Continuum II: Shield Cantrips

   For today, it’s one of the most basic forms of magic in Continuum II – Cantrips. As befits one of the most ubiquitous forms of magic in the game, the list of known cantrips was quite long. This particular sublist will cover one of the most popular types – shield cantrips.

   Cantrip Magic, drawing upon the modest reserve of magical energy which accumulates in any living creature, is the simplest and easiest of all forms of magic. That power is immediately to hand, focused, and attuned. It is inherently readily handled by the user – and the mere desire to use it is enough to get it partially shaped. Minor talents, basic magical training, or comparatively trivial talismans – such as the infamous “Cantrip Rings” – will suffice to channel it. Even more usefully, the simple instinct for self-preservation allows anyone with defensive cantrips available to use on of them per round as a reflex action, albeit at the cost of a “+2” on the user’s next initiative check.

   Unfortunately, Cantrip Magic is also the weakest form of spellcasting. The complexity of any given effect is moderate at most, and the personal mana which powers it is a very limited resource. Gods, fey, and spellcasters may build up substantial reserves – the residue of the energies they channel in other ways – but everyone else will only have a little based on their Endurance and the level of natural magic in the world they live in.

   On the other hand, Cantrip Magic is by far the most common form of magic in Continuum II. Minor mages, dabblers, and laymen use it, minor talismans and amulets produce and sustain cantrip effects for a time, embedded cantrips affect whatever inanimate object they’re embedded in permanently, and focusing talismans – such as those aforementioned “Cantrip Rings” – can focus their wearer’s personal mana into a list of up to seven cantrips whose patterns are embedded in item.

   The stuff is everywhere – and so a list of cantrips can be quite important. Their classification is somewhat arbitrary, but an awful lot of people are interested in defensive charms – of which the most common variety is Shields.

   Shield Cantrips create magical fields of force. Such fields may be variously shaped, solid or viscous – and can be very selective about what they affect. While cantrip-level magic is usually insufficient to animate such fields, it can evoke them fairly readily. Even at this minimal power level, such fields have many uses – some of which are described in the following selection of specific cantrips.

  1. Airsoles: Creates a repulsive field between the user and the earth, allowing him to walk three to six inches above the floor. While this does not reduce the pressure he or she exerts on the floor, it does let the user avoid any physical contact. The caster may also use the field as a “sled” by reducing it’s friction with the ground, but this makes it impossible to stand upright. The effect lasts up to 2D6+6 rounds.
  2. Aversion: A basic defensive charm, aversion gives the recipient a +1 bonus on his DR and RR (Defense Rating and Resistance Rating) for ten rounds. It is not cumulative with other magical defenses.
  3. Awakening: Sets up a spherical ward with a maximum radius of six feet around the caster which will awaken and/or alert the caster if it is penetrated. The ward will only function once, and will dissipate within 12 hours in any case.
  4. Bobble: Creates a force-bubble up to one foot across with a “padded” interior surface. The bubble must fully enclose its target to form, takes 12 points of damage to burst, and lasts up to ten minutes.
  5. Caldwell’s Containment: Seals any small vessel with a field of force, preventing accidental spills and inadvertent mixing with the surroundings. This in no way inhibits using the contents as the field is maintained by the users will. It will remain as long as the user can spare a little bit of attention for it, thereafter it fades away in 2D4 rounds.
  6. Cocoon: Cushions a single body-wide impact – such as a fall, being struck by an avalanche or runaway cart, or some similar personal disaster. The cantrip will absorb half of the damage inflicted up to a maximum of 21 points.
  7. Corona: Gives the user an aura of energy of whatever type he desires. The aura of flame, cold, electricity, or whatever, lasts for 1D4+1 rounds, and does 1 point of damage to whoever contacts it while it lasts. It also offers some minor protection from its “type” of energy and its opposite, absorbing up to three points of such damage per round. Specialized variants are limited to a particular type of energy but last for 1D4+4 rounds.
  8. Countermagic: Dampens incoming magic, reducing it’s “casting level”. Cantrips are reduced by 2x the users level, L1 spells by 1x and L2 spells by 1/2x. Spells reduced below the minimum necessary casting level are negated. This cantrip remains in force for ten minutes, and is a common part of minor magical duels.
  9. Cushion: Creates up to six square feet of invisible “padding”, about equal to two inches of foam rubber, on or about whatever surface the caster touches. It’s often used to cushion seats, headrests, and fragile objects. The effect lasts up to 2 hours per level of the user.
  10. Deflection: Diverts up to three darts, two daggers or arrows, or one spear. Larger missiles suffer a -4 penalty on their AR (attack rating). All the attacks affected by the cantrip must occur in the same round.
  11. Filtersphere: Sets up a sphere of force which repels some class of things. While relatively weak, the sphere makes an effective selective filter. The general version only lasts for 1D4+1 rounds but can be attuned to any class of things the user desires, specific variants last for 2D6+18 rounds. Normally the sphere only surrounds the users head, it can be expanded up to a 4 ft radius but this halves both the effects and the duration. Likely “targets” for the sphere include toxic gases, microorganisms, water pollution, insects, and sand. The sphere cannot resist any significant force, thus it is of little use against anything much larger then a hornet. Set against toxic gases it would protect the user from stale air, odors, and so on, but would only offer a +3 on RR (Resistance Rating) against nerve gas.
  12. Flameshield: Protects a small (six inch radius maximum) fire, candle, or torch from wind and water short of total immersion, for half an hour or until the caster sets the fire source down, whichever is longer.
  13. Forcebolt: Strikes any one target within 40 feet, doing one point of damage for every three levels of the user or part thereof up to a maximum of eight points. A simple physical attack, this charm allows no saving throw but cannot affect creatures who require magical weaponry or specialized attacks to harm. Variants which use bolts “charged” with various types of energy do an extra point of damage with side effects according to the type of energy, but can be dodged with a RR, as the “charge” makes the bolt clearly visible. Such variants include firebolts, icebolts, lightbolts, electro-bolts, and many others.
  14. Forcefield: Provides the recipient with +1 toughness for 2D4+1 rounds. Banefield variants are tuned against specific types of attacks and provide +3 toughness against them, but are useless otherwise. Common banefields include; fire, lightning, flesh, claws, iron, stone, and arrows. Others are certainly possible, but are rare.
  15. Gauntlets: Provides the protection of heavy, watertight, insulated, gloves without having their bulk and impedance. The `gauntlets’ provide 6 / 12 / 36 points of protection against blows / energies / chemicals for (2D4+ casters level) rounds
  16. Hammertouch: Gives the recipient a +2 bonus to his or her unarmed AR (attack rating) and DB (damage bonus) for 2D4+1 rounds.
  17. Hinderfield: Slightly impedes the movements of any single target within 30 feet. The victim suffers a “-1” initiative penalty for 2D4+1 rounds.
  18. Insulate: Insulates up to twenty square feet against any one form of energy. The charm can insulate a potential of 12 points for up to an hour, lesser potentials proportionately longer. The typical hot dinner will remain hot up to 48 hours or so.
  19. Lightwall: Creates a field which blocks the passage of light. It has a maximum area of 120 square feet, and cannot reach more then 10 feet from the user, but the form is otherwise up to the caster. The user can set the field to absorb, reflect, scatter, or pass light from either side independently but cannot change it later. As the field only affects photons, it can’t “reflect” magical effects such as the “gaze of medusa” – although it can block occult effects that must be seen to take effect. The field vanishes 2D4 rounds after the caster stops providing the bit of attention it takes to maintain it unless it is intentionally dropped earlier.
  20. Maldweld’s Unseen Stilts: This charm creates a pair of invisible force field constructs, shaped as stilts, the caster can use them as a normal pair of stilts for the charms duration of 1D6+12 rounds. The stilts are only quasi-tangible, they can be entangled or grabbed but cannot be “damaged” by mundane means. Magical or energy based attacks totaling 12 points of damage will destroy them. Variants include Maldweld’s Vaulting Pole, Maldweld’s One- Plank Bridge, Diving Board, Skis, Sled, and Prybar. As most of these have either greater solidity or greater resilience, they only last for 1D4+1 rounds.
  21. Mindward: Erects a low-grade psychic shield for ten rounds. During this time the user gains a +3 RR (Resistance Rating) versus mental attacks. The `Dreamward’ variant provides basic protection from psychic disturbances for 12 hours, but only works while the user is asleep.
  22. Mirrorshades: Creates a set of protective magical `safety goggles’ which offer the user protection from excess light, some physical protection, and +3 on his or her RR (Resistance Rating) against visually oriented effects. They last for up to thirty rounds.
  23. Mittens: Creates a pair of heat – retaining fields equal to heavy woolen gloves/earmuffs/socks/a cap/etc. without their bulk and encumbrance. The charm lasts for one hour per level of the caster.
  24. Mold: Creates two square feet of “solid” surface, shaped as the caster envisions. The field is relatively fragile, but can still be used as a mold, ladle, tube, or light duty clamp. It lasts up to one hour. More specific variants create particular, and somewhat more durable, forms – such as “Caldwell’s Cauldron”.
  25. Muffle: Dampens sound passing into or out of a six foot radius of the user. This gives those within the field a +2 RR (Resistance Rating) versus sonic attacks, a +3 on stealth, and a -2 on relevant perception checks for up to 30 rounds. A variant which affects only outgoing sound exists, it aids `stealth’ only. Other variants exist – including one which affects items. It’s often used to prevent weapons from emitting sound when drawn/used, and lasts for up to ten minutes.
  26. Oilskin: Repels water and fluids containing high percentages of water from the user, preventing actual contact for up to 30 minutes – unless great force is applied. In such cases the liquids effect is halved but the repulsion is immediately negated. The bubble created is very thin; it holds enough air to breathe underwater for about one minute before the oxygen is exhausted, whereupon drowning proceeds normally.
  27. Oven: Traps heat from a small (maximum radius of one foot) fire in a small glowing sphere, for baking, forging, refining, or other high temperature work, for up to 4 hours.
  28. Overshoes: Gives the recipient feet and lower legs protection equal to heavy, watertight, boots for up to 30 rounds per level of the caster. More interestingly, “overshoes” can spread the users weight over a 1 Foot radius of his foot, serving as excellent snowshoes.
  29. Pinch: Summons up a pair of small force disks which attract each other powerfully for the few seconds they exist, clamping together on anything in between them. The discs are about an inch across and can materialize up to six inches apart within a range of 30 feet. The resulting “pinch” can snuff candles or small lanterns, startle and annoy larger creatures, kill bugs, pull small objects together, and so on.
  30. Plug: Temporarily plugs a hole, this includes doors, windows, and pits. Sadly, the force-field plug isn’t enormously strong – and doesn’t last all that long. The plug can take twelve points of damage before breaking and lasts for up to (one hour divided by the plug area in square feet). High pressure differences will quickly destroy larger plugs, but they are totally unaffected by corrosives, poisons, etcetera. “Caulking” is a common variant, it stops seepage between fitted surfaces for up to a week if no significant leaks were present to begin with.
  31. Shanty: Creates a tiny hemispherical shelter around the caster. Up to two other men can squeeze within – if they’re willing to sit on top of each other. The shelter will reduce the wind velocity within by up to 15 MPH and will effectively keep out rain, snow, and small insects. Anything much larger will penetrate it easily. A Shanty lasts up to 24 hours, as long as the caster remains in the immediate vicinity, and can either spare a little attention to maintain it, or sleeps in it. They’re usually clear, but may be colored if the caster desires. If this option is chosen, no one can see in or out of the shanty.
  32. Shield: Absorbs six points of damage from any single attack. It is not cumulative with itself. Variants specialized against attack forms are effective against 8 to 12 points of damage depending on how specifically they are attuned. Possibilities include physical or energy damage (8 points), fire (9) electricity (10), and “Necromantic Bolts” (12).
  33. Snuff: Hinders the flow of oxygen into flames. While larger fires have sufficient `draw’ to overcome this effect, up to 12 candles, 4 lanterns, 2 torches, or one small (one foot across maximum) fire may be extinguished using this charm. All such targets must be within forty feet of the caster.
  34. Static Charge: Covers up to a pound of small objects with attractive or repulsive fields of energy, causing them to attract or repel both each other and anything that contacts them. Regardless of the number of items, the total force is unchanged, hence the speed bestowed is roughly constant. The force is not very powerful, but it suffices to hold dust to surfaces, send marbles scooting around madly, or break up most liquids into a cloud of droplets. It lasts 2D6+3 rounds during which repelling objects will bounce, roll, and shift around. Attracting objects will stick to things. One variant erratically shifts from attraction to repulsion and back, to scatter small objects more effectively.
  35. Stepping Stones: Conjures up to 6 small force-discs across a gap of up to 20 feet at anything up to a 45 degree angle. They will last up to one minute per level of the caster.
  36. Suppress Aura: This charm sets up a field around the user which contains and damps the bioenergy fields that living beings normally radiate. While this interferes with some psychic abilities, and gives users claustrophobic feelings, it blocks forms of passive detection which rely on picking up this “aura”. It also blocks the bioenergy interactions which govern feelings about people, making it useful to those with things to hide. Sadly, this often makes people nervous in itself, they subconsciously expect to feel something beyond a blank barrier when interacting with others. It works for up to half an hour. Specialized variants act as “filters” to conceal specific data, such as a demonologist’s negative energy links. These work for up to an hour.
  37. Umbrella: Can be up to six feet across, if relevant, it can take six points of damage before being destroyed, and will last for up to three turns without attention. If the caster can spare a little attention for it, it can be maintained indefinitely.
  38. Warding Gesture: This charm creates a magical field attuned to some specific menace in an attempt to “hold it off”. This gives the user a +2 on his RR (Resistance Rating) against a particular attack – or can briefly hold back enchanted or conjured creatures. Lesser creatures can be driven back a few feet for 1D4 rounds, although a successful resistance check reduces this to 1D4 counts. Greater beings are merely delayed for 1D4 counts. Warding Gestures are not cumulative – and each successive use against a being reduces the duration of the effect by one.
  39. Windfetter: Increases the air pressure immediately about the user to double it’s local level or sea level normal, whichever is less. The effect persists for up to 30 minutes per level of the caster.
  40. Windward: Creates a thin `bubble’ around the caster that blocks the normal exchange of gases with the surrounding air. The bubble has an initial radius of up to six feet, but will expand or collapse thereafter in response to external air pressure, as it can’t maintain any significant pressure differential. Unevenly applied pressure, such as that produced by even modest winds will destroy the bubble immediately. The bubble is immobile and will last up to ten rounds.

Federation-Apocalypse Campaign: Current Timeline

   To help everyone keep track of the sequence of events in the Federation-Apocalypse game, here’s the timeline so far…

Prequels

  • -2 Years: Raphial begins major research in augmenting cybernetic systems with magic.
  • -4 Weeks: The House of Roses becomes aware of Kevin’s status as an Opener, and begins making offers of recruitment.
  • -3 Weeks: Raphial becomes a House of Roses operative as part of a cooperative arrangement with the New Imperium. Marty arrives in Core Earth New York City, and begins a tour of Earth.
  • -2 Weeks: John Jack arrives on Core Earth Scotland, and defeats a small Dalek Invasion. Marty assists. Both are soon contacted by the House of Roses.
  • -1 Week: Benedict arrives in Core Earth London, and attracts considerable attention. Jarvian Mitchell also arrives in England, but initially assumes that he’s in potentially hostile territory and hides in the park.

Week 01: Teams initial mission to Greenweld. Kevin recruits 3 Thralls. The Firestorm Meme infects Core. Samples of both Praetorian and Anoptic Battle Technology are obtained.

  • Major Characters: M, Dr Vu, Michelle Wingates, and Spellweaver / Adrian Mercati, Thrall-Recruits: Daniel, Gerald, and Bard.
  • Major Factions: The House of Roses, Ourathan Alien Robots, Neanderthals (not yet revealed).
  • Major Plot Elements: Firestorm Meme, Praetorian Nanites, Anoptic Broadcast Node
  • Major Realms: Core (Earth, Greenweld), Crusader, Highway, The Colonial Era.

Week 02: Jarvian joins the team. The House of Roses discovers something of how powerful Kevin’s Thralls are, and begins to investigate. The House – and several other major organizations – are attacked by the Anoptics via the Firestorm Meme, but they are easily beaten back. Raphial cracks the singular nanite coding. Second Mission: Investigating Singular. Intrigues of the Underdark. John Jack quarrels with the team and departs.

  • Major Characters: Ilthulsin the Exile, assorted possible Thrall-recruits and badly damaged children. Various local characters in the Underdark. The Backup Team and a strange Kobold.
  • Major Factions: The Adventurer’s Guilds. Various minor factions in the Underdark.
  • Major Plot Elements: The Silmaril of the Earth
  • Major Realms: Catacomb, Coral, Faerun/The Underdark.

Week 03: Into the Negative Zone. The group arrives in the Negative Zone, hooks up with the Arrancar, and begin patching things up – a lengthy project – while heading for the exit.

  • Major Characters: King Arthur (Version I), the Arrancar, Dimentio / Shyan
  • Major Factions: The Hollows (a.k.a “The Devourers”), The Oracle Archonia
  • Major Plot Elements: The Haven, a.k.a “The Citadel of the World’s End”.
  • Major Realms: The Negative Zone

Week 04: Traversing the Darkness: The group continues improving the Haven and healing the Arrancar.

  • Major Characters: Revan mentioned.
  • Major Factions: None introduced.
  • Major Plot Elements: Assorted training (an easy excuse for later ability purchases).
  • Major Realms: None introduced. In the Negative Zone.

Week 5: Studies in the Zone. The group continues studying exotic abilities in the Negative Zone.

  • Major Characters: The Hellstorm
  • Major Factions: None introduced..
  • Major Plot Elements: The Hellstorm and Kevin’s Contract with it.
  • Major Realms: None introduced. In the Negative Zone.

Week 6: Escaping with the Hellstorm. Revan’s Archives. The Sith Planet / Tomb Archive.

  • Major Characters: The Second Emperor, the Inquistor, Darth Plageous, the Newly-freed Hellstorm.
  • Major Factions: Both sides of the Singularity War. The Jedi and Sith, The Singular Robots, and the Neanderthals (Revealed).
  • Major Plot Elements: The Tomb and Revan’s Archives, a “Manifold Map” (a minor relic which enhances dimensional navigation and lore skills), the Silmaril of the Air.
  • Major Realms: The New Imperium, Classic Star Wars, The Plague and Disaster Realms.

Week 7: Recruiting at Baelaria, Marty sets up his offices in Core. Visiting Singular and the Gravesite. The House obtains details on Kevin’s Contract and Thrall-Capabilities. Third Mission: find out what’s going on in Baelaria.

  • Major Characters: New Thralls, The Mirage, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
  • Major Factions: The Mages Guild of Baelaria.
  • Major Plot Elements: AI’s.
  • Major Realms: Singular and Baelaria.

Week 8: The Battle Realms, Rescuing the Singularites, Business Negotiations and Baelaria Again. Mages Guild dig is closed down, group moves into Baelaria and begins to establish itself.

  • Major Characters: Arxus, the Elder Wingates (Generals Martin and Martha),
  • Major Factions: The Men In Black, the Clans (a minor faction of the Battletech Realms).
  • Major Plot Elements: Singular Nanite Technology, Wellstone, Voidstone, the Ebon Hawk, and the Soulless Ones.
  • Major Realms: Battling Business World and The Battletech Realms.

Week 9: The Baelarian MageWar, Disappearances at Hogwarts, Under Londinium. The group concludes the battle against the mages guild and begins the investigation into the disappearances at Hogwarts.

  • Major Characters: Jaiden, Vekxin, Alexander Matthington and Ariana Wingates (Praetorians), Paul Malfoy, Dumbledore, Lingering Smoke.The Minister of Magic, Magus Hutchins, and “The Outsider”.
  • Major Factions: Vekxin and has Agents, The Commonwealth, Local Baelarian Factions.
  • Major Plot Elements: Missing Kids from Hogwarts, Anti-Manifold Reaction in Core, the Rosary of Memory, The Sunwell and the Secondary Wells, Three Praetorian Chassies.
  • Major Realms: Baelaria and Hogwarts.

Week 10: Concluding the Baelarian Mages War, The Block Party, Clearing out Trade Routes, Experiments, Skiing in Tibet, Meeting with the Military. The group finishes eliminating most of the Bealarian Mages Guild and celebrates with the locals, dispatches Thralls to run various experiments, and visits Core to consult with various factions.

  • Major Characters: Merlin, Snyder (a mage working for Merlin), Chief Battlemage Kelsier, Taraq the Mobster, a Knight of Grodd, and Colonel Knightly. Arxus taken.
  • Major Factions: The Commonwealth, the Baelarian Military, and the Core Military.
  • Major Plot Elements: The House begins recruiting for Kevin, Kevin begins assigning Thralls to the Core Military (in hopes of getting them to recruit for him).
  • Major Realms: Baelaria, Castle, Samurai Jack World, Pictsome (a semi-abandoned planet with an approaching supernova wavefront in Core), and Core Earth.

Week 11: Lost to timeslip for the player-characters. Vekxin begins military-style attacks in the Underdark. Kevin’s Thralls set up defensive positions in his absence. Experiments begun on Arxus.

