, and otherwise seeming half-asleep. He or she will rarely be entrusted with anything too important (-5).

   Second Technique/Shuukakuji: +2 each Fire, Air, Earth, and Water for the purposes of calculating rank-derived political positions points only (20). This effectively provides a +4 to the user’s effective rank for the purposes of accumulating Political Position Points. These extra points may, however, only be spent on buying Contingencies (-5). The user may select five of the skills he or she uses to obtain favors: each of those skills is counted as being one rank higher for the purpose of determining the rank of the favors he or she can obtain (+1 Die, counts as Skilled, only for calculating the level of favors available 10 – 5 = 5).

   Third Technique/Omoide Ounen: The user’s five selected skills are now counted as being two ranks higher for the purposes of determining what rank of favors he or she can obtain (5). The user is now so closely attuned to the realms of dream that he or she no longer ages (Immunity to Aging, 5). The user may now take an extra full action each turn – moving, spellcasting, attacking, or whatever (15). Unfortunately, the user will now often become confused as to just where and when he or she is – being inclined to casually forget the year and location. He or she will also tend to blurt out observations, bits of prophecy, and similar items at random times. Most people will assume that he or she is more than a little mad (-5).

   Fourth Technique/Jikanhanten: The user’s five selected skills are now counted as being three ranks higher for the purposes of determining what rank of favors he or she can obtain (5). The user is now presumed to have arranged favors in the past when he or she calls for them in the present (Immunity to the usual Time Requirements for obtaining Favors, 5). Whenever someone spends a void point within (Intelligence x 10) feet, the user may make a contested void check against them to gain one themselves up to a limit of their normal base or (2 x Void) extra void points in any one day, whichever comes first (10).

   Level Five Technique/Gyakusetsu Touhi: The user’s five selected skills are now counted as being four ranks higher for the purposes of determining what rank of favors he or she can obtain (5). The user may also spend a void point to evade a situation entirely. He or she was never there, any personal resources the user employed EXCEPT the void point needed to activate this technique were never used, and no one else will remember the user being there – but the condition of anyone else involved in the situation is otherwise unchanged (20). Unfortunately, the user is now subject to the same memory-problems as the Nezumi, and must make a raw intelligence check with a TN of 15 to remember things from more than a week ago unless they’re very personal, important, or exciting (-5).

   In theory, this is a casualty-breaking time manipulation school. In practice, that’s mostly just an excuse for a massive dose of contingencies and instant favors – things that would normally take some time, but you get instantly because you “arranged them awhile back” (long before the player or character actually knew what would be required). The final technique obviously is either a time-paradox or really powerful reality-warping technique – but it’s basically just a way to make a contribution and then escape, not an actual time-travel effect. Overall this is a useful school for a heavy-duty manipulator who wants to always have something in reserve and to manipulate really large-scale events by calling in powerful “favors” (described as changing the past so that other people wind up doing what you wanted)- but you can’t REALLY go back and become your own grandfather or something.  That probably wouldn’t fit in with most L5R games anyway.

Black Marty

   Black Marty is another role for Marty Tabard, a wanderer of the infinite dimensions of the Manifold.

   While it often passes unnoticed in these days of flits, spaceships, and convenient dimensional gates, there is one realm that touches more world-borders than any other, that has a thousand sub-realms that fade into each other so smoothly that only subtle shifts in the local technological rules reveal the change, and which quietly carries a greater share of the Manifold’s trade and adventurers than any other.

   The High Seas. A realm where reed boats, wooden boats, fiberglass yachts, iron ships, and seahorse-drawn chariots meet and mix, where a perilous voyage may bring you to shores of legend, and where it is always best to hang onto your purse and keep your sword and pistol handy.

   Oddly enough, Marty, Corporate Raider, fits in WONDERFULLY well on the High Seas. Whether you find him captaining a free trader, leading of a swarm of Vikings, or commanding a pirate ship, Black Marty is ready to loot and pillage the High Seas of International Finance!

   Unusually, the High Seas tends to overlap a bit with other realms: you don’t stop being a pirate captain just because you’ve gone ashore; you stop being a pirate captain when you get beyond the influence of the sea – or intentionally move on into another local role.

   As a note, anyone with a High Seas Identity gets +3 SP worth of Shiphandling (waterborne ships only, a narrow (+5 training) intelligence-based skill) while in that role.

   Black Marty is a level four role, and therefore provides 32 CP worth of special abilities – plus the bit of Shiphandling noted above. In Marty’s case, these include:

  • Privilege/Ship Captain (3 CP).
  • Executive with CEO and Tactician. Specialized for half cost and Corrupted for 1.5x the usual effect: only works on vikings, pirates, and other freebooters who acknowledge his formal leadership (9 CP). Since Marty is currently level six, this will provide up to (Charisma x 7) followers with bonuses of +4 to their skill checks and +2 to hit and damage.
  • Reputation: a great (and rather ruthless) Captain/Leader. Corrupted: Marty must actively identify himself and display his black-and-crimson corporate logo for this to work. This makes any attempt to deny his identity somewhat useless (4 CP).
  • Favors from the Sea and Weather Spirits (3 CP)
  • Berserker and Enduring: +4 to Str and +4 to Dex for (3+Con Mod) rounds (1+L/3) times per day with no fatigue afterwards. Corrupted: this can only be used during flashy action scenes, not to help with picking locks, climbing walls, or similar convenient but non-actiony times (6 CP).
  • Improved and Superior Presence: Corrupted and Specialized: Only works while actively brandishing a weapon, being conspicuous, and being an obvious target to attack. Followers get a +2 Morale Bonus to Attack, Damage, Saves, and Checks. Marty gains a +4 to any relevant social skill roll. Attackers must make a Will save at (DC 13 + Cha Mod) or be unable to attack. (6 CP).
  • +1 SP worth of Watercraft Navigation. That’s a narrow (+5 training) intelligence-based skill (+2x Int Mod, for a net +8), resulting in a base skill of +14 (1 CP).
  • He also gets a free Shiphandling skill of +16 (0 CP).

   Marty is considering picking up the Mystic Artist ability – allowing him to even further inspire his men with his oratory – but hasn’t done so yet. It remains to be seen whether he’ll add that ability to his base character or experiment with it in an identity first.

“Surrender, ye scallywags, or I’ll make ye walk the plank!”

   Within the overall Manifold setting, characters may drop into various roles as they move from world to world. Their basic talents remain the same, although individual realms may restrict magic, psionics, technology, or other abilities – but they may also adopt Identities in particular worlds, each granting a particular package of abilities for use within that world – and it’s always nice to be able to keep your basic character while exploring the possibilities of new powers and abilities.

Federation-Apocalypse 52: The High Lord and the Little Children

   The High Lord was pretty receptive. Kevin and Marty wanted permission to trade (which he was eager to do), permission to hire a tiny part of the excess population (a benefit rather than a cost), and permission to let people visit “Faerie” on their vacations (an arrangement that offered many potential benefits and was – at worst – irrelevant). In “exchange” for doing him those favors they were willing to provide gates, worlds, near-infinite living space and resources, and were willing train candidates – another tiny percentage of the useless children about – to loyally operate gates for him.

   They were vaguely implying that a sizable majority of the youngsters would wash out of the training, and that those youngsters wouldn’t be coming back because they’d be dangerous, socially disruptive, badly damaged, detained in faerie, or some such – but that wasn’t especially relevant. The solar system had a trillion kids available; if his visitors wanted a few hundred thousand of them for something, as long as they kept the screams from reaching the population at large, it would be a small price to pay.

   Kevin and Marty – busily focusing their talents on the negotiations – were rather surprised at how easily things went. Evidently the High Lord really didn’t care about his people at all, had no clue as to the difference between ensouled people and phantasms, and probably felt that the group had been sent by fate to help him achieve his destiny. All he wanted was a few resources worlds and gates into the step-function galaxy. A megalomaniac was easy to deal with as long as you played to his obsessions.

   It was a deal. There was a great display of gaudy festivities and many questionable fanfares.

“Ah good, good, I do so love it when people come to me and give me what I want. It just feels so…. right. Now if only some other people would learn from your example”.

   Well, that about said it all right there.

   Kevin made a show of enjoying the festivities and called for a contingent of NeoDogs to start picking out the potential trainees; it would take them a little while to get to the access point, but he wanted to get started as soon as possible. It didn’t look like the youngsters who got picked out would really be getting a choice about it: it was pretty obvious that Martian children and their parents would get to “discuss it” – with a healthy official reminder that this was what the High Lord and government wanted. It would be “good for the people and for Mars” if they would “go and train”. Other kids would simply get a little time to say goodbye; there would be no nonsense about giving them even a pretense of a “choice”.

   Well, that was fine. It would be hard to imagine any kid – and Kevin intended to try to hire most of the parents if he could – being worse off in Kadia than here.

“It is one of the wonderful things about the Manifold: so often, what is wanted badly in one realm, is of little value in another.”

   Weird. Could’ve sworn I saw one of his camera lenses sparkle at that… Oh. Another blatantly obvious thought “And whoever can control the critical trade routes, whether natural or artificial, get the profits”.

   Meanwhile, Marty was putting on a good face and trying not to be obviously disgusted by the displays of wealth and power. Black tie dinners back home were bad enough! He was a rich man, but he don’t stick it everyone’s faces!

   Kevin couldn’t argue there. Even the Dragonworlds didn’t normally go to this kind of extreme! Ostentatious wealth and waste when your “minimum wage” is “you get to barely survive another day; too bad if you’re supporting someone or sick for a bit” – was pretty bad. If it was at all possible, he was going to be strip-mining this realm of souls. He’d hire the adults for various jobs and recruit the kids. That depended a lot on how many there actually turned out to be though. He wouldn’t be able to get away with a large percentage of the general population of Mars actually had souls, but if it was only a few hundred thousand out of a few billion, he might. Marty could take his pick of the combat trained adults, focusing on those with spaceship-boarding experience. Kevin kind of suspected that his success percentage might not bee too bad in the Five Worlds. It looked like the locals were very used to doing what they’re told and to being property of the High Leader.

   Despite the music and the festivities, every once in a while Marty could hear someone getting the brunt of the wrath of the High Leader – little explosions of anger which sent aids scurrying away like mice from a cat. Evidently those near the High Leader were poor insurance risks. There were lot’s of shouts along the lines of “Find him”, “He Never comes when I ask”, “One of these days, he will outlive his usefulness, or just annoy me to the point I no longer care” and an oft-repeated “Pynthas, you stupid twit.”

   There weren’t any summary executions of disappointing underlings at the party – but Kevin and Marty suspected that that was primarily because they were dragged out back for the executions; blood all over the place spoiled clothes and festive moods.

   They started the “Talking Dogs leading Illegal and Desperate Kids to Faerieland (Kadia)” campaign in the Linear Realms while they were waiting. That should reduce the pressure on the local authorities a bit and it would get the kids out of the crossfire.

   Apparently the High Lord was looking for Sam-Sei, the Martian Machine Master. Pynthas was one of the Ministers of Mars. Although the databases had several titles for him, few if any seemed to have any real authority. He served as an attendant for the High Leader and had been associated with him for at least fifteen years – by far the longest time anyone had survived in such close proximity to the High Leader. He also screamed a lot, liked setting up balls, festivals, entertainment, and the like, and tended to be the bearer of bad news. Evidently the local jester.

   About then there was a quieter fanfare – announcing Sam-Sei, the Machine Master of Mars.

   That quieted things down a bit.

   The Machine Master went in for a veil and a set of all-enveloping robes in gray and black. Liked his anonymity apparently – and drew almost as much attention as the High Leader. It was looking like three major power players – the Machine Master, the High Leader, and Wrath Pei the Pirate Lord. OK, for all they knew, Pynthas could be one; it would be funny if the High Leader was actually trapped in a body that Pynthas was running remotely as a decoy from himself. There was a mind in there, but it still could be trapped and raving mad. Still, that didn’t seem at all likely.

“Yes, High Leader? I am aware that you requested my presence. Is there something you require?”

“Ah Sam-Sei, better late than never, although you are trying my patience. I wanted you to meet these ambassadors that have recently arrived. I thought you might find it interesting that someone might be able do better than you. I was wanting to discuss your performance lately and how we might improve upon that.”

   The High Leader came over with Sam-Sei and Pynthas in tow.

“I would like to introduce you to our local Machine Master, Sam-Sei. A rather talented individual that has made himself useful from time to time.”

“I am most pleased to meet you sir: your inventions are quite remarkable – and far more widely applicable across the world than my more specific talents”.

“The same. I’m just a humble contractor, so it’s an honor.”

   The Machine Master seemed disgusted at having to fool around with pleasantries – but after he got a good look at the group he suddenly seemed to be paying more attention.

“I am honored you have heard of my work. Most of my work is merely extensions of what others have already developed. Nothing that would interest the pair of you.”

   The Machine Masters cocked his head for a moment, looked startled, and quickly darted his eyes from Kevin back towards the main throne room – where Kevin had created the gate – stared hard for a moment, and then looked back again. He then kept his gaze locked on Kevin. Either a strong psychic who sensed the gate and – probably – Kevin’s power, some local unique gift, or another Opener. Not enough data to be sure. He wasn’t leaking any surface thoughts though – so the group ran through the ambassadorial introduction thing again. The Machine Master watched the introduction with an emotionless stare. It was hard to tell though the veil, but the man never seemed to blink. Either another local psychotic or a good imitation. Perhaps he was just using local-rules tech to make gates and travel around? It might fit with that body the High Leader was in.

   Daniel hadn’t used any spells recently, so he could easily run a quick “detect offrealm technology and energies” spell. The Machine Master was surrounded by lots of weird energies, had a significant mana reserve, and was carrying quite a bit of off-realm technology. Definitely not a local. He kept the communications on the private mental link – and eveyone kept to the secure smartfiber links, neural pickups, and inner-ear feeds as much as possible. Gatekeeper at a minimum, quite possibly an Opener; he may or may not know much of anything though. A lot of Openers are more interested in wandering around than in dimensional theory – and more than a few are entirely nuts. Of course most “adventurers” – which made up the bulk of Gatekeepers and Openers – were nuts by definition.

“A talented group indeed. I must keep that in mind for the future. Most fortuitous of us that you decided to come and help negotiate with the High Leader and prevent some awful tragedy from occurring due to a misunderstanding. I can just imagine the High Leader asking me to divert a Singularity being flung at the Sun. I swear at times he doesn’t comprehend what he is asking for!” That got him a cold, bright, stare from the High Leaders highbeam eyes.

“Well, once such a thing has arrived, it becomes extremely awkward to do anything about it – and even if you can, it takes forever to fix all the disturbed orbits.”

“Yes indeed, moving planets is not an easy task.”

“All powers have their limitations”

“And there’s the loss of life too. So many people wasted.”

   Marty’s casual remark suddenly had the High Leader tapping his chin thoughtfully. Might they have set something off? He be seriously considering dimensional weapons, or what they might really want kids for, or something – but it didn’t seem likely to impact their deal. The High Leader wouldn’t think of trading some kids in exchange for more resources as a “waste” – but he might be thinking of the Oort cloud and all the people now effectively beyond his reach. Having them available just through a gateway would be far more convenient. Well, they’d find out sooner or later – and it didn’t matter as long as they could get them away in one piece. He might try to analyze a few that didn’t volunteer to see what their “talent” was, but that wouldn’t get him anywhere – although it might be hard on his test subjects. Not much to be done about that; they couldn’t usually rescue EVERYBODY.

“All powers do have their limitations, but then if they had no limitations to speak of, there would be no point in pushing ourselves as far as we can, is there?”

“True, true – and there are so many places to negotiate trade agreements with! Without visitors, the realms of the Fey would grow dull indeed!”

“And so many with useful stuff to try and take advantage from.”

   Well, that was a rather blatant declaration from Mr Machine Master. Still, if he wants something, he was going to have to get a little more blatant: they could keep up the bland pleasantries indefinitely, since they already had most of what they wanted from the Five Worlds. Was he waiting for the High Lord to make a move, say something, or go away?

“But I must admit, I have much work the High Leader expects me to do, and so I have little time to pursue my own goals. I must bid you farewell or else face the wrath of our illustrious High Leader. Farewell.”

“I regret that out meeting must be so short, but duty always takes priority.”

   The Machine Master headed off, but snatched a datapad from an attendant on the way; the attendant began to protest before seeing who had taken it.

   The group used some minor clairvoyance to see what he was up to.

   Evidently the high leader was still very pleased with their deal; he actually tried to smooth over the Machine Masters rudeness.

“I must apologize for him, he is so useful but has yet to learn to give proper respect.”

“When one is used to dealing with machines and energies, it is easy to forget your social graces. The type is not unfamiliar.”

   Meanwhile the Machine Master was entering a fast series of keystrokes – and pulling up System Administrator Privileges. A few more hurried keystrokes and he was logged into the Mars Defense System.

   Kevin recorded the keystrokes via the neural pickups; you never know when that access might be handy – and if a giant laser beam came through the ceiling, they’d know why.

   Marty felt that such a contingency would really brighten his mood.

   Hm. There was a reflective surface in about the right position. Another little witchcraft illusion – a bright gleam to catch the High Lords eye and a glimpse of whatever Mr Machine Master was up to; it was virtually certain that the High Lord had telescopic vision available. The man was moving, so there was a good reason for it to not last too long. If it didn’t work, well, the cost was very small.

   The High Leader’s attention snapped to the reflection – and he promptly shoved some of the party-goers out of the way to help adjust the angle a bit.

“What in the world? (He called over a man dressed as a guard.) Yes, I said find him. Get these people out of here while you are at it and I want the overrides activated! PYNTHAS!”

   It was always sort of gratifying when you could make this much trouble with so little power.

   Pynthas came running up with a terrified look on his face.

“Yes High Leader?”

   Kevin thought that the Machine Master had been enjoying his own private realm and being worshiped as a genius for importing a little tech – and was not too happy to have some fresh air coming through.

“Damn it, quit trembling! I need you to take our guests to one of the secure locations we have discussed. You are to do this without fail or else you will live to regret it. You are to take what guards you can and wait for me and only me. Do you understand? And I told you to quit trembling!”

