Thera: The Runelord Epic Class

The Theran Epic Hero:

   Beyond Twentieth Level :

   Theran characters may take a maximum of 20 “normal” class levels. Any levels beyond that must be taken in one of Thera’s two, mutually exclusive, high-level Classes – Epic Hero and Rune Lord. While it is possible – at least in exceptional cases – to start taking levels in these classes at level fifteen, it’s unusual. Characters who don’t qualify for Epic Hero or Rune Lord can’t advance beyond level 20 on Thera.

The Rune Lord:

   Bound to the powers of order and embodiments of the Runes which make up Thera’s structure, Runelords have great influence over the world about them, but are bound to that world – and pay a price for their power, both immediately, in the form of Divine Drawbacks, and in millennia to come. Over the ages, a Runelord will gradually grow into, and be transformed by, their rune or runes – slowly merging with the magical structure of Thera. Eventually, their Runes will spawn subrunes, new branches of magic will arise, and the elder rune will slowly be forgotten as it grows into something else – and its associated Runelord will pass on at last.

  • Requirements: Level 15+, completion of an Epic Quest, total attribute modifiers of plus ten or more, and attunement to at least one unclaimed Rune (The other two “attunements” may overlap but this will conflict with the power of the existing Runelord – who won’t like it. Both lords abilities will become unreliable).
  • Attack Bonus: +(L/2). Doesn’t raise the number of iterative attacks available.
  • Base Caster Level: +(L/2)
  • Save Bonuses: +(L/2)
  • Skill Points: +(Int Mod) per level.
  • Hit Dice: d8
  • Special: Gain one Feat, one Divine Power, six points of Resistances (energy forms, damage types, poisons, attribute drain or damage, environmental problems such as lack of air or food, and types of physical damage are all eligible), and one Divine Drawback per level.
  • Immunities: Aging and Disease, with a permanent “Death Ward” and “Mage Armor” effect. As expressions of universal energies, they’re resistant to both magic and psionics (Spell and Power Resistance of = 10 + Level).
  • Drawbacks: All Runelords are foci of vast (and quite detectable) forces, are watched by virtually everyone, are vulnerable to some specific form of attack (GMO, but this varies with the Runelord), and are difficult to heal or transform, as they can’t drop their spell resistance versus such effects.

Divine Powers:

   Astral Realms; Shaping the formless energies of the Astral Plane requires an unshakeable will and a great deal of belief – but Runelords generally have ample access to both. Powers on this list include:

  • Avatars; You may have up to (Intelligence) Avatars of yourself (treat as Simulacrums, but with a mental link to you) active at any given time. These take a week each to make, but there is no associated cost.
  • Minions; You control a variety of “Astral Constructs”. While these are semi-intelligent and quite powerful – an effective manifestation level of (user level/4, 10 maximum) – they’re shaped by the belief of your followers, not entirely by you. You gain one such construct per active major temple dedicated to you.
  • Realm; You control a private realm on the astral plane; within it your Talent Feats are much enhanced (half cost or double effect) and you can manipulate the environment at will. Deceased followers tend to turn up there. You may take a Talent Feat to gain the ability to gate back and forth between your realm and Thera.
  • Wrath; Those who anger you or violate the tenets of your faith will be stricken by some form of supernatural punishment (a disease, a bolt of lightning, a curse, etc).

   Followers; Runelords tend to develop cults and followings among those who find their runes important. Some take advantage of this Powers on this list include:

  • Cultists. You’ve got a group of fanatics. At any given time you can call on 3D6 devotes to undertake even the most suicidal missions.
  • Disciples. You have a direct bond with a small group – equal to your charisma score at any given time – of your priests, and may speak or channel your power through them at will as well as know what’s happening about them.
  • Faithful. You have a religion, and may call on great numbers of ordinary people, considerable reserves of money, and other resources, as required.
  • Investment. Your followers supply 1000 EP per day that you may use to cast spells, make items, or invest in mortals – raising them to a maximum of level 15. Sadly, you can not add it to your personal EP total.

   Mindspeech; The presence of a Runelord has strange effects on reality – and on minds. Some Runelords learn to use that psychic impact. Powers on this list include:

  • Adjutant; You may designate any one being at a time as your Familiar, Companion, or Mount, and grant it the relevant bonuses at an effective level equal to your total level. If you take this more than once, you can so imbue that many creatures at a time.
  • Divine Aura; You “radiate” an emotion, an aura of disguising illusion, or a Consecrate/ Desecrate effect in a radius of (10 x Charisma) feet. If relevant, standard saving throws for innate charisma-based powers apply.
  • Gift Of Tongues; You may communicate with any creature with a mind, listen in on hidden thoughts, and either Enthrall, Fascinate, or inflict Suggestions or Commands, on those you speak to. Perhaps fortunately, standard saving throws against innate-charisma based powers apply.
  • Spirit Sight; Your senses extend into the Astral and Ethereal planes. As a Feat you may learn to extend your touch and magical/mental talents to those levels as well.

   Runebond; The bond with their runes is the core of a Runelords power. Powers on this list include:

  • Awareness; While a Runelord automatically becomes aware of “major” activities involving his or her rune – the researching of great spells, relevant natural disasters, major battles, etcetera – this allows them to “sense” minor activities, involving otherwise-unimportant individuals. This also covers the symbolic activities of Theran “prayer”. (E.G.; “Praying” to a wargod involves at least a good practice bout – while praying to a deathgod usually means killing something or other).
  • Influence; You may manipulate events on a global scale, granting those you favor a “+3” bonus on rolls related to one of your runes and inflicting a “-3” penalty on those you oppose or disapprove of. For example, a god of Trade can influence relevant Diplomacy, Navigation, and Profession checks. Those he favors will get rich, those he opposes will run into menacing customs agents and upset customers all day.
  • Mastery; Reduces the “effective” level of personally-cast spells involving one of the user’s runes by 3 levels. If this reduces it to below zero, it becomes an extraordinary – rather then super- natural – effect. Mastery may be taken up to three times, twice provides reductions of 6/3 spell levels for the primary/a secondary rune – and three times provides a 9/6/3 level reduction for the users primary/first secondary/second secondary runes..
  • Returning; You’re very difficult to kill. Unless someone else claims your runes, or you are killed in some specific manner (GMO), you will eventually return even without help. If you are helped, your return will be quick.

   Metamorphosis; Runelords are always transformed into runic embodiments to some extent, but can limit it to the more or less cosmetic level if they choose. Some choose otherwise. Powers on this list include:

  • Ascension; You gain an appropriate plane-touched template (often Aasimar or Tiefling), without an ECL adjustment. This can be taken twice, in which case you get the appropriate “Half-Whatever” template, also without an ECL adjustment. Runelords can gain lycanthropic, half-dragon, and similar templates, as well, but cannot gain more then one. Runelords with this ability always appear quite monstrous, more so if they belonged to a monster species to start with.
  • Embodiment; You take on a monstrous form, and a variety of special abilities derived from it. Such forms usually include a few enhanced attributes, “natural” weapons and armor and a few physically-oriented “Feats”. Of course, quite a lot of equipment – such as armor, weapons, and magic items, will become unusable, and most people will react quite strongly to you.
  • Runemark; You gain +2 to a chosen attribute appropriate to one of your Runes. You are also blatantly changed by this; you may acquire a distinctive glowing aura when your abilities are in use, be physically warped, have glowing runic tattoos all over your skin, or whatever Mark the game master decides is appropriate.
  • Runeward; You may make saving throws against spells and effects which do not normally allow them. Moreover, whenever you make a saving throw against an effect which would normally produce a partial effect, the effect in question is entirely negated.

The Price Of Godhood:

   Runelords normally have more problems then heroes do. A god must take on one limitation from the list below per level in the Runelord class.

   Bond Of Faith; Runelords often get trapped in the nature of their runes, and in the role their followers expect them to play. Limitations on this list include:

  • Unable to resist Wyrd; You are unable to go against the nature of the runes you’re attuned to. For example, a death goddess might find herself unable to aid her own dying child, a sun god might be unable to “intervene” during the night, and a a war god might find himself unable to work towards a peaceful solution.
  • Metamorphic Cycles; You undergo a regular sequence of transformations, such as a sun god who starts each day as a child and dies of old age each night – although that’s extreme, even for gods, and probably counts as several choices.
  • Personal Artifact; A sizable part of your personal power becomes bound into an artifact of some sort. While this increases the effects of those abilities by 50%, it can be stolen – and those powers are not available without the artifact.
  • Distinctive Features; You are easily seen for what you are – no matter how you disguise yourself or shapechange.

   Immortality; The energies coursing through a gods body have a physical impact as well. Limitations on this list include:

  • Impervious; You are resistant to growth, as well as to aging and harm. You gain experience points at only one-third the normal rate.
  • Lost Slots; The innate magic of your body blocks the use of many items. Slotless items must be put into one at first, after that you will lose two slots per time this is taken.
  • Fertility; Like a dragon, you are fertile with almost anything. Unlike them, any liason with a mortal WILL result in a child. Such children will inherit a natural link with you and a certain amount of power – although how it will express itself is unpredictable.
  • Ascension; The oldest, and most powerful, Runelords tend to merge with Thera itself – and must be invoked before they can manifest. As a side effect they’re near-indestructible.

   Relationships; “Immortality”, coupled with slow inhuman transformation and vast personal power – some of it inheritable – is hard on a gods social life.  Limitations on this list include:

  • Divine Spouse; You’ve married another god of some sort. At best this takes up a lot of your time. At worst, well, Hera and Zeus are a fairly mild example.
  • Offspring; You have troublesome children, ranging from kids who disrupt your rituals or find weird trouble to get into to offspring who hate you, and want to usurp your position.
  • Callousness; You’ve watched mortals come and go for millenia, and have ceased to care. This does not endear you to those around you.
  • Divine Awe; You may be beautiful, inspire awe, or be unbelievably ugly, but those about you have massive emotional reactions, despite any disguise. In rare cases, this can kill.

   Reputations; While gods inevitably acquire reputations, things can get a bit extreme. Limitations on this list include:

  • Well-understood; Those opposing or dealing with you can be expected to know your abilities, tactics, psychological “buttons” and other relevant information in fair detail.
  • Nemesis; You’re opposed by another entity of similar powers – typically a god embodying an opposing rune, but sometimes simply a hero or god with an opposing personality.
  • Outlawed; You and your followers are wildly unpopular, and will attract endless opposition.
  • Overrated; People overestimate both what you can do and what areas you influence. This is likely to irritate other powerful entities and to attract unwanted trouble.

   Megalomania; As limited aspects of reality fall subject to a runelord’s will, it becomes hard to avoid feeling that the rest should be equally obliging. Limitations on this list include:

  • Irrational; You tend to stop thinking and lose all sense of restraint and discretion when you’re defied or offended.
  • Transcendent; You see yourself as “above” law and custom; you are a GOD, such pettiness does not apply!
  • Arrogant; You tend to treat all “mortals” as your personal servants and property. If they don’t like it, you can always find some more.
  • Lordly; You demand worship and respect from all those around you of lesser stature – and if they aren’t gods or epic heroes, they’re lesser.

   Unfocused; Runelords are personally linked with events going on throughout the world. As a result, they often find it hard to focus on anything in particular. Limitations on this list include:

  • Absent Minded; You tend to forget things. A LOT. You may forget your gear, your friends names and to refresh your spells unless you can make some very good wisdom checks.
  • Distracted; You suffer a -3 circumstances penalty on anything not directly “related” to one of your runes and must often make concentration checks to pay attention to what’s going on around you.
  • Oblivious; You suffer a -4 penalty on all Spot, Listen, and similar rolls.
  • Invoked; You’re subjected to random calls on your attention and power as you’re invoked for various purposes.

   Responsibilities; Runelords are important people, and their link with an aspect of reality often places demands on them. Limitations on this list include:

  • Committments; You have a lot of things to do, and often do not have time for “personal” adventuring or projects.
  • Runic Backlash; You’re affected by events which impact your rune; For example, a sungod might be severely weakened during an eclipse.
  • Primal Link; Your emotions and well-being touch the world about you through your runes. Minor disturbances will reveal your motives and emotions,
  • Marked; Your runes have set their mark on you; you will find it difficult or impossible to use opposing powers.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 57: A Singular Assault

   Marty couldn’t help looking back for a few moments: it wasn’t usual for Kevin to sit around moping; normally when something went wrong he just went to a backup plan and started another five schemes. Who would have known that his weak point was being beaten up and dominated by the Big Bad Wolf Muppet? Even on a bender he never would have guessed that one. Maybe it was something left over from early childhood? At least it hadn’t taken him long to recover after being removed from Sesame Street – but seeing Kevin-the-Werewolf moping because he’d gotten beaten by another wolf-creature almost made up for missing out on seeing his ex-wife’s face after the dragon, even if he had had to pick him up and carry him out of Sesame Street while he was busy whining.

“What did you expect? He was twice as big as you! Now, if only I could have seen her face. What do you think she looked like, Limey?”

“Uh, happy maybe? Pet’s are always fun!”

“Yeah, they are. Especially when they spit acid and you’re not the one having to clean it.”

“Yeah!”

   Kevin had still looked pretty sheepish for a bit after Marty hauled him out of Sesame Street and he’d reverted to human form.

   Oh well. Enough retrospective. Kevin was pretty well caught up on his scheming and recruiting anyway. He’d just been giving orders for the dataswipe-and-analysis they’d been wanting to run on a Core computer node; he was having the magical services offices in Crusader use the best copy-spells they could manage (a specialist-thrall should be able to manage something in the L6 to L9 range even if he or she couldn’t do it very often) to copy all the internal and hardwired data from one of the system nodes there to external storage for analysis. That way they could analyze things without letting the computers know about it at all. That should be quick and quiet enough to keep the system from simply wiping the bits they wanted to know – which was a problem with almost any form of physical theft. The bloody computers reacted in microseconds.

   With that underway, it was time to get back to the Linear Realms. The bulk transit gate from Crusader was up and running anyway, so they had a nearly-direct route to use.

   There was a lot of forklift-and-truck traffic going back and forth through the gate, although every once in a while something rumbled past under it’s own power. The Norfolk base was buzzing with activity as well. The Commander was busy “directing traffic” on the Crusader side of the gate.

   He probably didn’t want to give up his new powers. Well, it didn’t seem to have gotten him into trouble so far – and if there was an attack, he’d probably be more useful over there anyway.

   Anyway, the shipping was going just fine, although it was obvious that Norfolk hadn’t been this busy in some time, and was taking a while to ramp up to meet demand.

   They’d already deployed them some additional Thralls, so there wasn’t much they could do there at the moment. Marty voted for trying to get in on some of the followup assaults on the other enemy bases. It would be a lot more entertaining – and he needed to work off all that birthday cake anyway.

   Myagi confirmed that the mopping-up was still underway. Attacks were stepping up on both sides; it looked like the enemy had caught on to the fact that the Linear Developments had caught on, and they were now trying to cause as much damage as possible. The boldest move so far had been an attack on Yucca, but New York had been one of the more troublesome places though.

“Really. Where are they attacking in New York?”

“Well, your realm is shaping up to be a notable front. We can deploy a few more aides here to help you out. What’s most urgent?”

“Well they have been trying to hit the financial institutions and the harbor facilities, and causing general chaos. The Police and Fire departments have their hands full at the moment, the FBI are enroute now – along with some uncover military forces. At the moment we’ve traced a large number of their operatives to the New York area. Unfortunately with all the chaos going on there, our forces are spread thin.”

   Well, evidently they weren’t having any trouble accepting the Thralls as special agents – although a little shapeshifting might help with the uninformed. Kevin – suddenly having plenty of Thralls available – promptly deployed a hundred more to help them out, half to the New York area.

   Marty was mulling over going in person. He didn’t like to see ANY version of his home town being threatened. Maybe he should start putting together the Greater Federation of New York or something.

   The Linear Realms weren’t actually on the attack anywhere at this particular moment; they’d hit all the known enemy bases as quickly as possible, and were now analyzing information, running interrogations, and trying to trace people back.

   On the defensive side, New York was being hammered hard, Washington DC was in lock-down, and they’d gotten wind of an assault on North Bay Base in Ontario. In the Linear Realms it was the primary headquarters of NORAD. The transfer had been made after the responsibilities grew to large for Cheyenne to handle without serious upgrade costs.

   Kevin sighed and called for another hundred Thralls. After all, he’d just recruited quite a few, and they might as well help defend their homeworld. All of that was defensive though; they needed enemy commanders. Well, they could continue trying to capture and trace; he’d bet that the enemy still wasn’t sure what they were up against.

   So: rout terrorists in New York, join the defense of North Bay, chase a bomber in Washington, interrogate prisoners, see what they were after in Yucca, wait and see what else turned up, or do something else entirely?

   Kevin deferred to Marty; he was the combat strategist after all – and Kevin was still feeling a bit embarrassed about making suggestions.

   Marty considered that. Yucca might get them some intelligence. The thralls and the local forces could probably handle New York, as much as he hated to admit it. They still didn’t know that much about their opponents except that they were using Singular tech. Marty made a personal note to rummage around in Singular a bit more; the military there had apparently had secret technologies that the lunar colony bunch they’d transferred to Ealor hadn’t known about – such as the dimensional transport device that MacArthur had used to escape to the Linear Realms. North Bay and NORAD it would be. He wasn’t sure that he wanted the enemy to have access to those kinds of systems anyway.

   Kevin quietly opened a gate on request: he was still feeling a bit subdued.

   Hopefully the attack hadn’t yet started!

   Currently the base was a whirlwind of activity. Fighter planes were flying nonstop air cover. Trucks full of soldiers were arriving almost continuously, along with automated tanks and light military vehicles. There were drones flying everywhere, and a significant police presence on all the roads. Antiaircraft defenses were being prepped for action.

   Kevin promptly deployed thirty thralls in various small-animals forms to keep an eye out for infiltrators. He didn’t think that the Linear Realms bunch fully appreciated the power of local Identities yet. Besides, any direct attack would probably come from the inside via teleportation, gates, or some similar method, and would bypass most of the external defenses.

   They were in the local records now anyway, so they stuck with the information they’d given Myagi; “Perry Scott” and “Peter Acquilla” headed for the gate – and were promptly surrounded.

“Identify yourselves. Please be aware that failure to comply is cause for us to open fire!”

   After some identification – the guard looked a bit oddly at the readouts on his rifle when they noted the presence of Jamie Wolfe, Bard, Gerald, Daniel, “and various Ferrets” (“What? I like ferrets!) – but everything appeared to be in order. He did ask them to submit to retinal scans, which might not be perfect, but it was better than going by general descriptions.

“Alright, everything looks to be in order. I suggest you find someplace out of the way and keep your heads down. The story is the top brass are expecting a major firefight coming in, but they aren’t letting us in many of the details.”

“Right. You heard him, guys.”

   At the central command center, the place was a mess. There were computers and people giving status reports from all over the world. There were satellite video feeds coming in on various screens. At the center of the room there was a holographic display of the base and the surrounding areas including at least some of the underground chambers and utility lines.

   Well, they were basically here to keep an eye out, and possibly spot patterns that the locals hadn’t. Marty took local guard and kept an eye out for odd behavior, while Kevin used his new multi-tracking talents to watch multiple situations and relay useful information to the Thralls.

   Marty kept an eye out for odd behavior as well.

   Hm. There wasn’t much actual tactical information in the flood: several operators were watching geophysical data and occasionally making observations about incoming tremor data. Another set was watching weather data and making similar observations. There were so many people coming and going that the – extremely numerous – guards had pretty much given up on confirming ID’s of everyone coming and going from the room.

   Tremors and weather? Either this was a front, or somebody was planning on snatching the entire planet or something and these people knew about it already. If this was a military command center in the middle of a series of raids and attacks, there should be a lot of situation reports and tactical information up. Not weather reports.

   Kevin had the kid with divination – even if it was only low level – start checking for illusions. This could be something very weird.

   As it turned out, the generals and almost all the technicians were illusory. The guards were real. They had a look around for some real people other than the guards. Somebody had to be holding the illusion. One of the local psychics might be behind it: limited psionics worked just fine in the Linear Realms… It looked like one of the technicians was real, but he wasn’t paying attention to his display. He was drinking coffee and was mainly watching the room itself.

   Kevin wandered over to him and quietly set up a modest privacy/cloaking/anti-spying spell.

“I take it you’re expecting an attack here and this is bait?”

   The man sighed.

“Saw through it then, did you?”

“Well, the data displays are inappropriate.”

   Marty joined them

“So, what’s going on?”

“They are? Blast it. One second.”

   The “technician” closed his eyes for a moment

“Blasted things tend to drift without direction I fear.”

“Why not just funnel in some real date feeds? It would make your job easier. I’ll assign a couple of aides to bodyguard you and help out a bit. They’ll have enough computer capacity along to generate some realistic datafeeds.”

“That would be appreciated. I assume you are more of the psy-ops bunch? You don’t look like the enlisted type.”

“House of Roses.”

“Cross-dimensional operatives.”

“Don’t know why I am surprised anymore. So then the rumors are true then? That is not reassuring.”

“Rumors?”

   Kevin called in a couple of the Thralls who’d gone in in small-animal form and introduced them.

“That someone from a parallel world is attacking. I’ve heard everything from Nazis to Alien Empires as possible candidates.”

“Sadly, they’re all out there, and they all are possible candidates. Fortunately, there are just as many allies out there – and the ability to freely create gates is very rare.”

“Allies huh?”

   The man was a bit startled as the Thralls Kevin had called in resumed human form in front of him. Kevin covered his illusion for a moment when it wavered in surprise.

“Now that is a neat trick. The only other person I’ve ever seen do that couldn’t change size.”

“Much easier with extra-dimensional access. Anyway, they should be wearing more than enough computer power to handle simulating some decent datafeeds and they can help with your illusions and such.”

“Good, that should help things a lot.”

“And for you, some basic body-armor; don’t worry, the fiber structure will simply weave itself into your existing clothing. The computer functions will come online as soon as it adapts to your neural patterns.”

“Oh now that is handy. I can see allies being of great assistance.”

“I take it the actual command structure is operating from an undisclosed location or some such?”

“That is my impression. Apparently the higher ups are being paranoid right now.”

“Can’t say I blame them.”

“Well, nice to meet you, and I’m glad I could help out a bit – but this may not be the most effective use of our time at the moment.”

“Understood”

   At that point, of course, they were proven wrong as the lights began to flicker

“Now that is strange, this place is supposed to have its own power station.”

   The ground started to vibrate, and they become aware of a humming sound rising in volume in the background.

“Which will have taken an instant – thus producing a flicker – to take up the load when the external grid went down. Either that or something just generated quite a pulse. Ether way, the backup power will also be a target. Better get ready to have the images react with confusion as the displays go down.”

   Marty got ready for a fight as Kevin tried to spot where the interference was coming from. If someone was opening a Gate he should be able to spot that. If it was a mole drill or something it could get weird.

   That opened up a series of speculations about the killer mole people jumping out and attacking NORAD – after all, they could undoubtedly find a batch if THEY wanted them for some reason and it would definitely be a surprise tactic for the locals – but it didn’t seem to really fit the theme of their opponents. Now, if they’d been defending the Crusader side of the supply gate, it would definitely have been something to look out for.

   Regardless, Kevin could tell there were at least three gates opening up – one inside the room and two outside. Hopefully it wasn’t going to be War, Plague, and Death. They weren’t really ready for that yet. He warned the illusionist (and told the two Thralls to bodyguard him), and they all concealed themselves and got ready.

   Meanwhile, back on Kadia, the Thralls – per Kevin’s instructions – were formalizing the current informal procedures. People who expressed interest in the Thralls abilities were being given a basic summary:

“Amarant Solutions field agents are trained to use whatever magical, psychic, shapeshifting, and even gatekeeper potentials they may possess, are trained in the martial arts, are supplied with appropriate equipment, are provided with a verity of enhanced abilities, indefinitely extended lifespans, various other augmentations, and are soul-anchored so that they can be recovered if killed. Unfortunately, at this time, the training program and soul-anchor only seems to be fully effective on relatively young and adaptable individuals. Given these extensive benefits, those who opt to undergo such training and augmentation must sign up for an obligatory indenture period – which, thanks to the abilities they are granted and the soul-anchoring, they are guaranteed to survive in good shape, after which their various enhancements and abilities are theirs permanently, although they may sever the soul-anchor at any time after their indenture is up. The requirements and training for local office positions is not nearly so stringent”.

   Potential Thrall-applicants were referred to Kadia, where more detailed summaries were available. Those who were still interested after more detailed explanations and more complete demonstrations of the various powers can attend a recruitment spiel – but must agree to a recording-device ban, scan, removal, and blocking, as well as to memory blurring of the details of the contract if they didn’t sign up.

   Slaves and other involuntary candidates got the recruitment spiel. If they didn’t accept they were given minor memory blurring and were either cared for if they were too young or, if they were old enough, were put to work elsewhere until their debt was paid off if they couldn’t come up with the cash to buy off their indenture.

   Of course, when “official” inquiries, or concerned parents, started turning up, they’d probably have to go more or less public and discard the memory-blurring part – although the basic “happy Thrall” impression from Kadia and Core should still be a good point. Kevin had prepared a presentation for parents and authorities that stressed the immortality, safety, public-service, and educational aspects – as well as the bestowed powers and the regular home-leave and contact provisions. Of course, that presentation also stressed the fact that kids who wanted to go adventuring were making their way into the Manifold anyway, and a fair number of them were meeting horrific fates out there – while the ones who signed up as Thralls were quite safe. After all, as soon as the inquiries really started he’d have to make the general outline of the contract pretty much public – if only because people could figure out quite a bit of it though investigation anyway, so there was no big point in denying it.