Week 12: Lost to Timeslip for the player-characters. Thralls put Faerun-Castle-Baelaria trade route into operation. The Singularites on Ealor send a delegation to Core Earth and open for business with the New Imperium.

Week 13: Lost to Timeslip for the player-characters. The House of Roses traces the timeslips to attempts to apprehend Vekxin: evidently he has powerful backers. ATE begins Operation: Cauldron.

Week 14: Lost to Timeslip for the player-characters.

Week 15: The Nuclear Bandit War, Jyhad, Repairing the Mirage, Visiting The House and Core Military, Curing Vekxins Recruits, Through Star Wars to Thriss. A Consultation with Computers. The group has to take time out due to Jarvain’s using nuclear weapons at close range, so they take time out to talk to the House and the Core Military (and provide them with some Thralls) before investigating the computer systems and starting their own plans to move Pictsome.

  • Major Characters: Yoda, The Dark Mirror, and assorted Storm Troopers.
  • Major Factions: The Ouratha, the House of Roses, the Core Military, and The Embassy (a group negotiating with the Ouratha).
  • Major Plot Elements: Timeslips, Vekxin attacks, Anti-Vekxin Broadcast Recorded, The Central Authority, and teh creation of Kadia.
  • Major Realms: Samurai Jack World, Baelaria, Dagobah, The New Imperium, Thriss (An abandoned core colony world), Kadia (Kevin’s personal realm).

Week 16: Dating in the Dragonworlds, Collecting Thralls, Moving Pictsome. Kevin discovers that he has a rival in the Dragonworlds, and starts making plans to deal with her, while Marty declares a business holiday so that the Thralls can be used to help move Pictsome. On Pictsome, the group teams up with Ryan O’Malley to open a planetary gate.

  • Major Characters: Ryan O’Malley, the Imperial Inquistor.
  • Major Factions: ATE, the Core Military.
  • Major Plot Elements: Planetary Gates are demonstrated practical, various Core organizations become aware of just how much power – and how many Gatekeepers – ATE and the group control.
  • Major Realms: Pictsome (supernova-threatened mostly-abandoned core earth colony world).

Week 17: The Rosary of Memory, Bribery and Balrogs, City of Ellistraee, Asault on Turwin and Mecha Debates, Recruiting NeoDogs, Staffing Kadia, the Mind Flayer City, Assault on BBW London. The group travels to the Underdark in pursuit of the Rosary of Memory – or at least of setting up a fake to trap Vekxin – and actually find the thing. Along the way, they pick up an ensouled Balrog, rescue a bunch of Dark Elves, collect many Neodogs to staff Kadia and open a pilot meme-curing project, and provide the Balrog and many orcs with a transfer to Battling Business World.

  • Major Characters: Vekxin’s Servants (220 recovered), Dhoul (magus of Elistraee), Presnell (Mercenary Mage), NeoDog Thrall-Recruits, Recovering Arxus, Jamie Wolfie (replacement character for Jarvain, who is entering treatment for alcholism), Kelseru Ana’Nasu (dragoness), the Balrog, and the Singular Medical Community.
  • Major Factions: The House of Roses, the Dark Elves, the Moon Elves, the Sun Elves, and the Priestesses of Lloth.
  • Major Plot Elements: The Rosary of Memory, the One Ring (still in the posessian of a Thrall), and the Mind Flayer Archives.
  • Major Realms: Ealor, Turwin (a modest world in the Battletech realm), the Underdark, and Battling Business World.

Week 18: Home Bases. Marty returns to Battling Business World to see how the Balrog is adjusting, trains Limey, and begins a Core advertising campaign. Jarvain remains in Rahab. Jamie is in the hospital. The people of Ealor are discussing Kevin and his Thralls. Kevin seduces Kelsaru the Dragoness, continues the NeoDog purchasing project, and puts the meme-treatment project fully underway. The group then departs for the Linear Realms in search of the secrets behind the weaponized memes and discover Walkins, a meme-engineer and religious nut.

  • Major Characters: Limey the Laptop, Mr Leland, Kelsaru the Dragoness (due to clutch in about three months, will hatch six months after that), Abigail (Marty’s wife), The Mirage (now learning to deal with its memories of prior human lifetimes), and Walkins.
  • Major Factions: Amarant Solutions and the Neanderthals.
  • Major Plot Elements: The Conway Contract and the Weaponized Memes.
  • Major Realms: Battling Business World, Ealor, The Linear Realms.

Week 19: The group traces the origins of the Weaponized Memes through the Linear Realms and prevents assassination attempts on those with knowledge of them before moving Drs Turner and Faulkner to Kadia for safety. The Core Earth Military adjusts to employing Thralls as special agents. The group intervenes in a massed attack on the Linear Realms FBI and Dr Samson and discover that the people of Singular are – somehow – involved with the Linear Realms. Amarant Solutions sets up additional offices as business in Core expands.

  • Major Characters: Doctors Walkins, Turner, Faulkner, Samson and Isane (meme researchers), Director Myagi (a Linear Realms FBI director), President MacArthur (a refugee from Singular).
  • Major Factions: The Neanderthals, the House of Roses, The Core Earth Military / The Department of Mysteries, the Linear Realms Government.
  • Major Plot Elements: The House of Roses begins recruiting Thralls (and thus gains access to 150 more of them), the basic science behind the Meme Weapons is revealed.
  • Major Realms: Core Earth, the Linear Realms, and Kadia (where the research project is set up).

Week 20: Kevin begins mass-recruiting sweeps in the Linear Realms. The Linear Realms begins taking countermeasures against the meme-weapons and saboteurs. Based on interrogations of the saboteurs in the Linear Realms, an attack is launched on their base – but the group winds up being diverted to the Five Worlds after releasing/recruiting a Praetorian. Finding that the place is run by psychotic madmen, they arrange to strip-mine the realm of souls via treaty (despite an attack by Sam-Sei, the Machine Master) before returning to the Linear Realms to assist in setting up support operations and the defense there.

  • Major Characters: Mr Myagi, the High Lord, the Machine Master, and a Praetorian.
  • Major Factions: The Neanderthals, the Federated Americas, and the Fey.
  • Major Plot Elements: An assortment of Artifacts and Realms from the Rosary of Memory, Thrall recruiting goes exponential.
  • Major Realms: The Linear Realms, the Five Worlds, the Living Galaxies, and Crusader.

Week 21: The group takes a flying trip to Crusader to deal with a minor emergency in Metropolis and discover that the realm is destabilizing. Unfortunately, the investigation into what the Neodolphins are up to goes nowhere, although the archive investigations have revealed the presence of the Disease and Disaster realms. Amarant Solutions sets up branch offices across much of Core and in many Manifold Realms. Kevin sets up a colonization project, a soul-mapping scheme, and a computer-analysis project, as well as a campaign to give the NeoDogs in Core anthropomorphic forms. Marty investigates Kevin’s background and sets up a birthday party for his daughter in the Sesame Street Realm. On the more active front, the group assisted with the defense of the Linear Realms and followed an attack group back to Singular – where the survivors were being used as cats-pawns. The group evacuated the singular survivors to Ealor, and set to work on getting the forensics people in to gather clues. Kevin takes Eogam (his son) and goes to see his parents, persuading them to visit Kadia. The group spends some time knocking about Kadia, where Kevin decides that he LIKES being a parent – and promptly (as usual) goes overboard for it.

  • Major Characters: Commander Johnson (of the Linear Realms), Abigail, Julie, the cast of Sesame Street, the Big Bad Wolf, Chief Engineer Chu Taiking, Eogam, and Roulan and Adrain (Kevin’s Parents).
  • Major Factions: The Neanderthals, The Neodolphins, Merlin and Company.
  • Major Plot Elements: The Praetorians, technological dimensional travel, the singularites, an analysis of a Core Computer to find out where it was getting updates and directives from,
  • Major Realms: Sesame Street, Core, the Linear Realms, Singular, Ealor in the New Imperium.

Week 22-24) Having persuaded Kevin’s parents to take a long vacation in Kadia and accept some bodyguards, the group headed off to the Founding Jedi Academy (and a visit to Kevin’s little brother), after which they temporarily broke up. Marty took a couple of weeks off with Jamie in the Living Galaxies (where they spent some time with the NeoDolphins) and on the High Seas (where they did some pirating and recruited a crew of werewolves). Kevin spent the time getting his phantasm-offspring disciplined and setting a training program into motion for them in the Dragonworlds – as well as getting his personal fatherhood-project underway. They wound up with a visit to Cardinal Handel, to discuss Kevin’s activities with the Unified Church. It didn’t exactly approve, but wouldn’t fight him.

  • Major Characters: Jedi Master Tindale, Thomas (Kevin’s younger brother), assorted NeoDolphins, Limey, Abigail, Kelsaru, and Cardinal Handel.
  • Major Factions: The Jedi Orders, Amarant Solutions, the NeoDolphins, the Squirrel Conspiracy, the Unified Church.
  • Major Plot Elements: Kevin’s attempts to legalize his recruiting in Core.
  • Major Realms: Kadia, the Living Galaxies, the Dragonworlds, the High Seas, the Napoleonic WereWorld, Core Earth.

Week 25-26: The discussion with the Cardinals provided some details of what worlds were being attacked – and the group decided to head for one stealthily (by the seas of the manifold) rather than attempting to force a gate through the barriers. Unfortunately, this required a run through the Straits – another crossroads realm, but one that several naval powers were currently fighting for control of – and the Storm at the Worlds End. It got messy before they arrived at the Crusader Kingdoms and found them devastated. There might be holdouts at Jerusalem though – so they headed there as quickly as they could.

  • Major Characters: Cardinal Handel, Oshann (Kevin’s oldest Thrall), Captain Rata, A’ikana (a new player-character joining the group), Limey, Kevin’s Parents, a pair of Dragons from Excession, Captain Ramius, and Jason Custone
  • Major Factions: The Unified Church, the Neanderthals,
  • Major Plot Elements: The War of Souls.
  • Major Realms: Core Earth, Kadia, the High Seas, the Straits, the British Empire, the Storm at the End of the World, and the Crusader Kingdoms.

Week 27: The group arrived at Jerusalem only to find it under siege by the forces of Death. They broke through the lines to get in – but with three hundred Death Knights and a hundred thousand lesser undead holding the siege, breaking out again wasn’t going to be easy.

  • Major Characters: Death Knights, Jurin Hans (Knight-Lord of the Knights Templar).
  • Major Factions: The Neanderthals, the Army of Death, the People of Jerusalem, the Unified Church.
  • Major Plot Elements: The Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Disaster Realms.
  • Major Realms: The Crusader Kingdoms.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 66: The Siege of Jerusalem

Crusader Kingdoms Jerusalem

   A more detailed look at the city was not especially encouraging. There seemed to be a lot more detachments of undead scattered about, each with a death knight in command. At least it wasn’t the Horsemen of the Apocalypse AND a swarm of minions. It was still going to be a bother: Marty and A’ikana were best at small-group stuff, not at fighting swarms and Jamie hadn’t had a lot of practice with the undead.

   Jerusalem looked pretty overcrowded – at least as best they could tell from almost two miles out – although it didn’t look like disease or famine were running rampant. The undead besiegers seemed to be concentrating their efforts on the sections of the wall that had collapsed and been rebuilt haphazardly; the intact sections of wall and the gate were apparently too formidable for them to actively attack. In fact, the intact sections seemed to be faced with nothing but a thin screen of lesser undead and a bit of harassing fire. It was like they didn’t even care if the locals tried to break out.

   Ah; why should they? They had time, didn’t sleep, didn’t have much of a supply dump to raid, and could hold the siege forever. They had little fear of sallies – and in a dying world, overrun by undead and the forces of plague and famine, where would any escapees go?

   That would also neatly explain why they didn’t have any apparent outriders or scouts out. Even if there were some stray people left outside the defenses, what did they care?

   Still, it should be easy enough to break through to reach the city – even if that would only be joining everyone else in the trap – unless they tried falling back into the Catacomb realm, and that would definitely be tipping their hand.

   Jamie preferred a guerilla operation, staying outside, remaining free to move and hide, and making quick strikes against leaders and rear-echelon targets, and falling back. On the other hand, she had to admit that she had no idea how well that would work on an army of undead, they might be worse than robots – and she was used to weaponry that made walls and such pretty meaningless.

   Marty was for heading in and simply relying on a fast strike; move in quickly, break through one of the spots where the line was thin, get inside, and then see how the situation developed. The locals were evidently holding out pretty well, so they could combine efforts with them – and he didn’t feel like having to travel all the way back if he got killed. Besides, all those anti-undead talismans he’d invested in back at the Straits might help.

   A’ikana felt that it would be best to make a fast strike, get an idea what they were dealing with, and consult with the local religious authorities inside the wall. Unfortunately, there were simply too many kinds of undead to make any reasonable guesses at what this particular bunch might be especially vulnerable too.

   Kevin wanted information – it was what they’d come for – and only the locals would have it. A quick strike should get them inside – and they could always escape to the air via shapeshifting and telekinesis if they had too. If the undead could fly, they wouldn’t be besieging the place unless the walls were magic or something – and, if they were, the group should be able to fall back past the walls if necessary.

   Kevin threw some anti-negative energy and protection-from-evil spells all around and they got ready to head in. Wait! This place felt a lot like Baelaria in some ways. Maybe he could pull the same living-energy construct-armor trick? It’d be awfully conspicuous, but it certainly felt like he could… It would be best to save that until they were about to hit the undead though; it probably wouldn’t last for long.

   Marty thought that that would be great (it had certainly been fun last time) – and they’d probably need it.

   Too bad they didn’t have any horses or banners, but they’d never be able to get horses over the walls anyway.

   They got A’ikana to perform a blessing for them, even if it took her a few minutes to wrap her mind around the idea that the unseelie-demon-slaver, his casually-violent-amoral-businessman-friend, and the walking-war-machine were asking her for one.

   Kevin thought it was simple enough; they were on a mission of mercy, opposing an invasion by an unauthorized apocalypse, and religion was a BIG thing in the Crusader Kingdoms! The local religious powers were VERY strong! Nobody sane would embark on ANYTHING without a blessing in a realm like this! A group that went forth without the blessing of god from a duly-designated clerical type in the Crusader Kingdoms would be in big trouble; ill fortune and evil forces would follow them everywhere! It was over-exciting even to talk about such foolishness!

   Besides, the classical theology was that the worth of the blessings performer – and, in many ways, the recipient – didn’t matter, blessings were granted by the benevolent grace of god and often depended on the worth of the cause as long as the person performing them was a designated cleric.

   It wasn’t a very inspired blessing – A’ikana was still a bit nonplused at the idea – but it ought to be good enough for a quick strike, and the local powers that would listen to any of the rest of them probably wouldn’t be very helpful anyway.

   They headed for David’s gate. It was closest, and there was only one detachment of undead keeping an eye on it. Hopefully they could cut through that and make it to the city before any of the other groups could reach the area. The undead didn’t notice until they were pretty close. Kevin threw up the construct armor for Marty and A’ikana during the final moments of closing – he could only handle two, and Jamie hadn’t wanted any in case it interfered with her built-in equipment – and found that it wasn’t nearly as conspicuous as he’d thought it would be. Just a glitter of light and a hint of being in the sun even when shadows passed over them. Was that because it was interacting with the negative-energy-protection and protection-from-evil spells or because of the blessing or was it the “mighty-men-of-valor” routine?

   Oh never mind; they were closing, A’ikana had her personal enhancements up (quite a lot of them, no wonder the Church had felt free to send her into a combat zone), Jamie had all her systems ready to go, and Marty was always ready for a fight. Time to… uhh… re-kill some undead.

   Their mad rush took them into the midst of the group of undead – something like a hundred lesser creatures and three Death Knights.

   They should have taken the time to come up with a battle cry first. Various cries of “Hi there! Negative Reinforcements!” and “Your army stinks!” just lacked something. “Saintiago!” was at least period and religious (if geographically awkward). “Desperta Ferro!” (“Awake the Iron”? What had some of the kids been reading?) was a definite oddity. Simple wolf-howls were pretty inevitable – half their forces were werewolves after all – and they were from a version of France, so “Montjoie, St Denis!” fit in well enough, but Kevin vetoed “Spaaaaarta!” and “Elendillll!”; no point in giving away the fact that they were outsiders.

   Jamie just went in for a rebel yell, which fit in well enough anywhere, while A’ikana didn’t see the point. Why waste your breath? It wasn’t like anyone was going to intimidate the undead, and – while it pained her to admit it – Kevin’s Thralls didn’t have much in the way of morale or communications problems.

   As they hit the first few outlying undead, the three Death Knights turned, saw their approach, and pointed in their direction. Almost all at once the undead minions around the three death knights and around the camp turned and rushed towards the group. It looked like the Death Knights controlled them by sheer force of will or something. They’d just have to see how strong they were.

   The lesser undead swarmed Jamie, Kevin, A’ikana, and Marty – they were in the lead after all – and Kevin decided to try a new trick: he’d forged a minor relic designed to tap into the holy light of the Silmarils safely (and without giving their presence away) – so he tried “turning the undead”. It actually worked pretty well, although it also drew the attention of the Death Knights (and, as he’d intended, kept them focused on him instead of watching out for the others). Besides, it might confuse A’ikana, who thought he was a font of unholiness. He was of course, but he just had to hide that from the holy radiance!

   That blasted a number of the minor creatures, while Marty, Jamie, and A’ikana started cleaving their way through the minor ones with fair ease. In fact, they kept shattering the minor ones with only a few shots – Aikana smashing everything that came near her, Marty cleaving them, and Jamie ripping them apart. They hadn’t even had to reveal their movement advantages yet.

   A’ikana grinned to herself: if Kevin kept calling on power like that, he’d reform despite himself – although it was pretty surprising that it would answer him like that. He might be using some sort of device of course, but he still had to focus the power himself…

   Kevin had the Thralls pretend to be relatively helpless for the moment and prepare to blast the death knights if they moved in closely – especially if they stayed together. Witchcraft and indirect stuff to bypass special defenses if possible.

   For the moment, they weren’t advancing, since they were bracing to meet the wall of undead. They couldn’t stay on the defensive for more than a few seconds – they needed to keep moving towards the wall – but they could let the first wave of undead do the closing.

   The undead headed for the Thralls en mass – and the surrounding camps were mobilizing to come at their position. The three Death Knights pulled out their weapons and casually walked towards them as well – rather calmly announcing;

“I must admit, I haven’t seen foolishness like this in some time.”

   A’ikana and Marty opted to try and flank them, so as to keep them together. The minor undead seemed to be unable to penetrate the construct-armor, so they could leave them to Kevin and his magic for the moment.

   As the Death Knights closed, Marty ran towards them, and – just as he was about to collide with them – made a sudden twirling leap, landing smoothly on one foot behind them.

   The Death Knights watched with amusement.

“This one is agile.”

“Indeed he is.”

“Most unusual.”

“I don’t like people talking about me like I’m some kind of test subject!”

“Would it make you feel better if we told you you’re really just a minor curiosity?”

   A’ikana moved in to the side and launched a flurry of strikes, to help Marty flank them: she had a job to do – and these arrogant things should have been dead long ago.

   Unfortunately, despite some pretty powerful strikes, they turned out to be a great deal more durable than their lesser minions.

“Agh, annoying pest!”

   Kevin was working a focusing spell… The Lens of the Destroying Sun – an effect which would let him expend a massive amount of positive energy in a single blast. “Radiance beyond the Vault of Heaven! Focus of Supernal Light, Channel of the Infinite! Fiat Lux!”

   Ah, the joy of carrying some major holy artifacts around with you. Besides, it helped mask his evilness (A’ikana read that thought easily enough and rolled her eyes at Kevin; oh yes, that was what it was doing. It looked like the only person the boy was willing to directly lie to was himself. She had to admit he worked on it though; it couldn’t be easy to find evil reasons to keep being nice all the time). Even with two holy artifacts and a focus spell he probably couldn’t turn a Death Knight – but who knew? Maybe the effort would stir up something local, it might raise morale in the city and make it easier for them to get information from the locals, and it would certainly help reduce the swarm.

   The resulting power-blast lit up the entire battlefield like a rising sun, and did indeed reduce the swarm very nicely, blasting numerous creatures to ash – but the lesser undead soaked it up before they even got to see if it would have any effect on the Death Knights. It did stop the advance for the moment, but the Death Knights were really annoyed now. Hopefully the others would be able to deal with them.

“Well bother, it is getting harder and harder to replace those and you had to go and destroy a good number of them. We can’t have you continuing to do that. But first we are going to have to do something about that mobility.”

   One of the Death Knights snapped it’s fingers and spread a sheet of ice over the ground. Marty leapt up in time to avoid being trapped – but Jamie and A’ikana got at least momentarily stuck.

“You bastards! Those shoes cost FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS!”

“Oh come on! Have you no sense of style? Where’s the hollow booming voice, the ominous threats, the grinding sense of horror?”

“After you’ve destroyed so many cities you don’t even bother counting, it gets old and the effect is lost. Although if you really insist….”

“What is it with evil and chewing the scenery?”

“Well you missed one of them.”

“Incredibly nimble it seems.”

   A’ikana looks down, snorted, and looked back up as the second Death Knight took a swing at her with a glowing, rune-covered, two handed sword.