   Pynthas’ face went white and he tried to stammer out a reply, but merely managed a nod. It looked like they might REALLY have started something. Hopefully it wouldn’t waste all that effort and power they’d put into negotiating.

“Now I am afraid a little situation has come up and I must ask that in order to ensure the safety of my guests, I must ask you to follow Pynthas for the time being.” (Not a very good sentence: evidently the man was seriously agitated).

“If you are sure that you will not need assistance?”

“That depends on how good you are at dealing with holograms.”

   Presumably local terminology there, since images on a surface weren’t usually a big worry.

“Holograms, High Leader? What’s the problem?”

“It appears that the Machine Master has outlived his usefulness. He has proceeded to activate the Mars Orbital Holographic Satellite Projectors and that alone is worth me killing him. But he was also entering in targeting data for this palace. And in a few minutes, unless my people can get the overrides I had put in place activated, we are going to be dealing with about 20 or so energy projections in roughly human form. What he thinks this will accomplish is beyond me.”

“Some people react badly to the loss of a monopoly I fear.”

“I seriously expected him to be a little more mature about this. Ah well. Luckily I had shield generators installed in my thorax for just such an occasion “

   Marty was feeling like a fight – on the other hand, he didn’t like the High Lord, and was more than a bit averse to helping him out. He didn’t want to let him know that they were more than talkers and gate experts either. He voted to let Pynthas take them to the secure location.

“We shall retire then.”

   Darn it. They’d been hoping that they could score a clean “strip mine the dimension” and get away with the High Lord none the wiser. Nothing was ever simple. Besides: Kevin was against dying. He was quite sure he could come back – but having Ryan suck his soul into the Abyss that first time hadn’t been a pleasant experience and there was stuff in his pockets that he didn’t want to lose.

Shamanism, the Agnostic Faith

   Today, it’s a bit on shamanic characters and traditions.

   Shamanism is unique. In many ways, it is the worlds only personalized agnostic religion.

   You generally don’t choose to become a Shaman (unless you’re a con artist and are simply faking the symptoms). It just happens. You either start seeing things that no one else can see, hearing voices that others cannot hear, or having intuitive feelings that seem unjustified to others. For a full Shaman, after a while, it will usually be more than one of those things. This may or may not progress to full-blown out-of-body experiences. If it does, it may or may not then progress until you can perceive or have visions of some sort of “other world” or worlds.

  • If you only feel and/or hear, you’re a “Sensitive”.
  • If you only see, you have “The Sight”.
  • If the things you see or hear interact with you in some fashion, you’re a “Medium”.
  • If you can communicate in some vaguely coherent fashion with the things you see and/or hear, you’re a “Shaman”.

   If doing so produces some sort of results, you’re a competent Shaman. If those results extend beyond shrewd guesses, suggestion, personal practices (such as herbalism), and placebo effects, then you’re probably not schizophrenic or seriously deluded – although there’s nothing mutually exclusive about being crazy AND being in touch with something weird.

   Being able to at least apparently directly influence the things you interact with in some fashion, being able to have controllable out-of-body experiences, or being able to visit some “other world” while in a trance makes you a stronger or crazier Shaman, but is in no way required for the job.

   Shamans who do seem to perceive some sort of “other world” often acknowledge that their perception is highly subjective and that others may see other worlds entirely different – or may not even be perceiving the same one. There is no unified geography, set of symbols, or even true general principles to the “other worlds”.

   Shamans may believe that they’re unconsciously interacting with mysterious natural forces, and that they simply perceive them in their own idiosyncratic fashion. They may describe the things they see or hear as “psychic constructs”, or “gods”, or “spirits”, or “angels”, or “demons”, or “fairies”, or “spirits”, or “personifications”, or any of a hundred other things – but they usually see them as having personalities of some sort. Of course, people in general are notorious for seeing a wide variety of inanimate objects as having personalities of some sort… Shamans often believe that they’re communicating with spirits as they’re described in whatever culture they’re from – but that isn’t a requirement.

   Some such entities may be willing to do things when communicated with, whether in response to requests, in response to trickery, or in accordance with their own natures. Others may ask for various exchanges of favors – whether those are seen as a literal exchange of services, as unconscious rituals to focus a Shamans personal “power”, as appeasement, as honors, as worship or offerings, or as magical rituals. Others may want to form some sort of pact or bargain (wise Shaman usually avoid that sort of thing if the deal is too complex or asks for anything too nasty). Still others may be hostile, to be avoided, fought, or warded off in whatever fashion can be managed.

   Ergo, the minimum “union requirements” for being a Shaman look something like this:

  1. I perceive that there is stuff out there that does stuff or possesses information that I do not.
  2. That stuff at least appears to be intelligent.
  3. I seem to be able to interact with that stuff in a way that most people do not.
  4. I occasionally seem to get useful results from doing so.
  5. The experience is highly subjective – however
  6. I don’t think I’m entirely crazy. (The is the only “faith” that shamanism calls for).
  7. With any luck, a Shaman can also add:
    1. I have some degree of influence with or over said stuff.

   Now, as soon as a Shaman decides that his interpretation of things is congruent with reality, rather than representing his impression thereof, he has taken the first step towards religion – but a forgivable one. Most people’s instinctive inclination is to believe their senses. Most Shamans continue to recognize that the experiences and perceptions of other Shamans can and will differ. Once a Shaman concludes that his interpretation is necessarily correct, and begins to impress it on other people who lack his or her special (or insane) perceptions, then you have a religion. You no longer really have shamanism though.

   In practice, various traditions and game systems may assign a “Shaman” a wide variety of other powers and abilities, but those are all optional extras. The core of it lies in

  1. Weird stuff happens.
  2. I have been chosen to deal with it.
  3. I depart from the normal patterns of my life.
  4. I receive questionable Aid and/or Guidance from forces I do not clearly understand.
  5. I undertake strange risks, tasks, and quests to deal with the weird stuff.
  6. I transcend normal limitations, and succeed.
  7. I return (sometimes reluctantly), and share the benefits.

   Does that seem familiar somehow? It should. That’s the basic outline of the Heroes Journey – the same basic quest-structure that you find in myths around the world.

   In fact, there are many other reasons why classical Shamans make exceptionally GOOD characters. They can receive strange information or advice from semi-trusted sources at any moment, their talents are primarily driven by personal interactions rather than by game mechanics, they are easy to tie tightly into the setting, the requests from their “entities” are an endless source of quests and plot devices, they can interact with both the living and the dead (and thus keep a player with a deceased character busy until a new one can be introduced or something can be done about the death), they’re each unique – with powers and abilities determined by whatever entities they’re working with – and, since the game master must help define what those entities are, he or she is necessarily fully aware of all their resources and can readily customize their abilities to fit them into his or her game.

   Personally, I found that the people playing “classical” Shamans had a lot of fun dealing with the entities, enjoyed the surprise of “what shall I get involved with next?” and “what will my next spirit contact turn out to be?”, and found a great deal of amusement in figuring out ways in which to apply their collection of eccentric talents to what was going on at the moment. Finding ways to apply the abilities granted by a bear-spirit and a forest-spirit to a diplomatic negotiation at court called for a good deal of creativity, and made for some very enjoyable play.

   Here are the original Continuum II rules for Shamans. Why? Why not? The rules were intended to be modular anyway, and maybe someone will find some inspiration here.

   “Shamans” include houngan, wisewomen, witchdoctors, hedge-wizards, and a wide variety of other “primitive” mages. Unlike more sophisticated magic-wielders, shamans need little discipline, practice, or instruction, requiring only some talent and a willingness to “talk to” almost anything. Like any other cleric, shamans draw their powers from attuning their minds to other entities and tapping into their powers. Unlike other clerics, they make no attempt to attune their minds to any one being or type of beings. Instead, they simply tap whoever or whatever is willing to assist them. Elementals and Nature Spirits (Manitou). Demons. Gods. Faerie. Normal material beings. Undead. Empyreal spirits. Conceptual entities. Cosmic forces. Alien Powers from Beyond. Whatever. While this offers them a wide variety of powers, and is easy enough to leave them a lot of time to practice other skills, it also leaves them with no way of knowing what contacts or abilities they will acquire, incomplete attunements resulting in relatively weak powers, and a tendency to be just a bit mad due to having various sections of their minds linked to a variety of wildly differing beings. While a shamans list of “contacts” is normally determined at random, they may choose to have a special affinity for a particular type of spirit. Such shamans roll on the appropriate “affinity” subtable rather then the usual, general, table when determining their “contacts”. Note that this makes acquiring such a contact more likely – it doesn’t guarantee it.

   Shamans begin with (Chr/3) initial “spirit contacts”, and gain an additional contact for each level they gain beyond the first.

   As contacts are made through mental affinity, the contact must somehow “fit” the shaman. The “fit” may be a bit bizarre, but it will be there. While shamans have no control over the class or power of the spirits they contact, they do have considerable influence over their personality and abilities. To represent this, the game master should consult the player to come up with something playable after determing the contacts basic type. The final determination is always up to the game master, but if the player is seriously dissatisfied, then the game master is doing something wrong.

   Shamans begin with five major and five minor skills selected from those available to rogues (I guess I’ll have to put them up next, so that those skills will at least be listed) and from their own, unique, lists given below. Technologically based skills are usually an exception, but the GM may choose to allow them if the character has a good rationale.

   When purchasing Talents, due to the great variety of energies they tap, shamans can “buy” some talents more cheaply then usual. Any of the gramayre “personal energies” talents, and a few thematic psychic gifts (notably; Beastmaster and Medium, others may be permitted at the option of the game master), for two-thirds of the usual “cost”, rounded off. Greater Mental Stability is a 3-point talent that greatly reduces the effects of a shamans usual progressive insanity, although it cannot entirely negate them.

   While the majority of the rogue table applies to shamans without modification, their special abilities do differ, as shown in the next column.

Level

Aura

Special Abilities

 

Level

Aura

1

2/1

Spirit Combat

 

13

40/6

2

3/1

Empyrean Mastery II

 

14

45/6

3

5/2

Empyrean Projection

 

15

50/7

4

7/2

Minor Insanity

 

16

55/7

5

9/3

Patron Spirit

 

17

60/7

6

12/4

Empyrean Mastery III

 

18

66/8

7

15/4

Place Of Power

 

19

72/8

8

18/4

Major Insanity

 

20

80/8

9

22/5

Reputation

 

21

88/9

10

26/5

Medicine Lodge

 

22

96/9

11

30/5

Position

 

23

105/9

12

35/6

Students (1-2 only)

 

24

115/10

   Shamans deal extensively with the empyrean plane – the realm of dream, imagination, and the psyche which serves as the medium for psychic powers and invocation magic. Unlike most clergy, shamans have both a natural talent for, and lots of practice in, fooling around with the empyrean plane itself, as well as with the spirits they invoke. The potency of these linked abilities is measured by Aura – but their exact abilities depend on the skills they have developed. The first number given under Aura is a measure of the shamans total power, the second is the maximum they can expend in any single action. The relevant skills make up the Empyrean Mastery list.

   All shamans develop the power to channel aura into psychic or “spiritual” combat, and will develop other abilities at levels two and six (shamans who already possess all the empyrean mastery skills gain an additional “major” skill or contact instead). Eventually shamans are able to find a Patron Spirit. While the spirits choose the shamans, in game terms, the choice is more or less up to the player – although the GM may offer advice. As the shaman can draw on the powers of his sponsor via Aura, the choice is of considerable importance. Common patrons include Totems (the great bear, the raven, etc), who grant the shaman animalistic powers and skills, Conceptual Spirits (truth, death, the north wind, etc), who grant various weird abilities – and Divine Beings (Ra, Odin, Curennos, etc), who grant abilities appropriate to their various portfolios. While other spirits can serve as sponsors, they are considerably less common. Shamans may choose to channel or tap the powers of their patron – but not both. Channeling is far more potent, creating effects with a rank roughly equal to the number of aura points used, but isn’t entirely under the users control. Tapping the patrons energies allows the shaman to control the results, but limits the effects to a rank of about half the number of points expended. Both methods are, of course, subject to the usual aura “spending limit”.

   A shamans individual Place Of Power offers a +2/10% bonus on rolls having to do with his personal powers – and a +1/5% bonus on rolls of almost any type. Similar places elsewhere give, at best, a +1/5% bonus on rolls related to the shamans personal powers – since much of this effect is due to the gradual build-up of residual energies from the shamans works. The type of place is up to the shaman, Common choices for a place of power include wilderness glades, hidden caves, mountians and peaks, henges, ancient crypts, old temples, and so on. A shamans Reputation extends to the spirit worlds, and is often a much more powerful tool there then it is in the material world. Shamans with a particular affinity for one type of spirit will have a stronger reputation with that type – but it doesn’t normally extend beyond them. A Medicine Lodge is a bundle of supplies and odd bits of stuff which can be set up in a few hours. Once set up, the medicine lodge counts as a “similar” place of power, providing the usual +1/5% benefit. When the shaman reaches level eleven, he/she may opt to claim a Position. Such positions carry a variety of benefits and special responsibilities, and are fixed once chosen. The exact position desired must be negotiated with the GM, since shamanic positions can be very strange. Some few examples might include : “The Guardian Of The Gates Of Dawn”, “Speaker For The Mountains”, “Moon Caller”, and “Spirit Guide”. Any Students which a shaman eventually acquires sill either be lesser shamans or members of a class specializing invoking the shamans affinity group (if any). Thus a shaman with an affinity for “Manitou” will get shamans or witches. Shamans may expend “bonus points” to acquire “familiar spirits”, gaining one per point so expended. As a final note, Shamans can delay their tendency towards insanity by spending some skill points on things like “psychology”, “self discipline”, or “meditation”. Each point so used delays the effects one level, and moderates the effects when they finally do occur.

Major Shamanic Skills

  • Empyreal Energies Sublist: Enhanced Aura, Iron Will, Repulsions, Shapechanging, Soulcarrier, and Spirit Paths.
  • Arcane Lore Sublist: Ceremonial Magic, Circle Magic, Countermeasures, Empowerment, Naturalist, and Sympathetic Links.
  • Binding Words Sublist: Maledictions, Nymic Magic, Oathbinder, Runemastery, Tribal Lore, and Voice Queuing
  • Empyrean Mastery Sublist: Dream Mastery, Manifestation, Mindscaping, Residue Manipulation, Scrying, and Spirit Binding.
  • Physical Travels Sublist: Bivouac, Pathfinder, Retainers, Stamina, Travel Hardening, and Wilderness Lore.
  • Spirit Links Sublist: Bonus Contacts, Dark Temptation, Environmental Shield, Evocation, Heightened Attribute, and Minor Symbiont

Shamanic Spirit Contacts:

Basic

Table

Specialist

Table

Divine

Beings

 

Basic

Table

Specialist

Table

Empyreal Spirits

01

01-02

Major

 

61-75

01-45

Ancestral

02

04-06

Minor

 

76-80

56-60

Random Human

03-05

07-24

Demigod

 

81-83

61-71

Minor Entity

06-10

25-40

Trivial

 

84

72-75

Major Entity

 

41-00

Roll Basic

   

76-00

Roll Basic

   

Material

Subtable

     

Alien Entities

11-14

01-24

“Human”

 

85-86

01-05

Minor

15

25-32

Minor

Nonhuman

 

87

06-09

Major

16-17

33-45

Major

Nonhuman

 

88

10-12

Transcendent

 

46-00

Roll Basic

   

13-00

Roll Basic

   

Ethereal

Subtable

     

Cosmic Entities

18-19

01-05

Great

 

89

01-04

Philosophical

20-22

06-15

Major

 

90

05-20

Conceptual

23-35

16-54

Minor

   

21-00

Roll Basic

36-42

55-75

Trivial

     

Special Results

 

76-00

Roll Basic

 

91-96

 

Roll 01-90 2x or01-90 for an Allied Spirit

   

Demons

 

97-98

 

Roll 01-90 3x or reroll once and receive a gift

43-44

01-05

Arch-

 

99-00

 

Free choice from 01-90

45-47

06-16

Major

       

48-52

17-38

Minor

       

53-60

39-54

Trivial

       

55-00

Roll Basic

       

 

   The “Specialist Table” is used for shamans who specialize in particular types of beings – but even they will often wind up rolling on the general table.

Material Subtable

 

Etheral Subtable

01-08 VIP / Occ. Master

 

01-22 Nature spirit; Totem / Terrain

09-35 Professional Char.

 

23-45 Nature spirit; Group / Place

36-55 Faerie Being

 

46-50 Nature spirit; Specific Link

56-65 Undead “Creature”

 

51-54 Warped Spirit

66-69 Shadow Realm Being

 

55-60 Elemental / Earth

70-75 Spirit Realm Being

 

61-75 Elemental / Water

76-77 Extradimensional

 

76-90 Elemental / Air

78-79 Artificial Entity

 

91-97 Elemental / Fire

80-00 “Monster”/Creature

 

98-00 Elemental / Energy

 

   “Allied Spirits” will hang around with the shaman on a constant basis or, for the more powerful spirits, will maintain a constant link with some talisman he or she bears. Since this means that at least some of the spirits powers are available on a constant basis, such spirit companions are commonly much more valuable then mere contacts.

   “Gifts” are just that, a spirit decides to give you something. A water spirit decides to clear that old sunken ship and chest of gold out of its home river. An earth spirit brings you a nice big gem or an old magic sword it found laying around. Such gifts are usually valuable and/or somehow important, but sometimes they are simply strange. Spirits don’t always understand humans very well – but somehow however, their “gifts” always seem to turn out to be well worthwhile in one way or another.

Rokugan World Map

Rokugan, Beyond the Imperial Borders

Rokugan, Beyond the Imperial Borders

   First up for today, it’s an improved Rokugan World Map. Given that the characters have done plenty of poking around beyond the borders, and now have access to maps from mapmakers of far greater skill (and less tradition), it seems like a good time to put it up.

The World of Iselin

   Today, it’s another special request: in this case, a quick d20 setting.

The Known World

The Known World

   Iselin is an old world. The quasi-reptilian elder races – the dragons, gargoyles, lizard-men, and others – had long ago been granted inherent magical gifts by the gods according to their measure, had established their domains, and had settled into their own ways. “Primitive” some – such as the lizard-men – might be compared to the high councils of the dragons, but their ways suited them, and the spirits of the land, sky, and waters, favored the children of the gods in their long dreaming.