   Besides, as Marty had noted, the best part of all that was that it was all true.

   In the Linear Realms, one of the walls of the command center suddenly lit up and turned into a shimmering circle of light – and people in gray military fatigues begin to step through into the room. They promptly began shooting at the illusory technicians. A few Praetorian signatures and quite a few of the combat cyborgs they’d last seen assaulting the FBI offices. A relatively small squad at least – and, while the gate was staying open, at least no more were coming through at the moment. It looked to Kevin like the gate went… back to Singular. North America. Nevada. Most likely some sort of holdout military base. Possibly the place MacArthur had abandoned.

   Blast it, they should have asked if he’d abandoned anyone there. Still, it might have been some other base anyway, and they’d been fairly distracted at the time. Probably shouldn’t have trusted the robotic assessment of the place – or have checked for an alternate version: they never had found another explanation for the time differential between their visit and the lunar colonists timeline.

   Still, this could be pretty serious trouble if they let it stay purely physical. They probably weren’t up to multiple praetorians and a bunch of killer cyborgs unless they called in all the Thralls – and they were needed outside. They opted to try for supernatural oratory, with as many enhancements as they could stack on, instead.

   He also had a couple of Thralls in small-animal form slip though each gate and start reporting. That multi-tracking discipline was SO convenient in situations like this.

   Marty and Kevin launched into a tourist-style welcome spiel, and – between them – managed to ensnare the entire squad. They couldn’t hold them all that long – or if they were subjected to any serious attacks or restraints – but they could have the Thralls swipe their weapons and then pile some explosives around them and ask for a surrender.

   Outside, the contingents from the other gates were spreading out to the rest of the base, and there was quite a lot of gunfire and explosions – but the fact that the locals were expecting this, and had backup from twenty-four Thralls seemed (at least according to the Thrall-reports) to be putting the Linear Realms bunch handily on the winning side.

   On the other side of the gates, the Thralls were reporting a very large room with what appeared to be a control center up on a balcony looking down at the three gates. There were more troops set up in a defensive position around the gates with multiple heavy gun emplacements. The entire place appeared to be built out of concrete. A man in his thirties, wearing odd style clothing, was leaving the room to head up to the balcony at the moment. He was dressed a bit like Spellweaver, but the face didn’t match. Baelarian mages guild robes or similar perhaps.

“Too bad we don’t have Jarvain or the Mirage along.”

“Eh, I don’t know. He drinks all my alcohol.”

“We could just step through and start talking, but enough would be sure to resist that we’d just get shot up.”

“And while I’m starting to miss death, that wouldn’t do anybody any good.”

“Of course, multiple heavy gun emplacements means multiple large stocks of explosives, and the Thralls do have pyrokinesis: they might die of course, but that’s no big deal.”

   Since the locals had the command-attack-squad disarmed and covered by heavy arms (and incidentally seemed fairly impressed with the ability to neutralize attackers by talking to them), they decided to go on the offensive.

   Kevin had the Thralls he’d sent through start detonating ammunition stockpiles; they’d go through in person when the explosions died down. Impressively – and in a good tribute to their sensible reaction of “working at range and from under what cover they could” – none of them were even too badly hurt – and they’d recover from that in a few moments. That left the guns more or less destroyed, a lot of smoke and charred concrete, most of the soldiers badly wounded, a few dead, and the windows to the control center all cracked.

   Kevin and Marty (Jamie was busy helping with the local defense) arrived and found quite a few dead-or-severely-wounded lying around, the smell of burnt and powdered concrete, the sound of klaxons going off, and flashing red lights (the main lights had been knocked out). The gates were providing most of the illumination and there was nothing much left in the way of opposition.

   Marty had his Thralls give him a telekinetic toss through the control-room windows – and Kevin followed him in. The six Thralls in small-animal forms could handle any attempt to reorganize the soldiers after they finished healing themselves and stabilizing the ones who were near death.

“Ah, just like old times… WHEE!”

   They crashed through a cracked window, sending shards of glass everywhere, and landed on top of a computer display with a technician staring up at them.

“Hi! Nice hardware!”

   The oddly-dressed guy was nowhere to be seen: he’d probably scrammed as soon as something went too wrong – if not earlier – but clues were clues. The technician screamed and took off running – along with everyone else in the room. Kevin telekinetically closed and sealed the doors before they could get to them though.

“Was it something I said?”

“Settle down please!”

   With their supernatural oratorical enhancements still running, it was easy enough to settle everyone down. It was just a timesaver anyway.

“Might I ask what all of you believe you’re trying to do?”

“Because I’d give at least 20-1 on your being seriously deluded.”

“Well I would say we are trying to fight a war.”

“Against who? At the moment you were harassing people who didn’t even know you existed, so you’re not doing very well. As a surprise attack, this is a complete bust. Would you like to rent a tactical advisor? I’m sure Marty has some connections.”

“Yeah! I can get you call center training, and you’ll learn how to punch and kick people in no time!”

“Or, if you want, we can have explosions in here too, and we can talk more in the hospital.”

“That’s fine too.”

   There was something of a difference of opinion among the responses:

“Well I like my health thank you.” – “Don’t tell them anything!” ” Traitor!” “Oh like they couldn’t get it from us with whatever weird powers they might have!” “Ya, but still…” “Do we really need to be discussing this in front of them?” “Well where would you have us discuss it then?”

“Hey, all I do is sneak around and stab people. I’m GOOD at it, but still.”

“Look Mr… Ilander; we’re trying to make this as easy as possible all around, since you’re blatantly nothing but pawns. Would you rather I simply wrecked your mind pulling things out of your head?”

“Alright then I am game, what do you want to know?”

“For starters, WHY are you doing this other than ‘there’s a war?'”

“What is it you want? There are lots of empty universes where you can get what you like without bothering people.”

   Marty was mildly disappointed. For a few minutes there it had looked like there might be a serious fight. Still, he wanted to stab something more interesting than technicians – like Cthulu. Or at least somebody on the other side of some importance. Unfortunately, there were lots of layers of pawns to get through.

   Personally, Kevin was betting that these people had been told that the Linear Realms had been behind the magical attack of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse in an attempt to steal their technology – and the fact that the Praetorian technology had been being used covertly in the Linear Realms thus became evidence of theft. Always nice when you could send in a sabotage crew and then use their presence as a way of getting the people you’d almost exterminated to fight your battles for you.

   It looked like that just about hit it perfectly.

“Just for the news people, you’re currently working for a group that almost destroyed your world, stole your technology, is using it to sabotage other worlds, and now is sending you in in the wake of their saboteurs to attack the people who “stole your technology”. You got to be massacred and then enslaved without even realizing it! Lucky you!”

“Which also makes you yet another blind for the actual enemies to hide behind; therefore there is no real need to injure you. I presume that you also find this good.”

“Well I suppose so, although this idea of being lied to this entire time is unsettling.”

“Now, just as a note, we gave the people from the lunar colonies a nice new planet and some assistance in setting up. Since this place is such a mess, I’ll call over and see if they’d like some more company.”

   That raised quite a commotion – mostly of the good kind, although they heard some resentment over some being allowed to escape to the moon while the Earth was in such a state.

   Marty told them where that had gotten the lunar colonists – Battling Business World – and asked if they’d like to be put there instead. Kevin pointed out that there was no shortage of good planets, but if they wanted the moon, they could give them that instead.

   That mostly shut them up.

“You know, Marty – “civilized warfare” is all very well, but I think we’re compressing it too much. It is sort of obligatory to rehabilitate and rescue after one side “wins”, but we keep trying to do it all within an hour”

“Back home we called that time management.”

“Well yes, but the usual assumption is win BEFORE rescuing the enemy, not keep stopping the battle to do it in the middle.”

   The Ealorites were pretty shocked that there were survivors planetside, but they were willing to take them in.

“Right then; how many people in your colony? And do we have to go rummage them out, or will you bunch visit your relatives and then call or visit back?”

   The consensus was about 2,500 people – and they were willing to collect them if this “Ealor” place was as described, although it might be difficult with this section of the facility under lockdown. Soldiers and drones would be arriving shortly, some automatic, some not.

“Right then: off you go. We can call back any remaining forces from the Linear Realms while we’re at it.”

   They got a few details on the gate system as well, but they could worry about that later.

“Marty? Shall we wait for the soldiers after we send this bunch off? Along with the wounded?”

“Sure. I haven’t stabbed anybody in a while.”

   Meanwhile, from Ealor, Child Protective Services was taking the chance to chew Kevin’s ear about the Thralls. After all, they 1) Talked about being able to kill themselves. 2) Were willing to do so. 3) HAD done so. 4) Had – obviously – been conditioned or otherwise tampered with in order to be like this. 5) Seemed perfectly willing to kill themselves REPEATEDLY. 6) Talked about an “Afterlife” that sounded like some kind of glorified Arcade. And the list went on and on.

   Kevin would have thought that (1), (2), (3), (5), and (6) would seem to be sort of going in a loop – or that the ability to “repeatedly kill themselves” at least indicated that – for them – it wasn’t too serious – but the CPS people seemed to be stuck in a logic loop with a thesaurus. And yes, while they were obligated to serve him for a period in exchange for their immortality and powers, immortality and powers meant that they no longer NEEDED protective services.

   Oh well. They could try to straighten it out in person next time they were by – but Kevin suspected that no outside argument would get Child Protective Services out of their loop; it was probably a computer calling. Of course, to be fair, under normal circumstances, would they really want Child Protective Services to see child-suicides as acceptable? Still, it wasn’t like the Thralls were actually suiciding; for them it was just discarding their current body in favor of fast travel.

   They set up a table, a luncheon, a white flag, and a sign proclaiming “negotiations”. Just to make sure, they also set up a blatant pile of nuclear/antimatter warheads and a Thrall-waiter with a bottle of wine and some menus. Marty shifted to a good suit, and got out a briefcase and a cigar to help him look formal and official.

“This is perfectly legal according to the laws of Faerie.”

   They had a Thrall dressed as a Butler unlock the door and provide a formal announcement. A couple of others were in the corner, finishing up medical treatments in the injured.

  • “Some military gentlemen to see you Sir!”

   A squad to soldiers and drones came through the door and spread out to duck behind cover at a run – although one – it looked like the squad leader – stepped out into the open a few seconds later.

“What the hell!?… Right, well I suppose it would be wrong of me to shoot you. Especially if those weapons are real.”

“Well, not the puffy fuzzy ones. The others are. You can shoot me if you want though, I have diplomatic immunity. Will you find it especially comforting to shoot me, or would it be more upsetting if it didn’t accomplish much of anything?”

“And I just come back pissed when I die.”

“How many times do I have to tell people; that is not how diplomatic immunity works. Wait a minute, what the hell? Did the lab boys royally screw up this time?”

“Oh, trust me. If I want it to work that way, it will. And I think the level of screwup depends on how you look at it. Most of the techs are off getting acquainted with another survivors colony. Tea, Port, Red Wine, Water, or Faerie Liquor?”

“Right, the lab boys seem to have made a wormhole to Wonderland and have brought back the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit. Port I think. I am going to need it during this.”

   Kevin handed him a glass. Marty had a Martini.

“Close enough really. So who’s in charge here?”

“Sir, is that wise?”

“Probably not, but it will preempt the headache I am going to get from this.”

“Well, I’d say it’s as good as any other response, and better than most. Quite a lot of them get everyone killed for the moment, while this response simply gets him a glass of a rather nice port.”

“Well I suppose that all depends on what you mean by in charge.”

“Well, what have you got? Because we intend to negotiate until you have a nice new planet to live on, a wider social circle, good healthcare, peace in our time, all at no particular price, and we won’t take “No” for an answer!”

   It seemed that the local Singularites were in charge via a council at the moment – although there were several outsiders who had taken up residence or visited on a regular basis. They also seemed to have a lot more say in what actually went on than their official status would indicate.

   The locals were mostly willing – and eager – to leave after they got a look at Ealor.

   The Outsiders were a little more complicated.

Star Wars: 10CH, Retired Assassin-Droid

   Droids got a slight upgrade in the Twilight Seekers campaign – although not as much of one as they got in the second edition rules. By default, in first edition, a droid gets 1D in each attribute, and 18D of skills (with no upper limit on their allotment), which they can give up to add available gadgets (usually 1D each, but the cost may be increased for particularly impressive gadgets) or armor (1D per die). They cannot use force points of be sensitive to the force, although they can often be repaired from “death”.

   In the Twilight Seekers campaign player-character droids get a total of 9D in their attributes rather than 6D. Normal characters also get four major pieces of equipment, three contacts, two plot hooks, one enemy, ten experience points (to spend before the game or save), and a thousand credits. Droids get five pieces of equipment (installed if desired), the ten experience points, and the thousand credits (and may consider any gadgetry they buy with their initial funds installed) – but start with no contacts, plot hooks, or enemies. On the other hand, they cannot place more than +8D in any single skill or gadget, cannot upgrade equipment by spending experience points, and must spend 3 XP to install a new gadget – although the game master may opt to waive this if installing trivial things like cigarette lighters and timepieces.

10CH (“Retired” Assassin Droid):

   10CH was – like so many assassin-droids – programmed, equipped, activated, provided with a target list by an anonymous purchaser, and turned loose to eliminate his targets, their guards, their offspring, and anyone who got into the way.

   It was a long list. Since 10CH had no idea whether or not he had backup, he took his time – being destroyed before he completed his task might mean that it would never be completed. He took funds and resources when he could, upgraded himself steadily, and added more systems. Still, along the way, he started to wonder what the point was. Some of his targets hadn’t even been born yet when he’d been given his initial target list – and he suspected that his master, and his cause, had died shortly after he’d been sent out.

   He started merely stunning guards and bystanders.

   Soon after that he started checking for information when he eliminated a target. Not too long after that, he was sure. His mission was futile: his master was long dead, his cause lost, and his “enemies” no longer even knew why they were being targeted.

   One day he looked at another terrified human – a grandchild of one of his original targets – set his blaster to stun, and left his target breathing as he walked away.

   For a time he functioned as a bounty hunter himself, but – more and more often – the targets of such hunts seemed just as futile as his original mission. He simply couldn’t find anyone that seemed like a worthy target. After awhile, he simply did the shipboard maintenance for another bounty hunter – and didn’t even pay much attention when the ship traded hands a few times. He needed an “owner” anyway to function in the galaxy, and a bounty hunter would do.

   After he ran across the Sith, he stocked up on weapons again. A galactic war presented plenty of worthwhile targets.  

   Attributes: Dexterity 2D, Knowledge 1D, Mechanical 1D, Perception 1D (Hide/Sneak +1D, Search +1D), Strength 2D (Armor +8D, Cyberweapons +8D), and Technical 2D.

Major Items:

  • Jamming Field: This is normally used to screen 10CH’s internal modifications and gadgets (-6D on relevant checks), but can be extended to disrupt communications and/or scanning systems in a radius of up to 10 meters, albeit at a somewhat reduced effect (-4D) or to make it difficult to spot the user (Hide/Sneak +2D).
  • Multisensor Pack: +4D to Search and relevant checks.
  • Ultrasonic Disruptor: This item generates a powerful ultrasonic blast: this can be used to stun living beings (5D), clean surfaces, shatter crystals and electronic components, generate deafening tones, upset a target’s sense of balance, induce nervousness and disorientation, and transmit information to appropriately-equipped systems.
  • Brainsocket (1): A “Brainsocket” is essentially a socket for a secondary droid brain, allowing the use of it’s skills. Unfortunately, no single droid can handle more than three such subordinate “brains” and their skills can never be increased.
    • Brain 1) Starship Repair +6D (8D total) and Security +6D (8D total).
    • The 10C series was apparently designed for infiltration and disguise: ergo, the Brainsocket system. They could be fitted up as a protocol droid, set to gardening, or competently undertake any other role – while still being ready to strike at a moments notice. Who would expect an expert gardening droid to also be an expert killer? Normal droids didn’t come with that many differing skills.
      • 10CH eventually installed another two sockets (6 XP) and added additional brains:
      • Brain 2) Languages +6D (7D total), Con +6D (7D Total) (3 XP).
      • Brain 3) Dodge +6D (8D total) and Melee Parry +6D (8D total) (3 XP).

   10CH’s purchased built-in gadgets include a Fusion Cutter (75), Vehicle Tool Kit (200), General Tool Kit (200), Flare Launcher (10 shots, 50), a small Spotlight (Worklight, 50), Comlink (100), Vibrosaw (75), Power Prybar (30), Macrobinoculars (100), Grapple Gun (75), Grenade Launcher (12 grenade magazine, 500), Vibrohands (As per Vibroaxe, Str+2D damage, 500), Shockweb Launcher (4 shots, 400), a Repeating Blaster (6D damage, 2000), a Shield Generator (+2D “Armor”, may protect a small radius if desired, 750), a Concussion Missile Launcher (8 shots, 1500), and a Pocket Computer with a basic “Encyclopedia” database (100). This required that he spend both his initial 1000 credits and almost all the money he could get by cashing in his ten experience points (5700 credits) – leaving him with nothing left of the 6700 total.

   10CH didn’t initially have any grenades, shockwebs, or concussion missiles in his magazines. It was a part of being retired. Later on, he loaded up on the armaments again, and is currently fully stocked with a mixture of grenades (four each gas/concussion, incendiary, and high-explosive in switchable magazines), as well as shockwebs, flamethrower fuel, and concussion missiles.

   Later Additions (3 EP Each): Medium Fusion Generator, Flamethrower (12 shots), Backup System (counters memory wipes and control devices, allows reconstruction despite massive damage), and a Repulsorlift System (prevented damage from falling and allowed remarkable “leaps).

   10CH still has two EP left.

Star Wars: Twilight Seekers Part IV

   Unfortunately, with the planet subject to a Sith blockade, getting out wasn’t easy. While there was still massive amounts of traffic – it was a city-planet after all – most of it was cargo-only, and there were some pretty good sensor-precautions being taken to keep it that way. Most personal ships knew better than to try to run the Sith blockade – and they wanted something a bit bigger than that anyway. They hadn’t had any luck cracking the security on the spaceport – not that they’d really expected to be able to crack military codes – and they didn’t have the credentials to simply breeze past the guards (or the capacity to make them). Blast their way in? Despite Arak’s and the Wookiees enthusiastic endorsement of that “plan”, they just didn’t have the manpower to face the garrison. The local underworld had been of some assistance earlier, at least in terms of buying supplies, but they just weren’t very trustworthy – and would be less so when there were no further prospects of profit or assistance from a departing group.

   Wait: if they simulated a bloody big attack on the port, all the ships there would start taking off. The Sith port commander would expect it – so all they’d need to do would be to be aboard a ship and steal it.

   OK, that said nothing about getting in or getting aboard – which were sort of critical points – but it would cover the taking-off part. There might even be enough other ships launching to provide some cover for the jump to lightspeed.

   Eventually they put Khadim-17, 10CH, and much of their equipment in a box. Neither had any conventional life-signs to give them away, 10CH could cloak much of their activity, and a little extra shielding on the box should let them pass for a shipment of specialized electronics. The local underworld could provide them with enough documentation for that.

   Arak and the Wookiee took roles as cargo handlers. That was usually a job for droids, but small-scale operations sometimes used organics; they handled unusual situations a lot more readily – and both of them were certainly built for it. Keldav and Telera could be merchants, or possibly a merchant and a bodyguard. Handell could be their driver, Lesin could be a secretary, and the troops could be contract (“slave”) laborers being shipped out.

   It was kind of thin, but who would suspect that the local resistance organization would break cover and walk into the enemies stronghold with no weapons?

   For the diversion, they rigged up some really massive explosions. The area immediately around the port had been evacuated for security – but that left some enormous environmentally-sealed buildings unoccupied and with plenty of power and water. Setting up some large-scale electrolysis systems soon filled those structures with a pressurized mixture of hydrogen and oxygen – enough to put them in the low-nuclear potential range.

   Nobody would suspect. They’d disabled the environmental sensors inside, there was no high-energy source to show up on scanners, the power-grid monitoring had been offline since the invasion – and still had months to go on the repairs – and who used chemical explosives any more?

   They got past the basic perimeter thanks to Keldav and Telera’s combined force-hypnosis talents and some fast bluffing – and the first blast went off as they were trying to get past the secondary security gates. Unfortunately, the second blast failed to trigger; the shockwave from the first had apparently disrupted the mechanism somehow – and the Sith were responding to a single blast by starting to lock down the port.

   Arak decided that this was a chance to redeem himself for having agreed to retreat. He took the truck he was driving and – like so many others – started “getting the hell out”.

   Unlike the others, he crashed his vehicle into their second bomb-tower at full speed – and shorted the power supply an instant before impact.

   Well, even among Kredath Berserkers, there weren’t many who rated a nuclear-level funeral pyre.

   With the port foundations starting to crumble, most of the power systems down – and the third blast going off on schedule – there was a general rush for any available form of transportation, including the ships currently in port.

   The damned Wookiee stopped for some sort of personal honor-battle with a guard-captain who’d yelled something insulting at him (despite attempts to persuade the player that not even Wookiees were that honorably stupid) – but the rest of them swept aboard a cargo transport just before they were getting the ramp up – and quietly got out Khadim-17, 10CH, and their weaponry while the crew was frantically getting the ship into the air and headed for orbit. After all, someone had apparently started a nuclear bombardment.

   Back on Surkiant, their Wookiee friend with the unpronounceable name had taken some serious wounds closing with his chosen enemy – but once he had his hands on the fellow, he ripped off one of his arms and clubbed him with it so hard that he was hurled back into the flaming chasm which had opened up next to them. Unfortunately, as the edges collapsed, Mr Wookiee went down too, and was presumed dead.

   On board, with the ship headed for orbit – and the captain (along with many other ships) having filed an emergency flight plan with the Sith blockade – it was time for the hijacking. Fortunately, the crew wasn’t prepared for three force-users (Keldav, Lesin, and Telera), Khadim-17, 10CH, Handell, and sixty-odd republic troops.

   Handell took the controls and recklessly (at least for anyone else) jumped them to Lightspeed when they were barely clear of the atmosphere – and long before the Sith had the little exodus sorted out. With any luck, they’d just take it for general panic anyway.

   They took Lesin and Telera back to their temple – and finally had the time for some in-depth conversations and a bit of investigation along the way. Keldav was especially interested in Khadim-17 – but was a bit shocked when he determined that, as an individual, the energy-entity was only a month or two old – and had quite a few “siblings”. Good god. Were they behind all those rumors of “undead” and “haunts” coming out of the region around Mandalor? No wonder the creature was so hesitant, confused, and asked so many odd questions! It could be a superb ally once it learned a bit more though. He’d have to come up with some kind of an educational program for it. Dammit though… The Jedi seemed to be almost as crazy as the Sith. Less violent and destructive, but just as arrogant and blind. There HAD to be some way to be a force user without going crazy!

   Back in Republic space the Republic (naturally) impounded the ship – oh well, it was too big for their purposes anyway – and started debriefing the troops. They weren’t terribly pleased to hear that this random group of unranked weirdos working for some senile Jedi had more or less taken command – and seriously wanted to talk to the group. ESPECIALLY to the non-Jedi force user, whoever it was in the armor, and whoever had been installing all those systems in their droid. The fact that they had gotten access to the republic code sets was especially troubling. Those were pretty vital.

   Fortunately for them, the group had already gotten Lesin and Telera to vouch for them and headed for the Jedi Temple. Unfortunately for them, back at the temple, there turned out to be a small contingent of Sith undercover operatives lying in wait. It seemed that they’d tracked the beacon on De’arc’s ship – and were pretty determined to capture Keldav, Khadim-17, and Lesin if it was at all possible. They’d brought along some fairly heavy firepower too.

   During the fight they hooked up with Garyan – a local republic garrison trooper (heavy weapons specialist) – who’d been at the temple to talk about a a youthful cousin who was showing signs of force-sensitivity. Fortunately for him, given the ongoing war-alert, he’d had his kit and weapons in his speeder.

   Lesin managed to get most of the kids out another way – although the group wound up with a couple of them in tow (along with a fair amount of information from the Jedi archives and a few odd relics) as they fell back to their own ship. It still needed repairs, but at least it was reasonably spaceworthy at the moment – and they’d had just about enough of the local welcoming committee.

   Another emergency takeoff. Just ahead of the pursuit. After a mysterious assault on a Jedi Temple and skipping out on a military debriefing without explanation. Leaving massive damage behind. They hadn’t even really gotten any money! At this rate they were shortly going to have to find another galaxy to live in! Just ONCE they’d like to be welcome back somewhere!

   Dammit!

   Keldav’s old master showed up as an “astral projection” of some sort while they were boosting to orbit. He had some sort of a proposition for them. Unfortunately for that, Khadim-17 had reached his own conclusions: his encyclopedia database said that Sith Lords were more-or-less mythical beings of ultimate evil, on a par with various other demons and evil gods, and that bargaining with such entities – or even listening to them – was invariably a bad move. Moreover, from personal observation, listening to the promptings of the “Dark Side” made people explode. This was a bad thing. Therefore he turned off his audio circuits and proceeded to stun anyone who showed any signs of listening to Mr Sith Lord. Waking up with a headache was better than exploding.