“Now hold still while my blade consumes your soul!”

   It was bloody good. It hit despite the deflection-effect of the construct armor, but the armor soaked up all the damage anyway.

   The third Death Knight turned to Marty, grinned wickedly – not that it’s skeletal face gave it a lot of choice – and announced “Your turn now!”

   Kevin was beginning to worry; it looked like – even discounting the rest of the horde – they were going to be in trouble if they couldn’t win before the enhancements wore off. How in the world were the locals holding them off? Massive amounts of holy power perhaps? Would it have any effect on him and the Thralls?

   Still, it was having a hard time hitting Marty. At least there was some sort of upper limit to their skill with blades…

“You’re better than you look, you know that?”

   Of course, considering that Marty currently looked like an out-of-shape merchant in medieval robes, that wasn’t hard.

   The Death Knights were nicely grouped. Kevin passed on a directive on his private link to the Thralls…

“Hit ’em kids. Small area effects please.”

   With forty-one Thralls ready to respond – 22 werewolf-thralls, 16 crew thralls, and Kevin’s usual trio – they could come up with a lot of witchcraft-based destruction. They couldn’t generate all that many shots before they’d be down to low-level spells that probably wouldn’t bite on Death Knights – but those first few blasts should take down almost anything. They’d have to get inside fairly quickly though; at this rate they were going to run out of resources all too soon.

   Weirdly, the Silmarils – even carefully tucked away in an inside pocket with some warding spells and such so as not to draw every evil and would-be owner around – suddenly grew very hot as all the Thralls focused their attacks. The patch of ground the three Death Knights were standing on suddenly exploded in a fury of light and crackling energy that left the two Death Knights Marty and A’ikana had been hitting kneeling and clutching at their swords. The third was still standing there holding his weapon while his armor smoked – but they all appeared to be badly injured. Evidently the Silmarils didn’t like Death Knights.

   Still, Kevin was impressed with both the Death Knights and the local defenders. They’d been holding off dozens of the things? What was keeping them from simply stomping over the walls?

   Marty, A’ikana, and Jamie promptly hammered them the rest of the way down. Disgusting goo and black blood sprayed everywhere as chunks of their bodies shattered and crumbled, while their armor was crushed like tin cans.

“I’ve had worse.”

   One – leaning on his sword, trying to stand, and finding that he could not – had some final words before they finished it off.

“Impressive, most impressive. But do not think for a second that this is over.”

“Oh well. You’ve got a lot more army coming!”

   They’d probably be back shortly, but hopefully it would at least be a pain for them. If the group was really lucky they’d be like classical undead, and would be cast into the infernal depths or take years to return or something. They left behind a selection of glowing swords in blue, red, and green. Did that mean something?

   Marty announced; “I don’t think touching those is a good idea. They’ll probably eat your soul.”

   The other undead wouldn’t be arriving for a couple of minutes – they seemed to be limited to normal modes of movement – and they were pretty close to the wall. They let one of the Thralls with better-than-average divination magic take a quick look. The swords were definitely soul collectors of some sort and carried powerful enchantments on top of that. It was hard to get a good reading on them beyond that. Long term exposure was probably a bad idea, but handling them for short periods didn’t seem likely to cause harm.

   They wrapped the swords up in isolation-spells and protections and some physical material and take them along. Further study might be profitable; THEY didn’t know of any way to hold a soul against it’s will…

   A’ikana wondered what would happen if she tried to bless an evil sword, but there was no time for that sort of thing at the moment.

   There were only minor undead between the group and the gate at the moment. There were more Death Knights around the city, but they were scattered along the walls and would take some time to reach them. More minor undead were closing in though.

   They headed for the gate. Fast.

   They blasted all minor undead within reach as they went though, just to thin them as much as possible. As the group approached they passed the wreckage of numerous burnt out siege engines from previous attempts to scale the walls. They also heard shouts from the wall and saw a rope ladder drop from the top.

   They climbed up hurriedly. They hadn’t had to reveal their mobility advantages, or too much about most of their powers, yet – and it would be best to keep it that way.

   Kevin had enough power-reserve for one more really big positive energy blast (not that he was announcing that – whether the enemy overestimated him or underestimated him, it would be to his advantage), so he covered the base of the ladder while the Thralls climbed up. The minor undead tried to swarm him – but the defenders on the wall filled the air with arrows, striking down undead with every strike. Some sort of holy blessing no doubt.

   Most of the party was already up the ladder when the first wave of undead broke through the hail of arrows. A’ikana helped people up and struck down minor annoyances, while Kevin waited until a horde had broken through – allowing time for the archers to take a good toll – before unleashing his blast and climbing up.

   That cleared out the base long enough to give everyone who was left time to climb up the ladder. A strong pair of hands pulled Kevin and A’ikana over the wall as someone said;

“Well I have to admit, that was one impressive stunt you pulled.”

“Why thank you! We do try.”

“Kind of our specialty. So how long have you been holding them back?”

“And welcome to Jerusalem, one of the few remaining bastions against the end of the world.”

   Kevin threw a private message to A’ikana:

“Now, I know you don’t approve A’ikana – but if I didn’t give them power, adventurous youngsters would be being massacred outside of Core! You see what it’s like!”

“That’s nice.”

   Oh dear… Could the point of leverage be as simple as THAT? Was the boy actually fishing for APPROVAL from adults he respected or saw as authority-figures? Did his arrested aging actually go THAT deep?

“Well this particular time we’ve been holding out for about two weeks now. Although this isn’t the first time the city has been besieged. We pray we are more successful this time.”

“We hope we can aide you against the undead horde.”

“Hm, yes. We were trying to find out about that whole “end of the world” thing. It’s very bad for business!”

“Well, be able to take out Death Knights like that and we shouldn’t have an issue.”

“Yeah. In more peaceful times, I’d be bringing in wonders for your markets.”

“Merchant caravan I take it? Amazing you lasted this long.”

“Unfortunately, part of that was a massed effort – and the range on that is pretty short.”

“Are you perhaps from the Western Kingdoms? Or the Empire?”

“I’m a Westerner.”

“I see”

   They had a small crowd. The one doing the talking was a knight wearing full plate, wearing a tabard with a large red cross on it.

“Ah and pray tell you have news on how the western kingdoms are faring?”

“The last I know, they were holding out. I was journeying in your territory when they came.”

“And most of the cities along the coast seem to be devastated and empty.”

“They completely destroyed Acre. Jaffa’s not much better.”

“Yes, an unfortunate turn of events. They pretty much overran all the city defenses along their path and have been using the corpses to further bolster their ranks. They even managed to sack Jerusalem. The scattered survivors have been gathering here and trying to make a final stand. And where are my manners, I am Jurin Hans, Knight Lord of the Knights Templar.”

Marty shook his hand.

“I’m Martin. It’s good to see living souls again.”

   On the private channel, Kevin recommended using some sort of title. It would be important in this kind of setting. Sadly, Marty really couldn’t remember what merchant princes used. On the other hand, his Battling Business World title would be exotic enough.

“Vice President of Operations”

   Kevin momentarily considered going with “Belramos, Angel of Shadows”, but it would probably cause trouble. It was a bit TOO exotic… He went with something simpler;

“Kevin Sanwell, Warden of the Marches.”

   Oh blast, they should have gone with an alias or something. They weren’t exactly anonymous. On the other hand, undead spies would be fairly conspicuous. It probably wouldn’t spread too quickly anyway compared to rumors.

   A’ikana simply went with “Abbess Esther”. Nicely biblical.

“Now that introductions are over with, are any of you hurt? You do not appear to have sustained any grievous injury.”

“I don’t know how, but I’m fine. How about you two?”

   No one was hurt, which was apparently considered somewhat miraculous. A’ikana offered to do some healing if that was needed.

   It was. The various knights had mostly been keeping up, but the real problem came from the interior of the city. The healers were going to get overwhelmed soon without assistance. Disease, hunger, random injuries and weapons-fire… It was all taking a steady toll. Luckily the priests and Hospitaliers have been able to stay ahead of the problem, but the city was too overcrowded for the people we have. Throwing more divine power at such problems only sapped it from the defense.

   The locals would be glad to accept any assistance that could be provided – but advised them that, before they headed into the city, they had to understand the new law the Knight-Commander had enacted. Breaking the peace because of religious intolerance would result in criminal charges. They had enough problems as it was without breaking the fragile alliance of Christian, Jew and Muslim that had held the defense.

   He seemed mildly surprised that everyone seemed to like that law just fine. They would of course; they were all from much less religiously-oriented worlds.

“It’s only logical. After all, these horrors are an enemy to all humanity.”

“Very well then, I shall have one of the Knights escort you to the marketplace. They should be distributing food and such there. And the Hospitaliers can direct you from there to where they most need healing.”

A’ikana bowed slightly. “Thank you.”

“Is there anything else you might need? What we have is shared with all.”

   Marty was kind of sad that they hadn’t brought any trade goods with them; he’d have liked to help them out like a merchant should – only for free this time. Oh well, they wouldn’t have been able to get them over the walls anyway.

   Kevin told him not to worry. They could produce some, he thought that blowing up undead counted as assistance, they’d set up a gate later after they had the information they needed, and the locals wouldn’t have expected them to bring much up the ladder anyway.

   Besides, they were mostly there to get a good description of how the world ended, any clues as to the usual strategies of the Horsemen and their possible weaknesses, and then to help out. Yes, he sympathized with the locals – but the rest of the multiverse took priority.

   Personally, he wanted to find out if there were any clues as to how souls were brought to these worlds, how they could be bound, where they were taken to afterwards, and who was behind it all! The swords would be one set of clues already.

   As for the city – it looked like everyone there had a soul, and that the current population was close to a million. That was pretty impressive: the locals HAD to be using massive amounts of magic just to provide food and water for that many.

   Unfortunately, the besieging forces looked to number about 100,000 minor undead, and 300 Death Knights.

   That was awkward. The local knights were focusing holy power to keep them all out, bolstering each other using auras, and sitting on top of the most holy site in the realm. They were relatively weak one-to-one, but their abilities seemed to scale well in groups. They’d been using siege weapons, focused attacks on Death Knights, arrow fire, and feinting holes in the defenses. They didn’t have the manpower to break the enemy, and the enemy couldn’t focus enough power on the breaches that did occur – so it had devolved into a siege. All dead had to be burned though; it seemed that the mere presence of the Death Knights was enough to stir the dead into undeath. So far, what worked best was fire; the undead burned quite well. Sadly, they didn’t have the supplies they’d need to manufacture greek fire.

   Kevin decided to harass Jamie a little. She’d been too quiet, and needed stirring up a bit.

“You take care of it, OK? After all, you’re the military one here.”

“There’s only so much one person can do against numbers like that!”

“Darn it! I thought you could, like, defeat them by maneuver or something. Isn’t that what “tactics” does?”

“Tactics does play a crucial role in combat, but numbers also play a rather important factor in dictating the tactical advantage that one must overcome – and they have the numbers.

“Oh well. Any good ideas for attacking creatures that never sleep, never tire, suffer no disease, fear, or pain, and which are entirely surrounding our position? Most of the troops aren’t too bright if that helps.”

“About the only way we could win the way I see it is to force them to continue running down a narrow area so their numbers are a hindrance and I can just carve them up until I pass out or they fall back totally. Set up a phony entry point and then have one or two people there to greet them. Either they continue trying the entry point or they pull back and try to find another way”.

   Well, that would just be a larger-scale variant on the “feigned hole in the defenses” bit, but the nice thing about that was that besiegers couldn’t ignore possible holes in the defenses or they’d never get anywhere.

   A’ikana though that infusing the area with even more holy energy might help, but that 100,000 undead was a pretty large stumbling block. This would take thought. Perhaps fire elementals or something?

   Marty was kind of wishing he was a procurement man. They could reach into their pockets and produce many useful things! Maybe they could spread normal fires around? The death knights are powerful, but taking out the rank and file troops would take stress off the defenders – and it would be good if they could take out whoever was commanding the undead forces. Then they could do a surgical strike.

   Kevin thought that – before they scared the locals to the point where they wouldn’t talk to them – they’d better try to collect information. Several of the Thralls could produce food and basic cloth and such, so he set them to doing that. One or two had healing spells that were – if basic – limited by applications-per-individual-per-day, not by the number of patients, which should also help with the situation in the city. Besides, working the streets, they’d hear a lot. A siege was fairly stable if the defenders could be kept healthy and fed.

   According to the locals, the Death Knights seemed to be in command, but their main camp was well out of reach of attack – and the number of Death Knights there (estimated to be about 20) made an assault prohibitive.

   Kevin had to agree. That many Death Knights would be near-impossible to handle.

   On further questioning, the locals knew of a few other weaknesses for the Death Knights. They were vulnerable to holy energy and to damaging or breaking the runeblades they wielded. No one knew if they were sustained by the imprisoned souls within the blades, or whether the blades actually carried the soul of the Death Knight itself in addition to the souls of those they defeated. They did know that Death Knights whose swords were broken did not return, whereas even decapitated Death Knights returned in weeks or months. Perhaps destroying the swords was a true death for the Death Knights? It was a good thing that they’d picked up the blades from the ones they’d fought. It was definitely something to work with – although it also meant that Kevin had better get to work on them and make sure that they didn’t constitute a hole in the cities defenses.

   It took about an hour per blade to be sure. They were nasty, but he could layer them in all the spells he liked.

   Marty suggested taking the Silmarils to the Temple Mount, since it was the main focus for the mystical defense. They had seemed to react, but Kevin wasn’t sure that he wanted to reveal that he was carrying them. It was certainly worth a visit though, unless the place wouldn’t let him near (which was certainly possible). Apparently the religious neutrality of the Temple Mount had been one of the main concessions during the defense between the three major religions.

   A’ikana was considering an air strike on the commanders. Ride of the Flying Nun with Fireball! It would be a pretty good distraction even if the Death Knights were too tough for one shot – which seemed likely, even if they REALLY stacked it up. Perhaps some illusions to make it look like a major force was coming in from the flank?

   Still, a diversion was no use unless they found a good target to hit while the undead were being diverted. With an army of a hundred thousand against them, Kevin began to feel that – perhaps – his best strategy was simply to recruit.

   Marty went to chat people up in the inns. Under these conditions, people needed to drink more than ever – and the gossip would flow freely. It would also be a prime place to spot any signs of infiltration. Years of raid defense had taught him that that was ALWAYS a problem in sieges. It quickly became obvious that the weakest link in the defense was the religious fault lines. Those inciting violence or insisting on difficult-to-accommodate positions were working to undermine the alliance – whether in the service of the Horsemen or simply because of their own blindness.

  • Knight-Lord Amadeus had been demanding the dismissal of the Muslims and Jews from the Round Table Conference. He apparently disliked the inclusion of the Jewish and Muslim equivalents of knights in the Conference and insisted that it was the Christian mission to defend the city and it’s lesser peoples. He was suspected of inciting religious violence.
  • Knight Master Lichstein of the Hospitaliers had been at the center of a large number of strange deaths among the poor people of the city. Investigations kept getting stalled by the practice of burning the bodies shortly after death.
  • Merchant Prince Hauser, a Jew, had been accused of hoarding supplies and materials from the defenders and locking them up in storage vaults. Investigations kept getting stuck on analyzing the company records.
  • Imam Shuttereth had been demanding the complete withdrawal of all nonbelievers from the Temple Mount area as “they are fouling up the holy site with their heretical magics.”
  • Arch-Mage Antonidos, high priest of the Zoroastrian religion, had been advocating the inclusion of the Zorastrians and Mithrans into the Round Table Conference. His claims were being met with disdain, as the big three religions considered the Zoroastrians pagans.

   A’ikana found that interesting; the Zorastrians were still around in the holy land. She was fairly sure that that was a bit out of place from real-world history.

Continuum II: Basic Malavon Player Handout

   Today, by special request, it’s the basic Malavon Player Handout. Malavon was the setting for the longest running campaign to date; it went on for a little over twelve real years, six hundred regular sessions, and about that many more weekday sessions for individual activites and special events. Some of the old players still get into touch by email, telephone, and chat to update things a bit, despite the fact that the main campaign had to be closed down ten years ago due to having to move several states away. Still, some of  the players sub-campaigns are still running occasionally, so here’s the basic world setting.

Planetary Data

  • Day: 24.63 Hours
  • Year: 388.27 Days (~ 1.1 earth years.)
  • Radius : 5263 Miles
  • Gravity: 1.04 earth gravities (33.28 ft/sec)
  • Atmosphere: Earthlike, Pressure ~ 1.1 times normal.
  • Moons: Three, one major, two minor. Radii/Periods of;
    • Astarte’, 812M R, 24.05 days
    • Kalene, 102M R, ~ 63 days
    • Ta’she, 26M R, ~ 41 days
    • Triple lunar conjunctions occur at ~ 7 year intervals, and are of great magical importance.
  • Calender: 16 months of 24 days each. The Equinoxes and Solstices belong to no month.
  • Climate: Slightly cooler then earths, moderated locally by various currents, magical, and geothermal factors. Less dramatic seasons due to lesser axial tilt (~15o).
  • Geology: Very active with thin crustal plates, leading to high abundances of metals, crystals, and volcanoes.
  • Landmasses: 2 major and 3 minor continents, innumerable islands.
  • Sun: ~ 1.4 solar masses, somewhat bluer then Sol (F8).
  • Other Planets: 5 visible, see astronomical section.
  • Star Density: Slightly greater then earth’s, Malavon is somewhat nearer the core of its galaxy.
  • Technology: Low, a bit above “classic” earth mediaeval, with some imported oddities, designs, and ideas.
  • Magic: Arcane energies are generally available. More specific forces focus on particular locations, times, or celestial events. Spells and devices normally recharge from the “surge” of mystic energy at dawn.
  • Aspects: Malavon has three linked “aspects”. All have similar geography, but passage between then is quite difficult. They are commonly known as:
    • Malavon Proper, the “Prime Material”, or normal world
    • The Spirit Realm, sometimes known as “Faerie”.
    • The Shadow Realm, a highly entrophic realm of things past and unpleasant.

Major Areas:

 Malavon

  • Me’rag: Serves as the main campaign setting, being both the largest and most variegated of the continents. Much of the material given in this package is related to this continent. Information on other areas is much sparser.
  • Ho’jin: Dominated by an ancient and isolationist empire, Ho’jin hosts complex, vaguely “Oriental”, society of clans, intrigue, and nomads.
  • Primeva: A mountainous subcontinent filled with dinosaurs – as well as isolated dwarven mountain cities linked by magical gateways.
  • The Arctic Icecap has no known major land mass – but has many lightly populated islands around the fringes. Little is known of the interior regions, but they are believed to be utterly desolate.
  • The Antarctic Icecap is associated with a major landmass, or possibly several lesser ones. Areas of the shoreline are apparently inhabited.
  • The Dragon Isles are a series of large, volcanic, islands “hosting” a vaguely eastern / oriental culture – along with numerous monsters and a good deal of wilderness.
  • Sere’ados: A semitropical wilderness hosting numerous city-states and “hidden realms”. Generally considered quite mysterious.
  • Mar’sin: A nearly continuous mountain range seals off the interior, creating a central desert and fertile coasts. The brutal conditions of the interior are legendary.
  • The “Raft Culture” rarely touches land, drifting across the seas with the oceanic currents. It has little material wealth – but has a rich cultural tradition.
  • The Archipelagoes serve as the setting for the “Ship and Sea” campaign; they host a wide variety of cultures – and rely extensively on trade. It is best to travel them with an experienced crew and navigator.

Capsule History:

   Legendary Period; Malavon was dominated by an elvish race known as the Alfar for many millions of years – although there are tales which imply that some terrible elder race preceded them. Near-immortal, the Alfar were powerful enough to magically stabilize the planet’s crust, geology, and weather patterns, as well as to create various seemingly imperishable devices and structures. Their downfall began with the arrival of a group of alien creatures of horrific nature – and ended in a civil war between the Alfar and their offshoots, a group known as the Dokalfar or “Drow”, who had allied themselves with those same aliens. According to legend, their war spanned millennia and employed terrible primordial magics of fire and ice. According to other legends, the war is not yet over, but only silenced for the regathering. “When it once again breaks out, the unleashed powers of creation’s fire and the ice of the world’s end will forge Malavon anew”. Most accounts agree; the Alfar won in the end, but it was a pyrrhic victory. The few remaining gradually withdrew to other realms, leaving the ravaged planet to the races which emerged from the war and its dimensional rifts. Even now there are surviving remnants of the Alfar – especially from the final war, and near the old ways or “Straight Tracks”, a network of enchanted roads apparently extending through various dimensions. While no exact date is available, this “Legendary Period” apparently drew to a close at least 50,000 years ago – although it’s lingering aftereffects hindered the rise of the younger races for eons longer.

