Continuum II: Demons and Manitou

   Here’s another module from the Continuum II system. In this case, it’s the rules for creating and playing Demons and Manitou – a group that includes a variety of eldritch horrors, elementals, nature spirits, planetary spirits, and various other “spirits”. Demons and Manitou are also closely related to the Undead (symbiotic combinations of a Demon and a material creature), to Faerie (symbiotic combinations of a Manitou and a material creature), and even to Gods (creatures who possess both Demonic and Manitou power links and powers).

   Demons and Manitou are the native inhabitants of the Hyperspace/Normal Space Interface (also known as the Ethereal Plane) and the Normal Space/Subspace Interface (also known as the Tuat) – creatures with “bodies” constructed of pure energy and microscopic inter-aspect “wormholes”. The marvelous complexities required for life are a natural consequence of the interface itself; a link between two aspects creates a pair of positive and negative nodes, which can combine in complex patterns – much like protons and electrons, if more ephemeral. Due to the potential differences between the aspects (hyperspace has a high base energy level compared to normal space, while subspace has a negative energy level when compared to normal space), those same links provide a steady supply of energy to sustain the system. While still somewhat unstable, systems that contain stabilizing feedback loops – such as any living organism – may persist indefinitely. Inanimate “items” on either interface must be artificially stabilized, or continuously fed energy (on the Tuat) or drained of excess energy (on the Ethereal), if they are to exist for long.

   For those interested in origins, natural inter-aspect links are associated with specific configurations of gravitational stress. While this is most dramatic when it’s associated with major astronomical objects and events, the nuclei of heavy atoms also create very intense – if very small – gravitational stresses. When combined with small external disturbances (gravitational waves, planetary alignments, etcetera. In some universes, even dawn and nightfall will suffice), such nuclei can spawn a myriad microscopic inter-aspect links – providing a tremendous surge of magical energy on the physical level and a vast supply of “raw materials” on the interfaces.

   The inhabitants of the “Tuat” are commonly known as “Demons”. The name is usually well earned; due to the outrageous energy drain of subspace, and the modest potential difference across the Tuat, demons are normally perpetually desperate for additional energy inputs. In material terms, each is an omnivorous predator, eternally hungry and evolved for perpetual war. Combined with immateriality and the innate powers of a subspace-linked being of living magic, they are a potential nightmare.

   Fortunately for everybody else, the creatures of the Tuat and Ethereal interfaces interact primarily with each other, secondarily with energy fields limited to one of the relevant aspects, and only minimally with matter or energy fields linked with matter. Demonic interactions with material beings are thus usually limited to mental assaults, or attempts to drain energy from some unlucky beings bioenergetic field.

   Perhaps less fortunately, extremely powerful demons, those given arcane assistance, and those with access to a “gateway” of some sort, can effectively materialize – organizing available matter into a more-or-less solid analogue of it’s true energy patterns. Defensive force fields manifest as scales or armored plates, disruption probes as claws, and so on. Having a “body” available permits the user to disrupt material objects/creatures, releasing the associated energy fields for the demon to consume. Since such puppets have no real connection to the true Demon, no vitals, and can be rebuilt on the fly, they are very difficult to stop physically. Of course, they’re also clumsy, lack physical-level senses, and are terribly conspicuous.

   As with other groups, some Demons possess special talents, others possess professional class-potential, and a few have both. Unlike most groups, their vicious competition increases the percentage of vocational, professional, and talented, individuals in their population. Many of the others do not survive.

   Demonic social structures tend to be quite primitive, but they do recognize a hierarchy of ability of sorts – Trivial Demons (ordinary individuals with no particular power, also known as “imps”, “thralls”, and “food”), Minor Demons (sapient Demons with vocational training, large and dangerous non-sapient types, and common Demons with minor powers), Major Demons (professional or strongly talented Demons), and Archdemons (those rare individuals with both professional class levels and powerful innate talents). As a note, a surprisingly high percentage of demonic lifeforms are sapient, or are at least extremely cunning.

   In general, Demons are dangerous, and untrustworthy. Perhaps unfortunately, they can also be very profitable to deal with; Demons are a superb energy sink, and so can provide a wide variety of destructive, defensive, and negatively-oriented magical effects. Since this provides energy for the Demon, a clever Demonologist can obtain further services from it in exchange. Demonology is a potent, if perilous, branch of evocation magic.

   While Demons are not necessarily “evil”, by material standards they are instinctively paranoid, ferocious, and uncooperative. Worse, material beings are more alien to them then a fungus is to an ordinary human. Many don’t even really understand that material beings exist, much less that they can be hurt – while many more simply see them as prey to be used as efficiently as possible (Q.V. Lesser Blood Magic). Oddly, the most potent Demons tend to be the most “human”; they aren’t nearly as desperate for energy as most, their instincts have less of a grip on them, they have less need for paranoia, and they may even have the abilities needed to understand other life forms. In theory, a sufficiently potent Demon, who came into that power early enough, might even be pleasant to have around.