   Mr Sith Lord seemed to become pretty frustrated – but lost them when they jumped into hyperspace anyway. They never did find out what he wanted.

   It was serious conference time. They might be able to explain to most of the Jedi – at least if Lesin made it out and/or they listened to Telera – but that would still leave the Sith, (probably) the Republic, assorted law enforcement groups, some bounty hunters, any unconvinced Jedi, and at least a couple of underworld organizations on the “hostile” (or at least really upset) list. On the positive side, they had a ship – even if it was still in need of various repairs – quite a lot of weaponry, most of the Republic and a basic set of Sith codes (lifted from the ship they’d stolen), a modest amount of cash, some Jedi databases and a few obscure artifacts, Keldav, Khadim-18, 10CH, Garyan (the replacement character for Arak; the Wookiee player hadn’t made it since the mess at Surkiant), Handell, Telera, and a couple of force-sensitive youngsters. Keldav was beginning to consider trying to found his own order. There HAD to be a better way to handle force-sensitives! He wasn’t sure if the others would be up for that though. After all, Telera, Handell, Garyan, and the Kids could just quietly disembark next time they hit a planet. It wasn’t like they were committed to any great purpose.

Star Wars: Twilight Seekers Part III

   They lifted off just ahead of the pursuit again. This was just great: repairs half-completed, now they’d be wanted by the police, and they’d attacked a major interstellar criminal syndicate.

   They got the hell out of the sector. They didn’t think they’d done anything large enough for the reports to chase them that far.

   They were wrong of course.

   Along the way they came up with a somewhat reckless idea: there were several competing bounty hunter’s guilds – and they mostly didn’t get along. They really needed to know if the bounty on Force-sensitives was a local or galaxy-wide thing. Also, the guild members didn’t usually go after bounties on each other; they left that to outside guilds. Ergo, joining a bounty hunters guild might be well worthwhile. Besides, where else would they go? They weren’t likely to be trusted by the Jedi, the Sith were apparently after them, the guild would have access to money, parts, supplies, and work, and they could probably handle most bounties.

   That started off fairly well. They paid their fee, they consulted the boards, they started doing a little planning, they found that the bounty on force-sensitives seemed to be galaxy-wide, and they teamed up with Adak Ar’Lerion, a reptilian bounty hunter who was looking for some new partners. They didn’t find out until later that he hadn’t been able to team up with anyone else due to his penchant for excessive violence (yet another replacement character).

   Unfortunately, it seemed like the Bounty Hunters Guild wanted a closer look at Khadim-17 – although they apparently figured out quickly enough that he wasn’t a droid; what they could read of his life-signs didn’t match anything they had on record, and the suit was one of the latest Mandalorian designs. They also had some suspicions about ANYONE carrying a lightsaber, and recognized that 10CH was loaded with augmentations. The fact that the Sith – spurred by De’arc – were making some behind-the-scenes inquiries probably played a role too; a modest guild couldn’t afford to go to war with the Sith. There were even a few rumors floating about involving the other Khadim – although most of those tales of dead vehicles and ships traveling about with no crews, inoperative droids that refused to die, and similar horrors, were easily dismissed.

   The attempts to trump up some excuse to demand that Khadim-17 and the rest of the group submit to some sort of examination led to a great deal of confusion – mostly revolving around the fact that, when you attempted to catch Khadim-17, he tended to just wander off and help people at random while asking silly questions. Still, with great firepower and a lot of destruction, they got him back to the guild offices eventually – although not until someone figured out that simply asking would work, even if he did keep insisting that removing his armor was not possible. They weren’t too happy with what the found when they demanded that Khadim-17 take his helmet off. He cheerily complied of course – but an animated suit of armor, occupied by a desiccated corpse with electrical sparks crawling all over it, and a voice that continued to speak from the empty helmet, was something out of an fantasy-horror entertainment production – or the product of some sort of hideous Sith Sorcery out of legend.

   It even gave Keldav quite a jolt. He didn’t think the creature was any kind of “undead” – he was pretty sure that something like that would show up pretty plainly in the Force – but that body couldn’t possibly be alive.

   Wait. Hopelessly naive about the simplest physical details, asking all kinds of silly questions, learning so quickly, wanting to know about the war, spending time on each new world “getting to know the planet”, not knowing about anything from more than a few weeks ago, claiming to be so young, talking to computers like they were alive… COULD there be such a thing as an energy-being? De’arc had picked it up on Mandalor. Had the planetary bombardment actually stirred up a “planetary sprit” of some sort? There were a few old legends of planets having their own souls – and it did refer to itself as an “fragment” that was acting for some sort of greater whole.

   Still, there was no time to study the thing now. The spreading panic – the guild had, of course, been monitoring the office visually – was giving them a chance, but the local guild still had a lot more raw power available than they did.

   They had made a break for it while the getting was good and had Handell bring the ship down to hover over a nearby plaza for the pickup. It was too damned close, but they managed to fight their way out and reach the ship. Fortunately, the local authorities weren’t too interested in the internal quarrels of the bounty hunters guild; they didn’t respond until well after everything was done, the guild didn’t have too many ships immediately available, and Handell was a very good pilot.

   Still, that was yet ANOTHER world they could never go back to – and it looked like joining the Bounty Hunters was not going to work.

   Adak had come along. Nobody else was willing to work with him locally anyway, and this bunch looked like they were headed for LOTS of violence. He’d never been big on “Bring them back alive” anyway.

   So: no Sith, no Bounty Hunters, joining the criminals wouldn’t exactly get people off their backs, and talking to the Republic Government would simply lead to being kept in custody while twenty years of discussions went by – if not to being shot as suspected Sith spies.

   Besides, Keldav was becoming increasingly worried about exploding. He wasn’t prone to losing his temper, but nobody was perfect – and the fates of Dr Orin and Arace had definitely made an impression. Jedi were known for a lot of things – including some awfully silly bits – but they definitely WEREN’T known for spontaneously exploding. Besides, they might know already – but it was possible that news of the bounty was something they’d overlooked or would at least take as evidence of good faith. He got the rest of the group to agree to visit the Jedi readily enough.

   So where was there a Jedi Temple they could visit?

   As it turned out, there were quite a few of them. It was fairly well known that – if you had a child who was still showing major symptoms of force-sensitivity past early childhood – you took them to the Jedi if you wanted them to live. Those with minor or erratic talents might do all right on their own, but major powers were lethal unless trained. They picked one of the smaller ones and set out.

   Unfortunately, with the ongoing Sith-Jedi war, there was hardly anyone there; a few Elder Jedi – the ones too senile to participate no matter how great the emergency – and a modest collection of youngsters just starting their training. In fact, the Elders were so far gone that they either failed to recognize that Keldav was a partially-trained Sith or took it that he was trying to purge the Sith influence without even asking him about it (or possibly acted in response to some sort of force vision or something). They sent everyone to assist Telera Vanyel – a skilled Jadi who would be capable of evaluating Keldav’s current abilities and providing appropriate training in using or suppressing them as appropriate.

   Unfortunately, she was currently assigned to assist Lesin Bala, a much younger Jedi with some sort of special knack – and her assignment was aboard a capital-class republic ship. Well, hell. At least anyone chasing them would have to deal with a Republic Interstellar Battle Group before getting to them and the senior Jedi had given them suitable paperwork and a safe-conduct. They stowed the ship (and billed it to the Jedi Temple) and “reported for duty”.

   They were in deep space before they actually met Telera – and she didn’t react well. She’d seen the paperwork of course, and had been expecting a young Jedi trainee and a few soldiers – not a renegade Sith apprentice, no matter how much he’d rejected the Sith! It was hard to say if it was worse, but he was accompanied by some weird alien wearing Mandalorian Battle Armor – one of the groups that was mostly on the OTHER SIDE of the war – a Kredath Berserker (Adak was pleased! Not many recognized his species!), some random crooked pilot who managed to keep more weapons than most people could reasonable carry concealed about himself, and a droid with too many illegal systems to count!

   Telera respected the orders of the elders of course – but she also knew that they weren’t in the best of shape. She assigned the group to quarters at the far end of the ship, a good kilometer and a half by corridor from the person they were supposed to be helping her protect. It looked to her like the best way to assist Lesin would be to keep these lunatics as far as possible away from her.

   The group found ways to occupy themselves. Khadim-17 and 10CH took advantage of the onboard shops to upgrade their various systems (installing more weapons, various programs, better computer systems, a Republic military-class encryption module, and other items). Handell used the simulators to expand the range of ships he was used to piloting and Adak went sparring with the troops.

   Unfortunately, the Battle Group emerged from hyperspace into the middle of a Sith Ambush. The first the group knew about it was when the boarding action started.

  Since they were next to the engines they shot up a few boarders there – but it was obvious that keeping the engines working was a losing game. Even when Khadim-17 ripped the missile pods off one of the fighters Handell shot down and started using them to keep off the other incoming fighters, the damage was just building up too fast – and Adak and Keldev were having trouble holding off the borders.

   They fell back into the inner corridors and headed for the bridge.

   Along the way, Keldev actually found Telera for them; she was – at least in passing – defending a medical area and some unarmed physician-types. Unfortunately, a moments later, a Sith found them all. Telera got herself decapitated – but that opened up the Sith for a blast from some sort of sonic device 10CH was carrying that shattered the crystals in his lightsaber. The Sith still managed to withstand Handell’s blaster shots as he was falling back down the corridor (thanks in part to his armor) – so Khadim-17 shot him with the last antiship missile in the missile pod. The Sith spent his last moment in complete incredulity that ANYONE would treat a proton torpedo pack as a hand weapon – much less fire one in a confined area.

   The explosion took out a dozen compartments and opened the area down the corridor to space, but Keldav got the door sealed fast enough to keep everyone from being sucked out. Well, they were in a medical area anyway and lightsaber wounds cauterized surfaces and prevented blood loss – so Keldav hurriedly used his talents to keep Telera’s brain alive while the rest of them heaved her into a bacta tank, hooked up artificial blood circulation, and started healing the damage. They had Khadim-17 carry it along. He was out of missiles (and no one really wanted to get him any more at the moment), so he might as well carry something.

   Sadly, that left them with no clear idea of who they were supposed to bodyguard, or of where they might be – and the evacuation was already underway. They settled for loading people into the escape pods and getting out.

   The nearest planet was Surkiant – a world-city world, and the place the fleet detachment had been heading to protect. The planetary defenses were still putting up a valiant fight, but the Sith fleet was battering them down rapidly. Fortunately, that left the Sith Fleet too occupied to waste time targeting escape pods – so a sizable contingent of the republic forces made it safely to the surface.

   The group splashed down in a lake, with other pods dropping form the sky all around them. 10CH tracked the ones he could – but they needed transportation. Khadim-17 flagged down a hoverbus. Unfortunately, the driver and passengers abandoned it as soon as they got a good look at the group that was getting on – so Khadim-17 presumed that they’d reached their stop, and took over; they drove around picking up other Republic soldiers.

   They had a pretty good sized group before a pair of Sith Armada fighters caught on to what was up and started trying to strafe them. Khadim-17 promptly turned into a parking garage. Astoundingly enough, the fighters followed them; there was just enough room – and apparently they were more afraid of admitting they’d been evaded than of taking a ridiculous risk.

   Handell took over driving, 10CH started scanning around for another suitable vehicle, Arak got the troops organized – and Khadim-17 and Keldav disembarked to deal with the fighters.

   Keldav dodged, rolled, and sliced off a wing with his lightsaber, while Khadim-17 simply heaved a parked speeder into the other ones path.

   There were disadvantages to terrifying your troops to the point that they’d do incredibly stupid things rather than risk your displeasure.

   They left in another vehicle, abandoned it once they were out of the area, and had Arak go out and pay cash to rent a subsurface floor; that way no one would need to see all the Republic uniforms. No one would suspect him of being a Republic loyalist or refugee – and he wasn’t as memorable as the rest of them.

   They settled down and started sending out Republic-Code encrypted messages and setting up rendevous points, carrying out various acts of sabotage against the Sith occupation, assaulting small patrols, and otherwise making trouble. In a world-city, there was plenty of electrical power, chemicals, manpower, and other resources to use. The Sith couldn’t even protect their own bases adequately when they were sitting on top of a tunnel network that went twenty miles into the depths of the planet.

   Eventually Telera woke up – and was pretty surprised to do so. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, the Sith garrison finally located them, and they had to abandon their position for a retreat to the undercity. Too bad, they’d gotten fairly comfortable. Still, they exploded a lot more things on the way out. Unfortunately, Arak apparently considered himself shamed by having had to retreat – no matter that they were outnumbered by a heavy military force.

   Still, with Telera awake, they could get a line on Lesin – and the information that she was trapped in a subsurface section with the Sith troops slowly closing in. Along with a few new allies – including a rambunctious wookiee who had been enjoying a well-earned rest in the jail before his escape – they headed in to break the encirclement from behind and rescue her. With the help of he local underworld (the occupation was bad for business), and despite Arak’s new suicidal tendencies – he now tended to charge straight at heavy weapons emplacements – they got in, got Lesin, and got out.

   Trouble was, she seemed to be a major target – and they couldn’t resist much more without risking provoking the Sith into bombarding the planet. It was time to see about getting out.

Star Wars: Twilight Seekers, Part II

   Handell had occasionally been on the run before – such as after that absurdly-subversive touring theater group had somehow managed to touch off a planetary rebellion – and knew that the best way to get caught was to get predictable. There wasn’t any way to avoid being SOMEWHAT predictable – they had to have repairs – but they could generate a quick list of everywhere within their current range, yet still reasonably far from Tsh’rell and with enough technical resources to get the most urgent repairs made, and pick randomly. There shouldn’t be any way short of force-sorcery stuff to predict that.

   They wound up headed for Valoth – a relatively sparsely inhabited world of rolling plains and hills. Not a lot in the way of local resources, but a fairly good export trade – and a consequent good set of port facilities – in luxury naturally-grown grains, meats, and similar products. Mostly imported vehicles, medical supplies, and industrial products. Money might be a problem, but they were off-season – harvest wouldn’t be for several months – so a lot of the facilities should be empty and cheap to rent.

   Heh. Random chance seemed to have picked them a good one. Hopefully it hadn’t picked them the best or anything, cause that’d be predictable again, but it wasn’t likely.

   Down in the engine compartments, 10CH – a repair droid with a few illegal modifications – blinked a stream of binary curses as the engines he was trying to retune fired up again in the middle of the fine adjustments. Blasted organics! If he wasn’t assigned to keep this bucket of bolts working, he’d have gone on to another assignment in a single 90-hertz sinewave cycle! No use trying to get anything further fixed at the moment; he’d best head on up and see if it was the Shields, the Weapons, or the Engines that would most urgently be needed in working order next.

   Hey, new owners! GOOD.

   De’arc cursed madly when he woke up. What in HELL had happened? His ship! His weapons! His armor! His Prisoners! Even his damned Droid! He was never going to live this down!

   Wait a minute… He still had the tracking signal code, and they probably wouldn’t find it for quite awhile – and the only way he could think of that they could have gotten out would be Force powers. Strong ones. Those cells had held a lot of people who desperately wanted to get out.

   It wouldn’t make up for his ship, but if the Sith really wanted sensitives, he either had a line on a really strong one. Maybe even partially trained already – and there wouldn’t be that far they could get without some major repairs. He wasn’t beaten yet.

   De’arc headed for the communications center. He’d need to make some connections.

   On Valoth, it took most of the groups liquid cash to pay for a berth. That left them with a list of “had to have” components to negotiate for, and not much to trade. Fortunately, 10CH was really really good at Starship Repair. They headed off to try and blend in a bit and to get the stuff they needed.

   Unfortunately, Keldav had casually answered a few of Dr Orin’s questions about force techniques during the trip – while glossing over the underlying Sith philosophy. After all, surely the basics were pretty generic.

   Orin was an untrained sensitive – and was pretty badly frustrated. He was a well-respected doctor. Comfortably well off. He had a life. With a minor knack for diagnosing difficult cases. He had done NOTHING to deserve a life as a penniless, locally-unlicensed, fugitive from some sort of galactic manhunt! He was hungry, it was too damned hot, his skin was sunburning, his feet hurt, and he had not had a decent bath since leaving home! Worse, somehow he just KNEW that the locals didn’t want to talk to him because he was an offworlder!

   He tried asking them where he could find a clothing store – in hopes of getting a local outfit and fitting in a bit better – and three of them in a !@#$% ROW had brushed him off with barely-comprehensible basic phrases! He couldn’t recall ever being so angry and frustrated! He’d let them know that they’d damned well better cooperate!

   So he hit the street merchant who was selling cold fruit drinks. And it felt GOOD. So very GOOD. He’d NEVER done that before – but somehow he found himself doing it again. With something from the stand he’d found for a club. He was a DOCTOR. He knew JUST where to hit to make it hurt really really badly.

   Two local law enforcement types and some kid – apparently one of the street merchants – tried to stop him.

   So he hit them. After a few hits, they were just meat, like the street merchant, and his kid, and a few other kids and bystanders. And he felt so GOOD. They DESERVED this. They were going to PAY for offending him and for everything else that had gone wrong!

   The others got back around them. Khadim-17, Keldav, Handell, and 10CH got back from their own little errands – basic supplies, a few absolutely-necessary tools, and other such items – just in time to help take down Doctor Orin when he turned on them. It was actually quite a fight; in his berserk state Doctor Orin was nearly a match for everyone except Khadim-17 put together – and Khadim-17 kept stopping to ask what was going on.

   They pretty much denied any connection afterwards, claiming that Orin was just a crazy man who’d paid for a lift. Damn it: now they had an even tighter time limit. Now that an inquiry had been made, they needed to get their parts and get out before the checks spread too far.

   Keldav was brooding too… Was the Dark Side that destructive to the mind? Was it simply that he hadn’t really included any kind of philosophical basis in his hints? Was something like that lying in wait for him? His training had been nowhere’s near complete when he’d run. Was that why no one did? Wait… If stressing an untrained sensitive led to explosions like that, could the Sith be offering a general bounty in an attempt to CAUSE this sort of thing?

   He REALLY needed to talk to a Jedi. On friendly terms.

   One good thing did come out of it. It seemed that there was a bit of a “range war” going on – and between Orin’s obvious combat psychosis, the presence of Khadim-17, 10CH’s various illegal combat-enhancements, Handell’s skill with a gun, and Keldav’s possession and competent use of a lightsaber, they’d been pegged as war deserters or mercenaries – and the local ranchers and farmers were hiring for a little raid on the local underworld boss and his protection racket.

   Well, they needed quite a bit of money, they had little or no time, and whatever-the-hell Khadim-17 was, he seemed to be armored enough to stand up to heavy weapons.

   They went for it, and they took Arace – the mercenary middleman (and the replacement character for Dr Orin, although the player was still in a bloodthirsty mood) along with them.

   Weird. Arace was a low-grade sensitive too. Was the Sith-Jedi war stirring up every potential sensitive in the galaxy?

   Keldav was still speculating when he realized that Arace’s nascent force sensitivity was reacting to his own Sith-trained powers, as weak as they were. Was he going to blow up too?

   As it turned out, the answer was “yes”. Khadim-17 wasn’t too effective on the attack – he didn’t really seem to understand the concept very well (could he have a noncombat droid personality program? In that chasses? Why!?) – but he made one hell of a diversion while Keldav and Handell neutralized guards. Arace got a nasty wound, but responded by riding an explosives-laden speeder into the front gate.

   The boss got off a communique to some sort of criminal syndicate (apparently his employers) before they dragged him out of his underground command chamber – just what they needed, more people with a reason to come after them – but the mop-up wasn’t too much trouble after than.

   Except to Keldav. Two in a row? There wasn’t much of ANYTHING left of this one.

   Wait. The armor-thing was force-sensitive! It couldn’t be a droid – did that mean that it was likely to blow up? If THAT thing went on a rampage, he didn’t know how he’d stop it… At least it didn’t seem emotionally unstable. If anything, it didn’t really seem to have many emotions except for a sort of vague helpfulness.

   Oh well. He’d sort out what it was another time. Right now it was time to get the rest of the parts and supplies to 10CH, get the ship patched up, and get the hell OUT OF HERE. The local law enforcement wasn’t that efficient or clever, but it wouldn’t take long for them to trace this back to them – and it would be wise to be long gone by the time they did.

Star Wars: The Scale of the Galaxy

   In the Star Wars universe galactic civilization is tens of thousands of years old – and is still using much the same technology as it was thousands of years ago. City-worlds have been city-worlds for thousands of years, millennia-old technologies are still in common use, and the Sith and Jedi continue to assail each other, as they have for eons. Individuals often surpass such limitations, but their advances often seem to die with them; such “advances” may actually be nothing but a manifestation of personal abilities.

   Evidently things are pretty steady-state and the practical limits of many technologies have been reached. Ergo, it’s worth taking a look at just what that state is, regardless of the details of when and where a particular Star Wars game is set.

   The Milky Way contains somewhere between 200 and 400 billion stars, depending on the number of low-mass stars (which is highly uncertain) and has a total mass of approximately three trillion solar masses. It seems to be fairly average as spiral galaxies go, and the “out of the galaxy” shots in the movies show what looks like a fairly normal galaxy.

   Going by the movies and novels, virtually every star has planets – and most of them seem to have inhabitants. Quite a few random large moons do too. Admittedly, much of the time those inhabitants seem to be relatively small resource-exploitation colonies, but that would give us at least ten inhabited “worlds” (including inhabited moons and those colossal space installations) per system.

   That would make roughly three trillion inhabited worlds. That’s 3 x 10 to the 12’th power. Roughly four hundred and fifty inhabited worlds for every human being alive today.

   That means that claiming that any product of even the slightest importance coming from a single world is about as absurd as claiming that one person, working one day a year in their basement, produces all the automobiles made on earth.

   That tells us that the odds of some random lead going back to a planet you’ve been to before – or have ever even heard of – are minuscule. That interstellar bounty hunters are pretty much a myth. That even if we assume that one average Jedi suffices to look after ten entire planets (a job that even Superman and his friends seem unable to fully accomplish, despite super-intelligence, time travel, and many other advantages unavailable to the Jedi), that would mean that there were three hundred billion active-duty Jedi. Opposing that, we have the stated numbers of the Clone Army; a mere two hundred thousand at first, and perhaps two million at their peak. As is very common in fictional “galactic armies”, the entire force included far fewer people than the sixteen million who served in the United States military alone during world war two. That really isn’t enough to assault a single planet, much less to harass the adult in-service Jedi, who would outnumber the clone troopers one hundred and fifty thousand to one. For a similar consideration of scale, if Darth Vader was hunting down Jedi, and killed one every ten minutes, twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, he could expect to finish up in a mere five or six million years – except for the fact that there would be new kids born in the meantime. The Jedi might not even notice his efforts.

   Planets only last about ten billion years anyway, which mean we can expect about 300 to be destroyed per year – roughly one per day on the average. Ecospheres don’t last nearly that long: one can expect dozens of planetary extinction events per day. Give travel time, the Death Star wouldn’t make a noticeable contribution even if you ran it continuously at full capacity.

   This won’t work. So lets throw in some additional assumptions:

   1) 99% or more of the Star Wars galaxy is uninhabitable – afflicted with gamma-ray bursters, excessive levels of radioactivity, robotic death machines left over from ancient wars, dense nebula that produce too much meteoric activity for stable ecospheres, and various other destructive effects. There may be small pockets of inhabitable systems in the depths of such regions, but they usually pass unnoticed unless they develop civilizations and probe outwards.

   2) Many ecosystems – another 99% or so – host such dangerous toxins, force-using predators and force-based defenses, and similar obstacles – that they are effectively unusable. Such planets are deathtraps for sapient lifeforms. Why is that? It’s simply because lifeforms do not develop intelligence if they possess the raw physical or force-based power to dominate their ecosystems anyway. Ergo, the most dangerous animals are far more dangerous than the most powerful individual sapient beings. Sapient races are quite rare – rare enough that even many suitable planets, much less the 99% unsuitable ones, do not host an indigenous sapient species.

   3) There are hardly any resources that are worth exploiting at interstellar ranges; unless there’s an inhabited planet in the system; establishing asteroid colonies and such is hopelessly uneconomic. Those which are established usually collapse within twenty generations.

   4) The Arrhenius Spore Theory is accurate: almost all life in the Galaxy shares a common basic biochemistry and genetic structure. Many sapient “races” are in fact simply genetic variants of a relatively few older races, which have colonized, collapsed, and recolonized repeatedly over the history of the galaxy. Some are still even interfertile, at least with limited technical or force-based assistance.

   5) The galactic fringes or “outworlds” are too spread to be effectively incorporated into the mainstream of galactic civilization, and rarely even have regular contact with the galactic mainstream. We can dump another 90% of the possible worlds from consideration.

   That reduces things by a factor of a hundred thousand, taking us down to a “mere” 30,000,000 worlds. That’s still far too many – honestly, the Star Wars “galaxy” seems to contain a few thousand systems at most – but it’s a lot more manageable. We need a few more assumptions though to get things entirely under control.

   6) Many types of stars – Red Dwarves (Brown Dwarves were not included in the initial estimate on the number of stars anyway), those significantly hotter than the sun, Giants, and so on – virtually never have any worthwhile planets. Since Dwarves are small and difficult to see, they’re often not even cataloged. Their presence is one of the things that makes random jumps into hyperspace (“jump to lightspeed”) dangerous and forces most ships to stick to well-established routes. That takes another 90% or so off. We’re down to a mere three million planets. Darn it. I still want to get rid of some more planets. Move over Darth! I’ve eliminated 2,999,997,000,000 inhabited worlds already, and I’m not satisfied yet!