   Dragorean Period; The Dragorean Imperium was one of the first true empires to rise after the Drow-Alfar war. Aided by the Knights Of The Rowan Crown (And possibly by one or more of the surviving Alfar), the Imperium successfully dealt with many of that war’s more deadly traps and relics, coming to dominate first their subcontinent and then much of Malavon over the course of several thousand years. Somewhere along the way, the Dragoreans began breeding creatures as magical tools and weapons, a line of research which ultimately resulted in the creation of “Dragons”. Originally a monopoly of the Imperium, owning dragons rapidly became the symbol of a noble house. As will happen, decadence eventually set in – and rebellions followed. Most were fairly minor, and were easily dealt with. Still, as the “martial virtues” continued to decline, the Imperium relied more and more upon magic to turn back rebellions. Unfortunately, the rebels learned. Each uprising required more and more potent magic to suppress. Eventually, during the attempts to suppress a major uprising, something (whether Rebel or Imperial) disrupted the old Alfar planetary binding spells. Millions of years of geologic change were unleashed in mere hours. The subcontinent of Dragorea was swallowed by the sea. Discharges of magical energy created new races and beings of power, opened gates, and transformed much of the world. All but the remnants of the old order were swept away in what would – much later – become generally known as “The Cataclysm”.

   Post-Cataclysm Period; The Cataclysm was a disaster on a scale – and an intensity – which is difficult to imagine. Suffice it to say that some 99% of the planetary population died within twenty-four hours. A large chunk of the remainder died of starvation, exposure, and disease, within the next few months. While a few, small, and incredibly lucky, areas came through the Cataclysm virtually unscathed – or with enough survivors to preserve some vestige of civilization – vast expanses of desolate wilderness and scattered clusters of survivors are the rule. Various new arrivals further complicate the situation, but do provide foci for the survivors to gather around. Seagoing survivors – fairly common since a vessel at sea is fairly well “protected” against tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanoes – often never return to the shattered continents, choosing instead to remain afloat, and to accept the aid of the Cetacea, and the newly-created Arielmere. Millennia later, their descendants would become known as the “Raft Culture”.

   The Eldritch Wars; People are resilient. It didn’t take all that long before the larger clusters of survivors began spreading out, and encountered each other. Sometimes – often – this went well. Sometimes it didn’t. The largest, and thus the most powerful, groups of survivors had organized themselves into “city-states”, usually around the focus of some individual, force, or group, which had been able to support and protect them during the perilous centuries after the Cataclysm. Some (most) were settled and peaceful. On the other hand, it was the highly expansionistic groups which tended to collide. The centuries of slow rebuilding and resettlement gradually gave way to the “Eldritch Wars” as new forces and entities sought dominion. Much to everyone’s regret, some idiot created or imported the “Orc” subspecies of humans during this period – probably as disposable fighters. They’ve been a nuisance to almost everyone ever since. While intermittent, and normally more-or-less localized, the wars continued for many centuries. In the end, many of the odder and more specialized factions were eliminated (or absorbed) – and a good many of the stranger things born in the cataclysm had been eliminated as well.

   The Modern Era; Since the end of the Eldritch Wars, the history of Malavon has been better recorded – enough so that each continent must be treated individually. A few general notes are, however, relevant; technological innovations and imports aren’t uncommon – but rarely make much of an impression. The advantages of any particular technological step are rarely enough to outweigh the benefits of simply letting the people with appropriate talents, or lesser magical skills, do things. In addition, the immense personal – and unpredictable – power available to adventurers often leads to an endless round of founding, usurping, and dismantling, minor empires unless SOMETHING intervenes.

  •  
    • Sere’ados, mostly unconquered during the Dragorean era, has never been sufficiently “civilized” (IE; had enough of the old weapons shut down) to allow for much beyond city-states and “pocket realms”.
    • Mar’sin, while loosely politically and culturally unified (At least around the coastline), suffers from natural barriers, and conditions, so formidable that there is much local independence – and little land.
    • Me’rag, at the center of the dimensional roadway network, has an excessive supply of things; Orcs, Monsters, Magical Power and Items, Adventurers, Godlings, and Weird Places. Things tend to be rather unstable – and very strange – on Me’rag.
    • Ho’jin is divided between The Empire and the plains-domain of the tribal Markasta. The empire is stable. It’s somehow arranged for it’s offices to carry personal magics as well as political power, and drafts individuals with major personal abilities into the imperial service.
    • Primeva – essentially ONE city surrounded by ravening monsters – is prone to intrigue, factionalism, and power struggles – but has little energy to spare for outright internal warfare.

Major Languages

  • Common Languages Of Merag:
    • Allathen – Spoken in the lands around the Mayvalt Bay, by nomads, and in the Silverdeep, Allathen is lilting, lyrical, curiously precise, and apparently unrelated to any other current language, save for some imported terms from Alveshen.
    • Ceradine – While related to Old Ermanic, “Ceradine” has changed a great deal since then, and continues to diverge in the numerous city- states of the Dharos Jungle.
    • Ilpanese – Spoken in various dialects in the Dragon Isles and, on formal ceremonial occasions, in Kest-i-mond. Originally derived from Mandoric (The elder language of the Empire Of Ho’jin).
    • Kenshar – Spoken mostly in the northern reaches of Me’rag, mostly among the barbarian tribes. Unique in that it’s runic written form is of some slight, inherent, magical potency. Loosely related to the old Jotun language – not that any northerner would admit it.
    • Old Ermanic – The ancestral Dragorean tongue. Now spoken only in the remnants of the Dragorean Empire and Pharoakon. It contributed to many of the more modern languages – and is probably related to whatever other languages were spoken before the cataclysm.
    • Saethar – Spoken throughout the Zaratoz empire.
    • Valest (“Orcish”), serves as the base for the innumerable, local, dialects spoken by various orc tribes.
    • Ymrae – A tongue descended from Old Ermanic, Ymrae is the primary language spoken around the Gulf of Sarkisk.
  • Global Languages:
    • Alveshen (AKA; Elvish) – The worldwide elven tongue. While their long lifespans inhibit linguistic drift, the pure form is spoken only in Mallinlassor. Why is still a subject of debate – but most scholars agree that it probably has something to do with the Aursuntelyn.
    • Dwarvish – has no “formal” name. Various dialects are spoken on Primeva and in the dwarven colonies on Me’rag.
    • Kelsen – Found in a multitude of variations in the Archipelagoes, some mutually incomprehensible due to the influence of other tongues.
    • Telesian – Spoken worldwide by the Raft Culture, and derived from Old Ermanic, Telesian has been modified by linguistic drift, adaption to oceanic conditions and exposure to Cetean (The speech of the Cetacea and the Arielmere). A few speakers can usually be found in any major port. It’s also common among the (few and scattered) inhabitants of the Everlin Forest on Sere’ados.
    • Tradetongue – Spread worldwide by traders, “Tradetongue” includes simple words and phrases from many other languages, varies locally, and has a severely limited vocabulary. While a poor choice for discussing complex subjects (Any group that relies on tradetongue to communicate will have many difficulties), you can generally find somebody who can speak it almost anywhere.
  • Common Languages Of Sera’edos:
    • Oddly enough for a holdout against the elder Dragorean Empire, the peoples of Parack speak Old Ermanic. Understandably, the “pure” form is preserved only in temple liturgy – but they can usually comunicate with those who speak other dialects with some work. It’s also spoken in Osvarin, if only as a secondary tongue.
    • Antorese, derived from Mandoric (The elder language of Ho’jin), is spoken in Telmedr, and many of the nearby Small Kingdoms. Both Ilpanese (The language of the Dragon Isles) and Ansoran (The current language of Ho’jin) are considered related tongues. Interestingly, an assortment of nearly-pure dialects of Mandoric serve as “mystic tongues”.
    • Azitlin, Mardas, and Tamere are spoken in many dialects throughout the Linara Rain Forest. Unlike most of the local tribal languages, this trio has some importance due to the potential profits involved.
    • Cor’See’A is the tongue of the Alceraath, a curious and tightly-knit group of small clans scattered across Sere’ados. They’re apparently interested in Malinlasor and have a small colony in nearby Teris. A few outsiders have learned the tongue, but few have actually learned much about the Alceraath. Perhaps the language itself reveals something; it has many terms for retreat, fortification, last stands, and losses – but few for advancing, victory, or even peace.
    • Ostlin is fairly common in the “small kingdoms” – albeit in nearly impenetrable dialects and variants. Luckily for the area’s wanderers, the various kingdoms borders shift enough to keep isolated linguistic pockets from turning into new languages very often.
    • Vardic is spoken in the Sekmoran Union – at least as far as anyone can tell (The place is weird) – and is the primary tongue in Osvarin. It’s related to Old Ermanic, although exactly how is unknown. The Rom also speak a version of Vardic – although they also seem to use a lot of private signals.
    • Varisin, AKA “the speech of the people” is the only major language of the Varia, and has been widely adopted by their subjects (Especially the Yataran, whose native tongues are almost extinct except among the few “wild” tribes beyond the empire’s northern boundries). While it has many different dialects, most of them are quite similar as far as ordinary ears and vocal cords are concerned. The otterlike Elshor have numerous tongues of their own – but almost all of them speak this one as well. Elshor tongues include Orphal, Kime, and Rersinth. All rely extensively on signs for underwater communication, and are considered “related” languages.
    • At last count, Sere’ados has at least 300 “minor” languages. These can be absolutely vital on rare occasions and useless otherwise. Anyone who speaks two (or more) of the major languages will be able to speak 2D4 minor languages well enough to get along. (The GM will choose one from your list and note it’s origins when/if he/she thinks it matters).
  • Common Languages Of Ho’jin:
    • Ansoran – See “Antorese”, above. It should be noted that, in the empire proper, Ansoran is devided into High, Middle, and Low, Dialects, with forms of address varying depending on the social status of those speaking. This is a headache for visitors.
    • Mrrri – Spoken by the Markasta, the rumbling intonations of Mrrri are almost impossible for other species to master. The Empire regards it as being even worse then most barbarian languages.
  • Common Languages Of Mar’sin:
    • Harvite – Spoken almost universally across Mar’sin, and distantly related to Saethar. Interestingly, many ancient meditation techniques and spells of empyrean magic use an ancient dialect of Harvite.

Malavon: Major Religions

  • The Aesir and Vanir (the nordic/germanic pantheon) are worshiped in northern Me’rag around the Mayvalt bay. Entangled in their perpetual series of battles with the ice jotun, these gods are popular among the northern barbarians, but are mostly a dark and brooding bunch. They do not get along with the greater elementals.
  • The Celestial Bureaucracy is worshiped in Ho’jin – and is noted for taking a much more direct interest in their priesthoods then is usual for most pantheons. The Celestial Bureaucracy is also worshiped in Telmedr (Sere’ados), albeit in combination with the “Myriads Of Kami” and occasional bits of Khoradan. Unfortunately, the Bureaucracy tends to be a bit rules-bound.
  • The Cetecean DreamSingers and LoreKeepers are worshiped by the Raft Culture and among the Archipelagoes, but are merely respected among the Cetacea themselves. The Cetacea, as much as they “worship” anything, are Primordialists (QV), although they usually limit this to the more benign entities in that group.
  • The Elemental Lords are a curious mixture of mighty, semiabstract, higher powers and lusty fertility deities. Worshiped under a variety of names and aspects, the three pairs; (Light (M) and Darkness (F), Earth (F) and Air (M), Fire (M) and Water (F)) give rise to movement, plants, animals, and every other aspect of the world. Worship ranges from pure, contemplative, reverence for the elements through the orgiastic rites intended to invoke their divine power (and thus sustain the cycles of the world) through sympathetic magic. Priests of the Elemental Lords are relatively rare; it’s quite difficult for most ordinary creatures to attune their minds to such primal entities.
    • Many of these deities have been incorporated into other pantheons. They seem to have some connection with dragons, elementals (obviously enough), and most natural forces. A perverse variant of their worship occurs among some savage/decadent societies, who feel that the powers of these deities – and the cycles of the world – must be invoked, and sustained, by feeding these gods with life energy via sacrafice.
  • The Heliopolitans (The Egyptian and, sadly, much of the Aztec, and Mayan pantheons) are widely worshiped on Mer’ag (Pharoakon follows a nearly pure “Egyptian” version, Dragorea pays some attention to Mayan and Aztec beliefs – and the inhabitants of the Dharos Jungle pay little attention to the Egyptian side), in Parack (Sere’ados. A nearly pure eqyptian pantheon. The Yataran may well adopt some of the pantheon’s feline gods and/or goddesses – now that they’re on a world where gods actually respond to worshipers), in the Linara Rainforest (A nearly- pure Aztec enclave in Sere’ados. Human life is VERY cheap there), and throughout Mar’sin (In a rather abstract fashion. The “Egyptian” gods are greatly stressed).
  • Khoradan is a philosophy and faith originally based on the worship of the pre-alfar Khynadori. By now it’s become a “zenlike” worship of a vague “higher power”. Most of it’s priests wield psychic powers and empyrean magic, and recognize a “dark power”; Nergal. Khoradan is widespread on Sere’ados, but rare elsewhere.
  • The Lords Of Chaos and Order are popular in the “Small Kingdoms” (Of Sere’ados), and are often tied in with Vardan in one form or another. The general theology is quite simple; The “Lords Of Order” attempt to keep things stable, just the way they are. The “Lords Of Chaos” want to change everything into something new – pretty much at random. Too much of either is bad, so which you pray to depends on what you need. Many “priests” of this faith are actually mages or wizards. The Lords of Order (And Artifice) are fairly popular among Dwarves as well.
  • The Myriads Of Kami are worshiped in the Dragon Isles, and Khynator (Mer’ag) – and tend to be respected in most places, albeit under a wide variety of names. Most other religions are not, however, inclined to simply lump all kinds of spirits together as “aspects of divinity”.
  • Primordialism, the worship of the terrible elder gods, shows up in Malinlassor (Sere’ados), in a few of the hidden kingdoms (Sere’ados), in the hidden realms and surrounding regions (Me’rag), as the worship of the Midnight Goddess (Ho’jin), among the Lythari (Planetwide), and as secretive, underground, cults (Planetwide).
  • Totemism – shamanistic worship of everything from dragons to local or totem spirits – is fairly common among truly primitive tribes, and in Sere’ados. Such cults include the leopard-men, the “wolfrunners”, the dragon knights, and many others. Totemistic cults following various dinosaurs are a special problem in Primeva, and are usually outlawed.
  • The Tuatha De Danan, children of Dana Allmother and wild Curennos, are worshipped in central Me’rag, albeit often combined with totemism of one form or another. According to legend, all the powers of Faerie are descended from them, taking after either Dana (The Sealie Court), or Curennos (The UnSealie Court). Interestingly, the Tuatha De Danan are quite popular among the Elves.
  • Vardan is the worship of the Drow and Alfar – and is fairly widespread among those primitive tribes who’ve recognized something beyond local spirits. As a rule, this is restricted to shamanistic cults, and often centers around some ancient Drow or Alfar relic. Vardan is reasonably common in Sere’ados, around the Antarctic Icecap, and among the “Lizard Men”.
    • While there are numerous other local divinities, cults, and faiths, the list given above covers most of the “major” belief systems.
  • Notable Local Divinities include; Kalessien Landshaper (Dragon-god of creation – popular in the Dragon Isles and Archipelagoes, where he is said to have raised the lands for his people after the catacalysm), Minatet and Linere (Twin, fun-loving, husband-and-wife, deities/heros/founders of the Elshor. Given that the Elshori homeworld generally has no active gods, their actual existence is open to doubt), Caermori and Evarii’l (Mother-goddess and loremistress of the Centaurs), Tavashti (The Lord of Artifice, popular among the dwarves), and the mysterious Voices of Skarasen (Mer’ag).

Calender and Astronomy

CALANDER

“Standard Holidays”: (There are many local and religious holidays).

Month

Day

Runic Link

Translation

Related Magical Fields:

Winter Solstice

 

The Abyss

 

Severance and (Un-)Focusing

Oertreod

8

Stormwalk

Coldfeet

Unbinding and Chaos/Discord

Herewulf

5

Quagmire

Wolfhosting

Negative Forces/Emotions

Gwyrthan

1

Henge

Greenfire

Inner Powers and Wisdom

Dunholt

3

Yaggdrasil

Hillwood

Stability and Linking

Spring Equinox

 

Lightning Bolt

 

Divination and Catalysis

Widfara

17

Worldgate

Fartraveller

Dimensions and Gates

Odhame

11

Starfall

Richcoat

Pure Forces, Light, and Magic

Alltfion

1

Burning Torch

Springwine

Energy Conversion and Direction

Ramward

15

Pathwalker

Ravenguard

Movement and Travel

Summer Solstice

 

Twilight/Dawn

 

Metamorphosis and Renewal

Gwyntan

21

Crossroads

Windfire

Transformation and Choices

Aldhild

14

Dust

Oldbattle

Destruction and Curses

Matleod

1

Windweave

Nationgift

Destiny and Forgetfulness

Adharcceol

5

Tradesfair

Hornmusic

Craftsmanship and Glamours

Fall Equinox

 

Harvestfest

 

Nature and Life Forces

Derntaan

16

Darkwalk

Hiddenfire

Darkness and Necromancy

Aurholt

9

Forestwake

Goldwood

Spirit Magics and Dreaming

Hamfara

1

Ocean Deeps

Hometravel

Bestial Power and Great Spirits

Isenos

22

Bladeshatter

Ironfrost

Binding/Finality/Revenge

   -The days of the week are usually called La’kin, Donnar, Karos, Maat, Tiy, and Kalar (If anyone cares). These names vary with local customs.

   Common Dating Systems:

  • The closest thing to a “universal” dating system on Malavon relies on dating from the Cataclysm, dividing the years into Pre- and After- periods. Given the planetary extent of the Cataclysm, it’s one of the easiest ways to compare local dating systems.
  • The Arkonate dates from when the Arkonate of Mazadone was founded, in 11,873 AC.
  • The Dragorean System dates from the original Declaration of Empire in approximately 18,300 PC.
  • The Empire Of Ho’jin dates according to the years of each emperors reign as well as by a cycle of year-names – making the interpretation of old dates a matter for scholars or for much consulting of records.
  • The Ilpanese system uses a complex system of cycles – so dates are given as “being in the year/cycle/eon of the a/b/c”. While the system is built around the cycle of lunar conjunctions, early dates are more then a bit uncertain.
  • Mar’sin relies on a patchwork of local systems,
  • Old Dwarven Records were kept using a 453-day “cycle”, rather then by year, dated with a system of astronomical signs which seem to have nothing to do with Malavon’s skies.
  • Naturally enough, a multitude of other, local, systems are in use.

   Major Conjunctions:

  • Lunar: Triple lunar conjunctions occur every seven years. They’re occasions of great magical potential which greatly enhance the forces associated with the nearest standard “holiday” – and enhance magic in general to a lesser extent. When the conjunction actually occurs on a “holiday” the power is at its peak. Since the date of the conjunction shifts by slightly over a day every time, the complete cycle requires approximately 2400 years.
  • Outer Planets: Triple conjunctions occur once every 380 years.
  • Leap Years come every 4, 50, and 3840 years. While it has popular associations (Usually being either dominated by religious concerns or being taken as an excuse for a festival), no real magical effects are known to be involved in the event.

Major Astronomical Objects:

  • Sun: 1.4 solar masses, and therefore somewhat bluer then Sol. It has an 18 year sunspot cycle, a period involved in certain magics.
  • Nartyo: The innermost planet. No known atmosphere – or people. It’s year, and approximate rotation period, is 82 days.
  • Culoris: This planet has a very high albedo, an extremely thick atmosphere, a year of 212 days, and two minor moons.
  • Malavon: Is the primary campaign planet. It has 3 major moons; Astarte, Kalene, and Tas’he. (See Page 1)
  • Torisin: Seems to be a dead world. A bit smaller then Malavon, with a year of 1009 days. It has no apparent moons.
  • Rakoris: Is a ringed gas giant, with many moons and a period of 13.4 years.
  • Verdin: A gas giant with at least fourteen moons and an orbital period of 34.3 years.
  • Starmere: The local “Milky Way”. Brighter and more impressive then earth’s due to the greater mass and size of this galaxy and Malavon’s location porportionately somewhat nearer the galactic core.
  • There are lots of nebulae, clusters, and so on. Major constellations include The; Wyrldgate, Circle of Fire, Bear, Chariot, Shadowed Lord, Ice Maiden, Trailingsword, Harvest Stars, Coyote, Weaver, Salamander, Sundered Spear, Huntsman, High King, Time Dancer, Shaman and the Guide, Kraken, Shining Mask, Dragon Circle, Cauldron, Winter King, Starmist, Horned Lord, Demon, Sundered Helm, Hornblower, Dragon, Bright Archer, Star-Storm, Abyss, Smith, Crystal Skull, and others.

   Anyone interested in an explanation of the powers linked with each “holiday”, or the symbolism and powers of the various constellations, is welcome to discuss such matters with a scholar. The information is available, if uncommon. It is important in ceremonial magic and is of some use to powershapers.

Other Matters:

   Money And Coinage: Malavon operates on the silver standard. The most common exchange rate is; 1 Gold = 20 Silvers = 200 Copper = 2400 “Bits” (Pieces of coppers broken to make change). Gold and silver coins which conform to this standard are minted at 50 to the pound. Coppers are minted at 20. For comparison purposes, one silver piece is a very good hourly wage, two hours wages for a skilled craftsman, four hours wages for an unskilled labourer, a days pay for an errand boy/child – or a weeks “pocket money” for a kid with an unusually generous master or very well-off parents. The prices given on the malavon price list are all in standard silver pieces.