   But all things end.

   No one remembers why the younger races intruded upon Iselin. It might have been in flight from some disaster (according to the Dragons, likely of their own making). It might have been the simple desire for new lands to expand to. It might have been simple curiosity, or an inherent tendency to meddle. Regardless, the awakening was a rude one.

   The newcomers saw the gods as creatures like themselves – as exaggerated kings, emperors, and squabbling siblings rather than as primal forces. They actively drew power from the world, rather than accepting what flowed to them naturally. They imposed themselves upon the world, raising cities and shaping the lands to their will. They spread across the broad plains of Korinth – a land little used by the elder races, but well suited to the newcomers. They extended outposts to the Sier Coast and Randu Bay. They did many new things.

   And that was interesting.

   But one mighty magician-emperor went too far. He attempted to seize immortality – such as he believed that the dragons possessed – from the gods by force of will and epic sorcery, to extend his reign to the very end of time.

   What he accomplished was to blight his realm, to doom himself and many of his people to a horrific, cursed existence as the first Undead, and to taint the world with a variety of horrors. The forces he had unleashed even twisted many members of the elder races who had been unfortunate enough to have been drawing on the wells of magic at the moment the attempt was made. Maddened and evil, they became a menace to everyone around them.

   The undead horde surged out from Korinth, laying waste to the lands. Eventually the remnants of the Dragon Council took action: the plains of Korinth were reduced to ash and sand, the undead bound and cursed again with a vulnerability to the sun, and seals were laid while the dark hordes were forced below ground during the day.

   Since then, many centuries have passed – and, despite the madness and negative-energy powers that lie hidden in the old bloodlines, civilization has rebuilt. Most of the elder races have forgotten why the younger races are dangerous and to be avoided, but the Dragons maintain a wary watch over their doings.

Along the Randu Bay and Sier Coast:

   The Elhidrin Dales are a collection of rugged hills and modest valleys, inhabited by a selection of small communities, mostly surviving in substance farming, harvesting lumber, trapping, and fishing. Despite the rumors of mineral wealth and lost treasures, few venture back into the depths of the hills; the locals are all too aware that the maze of the hills also shelters a variety of twisted monsters and evil spirits wandering out of the haunted wastes. Those who live here are well advised to have their homes built sturdily, to keep them well-blessed, to keep their windows small, and to keep their doors barred at night. To open such a redoubt to a passing traveler is to invite possession, transformation into a lycanthrope, or worse.

   Verdun, linked to the coast only by a few perilous passes, harvests the products of the Niar Swamps and trades with the inhuman creatures which inhabit the area. While the land is unfriendly and plague-ridden, there is profit enough in the exotic herbs and spices to be found here to attract and sustain a modest population – all of whom know better than to take much notice of the occasional depredations of the Gargoyles.

   Travalin (Keywords: Arabian, Desert, Irrigation, Crowding, Trade) is both a city and a state. As a city, it lies on the Randu Bay at the mouth of the Akonn River. Wealthy, bustling, and a center of trade, the city draws it’s wealth from the lumber and furs of the Elhidrin Dales (obtained through a series of traditional monopolistic trading agreements), the exotic spices and herbs of Verdun, the more refined products of the Sier Coast, the bounty of the sea (including a thriving local industry fishing for the Seadrakes which frolic in the Randu Bay: their tough hides and rich fat have many uses), from the intensive irrigation and cultivation of the lands near the river (moving away from the river, the land swiftly becomes grasslands and then desert), and – most especially – from the rich ores of the Isenril mountians

   Ominously, Trevalin is built upon the foundations of the far older, and long-buried, city of Ralis. Deep beneath Travalin, in the crypts of ruined Ralis, lie ancient artifacts and crumbling crypts, populated by lost remnants of the ancient undead horde of Korinth which once overran the city. There, gradually bringing under his control the remnants of the forces which once destroyed him, Lord Tauren – once prince of Ralis, now himself undead – awaits his long-anticipated release.

   Far to the east of Travalin, the spires of the Culach Mountians rise from the Black Swamps of Niar. Here, under the rule of the Immortal Lord (actually a polymorphed dragon, driven mad by the Great Curse of Korinth long centuries ago) the Gargoyle Kingdom waits to take advantage of whatever weaknesses should develop in the lands of the young races.

   The wealth of the Isenril Mountians lies in valuable magical ores, which have inspired men to drive deep tunnels into the very heart of the mountains, where things have been disturbed that normally lair far away from the haunts of men. Still, the digging does not cease. The city-states of Sier have, of course, also taken an interest in the Isenril, as their rulers seek additional sources of funds to pay for their constant warring and hiring of orcish mercenaries.

   Along the Sier Coast there are numerous squabbling city-states, each to small and weak to seize full control of the area, but competing madly against each other in everything from Art and Architecture to Warfare. Perhaps fortunately, the Orcish and Half-Orcish mercenaries they hire from Corath are more interested in outmaneuvering each other than in actually killing each other. Recently, however, Rache has seized the Oranle Mines in the Isenril Mountians – a rich source of adamant ore. They have been using that resource to both equip and pay their forces – especially the Kierroth order of Orcish lizard-riders – in preparation for a massive attack on the (hurriedly- concluded) defensive alliance of Lonn, Vralle-on-the-Gyre, and Vaithe. With any luck, they will be able to smash the alliance before it can assemble a unified force. Numerous other city-states are scattered along the coast, mostly separated by spurs of the Isenril range, although they eventually give way to:

   Corath is chill and intemperate, it’s various tribes loosely united under the ferocious rule of the Makannth (“Great Warleader” is perhaps the best translation). Glorying in combat and the military virtues, the people of Corath seem to regard military service further south as a basic training exercise for young warriors – preparing them to serve in the endless conflict with the Adhartha Nomads who populate the plains and steppes to the north. Of course, they may also be simply spying and preparing for an internal conquest: attempts to expand to the south have been frustrated for centuries by the near-impossibility of dealing with the endless series of strongpoints which the Isenril mountains make available. Perhaps fortunately (given that the culture resembles a cross between the Mongol Horde and the Roman Imperium), the population of Corath is relatively small; there simply isn’t enough food available to support more – another reason for serving as mercenaries.

   The Adhartha Lands support few truly permanent settlements and none of any great size: the climate is too harsh for it. On the other hand, the migratory nomads which sweep back and forth across the northern end of the continent with the seasonal cycles of the snows offer few attractions for anyone save the occasional trader seeking ivory, furs, and gold – all of which are to be found in the distant reaches of the north. The nomads are, however, trained to a constant wariness and readiness for war by the depredations of the various cold-loving monsters which lair on the glaciers of the North and amidst the icy peaks of the mountains.

Ragnar The Questionable

   Ragnar was a relatively minor character from the Atheria campaign – and, as befitted a character born with the Illusion Birthright, was quite mad. While illusion-birthright characters normally suffer from multiple-personality disorders, their basic abilities usually remain pretty much the same regardless of their current personality. Ragnar had not only lost track of his original personality, but had developed the ability to take on skills and even special abilities when he took on a new role. In fact, his talents extended to changing his sex to match his current persona, so “he” may or may not have originally been male. Most of his personalities did seem to be male though – and at least one of them had somehow managed to acquire an imperial patron, and a share in the Order Birthright. Like all characters for the Atheria campaign, Ragnar was constructed using the classless d20 point-buy rules from Eclipse the Codex Persona (available in print HERE and in a shareware version HERE).

Ragnar

   Illusion Affinity Warrior, Atheria Campaign, Level 8.

   Illusion Birthright (30 CP, not quite at the 31 CP limit for a +0 ECL race).

  • Guises, Many x2 (5 identities), Quick Change, Mental Guise and Split Persona. Specialized: Self-Deluding. The user must make a DC 18 will save to switch identities or to admit the existence of other identities even to him- or her- self. (15 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (7 CP/6000 GP value): Disguise Self (2000 GP), Silent Image (2000 GP), and Color Spray (2000 GP). All usable at will at caster level one.
  • Inherent Spell with 4 Bonus Uses: Major Image. Corrupted: the user must make a DC 15 will save or behave as if the illusion created was real (8 CP).

   Disadvantages: Restrictions (Ragnar is too confused to use learned psionics or spellcasting, +2 CP/Level), Insane (simply accepts “waking up” in weird situations), Outcast (lunatic illusionist), and Untrustworthy (keeps forgetting stuff), net +10 CP, Totals: 216 CP (L8 Base) + 10 (Disadvantages) + 2/Level (restrictions) + 2/Level for Warcraft (fast learner) +12 CP (current XP) = 270 CP.

   Level Based Bonuses: +1 Dex (L2), +1 Con (L4), +2 Cha (L6 and L8), L1 Feat (Mystic Power Link with the Eye of Wrath), L4 Feat (Defender, Specialized, only while wielding Prismatic Strike, +3 Dodge), L6 Feat (Block/Melee, DC 20 reflex save to block 60 points of damage, uses up an attack of opportunity), and L8 Feat (May make up to Dex Mod +1 Attacks of Opportunity per round).

   Basic Attributes: Strength 16 (20/+5), Dexterity 16 (18/+4), Constitution 16 (+3), Intelligence 16 (+3), Wisdom 14 (+2), Charisma 15 (+2).

   Saves:

  • Reflex +5 (purchased base, 15 CP) +4 Dex (no cost) +1 (Morale) = +10
  • Fortitude +4 (purchased base, 12 CP) +3 Con (no cost) +1 (Morale) = +8
  • Will +4 (purchased base, 12 CP) +2 Wis (no cost) +1 (Morale) = +7

   Warcraft +12 BAB (Specialized in Staves only, 36 CP)

   Hit Dice: L1 d20 (16 CP, 20 HP), L2-8 d8 (28 CP, 6, 6, 2, 8, 7, 7, 5). +5 Wealth Bonus. Hit Points: 90

   Armor Class: 10 (Base) + 4 (Dex) + 6 (Shimmermail) +3 (Dodge) = 23

   Proficiencies: All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP).

  • Move: 30
  • Initiative: +4
  • Languages (4): Illerian, Havril, Varalung, and Ikunn.
  • Initial Wealth Level: Poor. +4 to any one Craft or Profession skill, +4 Gather information,
  • Current Wealth Level: Wealthy (since L4, +10 SP, +5 HP, +2 Dexterity, (+5 SP), Seven Charms and Three Talismans, +2 bonus to Diplomacy, Gather Information, and Intimidate.

   Basic Costs: 143

   Usual Weapon/Prismatic Strike: +23/+18/+13 (+12 purchased BAB, +1 Magic, +1 Morale, +2 Wealth, +5 Strength, +2 Martial Art), Magic Touch Attack, 6d6+9 (2d6 base, Fire, Lightning, Cold, Force, +1 Magic, +1 Morale, +2 Wealth, +5 Strength) damage, critical x3 on a 17+ (damaging foes in a 20′ radius), counts as Adamantine, +5′ Reach, +2 AC, Deflect Arrows, and Whirlwind Strike, 20′ range increment if “thrown”.

   Acquired Relic/The Orb of Destiny (Worth 6 CP, but free). Luck (Specialized: automatic reroll on failed checks to confirm criticals, 12), Luck with 3x Bonus Uses (Specialized: only for use with Attacks, usable 13 times per day, 12), and Luck with Bonus Uses (Specialized, only for defensive use, 13 uses/day, 12 CP).

   Other Abilities: (91 CP)

  • Starting Relic (4 CP): The Eye of Wrath: This ring is designed to enhance spirit weapons, providing Improved Superior Imbuement (specialized in spirit weapons/provides +level points of enhancements, 18 CP) and With the Focused and Versatile upgrades (specialized in spirit weapons for half cost, 6 CP).
    • Currently +8 Bonuses: Fire, Lightning, Cold, Force, Keen (Criticals on a 17-20), and Explosive (Criticals do damage to all foes in a 20′ radius, a +3 effect).
  • Fast Learner (6 CP): Specialized in Warcraft, for +2 CP/Level
  • Prismatic Strike (27 CP): Spirit Weapon/Spear (6), Exotic Appearance (Seething mass of rainbow light, 3), Touch Attack x3 (18 CP),
  • Innate Enchantment (6 CP)/Upgrade Disguise Self to Alter Self (specialized, only to change form to match personas, half cost, 5 CP), and Shillelagh (Specialized: only on spirit weapon, 1 CP).
  • Initiate of Order (12 CP): Privilege/Imperial Patron (6 CP) and Innate Enchantment. Specialized: only works with a high-ranking in-empire patron to channel the magic of Order to the user, double effect (6 CP/10,000 GP). Enhance Charms and Talismans (L2 spell effect, increasing the effects of Charms to L1 and those of Talismans to L2 or allowing the use of standard Talismans as Charms. Personal charms only, 8400 GP) and Inspiring Word (personal only, +1 Morale bonus to Saves, Attacks, Checks, and Weapon Damage, 1400 GP).
    • Usual Talismans (3): Shimmermail, Talisman of Strength +4, and one additional item of choice.
    • Usual Charms (7): Lesser Talisman of Dexterity +2, Rubydraught, Fiend Gauntlets, Endless Rope, Ray of Hope, Stone of Sustenance, and Helm of War (details on Charms and Talismans can be found in The Practical Enchanter, available in print HERE and in a shareware version HERE).
  • Adaptability (35 CP): Enthusiast (30 CP/10 Floating CP, Specialized/preset list of abilities [doubled effect], corrupted [can only be changed when persona changes [x1.5x effect), net 24 “Floating” CP), and Immunity (time required to change enthusiast when switching personas, 6 CP). Each persona currently gets 7 SP and 30 CP to spend on customization, as well as whatever modifications are acquired through “Alter Self”. Currently known personas include:
    • Xieno Xiphon: A psychotic killer from HuSung. +2 to Reflex Saves (6), Block/Missile (6), Extended Great Hysteria (Specialized and Corrupted, in Prismatic Strike/enhancements only , 2 power for 1 minute of an additional +6 enhancements, 6 CP), 4 levels of Wilder Progression for power only (Con based, 23 power, 12 CP).
    • Pelleaus, an imperial street urchin. Fortune/Evasion (6), +4d6 Sneak Attack (12), Fortune/Evasion (6),and Enhanced Strike/ Crushing (6). His prismatic Strike usually looks like a pair of daggers.
    • Korath, a barbarian “gargoyle” (+4 Natural Armor, Flight 60, d6 Natural Weapons, +4 Climbing). Grant of Aid with 8 Bonus Uses (11/Day), Mighty, Regenerative, and Spark of Life (30 CP).
    • Ragnar, a sea-turtle barbarian (+6 Natural Armor and Swim 30, 30 CP). No, this isn’t his real identity – but everyone called him “Ragnar” since this was the first form they met him in. 
  • Skill Points: 36 CP + 10 Wealth + 27 (Int) = 73 SP, 7 of with “float” with his current persona. +1 Morale Bonus to all checks.

   Ragnar has a base +20 (11 SP +2 Cha +6 from Wealth Modifiers +1 Morale) in Gather Information, +10 in Craft/Carpenter (2 SP +3 Int +4 from Wealth Modifiers +1 Morale), +14 (11 SP +2 Wis +1 Morale) in Spot, +16 (11 SP +4 Dex +1 Morale) in Move Silently, +12 (7 SP +4 Dex +1 Morale) in Slight of Hand, and +12 (7 SP +4 Dex +1 Morale) in Hide. 9 SP went to his Martial Art (below), another 8 had been scattered around in minor skills, and 7 varied with his current role – and he never seemed to be out of one. He never seemed to take advantage of his +2 Wealth bonuses on Diplomacy and Intimidate

   Martial Art: Oaken Storm (9 SP + 4 Dex): Attack +2, Defense +2, +5′ Reach, Deflect Arrows, and Whirlwind Strike.

   Ragnar was relatively limited: he hit things quite effectively and quite often managed to smite a small crowd of enemies around himself – but otherwise he only had a few minor tricks with illusions and a few rogue-style skills to fall back on. On the other hand, role-playing a character who switched (superficial) physical forms, minor abilities, and personalities at the drop of a hat was probably challenging enough.

Cliff Notes for the 1940’s

   A recent request was “something on how to keep people who have little historical knowledge on the same page as those who have a lot – with a side of how to make things seem historically-flavored without large amounts of work” – also known as “how to run a game that is, at least initially, set in an actual historical period without teaching a history course”. I’m not sure that there really is any quick-and-easy solution to ignorance – but the next best thing is the old Cliff’s Notes idea; a quick summary of the major themes and background elements of a setting that the players are likely to find unusual.

   Of course, that means sorting out what they are. In this case, the requested setting was the second World War, mostly from the American and western European view. So what were some of the major items of that period that really differ from the present?

   News traveled slowly. There were telegraph services, a fair number of telephones (at least in town), newsreels, serials, and regular radio broadcasts from stations established in the 1920’s – but television was pretty much non-existent, major movies were events, and “data services” meant sending for a mail-order book on the topic.

   The fastest way to get the news was through the newspaper – and the local newspaper might be days or even weeks behind if the news was from a remote location or was being run past a censor and highly biased to boot. Getting a long-distance phone call through was an adventure in itself (1), and most personal news traveled by letter at best, by occasional contacts with relatives and friends at worst. If something was really urgent, your best bet was a telegram: it cost a fair amount, but the company would send someone out to find the person you wanted. Of course, personal news from out of town was rarely good. Good news could usually wait.

   In a military situation, where information was being intentionally restricted, you’d be lucky to know much of anything. Given the difficulties of scouting, inaccurate maps, and enemy attempts to hide things, the commanding officers might not be much better off. Most of the time, the troops were sent in virtually blind by today’s standards.

   As a consequence, things often seemed safer. A murder, disappearing child, or accident was big local news – but it never really impinged on the consciousness of people who lived a few towns away, so they never suffered the inverted risk assessment syndrome so common today, in which people obsess over rare (and thus extensively-reported) risks while ignoring those which are so common as to not be national news.