   7) Sapient life often makes a mess. Roughly 90% of the worlds that are otherwise suitable for sapient life do not support it. They may have been devastated by war or by various superweapons (apparently all too common in the Star Wars universe), over-exploited to the point where they’ll need a geologic age to recover, have been polluted past the point of viability as homes for civilizations, suffer from excessive climactic instabilities, or otherwise be just too unpleasant.

   That leaves us with a mere 300,000 worlds in the galactic mainstream that support significant populations (and gives me a 99.9999% kill ratio, which I suppose will have to suffice).

   Now, according to some of the sources – I’ll use Wookieepedia for quick reference – at it’s peak, the Galactic Empire consisted of more than a million planets and up to fifty million colonies, protectorates, governorships, and puppet states. Given that we have no idea how many essentially uninhabited planets the empire officially claimed, and that there could easily be several hundred such subunits (major asteroid colonies, Oort cloud colonies, gas giant mining colonies, etc, etc, etc) within one inhabited solar system, we’re probably looking for a smaller number still – but we’re getting down to within the right range.

   So: the Galactic Empire controlled – say – 80% of the populated worlds of the inner galaxy, or about 240,000 of them. Of course, it also laid claim to everything else in those solar systems – including small colonies on other planets and major moons, completely unusable planets (most of those other worlds would fall into the 99% near-lifeless, frozen balls of ice, or too dangerous to inhabit category), and small states on planets that (like many or most) lacked a unified government.

   What are those worlds like?

  • .1% (or about 240) are World-Cities, like Coruscant – with a population of around 3 Trillion people each.
  • About 5% (12,000 or so) are fully-industrialized, civilized, worlds, with an average population of about 20 billion each.
  • 80%, or close to 200,000, are low-population or primitive colonies, asteroid belt settlements, and similar locations, averaging around 100 million people per world. These usually don’t see a lot of galactic traffic.
  • The remaining 4.9% are a mixed bag, and include worlds with very harsh environments, marginal worlds, recently devastated planets, and similar places. They won’t be included in the basic estimate.

   Overall, that comes out to 980,000,000,000,000 – plus a small percentage for assorted lesser orbital colonies, that 4.9% of mixed-bag worlds, and assorted small moons. Call it a nice even Quadrillion (or 10 to the 15’th power) individual sentient beings. We can probably double that to account for the outworlds – which, while they are less developed, still outnumber the inner worlds by nine to one.

   That would indeed make the Yuuzhan Vong war – with casualties estimated (per Wookieepedia) at 365 Trillion – perhaps the most destructive war in history, accounting for the death of roughly 18% of the galactic population (presuming that the number does not include the Yuuzhan Vong casualties themselves and that the estimate is accurate). Of course, it’s still not comparable to the Black Death – often estimated at 30-60% of the European population – but that was a lot more localized.

   Now, for practical purposes – especially given the massive near-impassible zones so common in the galaxy – we can probably ignore a lot of backwater worlds, pockets of worlds that are hard to get to, and minor distant worlds. If you’re mostly concerned with a particular galactic sector, we can expect most of the action to take place in a relatively small cluster of easy-to-reach worlds – perhaps a mere .1%, or 240. 80% of those will be minor worlds – leaving 48 major worlds.

   Ah, now we know why things keep coming back to that relatively small list of planets, and how bounty hunters can operate, and so on: this may be a galactic setting in theory, but in practice it’s more like a bunch of cities – each at the center of a cluster of smaller towns – scattered across a small continent.

Star Wars: Twilight Seekers, Part I

   The existence of the Dark Side means that – for a high-potential force sensitive – simple anger, ambition, and possessiveness give rise to power. When frustrated, such urges give rise to obsession and hatred – which provide more power. Once a mind fully opens itself to the power of the Dark Side, the resulting uncontrolled positive feedback loop will either lead to a self-protective permanent shutdown of all sensitivity to the Force, to outside intervention, to insane self-destruction, to burnout (if the user’s will exceeds his physical tolerance), or – if the user is not otherwise stopped – to a tyrannical dominion that brooks no opposition.

   Most potential force-sensitives instinctively shut down their potential abilities while being born. The strongest – at least in those species which give birth to well-developed young rather than laying eggs or some such – usually kill their mothers at birth, when they attempt to cling to her essence and resist the separation. (In such cases that trauma often leads to severe emotional trouble later on). Most of the rest wind up shutting down during early bouts of childhood anxiety, during their first temper tantrum, or during some squabble with other children. Those species who’s offspring must fight for survival virtually never produce any adult force-sensitives at all.

   Adult force-sensitives are rare. Some were borderline latent until they were approaching adulthood. A few were caught early, and carefully trained as children. Most have such flawed and erratic powers that they’ve never needed to shut them down. A few others experience some traumatic breakthrough in later life, latent abilities erupting into operating at some moment of crisis.

   A very few were simply raised in such isolation that they rarely encountered any target which might have triggered a Dark Side feedback loop in them.

   A vanishingly small number have either developed some compensating mechanism, are so naturally unemotional as to limit Dark Side feedback, or manage to carefully regulate themselves even in the heat of battle – damping down their own power even while in desperate peril of their lives to stay on the controllable side of the precipice. Most of those eventually fall.

   Thus, “the” Sith have never been particularly well-organized. While there had been occasional mighty overlords who brought many solar systems under their power, and not a few cultures dedicated to war and dominion, people like that appear with or without the Dark Side to back them. Ever notice that most Sith Lords seem to start off as fallen Jedi? And that they usually build their organizations by recruiting from among Jedi, rather than by training their own students? Some of them do train a few – but only the Jedi train in large groups. All the great “Sith Cultures” are somehow always long gone. A part of the mythic past that – of course – never really happened that way.

   In this case, it all began amid the ruins of Mandalor and the chaos of a galactic war – long before the rise of the Galactic Empire.

   In that time, the Galactic (or “Old”) Republic was besieged by the Sith Armada and their Mandalorian allies.

   Shortly before, the tides of battle had swept past the planet Mandalor itself – and that world had been bombarded into near-oblivion.

   De’arc, a down-on-his-luck bounty hunter (a not uncommon situation with a war going on), was doing a little scrounging. His ship needed repairs and he had no cash – but he wasn’t averse to a little risk. A bit of salvage-work in the wake of the fleet should net him enough in the way of parts and valuables to keep his ship in space.

   He didn’t find as many usable parts as he would have liked – too damn much radioactivity – but he did stumble across what appeared to be a lightly damaged Mandalorian War Droid – a find of considerable value, and one that was easy enough to subdue with a ship-mounted ion cannon. He stashed the thing and headed for Tsh’rell, a small world nearby that had very little law, enough of an underworld market to get rid of the Droid, and some competent repairmen. This close to a war zone, nobody would be asking the really inconvenient questions.

   When he got there, he checked the guild boards as a matter of course – and found that there was an open bounty on force-sensitives. ANY kind of force-sensitives. Alive only – which was a pain – but there were low-level rewards out for any idiot at all with enough sensitivity to detect? The Sith must be rolling in money!

   Wait! There was actually a cluster of wanna-be types who held meetings near the port! He’d WALKED PAST their little rented storefront on the way to talk to the mechanic! They were sitting around just HAVING A MEETING! It was like it was RAINING FREE MONEY!

  • Kira Keldav was actually at the little meeting. OK, they were a bunch of clowns, but at least one of them had a LITTLE power, and he needed some non-Sith pointers. It wasn’t like it was going to be a big investment of his time and he needed something to pass the time while waiting for a ride off this barren little rock.
  • Doctor Orin had always been able to sense a little bit more about his patients conditions than could be explained by his training, and he’d always wondered about what was going on. Perhaps a few lessons in “the force” were in order: it might allow him to refine his talent into something really useful.
  • Handell was mostly just curious: a practical pilot, he’d never paid much attention to mystical nonsense – but now that mystical nonsense seemed to be at the center of a bedamned GALACTIC WAR. Perhaps it was time to look into it a bit. With the tramp freighter he’d ridden in on down for the count from a brush with the fleets, he had nothing else to do anyway.

   None of them were prepared for the string of concussion-knockout-gas grenades that came in the front window.

   De’arc bundled his bounty-head prizes aboard as quickly as possible. The local authorities might take an interest – no matter how unlike that seemed – and he’d rather not take that chance. If some of them were just wannabes, he could always dump them on the slave market.

   Nobody was happy when they woke up – but Kira had at least a little actual trained power. He managed to disrupt the power-conduit he could see across the hall – but was quite annoyed when that didn’t set him free.

   It did slowly power-down the energy suppression field in a holding cell a little way down the hall.

   With the field down, Khadim-17 woke up a few minutes later – even more confused than when he’d started. He let himself out – and along the way he obligingly let out everyone else.

   On the bridge, the bounty-offer was still up on the screen – and De’arc was coming back with the rest of the study group.

   They shot him with his own bedamned ship-mounted stun cannon.

   In the ensuing panicked discussion (except for Khadim-17, who had no idea of what they were all taking about), they picked up the two others De’arc had been bringing in, stole the blasted ship, and got the hell offworld. None of them wanted to be the objects of a galactic bounty. Not when they’d been ADVERTISING their eligibility for it! The ship still needed repairs though, and none of them had much in the way of funds either – no matter how good Handell (and possibly Khadim-17; who knew what that thing was programmed for?) might be at fixing things, they were going to need at least a few parts if they wanted to make any long trips.

   Right: they picked another nearby planet and nursed the ship there. Maybe they could get it fixed, or at least get throughly lost, somewhere where nobody knew them.

   It was too bad that the place turned out to be so sparsely populated.

Legend of the Five Rings: Hadai Knight School

   Before the Empire there were civilizations of Naga and then of Nezumi. There were cities of Ogres. There were humans who’s magical skills were advanced enough to bind Fu Leng – and there were many more near-forgotten schools and disciplines.

   Among those were the Hadai, a school of city-guardians from before the Empire.

   As an early school, the Hadai Mystic Knight had to be capable of handling many roles. They had to be able to calm situations without fighting while still knowing when they had to fight, to deal with supernatural monsters, to decipher the motives of those from other cultures, and to function as both warriors and emissaries. They needed a finely-developed sense practicality and excellent self-restraint.

   They found those abilities in a holistic view of the world – seeing a sea of universal energy which permeated and guided all things, binding them together as an animating spirit and empowering those who learned to call upon it and sense it. (Those few who exist in the modern world tend to see the Tao as the modern embodiment of this notion). That boundless spirit embodied the proper order of the world, and guided them in their duties.

   With the rise of the Jade Empire – and a much less mystical dedication to the Kami – the Hadai, and their dedication to the world as a while, slowly disappeared, their techniques and beliefs becoming anachronisms. Some of their teachings survived and may have influenced both Isawa and Shinsei. The city Isawa ruled, after all, predated Imperial times, and Shinsei’s Tao is in many respects a more refined and deeper version of the hazy Hadai beliefs.

   The Hadai are powerful and versatile psychics, and – with the Kiho Mastery ability – count as a “Monk” school and can master various Kiho as if their relevant rings had a rank of (Actual Rank + School Rank). On the other hand, unlike a Monk, they have to buy them all separately – putting them in a bit of a crunch when it comes to experience points. In practice, they tend to rely primarily on their mystical abilities, since – while they are very versatile – they are no match for someone from a dedicated combat or social school. Of course, when they originated, they didn’t need to be.

Hadai Mystic Knight (Pre-Imperial “Bushi” School)

  • Honor: 3.5
  • Benefit: +1 Void
  • School Skills: Athletics, Courtier, Defense, Etiquette, Investigation, Lore (Any), Hunting, Medicine, Meditation, Sword, and any one skill.

School Techniques:

   First Technique/Basic Channeling: This simple technique simply provides Kiho Mastery (10) and a bonus of +2x Void to all school skills (10).

   Second Technique/Psychic Sensitive: The user is sensitive to magical, dimensional, and psychic disturbances, gaining intuitive feelings about them and having occasional clairsentient visions. Like any sense, the greater the disturbance, the further away it can be sensed. Weak disturbances – casting simple spells, strongly tainted creatures, and deaths – can be detected in the immediate vicinity. Powerful disturbances – the casting of mighty spells and enchanted areas, gates and divine presences, and major massacres – can be sensed at considerable range. Unfortunately, while time is not a barrier, the disturbance generated by a possible future event is proportional to its probability of occurrence. Thus, while a Sensitive may have occasional warnings, or even visions, of future events, they are unlikely to be specific – since they usually represent the sensing of many possible alternate versions of an event – and are relatively rare (Innate Self-Powered level three psychic ability, 9), Psychic Master: gain (Void) Free Raises when using psychic effects (10).

   Third Technique/Psychic Mastery: The user may now employ all kinds of psychic abilities (use the psychic powers list for a guide). This is a Fifth Level Self- (or Void Point) Powered Psychic “Importune” effect with 2x Void uses daily. These “uses” can be “subdivided” – for example, if you can use fourth-level effects due to having Void 5+, then a second-level effect only counts as half a use. Such “favors” still, however, require that the user “pay” for them with a life full of meditations, weird austerities, and obscure missions (20). Unfortunately, producing such effects requires a successful “spellcasting check” using (Void + School Rank) (-5). Note that the user can only employ psychic effects of up to level (current Void Ring Rank – 1) or level four, whatever is lower. Secondarily, the user also gains Sight of the Heart (a level 2 self-powered innate spell of Improved Empathy. The user may make an opposed Awareness check against anyone he or she encounters, gaining a quick summary of their current desires and goals. Additional raises on this check will provide free raises on subsequent social interactions with the target within the next day, 6).

   Fourth Technique/Foreseeing the Pattern: The user may now add twice his or her agility to his or her Initiative rolls (5), gains an additional (Void) self-powered daily uses of Psychic Mastery (5), and may opt to spend a Void point to reduce the damage from any single attack by ten plus the total of a (Void + School Rank) check by spending a Void Point.

   Fifth Technique/One with the Spirit: The world-spirit now guides the user’s actions to such an extent that he or she gets an extra full action each round (15) and gains an additional (Void) self-powered daily uses of Psychic Mastery (5).

The Hadai Master:

   Very powerful Hadai Knights sometimes went on to study the Hadai Master Advanced School. While such individuals did exert a certain amount of political influence, their primary dedication was to fully mastering the skills expected of a Hadai Knight – the better to train new students – and to teaching. The tradition of deceased Hadai Masters hanging around to tutor and aid their successors – who in turn taught a succession of students – guaranteed the continuity of the Hidai across many generations.

Requirements:

  • Rings and Traits: Void 5+, Willpower 5+, Perception 5+
  • Skills: Courtier 5+, Investigation 5+, Meditation 5+, Sword 5+
  • Special: Hadai Knight 3+
  • School Skills: As per existing Hadai Knight school skills.

   First Technique/The Senior Master: May claim (Rank+2) Favors each session, each rated at up to (Skill being used/2, rounded up). A Hadai Master may use Courtier to obtain political favors and appointments, Investigation to gain information, and Etiquette to obtain equipment) (10) and may add +2x Willpower to all school skills (10).

   Second Technique/True Foresight: May now also claim Favors based on Divination (attempting to manipulate fate) and a chosen Lore skill (obtaining services as relevant) (5). The master may also add +2x Perception to all school skills (10) and may spend a Void Point to make a Contrived Appearance (Immunity to actually having to have a justification for turning up at the scene of the action. Unless known to be occupied somewhere else, or stranded in another dimension, or some such, the user may spend a Void point to simply turn up somewhere – although this can only work if no one is quite sure where you are at the moment: if you can disappear into a maze of catacombs, a forest, or a city, you can simply turn up again somewhere else – such as appearing to rescue a student or face an arch-nemesis in a duel as he threatens some innocents) (Common Immunity, 10, costs a void point to use, -5, net 5). The game master is free to restrict this, although he or she should refund the user’s void point if he or she opts to exercise this privilege. This ability is not an an excuse to go completely insane, it’s just very cinematic and allows the absurd coincidences you find in many settings and plots.

   Third Technique/The Grand Master: A Grand Master is a true expert in his or her school skills, and many now add +2x Intelligence to all his or her school skills (10). He or she is also now so well attuned to the spirit of the world, that it is almost impossible to effectively target him or her with magic, gaining +15 Magic Resistance (6)*. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he or she gains a pair of allies – a Student or Aide (Influence 1 (fairly low rank), Devotion 2 (major, would take great personal risks for the master), Eccentricity 0 (a normal human), Inconvenience -2 (major: a student who can be threatened, kidnaped, etc, and whom you are obligated to protect) (1), as well as a Mentor Spirit (Influence 4/can grant 20 points worth of abilities chosen by the game master, Devotion 0 (minor – but then there are few risks to spirits), Eccentricity 0 (an “ancestor” spirit), and Inconvenience -1 (minor: the Mentor expects to be listened to respectfully – no matter how boring he or she becomes – and often has suggestions, advice, and missions which it thinks would be good for the user to carry out) (3).

   *Alternatively, a Grand Master may opt to upgrade his or her Psychic Mastery abilities to cover 5’th level psychic effects instead. This also costs 6 points, so the two differing paths are otherwise identical.

   According to legend, a Grand Master with Great Potential (Mediation) may learn an immunity to the usual upper limits on innate spells (5), upgrade to 7’th level psychic effects from an 8’th level innate importune effect (12), and learn the true secret of the nature of the world (3). No one is really sure what this would involve – although the Game Master may opt to have the user’s Mentor Spirit bestow these abilities or some variant thereof if he or she finds it amusing. Of course, if the setting allows characters of above Rank 8, then someone may well simply research a fourth and fifth technique for the Hadai Master school.

   There were, of course, occasional madmen and renegades who turned the Hadai teachings to their own purposes – embodying the impulses of the darker side of humanity and carrying out missions of destruction to “pay” for the use of their abiliteis. A few even established small and secretive orders – although all such are believed to be long extinct, and their lore lost.

   The Hadai have a great many interesting, if relatively low-powered abilities, but suffer the usual fate of generalists; their “magical” talents are no match for a Shugenja and their martial talents are no match for a dedicated warrior – until they get into the advanced school. There comes a point when quantity becomes a quality all it’s own, and adding 2x (Void + Willpower + Perception + Intelligence) to all school skills – including the base for Defense – has a certain charm to it when the character is at Rank 8+. A full Hadai Master is pretty formidable.

Shadowrun: Astral Experiments

   The characters in the Shadowrun Campaign have been doing a lot of experimentation recently: here are some of their experiments and current results:

   Mr Moore has been trying a number of experiments with cyberware, many of them probing into just what “Essence” is, and why it’s so hard to get back.

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.

   The results here are pretty simple: “Essence” is primarily a spiritual thing: essentially, it’s a measure of how much “alien” material and physiological disturbance the spirit can tolerate having integrated with the body and – most importantly – the central nervous system before spirit-body disassociation (“death”) sets in. Spirits can occupy bodies with unnatural components, they just don’t find it easy or comfortable. Higher-quality systems can reduce the overall impact by reducing the extent of the modifications, by being lighter and leaving more tissue intact, and by better mimicking the structure of the material they’re replacing. Better surgery can reduce the impact by reducing the physiological disturbance. Nothing can entirely negate it.

   Of course, as long as the spirit can continue to occupy the altered body, for magical purposes it’s just a body; the cyberware really doesn’t matter much there.

   Unfortunately, the spirit-body link is semi-permanently stressed by such modifications, and the situation – the “loss of essence” or “fraying of the silver cord” – is almost permanent (in the original rules, it’s permanent. Under the Penumbra rules it’s possible to remove the disrupting elements and allow natural spiritual “healing” to very very slowly repair the link). It also gets worse each time the level of disturbance reaches a new peak. That’s why you can uninstall cyberware and get new stuff without further impact – until you exceed the previous level of disruption.

   On the astral level, the disruption of an individuals essence is perceptible as a weakening of their astral pattern, spiritual body, aura, or whatever you want to call it. New cyberware will initially turn show up as black wounds, but will come to resemble dark “astral scars” as the user’s spirit permeates the modified areas over the next few hours. When you remove cyberware, the user’s spirit remains intact; no part of it’s energies “goes with” the old systems; the “scarring”, however, will disappear – or at least wind up being distributed evenly throughout the astral form, since it’s impact remains.

   “Essence-Draining” creatures are, in fact, usually technically dead. What they actually do is disrupt the astral body and absorb the resulting surge of released energies – using them to substitute for the natural body-spirit bond they no longer possess. Similarly, a deceased spirit can be bound into a body with magic, but it’s not really being “alive”.

   There are also techniques for “burning essence” to fuel bursts of magical power; these cause “essence damage” by burning out the spirit-body link by channeling excessive levels of energy through it – essentially a higher-order form of “drain”, although the direct channel bypasses the symptoms of normal physical drain.

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.

   This can actually work, although the mechanism seems to have nothing to do with “essence dissipation”, since essence isn’t really something that can be moved around. In general, the essence cost of a piece of cyberware can be reduced if it’s transplanted from a donor who has been hosting it for a few weeks PROVIDED that the “donor” remains in the immediate vicinity of the recipient for some hours after the surgery, that the donor genuinely wants to help the recipient, and that some form of astral link – a close friendship (acceptable), blood relationship (better), or astral contact link (best) exists between them. The effect is rather small in any case.

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.

   Astrally, magically-active cyberware – whether because it’s enchanted as a focus, imbued with a spirit, or any similar effect – never bonds with the user’s spirit to become “truly a part of” him or her. Interestingly, this greatly reduces the essence impact of items which do not interact with the central nervous system, such as skeletal reinforcement. Items which interact with the nervous system in non-critical fashions, such as cyberlimbs, have their impacts reduced. Items which have major interactions with the central nervous system, such as datajacks, have their impact increased. Items which replace chunks of the central nervous system, such as spinal interfaces, wired reflexes, and similar items, result in death – an effect apparently related to the inability of Shapechangers and other creatures with regenerative powers to recover from spinal damage.

   Magically-active cyberware can provide limited protection against astral attack, if only because it’s a separate item to put in the way – but it does not seem to be a very effective way to go about it.

   Cyberware incorporating alchemical radicals in its construction does make self-enchantment easier, but the ability to enchant living beings is still required, since such items are incorporated into the user’s astral body. Such items also have a reduced impact on the magic rating of magically-active users, either reducing the initial impact or counting as an “ordeal” for attempts to regain magic rating through initiation later on.

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.

   It is possible to enchant living creatures, with or without tattoos, given the right techniques. Unfortunately, the only thing that anyone knows how to make symbols do is resonate with magic and (if driven by a relatively steady source) set up a standing wave, rather like putting rocks into a current. No one knows how to use symbols to channel or guide magic in other way. Even more importantly, tattoos become a part of the tattooed creatures astral body, and no longer resonate as individual symbols.

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.

   There are a couple of essence-regeneration effects – one quick variant, which essentially transforms the spirit and results in a more-or-less “new” person with renewed “essence”, and slow spiritual regeneration-enhancement spells. The vampires and such are, as noted earlier, mostly technically dead, and are renewing their own magical spirit-binding, not really their “essence”. In effect, to become a vampire, it’s necessary to use the power-boost the virus is giving you in the process of burning out your spirit-body link to improvise a binding spell to hold your own spirit. Hence most “attempts” to create vampires and such simply result in death: people just don’t do it unless they’re desperate to live at all costs, at least slightly talented, determined, and very lucky. There is a hybrid form, where people manage to stop the process without burning out their natural “essence”, and can then use “essence drain” to build up a secondary pool of magical power, but this usually requires bonding with a predatory spirit that maintains the secondary pool and helps maintain your body. It’s generally not pretty.

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.

   This is possible. It is known to be at least partially responsible for some instances of phenomena such as “hysterical strength” and is speculated to be responsible for the occasional pre-awakening reports of magical activities. There is no known method of training people to do this, but you’re quite correct about the (closely related, if not identical) methods used by Vampires – although a Vampires “essence” is a measure of the strength of its spirit-binding spell, not of it’s natural “silver cord”.

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.

   It is possible – given the appropriate methods of transferring a spell – to hand off sustaining a spell to a latent or mundane. Latents can sustain low-power spells for some time. Mundanes can sustain spells briefly, but will either be boosted to Latent status by doing so (presuming strong wills, willingness to endure lots of pain, some potential, and 60 points of Karma available to spend) or will have to choose between dropping the spell and burning out, since – for them – this is equivalent to the Essence Burn effect noted above.

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.

   Basically, this involves adding a powered exoskeleton to combat armor. It’s possible, although it’s bulky and rather clumsy unless it’s run by a spinal interface, since even the best amplification-response programs have a hard time providing appropriate levels of amplification based on external cues and nerve-activity sensors. A datajack really doesn’t help much: the muscle-control and conscious-thought sections of the brain are less tightly linked than researchers in the field hoped. Power isn’t that big a problem: the same power sources that run cyberlimbs can be used. It will indeed be very expensive though.