   While the Primeva/Normark-Arkonate, Dragorean/Pharoakon, and Mar’sin coinages all adhere (somewhat roughly) to the above “standard”, other systems do not. Nonstandard, rare – or simply strange – coins are all fairly common. Some examples include; the Dharos Acaro Pod (a natural plant, usually valued at about 10 CP in Dharos, at several times that elsewhere), nomadic Feather Belts (Intricate artworks, usually valued at about 25 SP), Zaratoz Electrum Rings (Worth around 10 SP), Keshian Firedrops (Pieces of opaline crystal. Roughly equal to gold in Kesh, usually treated as gemstones elsewhere), Pounds (A large – and somewhat crude – gold coin minted by “kinglets” among the northern barbarians, worth 50 SP), Hacksilver (Common among barbarians and mercenaries, this consists of crude silver jewelry which you hack bits off of by weight when you want to pay for something), Imperial Ho’jinite Scrip (A true rarity; paper money. Generally considered too easy to counterfeit, and hence worthless as currency in most places. Oddly, Ho’jin never seems to have much trouble), Zholani Pearl Tokens (Common among traders and in the Archipelagoes. The value depends on the quality of the pearls used, but is usually inscribed on them), “Dragon-Wheels” (Rare to the point of being unheard of, these gem studded platinum-iridium “coins” are (supposedly) minted and used in Skarasen. While there are various sizes, even the smallest is worth some 500 SP), and Ilpanese Imperial Jade Markers (In various denominations. These are rarely encountered, much less recognized, beyond the Dragon Isles). While merchants – and great lords – often use Letters Of Credit, the practice is ordinarily limited to those with massive financial interests.

   “Common” expenses include supporting a lifestyle (As per the price list), families, guild dues, tithes, taxes, tariffs, fees, purchases, charity, bribes, obtaining licences, buying titles, and paying off your debts. Incomes may be derived from “adventures”, grants, investments, character backgrounds (QV; “Talents”), membership in a guild or other society (These usually come with various obligations, QV; the various relevant Major Skills), or simply be spending some of the character’s time and effort on obtaining cash (If done before beginning play, QV; the “Money” skill. If this option is taken in play, the character is holding down a “job” of some type. Success in this depends on skill, the amount of time devoted to it, the rarity of the abilities used, and the risk involved. Ditch-diggers don’t make much, but take few risks, and require little skill. Minstrels can get along quite well, and take few risks outside of occasional tavern brawls, but need skill. Street Healers can do very well, but need skill – or even arcane abilities – and can run into riots and such. Thieves vary, depending on the level of skill they possess and the risks they’re willing to run.)

Sentient Races:

   With a lengthy history, and a distinct excess of dimensional gates and arcane conflicts, Malavon “hosts” more sentient species then any ordinary world. Quite a few are confined to little enclaves – or even, occasionally, a particular mages laboratory – but some of the more widespread species include;

  • Cetaceans; The whales and dolphins. While they rarely get involved with land dwellers (Save for Delphinus Arcanus, AKA the “Arielmere”), they do have an ancient oral culture. Given that the very concept of “equipment” or genuine “privacy” is foreign to the cetacea, they tend to strike most of the other races as seriously weird.
  • Dwarves; While dwarves appear closely related to humans, there are extensive metabolic differences. Dwarves tend to be tough, enduring, clannish, highly skilled, poor at magic – and somewhat standoffish.
  • Faerie; QV; “Lifeforms”. There are too many types to handle here. Includes Dragons, Brownies, Unicorns, Tengu, Naga, Satyrs, and Dryads.
  • Humans; Hopefully, humans are a fairly familiar species. As one of the most common species on Malavon, humans and their variants [Variants include Elves (Arcanus), Sidhe (Faerie), Vampires (Undead), Bushmen (short quick people), Jotun, Titans, and Ogres (all three races are engineered bioweapons), Orcs – and various halfbreeds] make up a fair percentage of the planetary population. According to some tales, the Alfar were the original template for humans and their variants.
  • Lizard Men; Barbaric and deadly, the “Lizard Men” are actually far more closely related to the archosaura – and birds – then they are to reptiles. While poorly socialized, unintelligent, and apparently very poor at arcane pursuits, they’re tough, strong, fast, and amphibious. To this point, outside of the extremely rare Lizard Magi (Possibly an offshoot subspecies), their greatest cultural achievement is managing to organize the Lizarchor (AKA; “The Lizard-Man Mafia”).
  • Shapeshifters and Lycanthropes have a unique genetic complex which gives them their special abilities. It apparently started with elves, but has spread to Humans, Cetaceans, Centaurs, Lizard Men – and Giant Beavers. It seems to be a lethal gene in nonsentients and other races.
  • The Continental Races include the Markasta (Ho’jin’s Nomadic “Cat-People”), the Chorrag; (Hoj’inite “Bug-People”), and Centaurs (Me’rag’s “Horse-People”).
  • Minor Races include the Giant Beavers (apparently the result of an ancient mage working on flood control. He enlarged their brains to make them smarter – and then enlarged their overall size to make them stronger, incidently enlarging their brains again. Giant Beavers tend to live in small, co-operative, colonies, and make decent neighbors, if lousy adventurers), Stardrakes (a near-extinct race of pterosauria, rarely seen on – or even near – Malavon), Minotaurs (arcanely altered humans – apparently intended as heavy laborers and/or “farm animals”), Kraken (giant sentient squids, normally equipped with bioelectrical and arcane abilities. Apparently created as an oceanic bioweapon, they’re noted for foul tempers and general hostility), the Lytheri (a vaguely “octopoid” alien race, the Lytheri maintain a few outposts on Malavon despite it’s hostile environment. Powerful natural psychics, they do not seem to relate well to nontelepathic races), MiniDrakes (miniature “Toy” dragons, sometimes used as familiars), assorted Spirits (Few of these get involved with normal people, hence, while there may be lots of them about, they’re rarely noticed), and various others.
  • All sentient species are potential player-characters.

Mer’ag: Major Political Entities:

  • The Arkonate once dominated the land around the Gulf of Sarkish as the chief province of the Empire of Mazadone. It’s been sadly reduced since the disappearance of the imperial family some centuries ago but still remembers its former preeminence – retaining numerous physical, political, and social, relics of the period. It is a member of the Iron League, still hosts the central headquarters of the ancient “Order Of The Griffin”, and somehow still retains considerable political power, despite it’s apparent lack of political assets. The current ruler is the Arkon Jerwaith Alaran, “Regent” (“Until the Emperor’s return”) of Mazadone.
  • Cisnaud was founded about 500 years ago when the sourcerer (no, that’s not a typo) Garadin funded and assisted in the rebuilding of the city of Harados after it was destroyed by a tidal wave. He renamed it Gildas, and established a mageocracy – although the sages, guilds, and various other groups now have representatives on the council as well. Since then, Cisnaud has gradually expanded by voluntary incorporation. Gildas is still the capital – and remains one of the great centers of magical activity on Mer’ag. The city is often referred to as Cisnaud, so often that it’s original name is almost forgotten.
  • Dragorea is a remnant of the pre-cataclysm Dragorean Empire. It is at least 20,000 years old – and is probably far older. Its citizens are rather decadent, haughty, and touchy – tending to regard all foreigners as uncivilized, and untrustworthy, barbarians. Given the convoluted, trans-generational, intrigue, ancient magical skills, inbreeding, and outright insanity commonly found among the competing noble houses, by their standards it’s true. On the other hand, few sane people WANT to be THAT “Civilized”. Since the original imperial regalia – and the imperial bloodline – was lost during the cataclysm, the various noble houses have spent millennia passing the position of “Emperor” back and forth according to a complex web of rules and political maneuvers. The current ruler is the Emperor Duraten, of House Evorth – and the capital is the city of Terakos.
  • Eldras has short summers, horrible winters, and a population made up of nomadic tribal herders wandering a high plateau. Most follow odd, totemistic, cults or local divinities, and pay tribute to the ice jotun in exchange for “protection” during the winter. Oddly, the trade-city of Serapis is considered holy by virtually every faith on Mer’ag.
  • The Duchy of Eregion is noted for having superb farmland, superior weather conditions, and excellent crops. Outside of border skirmishes with hotheaded centaurs from the plains, and occasional troubles with the unseelie court, there is little excitement in governing here. As a result, many of the local nobles make their own, dabbling in plots, politics, and intrigues. The mess is overseen by Duke Televan who seems to derive an obscure pleasure from the entire mess. Over the 63 years of his extended reign, most of his relatives have been exiled – and the plots have become extremely complex. Much of the genuine excitement in Eregion can be found in the offices of the merchants and traders who keep the grain, goods, money, and people, moving.
  • Hallanx is a fairly new theocracy – formed by a coalition of orcs, halfbreeds, and the “Council of Yamerton”, a group of priests. There’s still quite a power struggle going on between the council, the orcs – and at least one underground sect. It wouldn’t be too surprising if the country was to fall apart again as quickly as it formed, which may be why the capital, and seat of the Council of Yamerton, is the fortress Gravenlith – and is often besieged by centaurs.
  • Kartori is an extremely mountainous land, hence most of the people live along the shoreline or in small inland valleys. The “economy” – such as it is – relies on the Harrkene Seafarers, who operate over an immense range as raiders/traders according to mood and opportunity. It is a major naval power, and traditionally regards the Dales (QV) as its “personal” trading preserve. The current “Seamaster”/chief captain is “Admiral” Ashar.
  • Khynator came into existence about 200 years ago, when the city of Kest-i-mond offered the surrounding towns aid in repelling raiding or invading creatures from the Dark Forest. With such aid came military directors and advisors. Shortly thereafter, Kest-i-mond was the capitol of a realm nearly its present size. Continuing expansionist ambitions make Khynator an ominous neighbor. Kest-i-mond itself remains a major trade center, and has extensive shipping interests. The current ruler is Queen Isilor Sugara, as advised by the high council.
  • Kelost, Belore, and Morfane are known by rumor, rather then by any dependable source. Hidden within the depths of the dread forest, they are supposedly lightless realms of orcs, demons, evil gods, and bloody, terrible, magics. More specifically, Morfane is supposed to be under the control of an archdemon or evil god. Belore is primarily orcish, but is apparently led by halfbreed leaders. Kelost is supposed to be ruled by some sort of theocracy or mageocracy – or to simply be a lot of orcs with no particular leadership. Nobody really knows – but few expeditions have gotten very far into the dread forest.
  • Maran Empire: While now defunct, the Maran Empire once ruled most of the Dharos Jungle. Today there remains a score of quarrelsome city states – each claiming to be the rightful heir(s) to the old imperial titles, and each busily sacrificing their enemies to the gods both in order to obtain their backing and to prevent their world from falling deeper into ruin. The local “governments” are mostly theocratic, but the military and nobles exert a strong influence (wherever things are still organized above the tribal level).
  • Meron is an oligarchy, run by a loose alliance of “lords” who hold their positions by virtue of raw personal power. While the council positions are loosely hereditary, duels are often fought to determine who actually receives them.
  • Normark: This dwarven realm is basically a confederation of clans which has presented a united face to the planet for millennia – while maintaining an endless internal squabbling as the seven major, and many minor, clans jockey for position. There is no current “Clanmaster”, but Battlemaster Durvar Ermlenderr is temporarily handling the duties of the position. With a candidate from each clan trying for the job, he may be in charge for a considerable period.
  • Pashad is old – reputedly dating back to the eldritch wars. It is dominated by a group of mages and their military forces, but is subject to constant border raids from its coastal neighbors, The “Warlordism” of Telif and the Theocracy of Medore. All three have a reputation for being overrun with werecreatures and shape changers, ancient and terrible magic, berserkers, and interclan feuds – perhaps a result of the fact that al three suffer regular infusions of northern barbarian blood.
  • Pellinore is notable for its dangerous creatures and modest deposits of gems. Sadly, most of the mineral wealth occurs in small pockets or as placer deposits along the many, modest, rivers. Hence it will not support large scale exploitation, and so is mostly left to individual prospectors or small groups.
  • Phaorakan is another ancient civilization – although at least from after the cataclysm. It once controlled a major trading empire, but that period was millennia ago. It is deeply conservative, tradition- bound, and stagnant. It has changed very slowly – if at all – in the past several thousand years. The government is a balance between the the god-emperor, currently Turankane XXI, and the bureaucrats, although both the military and the nobles manage to exert some influence.
  • Seltos is a small, rugged, and heavily forested, country notable for withstanding the attacks of the Zaratoz Empire. It is supposedly run by several circles of mages, but the reports are oddly contradictory. If it does rely on magic, its either well mixed with something else – or is a very strange variety.
  • Skarasen and Altorsh reinforced ancient barriers to somehow “seal” their borders during the eldritch wars period, and have had little or no contact with the outside world since. While there is some evidence that Skarasen’s organization collapsed some time afterwards – leaving a selection of small groups sealed behind their own magical barriers – other tales speak of a war of ancient voices. While there are a few known / rumored paths into Skarasen today, these routes are dangerous enough, and the inhabitants are weird enough, to discourage contact. If there are any routes into Altorsh at all, they apparently lie today – as before – through Skarasen.
  • Talies: Populated almost entirely by bushmen, the Commonwealth is remarkable for its total peacefulness – and is quite casually run by a council of village mayors, who use “neutrality” as their byword. It offers sanctuary, good food, and a secure place for negotiation, making it a popular neutral point to hold conferences or stash things. This makes them useful to everybody – as does their helpful willingness to export great quantities of food. Since that’s the only major resource that Talies seems to possess they have very little trouble with their neighbors. On the other hand, they are a member of the Iron League, have close ties with Normark, and quite handily defeated the orc army contingent, and it’s supernatural allies, which came their way during the great orc invasion of 14,117, which may have something to do with the general reluctance to bother them.
  • Velathyis: One of the few primarily elven kingdoms, Velathyis is centered around the Marnar river. It is quite loosely organized, but has been around in various “incarnations” for several thousand years. Recently, Velathyis has considerably expanded its area of influence – politically, along trade routes into the Silverdeep – and through the Knights Eldritch. It’s currently ruled by a council in Elisar, headed by Ameschel Rachad, a comparatively youthful ex-adventurer alchemist.
  • Ypros – along with Hath and Colsec – is a nuisance for most of the northern and eastern coastlines. While the northern barbarians who live here sometimes trade peacefully, and sometimes fight each other, they manage to put together raiding expeditions all too often. Even their “peaceful” trading trips often result in violence. Nevertheless, they are often tolerated, as the area is a source of fine furs, amber, and much mineral wealth.
  • Zaratoz Empire: A youthful realm, the empire uses armies of orcs to do its fighting. While most of its territories are very thoroughly subdued, some power in the forest of Arden continues to withstand all attempts at conquest – as does the neighboring realm of Seltos. While outsiders speculate that Seltos’s continuing resistance is tolerated, perhaps as a sort of “safety valve”, no one really knows what defends the forest of Arden. With its other borders hemmed in by the ocean and natural barriers, the ruling military oligarchy runs a repressive and rather unpleasant realm from Zaros City.

Some Major Organizations:

  • The Order of the Griffin is one of the oldest, and most respected, orders of knighthood on Malavon. It’s members wield limited arcane, and formidable physical, skills. They’re recognized virtually everywhere.
  • Khynatori Intelligence is a remarkably extensive network of spies, operatives, and informers. While overt confrontations are not their style, they can be exceedingly dangerous.
  • The Iron League dates to the great orcish invasion of 14,177. The league is a defensive alliance – the second, although few know it, to be so named. Members include; Velathyis, Khynator, Talies, Normark, The Arkonate of Mazadone – and a selection of minor holdings referred to (by courtesy) as “duchies”
  • The Knights Eldritch are a relatively new order founded in 14,022. Primarily elvish, and based in Velathyis, the order wields considerable arcane power. They distinguished themselves in action in the invasion of 14,177 – and in many smaller actions since then.
  • The House of Keravos is sort of a cross between the yakuza and the mafia. It enjoys a quaislegal status in Dragorea and Phaorakon, and is extremely good at what it does; they’ve been at it for millenia.
  • The Order of Quinona is a loose association of foresters, weilders of nature magic, and herbalists. It’s based in the Silverthorn, and is noted for sponsoring various “quests”. It is believed to have ties to something in the Eldwood.
  • The Han Council is a rare gathering of Centaur tribes, which meets to mediate tribal disputes or to elect a new “Great Khan” or overlord of the tribes – a position more ceremonial then practical.
  • The Mercenaries Guild primarily operates in central, and northern, Mer’ag as a hiring service, contract enforcer, and proxy representative for members and employers. “Bonded” Members are the most trusted, as they post 480 SP bonds against violating their contracts.

Mer’ag: Areas Of Interest

  • Arden: An enchanted forest, strangely populated – and of curious dimensions. Reportedly it extends more then a thousand miles through but only hundreds around. It’s a known focus of dimensional warps, including natural gates.
  • Athor Glacier: Said to contain an ancient city in its depths, the glacier is heavily populated (for a freezer) with deadly creatures.
  • Dales: A rough region with many small valleys and plateaus. Each small, livable, area tends to be isolated – so small holdings are the rule. Local lordlings and light woods abound, as do ancient ruins. Any traveler can usually find a welcome – but bad experiences with magic lead many dalesmen to distrust any but the weakest of spells.
  • Dharos Jungle: A tropical rain forest of considerable extent. A source of rare woods, spices, and drugs. It’s very dangerous to travel unguided, due to the many toxic plants and animals. (QV; Maran Empire).
  • Dread Forest: This forest is heavily populated with orcs and minor forest monsters. It is supposedly loosely organized into an oligarchy and two theocracies.
  • Earthfires: A belt of highly active volcanoes, combined with the local glaciers, they virtually block assess to the high plateau.
  • Eldwood: A section of primordial forest hundreds of thousands of years old. Ancient beings and powers walk this alternatively terrible and pleasant wood. The fringes are frequented by Herb-gatherers seeking magical plants, but those who venture in too far rarely return.
  • Firespirals: A near-surface chain of active volcanoes. At least one major island has recently subsided here – creating the tidal wave which destroyed Harados. Sections of the water are extremely hot and occasional bubbles of flaming gas have been observed.
  • Fist-Of-Ra Desert: A remarkably unpleasant, dangerous, area. It’s noted for sandstorms, heat, and occasional lethal inhabitants including Kenri nomads and sandwyrms.
  • Haunted Lands Apparently the site of some great, ancient, series of battles, the Haunted Lands contain many grave-barrows – and arcane remnants of the past.
  • Landrift Canyon: Created by the same, massive, crustal movements that created the Wedore and Sarkish Gulfs, this vast chasm supports a wild and monstrous population.
  • Maydalor Swamp: Once the kingdom of Elvanos the region is now the domain of lizard-men, quicksand, and swamp monsters. Rare herbs and weird plants can be found here.
  • Misty Sea: Here, where cold and warm currents meet, the ocean is shrouded in perpetual fog. Both hidden islands, and some form of sea- monster capable of pulling down a ship from the midst of a group, are known to exist here.
  • Morshalag Deep: This forest is another enchanted wood, but one of an extremely evil nature. A known place of power for necromancy, and for trips to the shadow realm
  • Nomad Plains: A dry, cool, climate creates vast grass-lands which support a few human and many centaur nomads. Many spots are regarded as “cursed”.
  • Seawyrm Bay: A favored midwinter spawning area, the Seawyrms are occasionally hunted in special ships, although the tables are all too often turned on the hunters.
  • Shavros Swamp: Extraordinarily inaccessible, which – of course – leads to all kinds of wild rumors about it’s contents.
  • Silverdeep: This forest is inhabited primarily by small primitive tribes following celtic and totemistic religions. A few small domains are scattered around the edges of the forest – but their expansion is fiercely resisted. Zarathos occasionally raids the place.
  • Silverthorn: This light forest is home to elves, a scattering of small holdings, the Order of Quinona, and a variety of creatures in the northern sections.
  • Sunfall Cliffs: Created by a major crustal upthrust these nearly sheer cliffs along the Weldore Gulf rise 400-800 feet. Wave erosion has created a vast number of caverns along the base of the cliff.
  • Twisted Peaks: These mountains seem to have somehow been churned or twisted. Virtually impassable, they are home to the Storm Titans – and are said to conceal the treasures of ancient realms.
  • Windheights: Remnants of a huge, elder, city cling stubbornly to this section of the plateau. The terrain is remarkably treacherous, and curious creatures are often reported in the area.
  • Wind Towers: These mountains include some of the tallest peaks of Malavon. At least one ancient complex of buildings clings to them at an incredible altitude.
  • Yalorth: Once part of Elvanos – a smallish empire destroyed by a massive arcane attack – the Yalorth has subsided far enough to become an inland sea. It is now a haunt of freshwater “monsters”, occasional coastal rafters, and traders.

   Recent History “begins” with the “great orcish invasion” of 14,117 PC. The attack struck north from the dread forest on several fronts; a grand attempt to overrun the lands about the gulf of sarkish. While they enjoyed a initial successes, the realms swiftly leagued together to oppose them. This new “Iron League” managed to bring the orcs and their allies to a conclusive battle in 14123 in the area now known as “bonemarch”, driving them back to the dread forest.