   As might be expected, the Tuat generally possesses a complete, if relatively sparse, ecology. While details vary, and are rarely of great interest in any case, the chain generally begins with tiny creatures so primitive that they’ve no psychic energy for subspace to “drain”. These “plankton” can survive on the aspect differential alone. Other, “plantlike”, organisms survive where some reliable source of energy leaks into subspace (negative power points in normal space, magical gateways, and so on) – although these generally have substantial defenses. Common “grazers” possess the ability to focus and tap energy fields in normal space, although most of these are relatively small. Given the rapid rate of “decay”, “scavengers” are fairly scarce – and none are large – but cooperative “swarms” of lethal “insects” do occur. Predators are all too common, and may make up the majority of demonic species. Rarer forms include plantlike entities that “hibernate” between the times when energy is readily available (these are quite scarce, thanks to those lengthy, and vulnerable, inactive periods) and assorted parasites. A few varieties anchor themselves to physical bodies and draw energy from normal space – but this is only possible in environments which are excessively hostile to other lifeforms and shielded against the interference of other Demons. The largest, and most “physically” potent, Demons are the “Leviathans” – immense, “filter-feeding”, creatures which occupy the lowest energy levels of the Tuat, allowing them to feed efficiently on the aforementioned “plankton”.

   Demons with unusual talents, or contacts, may make a living in other ways. “Clients” rely on power supplied by Demonologists, Shamans, and Dabblers (These are rarely the only source of power for an “adult” Demon, but kind (for Demons) parents often get their offspring a link). “Symbionts” and “Possessors” link with a material being or beings (Q.V.; Vampires) – while those with appropriate abilities can set up links to, and convert, various other energy sources.

   The “landscape” of the Tuat is peculiar. As might be expected, material beings usually have to convert it into familiar terms to deal with it at all. “Altitude” corresponds to frequencies, “solidity” to energy levels – and “gravity” to the steady “pull”/drain of subspace. Obvious oddities include the fact that things expand as their frequencies drop – making the “lower” levels seem smaller then the “higher” ones – and the fact that most of the “landscape” is barren or actively dangerous. The “geography” varies drastically, but commonly includes a number of “levels” corresponding to stable harmonics, a bottomless abyss that is effectively open to subspace, and a more-or-less dangerous set of “rivers” (ley lines. These are usually far too highly charged for a Demon to handle safely).

   The inhabitants of the “Etherial Plane” – the Space/ Hyperspace interface – are commonly known as “Manitou”.

   Like Demons, Manitou are complex energy fields. Unlike them, the potential difference of the interface is more then sufficient to sustain them. In fact, their primary difficulty lies in dissipating their excess power. They have evolved two basic techniques for dealing with this problem; anchoring themselves in a material creature, group, object, or area, to use as an energy sink and using their greater energy density to dissipate it into the local material environment. Both methods have their advantages. “Anchors” provide negative feedback to help stabilize things. As energy builds up in the “sink”, it impedes the flow – limiting the transfer to what can be safely dissipated. On the other hand, the powerful link such an anchor creates leaves the “user” open to damage and/or manipulation through the material focus. A few have become symbiotic with their “anchors” (Q.V. Faerie) over the eons. Manitou associated with groups are often called Patron or Totem Spirits, those linked with areas are usually called Place Spirits or Kami, and those bound to specific items are usually just referred to as being the item (an oversimplification, but an understandable one). Simply dissipating energy into the environment is simple, versatile, mobile, avoids the “vulnerable link” problem – and is violently unstable. Without the built-up resistance of an anchor, the only way to limit the flow is to limit the spectrum of transmitted energies, and thus the range of environments in which the Manitou can operate. Manitou using this type of energy dissipation can only survive in environments attuned to absorbing their particular magical energy spectrum. They cannot, unlike Demons, survive in empty space. Such Manitou are usually referred to according to type; as “Elementals”, “Prairie Spirits”, or whatever. In rare cases, Manitou of this type become so large and powerful that begin to act a lot like “anchored” spirits, as they’re no longer likely to be displaced. For example, the spirit of the planetary core, or a major continent, is unlikely to be pushed around. In any case, fully-mobile spirits are always less stable then anchored ones. While virtually immune to physical traumas, they are more vulnerable to magical ones.

   Manitou are usually fairly friendly and cooperative, if a bit stubborn or flighty depending on their type. They are commonly called on in evocation magic as sources of power – and can commonly be persuaded to help the magus out a bit in exchange for this “favor”. Unfortunately, the “average” Manitou is far less cunning, clever – and skilled – then the “average” Demon. Invoking Manitou is a lot safer then invoking Demons – but less profitable. Unlike Demons, Manitou tend to be rather simple-minded, gossipy, playful, and relatively easy to fool. Also unlike Demons, Manitou are strongly associated with solid matter and planetary environments, so they find it easy to “materialize”, and can readily be encountered simply wandering about or possessing various natural features. They are often extremely dangerous, simply because most of them don’t understand “matter-based” beings all that much better then Demons do.