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

   Unfortunately, this won’t work very well. DMSO allows larger-than-usual molecules to move through the skin into the body. Unfortunately, this is an osmotic process: it’s slow, it’s greatly dependent on skin thickness, chemistry, sweatiness, and other factors, as well as on how quickly the material is taken up by capillaries; a lot of it is likely to remain in local tissues for some time. That means that the dosage is difficult to control (the squirtgun/drug combinations only work through massive overdosage) and it takes effect relatively slowly. Worse, it’s competing with a well-established technology that doesn’t suffer from such problems: external strap-on automatic medical injectors, drug pumps, and sensor-triggered pressure injectors have been around for decades and are even easier to link to computer and medical systems.

Next we have a selection of the Ninja’s experiments:

The Flying Saucer Design:

  • Hypothesis: using the toroidal magic circle design, it should be possible to use magic to safely launch delicate items into space or to set up a mobile flying platform that is tougher than a tank and could even contain one in addition to its standard components. The components of such a construct include:
    • A toroidal circle.
    • A magic user to power it. Ideally the magic user can also sustain the next two components.
    • A reverse light spell or a reverse lightning spell if there is room for a generator. Several might be required for the design to function properly.
    • A spell that converts incoming energy into kinetic energy OR a set of levitation spells with a barrier spell.
    • A platform to connect everything to as well as carry passengers and payload.

   With this combination a magic user should be able to lift a small craft into orbit while maintaining a stable magic field inside, free from the damaging astral environment of space. It could also be armored by the barrier spell, which would protect it from most space hazards. A simple dome could hold the air in and allow tourists to see space in safety. It could be powered by lasers from the ground or orbit. If the kinetic-conversion spell is designed properly, it would exert no g-forces on the payload, and thus could be used to transport extremely fragile machinery to orbit. Finally, it could lift materials more cheaply than other current methods, since the costs would be relatively flat for whatever the size of the payload as long as it fit inside in the conversion spell.

   Alternately, it could be used to make a spirit and magic proof tank that has armor of the best designed spell Mitsuhama can find without the cost of actually casting the spell at full force. It would have a astral barrier of force similar to the one around Renraku’s arcology and could ram astral threats with it. No spell or spirit in existence matches that power, yet. Unfortunately this requires a more or less portable power generation system capable of reaching multiple gigavolts.

   The “light to electricity” and “light to kinetic energy” spells should be relatively simple to create. A laser or set of lasers to power it might be a little hard to maintain, obtain, or use, but it is possible. It could also be run on a massive lens or mirror focusing light from the sun.

   The ideal spell for operation powering the thing would transform all energy meeting its surface into kinetic energy in a direction determined by the caster distributed evenly to each object inside the spell in proportion to its mass. This would result in no g-forces from acceleration, the ability to accelerate at speeds proportional to the total amount of energy that is thrown at it, and protection from high energy particles, radiation, and impacts. If such a spell is not feasible, the levitation-barrier version offers some protection and movement, but is not as versatile or as fast as the first version.

  Now, this one gets complicated, and there are a lot of elements here. Quite a lot of this will work, albeit with some provisions. Space operations are the biggest problem, so we’ll start assuming that you’re working in space. Here the problems include:

   The toroidal magic circle design necessarily leaks magic to the outside – it has to go somewhere after all – and the enhanced mana level environment only applies inside the physical ring itself. Worse, the symbols can only resonate and create the barrier when there’s a reasonable magic level on the outside of the physical ring to support them. Magical effects cannot be projected from inside the barrier.

   Ergo, you also need to use some form of the “Astral Bubble” spell inside the barrier, but outside the physical component of the circle (quite possible, but it requires careful tuning of the circle). Just as importantly, the circle’s barrier will bleed magical energy into space at a horrific rate – it is basically a standing wave effect after all – meaning that it must be pumped frantically to maintain itself, although more research on the design will help a bit. At least that will help maintain a decent magic level inside the physical toroid.

   No conversion spell can be 100% efficient; this will require more spells to reflect or dump excess physical energies.

   Now, approaching the energies of the Renraku Barrier is simply not going to work: they’re pumping that thing with the output of a major fusion plant and an accelerator ring more than a mile across. Fortunately, you can pump energy into the barrier and other spells at far lower energies – even lower than the 53 megavolts required to show positive results on earth in the low-mana environment of space.

   Since a Physical Barrier spell will not interfere with the Astral Bubble spell, it can simply be set up inside it. There shouldn’t be any problem there.

   One major problem with laser-powering via light-absorption is that the thing will be somewhat difficult to track – although a radio beacon and automatic-targeting function will be reasonably effective as long as you make sure that the absorption and shielding-spells only operate one way. Similarly, it will be difficult to see out of: attempting to leave a hole in the absorption spell is asking to be blasted with a high-powered laser and most instruments will rely on incoming photons. An onboard power supply to pump the system directly is far more desirable. What you really need is a small, light, and near-limitless power supply. It might be a good idea to talk to Renraku about antimatter there.

   Next we have some additional Ninja experiments with permutations on magical circles:

Experiment (1) Twisted Circle:

   This involves making a circle out of a rigid strip of twisted plastic and inscribing it with a series of symbols following the rules for a toroidal barrier of multiplier one – a barrier the same size as the toroid. It will be necessary to make sure that the twists do not make the line of symbols longer than the radius of the circle. Hopefully this will result in a barrier that resembles the three- layer structure of the toroidal barriers, but has a radius no larger than the physical representation.

   Unfortunately, the orientation of the symbols has no effect; this is effectively equivalent to a flat circle layout. Apparently the three-dimensional helix is required for the multi-level meta-plane blocking structure. Setting it up as a mobius strip has no effect if the symbols go around once only – it seems that drawing half of them on the outside of a thin barrier and half on the inside has no real effect either – but allowing them to overlap, separated only by a thin sheet of physical material, causes them to interfere destructively with themselves.

Experiment (2) Leveled Toroid Experiment:

   This involves making a toroidal circle with little outcroppings that keep the plane of the symbols constant as they are followed around the toroid. Each symbol will be parallel with the ground if the toroid is resting on a level surface.

   As long as the symbols are arranged in a full helix, following the rules for generating a toroidal barrier, the orientation of the symbols has no effect. The interaction with astral space seems to be based on their meaning – and is possibly related to the mind of the operator – not on their physical construction or orientation.

Experiment (3): Disk Barrier:

   This involves constructing a series of toroids with the same barrier radius and length, but of different physical toroid sizes. These will be mounted in a structure that holds them in place so that they have the same center and are aligned on the same plane without touching or interfering with the layout of the symbols. Hypothetically, this might result in a larger, stronger, faster activating, or completely disrupted circle. Speed is the desired effect, but the others are also attractive.

   This is fairly straightforward: the circles operate by reflecting the magical waste energy from an operation attuned to the circle that reaches them to create a standing wave, and a consequent astral barrier. In this experiment, only the innermost ring works; those further out are not receiving their excitation energy.

   Tuning each successive ring going out to operate on the waste energy from the next ring inward does have some effect, later rings will make a modest contribution to the overall strength of the final barrier, however the effect is relatively small; the boost seems to be in the form of a rapidly-convergent power series.

   Attuning the circles to different operations may also have some effect, but this variation was not tried.

Experiment (4) Nested Toroids:

   I’m not quite sure how this arrangement differs from Experiment (3) actually, unless it’s simply by having some toroids with a greater internal radius than others.

   The original description indicated that this experiment involved creating a toroid with a relatively large vertical radius when it was resting flat on the ground and making the symbols on it appropriate for a barrier with a multiplier of 2. A smaller toroid with a multiplier of 3 but the same total symbol length (and thus barrier radius) would be anchored inside the first one, anchored to that the theoretical barriers would be in the same place. This was to be repeated as many times as was practical.

   In this case, the size of the symbols and the internal radius of the toroid – at least as long as it’s a lot smaller than the radius from its center – also seems to be irrelevant. The effects are identical to the previous experiment.

Experiment (5) Living Barrier:

   This experiment involved making a cylindrical printer that printed using a strain of dual-natured bacteria in a nutrient solution that would last for at least an hour after printing a dual circle and then trying them out. If that works, the next step is to try and create circles which resonate with wards, astral projection, and other powers that send all their waste energy out of reach of normal circles.

   This actually works quite well from some viewpoints: such circles are easier to excite and lose less energy. The dual-natured symbols seem to be far more effective at resonating with the magical energy involved. Unfortunately, they are also more fragile: attempting to obtain high levels of energy using this technique seems to destroy the bacteria fairly quickly. It is easy enough to make circles powered by astral projection this way – although the astral projector is trapped within the circle, and if he breaks out he both destroys the dual-natured bacteria and stops powering the circle anyway. It will not work with Wards; those are static formations, and do not emit any worthwhile waste energy to resonate with. It might be possible to do something with the waste energy from astrally-active animals or vegetation though.

Experiment (6) Sharper Symbols:

   This sequence of experiments were all basically similar: our Ninja experimented with a variety of symbol mediums – printed on paper, engraved on various materials, chalked on concrete, inlaid on various foundations, in wax on wood, molded in clay and plastic and other materials, using alchemical radicals, and – especially – fine wires of oricalcum inlaid in engravings and uranium mediums, and reshaped plants. All samples were of the same size and shape, but varied in line thickness, depth, and vertical shape. He then set them resonating, and inspected them astrally to see what differences occurred in sharpness and other effects.

   In general, the substrate did not matter (radioactive substrates are an exception). The best – sharpest and most efficient – symbols were made with inlaid materials with circular cross sections. Oricalcum was especially useful; such symbols were by far the sharpest and most efficient – closely matching those observed in the Renraku Arcology. Oddly, the thickness of the inlaid wire has little or no effect.

   Radioactive materials were a bit strange: lighter radioactive nuclei tended to become somewhat more unstable in a high-magical field. Heavier nuclei were more stable. Very light and superheavy nuclei were apparently unaffected. The results plotted as another sine-like curve, switching to an exponential approach to no effect towards the ends – stable nuclei remained stable and the high transuranics presumably vanished in their usual microsecond times (not that the Ninja had any to test with).

   In any case, high levels of radioactivity tended to disrupt magic: apparently the particles somehow interact with astral fields, losing energy to them – possibly a natural version of the energy-to-magic effect – but it reappears as random disruption. Overall, not too useful unless you were interested in the explanation for nuclear-weapon difficulties and unexplained meltdowns.

Experiment (7) Algae Power:

   This experiment is another simple one: the dense life-concentrations of laser-driven algae-farm operations seem to somewhat enhance magic levels locally. Ergo, this experiment simply involves setting up a toroidal barrier designed to enclose as much of the facility as possible in the middle of an algae growth center of the largest size possible and watch to see if it draws power from the algae or has any other effects.

   This one hasn’t been practical to try yet: exciting a circle that big will require several mages, and there aren’t that many algae farms handy that want to cooperate.

Experiment (8) Algae Impressions:

   This simply involves moving algae around, and seeing how quickly the mana levels change with various amounts of algae to see if the effect is exponential or linear.

   This one also hasn’t been practical to try yet.

Thera: Faiths and Religions

   The Great Powers of Thera come in at least three groups, and possibly four. There’s some debate on the subject.

   The Primal Ennead are the personifications of cosmic elements and forces – entities that really don’t pay much attention to individual mortals. Each has a male and a female aspect. In reality what the viewer expects seems to have a lot to do with how they’re seen. This group includes;

 

Element/Force

Male Aspect

Female Aspect

Transformation

Khonshu

Isis

Fire

Horus-Ra

Bastet

Destruction

Set

Sekhmet

Earth

Geb

Ma’at

Creation

Ptah

Sefekh-Aabut

Water

Atum

Tefnut

Preservation

Osiris

Nepthys

Air

Shu

Nut (Sky)

Life/Death

Anubis

Hathor

   The Primals generally interact with humans thru their emissaries /aides Thoth (Knowledge/ Pattern) and Bes (Luck/Chance). They are the source of all natural laws, including those of magic. They normally don’t interfere much – if at all – unless something threatens to upset the nature of the entire world. After all, from their point of view, a horrific death – or a thousand-year evil empire – is simply a learning experience. They are, however, vaguely benign; Thera is fundamentally a fairly hospitable world. The Primals are opposed by Apophis The Unmaker, and his minions – Apshai Swarmfather, the Bringer Of Plagues, Sobek The Devourer, and many others, who attempt to undermine the cycles of the world. Elementals, demons, celestials and other “outsiders” are all minor aspects of the primal powers.

   Primal Religions tend to be restricted to those who either A) prefer Thera just the way it is, and would like it to continue that way indefinitely or, B) have dedicated themselves to a particular aspect of the universe. There are a few worshipers of Apophis and company, but they’re more then a bit mad and are usually hunted down as soon as possible.

   Totems and Nature Spirits make up the next major grouping. While these are powerful, and can be very impressive, they’re generally too specialized to attract many followers. The great caribou spirit, the storm spirit, and the “local” sea spirit, make perfectly serviceable “gods” for a village full of hunter-gatherers on the fringe of an icecap, but they’re not going to do much for a major trading city. On the other hand, it’s a lot easier to get them to pay attention to you then it is to attract the attention of a Primal Power.

   Faiths based on Totems and Nature Spirits tend to be simple, “primitive”, and personal; a faith with only a few hundred followers doesn’t need an elaborate structure, and a given worshiper can reasonably expect to come to the personal attention of his or her “god” at least a few times in his or her lifetime. Followers of such beings may receive helpful dreams and be granted minor favors within their patron’s domain quite routinely. Characters with communicative or spiritual powers may be able to reach and negotiate with such “deities” with no particular trouble.

   Runelords – commonly known as “Gods” – are “ascended” mortals, rare individuals who have mastered one or more runes – the words of the primals, the strands of magic which weave the fabric of the world. As such, they wield vast power over the areas governed by those runes. Of course, embodying the power of a true rune changes them greatly. The energies coursing through their bodies renders runelords almost immune to injury, aging, toxins, disease, and similar agents, enhances their attributes – and changes their form to one suited to the rune.

   They are invariably aware of major actions involving their rune; after all, in a curious way, they’re a part of such actions anyway. A master of the War Rune is directly involved in, and can subtly influence, any “war” event down to the skirmish level.

   It’s rumored – but unconfirmed – that only one runelord at a time can hold each rune; if two lords claim a rune, one must renounce it, slay, or absorb, the other, lest some strange fate befall both.

   Religions based on Runelords tend to be a bit more “businesslike” then mystical. After all, they’re basically just people. Schools of magic often take relevant lords as patrons – and most temples are quite practical.

   The Transcendent Beliefs are philosophical or religious systems which believe in a great creator or some even more abstract power beyond what is measurable or detectable from within the known cosmos. Such an entity or force is variously known as Dhaos Timeforger, the Goddess, the Unknowable, and Tao. Regardless of the terminology, such faiths involve the “ultimate” fate of spirits that have passed beyond the cycles of the cosmos. While some few spirits do seem to “pass on” to higher realms of existence – or at least no one has been able to locate the spirits of a few mighty heroes and epic villains after their passing – even if such a being exists, it apparently does not interfere. Oddly enough, powerful spellcasters often embrace Transcendent Beliefs. Few of Thera’s other religions have any problem with their members holding such beliefs as well: it’s not like it makes a lot of difference.

   Cults worship entities that don’t fit into any known group. Such entities may be from beyond the known universe, simply be powerful beings, or even be entirely mythical. The benefits – if any – of such worship vary greatly, depending on if the target of worship actually exists, responds to such worship, and actually possesses the power to respond in a meaningful way. Some such cults may simply be superstitions built around misunderstood bit of magic. If burning incense on an old “altar” with a particular “prayer” seems to bring fertility to the fields, short of a major magical investigation, who is to say whether it’s purely superstition, if there’s an entity involved, if it is merely a poorly-remembered method of activating some old enchantment, or if it is merely a bit of misunderstood ceremonial magic? What if the belief in the patron is an important part of the ceremony?

   There are many hundreds of Cults on Thera, most of which are simply minor fringe activities and of little importance. Others, of course, are fronts for the minions of Apophis.

   The Afterlifes of Thera aren’t all that well defined; there seem to be quite a few of them – and most or all of them seem to be temporary. Some spirits hang around the physical world, appearing in dreams and revisiting favored locations and individuals. Many spend some time in one or another “afterlife” – realms which seem, to be simply magically sculpted regions of the astral plane. (Quite a few Runelords, and even many totem spirits, support such a domain). A few exceptionally-dedicated spirits become celestials, demons, minor elemental powers, or other entities in the service of a Runelord or even a Primal – although this, once again, seems to be a temporary position. A very very few seem to move on, passing beyond the known planes. The rest reincarnate sooner or later.

   The “default” afterlife seems to be wandering an “area” of the Astral Plane influenced by those primal powers which you related to most strongly in life before – eventually – reincarnating. Spirits with particularly strong personalities often learn to draw on a bit of that power and project it to Thera proper – leading to various “Ancestor Worship” faiths. After all, a powerful ghost can be quite a lot of help – and all you need to start such a “cult” is at least one spirit which has both mastered the power-projection trick and still takes an interest in their (current) descendants or worshipers.

d20: Mystic Companion Prestige Class

Mystic Companion, A.K.A.; “Greater Familiar”

  •  
    • “You must anchor me, lest I be lost in the worlds beyond”
    • “Join your mind with mine, your power with mine…”
    • “I shall ward you as you work”
    • “Igor! Fetch me a brain!”
    • “What happens if I press this?”

   The Mystic Companion is a spellcaster’s aide, roughly equivalent to a mundane shield-bearer or charioteer for a warrior. While they, like Monks, learn to focus a certain amount of the mystic power that courses through them into personal enhancements, their great talent is in acting as a “focus” or amplifier for the powers of a nearby spellcasting companion.

   This curious d20 prestige class provides a reasonably good set of defenses, a few unique abilities, and a variety of ways to assist a chosen spellcasting companion. Of course, given the variety of possible “talents” available, the class can also be used to create a wider variety of special-purpose characters – for example, a fighter capable of growing his or her own armor and weapons as needed (with four “Timeless Body” talent choices).

  •  
    • “The things that lurked and squelched in the mirrors had found extra tentacles somewhere – but I checked the binding runes and they were still tight”.

Prerequisites:

  • Ability to cast first level spells
  • Either Knowledge/Arcana OR Knowledge/Religion 4+
  • Use Magic Device 1+
  • Concentration 3+ 
  • Spending time with more powerful spellcasters.

   Class Skills; Balance, Climb, Concentration, Craft, Diplomacy, Escape Artist, Hide, Jump, Knowledge/ Any, Listen, Move Silently, Profession, Swim, Perform, Tumble, and Use Magic Device. Gains a base of 4 SP per level.

   Class Features; Mystic Companions are proficient with simple weapons and light armor and gain a sixth sense, adding their positive Wis Modifier to their AC when wearing nothing heavier then leather. They also gain the use of Weapon Finesse/Touch Attacks, and Improved Unarmed Strike, if wearing no or light armor. They use D8 HD and usually stress Intelligence or Wisdom.

 

Level

BAB

BCL

Saves

AC

Total Talents

Special Abilities;

1

+0

+1

+2

+1

2 + Int Mod

Evasion, Ideal Companion

2

+1

+1

+3

+2

4 + Int Mod

Evade Arrows

3

+2

+2

+3

+2

5 + Int Mod

Improved Evasion

4

+3

+2

+4

+3

6 + Int Mod

Diamond Soul

5

+4

+3

+4

+3

7 + Int Mod

Purity Of Body

  • BAB: Base Attack Bonus.
  • BCL: Base Caster Level.
  • Saves: Bonus to all saving throws.
  • AC Bonus; To the user’s AC. The user must select a bonus type to determine what will, and will not, stack with this ability.
  • Total Talents; The number of talents that may be chosen (Q.V.; “Talents”, below). While the list is not exhaustive, every addition and selection must be approved by the GM. Extra talents may be gained via “normal” intelligence increases – or via artificial enhancements PROVIDED that the enhancement was applied throughout the entire previous level.
  • Evasion; If a Mystic Companion makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, he or she instead takes no damage. Evasion can only be used if the Mystic Companion is wearing light armor or no armor and does not work if the would-be user is helpless.
  • Ideal Companion; The user gains basic familiar abilities with his or her companion, including Share Spells, Alertness (for both parties involved), and Empathic Link. A mystic companion can attune him- or her-self to a specific spellcaster by associating with them for three days – or by expending 100 EP to do it instantly.
  • Evade Arrows. This ability allows the user to stop one individually-directed ranged attack per round with DC 20 Reflex check. This may be used to protect either the user or his or her chosen companion, provided that said companion is within ten feet of the user.
  • Improved Evasion; The Mystic Companion’s evasion ability improves; while he or she still takes no damage on a successful Reflex saving throw against attacks, he or she henceforth takes only half damage even if the save fails. A Mystic Companion does not gain this benefit if he or she is wearing medium or heavy armor or is helpless.
  • Diamond Soul; This ability grants the Mystic Companion Spell and Power Resistance of (5 + Companions Level).
  • Purity Of Body; The Mystic Companion becomes immune to disease, and gains a +6 to saves versus poisons.

Possible Talents :

  • Closing The Circle; The user and companion may “share” a chosen item slot, and any effects of items either wears there. Sadly, this will not allow exceptions to stacking limits. This talent may be taken more then once, but loses it’s effectiveness if the companions are more then a mile apart.
  • Fires Of The Earth; The user may “channel” earth-energies to his/her companion to use in creating magic items, supplying 50 EP a month for such uses without having to expend his or her personal EP or imposing any other cost This talent choice may be taken more than once, boosting this to 200 EP per month, allowing the user to store up to 1000 EP per level for later use, or making an additional item creation Feat available to the user’s chosen companion.
  • Gift Of The Spriggan; The user and his items may grow to “large” size three times per for up to ten minutes per use, gaining any appropriate size bonuses. Each further talent choices expended on this ability adds the ability to take a specific animal form for up to an hour as one of the user’s three daily changes.
  • Guardian Ward; The user may protect his or her companion from attacks using Shield Other as needed. For a second talent choice the companions will only take damage once – half each – when hit by an area effect. For a third talent choice the user may block one melee attack a round on his/her companion with a DC 20 reflex save – provided that he or she is within 10 Ft. Finally, for a fourth talent choice, the user may make an attack of opportunity on anyone who makes a melee attack against his / her companion under similar circumstances.
  • Innate Enchantment; The user gains an “innate” ability that duplicates the effect of a magic item of up to 2500 GP value. Items with charges recharge each month – but are limited to 1250 GP in value. If combined with the Iron Wheel talent (below) there is no price limitation provided that the user actually has the item to absorb.
  • Iron Wheel (Minimum character level of three); The Mystic Companion may absorb any incoming spell up to [1+(Wis Mod/2)] times a day, acting off-action and without it counting as an action of any kind. This effect is similar to a “Rod Of Absorption”, and allows the user to store a maximum of (Int*2) Mana (for games using the Theran Mana System) or (2*Int/3) spell levels over the long term. Overcharges dissipate harmlessly within 2D4 minutes. For another talent choice, the user may share this reserve of power with his or her companion. For a third choice, the user gets the ability to absorb and transfer magic item enchantments, although enchantments count as ten spell levels (hence actually using this ability requires a minimum of 20 Int and level 5+). A fourth choice allows the user to store specific spells and release them as if they were quickened.
  • Lesser Warding; The user’s current companion gets a +2 nameless bonus on saving throws as long as the Mystic Companion is within twenty feet. At level 5+, and for another talent choice, the user may make his or her saving throw before his or her chosen companion – and share it with that companion if it succeeds. At level 8+, and as a third talent choice, the user may share his or her successful saving throws with all allies within twenty feet. At level 10+, and for a fourth talent choice, the user automatically creates a circle of Protection from Evil/Good/Law/Chaos in a ten foot radius.
  • Mystic Synergy; The user’s companion gains a +2 bonus on his / her primary magic-related attribute (for magical purposes only) as long as he/she and the Mystic Companion are within ten feet per (combined) level of each other. For a second talent choice, the user also gains this boost. For a third talent choice both gain a bonus spell slot at the companion’s highest current spell level. For a fourth, the Mystic Companion can enhance his or her companion’s effective level in their spellcasting class by +1 level – enhancing their available spells, casting level, and any other special abilities that that level would normally grant.
  • Occult Assistant; The companion gains a +2 bonus on his/her skill rolls and Base Caster Level as long as the mystic companion is within twenty feet. This talent may be taken twice at level 5+ to raise the bonus to +4. Taken a third time it reduces the cost and time requirements of the companion’s occult and spell research by 50%.
  • Planar Anchor; This exotic talent boosts the link between the user and his or her homeworld to draw the user, and/or the user’s chosen companion, back to it – albeit at the cost of 1d4 points of temporary Strength and Constitution damage. This applies to both physical travel and astral projection – and can be used to recall an astral companion to his or her body. At level 7+, for a second talent choice, the user may become Ethereal for a total of [1+Int Mod] round per level per day. At level 10+ the user may select this talent for a third time – gaining the ability to Dimension Door a total of (400 + 20/Level) feet per day with a minimum of 10′. For a fourth talent choice the user gains the ability to open a Gate to his or her companion from anywhere in the multiverse once per day.
  • The Quickening; The user’s companion – if within twenty feet – may cast three spells per day as if they were Quickened, without further cost. This may be taken a second time at level 4+, in which case the Mystic Companion can cast these spells for the companion. Similar talents apply to most other metamagical feats (albeit not “Persistent” and some others at the option of the game master). In this case the number of uses available per day is equal to [12 divided by the usual spell level cost]. In general, this ability and it’s variants cannot be used to add a total of more then +4 effective spell levels to any one spell.
  • Talons of the Raven; “Produce Item” becomes a class skill for the user, allowing him/her to anticipate his/her companion’s needs. For one additional talent choice, the user recieves a +4 bonus on the check, for a third talent choice, mundane item prices are effectively halved, and for a fourth talent choice the user may “take ten” on his or her rolls.
  • Threads Of Starlight; The companion’s can use touch spells on or through each other at ranges of up to ten feet per (combined) level. As a second choice they may trade off who has to concentrate on a spell, or similar maintained effect as long as they remain within 30 feet. For a third the companions may channel spells of up to L4 through each other.
  • Timeless Body (requires a minimum character level of three); The user no longer suffers age penalties. For an additional talent choice the user may shift his or her apparent age to anywhere between adolescence to old age at will. For a third talent choice he or she may use an Alter Self effect at will. For a fourth talent choice the user gains the ability to create basic natural weapons and armor as needed.
  • Tongue Of The Sun And Moon; The user gains the ability to speak with animals. For a second talent choice the user gains the ability to “turn” (awe/command – although command lasts for a maximum of ten minutes) animals. A third talent choice allows the creation of a mental link with a single animal, rather then commanding it – directing it and borrowing it’s senses at ranges of up to a (Cha Mod) miles for up to one hour. If the animal is killed during this time the user takes 4D6 damage.
  • Whispers On The Wind; The user gains low-level telepathy roughly equal to a continious “message” spell. Expending a second talent choice on this ability allows the user to attempt to speak with local nature spirits. A third talent choice permits the user’s companion to channel his thoughts thru the user into other planes, allowing him/her to duplicate the effects of Contact Other Plane or to open communications or negotiations with some extraplanar entity. Expending a fourth talent choice on this ability allows the user’s companion to focus his mind upon distant entities and locations, duplicating the effect of a Scry spell at the cost of expending three levels of spells of any kind.