   Travel and transportation was difficult. Roads were poor; the major highway systems were still to come. Commercial air travel was in its infancy; “flying boats” made irregular overseas trips – but lighter-than-air systems had waned in popularity with the Hindenburg. Comfortable and reliable trains were the way to go for overland travel, although the canal network was (and is) the cheap way to move large cargos. Still, trains and canals ran on other people’s schedules and on limited routes. Cars were hard to find parts, mechanics, or fuel for (and weren’t for teenagers unless their parents had far more money than sense). Horses were still widely used. When you had something shipped “express”, it might still take weeks – or months if it was particularly large or bulky.

   Given the transportation difficulties, most basic production was necessarily local – and agricultural production directly employed just under 20% of the labor force (currently 1.9%), close to 25% of the total population lived on farms, and better than 50% of the population was rural. Most of those farms, and much of the rural population in general, had no electricity. They often didn’t have phones, they normally didn’t have sewers, and they often drew their water directly from streams and classical wells or from rainwater cisterns.

   Travel would not become easy until after the second world war, when renewed prosperity would usher in the age of the automobile and the commercial application of wartime aviation advances would open up the skies to the casual traveler – a situation that would eventually lead to the transitory lifestyle, relationships and loyalties typical of the current day.

   Communities were small, closed, and tight-knit. People might well be born, live, and die, without ever moving more than a few miles or getting out of the county. “You’ll never live that down” really meant something. On the other hand, people tended to know each other, support each other, visit each other (parties, dinners, dances, and many other events), and invest their time in their communities. Life revolved around churches and church events, sunday school, church picnics, local parks and entertainments, clubs, children’s sports (professional baseball was rising, but the great days of commercial sports were still to come), company events, and casual socializing – if only because there wasn’t that much else to do. If you wanted entertainment, you made your own or you called in someone who played an instrument or told stories or something. Strangers were notable, and everyone could be expected to know everyone else’s business; “privacy” was often close to nonexistent in town.

   Of course, people really tended to know their areas. They’d know how to interpret police whistles, fire alarms, and similar signals. They’d know what was going on without having to look. They’d know the reputations of local businessmen, who was a volunteer fireman, who produced most of their food, who baked the bread, and who produced various local goods. They’d know where in town you could buy various items – and there weren’t usually more than one or two places for any given item, since there wasn’t that much call in a small community for any single item. Of course, they’d also know the back alleys, the places to go and not to go, and where to find the tolerated vices and illegal services.

   By default, you’d probably live out your life with your neighbors, relatives, and (usually presumed to be life-long) employer – so personal loyalties and “character” (whatever that meant locally) tended to trump other considerations. The best experiences of your life, the best places you’d ever seen, and the best food you’d ever eaten tended to be local – if only because all your experiences tended to be local – and thus where you lived, and the country you were a part of, were the best ever. The upside of that was loyalty, civic pride, patriotism, and social stability. The downside was narrow-mindedness, rigid social rules and formalities, unwritten codes that “everyone knew”, and the belief that everyone who “wasn’t one of us” was necessarily inferior. People of other races and nationalities were generally ignored or marginalized. There was prejudice on a massive scale – and it was accepted to the point that most people never even really noticed it. There was no notion of cultural relativity (you saw the primitives of “other cultures” in National Geographic) – and no real awareness that those attitudes would ever be subject to change. Women tended to be treated as weak prizes, to be kept safely at home to produce and care for children (2). The “Master Race” idea was just a slightly-exaggerated version of what most people believed anyway – as a little research into “Eugenics” will easily demonstrate.

   Information was limited. Even major libraries – to say nothing of local ones – were generally quite limited. In the United States in 1940, just under 25% of the population older than 25 had graduated from high school. Many had never gotten beyond elementary school, although only 13.4% had less than four years of schooling (from the US census records). Compared to today, you wouldn’t know much – and you wouldn’t be able to find out much more for a long time.

   Doctors understood a good deal of of what was going on with many illnesses and injuries – but there often still wasn’t all that much they could do about it beyond sun, exercise, and diet. Simple infections and what are now easily-treatable or preventable diseases often meant death – or a restricted life as an incurable carrier. Drugs and medicines were very limited, early vaccinations were only partially effective (and tended to leave scars), and there was little that could be done if your body started to fail. A quarantine – whether for measles, chicken pox, or tuberculosis – was taken seriously; it meant lives at serious risk. “Birth Control” meant condoms (at best), which you had to hunt for – and would certainly become a topic of gossip.

   History books often stopped with the industrial revolution. Everything after that was “current events”.

   Food was simpler. Spices were more expensive, and less well-known. Foods tended to be purchased in bulk, and made “from scratch”. Freeze-dried foods were non-existent, frozen foods – except for ice cream, which was a special treat – were unheard of, and home canning (and the occasional fatality therefrom) was a normal thing. The odds were good that you produced some of your own food; a kitchen garden and a few chickens (that you slaughtered yourself) were a common household element, and became even more common during the war. Milk was delivered daily in town, and groceries could be delivered regularly as well. Refrigeration was a luxury, and “Fast Food” meant buying something (at your own risk) from a pushcart vendor.

   Things were bulky and awkward – and life called for a lot more casual physical labor. The age of high-tech consumer convenience items, of the wide use of aluminum and stainless steel alloys, of electric gadgets and electronic gizmos, and of “lighter and cheaper”, was yet to come. This was the time of bulky backpack and cabinet radios, of expensive lenses and optics, of crank phonographs (and a limited selection of things to play on them), of heavy woollen trousers, of thick cotton, and of push lawnmowers. Watches and compasses were expensive, clocks need to be wound daily, and you were often cold and damp; drying your clothes by the fire or steam radiator was the best that could be done on cold or rainy days.

   When it came to the war, people threw themselves into things. Their homes were threatened – and they identified with their homes very strongly indeed. Rationing did inspire black markets, but most people accepted the call with good grace. They accepted blackouts and air raid drills, watched for spies, scrimped and saved to support the war effort, entertained the soldiers on leave (albeit normally with proper chaperones – which did not always work), and participated in scrap drives and similar events (some useful, some more for the sake of morale). A fair number of people lied about their ages to get into the military or tried to cover up disqualifying defects. Of course, people being people, others tried to avoid serving – but that was unusual enough to be notable. They recycled old parachutes into new dresses and reused every scrap they could. At least in the United States they were glad to see the country rising from the great depression and were filled with a national spirit – in part inspired by the notions of national unity and action underlying the “new deal” and the belief that there was “nothing which could stop America”.

   You wouldn’t find velcro on anything and plastics were far less ubiquitous. Things were made of wood and iron. They didn’t eat pizza, use cell phones and microwave ovens, or casually listen to news about the personal lives of prominent individuals; many Americans never found out that the President suffered from the complications of Polio. Most had never really thought about what was out in space – although there were those who loved the “science fiction” craze. They usually went to bed shortly after sunset and rose around dawn, since artificial lighting was limited.

   Now, all of this was starting to change – with what earlier generations would have considered unthinkable speed – but no one would know that for years to come. Whether that change was good or bad, and what it means and will lead to, is a matter for debate as well – but that goes well beyond the topic here.

Footnotes:

   (1) A fact which is still having an impact: why do casual calls from acquaintances – who only had to press a button to reach you – seem to automatically take priority over speaking with people who have actually taken the trouble to come in person? It’s a cultural legacy of the period when people dropped by casually – but reaching you on the phone required a good deal of work and was pretty unreliable.

   (2) In general, outside of Russia and a few other countries, you wouldn’t find women serving in the armed forces (at least not anywhere near actual violence), in important positions, or in charge of men. The fact that there had to be a “Rosie the Riveter” campaign at all shows that women working outside the house (at least after they were married) was considered a wild aberration.

   Now, even in real life, there were partisans and spies – although the institution of physical exams put an end to the civil war trick of pretending to be a man – and locals could always get involved. While, in a game setting, exotic connections, knowledge, circumstances, or abilities can justify almost anything, if you want to portray anything like the 1940’s American and Western European culture, female PC’s – just like characters of minority races and faiths – are going to have to put up with a lot of restrictions.

Ninsei’s Private Musings: The Scope of the Problem

   Next up for today, we have another player contribution – in this case another installment of Ninsei’s private musings. The topic is systems of government in the Empire and on Rokugan’s world in general.

   I think I am beginning to realize the full scope of the problem facing Rokugan. While it maybe easy to set up what seems to be a benign government that is moderately effective in running things, it looks like it is far more difficult to create one that is both stable enough to endure and yet remains dynamic enough to react to outside pressures.

   It looks like any reasonably competent and charismatic individual can create a system that works reasonably well so long as they are around to help give it focus. The Yodatai system was just one such experiment along these lines. One Emperor managed to work out a way to not only make sure that those people most capable of performing a function got it, but also to guarentee their loyalty at the same time. He set up a network of magical links which kept everyone organized into the desired social order. This worked insofar as he was able to keep the system focused on a single goal – loyalty to their empire.

   Unfortunately, that focus was on him, personally, as head of the empire – and once he died, the bonds which kept everyone coordinated and working together continued to work, but people reverted to personal loyalties – and, ultimately to loyalty to themselves. Seizing control of the empire became the only goal for the masses, and expanding it became the only goal for whoever was in control. Even the Yodatai gods apparently eventually lost patience with the Yodatai inability to focus on anything beyond themselves.

   The system became a headless beast thrashing around the world conquering and enslaving everything in it’s path. And with the spirit binding ensuring that enslaved people could be pulled into the Yodatai afterlife to reincarnate as more Yodatai, this quickly set up one of the worst case scenarios I can see trying to face; an ever growing army of highly competent and fanatically loyal soldiers that must continue to feed itself and justify it’s existence by an endless war of conquest. And every soldier in this army is solely concerned with proving himself and moving up the ranks, even at the expense of their superiors. I am fairly certain that this is not what that first Emperor had in mind when he started this.

   The Yodatai system is remarkably stable in it’s own way. It is also completely out of control even for those supposedly calling themselves Emperor. It was so unable to adapt that when it finally ran into resistance that could threaten it’s existence – apparently a possible future version of my more ruthless self – that it proceeded to wipe itself out against my forces to the last man, woman, and child. This is far from ideal.

   So being stable is not enough. We – that is, everyone working on the problem – need to ensure that whatever system we come up with is responsive to change and that no one individual can get enough power to threaten its existence. Conversely the system cannot be dependent on any one person regardless of how powerful or long-lived that persona may be; it must be stable enough to not have these safeguards break down.

   First off, Stability:

   By selectively recruiting people that are rationally loyal and competent, we can ensure that the system that works and can maintain itself as long as it works to start with. We can also teach these people to not fall into the temptation that leads to the corruption of power. In this way we avoid the Yodatai trap: the system is not dependent on any one individual nor is it run by a bunch of insane zealots willing to sacrafice everyone beneath them just to make their own lives better. The Mandate of Heaven will have good application in this. I think it would be prudent to overhaul the Emerald Magistrate system to include the Mandate of Heaven school as one of it’s central cornerstones. In this way we can ensure a system of competent, loyal, and uncorrupted magistrates out to enforce Imperial Law in a fair and unbiased way.

   After some time (several generations I would suspect), the system should largely be running itself with little input required from me or from anyone else. Replacements should be chosen from among those most qualified and best psychologically suited to the tasks, given the training needed to work effectively at their jobs, and then sent out and do what needs to be done. Less and less intervention would be required, until at some point, whether I am Emperor, or even if anyone is Emperor is largely a moot point – as long as a sufficient number of competent individuals are available.

   We also need to install safeguards to prevent powerful individuals from being able to just plow their way through the system as they please. This applies just as much to powerful foreigners like the Asuras and Yodatai Emperors as much as it does to the occassional Super Evil Maho User or homegrown renegade. The problem is, the current system relies on the having a trump card – in the form of the most powerful individual currently available – on it’s side. And when this is not the case, such as with Fu Leng, the system breaks down and it’s existence is threatened.

   The Merenae answer to this appears to lie in the historical accident of firearms. By creating weapons that almost anyone can use, including eta, it becomes possible to kill even the most fearsome of opponents by throwing enough people at the problem – even if they have only minimal training and a few pieces of equipment each. While this works in keeping the people with a great deal of personal power from imposing their will, it also means that the ultimate arbitor of things becomes the uneducated masses. I am not certain that the wisdom of the mob is on par with making decisions of state. Not to mention that this changes things from requiring would be dictators to possess vast personal power, to the possession of vast personal charisma – and that is one of the situations we wish to avoid, as someone with enough charisma to lead an army of peasants may not necessarily have any idea what to do with it other than cause chaos. Not a good idea.

   The Ivory Kingdom’s answer lies in the fact that the Meditations of Unity provide an awful lot of really skilled powerhouses running around and that some of them have gotten bored with running amok. Now I imagine that most of the Asuras mean well in their own way, but the fact remains that the Ivory Kingdoms are only protected from powerful people by the very people they are being protected from. It seems to work, on the other hand, the collateral damage from personal grudges that can span millenia can wipe kingdoms of the face of the earth on occasion. We just watched it happen. The system works only because the place is so decentralized that the loss of an entire kingdom can go unnoticed.

   Rokugan’s answer has historically been the Jade Magistrates. Now admittedly, when it comes to chasing down Maho cults and dealing with the Tainted, they do reasonably well. The problem gets to be that this is not going to cut it for much longer. Asuras, Yodatai loons, Priests of Madness from Senpet, Rakasha, and whatever else may be coming in are going to overwhelm the system shortly. What we need is the ability to quickly analyze weird troublemakers, tear down whatever defenses they may have, and then defeat them. Nothing like that really exists as a formal system within the Imperial system.

   We ran across a possible answer unexpectedly in the unruly countryside of the Scorpion Clan borders. A Ronin looking to make a claim for himself had managed to cobble together a school that enabled him to kill a demon of no small power. He was able to analyze the demon, find a way to negate it’s defenses, and then kill it. This is especially remarkable when you consider the fact that this man has probably never had to kill a demon before in his life. Now he also had functions of his school that better enabled him to function as an administrator and these could prove useful to the Emerald Magistrates, but the techniques to kill weird supernatural creatures with only a bit of study could be a very powerful tool for the Jade Magistrates.

   We need to use the talents of the Asuras, Devas, Yodatai Emperors, and whoever else to help us through this difficult period confronting us. But we must also revamp the Magistrate system to give them the tools to govern effectively and to keep these allies of necessity in line. The system can no longer be dependent on a powerful individual being Emperor or Shogun to keep things going, it must run itself and defend itself from the rest of the world. We may need a new type of Magistrate: someone who brings back concepts from the rest of the world – or acts to contain them if they are too disruptive. Perhaps Obisidian Magistrates?

   Another one of the current problems both here and elsewhere, is that most of the systems running around whether – Rokugani or Gajin – tend to be very static. The Yodatai are a great example of this, although Senpet and Rokugan both have their own variants of the problem. Clinging idly to traditions millenia old while blatantly ignoring the change around you is a recipe for disaster. The Yodatai, being unable to think beyond the idea of conquer everything, eventually met an opponent capable of threatening their entire existence if they continued on their path. Instead of stopping at the cliff and deciding if a change of course was in order, the entire people leapt over the edge of the cliff with a battlecry. Now – a thousand years into yet another possible future – the Yodatai have been extinct for eight hundred years.

   Rokugan isn’t quite as bad, but then again, it has been stated by the elder gods of Senpet that we are stuck in some sort of infinite loop. Is that why we repeat the clash of philosophies every thousand years? Have we never learned to reconcile them or make a full choice?

   A good place to start is to start looking at other cultures and peoples, and start making a list of what does and does not work from a cultural and governmental standpoint. Borrow the things that work, avoid the things that don’t. While the Crane are the clan of tradition, there is a need for a clan to find new things and try them. It occurs to me that this might be one of the better ways to try and integrate the Unicorn Clan back into Rokugani society. By giving the Unicorn a focus for using the knowledge they have learned (and could still stand to learn) from the outside to change the traditions of society and help to discard old tradations no longer useful, we could break out of this loop we have managed to get stuck in. We cannot allow the gajin to get an advantage on us by coming up with a new set of traditions or ideas that put us in a weaker position.

   While it is good to look to others for ideas, we are also going to have to come up with our own if we wish to be truly an independent society. Somehow we are going to have to come up with a system that comes up with new ideas, tries them in some fashion, and then evaluates the results. I am not aware of any such system, no can I conceive of how such a system might be built or organized. Whatever the gods of Madness are doing is too haphazard for me to really call a “system” per se; they seem to just throw things together and watch what happens. This is one that I am going to have to think on, look for inspiration, and hope that I come up with something before my time inevitably comes to an end.

More Identities

   For today, we have another power-package for Eclipse: The Codex Persona; in this case another two (but very similar) Identities for Kevin Sanwell. This particular package is grossly high-powered, and should be regarded with caution if it’s going to come into play much.

Ailill Keras’an’Darkell, Lord of Darkness, Spawn of the Dragon-Realms.

   The Dragonworlds are a curious mixture of high-fantasy and high-tech, with a star-spanning empire powered by technomagic, inhabited by various fantasy races and anthropomorphic animals, and ruled by draconic overlords. Currently the Empire is headed by a powerful red dragon, who took power to complete the negotiated period of red dragon rulership after a certain chaos-bringing squirrel and company took out the previous Emperor. Well, he had wanted to destroy the universe anyway, so even his (very, very few) allies couldn’t be bothered trying to rescue him from his fate.

   Kevin, as Ailill Keras’an’Darkell, an adolescent red dragon-mage, had undertaken a number of adventures in the Dragon Empire. He had risen to command a contingent of its secret police, and had been noticed by the Emperor himself when he helped construct a modest network of gates throughout the empire so that the Emperor could exert his power more effectively. For his reward, he asked – in lieu of their being sold, killed, or given away – for ownership of any young dragons from the imperial harem that the Emperor elected to dispose of in the next year. After all, everyone knew that the Emperor had been fathering clutches averaging about a hundred children a year for the last four hundred years, and generally lost his temper with, and disposed of, five or six a year (most of the rest were fostered out or banished relatively young). Kevin had always kind of wanted to own a dragon or two, and being one locally just exaggerated the attractiveness of the notion.

   The Emperor barely gave it a thought. Another adolescent male wanting a harem and grabbing a chance at a high-quality one. That sort of ambition was no threat to him – in fact, it was sort of a compliment – so he’d save Kevin for later use rather than having him disposed of as being too potentially powerful (his contribution to the gate-network had been impressive). He made it a three year grant and directed the imperial slave-schools to handle the slavebindings and training for the boy.