   It should be noted that the material given above becomes less and less reliable as it goes further back in time. More detailed data is available – but it requires research; while most adventurers take the time to listen to a lot of old tales and put some pieces together, very few become serious historians.

L5R: Ivory Kingdoms Rahu-Ketu Courtier School of the Midnight Sun

   Perhaps there are worlds out there built upon mathematics, upon inanimate forces, upon things that men find unimaginable.

   But they are not Rokugan. In Rokugan, even the Void is aware, a part of the great ocean of consciousness that permeates the world. All lesser minds, all fragmented and unfragmented souls, all that is, lies embedded in the fathomless awareness of the elemental forces. It is only their sheer scale, the fact that they exist in an endless array of local aspects, and the limited awareness of humans and the other races, that prevents mortals from understanding all things, from simply reaching out to tap the near-infinite knowledge and strength of the elements, from achieving transcendence.

   The founder of the Rahu-Ketu school sought to change that. To extend the perceptions of the human mind into the hidden depths of the cosmos and illuminate them.

   The founder failed. Ultimately, even the mind of a human turned Asura or Deva, focused, unified, and trained across a dozen mortal lifetimes, could not comprehend or accept the full sweep of the cosmos, it’s heights and it’s depths.

   His/her school, however, persists. Not because it provides infinite knowledge – although it does offer a great deal of knowledge indeed – but because it offers the leverage to turn what knowledge the user CAN achieve into raw power. What cannot be fully comprehended can still be tapped – even if that does sometimes go disastrously wrong.

   The Rahu-Ketu School is a loremasters and ritualists school. That isn’t to say that it can’t be effective in a fight at higher levels, where it’s users can easily unleash some very powerful magical effects (and unleash even greater ones at great risk), but it’s primarily concerned with knowledge and giving advice. The magical stuff is fundamentally secondary, if only because it’s quite conspicuous. Still, if you want an advisor who really knows his stuff, or a court mage, you would be well pleased if you could locate a Raku-Ketu Scholar.

Ivory Kingdoms Rahu-Ketu Courtier School of the Midnight Sun:

  • Basic Modifiers: Perception +1, Glory 3, Status 2, Wealth 1, and Honor 2
  • School Skills: Defense, Divination, Engineering, Investigation, Lore (Light / Void, Darkness / Shadow, Void / Shadow Magic, and The Elements), Meditation, Theology, and any two Lore skills.

   First Technique: Yin calls to Yang, The Opening of the Ways.

  • May invoke (Rank+2) magical effects each session using the Light / Void, Darkness / Shadow, or Void / Shadow Magic skills. Such effects take an hour or so of ritual and meditation to invoke, but can be of up to level (the rank of the skill used/2, rounded up). If a roll is required, use the relevant lore check (10).
  • May roll and keep one extra die which counts as being skilled with all Lore skills. If this is used to enhance the level of an invoked magical effect it requires a successful Lore check at difficulty (20 + 5x the level of the effect) to avoid a very conspicuous magical display whether or not the desired effect is successfully invoked (8 – 5 = 3). Even if the check succeeds, the display is likely to be quite noticeable anyway.
  • +4 rolled dice which count as being skilled with Void / Shadow Magic. These can only be used to increase the level of effect available, require the expenditure of two effects (if it matters, one each of Light/Void and Darkness/Shadow), will greatly increase both the severity and radius of the side effects produced if the control check fails, may increase the difficulty of the control check at the option of the game master (although the user must be notified in advance of this and of how much, and may opt to do something else instead if the game master does choose to exercise this option), and will require the user to make an additional (normal) control check to avoid being killed in the disaster if the control check fails (16 – 10 = 6).
  • The Rahu-Ketu Scholars sense of universal unity makes it hard to conceal false information among true statements or author prejudices from him or her. Any such attempts have their target numbers increased by 5 (1).

   Second Technique: Yin becomes Yang, A Waiting for Promises to be Fulfilled.

  • Gain (School Rank) free raises on all Lore Skill rolls (10).
  • May roll and keep a second extra die which counts as being skilled with all Lore skills. If this is used to enhance the level of an invoked magical effect it requires a successful Lore check at difficulty (20 + 5x the level of the effect) to avoid a spectacular magical display and minor magical side effects whether or not the desired effect is successfully invoked (8 – 5 = 3). Even if the check succeeds, the display is likely to be fairly spectacular anyway.
  • Gain an additional (Rank+2) invocations per session (5).

   Third Technique: Illuminating the Darkness, the Containment of Multitudes.

  • The Rahu-Ketu has now attuned him- or her-self to the forces of the Void and Shadow to such an extent that he or she no longer needs meditation and ritual to call upon them, and may do so as a single action (Immunity/Time Requirements, 10).
  • May spend a Void point to attempt to counter an incoming spell or other supernatural effect with an invocation, regardless of whether or not it is the user’s action. Unfortunately, this counts as one of the user’s (2x Rank +4) daily invocations. (5).
  • May roll and keep three extra dice which count as being skilled with all Lore skills. If this is used to enhance the level of an invoked magical effect it requires a successful Lore check at difficulty (20 + 5x the level of the effect) to avoid a spectacular magical display and notable magical side effects whether or not the desired effect is successfully invoked (8 – 5 = 3). Even if the check succeeds, the display is likely to be extremely noticeable and generate trivial side effects anyway.
  • Stirring the Sleepers: The Rahu-Ketu Adept may simply touch an item of excellent or higher and spend a void point to temporarily awaken it’s spirit as a Major Nemuranai, although the item will return to sleep in – at most – a day (4).

   Fourth Technique: Scholarly the Darkness which Reveals, Ignorant the Light which Blinds.

  • Add (2x Intelligence) to all School Skill rolls (10).
  • May roll and keep four extra dice which count as being skilled with all Lore skills. If this is used to enhance the level of an invoked magical effect it requires a successful Lore check at difficulty (20 + 5x the level of the effect) to avoid an awe-inspiring magical fireworks display and major magical side effects in a wide radius whether or not the desired effect is successfully invoked (8 – 5 = 3). Even if the check succeeds, the display is likely to be conspicuous and to generate minor side effects in a fair radius anyway.
  • Gain an additional (Rank+2) invocations per session (5).
  • Gain a minor spirit ally or “Familiar” (Influence; Minor/provides minor services or 5 points worth of special techniques [1], Devotion; Minor [0], Eccentricity; Major/Spirit [2], Inconvenience; Minor [-1]) (2).

   Fifth Technique: Shadow of the Void, the Voice of Enlightenment.

  • May spend ten minutes and a void point giving advice related to a lore skill and make check with it at difficulty 60. If successful, those who listened may recall your advice at a later date, gaining at that time two free Void Points each to spend in ways which are somehow related to the lore skill used. Such points must be spent within twenty-four hours of the time the advice is recalled, but are not subject to the usual limits on accumulating or spending void points. Unfortunately, no single individual may have more than (Intelligence) pieces of advice from you latent in their memory at any one time (20 – 5 – 5 = 10). You may gain similar benefits for yourself by indulging in deep meditation upon a particular topic (Immunity to the normal others-only aspect of this power, 5).
  • May roll and keep five extra dice which count as being skilled with all Lore skills. If this is used to enhance the level of an invoked magical effect it requires a successful Lore check at difficulty (20 + 5x the level of the effect) to avoid a an awe-inspiring magical fireworks display and severe magical side effects in a great radius whether or not the desired effect is successfully invoked (8 – 5 = 3). Even if the check succeeds, the display is likely to be spectacular and will generate notable side effects in a fair radius anyway.
  • Gain a second minor spirit ally or “Familiar” as per the fourth level technique, but it represents a counterbalancing force or viewpoint (2).

   In practice, like any pair of major dualities, Light / Creation / Void and Darkness / Destruction / Shadow magic can be assumed to be able to handle most magical effects somehow. While, unlike a Shugenja, a Rahu-Ketu scholar has no easy way to refresh his or her powers and must be cautious about using the greater ones, this is still – as befits an advanced Ivory Kingdoms school that can easily kill the user and cause massive disasters if mishandled – an extremely powerful school. That’s what you get when you squeeze every point for maximum efficiency.

Shadowrun: Akiko Anitoli

   Here we have a possible character for the Shadowrun game – an up-and-coming (if still relatively minor) Yakuza boss. Akiko has – so far – held her position through the subtle use of Witchcraft and through her knack at imitating a blender in a melee. Akiko usually settles for elegantly-tailored armor, her knives, and her witchcraft-adept talents; none of that shows up to a casual glance or search.

Akiko Anitoli

   Basic Purchases: Race; Human (0 points), Magic; Witchcraft Adept (35 Karma, Karma Pool 1, 18 points), Resources; 1000 KNY (24 points), Skills; 34 (12 points), Attributes; 24 (12 points).

   Since the other characters are now quite experienced, new characters get a bonus of +4 skill points which may be spent to raise initial skills to a maximum of eight and +2 Karma Pool. These bonuses have been included below.

   Karma Expenditures: Initiate II (25), Charisma from 1 to 3 (10).

   Initiate Powers: Beglamourment III/may use Witchcraft as a complimentary skill to physical skills, social skills, and with Knives, Finance, and Investigation. Circuiting/Witchcraft, Magic Protection I, and Hexcraft.

   Edges: Overspent on Basics (6), +4 Strength with when wielding Knives (2), +3 dice when making an attack with a knife (6), Geneware (-3 BI, 6), Conjure Machine Spirits/For Bladed Weapons only (2), Package Deal/Yakuza Boss (5).

    Flaws: Combat Monster (-3), Impulsive (-2), Legal Problems (known underworld boss, very common, severe, -5), Miser (-3), Obligations (to Yakuza, common, moderate, -3), Offensive (to religious figures and dedicated believers, common and severe, -4), On File (the Yakuza, benign, moderate, -2 and Law Enforcement, hostile, moderate, -4)*, Psychological Quirk (honorable, never breaks word, vindictive, -6)*, Unlucky (-5). Total: -27.

*Exempted from over-the-limit halving due to being useful to the game master.

   Basic Attributes: Body 6 (7), Quickness 6 (7), Strength 4 (5), Intelligence 4, Willpower 3, Charisma 3, Essence 6, Magic 9 (12 after initiation), Reaction 5 (6), Initiative 6+3d6

   Dice Pools:

  • Combat Pool: 7
  • Karma Pool: 3
  • Active Skills (34+4 Bonus): Knives 8*, Witchcraft 8, Unarmed Combat-6*, Investigation-6*, Etiquette-4*, Stealth-6*. (Normally +4d due to using Witchcraft as a complimentary skill).
  • Knowledge Skills (Basics + 20): Military History-6, Magic Theory-6, Samurai Lore-3, Police Procedures-6, Tea Ceremony-1, Law-6, Politics-5, Eastern Lore-5.
  • Language Skills: Japanese-3, Russian-3 (both relevant Read/Write skills at 1).
  • Irrelevant Skills: Classical Bladesmithing-6, Go-1

   Equipment:

  • Bioware/Chi Training: 290K. Enhanced Articulation (.6 BI, 40K), Superthyroid Gland (1.4 BI, 50K), Synaptic Accelerator II (1.0 BI, 200K). Net BI 3.0 – 3.0 = 0.
  • Connections x6: 150K. Underworld, Smuggler, Organized Crime, Streets, Political, and Magical.
  • Followers: 200K. Yakuza Family.
  • 2x L1 Connections: 10K. Four total: Kaznyet (International Hitman), Mawgrim (Disposal Expert), Hayato (Master Swordsmith), Dukung (Master Brewer).
  • Double Grab Bag: 300K. The first one covers normal gear, the second one covers calling in favors and general personal income.
  • Personal Items:
    • Two Heirloom Tanto Knives (equates to long dikoted cougar fineblade knives; [Str+2]S, 5K).
    • Fancy Tailored Armor Clothing (6/4, 4K).
    • Pocket Secretary (2 K). Equipped with Bug Scanner-6 (3K) and Dataline Scanner-10 (1K).
    • Bladesmithing Shop (5 K).
    • Electroglasses: 20x Magnification, Low-Light, Thermographic (3K).
    • Gold Docwagon Contract (25K).
    • Automedpack-II and Injector belt (2K).
  • Equipment Grab Bag: Normally 10x Antidote-8 Autoinjectors (4K), 5x Rating-10 Tranqualizer Shots (1K), and 10K worth of gear to suit.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 65: Into The Storm

   A’ikana watched Marty set up his office, Jamie spar, and Kevin go recruiting, and found her serenity sorely tested; these people seemed to be quite impervious to considerations of ethics outside of their own bizarre codes and to any form of disapproval more subtle than a club to the head. There had to be SOME way to reach them. They were becoming too important to simply let them bounce across the cosmos like some destructive cross between a pinball and a black hole.

   Marty settled for a few blocks from the docks and – for the moment – primarily magical services. The setting treated kids of fourteen or so as adults, so it was easy enough for the locals to accept the local recruits – all in the 12-15 range – running a business and manning an office for an older owner. It stretched things a bit to treat them as mages, but as long as they actually delivered, they’d be fine.

   Fortunately, there wasn’t much press-ganging going on locally. Even youngsters tended to be offered work and paid – although they hardly ever turned it down.

   Kevin and Marty advised them that they were free to hire more assistants (preferably kids with souls, since they could now tell the difference). Otherwise, they should work on the standard stuff – advertising, services, and general day-to-day operations and listen to general gossip for information as to what the French and German guys are after.

   They restocked their food, water, caulk, and the supplies they’d used up doing repairs. Marty invested in some anti-undead talismans from the local church. They were mostly selling them (at cost) to sailors who were heading towards the fighting. Marty bought fifteen – all that would be available for a day or so – and made a donation. Why not? A little local goodwill would be good for business.

   Kevin couldn’t argue there: he told the Thralls to try and build a little goodwill with the local church too, at least if it wouldn’t think of them as demons or something.

   Meanwhile, the werewolves had pretty well sorted themselves out into a pack. There’d be some swapping of the lower ranks from time to time, but the major personalities were set. They got crew-assignments to suit; there was no point in fighting their natural inclinations without a good reason.

   With the repairs completed, they headed for the open seas. The sun was shining, the salty air blew through their hair, and the general mood improved to the point of becoming jovial.

   Kevin went back to tickling the lower-ranking pack members and random fishing (with a light rod and line; he wasn’t looking to catch the midgard serpent or anything like that). Marty played with Limey (flash cards mostly), Jamie kept on practicing – it was like she didn’t know HOW to do anything else – and A’ikana kept on puzzling at how to get them to listen to her.

   Then they acquired a soundtrack… Happy jovial music. Sirens? The crew ought to be mostly immune to that sort of thing.

   No, not sirens. A series of musical numbers. Marty had Limey go inanimate – didn’t need him going overboard in book form! – but the Thralls had started singing. Some magic involved, but mostly just the local rules… It could be resisted, but it wasn’t easy. They weren’t being led onto a shore or offcourse and there were no attackers slipping up. The ships were losing way as the crew started singing, dancing and wearing costumes. Up ahead – at least judging from the shouting – Captain Rata was having the same kind of trouble.

   Highly exaggerated age of exploration sailing uniforms, silly sea-songs, and – rather suddenly – small fuzzy anthropomorphic muppet-animals appeared and were participating in the singing and dancing.

   Kevin decided to ignore it. As long as they were making some progress he didn’t want to be Captain Bligh – especially since he wasn’t in command! It was someone else’s problem for once! Besides, he didn’t want to deal with any more muppets for awhile, especially not while surrounded with werewolves again.

“Hey guys. How did you get on the ship?”

“We’re the crew! Come on, join the singing! Dance! Have fun!”

   They proved quite willing to walk the plank, to push the Thralls (some of whom had taken muppet forms) and each other off the ship (and then to rescue the men who’d gone overboard), and to fool around in general – all while singing silly songs.

   Eventually Marty got the hang of it: give very clear orders, forbid most of the obvious ways of fouling them up, allow for the singing and silly antics, do a lot of micro-managing, and put up with the slow-as-molasses actual pace. They HAD to get through this zone relatively soon. In fact, he’d be betting on an hour or less. It had to be based on a children’s program, and none of them ran all that long!

“Oh be nice, just cause we’re a bunch of cows, pigs, frogs, bears, chickens, monsters, and cats does not mean we are animals!”

“Oh that’s it, leave out the rats. This is discrimination. It’s always dump on the rats. We perform all sorts of useful functions!”

   Marty swore – and found that the local universe censored him.

   Well, that pretty much confirmed the children’s program hypothesis.

   Marty tried to intimidate them on general principles, but it didn’t help much. They did listen to orders forbidding mutiny though.

   Of course, you didn’t want to set a rebellious example for small children.

   Eventually he settled on simply assigning thralls to keep them herded out of the way.

“Avast, ye menagerie! Follow that ship!”

   It actually took two days – or at least it seemed like it – before they were through the fuzzy pirate zone and the muppets all vanished and the Thralls who’d changed were back to normal.

   By then they could see the Storm at the End of the World brewing on the horizon.

   It still took them several days to reach it. Kevin spent the time directing his experiments and projects back in Kadia. At least – on evaluation – it looked like the Cardinals had been willing to accept him because they thought that – if he wasn’t there – something far nastier would be likely to replace him.

   Oddly, that was a point of leverage: Kevin carefully, and extremely indirectly, funneled them a suggestion; a way to “partially frustrate him; if they could arrange for him to be legally responsible for the care and the actions of his Thralls, he wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the legal loophole that their actions and what he has them agree to is technically not his responsibility”. After all, the Cardinals understood that the Thralls were property for the duration of their indentures, so they wouldn’t question that assumption – but the fact that the computers and core society didn’t acknowledge it was what was bothering Kevin. If he could just get Core to accept that the Thralls were no longer responsible for their own decisions, acknowledging their status as property would inevitably follow. That way both he AND the church would get part of what they wanted.

   Marty spent the time making sure that everything was well tied down, the sails were wrapped up, and that they were ready to ride the currents. According to Captain Rata if you made it through the storm you always arrived at your destination – it was just a matter of how close to port and in what condition you got there.

   On the second day, they began to close with the storm. It was looming large on the horizon, flashes of lightning could be seen dancing along the clouds, the wind had picked up, and the temperature was dropping.

   On the third day the storm seemed to go on forever and loomed high above them. The air and water were cold and the ocean rose and fell in huge undulating waves. Thunder echoed and the wind blew wildly.

   Kevin ran rescue efforts. He scooped up four people – and two of them even had souls! The storm must feature in a lot of places…

   They weren’t pleased to hear that the ship was heading into the storm and not out, but it was still better than drifting. Kevin had them strapped down with safety lines; they didn’t have the TK to get back aboard if they went over.

   Oddly enough, the storm was a high-tech AND high-magic zone. It probably overlapped a lot of places.

   With the force field up, water-repelling magic, repair spells, and their various other powers, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it might have been. Limey was safe in his waterproof leather bag, and the pouring rain, raging wind, wild seas, dark skies, dancing lightning, continuous rolls of nearby thunder that rattled their bones, and bitter cold, were little worse than they’d been expecting.

   Of course, they had been expecting a primordial hellstorm.

   Unsurprisingly, they lost sight of the Distant Voyager – but it wasn’t like there was a course to hold.

   It took a lot of on-the-fly mending, force-field manipulations, the loss of the mainmast (although they salvaged it to repair later), and quite a bit of magic – but even the water crashing over the bow couldn’t quite swamp them. It wasn’t like the Thralls could work the sails at the moment anyway.

   One final, colossal, wave was the last barrier before they began passing out of the storm. It threw them around and hammered everything inside the ship against the hull. Fortunately, Marty managed to steer the ship well enough to avert the worst of the impact.

   The land was nearby, and – thanks to mending spells – they had repairs well underway by the time they made port. Captain Rata was down the coast a day or two’s sail – so they investigated what turned out to be the City of Acre.

   Despite the moonless night, there were no lights – and it looked like they were in a low-tech zone again (judging by the fact that their forceblades and plasma pistols were now cutlasses and flintlocks), and limited to magic of level three and under. They made port at dawn – and found no sign of other ships or people in the water. At a port?

   Captain Rata was seeing much the same thing along the coast. Burning cities, ruins, sunken ships, signs of fighting, and general disaster – albeit within the limits of cannons and gunpowder. Little or no sign of life, even after they landed and began poking around and running detection effects. It did look like there’d been some scavenging and some minor repairs or cleaning-up – but then everyone had gone somewhere else.

   Most of the signs were near the Church. It was in remarkably good condition and filled with residual energies. It had obviously been repaired – and there was a large mound of earth that looked relatively recent with a giant cross and a plaque rest at the base.

   “Here lie the people of Acre. One day they shall be avenged. Until then, may they find eternal peace with God. We shall honor then by surviving on.”

   The Church was stocked with supplies and directions; whoever’d left them had been heading along the road south, towards Jerusalem.

   Hm. If the people were gathering at Jerusalem – presumably for religious reasons – that’s where the final strike would be. They’d better get there fast if they wanted to interfere; it might be too late already.

   They headed down the coast. It’d be about a day by ship – although they pushed it as much as possible.