New Skill: Produce Item (Int, Skilled Only, Exclusive).

   The character may invest time and money in shopping, gathering strange spell components, brewing potions and similar activities, without specifing what he or she is actually getting or making. Expended time, money, and EP are set aside in a special “pool” from which the user can make withdrawals with a successful skill check. The DC class to produce items depends on their value. In general; items costing up to; 25 GP; DC 10, 250 GP; DC 15, 2500 GP; DC 20, 10,000 GP; DC 25, 25,000 GP; DC30, 50,000 GP; DC 35, 125,000 DC 40 and anything over that at DC 45. The GM must agree that such an item might have been obtainable before any roll is permitted, user’s may not check again for any one item after a failed check – until they’ve had a chance to go shopping again – and an item may not be too large to carry readily (E.G.; no horses, wagons, or two-handed swords unless the user has access to a bag of holding or similar convenience sufficient to allow such things to be readily brought along). GM’s may opt to limit the number of rolls permitted in any given day.

   The Mystic Companion class is really somewhat too good, although it’s hardly the record-holder among prestige classes for that. Turning it into a ten-level prestige class by extending it’s basic chart with (somewhat greater, not doubled) save bonuses, BAB, and other benefits, spreading out the innate abilities, and – possibly – adding a FEW more talent choices would probably be better. On the other hand, of course, it suffers from the old “Cleric Problem” – being relatively passive and devoted to assisting the rest of the party rather than being out and doing exciting things on its own. It’s more the sort of class you want to find among your henchmen than most player-characters want to take

   On the other hand, if you want to play an aide, “familiar”, or dedicated guard-companion to a more powerful magical type, the usual classes don’t offer you many options – and we did have a lot of fun with it with the one character (Race: Squirrel) who did take it appointing himself “familiar” to the party mage, whether he liked it or not. While the Squirrel did become extremely powerful, most of his abilities were devoted to augmenting his friends – who were also absurdly powerful by that time.

   Of course, this is why we use the Eclipse: The Codex Persona classless point-buy d20 rules these days (available in print HERE and in a shareware PDF version HERE). It’s easier to evaluate proposed builds when you can simply add up the costs of various abilities.

Thera: The Book of Thoth

dhaos2
   Thera was the setting for the the Chronicle of Ages game – in many ways a classic d20 game, in many other ways, quite exotic. Within the setting, the Book, Prophecy, and “Eye” (above) of Thoth were basic background elements that pretty much everyone in the world knew – and no one understood.
   Save, perhaps, for one rather confused young squirrel.
 

The Book Of Thoth

In The Beginning Was The Void

Without Space Or Time

Matter Or Energy

 

And Darkness Was Upon The Face Of The Void

And The Mytharkin

The Children-Fragments Of The Maker

Dhaos

The One Above All

Were Bored And Troublesome

 

And The Thoughts Of The Maker

The Primal Emanations

Creation

Transfromation

Preservation

Destruction

Water

Air

Earth

And Fire

Formed A Cradle Of Life And Death

That The Mytharkin Might Learn And Grow

 

The Void Resisted

No Match For The Maker

But Mirroring His Emanations

In Shadow And Void

Apophis And His Spawn

The Cycle Turns, As Turn It Must

 

The Fires of the World

Fueled The Forging

Of The First Age

Fire Upon The Earth And Hills

Birthing The Ogre Magi

Upon The Waters

Fathering Dragons

Burning Within The Air

Birthing the Maruk

Upon The Beasts

Spawning Kobolds

And Upon The Forests

The Hidden, Rooted, Ones

The Marent

To Contend In Battle

 

Valancior Beranth

The Firstborn Of The Dragon Race

Was Herald Of The First Age

A Lady Of Chaos

In Fire, Rage, And Death

Were They Birthed And Walked

The Reptile Kings

A Crown Of Blood And Ivory

Tooth And Claw

The Cycle Turns, As Turn It Must

 

Slower Birthing, Races Of Earth

Rose From Thera’s Bones

Enduring Within The Depths

Whispering Wind

About Leaf And Branch

Swirls Into Elfin Life

To Walk The Forests

In Twilight Dreaming

Touched By Sun And Tide

Without Benefit Of Earthfire

Rose The Water Races

To Spread And Grow

Across The Ages

 

The Herald Elgrim

Elfin Master Of The Beastrune

Was Created A Lord Of Order

A Hurtling Fist Of Iron Law

Upon A Cold And Mathemetic Path

Shattered Dominion, To Open Other Ways

The Crown Of The Reptile Kings

Was Lost To Them

And Their Age With It

The Cycle Turns, As Turn It Must

 

The Second Age

An Age Of Order In A Green Twilight

A Gentle Dreaming

As Coursing Earthfire

Fueled Megalithic Magic

And Eons Passed

As Unremarked As Drifting Leaves

 

But Other Paths Were Walked

The Elfin Way Of Leaf And Bow And Sourcery

The Dwarven Way Of Craft And Fire, and Metal

The Human Way Of Gods And Trade And War

The Wonders Of Change

The Corruption Of An Ancient Way

Acceptance And Rejection

Divided Each Race Among Themselves

Sindarik, Human Herald Of The Third Age

Heard The Siren Call Of Chaos

Led A Mighty Surge Of Art

Over Thrice A Hundred Years

The Cities Rose

 

And Fell

As Those Who Resisted Change

Allied With The Practicioners Of The Will

In A Rite Which Shattered The World

The Cycle Turns, As Turn It Must

 

The Third Age

An Age Of War And Chaos

As New Races

And Twisted Beasts

Spawned Of Wild Power

Sought Their Places

With None To Mark The Passing

Of Twice Ten Thousand Years

While Glaciers Walked

But Men And Others

Mastered Runes And Paths

Cities Rose

Havens Within The Wilds

Runelords Rose

Calling Together

The High Councils Of The Gods

The Cycle Turns, As Turn It Must

 

Khal Draysen, Dwarven Lord And Lawgiver

Heard The Call Of Order

Became The Herald Of The Fourth Age

An Age Of Order and Empires

Laid Out The Law

And Paths Of Governance

From East And West

The Legions Marched

Bringing All Within The Domains

Regardless Of Race

 

An Age Of Steel And Iron

Banishing The Last Of The Willworkers

Keepers Of An Ancient Tradition

Enthroned The Divine Councils

The Mage Of Light, Last Of The Seven

Binds The Forces Of Chaos

Across A Long Age

The Hand Of Law

Enshrines A Divine Mandate

The Cycle Turns, As Turn It Must

 

The Prophecy Of Thoth :

A Darkness Upon The Heavens

And A Crimson Moon

Brings The Herald Of Chaos

Harbringer Of The Fifth Age

A Rebellion Against Craft

An Awakening Of The Beasts

To Join The Chorus Of Mind

 

The First Great Cycle

An Age Of Fire

-Of Blood And Rage

An Age Of Earth

Of Growth And Green

An Age Of Water

Of Storm And Current

An Age Of Air

Of Word And Dominion

Is At It’s End

 

The Sleepers Arise

And The Rules Are Changing!

The Cycle Turns

As Turn It Must.

 

   Thera’s cosmology is summarized in the Eye Of Thoth, shown above. The seasons, powers, and races, each have their place within the cycle – and their relationship to the primal powers of Thera – as illustrated by their positions. The entities known as “Angels”, “Elementals”, “Nature Spirits” and “Demons” are fundamentally similar – minor aspects of the Primal Powers, divided more by their personality and functions then by their basic nature. They’re a part of the physical world.

   Dhaos is the ultimate power – but does not intervene. Apophis and it’s spawn come close to matching the power of the primals however. It’s spawn are the true “evil outsiders” just as the Celestial Host are spirits of light.

   The Mind includes the Intellect, Knowledge and Creativity, the Spirit emotions – that lead to growth or destruction – the Body anchors a soul in space and allows it to Work it’s will upon the world, while the Soul is linked with Light, Darkness, and Eternity. It can not be fully bound within the cycles of the world.

   There are four methods of manipulating the world – Magic, Science, Socially (The ability of intelligent beings to form complex groups) and through Will. The availability and usage of each method can vary from place to place, and through the ages; the lesser cycles governing such things change a lot.

   “Will” draws upon the spirit to manipulate chaos and destruction. Focusing on dependable disciplines is far safer, but can be blocked. Pure will over chaos is terribly erratic.

   “Magic” wields the mind to manipulate time and transformation. Most use runes and specific spells to control it’s wild powers – although such diluted powers can be blocked.

   “Science” employs the understanding of the eternal structures of the world to manipulate it’s order. While it requires tools – and is next to useless without them – it requires no personal talent.

   “Social” functions employ physical methods to accomplish tasks beyond any single entity. Oddly enough, if the local rules do not allow complex social organizations, they simply are not possible; people will simply be unable to comprehend them.

Continuum II: The Rogue

   In Continuum II, any predominantly skill-based character falls under “Rogue”. That means that a number of specialist variants refer back to the basic Rogue – so here it is:

   Rogues are defined by three basic attitudes; a preference for dealing with their problems by avoiding them (whether that means finding someone else to deal with it or building a machine), depending on other, more directly productive, people to sustain them, and living by their wits. A rogue may use a variety of strategies for dealing with a problem which can’t be avoided, depending on his basic skills. While the class does include thieves, burglars, pickpockets and cutpurses, highwaymen, bandits, and various other scoundrels, it also includes merchants, lawyers, minstrels, technicians, scientists, inventors, courtesans, yakuza, assassins, pilots, hackers, jesters, geisha, detectives, magical or psychic dabblers, ninja, spies, entertainers, hijackers, beggars, gamblers, and “security consultants”. Most rogues hate to be pinned down to anything in particular anyway.

   While Rogues put up a fairly good fight in an emergency, they are generally mere dabblers at magic, psychic powers, or invocation, as the problems inherent in learning such disciplines can neither be evaded nor conned – barring a major natural talent. Rogues have few inherent abilities, receiving instead a wide variety of major and minor skills.

   Recommended Attributes: Intelligence, Dexterity, and Perception in most cases. Other attributes should be appropriate to the rogue’s speciality – if any. A rogue’s level limit is normally based on the lower of Dexterity and Will.

   Resistance Bonuses: None

   Combat Abilities: Rogues are secondary combatants, and are normally limited to relatively light (standard bulk or smaller) and easily-concealed weapons and to those which a wandering “civilian” might be expected to possess in a given setting. For example, a primitive setting calls for a spear, almost any simple fantasy setting will excuse a short hunting bow, and an oriental setting probably justifies a staff – possibly with some concealed features. Learning martial arts involving weapons which do not fit into these categories costs a rogue an extra skill point. As secondary combatants, rogues may by default learn martial arts up to rank five and wear light armor with a mere -1 penalty on relevant rolls. Medium armor imposes a -3 penalty, while Heavy and Ultraheavy armor makes many skills impossible to use, and is hopelessly encumbering as well, unless they opt to take the Armor Tolerance major skill.

Rogue Advancement Chart:

Level

Hit Dice

Skill Points

Bonus Points

Special Abilities

1

1D6

3

Streetwise

2

2D6

3

1

+1 Minor Skill

3

3D6

3

1

Urban Survival

4

4D6

3

2

+1 Major Skill

5

5D6

4

2

Rural Survival

6

6D6

4

3

+1 Minor Skill

7

7D6

4

3

Home Base

8

8D6

4

4

+1 Major Skill

9

9D6

5

4

Reputation

10

10D6

5

5

+1 Minor Skill

11

+2

5

5

Position

12

+4

5

6

+1 Major Skill

13

+6

6

6

Followers

+1

+2

+1/4

7

None

Ability Descriptions:

  • Bonus Points must be spent when they are acquired, each point spent on an ability gives a +1 on the users effective characteristic score for using that ability. A sixth level rogue might have used his 3 bonus points to gain bonuses of +2 on Stealth and +1 on Acrobatics. Rogues never gain more than seven bonus points.
  • Streetwise covers basic knowledge of the underworld, “black markets”, common “scams”, and the seedy side of civilization. It’s handy when looking for, talking to, or spotting, criminals and street gangs or when trying to avoid violating street “etiquette”.
  • Urban and Rural Survival usually allow the user to “get along” in such environments automatically, although an (Int) roll may be required under unusual circumstances. This doesn’t imply luxury but the user need not worry about basics.
  • “Home Base” lets the rogue acquire a reasonably secure hideout or base of operations, the user may select the area, but the exact location and specifics are up to the GM. If something goes seriously wrong, a new base can be found in 1D6 weeks.
  • A “Reputation” depends a great deal on the “thieves” specific profession, a minstrels will be very different from an assassins but both will find it useful in finding work. The reputation always “spreads out” from around the characters “Home Base”. Eventually this reputation will attract “Followers”.
  • Followers are a set of 4D6 lesser “rogues”, of similar professions, as students, disciples, assistants, etcetera. While these are quite loyal, it is possible to alienate them. The “Positions” offered vary, but are always worthwhile.

   Rogues receive a choice of 12 major, and 9 minor skills. As always, if they take five skills from one sublist, they receive the sixth from that sublist as a bonus. Rogues can increase the number of skills they get by taking limitations on their activities, as noted below. The exact effects of the skills varies with their specific profession; a bandit, a minstrel, and a research scientist may all take “gang leadership” – but the results are very different. Sadly, skill choice may be restricted by the setting with regard to magical, technological, or psychic skills.

Rogue Major Skill Lists:

  • Armed Robbery: Armored Maneuvering, Brawling, Sniper, Swashbuckling, Toughness, Weapon Training.
  • Espionage: Escaping, Infiltration, Intelligence, Nightvision, Saboteur, Surveillance.
  • Exotic Masteries: Heightened Movement, Horse Thievery, Law / Criminology, Master Artist, Professional Skills, Thespian.
  • Exotic Technologies: Ab Initio, Exotic Tech, Minor Psionics, Strange Device, Tech Mastery, Unique Technology.
  • Major Technics: Computer Operation, Cybernetics, Cyberware, High-Tech, Technician, Ultra-Tech.
  • Mental Training: Eidetic Memory, Linguistics, Luck, Minor Magic, Read Scrolls, Truthsense.
  • Ninjitsu: Back Stabbing, Martial Arts, Nerve Points, Poisons, Throwing, Tracking.
  • Percipience: Chaos Manipulation, Cloaking, Hypnosis, Minor C’hi, Minor Divination, Spirit Contact.
  • Social Skills: Alternate Identity, Caravan Master, Guild Membership, Heightened Charisma, Legal Protection, Syndicate Backing.
  • Technology: Demolitions, Drugs and Medicines, Find/Remove Traps, First Aid, Locksmith, Mechanician.
  • Trained Reflexes: Alertness, Dodging, Heightened Dexterity, Inner Stillness, Leaping, Stealth.
  • Trickster: Acrobatics, Con Artist, Evasion, Slight of Hand, Special Devices, Ventriloquism.

Rogue Minor Skill Lists:

  • Assassins Arts: Ambush, Awakening, Intrigue, Resist Poisons, Seduction, Survival.
  • Burglar: Casing, Catwalk, Climbing, Perception, Rope Use, Search/Conceal.
  • Confidence Games: Begging, Extortion, Fortune Telling, Gaming, High Society, Oratory.
  • Cunning Tricks: Bribery, Disguise, Distraction, Forgery, Hide Trail, Mimic.
  • Exotica: Body Parl, Clandestine Activities, Embezzlement, Forced Entry, Jack Of All Trades, Precision.
  • Investigation: Cartography, Conversation, Cryptography, Interrogation, Mnemonics, Tailing.
  • Merchandise: Bargaining, Counterfeiting, Estimate Value, Fencing, Scrounging, Smuggling.
  • Minor Technics: Electronic Warfare, Forward Observer, Gunnery, Hostile Environments, Photography, Sensor Operation.
  • Networking: Connections, Contacts, Field Lore, Information Gathering, Intimidation, Reputation.
  • Thief Basics: Direction Sense, Inconspicuousness, Money, Recognizer, Sixth Sense, Specialist.
  • Thievish Lore: Counterskills, Gang Leadership, Poaching, Read Languages, Secret Signs, Thieves Cant.
  • Transport Skills: Cultural Adaptability, Horseman, Personal Vehicle, Piloting, Special Vehicle(s), Water Techniques.

   Rogues can, as noted before, can get additional skills by taking restrictions from the following list. Every restriction taken is worth 1 general skill point. The GM has the final say on whether any specific character may, or must, take restrictions and on which ones. The skill points can be spent normally (one per general skill, two per minor skill, three per major skill, or one to upgrade a specific skill or martial art by one rank). Once taken, restrictions become a permanent part of the character. They can not be “bought off” or otherwise eliminated later on unless the GM decides to make a specific exception. Possible restrictions include:

  • Delayed Acquisition: Characters with this restriction don’t get some of their skills until later, whether as a form of advanced training, the development of faith, due to self-training, lack of opportunity to exploit a potential, or whatever. He must delay the user of one minor skill until level four, and the use of one major skill until level ten.
  • Duties: This restriction indicates that the character has duties, traditions, or responsibilities to uphold. While this may be duties to a clan, vows of secrecy, a code of honor, or loyalty to the CIA, the exact duties must be negotiated with the GM. Regardless of what the duties are, the character is obligated to fulfill them to the best of his ability.
  • Enemies: This restriction is simple enough, the user may be an outlaw, have a large price on his head, have a bunch of personal enemies, or merely have a horrific aura which makes people and animals dislike him. While the mechanism differs in detail, they all tend to lead to trouble. The exact nature of this restriction must be negotiated with the GM, but whenever it applies the characters chance of running into trouble is increased by roughly 50%.
  • Limited Devices: For one reason or another the rogue doesn’t use very many fancy devices – whether psychic, magical, or technological. Discounting those that are either of the characters own creation or are common in his culture, he may not retain more then seven such items. The reason may be tradition, belief in his own skills, lack of trust in gadgetry, or whatever, but it must be a fixed part of the characters personality.
  • Slow Learner: Due to the complexity of the characters training, his slow wits, divine disapproval, bad luck, or some other difficulty, the character needs 10% more time and experience then usual to rise in level.
  • Spendthrift: People with this restriction just can’t seem to hold onto money or wealth, whether due to free spending habits, gambling “addiction”, poor relatives, charitable impulses, or what-have-you. Such characters never ow n more then they can easily transport, tend to spend money much faster then normal, and promptly give away, spend, or otherwise lose track of 20% of any new funds they acquire.
  • Trademark: The character feels impelled to leave some personal symbol at the scene of the crime, refusing to leave until he does so unless the situation is utterly critical and a roll versus Wisdom succeeds. Trademarks can be relatively simple, but must be distinctive. The trademark may offer clues to any investigators, always links the character with his actions, and is regarded as personal property. Anyone “infringing” on a characters trademark will offend the character enormously.
  • Unpopular: Whether due to peculiar personal habits, a lack of social graces, innate secretiveness, being unwilling to trust anyone, or being a miser, a character with this restriction has a hard time hiring people or keeping employees. Effective charisma for the purpose is reduced by 1/3, say from a 12 to an 8. An unpopular character generally can’t hire anyone at all – or at least not for long – until his level exceeds his charisma “penalty” since, the better they look, the more annoying it is when they turn out to be a surly bastard.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 56: The Birthday Party

   While Kevin was recruiting and setting up projects, Marty was counting days… OH SHIT! He’d forgotten all about that four-week time slip! He only had like… forty hours to arrange the party! His daughter was going to be seven, and he had NOTHING ready!

   Kevin was… oh, recruiting another batch. That could wait! They had to get to Sesame Street before it was too late!

   What would be involved in booking Sesame Street anyway? What could you “pay” them that they would need? Would they just host birthday parties for small children because it was Sesame Street? Maybe they could wrangle a birthday episode? Toys, cookies, other refreshments, and access to more broadcast networks? A quest to find the current incarnation of the Jim Henson? Would the Church of Henson be interested? Well, he could start off with an offer on a birthday special, providing toys, cookies and other refreshments, and a promise to keep an eye out for Henson if he wasn’t already hanging around the place.

   Kevin had a special party feature to throw in; “Anthropomorphosize your NeoDog!”. After all, the form you entered Core in was generally stable – and he had given all NeoDogs in Kadia some shapeshifting as a free feature. All they had to do was drop by, shapeshift to a humanoid canine, and go home – and the process was, of course, reversible with no fuss at all in exactly the same way.

   Besides, the reaction to one of the gifts being a dragon did promise to be fun. Should they try to get it into a box, or would “outside on a leash” be better?

  Marty voted for a box. That way the reaction from his ex-wife should be REALLY good. She’d probably have a fit when it expanded out of a standard-size gift box.

   Well, if Oscar could fit a swimming pool, piano, and bowling alley into a trash can, the local physics must allow it.

   They decided to simply drop by, see the Cookie Monster, and let him tell us who to talk to about a party. It might be best to just sort of assume permission; Kevin wasn’t sure that Sesame Street actually had anyone who was really “in charge”. The Cookie Monster should be happy to see them after that mess in Faerun.

“Hello Cookie Monster! Do you remember us?”

“Of course I remember you! But you hardly ever come by any more! Only once in the last twelve years! It’s always sad that way! You used to come by almost ever day! But we could never get you through the window! It’s sad, but most children never get through! But you’ve finally made it! Cookies!”

“Yum.”

“Hey, guess what? My daughter would love to see you and I can get her through the window. Would you guys like to help me celebrate her seventh birthday?”

“Goody! Cookies and Cakes and Punch!”

“Do I need to give you anything in return? I’ve got toys and more cookies – and I can even help you find Henson if he’s not here.”

“He’s here! Never stopped living here! If you want a special party though, you have to make arrangements with the Big Bad Wolf! He keeps bad people with tentacle-faces and things out! Poor tentacle-face people don’t know how to have fun, they need more cookies!”

“Thanks, Cookie Monster. Here, have this. It’s from a nice bakery near Wall Street. Where can I find the Wolf?”

“YUM YUM YUM YUM!”

“I think we may have to just go and look Marty; I think the usual method of travel here is by scene cut. Can you think of a way to get one?”

“Call a cab? It always seemed to work back home. Of course, there it often led to a traffic and drive by shooting montage…”

“Oh dear. I hope it doesn’t work just by opening doors.”

“Worth a try.”

   Marty went to the door, made a loud and dramatic announcement – “We’re off to see the Big Bad Wolf” – struck a dramatic pose – and started to open the door.

“I built my house of brick. Then my ex-wife won it in the divorce settlement.”

   Suddenly, they were in the woods – towering trees, the roots of which made some comfortable chairs, and a stone desk and an assortment of accouterments.

   And the Big Bad Wolf. Somewhat scary actually. He was apparently on time-share with the Talking Animal Zone and the Fairy Tale Zone – and had been a bit more prominent since Sesame Street had started incorporating cautionary notes about wandering off since the Manifold opened. They were about education, not about wrapping kids in tissue paper to shield them from anything that might upset them. They’d started that back in the very beginning, with an HIV-positive Muppet (in some versions anyway), they’d handled Mr. Hooper’s death in a very realistic way – and they hadn’t been shy about mentioning the possibility that, if you wandered off into the Manifold without someone to look after you, you might get lucky – but it was also quite possible that something would get you.

   Well, the “naughty and disobedient children get eaten” bit was good enough for Beatrice Potter, and she was STILL a classic children’s author.

   Occasional visitors also got turned into Muppets, but that was just a local role’.

   Ergo, the Big Bad Wolf was doing security because he was big and intimidating.

“Hm? Marty is it? You’ve been letting little Julia become much too violent! That isn’t really good for real people at her age!”

“Hey, I might be able to do something about it if the ex-wife would let me near her more often. Not like Abigail’s much better on that.”