   Given this far more extensive bond with matter, the “landscape” of the ethereal interface corresponds rather closely with that of the material realm. Most of it is, however, alive. “Gravity” there is a feeble, optional, force – and the primary danger is not starvation (as on the Tuat), but tapping into too much energy and burning yourself out.

   As creatures of pure arcane energy, Manitou and Demons enjoy various special benefits and limitations. The most obvious is that, for them, the usual roles’ of matter and magic are interchanged; they can easily see, examine, manipulate, and interact with, fields of magical energy – but can only perceive, and manipulate, the material realm with the greatest of difficulty. In effect, they gain a one skill point bonus when learning conventional mystic skills, and suffer a similar penalty when acquiring those dealing with the physical world. More dramatically, any spells they cast are considered two levels “lower” then usual (EG; They can cast third level spells as if they were first level spells). Relevant rolls may be similarly modified by up to +/- 6 or 2D6 at the option of the GM.

   Secondarily, even on their own terms, such creatures are far less substantial then material entities. Their basic structure is, after all, only a pattern – essentially a standing wave – impressed on a continuous energy flow, rather then the immense, crystallized, energies bound up in ordinary matter. This has it’s benefits in a lack of inertia and great flexibility; such beings get twice as many actions per round as physical beings do, albeit not when materialized, or when dealing with each other. It also makes it easier for them to learn shapeshifting skills. Unfortunately, this fragile structure also leaves them rather vulnerable to disruption via appropriate spells, powers, or silver weapons, and means that fairly weak magical fields (such as minor wards, blessings, and repulsions) will have serious effects on them. It also means that Manitou and Demons usually find common magical devices – “anchored” in solid matter – far too clumsy for practical use.

   Minor benefits include getting to apply one-half of their Martial Arts or Dexterity-based Defense Rating bonuses as bonuses on magical resistance rolls, being able to analyze magic the way a human can study a gadget, getting to use arcane analogs of many skills (E.G. – “Magesight” sees into the material realm, “Arcane Engineering” covers basic mechanics, and so on), getting a Might attribute (a measurement of the amount of magical energy which flows through their bodies at any given moment), and being thoroughly intangible. Manitou receive an extra special benefit, in that they can easily feed a great “burst” of magical power into a magical effect (an effect equivalent to the “Mystic Sourcing” Energy Manipulation psionic ability).

   Demons receive three major and three minor skills from the following lists. Those with “Professional” status get an additional minor skill at L3 – and an additional major skill at L7. Many of these will be determined by the subspecies, but virtually all Demons should get at least one Survival Mechanism, and something from the Subspace Manipulation list. “Minor Magic” is extremely common as well. Manitou only begin with two major and two minor skills – but are otherwise treated similarly. In their case, however, they MUST take either Anchoring or Environmental Affinity. Dynamic Magic, Minor Magic, and Puppetry are all fairly common as well.

Manitou and Demon Skills :

   Minor Manitou and Demon Skills:

  • Arcane Expansion (Manitou Only List): Elemental Awareness, Enhanced Might, Environmental Affinity, Material Master, Mystic Mastery, Peerage.
  • Common Crafts: Amplification (Manitou) or Diminishment (Demons), Arcane Assembley, Minor Magic, Rapid Healing, Replication, Shielding.
  • Evasions: Arcane Deflection, Frequency Shift, Lineriding, Malleability, Shadow Casting, Symbiosis.
  • Interface: Contacts, Equipage, Money (Entities regularly in contact with material entities may have an actual source of physical cash, but most just have some arcane equivalent in their own realms), Oathbinding, Stabilization, Territory.
  • Subspace Manipulation (Demons Only List): Dynamic Magic (Negative Energy Effects only), Entropic Aura, Negation, Projection, Shadowmastery, Spell Negation.

Major Manitou and Demon Skills:

  • Balances: Anchoring, Field Interface, Force Probes, Imbuement, Power Links, (Un-)Bindings (Demons usually take Bindings and Manitou Unbindings, but this is not required).
  • Mana Discharge (Manitou Only List): Arcane Discharge, Auric Flame, Constructs, Dynamic Magic, Elemental Discharge, Energy Discharge.
  • Materialization: Interaction, Possession, Puppetry, Sensorium, Summoning, Transposition.
  • Physical Contacts: Cache, Communications, Matter Analysis, Matter Manipulation, Nymic Awareness, Power Bestowal.
  • Predator and Prey (Demons Only List): Alertness, Cloaking, Dodging, Evasion, Inner Stillness, Stealth.
  • Survival Mechanisms (Demons Only List: Arcane Toxin, Dominance, Enhanced Toughness, Hibernation, Innate Weaponry, Scavenging.
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