   They made port at Tel Aviv and took the old Roman road to Jerusalem. Looking down from the bluff, it looked like the city had been partially sacked. Several sections appeared to have been burned or smashed to pieces and sections of the walls had been hastily rebuilt. A fairly large force of undead horsemen – often missing limbs or large sections of flesh and stinking of death – were laying siege to the place. A small minority were more intact. They were fully armored in black, were wielding large two handed swords, and seemed to freeze the very ground they walked upon, draining it of all life.

   Well, some upper-class and lower-class minions of Death.

   This was going to be a pain.

Continuum II: Vocational Characters

   Here we have another module for Continuum II – in this case the rules for Vocational characters. Vocational characters were best suited for fairly realistic games which didn’t feature massive character advancement. They were heroes, not super-heroes.

   Under stress, some people accomplish the impossible. Others do the best they can without unconsciously bending the laws of nature. Those are Vocational Characters – normal people (that is, unable to sustain the percipient feedback loop that enhances a “Professional” characters personal power) with intensive training or great natural potentials.

   While such characters are more limited then “Professionals”, they can still have formidable talents, and are as powerful as normal people, animals, and things, ever get. They may be self-trained (a formidable task – requiring great dedication and self-discipline), tutored (by experts, usually over a period of years), or trained in small groups (intensively, and usually over a period of at least two years). The results are similar in any case. Military vocations are fairly common as elite mercenaries or troops, and many religious organizations train clerical ones. More arcane vocations are rarer, but do occur.

   Vocations cost some of a characters usual allotment of general skills, simply because such intensive study leaves little time for other things. Self-training costs 3, training 2 – and tutoring costs only 1. If this leaves a dense character with no general skills at all, it indicates that his studies had to begin so young that he or she had no time for anything else. A negative total indicates that the character is simply too stupid to acquire a vocation in that fashion.

   PC’s are normally exceptional people, even if only slightly, and so are exempt from the general skill penalty.

   Vocation-based player characters can be used in any campaign, but are generally best suited for campaigns built around relatively “normal” characters – people who may possess special talents, but are of heroic rather than mythic stature. Such characters also advance slowly, if at all, rely extensively on equipment, and never reach the point where they’re “invulnerable” to the efforts of ordinary people. Plausible backgrounds for such campaigns include investigative and horror settings, espionage and special-operative teams, groups of relatively normal people swept up in events, more-or-less historical situations, exploration missions, disaster survivors (the disaster can range from a simple shipwreck to a planetary holocaust), most “rational” science fiction settings, and (with powerful talents) lower-end “comic book” campaigns. Exotic possibilities could even include something like an all-werecreature campaign. Depending on the desires of the GM, vocation-based characters may be the only option, they may coexist with “professionals” (which status would then cost several talent points), or appear only as NPC’s.

   Vocations are defined by their name, general nature, and seven “picks” from the list given below. Sample vocations are supplied, but others are obviously possible. Players may design vocations, but such attempts should be approved by the game master. They’re normally associated with vocation-based PC’s and desired hirelings.

   Basics (Free): Vocational characters begin with the skills needed to use some 1D3 light weapons selected from among those weapons common to the characters original culture and social status and (2D6+Base) vitality – unless they’ve invested one or more selections in the Militance option.

   The vocational “pick” options include:

  • Militance (I-III): This option determines how combat-oriented a vocation is – ranging from I (Vitality 3D6 + Base, AR +2, RR +2. Allows effective use of 1D4 additional selected weapons), through II (Vitality 4D8 + Base, AR +3, RR +3. Allows effective use of one weapons “group”), to III (Vitality 5D8 + Base, AR +5, RR +5. Grants +1 attack, +2 DR, and use of one weapons group)
  • Expertise (I-III): Lets the character select a limited number of major and minor professional skills. The user may select one major and one minor skill for one pick, two major and two minor with the second, and a third major skill with the third. Such skills are normally selected from among those available to a single profession, but exceptions do occur.
  • Martial Arts (I-III): Permits the user to design and employ a 8/10/12 point martial art (Q.V.). One restriction per pick may be added if the user so desires, raising the point totals to 9/12/15. Later improvements are possible, to a maximum of (picks taken + 2) skill points. Hence any vocation could, eventually, learn a 2-point martial art.
  • Mastery (I-III): Enhances the users effective “level of use” of some specific skill or talent from the default level of 2 by +2 per “pick” expended on it – resulting in an effective “level of use” of 4, 6, or 8. Alternatively, the character may enhance his / her use of a small set of related, skills or talents by 0/2/4 levels each.
  • Professional Bonus: Lets the vocation take attribute bonuses from one of the tables belonging to a profession, rather then settling for the basic charts. The attribute must be chosen when this “pick” is selected. This can be taken on up to three attributes. Strength and Endurance are probably the most common.
  • Vocational Speciality: Gives the vocation some minor special power or suite of skills. Obviously this is a bit open-ended, thus the GM’s discretion is recommended. This normally covers lore, some active talents, and credentials. Examples include; “Military Engineering”, “Exorcism”, and “Alchemy”. In practice, this is equal to investing 6 skill points in a field. It can only be taken once.

   Advancement is pretty limited for Vocational characters. They can acquire wealth, power, influence, special equipment, blessings, enhancements, and similar external rewards – but their personal power is pretty much already at it’s peak. They can, however, gain a few skill points through special training (although most have already had a hearty dose of special training) and pick up a few through experience, for a total of up to seven (for a character with extensive training and a great deal of experience under their belts).

   Sample Vocations:

   Acolyte: Whether cultist, village priest, or hermit, the Acolyte possesses a great religious faith and extensive knowledge of his or her religion. Powerful religions may train acolytes – especially in settings where a priest is actually expected to have access to some real powers. In more “ordinary” settings, many “priests” simply rely on a few general skills (Theology, counseling and oratory) – and belief. Militance I, Expertise II (two major and two minor Professional skills), Mastery II, and Vocational Speciality (Cult Rituals, Cult Lore, and Village Magic). Common skill selections include Minor Magic , First Aid, Counselor, and Ceremonial Magic.

   Budoka: Master of a particular weapon or some unarmed combat system, a Budoka is a deadly opponent in a fight – but possesses few other abilities. Even in settings where minor magical or psychic powers are appropriate, they are usually only practiced in combat-oriented ones. Militance III (5D8 Vitality, +5 AR, +5 RR, +2 DR. Skilled with one weapons group), Martial Arts III (Or higher, as available skill points may also be used), and Vocational Speciality (Usually a six point skill – Minor C’hi or C’hi Focusing, possibly a combative Minor Magic or Minor Psionics skill, or a set of military speciality skills for settings where arcane abilities are inappropriate).

   Initiate: Initiate’s are relatively normal people who possess, and have mastered, a notable talent (in Continuum II, Talents are magical, psychic, or other abilities which you’re born with, and that anyone can have, although perhaps not master, regardless of “Level”). While their exact abilities depend on the nature of that talent, they can be most formidable. Commonly; Militance II, Expertise II – and Mastery III. This grants them 4D8 vitality, two major and two minor skills, AR +3, RR +3 – and an effective level of eight with respect to their talent, possibly ten or more if they also possess an appropriate “knack”. This vocation is less detailed then the others, simply because there are such a wide variety of talents.

   This is the most common “superhero” vocation. With a powerful psionic talent, or innate magical talent, or some similar specific gift, an Initiate can be far more effective than a Professional character until the Professional reaches a fairly impressive level. An equally-talented Professional will still outshine a Vocational character, but if they’re mixing in a setting, having Professional potential is usually a major talent in itself.

   Patrician: The Patrician is a warrior-mage, commonly a tutored aristocrat from a magic-dominated society. They tend to be dangerous, effective, and quite overconfident. Militance II (4D8 Vitality, +3 AR and RR, uses one “weapons group”), Expertise II (2 majors, commonly; Circle, Minor, or Ceremonial Magics, Runemaster, Mind Shield, Magesight, Lesser Path, Scrying, or Mystic Shields. Skills from the Greater Entities list are uncommon. Two Minors, commonly; Mystic Tongues (For those with minor powershaping), Magic Sense, Warding Rituals, Horseman, or Masking) – and Mastery III (Mystic Skills, at L6). General skills often include some combination of Noble, Intrigue, Heraldry, Divination (via tarot or some such), Hunting, Politics, Administrator, Law, Courtier, and the “Mystic Dabbler” knack.

   The Vocation list was fairly lengthy – but those should suffice for examples. It’s worth noting that Vocational characters are often more powerful than Professional characters to start off with – but will rapidly fall behind as the Professional characters build up their powers.

Continuum II: General Skills

   Here’s another segment of the Continuum II rules. In this case, it’s the module on basic skills. As a side benefit, the skill list is set up as a table – which I most often used for deciding just what business random shopkeepers and passers-by happened to be in and players most often used when they had no ideas at the moment.

   Continuum II has three basic tiers of characters:

  • Normal people are by far the most common. They don’t have special bonuses and they get along on the basic allotment of general skills that everyone gets.
  • “Vocational” characters are normal people with intensive training to go with whatever natural talent they possess.
  • “Professional” characters possess enough Will to bend reality around them a bit – and the more they do it, the more their skill at it and confidence in their power increases in a positive feedback loop. They have varying upper limits depending on their Will score, but even low-powered professional characters can survive attacks that would kill any normal creature and accomplish remarkable feats. High-powered ones may be able to endure supernovas and do almost anything.

   Everyone, however, gets their Intellect-based allotment of General Skills – so here they are.

   General Skills cover a character’s background knowledge and skills – the abilities they acquired growing up on the farm, helping out with the fishing, while apprenticed, or in school – as well as more adult studies before they went on to train in their vocation or profession. In general, they’re acquired long before the character enters play, and the skills selected should reflect the characters upbringing, personal experiences, and early inclinations rather than any great talents or the training that led to his or her current career.

   General skills are not equivalent to specific “major” or “minor” professional skills, even if the name is the same. Unlike major and minor professional skills, there are never any special abilities associated with general skills. Similarly, the chances of success when using them under stress are not too good – although the game master may opt to allow a modifier of up to +3 if a character possesses a general skill or skills related to a professional-level skill. For example, the general skill “Mechanic” might be worth a small bonus on a roll to tinker with some complex mechanical trap via the Sabotage professional skill.

   Linking your skills together via some sensible history, explanation, course of instruction, or simply choosing related skills, is worth a bonus skill if the GM finds the explanation and character history satisfactory. Numbers are provided for GM’s in need of a “random” bystander, occupation, or business – and for players who need ideas (or whose minds are absolutely blank).

   Most characters get a few automatic skills – Cultural Familiarity (for where they grew up), and a Native Language, both rated at level (Int/6). A rating of at least Cultural Familiarity-1 is necessary to operate in any milieu without continuous difficulties. Characters from alien backgrounds, such as exotic-species offworlders, energy beings translated into material form, and other oddities must normally take at least one level of a local cultural familiarity before starting play. Fortunately for busy world-travelers, the cultures of any one species always have some basic similarities; a level of 3+ in any one of them translates into a level-1 rating in any other after a character spends a few months getting acquainted with it. Sadly, those first few months can be quite a problem.

   Characters receive additional general skill points depending on their Intellect and various modifying factors, as shown below.

Intellect

3-5

6-7

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

16

17

18

19

20

+1

Skill Points

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

10

12

+2

   Modifiers to the number of skills include:

  • Age: Very young characters suffer a -3, youngsters a -2, adolescents a -1, middle-aged characters gain a general skill point, and elderly characters gain another, for a total of two due to age.
  • Longevity: This affects things quite a bit. Extremely short-lived races lose a point. Long-lived races gain +3 and extremely long-lived/functionally immortal races gain +5.
  • Upbringing: Feral or raised by non-sapient creatures -3 (you should generally buy some related talents as well as the appropriate general skills), raised by sapient but truly alien creatures -2 (why were they doing this?), raised by related race -1. An intensive (or modern-style) education is, however, worth +1, being raised by an antisocial species or under similar restricted circumstances inflicts a -1 penalty, an an extremely restricted childhood (being raised in a prison or any similar situation) inflicts a -2 penalty. Things like being raised on a primitive farm, on a space station, on the streets, or in an alien dimension tend to modify what a child learns – not how much.

Player characters often seem to have very, very, weird backgrounds. This can usually be covered by buying special talents or a by a few unusual skill choices.

   A character’s level of competence depends on the number of times a skill was taken, as shown on the chart below:

  • 1 “Apprentice”; A decent mastery of the basics. Enough to make a living, although you’ll usually be working for someone else.
  • 2 “Journeyman”; The common independent-operator level for normals. Enough to successfully run a business and satisfy normal customers.
  • 3 “Master”; A notable expert.
  • 4-6 “Grandmaster”; On the “cutting edge” of the field.
  • 7 “Paramount”; Maximum for near-humans, transcendent skill.

   Vocational and Professional characters may spend acquired skill points to learn additional general skills, or to upgrade existing ones, as can ordinary people who get special training (usually heading towards a Vocation). The maximum initial level of skill is “3” – Mastery.

Common General Skills:

   d8, d12 for random selection

   1) Performing Skills:

  1. Juggling / Legerdemain
  2. Acting / Mime / “Noh” / Ritual
  3. Oratory / Debate / Mediation
  4. Diplomacy / Liaison / Fixer
  5. Tumbling / Sideshow Talent
  6. Dancing / Calling / Director
  7. Etiquette / Courtier / Madam
  8. Beggar / Activist / Celebrity
  9. Politics / Official / Priest
  10. Courtesan / Model / Seduction
  11. Playing / Singing / Comedian
  12. Storytelling / Journalism

   2) Fine Arts Skills:

  1. Etching / Engraving / Inlay
  2. Painting / Beautician
  3. Drawing / Animation / Limner
  4. Calligraphy / Drafting
  5. Sculptor / Bonsai / Origami
  6. Writer / Poet / Critic
  7. Jewelsmith / Gemcutter
  8. Composer / Conductor
  9. Tattooist or Perfumer
  10. Carving / Toymaker / Kitemaker
  11. Meditation / Tea Ceremony
  12. Forger / Coiner / Accountant

   3) Craft Skills:

  1. Cooking / Baking / Curing
  2. Printer / Binder / Mapmaker
  3. Bowyer / Fletcher||Heavy Eq
  4. Brewer / Vintner / Distiller
  5. Builder / Architect / Mason
  6. Weaver / Dyer / Spinner / Roper
  7. Leather worker / Furrier / Tanner
  8. Glass maker / Blower / Candler
  9. Midwife / Healer / Doctor / Veterinarian
  10. Tailor / Hatter / Cobbler
  11. Potter / Caster / Plumber
  12. Researcher / System Operator / Technician

   4) Professional Skills:

  1. Animal Handler / Slaver
  2. Trader / Merchant / Peddler
  3. Farmer / Herder / Gatherer
  4. Butcher / Miller / Resource Processor
  5. Fisher / Trapper / Huntsman
  6. Smith (Various) / Armorer
  7. Mechanic / Tinker / Technician
  8. Seaman / Navigator / Astronomer
  9. Packer / Preserver / Cooper
  10. Carpenter / Lumberer / Coaler
  11. Gamekeeper / Poacher / Traps
  12. Shipwright / Naval Engineer

   5) “Hobby” Skills:

  1. Intrigue / Gossip / Thievery
  2. Falconry / Sportsman (Pick)
  3. Mountaineering / Skiing
  4. Boating / Piloting / Balloons
  5. Divination / Charmsmith
  6. Gardener / Landscaper / Dowser
  7. Embroidery / Trivia / Fan
  8. Gaming / Detective / Crime
  9. Horsemanship / (X)-rider
  10. Survival (Select) / Explorer
  11. Scrounging / Scavenging
  12. Masseur / Therapist / Barber

   6) Occupational Skills:

  1. Mercenary / Guardsman / Spy
  2. Innkeeper / Storekeeper
  3. Pawnbroker / Usurer / Financier
  4. Extortionist / Tax Collector
  5. Smuggler / Stower / Loader
  6. Teacher / Tutor / Guru / Mystic
  7. Captain / Noble / Recruiter
  8. Steward / Administrator
  9. Acolyte / Psychic / Counselor
  10. Urchin / Streetwise / Guide
  11. Butler / Nanny / Manservant
  12. Entertainer / Producer

   7) Lore Skills:

  1. Language (Select) / Sign Language
  2. Geology / Mining / Hydraulics
  3. Strategy / Tactics / Espionage
  4. History / Maps / Demographics
  5. Religion / Philosophy / Magic
  6. Naturalist / Biology / Anatomy
  7. Chemist / Herbalist / Alchemist
  8. Heraldry / Symbols / Art / Fashion
  9. Legends / Literature / Epics
  10. Mathematics / Science (Pick)
  11. Engineering / Military Engineering
  12. Law / Customs / Cultures / Civics

   8) Player Requests:

  1. Metallurgist / Refiner / Prospector
  2. Taxidermist / Pelter / Embalmer
  3. Papermaker / Scribe / Librarian
  4. Linguist / Cryptology / Hacker
  5. Teamster / Driver / Charioteer
  6. Swimming / Diving / Alien Environment
  7. Interrogator / Torturer / Jailer
  8. Logistics / Quartermaster
  9. Psychology / Advertising / Propaganda
  10. Area / Milieu / Culture Lore
  11. Weather / Ocean / Forester Lore
  12. Charlatan / Fraud / Trickster

   Obviously enough, most of the “general skills” listed are actually broad categories, covering many subskills and variations. Sadly, taking one does not provide omni-competence; the skills selected interact with each other and the characters background to produce a reasonable character description. For a simple example, a player creating a wandering rogue of Intellect 12 selects; Carpenter/Lumberer-1, Playing/Singing/Comedian-1, and Entertainer/Producer-2. There are many ways to translate this – but in this case; Instrument Maker-1, Playing/Singing-1, and Minstrel-2, with a game-master selected bonus skill of Epics and Ballads-1, seems to fit the characters background description and history. While this character isn’t the best or most knowledgeable of musicians, he can handle an audience well. He could certainly do quite well as a simple wandering minstrel but, being a PC, he doubtless has greater ambitions.

   Similarly, technical skills usually require more subdivision then nontechnical skills do. Skills that fall in this category include System Operator/Technician, Scientist, Heavy Equipment, and Engineering. System Operators and Technicians normally must select the type of system (computers, spacedrives, communications, etc) and specialize in its operation or in its construction and maintenance. Either can be linked with Hacking to cover the abuse and misuse of the system. A Scientist must either select a specific science or remain a general dabbler. Heavy Equipment requires that the character choose a general field, such as construction, foundry work, or assembly systems. Engineering can be taken as a broad knowledge of basic principles, or as a specific field. The “broad knowledge” variant can be combined with almost any specific scientific field.

  • Sample Sciences include Aerodynamics, Archeology, Anthropology, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Atmospherics, Biochemistry, Biology (various), Organic and Inorganic Chemistry, weird science, Cryogenics, Ecology, Electronics, Fusion, Fluid Systems, Genetics, Geography, Geology, Lasers, Linguistics, Metallurgy, microwave technology, Nucleonics, Oceanography, Optics, Physics, Robotics, Sociology, Botany, Bionics, Forensics, Dermatology, Epidemiology, Pharmacology, Immunology, Neurology, Pathology, Toxicology,
  • “Thievery” variations include auto theft, cut pursing, picking pockets, safe cracking, kidnaping, and breaking and entering.
  • Variations on “Doctor” include dentist, surgeon, plastic surgeon, and a wide variety of other specialists.

Computer Problems:

   Regrettably, due to computer problems, there will be no main update for today.

Shadowrun: Alex Merriweather

Hitoshi putting up with Alex

Hitoshi putting up with Alex

 

   Universities are not what they used to be.

 

   That’s always been true.

   They’ve been places where philosophers thought deep thoughts, and poured them into the ears of student and passerby alike, unconcerned with little things like observations.

   They’ve been places where men argued mathematical concepts and confused outsiders.

   They’ve been places where young men learned practical arts, such as how to construct buildings and siege engines.

   They’ve been musty warehouses of thought, enshrining ancient stupidities and judging everything done since inferior.

   They have been centers for indoctrination, engines of political and social change, and bastions of conformity.

   They’ve been exclusive social clubs, hotbeds of technical research, and recruiting grounds.

   They’ve been gilded safehouses, dating services, and the gateways to careers.

   In Shadowrun, they’ve changed again.

   For the most part, they aren’t really THERE. For a lot of jobs, it’s cheaper to get a basic set of Skillwires, a skillsoft, and possibly some expert drivers, than it is to train someone. For those who really want to give their kids an edge up, there are assorted rapid-teaching systems, there are private tutors – both real and (rather cheaply) virtual. There are any number of virtual learning environments on the Matrix, including the public education systems. There are plenty of private corporate schools for those who show real talent.

   Still, there’s something to be said for hands-on experience and for actual physical socializing outside the corporate environment – and virtual lessons in magic don’t work very well at all. Those old campuses don’t just disappear either; a lot of them are legally bound up in grants and moldering-old bequests.

   In 2060 many universities support modest numbers of upper-end corporate youngsters who are there to make connections and to have sex, an equally modest – if much more focused – selection of magical students (whom many of the others seem to look right past without seeing them), a scattering of extreme specialists, and a gaggle of hopeful offspring of mid-level types who are there to try to make connections with future employers and patrons. On the staff side, they have the stolid teachers, a few clever mavericks, and some people who are teaching as a sideline while they work on other things. Half the “research projects” are purely personal.