   Unfortunately, Kevin hadn’t realized that the Big Bad Wolf’s office was on the borders of the Talking Animal Zone and the Fairy Tale Zone (as opposed to Wylds of Faerie, which were the realms of the Fey, not of humans and talking animals to whom magical things happened). He had an Identity in those Zones – a fairly powerful one – and as he arrived a few minutes after Marty, he found himself dropping into his Angkor Shadowfang “anthropomorphic predatory wolf” Identity without even realizing it.

“Grrrr… We want to have a party! With Toys! Kids! Snacks! Grrrr…”

   The Big Bad Wolf knew perfectly well that Kevin was a soulbinder of children – even if a fairly benign one – and, at least as importantly, was a challenger on his territory.

   And the circling each other began.

   Marty just waited for the posturing to end. It wasn’t like the dominance practices of the Battling Business World corporate raiders at the water cooler were much more civilized.

   There was blood and stuffing flying everywhere for awhile – Marty found the spectacle both enjoyable and instructive – but the Big Bad Wolf was pretty much unkillable, didn’t ever tire, was on his home territory, and had millennia of belief to empower him. Kevin could keep healing himself, but that took attention away from fighting, and he wasn’t really a physical combat specialist.

   Marty kind of wondered why Kevin didn’t try yanking the threads loose around the Big Bad Wolfs eyes, or digging under them to cut them free – but Kevin didn’t really want to get into removing bits: he was much more sensitive to that sort of thing, and had a lot more in the way of important ones, than a muppet. Same went for yanking out wads of internal stuffing. Clawing and biting would just have to do.

   The Bid Bad Wolf did tangle in thornbushes and twigs more readily than Kevin / Angkor did, but that was stalling at best; all it ever got him was a few moments for healing. Employing external powers in a physical dominance-struggle would be cheating…

   Angkor eventually wound up beaten into submission out of sheer exhaustion.

“Right then! That’s settled! We’ll have none of that kind of behavior around here! Sit! Stay!”

   Marty was reminded of the time Gelman punched him out of the window because he wanted his latte NOW. He wasn’t amused by the keep away attempt.

   With Kevin sitting quietly and moping, the Big Bad Wolf turned back to Marty:

“Now, we have lots of party applications: What activities are you planning to have at the party? Why should we feature it? And don’t think you can get by me with huffing and puffing! I know all about that routine!”

“Oh, all the things kindergarten kids like. Face painting, balloon twisting, cake, ice cream, and maybe a trampoline thing or two. ‘No weapons’ is actually standard at kids’ birthday parties, since somebody getting stabbed ruins the ambiance, even in Battling Business World”.

“What special events will there be? There needs to be an audience hook.”

“Well, we’ve got “Anthropomorphosize your NeoDog!” already. How about dragon rides? That way, we can surprise Julia with her own dragon and make it even more awesome.”

“That should do nicely. Lets see… There’s “count how many presents you’ve gotten” with the Count, birthday cookies with Cookie Monster, baking birthday cakes with Bert and Ernie and the Swedish Chef, a public service spot – the usual “really naughty child runs off into the Manifold and vanishes” – along with the dragon-riding and a few standard party games. How many kids do you want to bring? Do any of them have special talents or needs?”

“No more than ten, and none with special needs. I think you’ll find that they’ll all be spirited and enthusiastic about visiting Sesame Street. The kids will be too awed to do anything but enjoy it- and one of our party will keep any who do try anything in line.”

   (That would be Marty’s ex-wife of course, who was far better at discipline than he could ever be.)

“They had best be well-behaved! Children who misbehave here tend to slip across the border into the Talking Animal Zone, as you can see by your young friend here! He’s been quite naughty!”

   Marty grinned at that, and wiggled a finger at Kevin – who was being wolfish, and subordinate, and on someone else’s territory – and thus looked properly abashed. Marty just clucked disapprovingly.

“Naughty little boy! – So, do we have a deal?”

“As long as you send out the toys and offer the dog-upgrades for free!”

“That shouldn’t be a problem.”

   They shook on it, hand to paw.

   The dragon, of course, was sizable-pony sized, even if it was just a hatchling. They could just use a big box – but it would be funnier coming out of a small one. How to get it in? Oscar seemed to manage… There was apparently an entire mansion in his garbage can, just like Snoopy and his doghouse. Oh wait! That was simple: they had magical-services branches in Crusader. He could just get the Thralls to do it… “Minnel, get on this.” The Dragon protested a bit – it was fairly sure that it would either be squashed or suffocated – but it wasn’t really like it had any choice or effective way to resist. Marty reassured it briefly anyway.

“Are you going to swipe her while you have her out of Battling Business World?

“I’m not going to swipe her! The ex-wife is pissed off enough at me as it is!”

   Marty headed home to say that he’d handle the birthday party this year.

“Oh Yes! I can just see it! Take them to a bar and get them all drunk! While you watch the Takeover Highlights on the tube again no doubt! Like you’re ever around, you never turn up for anything in her life, you don’t even stop by to kill her once in awhile! That’s why I’ve got strictly limited visitation on you! It’s because you NEVER COME BY! Where’s my rolling pin! No! Wait! That’s not enough! I’ll use the Stove again!”

   The only reason Marty didn’t smack her back was because she was a head taller than he was – and a lot stronger.

“No . . . I’m taking her to a Sesame Street party. Put the stove down, Abigail. See? I’ve got the receipts right here!”

   At least she hadn’t go for the skillet. That thing HURT.

“Are you TRYING to ruin her childhood? She’ll be able to see the puppeteers and everything! YOU UTTER BASTARD!”

“No, no! They’ll be in the suits! These are really good suits too, you can’t even see how they put them on! OH GOD NOT THE WOK!”

   The wok was full of boiling oil too! Marty was now on fire! And had deep-fried hair!

   He opted to act like he was wearing a normal suit and not a set of smartclothes!

“AIEEE!!!”

   And he run around like a chicken with its head cut off. Eventually he stopped, dropped, and rolled.

“See! No dedication at all! If you really loved her, you’d be paying attention to her party instead of a little fire!”

“I want to be a better father. Look, couldn’t you give me a chance?”

   Marty did the dewy eyes bit as he sizzled.

“Well, you did go to some trouble… I suppose I can at least check the place out before I say no!”

“Great! Thank you, dear!”

“Well, lets go!”

   He drove her to New York on the normal roads, despite the way she criticized his driving and his preference for the dueling roads and made sure that the portal-sequence was as mundane as possible – starting with an “ordinary” alley and doorway – and that it looked as mundane as possible.

   Unfortunately, there was a complication as soon as they stepped through the last door…

“Hello Piggy! You haven’t been by in weeks! Are you going to be in the show today?”

“HEY! That’s the mother of my kid!”

   Then Marty looked over at her – and could barely contain himself. Ms Piggy?

“Why yes! Normally I wouldn’t take such a small-time gig, but I could use the exposure and… MARTY!?!? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME!!!! THIS TIME I’M USING THE HOUSE!!!!!!!!”

“ME? I didn’t do anything! I’m going to give the manager hell!”

   At which point she was bustled off by the stage crew to get dressed for her appearance.

   Marty didn’t start to laugh until he was damn certain Abigail was out of earshot… It was going to be a problem, though. It might be a little disturbing for Julia. Or she might find it uproariously funny. It was hard to say. How long could the girls keep up an illusory disguise that made her look like her normal butch self?

   For that matter, should he try to pull her out? Julia did need a stable home, but travel study throughout the Manifold might do her some good! Ah, dammit. She’d ask where Mom was anyway… At least she should revert to normal as soon as she left.

“Who’s in charge of today’s show?”

“Professer Eisenstein!”

“Hello, Professor! I’m afraid there’s been a misunderstanding!”

“Of course, of course! The proper form of the equation is as follows! – And that is why the dumplings expand!”

“No, no, no! My wife is stuck in the form of Kermit the Frog’s beloved Ms. Piggy! And she’s not happy about it at all!.”

“Remember, the total jocules released are proportional to the weight of the humor multiplied by the speed of the broadcasting spread squared!”

   Marty had to fight a rising urge for violence – but then recalled that, while Professor Eisenstein was undeniably clever and knowledgeable, he never got anything quite right – or heard anything accurately; it was his thing. He explained basic physics and such with completely absurd examples, even if it never had anything to do with what he’d actually been asked.

“WHERE IS MS. PIGGY? I NEED TO MEET WITH HER.”

“Just follow the yelling!”

   Well, that fit. “Follow the yelling”… Not unusual for Kermit the Frog’s girlfriend, and not unusual for Abigail. Come to think of it, they were surprisingly similar in some ways.

   Meanwhile, Kevin had delegated a few Thralls to intercept naughty children slipping out of Sesame street to the Talking Animal Zone or the Fairy Tale Zone before they got eaten or something.

   When Marty reached the dressing rooms – approaching stealthily, like on any other raid – Abigail / Ms Piggy was actually almost ready for her part; a musical number with Kermit and the Electric Mayhem. She’s was mostly just yelling at the moment; she seemed to be a “bit” confused at not being able to find the zipper in the costume and being able to feel with it.

   There was a listing of today’s acts up: after the Electric Mayhem there were fairy stories, followed by the Fluffy Bunnies building Space Warrens, followed by the Alphabet Bats.

   Marty changed to listing so that “Fluffy Bunnies building Space Warrens” was replaced by “Ms. Piggy turns into Abigail Saunders-Tabard.”; he’d have the girls do a covert illusion and hold it up until he could get Abigail out. The transformation would be followed by the conjuration of an illusory manager for him to chew out (which should not appear on the TV, or at least he hoped not). That’d be a bit weird, but dammit, he hadn’t been aware that his wife would transform upon arriving here. Besides, after the number was over, Ms Piggy wouldn’t have any urgent business on the show anyway.

   He chewed up that “manager” as only an offended Brooklynite husband could.

“And you want to take MY DAUGHTER to that lunatic place?!? What are you going to turn HER into!?!”

“Yeah, what she said! You better not turn my daughter into a Muppet! Where would we buy clothes for her!”

   Marty kind of regretted this turn of events. Oh well, snatching Julia for the day would be more fun anyway – although he might have to use the another ID though.

“Look, it wore off as soon as you left. Can’t Julia have a little fun, even if she does get turned into a Muppet? She won’t be a kid forever, you know.”

   He braced himself for the “It didn’t stop YOU!” routine – but got a surprise.

“How can ANYONE turn into a muppet? How did that happen?”

   Limey chimed in too: “Polymorph! Is easy!”

“Hey, I’m not a scientist. Why are you asking me? Oh yeah, honey, meet my new laptop.”

“All right; evidently you really have gone all out to arrange something special…”

“Yeah! See, I mean well! Isn’t that right, Limey? I’ve been working my ass off the past few months to pay for this! I’m more than a child support and alimony check!”

   The party was a lot of fun. Julia loved it. She loved the Dragon too.

   Marty’s only regret was that he couldn’t get a look at Abigail’s face when it came out of the box; after all, the face on top was an illusion, and the one under that was Ms Piggy…

   Kevin was pleased too: the response to the “Upgrade your NeoDog” routine was quite positive; a fairly high percentage of NeoDog owners (and most of the remaining free individuals without the obedience-programming) made inquiries, checked on the details, and scheduled a brief visit-appointment for their pets to give them hands and a humanoid form. Evidently it appealed to most of the kids who had NeoDog companions, to the more adventurous spirits among the adult owners, and to the NeoDogs themselves – for whom it would make life in a world designed for humans a lot easier. There were a few misgivings – that seemed to be standard with anything to do with the Manifold – but the easy reversibility handled most of those. The shape you arrived in was generally stable in Core, it was changing that was hard.

   And for his own agenda, that would get people used to pretty human-looking pieces of sapient property walking around in Core. Given the number of genemods floating around, and the ease of getting cosmetic transformation and cyberware, it would only be the computer registrations and genemaps that keep track of the difference. Even if he wound up starting a major movement for more rights for property-class NeoDogs, even that will serve to blur the lines in peoples heads.

   One small step closer to becoming the Dark Lord of Core!

   Ah… Box of loose screws to slip into your enemy’s machines, 3.25. Compiling notes on lengthy plots, 49.85. Renting a city street for a day, 14,350.00. Finding a way to turn ANYTHING into a way to advance your schemes… Priceless. There was Life – and then there was MASTERcard.

   He started staffing some of the offices with anthro-human Thralls too. They wouldn’t give quite such a strong impression of “kid” if they were just different. That sounded good to Marty too – and there were plenty available at the moment; better than a hundred thousand NeoDog Thralls, a few thousand from the Five Worlds – and a steady stream of potential recruits pouring in from the Linear Realms, a solid majority of which took the offer as being better than any other prospect they’d ever had. With 20,000,000 illegal youngsters / potential recruits there – and more being born every moment – the question was more where to use them all, not where was a priority. That was quite a change.

   If he ever managed to get a solid recruitment program running in Core, that would be another order of magnitude higher. What would he do then?

The Heroic Extra-Terrestrial Law Protectors

   The Heroic Extra-Terrestrial Law Protectors were one of those semi-accidental superhero groups: most of the members simply fell in together because they didn’t belong on Earth at all – and they stuck together simply because they were all outsiders together. While minor members came and went, the real core members were:

  • Amorph (Richard Lum) was a blind, deaf, unable to speak, and uncontrollably-hungry-at-random blob with vast superhuman strength, durability, and corrosive abilities. It was the youthful spawn of a continent-sized ameboid creature and had run off looking for excitement in one of the few vehicles that could contain “Daddy” – a TARDIS. Unfortunately, he had no idea of how to steer the thing.
  • Temporis (Fred Adams), “Master of the Seven Planes!”, was a powerful elven time-mage – notable for his incredibly reckless use of time-travel and time manipulation, immunity to paradox (he also protected everyone within a modest area), and the fact that – just like the people he “ruled” on the Seven Planes – the rest of the characters soon learned to not let him try to do ANYTHING himself if it could possibly be avoided; it was invariably a disaster.
  • Electranoid was an atmospheric energy-being – essentially sentient ball lightning. “His” race normally inhabited the churning atmospheres of gas giants, feeding on the electrical energy that was so abundant there. Oddly enough, Electranoid had chosen to see the galaxy as a mercenary, but had been forced to eject and make an emergency landing on earth when the transport on which he was traveling was damaged in a skirmish.
  • Shaman (Jan) was a powerful extradimensional mage who was burdened with a selection of nigh-indestructible evil magical artifacts that would, if captured, give the forces of darkness on his home world an near-unstoppable advantage. Practically enough, he’d chosen to simply carry them into a less magical dimension and guard them there. Most of his powers were loosely based on the high-level AD&D spells which the player had always wanted to try, but had never gotten a wizard to a high enough level to use.
  • Nimrod the Hunter was one of Shaman’s “adventuring companions”; his magical tattoos provided him with a wide variety of minor enhancements, his wilderness skills were quite formidable, and his enchanted sword and bow provided a selection of offensive options.
  • Blake” wasn’t extra-dimensional or extra-terrestrial; he was simply a minor mystic who managed to get himself partially possessed by a quartet of extra-dimensional elemental powers who were apparently trying to settle some sort of bet. Blake had a sort of ongoing feud with his own powers, wherein he tried to prove that simply being very very rich was more generally useful than any form of elemental power.
  • The Dimensional Cowboy (also known as Coyote) was a horse-riding, trick-shooting, bare-knuckles-brawling sort of fellow with a tendency to wander in and out of dimensions in search of lost cattle, rustlers, outlaws, and various other western-style perils. No one was ever quite sure whether he was or was not a minor trickster-deity, but the fact that he was pursued by a selection of magicians who wanted to seal him away may have been a good indication.
  • Omega (Jack Catalano) wasn’t an extraterrestrial being; he was a slightly-augmented agent of the Alpha Society who’d been equipped with an immensely-powerful suit of powered armor mounting a wide variety of weapons. He believed that he was one of the top-level operatives of the society for quite some time – until he discovered that it had been infiltrated by the Kragga and that he was being used as a pawn in their schemes of world conquest.
  • Maelstorm was about the only normal “superhero” the group boasted; he’d acquired the power to absorb and discharge vast amounts of energy in the traditional laboratory accident, and joined the nearest superhero group to put his new powers to good use. Unfortunately, while HELP did do a fair amount of good, he found the amount of sheer chaos they caused along the way difficult to tolerate.

   HELP, in fact caused much of their own trouble. They built a base and a computer system with the ability to “detect relevant incidents” and then ignored many of the items it reported because they seemed unimportant. They split off alternate timelines by sending people into the past. They occasionally caused the incidents they were investigating by traveling into the past to find out what had caused them. There were times when Amorph accidently consumed the evidence, Temporis got them all entangled in battles with temporal monsters that normally couldn’t even reach their reality, they jumped into the future and got into trouble there due to being wildly out of place, and so on…

   Of course, they did deal with the genetically engineered norse deities from the alternate future Nazi refugees, made friends with the Na’Cair surveyors, succeeded in getting rid of the the Quilipothic Scrolls, and – eventually – uncovered the Kraggan subversion-takeover which had been running in the background of the entire campaign (and hence the flagging of the “unimportant” incidents) and dealt with it.

   Among the immortal lines…

   After spending five hours covering all possible bases, numbers, sets of personal records, and even memories, in setting up some false ID’s, one player abruptly announced “We have no parents!” – pointing out that their new identities had extraordinarily complete records, but that they still had no connection to any other set of records.

   “You’ve been setting us up for an entire YEAR!” – around weekly session 54, when the players finally cracked the records on themselves of the secret group they’d recently discovered and found that their very first “official” mission after meeting had been involved with the Kraggan subversion.

   “Well, outside of destroying Chicago, that went well”.

   “So, you were in the Ancient Egypt exhibit, so you went with the “obvious course” and shipped our resident super-genius-electrical-engineer-architect-inventor back to ancient Egypt when he stunned the wrong group, thus changing the course of the last 5000 years of history and leaving us all stranded in this alternate history?”

   “Yes! Thus am I Lord of the Seven Planes!”

(Pause)

   “Lost them, didn’t you?”

   Thanks to a nostalgic request from one of the old players, I shall be posting some of the old HELP characters as I run across them in the old files – now from just about twenty years ago. they have been tweaked a bit, since they were originally written up for second edition rules.

 

Omega

Value Characteristic Points
28 STR 18
12/29 DEX 6
24/48 CON 28
14 BODY 8
13 INT 3
11 EGO 2
12 PRE 2
11 COM 0
10 PD 4
10 ED 0
6 SPD 21
16 REC 0
24 END -36
52 STUN 0
  Total 56

 

Points Powers END
35 Weapons Systems Suit Multipower (105-pt reserve); OIF (Power Suit, -.5), all powers must be 0 END cost or Charges (-.25), Full Power Only (-.25), Weapons Systems Only (-1).  
u-3 10d6 Surface Electrification Energy Blast; Range: 500; Versus: ED; Damage Shield: +½; Armor Piercing: 1, +½; Charges: 6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev 0
u-3 14d6 Plasma Bolt Energy Blast; Range: 525; Versus: ED; Armor Piercing: 1, +½; Charges: 8, +0; Clips: 3 0
u-2 14d6 Concussion Grenade Energy Blast; Range: 525; Versus: PD; Explosion (Extended Area +0″/DC): +½; Charges: +4, -1 0
u-2 10d6 Net Gun Entangle (DEF 10); Range: 500; Charges: +4, -1 0
u-3 7d6 Plasma Bolt Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 525; Charges: +8, +0; Clips: 3 0
     
15 Suit Helmet Multipower (30-pt reserve); OIF, Helmet (-.5), Sensor Systems Only (-.5).  
u-1 Telescopic Sense (Sight, +10 to PER)  
u-1 Telescopic Sense (Hearing, +10 to PER)  
u-1 Find Weakness/RKA; Attack Type: One, +0 12-
u-1 Find Weakness/AP Energy Blast; Attack Type: One, +0 12-
     
15 Life Support (total); Generic Limitation (Subject to upper limits: Fire yes, blast furnace; no.): -½; OIF (Power Suit): -½  
     
16 Power Suit Elemental Control (24-pt reserve); All – of course – OIF (Power Suit, -.5).  
a-24 Armor (16 PD/16 ED); Hardened: ×1, ¼  
b-26 Force Field (14 PD/14 ED); Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Hardened: ×1, ¼ 0
c-18 +17 DEX  
d-16 +24 CON  
e-39 20″ Flight (NC: 320″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×16, +15; Non-Combat (MPH): 714; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
f-16 Mental Defense (50 pts); Add to Total  
     
80 Suit Computer (Total 63 Points); Int 13, Dex 0, Spd 2 (Base  -17 points).  
(5) Mind (Satellite) Link; Minds: Related Group, +10; Champions Limitation (Only works with radio-equipped communications satellites.): -1; Number of Minds: 1, +0; Distance: Single Planet, +0; Dimension: Current, +0; Link with: Anyone, +0  
(3) Cryptography 12-
(10) Eidetic Memory  
(5) Programs; System Check, Database Search, Identity Scan, Background Trace, Locate Uplink.  
57 Minor Suit Computer Functions; All usable by others (the wearer, +.25), OIF (Helmet and it’s Sensor/Display systems, -.5).  
(40) +8 level w/Ranged Combat Targeting Computer  
(9) Enhanced Perception (all) (+3 to PER)  
(5) Infrared Vision  
(10) High Range Radio Hearing  
(5) Ultraviolet Vision  
237 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
3 Acrobatics 15-
3 Scientist  
2 Computer Science 12-
2 Mathematics 12-
2 Electrical Engineer 12-
2 Physics 12-
     
13 Follower: Suit Computer (1, 63 pts, 0 Disad.); Number: 1, +0  
27 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

100+ Disadvantages
15 Enraged when Ego Attacked (14-, 11-); Circumstances: Very Common, +15
20 Hunted: Plasmoid (11-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: None, +0; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
20 Hunted: Kraggan Secret Agents (11-); Capabilities: As Powerful, 10; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
10 Hunted: CIA (8-); Capabilities: Less Powerful, 5; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
15 Secret Identity
20 Overconfidence (Very Common, Strong)
20 No Code vrs Killing (Very Common, Strong)
10 Thrillseeker (Common, Moderate)
10 Dependence on Suit (2d6/1 Hour); Substance: Uncommon, +15
10 Vulnerability: Ego Attacks (1½× STUN); Attack: Common, +10
20 Vulnerability: Electrical Attacks (2× STUN); Attack: Common, +10
15 Reputation: Master of Overkill (11-, Extreme)
5 Rivalry: Other Power-Armor Heroes; Situation: Professional, 5;Position: Equal, +0; Rival: NPC, +0
10 Watched: Alpha Society (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
200 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char.   Powers   Total Total   Disadv.   Base   Exp.
  56 + 264 = 320 320 = 200 + 100 + 20

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
10 10 4 50 43/33 44/34 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12

 

Electranoid

Value Characteristic Points
0 STR -10
17 DEX 21
38 CON 56
11 BODY 2
23 INT 13
35 EGO 50
10 PRE 0
0 COM -5
30 PD 30
30 ED 22
5 SPD 23
8 REC 0
20 END -28
30 STUN 0
  Total 174

 

Points Powers END
40 Electrokinetic Multipower (60-pt reserve); All powers 0 Endurance Cost (+.5), Electrokinetic Powers Only (-.5), All powers must be purchased at 0 End cost, cannot buy persistent or defensive abilities, (-.5), all powers (including the ego-based ones) are spectacularly obvious, involving crackling lightning bolts going everywhere (-.25).  
u-4 Telekinesis (STR 33); Range: 440; Manipulation: Fine, +10 0
u-4 12d6 Mind Control (Neural Override); Communication: Verbal, +0 0
u-4 7d6 Energy Blast (Neural Disruption); Range: 435; Versus: ED; Based on EGO Combat Value: vs. ECV, +1 0
u-3 3d6 Entangle (Neural Disruption) (DEF 3); Range: 375; Based on EGO Combat Value: vs. ECV, +1 0
u-3 2d6 Flash (Neural Disruption) (Normal Sight); Range: 350; Area Effect (Radius): 5″ radius, +1; No Normal Defense (Hardened Mental Defense): +1 0
u-4 20″ Teleportation (Long Range 320″); Increased Range: ×16, +20; Long Range: 320″; Long Range (miles): 0.40; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Fixed Locations: 0; Floating Locations: 0; Cannot carry passangers unless they too are electrical entities. 0
u-4 4d6 Killing Attack (RKA) (Lightning Bolt); Range: 450 0
     
7 Elemental Control: Electrical Form (15-pt reserve); This is always on (-.5) and is quite dramatic; the user is a glowing ball of entangled electrical arcs and glowing plasma, causes radio static, accidently ignites small fires in the vicinity, cannot be treated by any form of conventional medicine, etc, etc, etc… (-.5).  
a-7 Damage Reduction (Physical, 50% Resistant)  
b-7 Damage Reduction (Energy, 50% Resistant)  
c-7 Damage Resistance (30 PD/30 ED)  
d-11 15″ Flight (NC: 30″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non Combat (MPH): 56; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 1
15 Electrical Perception  
(16) Detect Electromagnetic Forces (+3 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5  
(5) Discriminatory Sense (Normal Sight)  
(10) 360-Degree Sensing (Unusual Senses)  
f-7 Life Support (total)  
g-5 Regeneration (3 BODY/Turn); Regenerate: Standard, +0; Activation: 14-, -½; Champions Limitation (Only when able to draw on a source of electrical energy): -½  
132 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
20 +4 level w/Multipower  
  Electranoid also possess a selection of alien skills – his native “language” and knowledge of his homeworld – but none of those skills are relevant, and therefor do not cost points.  
20 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

100+ Disadvantages
20 Berserk when seriously outnumbered (8-, 8-, Berserk); Circumstances: Common, +10
20 Distinctive Features: Glowing ball of electrified plasma; Concealability: Not Concealable, 15; Reaction: Always noticed & major reaction, +5
25 No Hands
20 Unable to Walk
5 No other physical features (Infrequently, Slightly)
20 Loves danger, excitement, and war (Very Common, Strong)
20 Overconfidence (Very Common, Strong)
10 Code of Chivalry (Common, Moderate)
20 Vulnerability: Cold (1½× STUN and BODY); Attack: Common, +10
20 Susceptibility: Being Grounded (2d6 STUN/Turn); Condition: Common, +10
20 Hunted: Viper (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
15 Hunted: The Coursairs (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non combat Influence: None, +0; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
215 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char.   Powers   Total Total   Disadv.   Base   Exp.
  174 + 152 = 326 326 = 215 + 100 + 11

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
6 6 12 0 30/30 30/30 3, 5, 8, 10, 12

Godfire: Choir

Choir

   Riordan Kearney was fourteen, had a touch of stage fright, and earnestly wanted to impress the audience and the judges in the finals of the music competition. He struck the opening chord and opened his mouth to sing – and faltered under the weight of all those expectant gazes. He paused a moment to work up his nerve and tried again, pushing past the his nervousness and focusing only on the music – and the sound that emerged transcended anything that the audience had ever heard.