   Two years and three months later, Amilko Moonshadow and his friends captured and sold off the Emperor. Two months after that, a new Emperor was seated. He kept the adult females of the imperial harem – but, being just as throughly chaotic evil as the prior Emperor – casually ordered his predecessors children disposed of. With Kevin’s grant still in effect, he suddenly found himself in possession of a massive harem and a small horde of harem guards / attendants / servants, and plenty of high-quality in-the-egg, wyrmling, very young, young, and juvenile red dragon slave-stock to sell – all but the eggs throughly trained and bound by imperial methods.

   Kevin, spurred by the powerful drives and detachment of the dragon-form, has fathered quite a few clutches of eggs, but so far only one of the hatchlings has turned out to have a soul. That one Kevin – aware of the deadly and unpredictable tempers that go with being a dragon – paid to have fostered out with more reliable parents.

   Kevin has been maintaining his identity as Ailill for nearly twelve years now – for the most part with few complications. The Dragonworlds are near-forgotten, and never drew that many souls in the first place. With an average of only a dozen or so per planet, not much changes there.

   As Ailill, Kevin sired clutches of eggs on his harem, regularly defeated and enslaved would-be challengers, fended off occasional parties of adventurers (a major reason why he opted for a position in the secret police), and enjoyed the perks of wealth and power. He also took full advantage of the chance to be unapologetically ruthless and dominant. Kevin would like to be a chaotic evil red dragon; it’s so much less complicated than having a conscience, being fair, and not taking full advantage of every opportunity to exploit people. In the Dragonworlds, he can relax: all you need to do to live up to your social obligations there is to not torture people hideously before you eat them – and enslaving them rather than eating them is being remarkably nice.

   Fortunately for the universe, what he actually does is mostly find evil excuses for doing the decent thing.

   There have been a couple of blips however. One of the hundreds of hatchling’s he’s sired turned out to actually have a soul (Kevin hadn’t thought that that was possible) – and the survival odds for young males are less than 5%. The chance of actually growing up to be a father is far far less than that. That was intolerable: fostering the child safely would help for the first few years, but only enhancing his powers enough to enthrall the boy would guarantee the kids survival – and it took quite awhile to learn to do that. After that, it took somewhat longer to convince the boy to “sign up” – but the kid is safely enthralled now, and nearly six years old. More recently, he encountered Kelseru Ana’Nasu – a young ensouled dragoness from yet another world. While Kevin did take advantage of his power (and a moment of vulnerability) to bind her to him and add her to his harem of dragonesses, that relationship is still developing. Kelsaru didn’t really understand what she was getting into when she came to the Dragonworlds; in her homeworld dragons aren’t nearly so prolific.

   The world laws of the Dragonworlds reduce the cost of any draconic Identity there by two skill ranks, however the raw power of the form makes such an identity rather addictive: those who take draconic Identities tend to find themselves caught up in local affairs and sometimes even have to make willpower checks to leave… In fact, the place tends to push more powerful visitors – and especially those with unallocated ranks of the Identities skill – into roles as dragons (usually fairly young ones). Few dragons are actually ensouled, including those with ensouled parents: no one really knows why (indeed, relatively few people know it at all). In a few cases, the dragonform has even been known to “stick”, becoming the user’s actual form – although they must then come up with the CP cost to pay for it.

   Ailill is a level 12 identity – albeit only level 10 after the worldlaw adjustment – and so is a role of enormous power, providing an extra 96 CP to work with. Secondarily, of course, this build – being more of an example than anything practical (since the game spends very little time in the Dragonworlds) – is about as broken as I can make it.

   Of those 96 CP, 31 CP go to simply being a Dragon. However, the basic dragon package includes:

  • 30 CP: Innate Enchantment
    • +2 to Enhancement Bonus to Each Attribute (8400)
    • +4d6 Hit Dice (Maximized) (8400)*
    • Enlarge Self (1400): +1 Size Category (+8 Str, -2 Dex, +4 Con, -1 Attack Modifier, -4 Skill Modifier, +2 Natural armor, Reach 10).*
    • Perceptiveness: +3 to all Sensory Skill Checks (1400)*
    • Sidestep: +1 Competence Bonus on All Saves (1400)*
    • Warding Rune: +1 Resistance Bonus on All Saves (1400)
    • Shield: +4 Shield Bonus to AC (2000)
    • Iron Fist: +2 Levels (usually 1d8 base) natural weapons (1400).*
    • Low-Light Vision (1400)*
    • Personal Haste (1400): +30′ Movement, +1 attack at full BAB when making a full attack.
    • Detect Magic (700).
  • 6 CP: Celerity/Additional Mode (Flight). Corrupted (Requires use of wings), Specialized: Poor Maneuverability, 60′ total base.
  • 9 CP: Immunity to Antimagic and Dispelling vrs Innate Enchantments (Uncommon / Minor/Epic, 9 CP).*
  • 9 CP: Defender (L/5+1 Natural Armor bonus to AC, 12 CP) (Net effect L/2.5+2 Bonus to AC).*
  • 9 CP: Universal DR 4/-.* Note that “Universal” DR applies to both energy and physical damage.
  • 6 CP: Occult Sense/Darksight.
  • 0 CP: Energy Infusion of choice: in his case Fire. Immune to Fire, double damage from Cold.
  • 3 CP: Immunity to Aging (Uncommon/Minor/Great, 3 CP). Dragons can expect to live for many centuries. In Kevins case this is redundant, but it’s still a part of the package.
  • 24 CP: Go to buying a dragon’s personal unique powers – usually a “breath weapon or selection thereof. In Kevin’s case these go to upgrading his Dark Magic to covers level five spells.
  • 6 CP: Augmented Bonus: add [Base] Str Mod to Con Mod when computing HP for his [seven] L0 and Template Hit Dice.
  • Special Notes:
    • Items marked with an “*” should be treated as exceptional physical abilities, and will operate in the Core. The rest of it relies on magic.
    • All abilities are Specialized and Corrupted (one-third cost except for Defender, which is two-thirds cost at double effect): Transforms user into an obvious dragon, gives them a physically-clumsy form with various obvious limitations and a limited ability to use gear, makes them vulnerable to anti-dragon magical effects and weaponry, user is an obvious supernatural being and radiates magical power and an aura that disturbs normal humans and animals even when shapeshifted, body parts are quite valuable. Base Cost: 41 CP.
    • Since Kevin has “Thugs” and “Servants” available in all of his identities – those abilities are a part of his basic character sheet – his local thugs and servants are draconic attendants and concubines.
  • Package Disadvantages: Hunted (by rival dragons and dragon-hunters), Insane (at least by human standards – they are greedy and hoarding, arrogant, predatory, dominating, and don’t care much about their children – if only because they may have hundreds if female and thousands if male), and Accursed (can be subdued or forced into obedience by some means, although it’s usually unique to each dragon). -10 CP, reducing the net cost to 31 CP.

   Now that “Being a Dragon” is out of the way, there are still 65 additional CP to spend. These go to:

  • 12 CP: Upgrading his Dark Magic to allow level six abjuration, evocation, and transmutation spells.
  • 3 CP: Privilege/Being a commander in the imperial secret police.
  • 6 CP: Firm Control on Ridden by the Loa, Specialized in the Half-Celestial and Half-Infernal Templates.
  • 9 CP: Immunity/Vehicle-Scale Weapons (Common/Major/Major, reduces damage from such attacks by 30 points).
  • 6 CP: Blood of the Dragon: Makes [Cha Mod] spell levels worth of raw magic available each minute.
  • 9 CP: The Dragon’s Bones (6 CP). May maintain (Int Mod+2) levels of spells without effort. +3 CP for +3 levels base (Int Mod +5). Corrupted for 1.5x Effect: personal enhancement spells only.
  • 8 CP: Channeling/Spell Conversion, set of 4xL5 Effects Specialized (Ritual only, Double Effect) and Corrupted (Blatant Black Magic). His effects include Dark Lore (creates any L8 Divination effect), Greater Gate (lasts up to one minute/level), Naming the Darkness (creates any L8 Conjuration Effect), and The Binding Will (creates any L8 Enchantment/Charm effect).
  • 4 CP: Narrow Skills: Draconic (including role-playing human) Psychology, Seduction, and Domination +44 (All 1SP +5 Training +Int Mod + Cha Mod + Dex Mod) (+50 after Morale Bonus), plus Dragonworlds Wealth +48 (1 SP, +5 Training +Int Mod +Cha Mod, +10 dangerous part-time job, +5 wealth-producing powers, +2 GM Bonus).
  • 3 CP: Luck with +2 Bonus Uses, specialized in Skills, Corrupted: only for use with Charisma-Based skills.
  • 5 CP: The Seal of Silence: This relic provides Immunity to Magical and Psychic Divination Effects (Common / Minor / Legendary, 24 CP) and Cloaking (blocked effects will register him as a slightly-stronger than normal young dragon with a few useful items and a minor enhancement spell or two).

   His current package of enhancement spells includes a total of 42 levels of spells.

  • L8 General Attribute Enhancement: +8 to all attributes.
  • L7 Force of Will: +4 Effective Levels (in Eclipse: +4d8 HD, +4 all Saves, +4 BAB, +24 CP (used on Immunity/Antimagic and Dispelling versus personally maintained spells (Uncommon/ Minor/ Epic, 9 CP) and Augmented Bonus (add Cha Mod to Int Mod for spell-sustaining purposes only, 6 CP),
  • L9 Warding Rune/Epic: Provides a +10 Resistance Bonus to Saves.
  • L9 Immortal Vigor IX: Provides +18d6 bonus Hit Dice – although only the 14d6 above the dragonform bonus count. Note that this also boosts the “level of use” for innate powers, such as Channeling and Path of the Dragon. (7 Base + 4 Positive levels + 18 HD = 29)
  • L9 Superheroism: This provides a +6 Morale Bonus to Attacks, Saves, Checks, Damage, Str and Con, renders the subjects Immune to Fear, and provides +60 HP. Two-thirds of these bonuses may be extended to up to 29 friends in the vicinity.
 

Str

Dex

Con

Int

Wis

Chr

Base

22

26

18

20

14

28

Size

30

24

22

20

14

28

Loa

34

26

26

22

18

32

Spells

48

34

40

30

26

40

Gear

52

36

40

30

26

40

Mod

+21

+13

+15

+10

+8

+15

Net effect:

  • Universal DR is 29/-, 33/- versus physical damage, add +30 versus vehicle-scale weapons (Universal DR 21/- derived form strength per world laws, +4/- from Smartclothes, +4/- from the Dragonform, +4/Energy from a Deflector Module).
  • HP 808: 28 (personal base) +30 (smartclothes) +86 [24+14d6 (62) from magical hit die boosts) +22 (hit points from positive level hit dice) +7x[Base Str Mod] (from dragonform augmented bonus) +29xCon Mod (7 personal hit dice, 4 from the dragonform, 14 more from his boosting spell, 4 from positive levels) +60 (Morale).
  • Reflex +36, Will +31, Fortitude +38 (all +2 Base, +1 Competence, +10 Resistance, +4 Positive Level, +6 Morale). Special Bonus: +3 on saves versus Poison.
  • BCL 29 (from hit dice) for Dark Magics and Channeling
  • Move 80′ Land, 100′ Flight (adding the +40′ bonus from Ridden by the Loa to the dragonform base)
  • AC 44 (10 (Base) + 13 (Dex) + 8 (Wis, per world rules) + 4 (Military Smartclothes) +6 (Natural) +4 Shield, -1 Size)
  • Spell Resistance 34 (5 + Hit Dice, 35 Maximum)
  • Resistance to Acid, Cold, and Electricity 10
  • Low-Light Vision, Darksight, and +3 to Sensory Skill Checks.
  • On the average, his base skills increase by an average of +9 (averaged attribute increases) +5 (general Int bonus per setting rules) + 6 (Morale) = +20.
  • His physical attacks are at +10 + attribute and other bonuses. +1 Attack when making a Full Attack.
  • Both the Half-Celestial and Half-Infernal Templates provide a variety of innate spells, but are otherwise pretty much identical. In general, Kevin prefers to use the Half-Celestial template. He has plenty of evil and destructive powers already, so the healing and holy stuff is a bonus.

   That’s still pretty appalling: Ailill isn’t nearly as good at physical combat as a “natural” Great Wyrm red dragon, is generally limited to a restricted selection of somewhat lower-level spells, and doesn’t have an innate breath weapon – but he’s just as tough (once the dragon gets the Str-based boost to its DR per setting rules), about as skilled (once the Dragon’s skills get the setting bonuses), and enjoys near-limitless use of the spells he does have at a higher caster level.

   On the other hand, just like any other highly-intelligent character, I’d expect most older dragons to invest in useful items. According to the 3.5 treasure tables, a Great Wyrm Red Dragon should have at least 36 major magic items – and, while some of them may be personal trophies, such as the armor of fallen foes, I’d expect most of them to be well-considered choices. A Great Wyrm should be decked out with attribute boosters, rings that help shield its elemental weakness, force-armor and shielding devices, a ring of wizardry (or similar device), a teleport-escape item, and a wide selection of other handy gadgets.

   Most of that wouldn’t do Ailill much good: a lot of those effects won’t stack with the enhancements that he’s already using and such items are invariably local magic – and thus not a lot of use to a wanderer of the Manifold. It’s still a horrific power build – particularly when combined with the existing power-build of the base character – but he’s not going to be up to challenging the dragon-emperor any time soon. He should, however, be able to deal with his likely challengers – young adults, adults, and occasional mature adults – with relative ease.

The Master of Kadia:

   Ailill served as a model for Kevin’s identity within the realm of Kadia. As creator of the dimension, Kevin issued himself a free L3 Identity – making “Master of Kadia” a L13 Identity, worth 104 points. That’s an appallingly powerful identity – although it, once again, doesn’t matter much. Few people opt to challenge young gods – especially extremely high-charisma young gods – however inexperienced, within their own realms.

   On the other hand, Kevin wasn’t interested in being stuck in the form of a dragon in Kadia, so the build will lose something there.

Lord Kevin, Master of Kadia (104 CP):

  • 9 CP: Universal DR 2/-
  • 6 CP: Occult Sense/Darksight
  • 36 CP: Upgraded Dark Magic: allows use of abjuration, evocation, and transmutation spells through level six.
  • 6 CP: Augmented Bonus (Adds Str Mod to Con Mod when computing HP for magically-added Hit Dice).
  • 6 CP: Firm Control on Ridden by the Loa, Specialized in the Half-Celestial and Half-Infernal Templates.
  • 9 CP: Immunity/Vehicle-Scale Weapons (Common / Major / Major, reduces damage by 30 points).
  • 6 CP: Blood of the Dragon ([Cha Mod] spell levels worth of raw magic available per minute).
  • 9 CP: The Dragon’s Bones (6 CP). May maintain (Int Mod+2) levels of spells without effort. +3 CP for +3 levels base (Int Mod +5). Corrupted for 1.5x Effect: personal enhancement spells only.
  • 8 CP: Channeling/Spell Conversion, set of 4xL5 Effects Specialized (Ritual only, Double Effect) and Corrupted (Blatant Black Magic). Dark Lore (any L8 Divination effect), Greater Gate (lasts up to one minute/level), Naming the Darkness (any L8 Conjuration Effect), and The Binding of Wills (any L8 Enchantment/Charm effect).
  • 6 CP: Luck with +4 Bonus uses, Specialized in Skills.
  • 3 CP: Privilege. He can take the form of a Dragon – or of several other kinds of creatures – if he wants to. This is an odd way to buy it, but “Privilege” seems appropriate since it has no game-mechanical effects.

His enhancement spell package is exactly the same:

  • L8 General Attribute Enhancement: +8 to all attributes.
  • L7 Force of Will: +4 Effective Levels (in Eclipse: +4d8 HD, +4 all Saves, +4 BAB, +24 CP (used on Immunity/Antimagic and Dispelling versus personally maintained spells (Uncommon/ Minor/ Epic, 9 CP) and Augmented Bonus (add Cha Mod to Int Mod for spell-sustaining purposes only, 6 CP),
  • L9 Warding Rune/Epic: Provides a +10 Resistance Bonus to Saves.
  • L9 Immortal Vigor IX: Provides +18d6 bonus Hit Dice – although only the 14d6 above the dragonform bonus count. Note that this also boosts the “level of use” for innate powers, such as Channeling and Path of the Dragon. (7 Base + 4 Positive levels + 18 HD = 29)
  • L9 Superheroism: This provides a +6 Morale Bonus to Attacks, Saves, Checks, Damage, Str and Con, renders the subjects Immune to Fear, and provides +60 HP. Two-thirds of these bonuses may be extended to up to 29 friends in the vicinity.
 

Str

Dex

Con

Int

Wis

Chr

Base

22

26

18

20

14

28

Loa

26

28

22

22

18

32

Spells

40

36

36

30

26

40

Gear

44

38

36

30

26

40

Mod

+17

+14

+13

+10

+8

+15

The net effects are a bit weaker, but are also pretty similar:

  • Universal DR is 25/-, 29/- versus physical damage, add +30 versus vehicle-scale weapons (Universal DR 17/- derived form strength per world laws, +4/- from Smartclothes, +4/- from the Dragonform, +4/Energy from a Deflector Module).
  • HP 636: 28 (personal base) +30 (smartclothes) +81 (18d6 magical hit die boost) +22 (hit points from positive level hit dice) +7x[Base Str Mod] (from dragonform augmented bonus) +29xCon Mod (7 personal hit dice, 18 more from his boosting spell, 4 from positive levels) +60 (Morale).
  • Reflex +36, Will +30, Fortitude +35 (all +2 Base, +10 Resistance, +4 Positive Level, +6 Morale). Special Bonus: +3 on saves versus Poison.
  • BCL 29 (from hit dice) for Dark Magics and Channeling
  • Move 40′ Land, 30′ Flight (only when manifesting wings from the Half-Celestial template).
  • AC 38 (10 (Base) + 14 (Dex) + 8 (Wis, per world rules) + 4 (Military Smartclothes) +2 (Natural))
  • Spell Resistance 34 (5 + Hit Dice, 35 Maximum)
  • Resistance to Acid, Cold, and Electricity 10
  • Darksight.
  • On the average, his base skills increase by an average of +8 (averaged attribute increases) +5 (general Int bonus per setting rules) + 6 (Morale) = +19.
  • His physical attacks are at +10 + attribute and other bonuses.
  • Both the Half-Celestial and Half-Infernal Templates provide a variety of innate spells, but are otherwise pretty much identical. In general, Kevin prefers to use the Half-Celestial template. He has plenty of evil and destructive powers already, so the healing and holy stuff is a bonus.

Updated Identities

   For today, it’s a selection of Classless Eclipse: The Codex Persona d20 power-packages – in this case from the Federation-Apocalypse campaign. In that game Kevin Sanwell is a dimensional chameleon; an aspect of his basic powers (along with his massive charisma modifier) allows him to automatically adapt fairly powerful roles in a variety of realms. Of course, there are limits – but his currently-established Identities are all normally Rank-7 (bestowing an extra 56 CP worth of abilities in the appropriate realms). Some of those established Realms, and the Identities that go with them, include:

   The Wylds of Faerie are the domain of the Seelie and Unseelie courts – and it was to the Unseelie that Kevin was drawn. In the Wylds Kevin usually goes by the name Kierroth, the Knight-Huntsman of Exeter, and appears as a handsome anthromorph (most often staglike) while his Thralls take the form of horses, hounds, and assistant knights. Here Kevin is a member of the Unseelie Host, a noble of the court, a participant in the usual social events (such as the Wild Hunt), and rides the borders, dealing with the occasional visitor or raider from other realms. In many ways, Kierroth is perhaps the most “real” of Kevin’s identities: the quicksilver realms of the Fey mirror his own mercurial personality, the social whirl of the court – supported by unseen magic and the labors of the minor fey – eerily mirrors Core Earth, where he was born, and the easy acceptance of the fey offered him an odd sort of comfort and stability amongst the overwhelming strangeness of the Multiverse when he was first infused with dark power. They helped him bring that power under control, and helped him understand it. Perhaps as much as any place can be for an Opener, Faerie is Kevin’s home.

   In his travels across the Manifold, Kevin serves as an ambassador of the Fey – essentially promoting tourism (in the immortal realms of the fey, mortal visitors – who can still feel wonder, take real risks, be truly heroic, father or bear ensouled children, and be novel – are one of the most valued commodities of all) and recruiting the occasional changeling. Here, also, is found one of his major contacts – Cedfion Basceol Darcia (Battlewine Deathmusic), Master of the Pattern, Lord of Ravens, Son of the Morrigan, is the High Lord of House Fion, of the Unseelie Court. Unlike most of the lesser Unseelie, he habitually wastes the power to assume near-human form. While far too magical to spend much time in core himself, Cedfion is more than capable of traveling the Manifold and retains much of his power in many realms – and he would like to expand his realm. The best way to do that among the immortal and almost totally infertile fey is to acquire changelings and recruits from among the once-human. Thus, he is one of Kevin’s sponsors, and he has no objections to allowing him to traipse in and out of Faerie – not that Openers are easy to stop in any case.

   Kierroth gains

  • Blood of the Dragon (Specialized, only as a prerequisite, 3 CP)
  • The Dragon’s Bones (May sustain up to (Int Mod+2) levels of spells without effort, 6 CP*)
  • The Emperor’s Star (oddly, this does not apply to all Thralls while he’s in Faerie, it applies to all Thralls who are currently in Faerie whether Kevin is there or not – giving them an additional positive level, the ability to take large forms and +2 bonus uses of Shapeshift, 6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (+4 Competence Bonus to all Skills, 8400 GP, +2 Luck bonus to all Skill and Attribute Checks, 1400 GP, +1 Luck bonus to AC and Saves, 1400 GP, +1 Resistance Bonus to All Saves, 700 GP, Personal Haste, 1400 GP, Expeditious Retreat, 1400 GP, and +12+2xCon Mod HP, 1400 GP, total 16,100 or 17 CP)
  • Major Favors/the Courts of Faerie (6 CP)
  • Privilege (Noble Status in Faerie, 3 CP)
  • Advanced Witchcraft:
    • Advanced Shadowweave (may generate L2/L3 illusions for 2/4 power, 6 CP)
    • Advanced Glamour (L2/L3 hypnotic and emotion-influencing effects for 2/4 power, 6 CP)
    • The Sight (6 CP)
    • Weathermonger (6 CP)
  • Luck (6 CP) with +4 Bonus Uses (6 CP)
  • Wealth/Faerie +32 (1 CP).

   All of these abilities are Corrupted: they force him to take an anthropomorphic form and allow cold iron to bypass his innate strength-based damage reduction.

   *While this is normally simply (Int Mod) total spells, this has been house-ruled to disallow certain – quite absurd – builds which exploit temporary boosts to casting abilities to load up on high-level enhancement spells – starting, of course, with Intelligence. Kevin usually maintains an energy-protection spell and whatever sort of formshift or enhancement is convenient at the moment.

   The Fifth Circle Roman Imperium is a surprisingly popular destination. You can engage in the guilty pleasures of watching the games, sample a little decadence, and enjoy the spice of danger – since every year a small percentage of the tourists offend someone important, wander into the wrong place at the wrong time, or break the local laws, and wind up taking a starring role in the arena or the slave markets themselves. Admittedly, the percentage is tiny – but with 123 inhabited human core worlds, and 150 billion inhabitants, there are still several hundred cases a year. There aren’t many other “real” (ensouled) people on the Imperial slave markets any more; despite the general lack of aging in the Imperium, its been 2000 years since the major influx of the dead from the core waned with the fall of the Roman Empire. Most ensouled slaves have long since met with accidents and incarnated elsewhere, the trouble-prone adults have been weeded out, few ensouled children are born, and even fewer wind up enslaved.

   As Titus Decius Aquilla, a supplier of rare beasts (via transformation) and slave-trader, Kevin owns a sizable estate outside of Rome – and has his agents out to purchase any ensouled people who come up on the markets or can be bought out of the arena. Some will take his bargain. Some will be sold back to worried relatives, to people who come to rescue them or – depending on how demonic he’s feeling today – be quietly returned to core (especially likely if they’re very young), put to work around the estate, resold – or even (if they’re especially troublesome, prone to escape, refuse to acknowledge that they’re being rescued from worse fates, don’t respond to punishment, and he’s in a really bad mood) be placed in a shitty job or even be returned to the arena. That normally only happens when some idiot insists on fighting to win their freedom – but he makes sure that there are rumors. He usually leaves at least one Thrall here who can easily detect souls to manage things during his absences.

   Since the Imperial Legions are currently employing a fair number of Kevin’s Thralls, the expansion of the Roman Empire is once more underway – this time, into the neighboring reaches of the Manifold as well as into the barbarian territories. A steady stream of wealth – and new slaves – is pouring into the Roman Imperium. Kevin has made sure to expand his privileges, so as to acquire any of them that have souls before they even reach the markets.

  • Privilege/Wealthy Landowner-Noble (6 CP)
  • Privilege/First Choice of Slaves (6 CP)
  • Enormous Favors/Lower-level Imperial Bureaucrats and Managers (9 CP)
  • Wealth/Imperium +36 (5 CP)
  • Enormous Favors/The Imperial Military (9 CP)
  • Immunity/Legal Problems (as a prominent citizen, Kevin is effectively immune to most legal problems in the empire: Uncommon / Minor / Major, 3 CP)
  • Privilege/Advanced Trainers (6 CP)
  • Cloaking (conceals his power, 6 CP)
  • +4 Bonus Uses of Dark Channeling (3 CP)
  • Three Contacts: the Arena Manager, Commander of the City Guard, and Slave Market Manager (3 CP).

   Crusader, a realm spawned of a full-sensory computer game, allows visitors to take on the roles of super-heros and super-villains – complete with some minor powers (most often purchased as Innate Enchantment). Oddly enough, this often includes some Charisma enhancements – allowing people to invest more skill ranks in their characters and accounting for why so many super-types are so impressive – and either generically good-looking or incredibly repellent.

   In Crusader, Kevin takes on the role of Arpherion, an ambiguously dark mage who appears in the role of an antihero, wielding his terrible dark magics against other evils – and the occasional foolishly-interfering hero. With the current dimensional instabilities which are battering the realm, Kevin is currently finding it near-impossible to visit without being caught up in a battle against some malevolent supernatural force which simply does not belong in Crusader – a fact which is beginning to seriously interfere with his operations in the realm. The fact that the place is a major dimensional crossroads is no help at all.

   Crusader is a seriously silly place at times, and isn’t one of Kevin’s favorite realms. On the other hand, it’s one of the most useful. The place is overrun with youngsters from the Core Worlds, and thus makes for easy recruiting, it’s extremely convenient to be able to find powerful mages, sellers of mystical supplies, incredible super-geniuses, and purveyors of pretty much any other imaginable item or service in the phone book, and it offers terribly easy transportation and access to hundreds of other realms – second only to realms such as “Highway” or the “High Seas” and far move conveniently. If you want to do business across the dimensions, dealing with Crusader is pretty much a necessity.

  • Immunity / Recording and Remote Detection (Common / Minor / Major, 6 CP)
  • Advanced Blessing Specialized in his Immunity (sharing it with up to [Cha Mod + 1] others and any Thralls in the area, 6 CP)
  • Action Hero / Stunts (Corrupted: only Magical Stunts, 4 CP)
  • Contact/The Dark Rider (very powerful, 2 CP)
  • Berserker/Mystical Focus (Enduring, Odinpower, Odinmight, +8 Caster Level, +8 Saves vrs Magic,4 Con, -2 AC, requires 1 mana, corrupted for 10 CP)
  • Reflex Action (3 actions/day variant, specialized in magical actions, 3 CP)
  • Upgrade his Dark Magic to cover L5 spells (24 CP)
  • Wealth +32 (evading the -5 exchange rate with core earth, 1 CP).
  • He also gets a free Arch-Nemesis and a Cavern of Mysteries (which doesn’t actually do or contain anything in particular, and thus is also free).

   The Colonial Era was Kevin’s first experience with the far-flung British Empire – and he found the intrigues and colonial excesses of interest. It was also his first experience in working as an English special agent. While he no longer takes much interest in the local intrigues – his affairs now tend to involve larger-scale affairs – he still finds the focused concentration the realm allows useful in negotiations, and usually gathers potential recruits from Crusader in this realm for their final recruitment.

   As a “Player of the Great Game“, Kevin gains

  • Witchcraft/Divination (6 CP)
  • Enthusiast and Adaption / Specialized in Contacts (3 CP)
  • Wealth/The Colonial Era +32 (1 CP)
  • Privilege/Advanced Trainers (Corrupted: Limited number of students, 4 CP)
  • Block: Melee and Arcane (12 CP)
  • Combat Reflexes (6 CP)
  • Melding (6 CP)
  • Hysteria (mental effects, specialized in Skills; 1 mana for +12 to any skill check, 6 CP)
  • Improved Expertise (may take up to 20 off of his AC to focus on charisma or dexterity-linked skills, 12 CP).

   The Abyss – also known as Hell – is a realm of evil and suffering, pain and darkness. Kevin has never visited more than briefly – but the realm of the Fey borders upon it as it borders upon Heaven, it still has a hold on him, and there is a place waiting for him there if he should turn wholly to the darkness and seek to claim it. As Belramos, the Wanderer in Shadows, he is a minor princeling of the abyss – one of the few demonic entities human enough to freely walk the Core and recruit there – or, for that matter, to visit the Heavens…

   Kevin prefers to stay away from both the various Hells AND Heavens. He doesn’t really feel comfortable in most of them, and doesn’t generally approve of the Abyss. He remembers how it felt to be dragged there himself – and it wasn’t a good experience. Of course, the Powers of Light generally don’t have a big welcome waiting for him either – or at least not a good one.

  • Privilege/may enter and leave hell relatively unmolested (3 CP)
  • Privilege/may enter and leave Heaven relatively unmolested (3 CP)
  • Favors/ minor gifts from the powers of hell (mostly a lure, 3 CP)
  • Celerity/Flight (Corrupted, requires wingroom, 8 CP)
  • a Powerful Contact – whichever demon lord opts to try and gain his loyalty or trade favors (2 CP)
  • Upgrade his Dragonfire ability to full use (3 CP).
  • Breath of the Dragon (6 CP)
  • Remove the “for spell conversion only” modifier on his Dark Channeling (3 CP)
  • +4 Bonus uses of Dark Channeling (3 CP)
  • Path of the Pharaoh (Gateway, 6 CP)
  • Channeling/Censure (may rebuke or command evil outsiders, 6 CP)
  • Channeling/Divine Command (may infuse objects with unlife force, 6 CP)
  • A 4-point Relic – the sword Nightfall (Channeling: Smite, Wrath, Corruption, and Final Death).

   In The Books of Magic, a.k.a the English Fantasy Zone, Kevin is Squire Jenkins – a reclusive sorcerer-graduate of Hogwarts, with an sizable estate holding an assortment of occult wards, servants, mystical resources, and gates – as well as some extremely talented trainers. Given that the Books of Magic border on the Talking Animal Zone, the Arthurian Realms, the Dark Fantasy Realms, Hogwarts, and the Wylds of Faerie, the situation there often gets a bit complicated. It’s still a comfortable life, and a place to keep and train his Thralls, concubines, and various other properties. It’s also where he stables his pet silver dragon – a juvenile import from the Dragonworlds (a slave bought to serve as a steed) who counts as one of his Followers.

   This identity has been becoming more active recently, as Hogwarts, and its students, have found themselves entangled with Vekxin – who, like Kevin, recruited many of them – but who, unlike Kevin, lied about what they were getting into. Kevin, of course, recruits at Hogwarts regularly – most of the Slytherin kids and a scattering of the others sign up every year – but he’s honest about it. He’s also an alumnus, and (at least these days) would probably be considered a qualified teacher, which may come back to bite him one of these days. Given his involvement in curing the various Hogwarts students, his political connections with the magical authorities have grown considerably – just as they are becoming more and more aware of their dimensional neighbors.

   As Squire Jenkins, Kevin possesses

  • A Sanctum with Occult Wards and Guardians (15 CP)
  • Power Words (6 CP)
  • Major Privilege/Access to Magical Schools and Places of Power (6 CP)
  • Magical Favors (Corrupted: other mages ALWAYS want to get something back, 2 CP)
  • Upgrades his Dark Magic to provide access to fourth-level spells (12 CP)
  • Major Favors/The Magical Authorities (6 CP)
  • An additional level of Eye of the Dragon (6 CP)
  • Contacts with numerous major, if difficult-to-locate figures (Enthusiast and Adaption, Specialized in 2 CP worth of Local Contacts, 3 CP).
  • His Sanctum Abilities include
    • Privilege/Major (access to trainers who can provide a high-level Package Deal, 6 CP)
    • Privilege/Neutral Meeting Place (3 CP)
    • An extensive Library (bought as Double Enthusiast and Adaption, 9 CP)
    • Witchcraft/The Sight (6 CP). A variety of Gates, including one to the Imperium near his estates as Titus, are free, since he can readily create them.

   In several worlds of Anthropomorphic, Talking, or Were-Animals, Kevin appears as Angkor Shadowfang – a dangerously predatory wolf-person. It’s a bit more of a giveaway than he would like, but he’s never been especially indirect either.

   As Angkor, Kevin is extremely feral, inclined to simply take what he wants, and can be quite violent if he’s opposed. Almost uniquely, his first fallback position as Angkor is hitting someone – rather than talking, psychic manipulation, spellcasting, or some other more subtle method. For Angkor, there are few things more fun than a mass melee with claws and fangs. If anyone is silly enough to let him catch or dominate them, then they’re his to do with as he likes.

   At least, unlike much of his predatory “competition”, he doesn’t generally kill and eat them.

   As Angkor, Kevin gets

  • Martial Arts/1d6 Natural Weapons (6 CP)
  • Grant of Aid/Bonus Uses (6 CP)
  • Grant of Aid/Spark of Life (6 CP)
  • Occult Sense / Scent (Specialized, -2 on saves versus scent-based attacks, 3 CP)
  • Mindspeech (Specialized in animals and animalistic creatures, 3 CP)
  • Major Favors (Elementals and Nature Spirits, with +Cha Mod bonus uses, 18 CP)
  • Adds his Dex Mod to his Str Mod when in Melee Combat (Augmented Bonus, 12 CP)
  • Track (Urban, Wilderness, and Dimensional), with the Identification and Style/Scent Modifiers (18 CP)
  • Tireless (6 CP)
  • Reflex Training/Self-Healing when Damaged (6 CP).

   All these abilities are Corrupted: their use forces a blatant change into an animalistic form per the local rules.

   In the Forgotten Realms – and in many other d20 realms – Kevin tends to fall into the role of Kevelian, an Initiate of the Red Wizards of Thay. Unfortunately, while Kevelian is an up-and-coming agent for the Red Wizards (or other local evil magical sect) he also maintains an undercover relationship with the local Priests of Thoth (or other elder-knowledge deity religious group), tinkers with Elven High Magic (or whatever the local elder magic is), and otherwise conspires all over the place in fine style. This will probably land him hip-deep in trouble eventually.

   Kevalian seems to be developing a reputation for his exceptional personal power and mastery of gates – as well as for a curious mixture of obliging geniality and murderous destructiveness. The fact that he’s trying to expand a trading network across a variety of dimensions is also likely to attract notice. He also may be becoming involved – at least peripherally – in the Drow Godswar.

   As Kevelian Kevin gets

  • +2d0 HD (and +2x Con Mod HP, 8 CP)
  • Metamagic/Area with Glory (12 CP)
  • Major Favors (The Red Wizards, 6 CP)
  • Favors (The Priests of Thoth; Corrupted: they don’t really trust him. 2 CP)
  • +2 on saves versus Spells (3 CP)
  • Major Favors / The Elven Races (6 CP)
  • Cloaking (conceals the majority of his raw power, 6 CP)
  • Major Privilege (he now has enough agents to recruit kids and purchase slaves across much of Faerun, 6 CP)
  • Weapons Proficiency / Psychological Weapons (6 CP)
  • Knowledge/Magic of Faerun +16 (specific knowledge, 1 SP).