   Polished. Resonant. Harmonic. Feeding on it’s own echoes, and in counterpoint with itself.

   Overwhelming.

   It was swiftly recognized that Talent, not practice and mortal skill underlay that performance – and some further testing soon revealed some of the effects that young Riordan could produce with his music. Far more importantly, it soon revealed that recordings of him had similar effects.

   That was invaluable. Riordan’s recordings were soon being played in factories, in hospitals, and in offices, throughout Britain. Soon enough, it was being broadcast to the troops on the lines, into other countries, and exported to the other allied powers. A library was rapidly built up – music for English Factory Workers, for Recovery Wards, for Schools, for Training Camps, and for a hundred other purposes.

   Back in Ireland, Riordan was swiftly assigned a squad of Talent bodyguards, as well as a conventional security detail; his talents were detectably augmenting the production capacity and efficiency of the Allied Nations as a whole. While taking him out wouldn’t necessarily stop that – although no one could be sure – it would at least prevent him from making any more contributions. That made him a major target – whether for death or kidnaping – and protecting him a major responsibility.

  • Attributes: Body 1, Coordination 2, Sense 2 (3), Brains 2, Command 3 (5), Cool 2 (3).
  • Skills (20):
    • Body: Athletics 1, Health 2, Run 1, Swim 1.
    • Coordination: Dodge 2.
    • Sense: Hearing 2, Sight 1.
    • Brains: Musical Composition 1, Education 1.
    • Command: Inspire 1, Leadership 1, Perform (Music) 3, Perform (Ventriloquism) 2.
    • Cool: Mental Stability 2.

   Riordan’s primary power is simply music, although his abilities in he field are far more than human. He can inspire an audience or make heavy tasks seem light, subtly shift attitudes, bring joy, plunge men into the depths of grief, and far more – all simply by incredible skill and an intuitive understanding of his intended audience. That is why his music can be recorded, and even broadcast – and, as long as the reproduction is of sufficiently high quality, his abilities will remain effective.

   Secondarily, he has some slight enhancements – perfect pitch and perception of sounds, the ability to compose himself for a performance, and the ability to somewhat project the sounds he makes – but they are all fundamentally related to his music and, in comparison with the things that other talents can do, they are of very little power.

   That does not mean that his powers are worthless. Indeed, they are invaluable: he can inspire and speed the workers in factories, soothe the pain of the injured, and focus the thoughts of commanders, without even being there.

  • Talent Basics:
    • Quirks: Naive (1), Obsessed with Music (1), Shy (1).
    • Will Base: 3 Command + 3 Cool + 7 (remainder of base 25) + 3 (quirks) = 16
  • Talent Powers (18 Will):
    • Hyper-Command (2HD, 4). Nervous habit: must be doing something musical to use this ability – humming, whistling, tapping out a beat, or some such (-1/2/4), Go Last (-2/4/8).
    • Hyper-Cool (1D, 2).
    • Hyper-Sense (1D, 2).
    • Hyperskill/Perform (Ventriloquism) (1D, 1): This ability allows the user to effectively “project” his voice and any other intentional sounds he or she creates for up (100 feet per die in the pool of this Hyperskill) without a roll or it being considered an action; making it seem like someone else is talking or doing it while drinking or gagged or some such requires a check.
    • HyperSkill/Perform (Music): All of the following variants of this HyperSkill have Selective Target (the user can decide what general group is to be affected, such as “all you young women” or some such, +2/4/8), Bypasses Language (+1/2/4), Remains effective if recorded, broadcast, etcetera – although poor-quality recordings and reproduction systems may have reduced effects (+2/4/8), and (+5/10/20) worth of other modifiers – along with the flaws of Go Last (-2/4/8), Loopy (-2/4/8), Loud (they’re all clearly audible for hundreds of yards, -1/2/4), Glow (there’s always a spotlight on him during any performance, -1/2/4), Attached to Hyper-Command (-1/2/4), Peace of Mind (user must be composed and ready to perform, -2/4/8), Required Focus (musical instrument, -2/4/8), and Nervous Habit (warming up, -1/2/4).
    • Since this is a skill, it may have power-like effects – but it’s functions are based on the effects of music and vibration on the environment and the human mind. The deaf are only affected insofar as they can feel the vibrations clearly. People in soundproof rooms are unaffected. Other loud noises diminish the user’s dice pool. People underwater will not hear it properly. It will not travel through a vacuum. On the other hand, of course, it cannot provoke a will battle. None of that is worth a modifier, since it’s inherent in the nature of a skill, rather than a power.
      • The Bardic Voice (1D, 1): Subliminal Command (the user may transmit his Hyper-Command abilities via his music, so subtly that no one will be aware of their use, +3/6/12), Lingering (the effect lasts for a several hours before it will begin to weaken normally, +1/2/4), and Echoes (targets will once again be exposed to the user’s influence at random times, when they recall or are reminded of bits of his music – essentially a form of post-hypnotic suggestion or of refreshing the command influence, +2/4/8).
      • The Heart’s Song (1D, 1): Emotional Content (the user can induce – or dampen – emotions; the strength is determined by the Width of the result, with a 6+ being outside the normal range of human experience. Targets may resist with their own Cool checks, subtracting the width of their results, +3/6/12), Lingering (the effect lasts for several hours before it will begin to weaken normally, +1/2/4),
      • The Song of Comfort (1D, 1): Removes pain and grief and soothes emotional problems, including combat fatigue (+2/4/8), once per day, those affected may regain up to two points of Shock damage to each location and one point of killing damage in any one location, however the total amount recovered may not exceed (Width) points (+2/4/8), provides +(Width/2) bonus dice on rolls to resist or recover from diseases (+1/2/4).
      • Paean of Glory (1D, 1): The Paean inspires those affected, providing them with +1D on all their actions (+2D for Width 6+, +3D at Width 10) (+4/8/16), Lingering (the effect lasts for several hours before it wears off, +1/2/4).
      • The Laborer’s Canto (1D, 1): This infectious rhythm helps people focus, work smoothly and quickly, and accomplish their tasks. When undertaking any task that requires time – whether that’s writing, fixing a car, or traveling – they may add one-half the width of the Laborer’s Canto they’re listening to to the width of their success when determining how long it takes (+3/6/12). Those affected also suffer little or no fatigue or boredom (+1/2/4). Lingering (the effect lasts for several hours before it wears off, +1/2/4).
      • The Discordant Riff (1D, 1): This chaotic performance makes it almost impossible for it’s victims to focus – generating (Width-2)/2 gobble dice to disrupt their skills and abilities. Of course, this is applied to each victim individually – an effect which can make it quite difficult for the victims to get anything done if the user is good enough (+5/20/20).
      • The Harmony of the World (1D, 1): This complex theme incorporates environmental noises into itself; the user may selectively block out some noises while emphasizing the clarity of others. Those attempting to make out blocked noises must exceed the users (Width/2) with a Hearing check to do so. Those listening for noises that the user chooses to emphasize gain a bonus of (Width/2) extra dice in their pool to do so.
      • The Immersive Theme (1D, 1): This theme can actually draw it’s audience into the performance, leaving them so fascinated and diverted that they will do nothing but listen – unaware of the passage of time – until diverted by undeniable physical needs (extreme hunger, thirst, calls of nature) or they are forcibly disturbed (+3/6/12). In addition, the user can convey the essence of some epic adventure or tale, inducing a form of lucid dreaming in which the listeners can actually experience the events firsthand – an effect which can bestow on them up to (Width/2) experience points per week – the same as any other form of intensive high-pressure training, such as the TOG commando school with it’s 60-EP, 12-Week course. +2/4/8).
      • The Lullaby of Serenity (1D, 1): This soothing, calming, theme is very simple – it induces calm, a tendency to listen to the voice of reason, and – if carried to an extreme (Width of 3+) a deep and restful slumber (targets may roll Command + Cool to reduce the user’s effective Width) (+3/6/12) and is so calm and gentle that it is almost impossible to trace back to it’s source (+2/4/8).

   Being constantly in front of appreciative audiences, and hearing their applause, is enough to build up anyone’s confidence. Riordan can be expected to build up his Will fairly rapidly – and, due to his obsession, to also build up Hyper-Command Hard – and even Wiggle – dice fairly rapidly. It would not be at all out of line to assume that – within a few months – he will have 10HD in Hyper-Command (costing 32 Will). In three or four months, that will probably be 10WD – and he’ll have built up his Hyper-Sense and Hyper-Cool to some extent as well. After that? Build up a few normal attributes most likely, as well as start preparing for a normal life.

   Now, it could be argued that making recordings and broadcasts effective deserves a much bigger modifier. It might, although it doesn’t have much impact on actually playing the character. If you feel a need to add this feature, add something to that line like “but overcoming the limitations of recording and broadcasting equipment requires additional effort”, and throw in some combination of Expensive, Backfires, Mental Strain, Requires a Soundproof Studio to work in, some variant of Shy, or whatever else seems appropriate, that only applies when he’s trying to perform for a microphone. They’d only be worth about half their usual value due to that restriction – but to a large extent, it doesn’t matter. If he’s performing for a broadcast or recording, he’d almost certainly have plenty of time to recover and – if that involved taking any damage – a healer on tap anyway.

   Riordan might not be a very interesting character to play – after all, he’s virtually certain to be carefully protected and sheltered from any possible danger – but he’s certainly an excellent responsibility to saddle a group of characters with, and a fine center for a series of adventures.

Latest Material Index

   Updated April 28

   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:

Continuum II

  • The Rogue. Skill-based characters in Continuum II.

Marvel Super-Heroes:

   (FASERIP System)

  • Shadowguard– a low-powered superhero group including their equipment, Voltaire, Le Fey, Whisper, Cheshire, Shillelagh, Flux, and The Toad – a bonus opponemt. Here we also have Voltaire broken out by himself.

Champions:

Legend of the Five Rings:

Star Wars:

Shadowrun:

  • Astral Experiments: Player experiments and their results – cyberware, transplants, power armor, flying saucers, magical circles and resonance.

Godlike / Wild Talents (ORE):

  • Father Joseph, a priest who shelters refugees and resistance fighters, along with an optional rule for Concentration.
  • Asteraoth, a youngster who can project his mind across the world.
  • Fornemjarnulf and Gullsmed, a pair of scandanavian resistance fighters – a psychic cyborg and a mystical artificier.
  • Les Tenebres, either a crazed french college professor or an immortal medeival sorcerer, along with a rule for General Talent Experience.
  • The Celestial Voyager,  a living space-probe and gravatic manipulator.
  • Earthworks, a TOG Commando who specializes in staying under cover.
  • Dybbuk, a death-camp and massacre survivor who believes that he is dead – and calls up the dead to take their vengeance.
  • Nonoma, a young amerindian warrior and spirit of thunder.
  • Adamantine, a very laid-back – and almost indestructible – infantryman.
  • Carnage, a petty thief turned soldier with a most destructive ability.
  • Nahualli, a mexican jaguar-warrior and priest of the ancient aztec gods.
  • Peter “Pops” Rundell, a specialist in transport from the home front.
  • De Ville Tailleur, a resistance fighter who proves that clothes really do make the man – or the regiment.
  • Nishanth, a blind Vedic Warrior from India who creates his own darkness.
  • Choir, a youngster with a very valuable musical talent.

Godlike: Nishanth

Nishanth (Warrior of Darkness)

/ Kellan Kaditula

   Children were routinely abandoned to the priests. Most were damaged somehow – deaf and dumb, with a twisted or malformed limb, or – like this child – blind. They would never be more than a burden to their families, but – in the temples – there were many jobs that placed few demands on the afflicted.

   Save for his blindness, Kellan grew to be healthy, strong, and dutiful. He memorized the Vedas, chanted in the temple, and meditated upon the gods. He executed the Mudras and chanted the Sutras. He sought to encompass the universe that was denied to his eyes in his mind.

   And the universe opened. It was stunning. It was an unending marvel. It showed him more than his mind could comprehend. It flowed and burned within him, and it made his merely mortal body a suitable vessel for that power.

   The ancient ways were threatened. A leader was needed – and one who was blind to the world might fill that need well. Kellan – now Nishanth, the Warrior Who Walks In Shadows – gathered the darkness around himself, rose, and went to the senior priests.

   They would have weapons and armor for him.

   Nishanth is as blind as ever – but his supernormal awareness of the universe more than makes up for it. Within a full mile’s radius, his awareness is near-absolute. He always knows what to do – which allows him to do virtually anything with an incredible effective skill. He may not be able to roll more than ten dice, but he – for example – will usually have an 18 die pool with staves and spears. That’s enough to ignore a lot of penalties.

   Secondarily, the forces which now blaze within him cause his body to regenerate itself, enhance his attributes, maintain his life in virtually any environment, and – apparently – allow him to absorb light within a modest radius. Unfortunately, sufficient injuries (enough to “kill” his “Alternate Form”) will force most of his powers back into latency for a time – anything from a few minutes (if he has plenty of will available) to a full month (if he’s pretty much out).

   Since Nishanth is obviously 4-F – the blind (and people who believe that they’re the avatars of gods) are by definition unsuitable for service – he has the General Talent Experience package (+21 EP, 20 Will to spend on after-creation development, and +1 to any one attribute) as an alternative to the 60 EP provided by the TOG Commando Training package. (This isn’t worth as much as the TOG package – Will is easier to come by than EP and the total is only 51 in any case – but it’s considerably more flexible).

  • Attributes: Body 2 (3), Coordination 1 (2), Sense 1 (2), Brains 2 (3), Command 3 (4), Cool 3 (4).
    • After Experience: Body 3 (10), Coordination 2 (10), Sense 2 (6), Brains 2 (3), Command 3 (4), Cool 3 (4).
  • Skills (20):
    • Body: Staves and Spears 2
    • Coordination: Bow 1, Dodge 1, Stealth 1
    • Sense: Hearing 1, Smell 1
    • Brains: Education (Priestly Lore) 2, Languages (four groups at 1 each, 4), Tactics 2,
    • Command: Inspire 1, Leadership 1
    • Cool: Mental Stability (“Meditation”) 3

   Nishanth normally wears light chainmail (LAR 1) under his outer garments, carries a spear or walking staff, and has a bow and a quiver full of arrows slung over his shoulder. He usually carries a pouch with a roll of bandages, some Vedic scrolls, and a few other bits and pieces – mostly for the convenience of any companions he may have at the moment. He usually relies on his darkness (to penalize opponents pools), near-absolute awareness of his environment, and Hyper-Coordination (reducing the width of all perceived attacks by 2) for protection – but has been known to don a suit of thick steel plates (Heavy Armor 2, about 180 pounds of metal) when serious combat is in the offing.

  • Talent Basics:
    • Quirks: Blind (4), Believes himself a Divine Avatar (1)
    • Will Base: 3 Command + 4 Cool + 2 (remainder of 25 base) + 5 (Quirks) = 14
  • Talent Powers (23 Will):
    • Regeneration (1D, 1) (Base 3/6/12): Automatically removes (Body) boxes of damage (shock first) per hour without rolling or Will expenditure (+2/4/8), Includes Rejuvenation (+1/2/4), Interfere (any other talent can block his recovery for an hour by spending a will point, -2/4/8), Requires peaceful mediation (cannot be used in combat, -2/4/8), Nervous Habit (chanting Sutras, -1/2/4) = (1/2/4).
    • Hyper-Skill: Meditative Attunement (1D, 1) (5D after experience) Base (1/3/7): Allows him to use a period of meditation to get his skill bonus dice working. Attached to Alternative Form (-0/1/3 due to minimums). This is a “power stunt” skill for his Affinity power, giving him a bonus to the roll to get it working provided that he can spend a few minutes meditating and composing himself for the attempt.
    • Alternate Form / (2HD, 4) (Base 5/10/20): Endless (+1/2/4),
      • Hyper-Body (1D, 1) (7D after Experience) (Base 2/5/10): Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4).
      • Hyper-Coordination (1D, 1) (8D after Experience) (Base 2/5/10): Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4).
      • Hyper-Sense (1D, 1) (4D after Experience) (Base 2/5/10): Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4).
      • Hyper-Brains (1D, 1) (Base 2/5/10): Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4).
      • Hyper-Command (1D, 1) (Base 2/5/10): Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4).
      • Hyper-Cool (1D, 1) (Base 2/5/10): Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4).
      • Affinity / “Cosmic Attunement” (1D, 10) (Base 5/10/20): Universal (+5/10/20), Enhanced Affinity Sense (detects persons, objects, and attacks, +3/6/12), +5 additional Dice to all Actions (+6D total, +10/20/40), Backfires (-2/4/8), Direct Feed (-2/4/8), Nervous Habit (Meditation, -1/2/4), Can’t Interfere (-2/4/8), Mental Strain (-2/4/8), Loopy (-2/4/8), Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4) = (10/20/40).
      • Dampen Electromagnetism (1D, 1) (Base 3/7/14): Endless (+1/2/4), Attached to Alternative Form (-1/2/4), Light Only (-2/4/8) = (1/3/6). Basically, this creates shadows and darkness, and can extend out to a radius of (Dice Pool) yards. With his affinity bonus, that comes to 6D and up to 6 yards.

Godlike: De Ville Tailleur

De Ville Tailleur

   Henri-Marcel Eustace was small, and inoffensive, and not particularly physically inclined. He was a surprisingly effective resistance fighter as well – with a cool head, a steady hand with a pistol, and a fine hand as a tailor (a skill he turned to turning out disguises, creating hidden pockets, and altering captured uniforms). He only wished that his creations could offer his friends some physical protection when disguise failed. The Germans had tanks, and heavy weapons, and machine guns to supply to the troops – and all he had was clothing.

   Then, one day, it was no longer just “clothing” – and the Resistance began to make some fairly substantial gains against the Germans. Unfortunately, that brought additional attention…

  • Attributes: Body 1 (3), Coordination 4, Sense 2 (3), Brains 1, Command 1, Cool 3 (4).
  • After Experience: Body 2 (7), Coordination 5, Sense 3 (7), Brains 1, Command 1, Cool 3 (6).
  • Skills (20):
    • Body: Health 1, Run1
    • Coordination: Anti-Tank Rocket 2, Dodge 1, Grenade 1, Pistol 1, Stealth 2, Tailor 3
    • Sense: Sight 2, Hearing 1
    • Brains:
    • Command:
    • Cool: Lie 3, Mental Stability 2
      • After Experience: Pistol 2, Language Group (Germanic, includes German and English) 1.

   Henri-Marcel – now often going under the name Rene’ (“Reborn”) to avoid enemy identification – can fix your clothing. He can also turn it into armor, cause it to give you a bit of extra Body, and let it allow you to run and swim at superhuman speeds – and he can maintain those benefits for a small squad, as well as for himself.

   In his later version, after he’s earned the GTE experience package, those benefits are even more impressive and can be maintained for a hundred men.

   Secondarily, he has impressive self-control, excellent senses, and can heal minor wounds – and damage to clothing – with a glance.

  • Talent Basics:
    • Quirks: Obsessed with clothing (1), shrugs off rudeness and barbarity from non-french (1).
    • Will Base: 1 Command + 4 Cool + 1 (remainder from base 25) + 2 (Quirks) = 8.
    • After Experience: Will Base 10.
  • Talent Powers:
    • “The Master Tailor” / Healing (2HD, 4) (Base 3/6/12): Extends to Clothing (+1/2/4), allows minor “Alterations” – but only in clothing (+1/2/4), Go Last (-2/4/8), Interfere (-2/4/8) = (1/2/4).
    • “Clothes Maketh The Man” / Alternate Form (2HD, 4), (Base 5/10/20): Endless (+1/2/4), Allows Minor Variants (+1/2/4), Only changes clothing, not personal appearance (-3/6/12), Goes Last (-2/4/8),Nervous Habit (must quickly brush off and tweak clothing, -1/2/4) = (1/2/4). Note that, if “killed”, Henri-Marcel will simply revert to himself dressed normally – although his various other powers will shut down as well, abruptly rendering his friends vulnerable – and they will remain so until he sees them again. He avoids this at all costs.
      • Hyper-Sense (1D, 1) (After Experience 4D) (Base 2/5/10): Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4).
      • Hyper-Cool (1D, 1) (After Experience 3D) (Base 2/5/10): Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4).
      • Hyper-Body (1D, 1) (After Experience 2D) (Base 2/5/10): Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4).
      • Tough Fabric / “Plasticine Touch” (4HD, 8) (After Experience 8 HD) (Base 5/10/20): Endless (+1/2/4), Clothing of those wearing his special unit patch remains flexible enough for normal use as far as they are concerned only (+2/4/8), No Touch (+1/2/4), Multiple Targets (+2/4/8), Cannot Interfere (-2/4/8), Go Last (-2/4/8), Nervous Habit (mentally note defects of targeted clothing, -1/2/4), Only Harder (-2/4/8), Only Targets Clothing (-2/4/8), Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4) = (1/2/4). In effect, this power is pretty simple: he looks at someone and their clothing (hardness 2) becomes equivalent to armor (initially 3 LAR, later 10 HAR). If they’re carrying his embroidered signature they suffer no penalties – although they gain the armor benefit. If they’re not, they have to break out of their clothing before they can move. He can keep doing this until he’s affected as much fabric as he can at one time (his lift in pounds), at which time to affect any further targets he’ll have to drop some of the old ones. A uniform can generally be considered to weigh about 20 pounds. Note that this does not trigger will battles (in general, the clothes are NOT the Talent) and cannot be “dispelled” by expending a point of willpower: the effect is actively supported.
      • Super-Speed / Body Abilities (Run, Swim, etc) (1D, 2) (Base 4/8/16): Endless (+1/2/4), Extend to Others (+2/4/8), first die “shared” with any given target does not count against total dice available (+1/2/4), Ranged (+1/2/4), Only works on those wearing his embroidered signature and dressed in clothing he’s turned into armor (-3/6/12), Go Last (-2/4/8), Nervous Habit (mentally note how much better the clothing fits and how much better the user can move since he fiddled with it,-1/2/4), Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4) = (2/4/8). At the moment, anyone he’s given his special “Tailoring” to can run and swim at up to 75 MPH.
      • Hyper-Body (1D, 3) (After Experience 3D) (Base 2/4/8): Endless (+1/2/4), Extend to Others (+2/4/8), first four dice “shared” with any given target do not count against total dice available (+4/8/16), Ranged (+1/2/4), Only works on those wearing his embroidered signature and dressed in clothing he’s turned into armor (-3/6/12), Takes a minute to take effect (-2/4/8), Nervous Habit (mentally note how much better the clothing fits and how much better the user can move since he fiddled with it,-1/2/4), Attached to Alternate Form (-1/2/4) = (3/6/12). While it will be the last thing that takes effect, at the moment anyone he’s given his special “tailoring” to will – after a minute or so to get used to it – find themselves augmented with +1D of Hyper-Body.

   Basically, Henri-Marcel’s clothing bestows Heavy Armor 10 (although this is NOT self-restoring; it is depleted by penetrating weapons normally), +3 Body, and the ability to run and swim at 75 MPH, on up to 100 men. Ultimately, he could potentially increase those figures to +4 Body, the ability to run and swim at Mach 1, and a total of 600 men. Of course, at that point, no sane commander would let an asset that valuable anywhere near the front lines.

   Working with Henri-Marcel drastically increases most people’s chances of survival. While his clothes won’t stand up to penetration weapons for long, they’ll handle any amount of small-arms fire, and the body and speed boosts aren’t bad either. Of course, unlike most other talents, Henri-Marcel is probably at his best with a sizeable group of normal people along; he can’t make them into talents, but he can keep the talents from leaving them too far behind.

   For some possible variants, remember that anyone with an alternate-but-human form offers a convenient way to play a female character. You could easily make him a seamstress with an alternate form as a male, or a maker of uniforms back on the supply side of things – who must be located, and persuaded to use his or her abilities in a more organized fashion.