   In the various Star Wars Realms, Kevin falls into the role of Darth or Master Santarous, an eccentric force-wielder. Unlike most such, he isn’t especially vulnerable to dark side corruption – possibly since he sees his powers as little more than a gateway for sticking his nose into everyone else’s business, rather than a choice between competing philosophies of life. He usually acts as a corporate mercenary, specializing in industrial espionage operations.

   Perhaps fortunately, most of the population of the realm sees Santarous as just another wannabe from Core playing at being a force-user – and probably as weak and ineffectual as most of the rest of them. A few of his local connections know otherwise; Santarous may not take his powers too seriously – the red cap with the white pom-pom is enough to tell them that – but he’s certainly got enough of it.

   As Santarous, Kevin gains

  • Immunity to Dark Side Corruption (Uncommon/Major/Great, 12 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment (Gains Melee Block, +2 Dex, +2 Wis, and his Blade is treated as Adamant – ignoring Hardness of less than 20, 6 CP)
  • Missile Block (Specialized: Only while Wielding a Blade, 3 CP)
  • Major Favors (Ruthless Corporations/The Black Sun criminal underworld, 6 CP)
  • Enthusiast (Specialized in a “particular” Relic: Improved Augmented Bonus: Whatever Forceblade he’s using lets him add his Dex Mod to his Str Mod in Melee combat) (3 CP)
  • Reflex Training/Combat Reflexes Variant (6 CP)
  • Improved Initiative +4 (6 CP)
  • Trick/Death Blow 3/Day (6 CP)
  • Advanced Witchcraft/The Sight (6 CP)
  • Two narrow skills: Security Systems +18 (1 SP, +7 Dex, +5 Int, +5 Trained) and Computer Hacking +16 (1 SP, +5 Int x2, +5 Trained).

   In the Anime Realms Kevin falls into the role of Arken of the Sands – an incredibly agile young mercenary swordsman with dark mystic powers which he usually winds up winds up wielding against far greater darknesses. Unfortunately, he tends to feel that if people don’t have either (a) the ability to protect themselves or (b) the resources to pay for such protection, then they’re obviously (c) – the property of whoever rescues them. He has no compunctions about saving a bunch of kids from demons, only to turn around and either ransom them to their parents or sell them on the local slave market. They’re better off aren’t they? Doesn’t that make him a good guy?

   Almost uniquely, there aren’t any real complications here. While there’s usually a plot to deal with when you drop into the anime realms, weird people appearing, doing incredible things for a short period, and then vanishing for lengthy periods before they re-appear somewhere else doing something totally different, is simply a normal part of reality there. Still, as an experienced wanderer of the Manifold, Kevin is mildly annoyed at just how strong the drag of the anime conventions are. There are a number of other identities he could try to slip into, and he could probably change things given enough time and effort – but every time he turns around in an anime universe he gets shunted back into being Arken. Not that it isn’t FUN to be Arken sometimes, but it’s a bit blatant.

  • +6 Warcraft/BAB (specialized in Swords, 18 CP).
  • Improved Melee Block (may block up to 60 points of damage from an attack with a DC 15 melee save. This uses up an attack of opportunity, 12 CP)
  • Arcane Block (Specialized, only with sword, 3 CP)
  • Opportunist/can reflexively throw a transmutation spell on anyone in the immediate vicinity who’s just gone unconscious (6 CP). Arken usually throws a protective, or move-to-safety spell on allies or people they’re rescuing, and a stabilize-bind-and-ready-for-sale effect on enemies.
  • May do Stun Damage with Blades without penalty (add Strike to the Blade Expert martial art, 2 CP)
  • Add Vanishing to his Lightning Fist Martial Art (2 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (5000 GP, 6 CP): +2 Resistance Bonus on Saves (1400 GP), +10 to Jump (1400 GP), and a +4 Shield bonus to AC (2000 GP).
  • Contacts: A local dealer in “dark” magical merchandise and a slave trader (2 CP).
  • Specialist/Disarm (+4 to such attempts, 1 CP) with Evasive/When Disarming (1 CP), both Specialized: only with Swords.
  • Improved Initiative +2 (3 CP).

   In Baelaria, a world of steampunk and magic, Kevin is Arriken, a licensed mage, Ritualist, Channeler of Spirits, and Master of Spiritfire. The role hasn’t settled entirely yet – but seems to be far more focused on raw power than most roles, perhaps due to the ongoing war in the area.

   Thanks to their activities in Baelaria, a relatively simple combat-mage role suddenly became entangled with the Church, the Government, the Military, The Alchemists, the Mages, and the Underworld – all at the same time.

   In Baelaria, he gains

  • Firm Control on Ridden by the Loa (Specialized in the Half-Celestial and Half-Infernal Templates, 6 CP)
  • Privilege/Relevant magical licenses and memberships (3 CP)
  • Ritual Magic (6 CP)
  • Full Dragonfire (+3 CP)
  • +1x Eye of the Dragon (6 CP) with the ability to Drain Items (+3 CP) and Living Fire (6 CP)
  • Spirit Lore +16 (Narrow, 1 SP, +10 Int x2, +5 Training)
  • Minor Favors (Government, Military, and the Church, 9 CP)
  • Fortune/Evasion Variant (6 CP)
  • Local Wealth +32 (1 CP)
  • Mystic Artist/Oratory (Manipulation Abilities: Fascinate, Hold Audience, Emotional Auras, Freedom, Mass Suggestion, Greater Summoning, Inspiration Abilities: Emotion, Greatness, Excellence, Mass Greatness, and Mass Excellence. 6 CP).

Godlike Sorcery

   Godlike “doesn’t have magic”. What it does have is a power that has no physical mechanism, leaves no traces, violates all known natural laws, depends on its user’s self-confidence, and increases when the user goes crazy. Sounds like magic to me, and I like magicians. Ergo:

Sorcery (New Power):

   “Sorcery” works a lot like Goldberg Science; A sorcerer can prepare almost any imaginable spell – but only a few at a time. Unlike Goldberg Devices, spells can be prepared relatively quickly, and don’t require investing will points. Unlikely a goldberg device, a spell is one-shot, and they never last for more then an hour or so at best.

  • Spells are “built” like powers. The maximum number of virtual “will points” which can be involved in any given spell is equal to the (sorcerer’s will score /3) at the time the spell is created and prepared. Powerful spells often have strange limitations.
  • The maximum die pool that any spell can have is equal to the user’s sorcery die pool. This also limits hard and wiggle dice.
  • “Preparing” a spell requires a Sorcery check at a difficulty number of; 4 + (the will value of the spell/10). The time required is equal to the five hours minus the width of the sorcery check.
  • Sorcerers may prepare a maximum of one spell per level of sorcery they possess.
  • Sorcerers do not require laboratories. They do require assorted obscure tomes – and would prefer a mystic sanctum. Not having a sanctum raises the difficulty number by “+1”, not having a library by “+2”, and not having any books at all by “+3”.
  • Sorcery is inherently “noisy”. Unleashing a prepared spell creates a disturbance which can be readily sensed by other talents nearby. Due to this inherent limitation sorcerers may not take the Beacon flaw.
  • Sorcerers are subject to weird “influences”. In general terms, this means that some spells will be useless or impossible on any given mission. The GM should advise the sorcerer of this in advance – but if there are too many ley lines in the area to allow you to teleport within Berlin, there are too many. In game terms this keeps sorcerers from ruining adventure ideas. In talent terms, this is because sorcerers are more or less nuts and thus are limited by odd superstitions.

Sorcery Power Stunts;

  • Mysticism. Adds to the user’s sorcery dice when the user is preparing spells.
  • Occultism. Adds to the number of spells which a sorcerer can have prepared at one time. Also acts as a Brains skill if a through knowledge of occult lore should ever come in useful.
  • Signature. You have one spell per level so well memorized that you can automatically prepare it in a single hour.

Sorcery Edges:

  • Archmage (+2/4/8); You may purchase spells with costs of up to (Willpower/2) points.
  • Silent (+2/4/8); Your “spellcasting” is no more “visible” then the normal use of a talent.

Sorcery Flaws:

  • Themed (-2/4/8). You are limited to spells that involve a particular style of magic – holy, black, necromantic, etc.
  • Ritual (-3/6/12). Your spells take at least one action per point of will they cost to invoke.
  • Talismans (-1/2/4). Your spells must be focused through physical charms, such as wands, amulets, and rings.

Sorcerous Side Effects:

   As befits a bizarre and complex talent, Sorcery can have up to three side effects… Some notable possibilities include;

  • You can make small lights, sparks and flames within thirty feet or so. You don’t need a flash- light or a cigarette lighter.
  • You both read and speak many ancient and obscure languages. Unless you’re chasing an archeological relic these are rarely useful.
  • You have a small animal that hangs about and makes snide, sarcastic, and/or annoying remarks. It may occasionally do something useful. It tends to just pop in and out – but if somehow caught it makes a great hostage against you.
  • You always have the supplies for some odious personal habit – smoking, drinking gin, spraypaint for leaving graffiti, etc – in your pocket.
  • Your clothing always remains clean and neat, no matter what happens to it – or you. If you have a particular “costume” (Voluntary or not) it tends to just “come back”.
  • You levitate an inch or two above the ground when sleeping or meditating. As a mattress this is exceedingly comfortable.
  • The insides of your tent, train compartment, pockets, or other “personal space” is considerably larger – and much weirder – then the outside. This has no practical use however.
  • You can slowly levitate and move about items weighing up to a pound or so within 20-30 feet.
  • You can perform various “magic tricks”, such as producing rabbits from hats, casting your voice (Up to about 30 feet) and do many fascinating things with cards.
  • You hear mysterious voices and are haunted by invisible presences… Occasionally these may say something useful, or act to distract the attention of another talent, more often they’re annoying.
  • You “see” without eyes. This tends to weird people out – but you cannot be blindfolded and can read letters through envelopes by touching them to your forehead.
  • Your voice has some extremely strange quality.

Godlike Distractions

   First up for today, one of the usual players is thinking about trying out the Godlike system. Ergo, I have reached back into the files for a few random bits for that particular game – a rule for adding in Quirks, a sample character and his three gourmet powers, and one power that should NEVER be allowed.

Quirks:

   Insane talents can be incredibly powerful – but aren’t suitable for play. You can, however, find a bit of extra will in lesser obsessions.

   Quirks can be taken during character creation – or later if the GM allows it – and are “worth” 1-3 extra points of will each. They can be bought off later at a cost of 10 points of will each. Perhaps sadly, unless the GM makes a specific exception no one character may have more then five points worth of quirks.

   It must be noted that, thanks to talent, purely psychological quirks can have physical effects for a Godlike character. Sample quirks include various Personality Flaws (a classic master race fixation, claustrophobia, chivalry, always keeping your word of honor, ultra-patriotism, obsessive vengefulness or arrogance, tending to go berserk), Unluck (life just goes wrong for you. You get flats, your soup is cold, the light turns red, and you suffer other bits of self-sabotage and self-inflicted misery), Sensitivities (you’re bothered – or even injured – by things which don’t affect other people; you may be pained by iron, disabled by magnetic fields, or repelled by crosses), and Addictions (you suffer a bothersome “itch”, one die, or two die, penalties, if you don’t get a regular dose of something, get submerged in water every hour, have plenty of cigarettes, or just be a drunk). More serious problems are usually represented by limitations on talents.

Jason Carpenter:

  • Attributes: Body 2, Coordination 3, Sense 1, Command 2, Cool 3, Brains 1 (Base Will 5).
  • Skills: Athletics 1, Dodge 3, Grenade 2, SMG 3, First Aid 1, Mental Stability 2, Sight 1, Stealth 2, Anti-Tank Rocket 1, Pistol 1, Pilot 1, Education 1, and Tactics 1.
  • Will Expenditures: The Scottish Rite 1D (1), Respawn 1HD (2), Telekinetic Reconstruction 1D (1), a latent +1 to each Attribute (6), and +15 to his base Will – (Making it a 20), of which he promptly spent 2 to get his “Respawn” up to 2 HD – and 1 to activate it.

   Jason actually started off his career as a “talent” by dying. Stupidly. Falling over a cliff. He wasn’t exactly expecting to wake up, perfectly healthy, back under the tree where he’d let his crazy Aunt Evelyn talk him into her shamanistic “bonding with the earth” routine. Fortunately, he found and disposed of his body (and was THAT ever a weird experience) before anyone else ran across him – er, it – er… whatever.

   He could feel that there were other ways to channel energy. On the other hand, given that his first ability seemed to be a sort of immortality, there wold probably be time for that later. At the moment, there was a war to fight – and, while his talent might not have much (OK, anything at all) in the way of offensive or conventional defensive functions, it certainly had its uses. The ability to spot and identify other talents was worthwhile on its own, and a lot of them went down when shot.

  • The Scottish Rite: Teleport with the Global Range and Maximum Capacity extras, plus the ability to use pictures to “target” (+2/4/8) ports and the Silent extra – for a total of 20/40/80. It no longer Attacks (-1/2/4) or Defends (-1/2/4) either, in part because it also has Nervous Habit (a chant, -1/2/4), Loopy (-2/4/8), and 14 levels of “Slow” (-1/2/4 each) – meaning that it takes 14 actions in Combat or 14 minutes out of combat to activate, for a net cost of 1/2/4. A couple of hard dice there, and you have a wonderful way to ship up to six tons of stuff to pretty much anywhere on earth that you need it.
  • Respawn: This gourmet power is pretty simple: when you die, you return twenty-four hours later (or at dawn or some such) at the place, and in the physical condition, at which you last “saved”. The base costs is, as always, 1/2/4 – but this power is Robust (+1/2/4), and Useful Outside of Combat (+1/2/4) – and arguably pretty much has to be both Endless (+1/2/4) and Unconscious (+1/2/4), for a net base cost of 5/10/20. Perhaps fortunately, it requires a complex ritual to set up a “save point” (-2/4/8), which is also Expensive (-1/2/4) and “Glow” (the power surge when you respawn is pretty blatant, -1/2/4). That gives us a net cost of 1/2/4 – the minimum.
  • Telekinetic Reconstruction: This gourmet power physically reshuffles atoms and subatomic particles to rebuild matter on either the molecular or atomic (at 1/20’th the base amount) levels. Sadly, while this is very useful in many ways, it’s too slow to attack or defend with – at least via conventional use of the ability. Still, it is both Robust (+1/2/4) and Useful outside of Combat (+1/2/4), for a net base cost of 3/6/12. Of course, you’ll also need Intuitive (this allows the user to unconsciously understand the structure of items, and thus use this power effectively without either massive skills or massive superintelligence, +2/4/8). The usual version of this power has a Very Short Range (-2/4/8), can only handle 1/10’th the amount of material which “normal” methods of transmutation can handle (-1/2/4), and comes with a Nervous Habit (must chant the “words of change”, -1/2/4) – for a net base cost of 1/2/4. As a telekinetic physical re-arrangement – however complex – the effects are automatically permanent, just like moving a rock or forging a piece of metal through mundane methods.

   Finally, here’s a power that no sensible game master should EVER allow:

   “Deathwish” is based off of “Instant Death“, and thus has a base cost of 6 per HD. Modifiers include

  • 2 levels of Vicious (+1/2/4) (Adds +1 level of Killing Damage per).
  • 12 levels of Area (+1/2/4); (x10, x20, x40, x80, x160, x320, x640, x1280, x2560, x5120, x10240, x20480 (a 12-mile radius).
  • No Upward Limit (+2/4/8); +5 will doubles the limits of the power (mostly radius).
  • Friendly Fire (+2/4/8): Does not affect friends and neutrals.

   This has a base cost of 42 points per hard die.

   We’re going to need a lot of limitations. Lets go with…

  • Does Not Affect Other Talents (-2/4/8). It only works on normal people.
  • Backfires (-2/4/8): Does one point of killing damage to the user’s Torso when activated.
  • Expensive (-1/2/4): Always costs one point of Will to activate.
  • Mental Strain (-2/4/8): Using this power does a point of shock damage to the user’s head.
  • Nervous Habit (-1/2/4): User must scream a curse at his or her enemies.
  • Beacon (-2/4/8): Any talent nearby can sense it when you use this power.
  • Glow (-1/2/4): You blaze with the wrath of god when you use this power.
  • Loud (-1/2/4): When you use this power the curse you are shouting echoes for hundreds of yards.
  • Can’t Interfere (-2/4/8): You can’t spend will points to interfere with other talents when this power is being used.
  • No Range (-2/4/8): This power is always centered on the user.
  • Go Last (-2/4/8): Yes, this always goes last in the round.
  • Graphic (-1/2/4): Causing so many heads to melt and then explode is astoundingly horrific, both for the user and for anyone anywhere near a victim.

   That leaves us with a net cost of 4 points per hard die. Not bad for pretty much being able to destroy a small army. Even better if you can scrape up 46 Will; with that you can get a 12, 288 mile radius – enough to wipe your enemies off the face of the planet.

On Remaining Anonymous

   Player characters tend to do exciting, important, and notable things. That’s a large part of what makes role-playing games fun.

   On the other hand, many player characters try to cling to the shadows. They like the style – and they like to be unknown, mysterious, and untraceable. It’s a strategic advantage since it helps them keep opposition from arising in the first place. If no one knows who you are or what you’re up to, how can they plan against you? Tactically, if no one knows what your abilities are, how can they plan to stop you? If no one knows who you are or where you’re based, how can they pursue you?

   The trouble is, practically everything they do leaves clues – and while it may take Sherlock Holmes to find someone based on just a few clues, they tend to accumulate. Eventually, even the most foolish pursuers will start to catch on. If it takes too long, the characters will eventually find that nothing intrigues the public – or draws would-be detectives – like an unsolved mystery.

   And few player-characters are so cautious, well-organized, and subtle as to leave just a FEW clues. They tend to scatter catchphrases, wear distinctive outfits, wield exotic powers, repeat favorite patterns, gratuitously rescue witnesses, justify themselves to people, spend money, have casual liaisons, frequent preferred hangouts, and cherish their friends and contacts. Pretty much everything that a witness protection program would tell them NOT to do.

   Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman may all get away with this, but their secrets are protected by their authors – and in a well-run game with a neutral game master, there is no power that great anywhere. If the players don’t have to deal with the consequences of their decisions, there’s not much point to playing the game.

   As an example, in the Federation-Apocalypse game, Kevin, Marty, Jamie – and, in fact, most of the other characters – generally prefer to operate in the shadows of their advanced-technology multidimensional cosmos. For a time, this was possible – but they don’t really seem to realize that that time is drawing to an end.

  1. Their initial exposure – a news article about their “Training Exercises” at an estate outside of Core Earth London – was fairly rapidly buried in the news of the first major riots and outbreaks of violence resulting from the contagious-violence memes. On the other hand, while it was both benign and not especially noteworthy in itself, it could be classified as one of the triggering incidents. Still, it’s a big solar system. So far, so good.
  2. Their involvement with releasing the Hellstorm – a sentient Sith Battlecruiser which also happens to be an Archdemon – may or may not have become publicly known, despite the Hellstorms well-publicized attacks on the New Imperium star wars dimension, the Crusader super-hero dimension, and the Core Earth Federation Starfleet in pursuit of it’s vendetta against Ryan O’Malley. The information about their involvement was reported to the Emperor in the New Imperium, but how far it’s spread from there – if the Emperor hasn’t kept it secret – hasn’t come up yet.
  3. Rescuing the survivors of the Earth of the “Singular” dimension may have attracted some minor notice – more because of the fact that the survivors promptly sent representatives to Core Earth and began trading in technology that actually worked in Core Reality (a distinct rarity among science-fiction realms), than because of such minor shennanigans out in the infinite dimensions.
  4. Providing special agents – with some rather unique powers – for the Core Earth Military and the Core Earth English House of Roses might have led to some more publicity, but both groups are probably keeping that quiet for the moment.
  5. Rescuing a hundred or so Core Earth youngsters from a malevolent entity called Vekxin – and sending them home both cured and with a public-service announcement warning about Vekxin – made definite news. The details, including the fact that they’d been granted ready access to the dimension of Kadia and the abrupt establishment of twenty-odd gates scattered across nearly that many Core solar systems – was pretty blatant. While it was done under a local alias, that won’t be too hard to sort out – and will have established the fact that Kevin can imbue normal youngsters with quite a lot of power. After all, he enhanced quite a few friends of the youngsters Vekxin had taken so that they could help him look.
  6. They’ve established some business offices and enhanced agents on “detached duty” in the Core Worlds – all of them with general orders to show off and to do subtle recruiting/referring. Lately, this presence has been augmented by an actual advertising campaign. While all of that is – once again – going on without much of a direct link to their “real” identities, the similar abilities and patterns are going to be hard to miss.
  7. Being involved in moving the planet of Pictsome in advance of the supernova wavefront – and presumably later intending to use the same technique to move a major inhabited world – has drawn a good deal of attention. Admittedly, they managed to leave most of it focused on Ryan O’Malley and Advanced Technologies Incorporated, but they couldn’t exactly hide the fact that they were involved – and that little stunt was definitely newsworthy.
  8. Their mass purchases of property-class NeoDogs may not have drawn much attention yet – and by now Kevin should have gotten most of the ones that were available on the market, as well as having recruited quite a lot of the free faction – but it will probably have become a news item in conjunction with the next item.
  9. Opening up a treatment program for the people who have been exposed to the Weaponized Memes is probably drawing a good deal of notice – and, since Kevin intends to use that as a sort of good-faith-gift/bartering chip with the Core Government (such as it is), Kevin, at least, hasn’t even tried to hide his involvement with that.
  10. Finally, they delivered some representatives form the Linear Realms dimension to apply for membership in the Federated Americas. That might not normally be all that newsworth – there are a lot of applications – but at this point there seem to be several groups following their activities anyway and they’ve attracted a good deal of attention.

   Somehow I don’t think their optimistic notion of “anonymity” is going to hold up much longer. Do you? Do you think your own characters are going to be able to do it?

   Probably not. And it’s best to be prepared for that.

Shadowrun Penumbra Experiments

   Here we have a list of experiments that Mr Moore is planning to try in the current Shadowrun game. I’ll add an appendum on the results after he gets a chance to try them all out.

   Many of these experiments, though not particularly risky, are unlikely to have any positive value. Nonetheless, even one success would greatly increase the knowledge available to us poor meta-humans as well as potentially open up new areas of research.

Experiment #1: Cybernetics Self Transplant

  • Setup: Cybernetics are bonded to the user through their essence. Essentially, the lost essence flows into the machine, and makes it a part of the user’s (un)natural astral existence. This is shown by the fact that people can regenerate Essence very slowly, but only after cyberware is removed, and that it leaves an Essence hole which can be filled with other cyberware.
  • Hypothesis: If you remove cyberware from someone, and then replace it with at least some components of the same cyberware, you can reduce the Essence impact, because you are transplanting your own Essence.
  • Expected Results: None. Detailed astral analysis could give very interesting insights.

Experiment # 2: Cybernetics Transplants

  • Setup: As Experiment #1.
  • Hypothesis: Transplanting cyberware from one person to another, before the accumulated Essence dissipates, could reduce the Essence cost.
  • Expected Results: None. Detailed astral analysis could give very interesting insights.

Experiment #3: Radical Cybernetics

  • Setup: Cybernetics are normally very mundane. However, innately magical materials (radicals et all) could modify this.
  • Hypothesis: Cybernetics made partially of radicals would interesting properties for self-enchantment. Depending on the exact cyber-part, they also could provide protection against Astral attacks.
  • Expected Results: High. Radicals are in such short supply that they have not been used for much to date, and experimentation in this area should continue to yield results. This may or may not accomplish anything useful.

Experiment #4: Magical Pattern Implantation

  • Setup: Magical patterns and symbols are used by both Mages and Shamans (though with different styles, levels of complexity, and nature) to create or enchant spell effects. It may be possible to “build-in” enchantments for less Karma through designing tattoo-like magical patterns made out of magical materials, implanted into subjects’ dermal tissue.
  • Hypothesis: Magical patterns will create a specific effect the user can learn to control, as if it were a cybernetic implant, except magical.
  • Expected Results: Low. If it has any effect, it probably won’t be nearly as much as we want. If it works at all, it will probably be a good method for enhancing the power of lesser talents by giving pre-set patterns to channel their magic through.

Experiment #5: Essence Regeneration

  • Setup: Essence can regenerate at a very slow rate. However, the existence of Essence-draining creatures supports the idea that quicker Essence regeneration is possibly, likely though taking it from lesser living creatures. Prepare for the mass cow-massacre.
  • Hypothesis: Vampires seem to get this ability in order to survive their unstable spiritual state, which rapidly drains. It may not be possible to duplicate without similarly destabilizing the subject, but is probably possible with initiate abilities. It will probably be safer and easier to slowly absorb energy from all around to regenerate it at a faster rate.
  • Expected results: High. The principles seem practical and achievable, although it does require a couple valid assumptions.

Experiment #6: Essence Burn

  • Setup: Essence is very similar to Force for spirits, except that Essence is perhaps even more powerful and more flexible. it doesn’t give a bunch of freebies, but it much harder to affect. Nonetheless, spirits can burn Force (or usually, have it burned off by others). It has minor magical effects on others. Therefore, people can probably burn Essence for some useful effect. The existence of Vampires and so forth confirms that it should be possible.
  • Hypothesis: Burning Essence can be done and will bring potent but short-lived power boosts, which can be channeled into pre-set effects, such as spells.
  • Expected results: High. The theory may not be practical, but it seems possible and is simply the extension and combination of known existing phenomenon.

Experiment #7: Mundane Spell Sustaining

  • Setup: Spells usually have to be sustained by the individual creating, but it is possible to hand-off spells with the right techniques. What’s not clear is if you could train a mundane to do the same. This could greatly expand potential human achievement, as well as create a lot more Shadowrunners on the cheap. Though they probably wouldn’t be as good as usual player-characters, they’d be pretty useful and flexible.
  • Hypothesis: Although mundane individuals can’t easily sense magical activity, excellent training can sometimes improve on nature. They may not be able to create active magical effects, but they could potentially sustain them, acting as a focus. This will require intense mental training and close work with a magically active spellcaster.
  • Expected Results: Low. Although theoretically possibly, it’s not at all clear that mundane individuals will ever be able to control magical phenomenon.

Experiment #8: Powered Battle Armor

  • Setup: Although it’s never really been done, the basic components of powered armor are available. Artificial cybernetic muscles, strong armor technologies, and the electronic capacilities to link numerous systems together.
  • Hypothesis: Powered armor can be built, although even light suits will run into the half-million range. It won’t be as efficient as cybernetics, but will give solid security-grade armor, much built-in functionality, and Strength and Quickness bonuses.
  • Proposed Powered Armor Design
    • Light Experimental Suit Prototype
    • Base Components: Light Security Armor, Muscle Replacement 4, Battery Pack.
    • Effect: Combined, these should give an effective bonus, although less efficient than implanted muscles.
  • Expected Results: High. The largest issue is that the armor will eat up battery life very quickly, and integrating all the systems could be quite difficult. It may be necessary for users to have datajacks to integrate suit controls and muscles.
  • It will probably be useful for site defense or well-supplied military operations, not running around. The cost is unlikely to go down much beyond the base components. Shadowrun manufacturing is almost as cheap and quick as manufacturing can get; some components simply require a very tight tolerances and very intricate work.

Experiment #9: Quick-Break Capsules

  • Setup: Auto-injectors are handy, but they usually only hold one drug at a time, and require some Essence. However, DMSO offers a quite handy delivery alternative mechanism. The development of quick-break capsules another way of delivering drugs swiftly.
  • Hypothesis: A DMSO/drug mixture, placed within small capsule and strapped near an artery offer a useful alternative, and makes it easier to reload or alter the contents, or get multiple ones. A capsule holder could even link to internal computer or medical systems.
  • Expected Results: High. The technology is easily available and should integrate nicely.

Baba Yaga The Exaltation

   Some time ago we wanted to do some anime-style roleplaying – but the prospective game master was new to running games, only had a short campaign in mind, and wanted a quick and easy character generation system. We wound up using Baba Yaga, which – while originally designed for a slightly-fantastic WWII setting – worked very nicely.

   A bit later on, we wanted to do a few things in the world of Exalted. Whether for good or ill, no one wanted to roll large numbers of dice, assemble charm combinations, or wade through long lists of charms. It was the setting – not the system – that everyone found interesting. We used Baba Yaga that time too; the characters were much easier to make, easier to play – and a bit less overwhelmingly powerful under the Baba Yaga rules. They couldn’t simply ignore mortal attackers, build massive dice pools, set up ultimate-destruction combos, or automatically overwhelm mortal magi. They were still far more powerful than normal humans however – and, thanks to Baba Yaga’s freeform magic system – were far more versatile than they were under the usual Exalted rules.

   Overall, that was a good deal of fun, even if we did boggle the now somewhat-more-experienced game master a few times.

   Just in case anyone should want to copy the experiment, here’s what you’d need:

Anime for Baba Yaga:

  • Characters get a +1 bonus on any die roll if they dramatically describe what they’re doing and/or give it a portentous name (“Annihilating Godsfire Palm!”). They should try to develop distinctive styles, since the GM gets to apply a -1 penalty if they get boring or out-of-character.
  • Characters may cast one self-enhancement spell as a part of any other action when it’s their turn. They must still roll reaction to use defensive effects off-action.
  • All major characters are marked by their power. They may have strange sigils on their skin, really odd hair, smell inhuman, or speak oddly. They can cover up with a cloak, but otherwise it’s nearly impossible to change how they dress or look for long. Similarly, they don’t age or scar.
  • Active spellcasting produces auras of light and similar dramatic side effects and makes the user’s power-markings more obvious (usually starting to glow brilliantly). The more powerful and externally-directed the spell, the greater the side effects.
  • All major characters have at least two blatant flaws – “greedy and impulsive”, “stupid and oblivious”, “obsessed and hardhearted”, “arrogant and blatantly evil”, “naive and obsessed with dramatic entrances”, or “instinct-driven with a tendency to go berserk”. In any case, they must make a point of playing up their flaws several times each game session or take an XP penalty.

Exalted Baba Yaga:

The Celestial Exalted

  • Are the most common character type in this setting.
  • Are designed as Superheroes.
  • Are always considered to be in at least a High magic zone EXCEPT in the underworld, which is always an Enclave level zone for them.
  • Solars
    • May buy upgraded Attributes for only 2/3’rds (16 XP) the normal cost and may upgrade their attributes by +2 instead of a mere +1.
    • May boost their personal magic level to Legendary for a round by spending 2 XP. This covers the drain, but if they fail their spellcasting check the magic will go out of control.
    • Are incredibly conspicuous and obvious heros.
  • Lunars
    • May buy Knacks, Talents, and Powers for only 2/3’rds the normal cost.
    • Gain +6 CP to spend on Armor, Natural Weapons, or Regeneration.
    • Are territorial, hierarchal, somewhat animalistic, and inclined to duels, blood debts, and barbarian/pack behavior.
  • Sidereals
    • May buy Perks for only 2/3’rds the normal cost.
    • Gain +6 CP to spend on Unarmed Combat, extra HTH damage, Faith, and Destiny or Divination magic.
    • Suffer a -2 Social penalty (Who are you?).
  • Alchemicals
    • Are designed as Superheroes.
    • Carry a personal High magic zone with them.
    • May trade out the Knacks, Talents, Powers, and Magic Skills they’ve purchased given a few days to do so.
    • Have +1 innate Armor, need not eat, drink or breathe, and are immune to poisons.
    • Suffer a -2 Social penalty.
    • Cannot enter purely spiritual realms or astrally project since their souls are anchored in their Soulgems.
  • Abyssals
    • Are designed as Superheroes.
    • Are always considered to be in at least a High magic zone anywhere except Faerie and the Upper Astral, where they are considered to be in an Enclave level magic zone.
    • May buy Skills are a cost of only 1/1/2/3/4 points for level 1/2/3/4/5.
    • If slain, an Abyssal is gone for good.
    • Suffer a -1 penalty on all die rolls in Creation unless the area is somehow aligned with death. They gain a +1 bonus in such areas.
  • Dragonbloods
    • Are designed as Pulp Heroes.
    • Are always considered to be in at least an Enclave level magic zone.
    • Gain +6 CP to spend on Perks – most commonly contacts, influence, and magical weapons and armor.
    • The player may design three dragonbloods and play them as a team. If one dies, replace him or her normally.
  • Spirits And Fey
    • Are designed as Pulp Heroes, but gain +1 level when in the Wyld or the realms of Faerie. They use the standard Baba Yaga rules otherwise.
    • NPC spirits may be of any level, right up to Cosmic Being for Celestines and such.
  • Deathlords
    • Are designed as Magelords.
    • Are restricted to the underworld and corrupted areas.Slain (good luck!) Deathlords are treated as slain Fey.

Caste

   While the Exalted are divided into castes, each with a special power, since Baba Yaga is a freeform point-buy system, characters are free to develop whatever skills, odd innate powers, or branches of magic they want to. On the other hand, they may buy their caste abilities for only two-thirds the normal cost.

  • Solar Caste Abilities:
    • Dawn: Enhanced intimidation.
    • Zenith: Projecting solar flame.
    • Twilight: Innate armor.
    • Night: Enhanced stealth, damping magical displays.
    • Eclipse: Oathbinding, Perk: “Diplomatic Immunity”.
  • Lunar Caste Abilities:
    • Full Moon: Enhanced movement and athletics.
    • Changing Moon: Illusory disguise ability.
    • Waxing Moon (normally lost): Enhanced social skills.
    • Half Moon (normally lost): Enhanced senses.
    • Waning Moon (normally lost): Enhanced stealth.
    • No Moon: Drain resistance.
    • Casteless: No special abilities.
  • Sidereal Caste Abilities:
    • Journeys: Enhances the groups movement speeds
    • Serenity: Enhances the groups Art skills.
    • Battles: Provides Armor-1 for the group.
    • Secrets: Protects the group from mind control and thought reading.
    • Endings: Provides the group with a +1 to damage.
  • Alchemical Caste Abilities:
    • Orichalcum: Enhanced damage with their attacks.
    • Moonsilver: Enhanced Reaction.
    • Jade: Personal Armor.
    • Starmetal: Luck bonuses on rolls.
    • Soulsteel: Fear aura makes them harder to hit.
  • Abyssal Caste Abilities:
    • Dusk: Aura of fear penalizes attackers and causes some to flee in terror.
    • Midnight: Zombie creation, necromantic blasts that only work on non-magical beings.
    • Daybreak: Innate armor.
    • Day: Enhanced stealth, damping magical displays.
    • Moonshadow: Oathbinding.
  • Dragonblooded Caste Abilities:
    • Earth: Innate armor.
    • Fire: Flame damage in HTH, fire immunity.
    • Air: Enhanced leaping, takes no damage from falls.
    • Water: Move and breathe freely in water.
    • Wood: Enhanced Athletics and Evasion, low-level innate armor.
  • Fey Caste Abilities
    • The Fey Castes are replaced by the Baba Yaga Fey types
  • Mortals and Wraiths
    • Are designed as Elite Normals, using the standard Baba Yaga rules.
    • Unlike in normal Baba Yaga, disrupted human spirits are permanently destroyed if they fail their recovery checks.
    • Exceptional Mortals – Wyld-warped barbarians, warlords, and thaumaturgists – may be designed as Pulp Heroes.

Manses and Hearthstones

   Hearthstones are simply Lesser Artifacts with a special restriction: you must maintain control of a structure of some kind to keep them working. This reduces their base cost by 1 point per level, but precludes modifiers for other special components.

General Notes

   While Solars may be sought by the Wyld Hunt, Lunars may need to drink creatures hearts blood to shape-shift, Sidereals may be entangled in heavenly bureaucracies and intrigue, Alchemicals may know nothing of creation, the Abyssals may be bound in service to dark masters, and the Dragonblooded may be loaded with family obligations, this is not required: those are elective disadvantages. If the game master wants to enforce them on everyone, they aren’t worth points. If the game master leaves them up to the players, they are worth points for those who choose to take them.