   Almost as importantly, there aren’t nearly as many bodies on campus as there used to be. Sizable chunks of many campuses have returned to the wilderness – or at least to shamanic lodges, open-air alchemy labs, and patches of managed woods. Today, most major campuses are half school and half wildlife preserve.

   That’s where Alex came in.

   Like his siblings, Alex was whelped under the floor of one of the oldest lecture halls on campus. Unlike them, or his parents, he was a shapeshifter. Sapient. Inherently magical. Supremely adaptive. A creature of the astral plane as much as of the physical world – and the astral structure of his environs had been permeated with knowledge being passed on to the younger generation for more than a hundred and fifty years. Alex absorbed erudition, and socialization, with his mother’s milk. The constant mutter of the lectures and presentations above – both past and present – filled his nascent mind.

   By four months, Alex was practicing hunting on his own – but continued to sleep beneath the old lecture hall. Like most young shapeshifters, his regeneration and astral senses served him well even before his other magical talents expressed themselves. By the time he learned to shapeshift at about eighteen months his aging had begun to slow, but he still took the form of a late adolescent – a bit young to hang around campus, but not remarkably so. He might not have been an official student, but he was charming enough that no one objected too much to him quietly auditing courses.

   At two years Alex was equivalent to a human of seventeen or eighteen, was the dominant fox on the campus, and had outlived his parents and most of his siblings. He’d also hooked up with Hitoshi, and come to share his view that the world just wasn’t being run very well.

   There was an interruption when he was snatched as a pet, and hauled into a corporate compound – but his experiences before Hitoshi rescued him simply confirmed (at least in his mind) that the world REALLY needed someone more competent to run it. Most humans had no sense at all!

   Egypt didn’t pan out, despite the rumors – but it did give them something to bet in a high-stakes poker game. Alex won a lot, and kept everyone’s focus on him, while Hitoshi set up to rake in a big pot – including ownership of one of the smallest, most isolated, countries in the world. That gave them a modest corner of the world to start with – or, if it came to that, a place to stay a very long ways away from all the stupidity.

“Alex Merriweather”, Fox Shapeshifter

   Basic Expenditures: Race: Fox Shapeshifter (active target, 20), Magic: Grandmaster (Enhancement and Conjuration, 24, +6 from race. 35 Karma, Karma Pool 2), Resources: -6 (0, -6 from race), Skills: 25 (-2), Att: 27 (18).

   To represent experience in the campaign, I’m providing +4 skill points which may be spent to raise initial skills (to a maximum of eight) and +2 Karma Pool. These bonuses have been included below.

   Shapeshifter Abilities: Regeneration (damage from drain recovers at one box per minute, normal physical damage recovers at 1d6 boxes per turn, double overflow boxes), +2 Essence, may communicate with animals, shapechange as a complex action, +2 Charisma, +1 Intelligence, +1 Will. As a Fox gain +1 Quickness, +1 Reaction, +1d6 Initiative, x5 Running Multiplier.

   Shapeshifter Flaws: Legal Problems (no legal rights), Dual Natured, Bestial Nature (must roll Will[6] to avoid instinctive behaviors if a strong stimulus comes up), Hung out to Dry (does not get the usual two free contacts), No Identity (has no legal paper trail, SIN, or other records – except, possibly, as a pet), Reduced Resources (-6, included above), Vulnerability (wounds inflicted by silver and magical weapons will not regenerate, silver is toxic to them), Uneducated (-2) and Illiterate (-3).

   Edges: Buying off Illiterate (3), Increase Initiation to L3 (6), Longevity (+1), Floating L1 Contact (2), Day Job (0): Helps run the Pitcairn Islands. This has Minor Responsibilities (keeping an eye out and helping in emergencies, -2) and moderately useful perks (an identity of sorts, rights while on the islands, and lets him live on the island for free, +2), but no salary (Pitcairn Island has no money, 0), Photographic Memory (1), Good Looking (-2 to social target numbers versus females, -1 versus males, 2), and +1 to his Magic Rating (3).

   Flaws: Detailed Background (-4)*, Distinctive (albino, -1), Psychological Quirks (honorable, wants “sparkly things”, rushes to aid damsels in distress, all common/mild, for a net total of -6 and a [-2] on social target numbers)*, Uneducated (additional minus three, but see powers, -3), and Low Pain Tolerance (-4). Grand Total: -18.

*Exempt to over-limit halving due to being useful to the GM.

   Dice Pools:

  • Combat Pool: 9d
  • Karma Pool: 4

   Karma Expenditures (35 Initial): Initiation II (25), Str from 1 to 3 (10).

   Basic Attributes (Human Form): Body 4, Quickness 4, Strength 1 (3 Karma), Intelligence 6 (7 Race, 8 Ace), Willpower 6 (7 Race), Charisma 6 (8 Race, 16 Ace), Essence 8, Magic 9 (12 after initiation), Reaction 6, Initiative 6+1d6

   Skills:

  • Active Skills (25 + 4 bonus): Agility 6, Conjuration 8, Stealth 8, Slight of Hand 4, Unarmed Combat 3.
  • Knowledge Skills: Judo 3, Spirit Lore 5, Breaking and Entering 5, Stage Magic 1. Alex normally simply defaults to Intelligence (without penalty) for these thanks to his Ace powers.
  • Languages: English 3, Japanese 3, Cityspeak 3, Tahitian 3.
  • Irrelevant Skills: Math Puzzles 2, Word Puzzles 4, Card Games 6

   Initiate Powers:

  • Level One: Attunement (+1 Magic Rating), Supporting Cast (acquires [Charisma] new common contacts and random dependents), and Mindlink (communications and sense sharing with Hitoshi).
  • Level Two: Attunement (+1 Magic Rating), Unbreakable (may define some things that he cannot be made to do; in his case he’s chosen “will not harm innocents”, “will not harm Hitoshi”, and another minor item of choice), Supporting Cast II (add [Charisma] more important contacts at the cost of acquiring an obsessive opponent).
  • Level Three: Attunement (+1 Magic Rating), Empathic Healing (may take on other people’s wounds), and Magic Protection I (reduce effective magic rating by two when rolling to avoid magic loss).

   Enhancement powers (24 Points):

  • Everyone Loves Me: +8 Charisma (4) which allows incredible feats (3) – defaulting directly to the skill success table or relevant skill target numbers as appropriate. Sadly, this is subject to a Class-I limitation: it makes people want to snatch him and keep him for a pet (saving 1.75 points).
  • The Quick White Fox: Celerity, +3 to Movement Multipliers (1.5)
  • Quite an Education: +1 Intelligence (1) which allows incredible feats (3) – defaulting directly to the skill success table or relevant skill target numbers as appropriate.
  • Fast As Quicksilver: May shapeshift as a free action (1.5).
  • Always Looking Sharp: May create any normal outfit desired when he needs to (.5).
  • It’s No Trouble To Call: Has an additional stun damage monitor only to absorb stun from Conjuration (1).
  • I’m Not Really This Clinging: Wall-Crawling, as a personal, physical, permanent, innate ability (1.5).
  • I’m So Cute: Opponents suffer a +1 target number modifier, but only when launching direct attacks against him (Class-II limitation, does not affect investigation, mind probes, negotiations, etc, 2).
  • Four Flying Paws: +2 Autosuccesses (1d+12) with Agility (quickness-based Athletics rolls, 1).
  • Stronger Than I Look: +1 Autosuccess with Strength (strength-based Athletics rolls, .5).
  • Rubbing My Fur Is Good Luck: Major Lucky Break Once/Session (Class-I limitation, only works for an ally, not for himself, 2.25).
  • They’re Really Quite Obliging: two Autosuccesses when Summoning Spirits (2).
  • It’s A Good Nose: Hyper-scent: (-4 to relevant target numbers, .25).
  • Sharp Foxy Eyes: Hyper-Sight: (-4 to relevant target numbers, .25) and Low-Light Vision (.25).
  • Alert Foxy Ears: Hyper-Hearing: (-4 to relevant target numbers, .25).

   Equipment (500 NY, no starting cash): Squatter Lifestyle (Free), 2x Smoke Grenades (60 NY), Earplug Cell Phone / Low-End Music Player (150 NY), 30 Days Ration Bars (90 NY, in various stashes. Note that this will last a fox for more like 30 weeks), Survival Kit (100 NY, makes life in the woods and down holes and such far more comfortable), Assorted cheap music downloads and some chips (50 NY), Animal License (50 NY).

   In his own way, Alex is pretty absurd. His only tactic in combat is to send in a spirit and/or run, but he’s a powerful spirit master, a social monster – although not as bad as some – and is a natural expert at all intelligence-based skills to boot. A one-fox backup and technical team all by himself. As he gathers more Karma he’ll be buying the ability to share some of his powers with Hitoshi, more magic protection, and more supporting cast.

Shadowrun: Pitcairn and Hitoshi Gilespi

   The Pitcairn Islands – population 72 as of 2020 – were spared much of the disasters of the early twenty-first century through sheer isolation. VITAS never reached the islands. No dragons, magicians, or other major manifestations of magic appeared there. A few, minor, awakened plants and small animals showed up, but they were hardly noticeable. There weren’t very many base species there to begin with. A few seagoing oddities were noted, but such trivialities paled besides the near-loss of contact with the outside world.

   In 2016, Great Britain transferred it’s interest in the islands to Benne Carstairs, who later (in 2018) declared them a nation, built a small office there as “corporate headquarters”, and used the place as a tax shelter. Given that he provided a power plant (a small nuclear naval design), hired a doctor, set up a better satellite link, and provided basic supplies, the islanders made no objection. Unfortunately, with the rise of the megacorporations and their special legal privileges, using a puppet state as your corporate headquarters was no longer much of an advantage – and, where it was useful, there were many much less remote and awkward small states to use. In 2034, the Pitciarn Islands were auctioned off, and passed through the hands of a succession of absentee landlords including Sultan Abdulhamid, who placed a small power plant and desalination plant to supplement rainwater cachement on Henderson Island and banished a number of inconvenient or bothersome relatives and offspring there. They survived his assassination since the few who knew of their existence couldn’t be bothered going that far to kill them. Despite these capital improvements the value of the Islands was considered problematic, and affairs reached a nadir in 2054, when their current owner bet the islands (population 118) in a high-stakes poker game against a note for 118,000 NY, a small yacht, and a collection of ancient papyrus scrolls of doubtful provenance and unknown value and lost them to Hitoshi Gilespi. Hitoshi, perhaps with somewhat grandiose ideas about the value of owning his own country, spent the money on hiring a small cargo ship and loading it with some supplies and set off to claim his new property and become an international political figure.

   Pitcairn Island is further from any continental landmass than any other inhabited island. The nearest islands are in French Polynesia, roughly to the WNW: the isolated Gambier Islands are 330 miles away, the Acteon Group of the Tuamotu Islands are 450 miles away, and Tahiti and the rest of the Society Islands are a mere 1,300 miles off. Easter Island is about the same distance in the opposite direction. Pitcairn is usually reached by a thirty-hour boat trip from Mangareva in the Gambiers.

   The Pitcairn Island Group includes four separate “islands” (the two Atolls are each made up of several very small islands – heaps of sand, shells, and coral debris built up on top of a larger coral reef). The climate is subtropical and the ecology relatively simple; the islands simply are not large enough to support all that many species.

  • Pitcairn: Volcanic, 1.8 square miles, maximum elevation of 1145 feet, rocky coastline with cliffs, one small and semi-navigable (accessible by small boats only) bay, forest, scrub, and cultivated areas. As of 2054, Population 97. The economy is based on gardening, fishing, carving curios for sale to passing ships (relatively rare these days) and selling postage stamps to collectors.
  • Ducie: Atoll, .27 square miles, 340 miles east of Pitcairn, Maximum elevation 13 feet, forested. Currently uninhabited.
  • Henderson: Uplifted Coral Island, 14.4 square miles, 120 miles NE of Pitcairn, maximum elevation of 110 feet, undercut 50-foot coastal cliffs, three small beaches on the northern side. No natural source of fresh water, extremely rugged, forested. Current population 21 (technically, since the succeeding Sultan sold the island and contents, the inhabitants are Hitoshi’s property). The economy is based on gardening, keeping a small number of cattle (drastically limited due to the freshwater shortage), coastal fishing, and the gathering of small amounts of magical telesma, since the island is very nearly untouched.
  • Oeno: Atoll, .25 square miles, 89 miles NW of Pitcairn, maximum elevation of 16 feet, small amounts of fresh water available. Palm forest and scrub. Oeno is traditionally used as a “vacation island” and source of coconuts and palm fronds (for handicrafts such as baskets) by the inhabitants of Pitcairn. Unfortunately, it cannot support a sizable group year-round since the water supply is very limited and takes months to recover between visits.

   Here we have a preliminary character sheet for Hitoshi Gilespi, the current owner of the Pitcairn Island Group. The player means to expand things considerably, or so I’ve been told.

Hitoshi Gilespi

   Hitoshi, and his twin sister Hitomi, moved in with their grandmother Maylinde when they were not quite twelve, shortly after the (apparently; who can ever be sure?) accidental death of their mother Tanelith (she never would talk about their father much, and neither will most of their other relatives). Both possessed some magical talent, but took opposing approaches after Tanelith died; Hitomi turned outwards, latching onto everyone around her. Hitoshi withdrew into his own darkened world, connecting with others only to manipulate them.

   Hitoshi turned out to possess a remarkable memory, as well as a knack for initiation – doing so before even learning more than the basics of a few spells – and for astral quests, which served him well in his studies. Unfortunately, he lacked the sheer mental fortitude to endure actually casting very many spells in a row – but he mastered a great many of them and got into college rather early.

   Spending all that time among far older people didn’t help him connect socially. He also saw that the world was simply not being run very well. It wasn’t long before he concluded that most of the people in it were complete idiots, and that it would all work a great deal better if he was in charge. Soon, he was starting to take action to get in charge – searching for terrible spells, mystic secrets, and exploring the depths of the metaplanes. He also managed to acquire an astounding – and blatantly illegal – amount of Karma by providing specialized magical services on the streets.

   He linked up with “Alex” – a fox-shapeshifter with (like most predatory shapeshifters) few human-style scruples. Seizing control of an appropriate powerbase sounded good to him as well. So did some rummaging around in obscure museums and libraries. There were a lot of rumors about the magic of ancient egypt.

   Disappointingly, the scrolls they ran across turned out to be fairly worthless magically – but they sufficed for a poker stake while they were following up on some other rumors in Madagascar. Pitcairn turned out to be a good deal smaller than Hitoshi had imagined it – but it was a start.

   Basic Expenditures: Magic 24 (Master Magician/Treesnake* Shaman), Race 12 (Elf), Resources 30 (3000 KNY), Skills -2 (25 active skill points), and Attributes 0 (18 attribute points).

*Treesnake is a minor variant on Snake: Rather than +2 dice with a particular spirit of the land or of man, they get +1 die with Spirits of the Sky. Otherwise +2 dice with Detection, Health, and Illusion spells, -1 die for any spellcasting during combat.

   Basic Attributes: Body 3 (1 before Karma), Quickness 4 (3 before racial modifiers), Strength 3 (1 before Karma), Intelligence 6, Willpower 3, Charisma 6 (4 before racial modifiers), Essence 6, Magic 5, Reaction 5, Initiative 5+2d6.

   To represent experience in the campaign, I’m providing +4 skill points which may be spent to raise initial skills (to a maximum of eight) and +2 Karma Pool. These bonuses have been included below.

   Dice Pools:

  • Astral Combat Pool: 7d
  • Combat Pool: 6d
  • Spell Pool: 7d
  • Initiate Magic Pool: 4d
  • Karma Pool: 3

   Edges:

  • Overspending on basic expenditures (4): +4 basic priority points.
  • Day Job (0): Runs the Pitcairn Islands. This has Major Responsibilities (running everything and fixing emergencies, -3), extremely useful perks (access to Telesma, minor diplomatic access that allows him to a political influence skill), and lets him issue credentials and live on the island for free (+3), but no salary (Pitcairn Island has no money, 0).
  • State of the Art (2): He has access to advanced spells.
  • Reduced Target Number/-4 on Astral Quest target numbers (4):
  • Bonus Dice/+1 for magical operations (Very Common, Major, 4):
  • Geneware (6): -1 BI (2), with Bonus Effects (2), Takes no stress and does not detect as artificial (2) although he must pay full price for it since it requires special training. Mnemonic Enhancer III (+3d to Memory tests, +3d to Language tests, +1d to all knowledge skill tests, -3 on the Karma cost of learning Skills and Spells, and +3 on his initial intelligence-based skill multipliers), Synaptic Accelerator I (+1d6 Initiative).
  • Grant Total: 20.

   Flaws:

  • Miser (-3):
  • Low Pain Tolerance (-4):
  • Sensitive System (-2):
  • Detailed Background (-4)*:
  • Addiction (Power, Common/Moderate, -3*):
  • Psychological Quirk (Thinks he can run things better than anyone else, Constant/Mild, -4*):
  • Grand Total: -20.
    • *Exempt from over-limit halving due to use as GM plot hooks.

   Resource Expenditures:

  • Second ID (75k): Hephaestion Medraut. A somewhat shady mage and dealer in obscure artifacts and information. The first name was chosen for it’s historical significance as the name of Alexander the Great’s childhood friend and closest associate – a suggestion of Alex’s. The last name is the original Celtic form of “Mordred” (which should need no further explanation for anyone who knows Hitoshi, given his nature).
  • “Small” (technically “Large”, but extremely inconvenient) Base (125k): The Pitcairn Islands.
  • Followers (200k):
  • Reputation (30k):
  • 10,000 NY Income with Complications (250k):
  • L3 Contact (200k):
  • Grab bag (150k):
  • Special Training (See Edges, 120k):
  • Diplomatic Connections (25k):
  • Political Connections (25k):
  • Utility Helicopter (used, 100k)
  • 68 Karma Points (1700k):

   Skills:

  • Initial Active Skills (25 + 4 bonus): Sorcery 8, Conjuration 8, Administration 6, Leadership 6, Negotiation 1.
    • Karma Purchases: Astral Perception 3 (3) Negotiation 4 (6), and Performance 3 (3).
  • Initial Knowledge Skills (Bases + 48): Magic Theory 6, Spirit Lore 6, Sociology 6, Current Events 6, Psychology 6, History 6, Spellcraft 6, (Country) Lore 6, Civics and Law 6, Logic 6.
  • Initial Languages (18): English 4, Japanese 3, French 3, Spanish 2, and Ancient Egyptian 6 with the related Read / Write skills at half those values.
  • Irrelevant Skills (12): Cooking 6, Gambling 6.

   Karma Expenditures (93 Karma Available): Skills (12), Initiate II (25), Body to 3 (10), Strength to 3 (10), 36 Spells at Force 10 (-6 per for Astral Quests, -3 per for Mnemonic Enhancer = 36).

Initiate Powers: Metaplanar Access (He has been using Astral Quests rated at 6 – for him, effectively 2 – to reduce his spell costs), Circuiting (may spend successes to give appropriate spells a duration in hours, although this is easily broken), Sortilege (gain an initiate magic pool of 2+Initiate Level dice for use on any magical operation), Bloodbinding (May make a spell permanent and unbreakable by giving up a point of magic to it permanently), Centering (may use ancient Egyptian as a complimentary skill for sorcery), and Divination.

   Spellcasting: Normally 8d (Sorcery Skill) + 3d (Centering in Ancient Egyptian) + 1d (Edge) +2d with Detection, Health, and Illusion spells -1d if spellcasting in combat. Note that he only has a base of 3d for his Drain resistance tests; he has very good spells, but can’t cast too many of them in a row unless he saves most of his dice pools for it. Of course, with that many dice to cast with anyway, he can afford to do that.

   Spells: (Base Drain target number = Force/2, plus modifiers).

  • Orator’s Aura: Permanently bloodbound, cast at Force 10, with 10 successes, +10 dice to all Social Skill Rolls.
  • Combat Spells: Manabolt (Target Will, Drain [Damage Level]), Mindslayer (Target Will, Drain S)
  • Detection Spells: Catalog (Target 6, Drain +1/M), Clairaudience (Target 6, Drain M), Clairvoyance (Target 6, Drain M), Empathy (Target 4, Drain M), Mindlink (Target Will, Drain S), Mind Probe (Target Will, Drain S), Night Vision (Target 6, Drain +1/M).
  • Health Spells: Antidote (Target Toxin Power, Drain [Toxin Damage Level]), Cure Disease (Target Disease Power, Drain [Disease Damage Level]), Heal (Target 10-Essence, Drain [Damage Level]), Hyper-sexuality (Target 10-Essence, Drain +3/L), Forget (Target Will, Drain +4/S), Hypersenses (Target 10-Essence, Drain +1/M), Increase Will (target Will, Drain +1/M), Unguarded Tongue (Target Will, Drain L).
  • Illusion Spells: Agony (Target Will, Drain M), Entrancement (Target 4, Drain L), Improved Invisibility (Target 4, Drain +1/M), Mass Agony (Target Will, Drain S), Physical Mask (Target 4, Drain +1/M), Visions Noir (Target 4, Drain +2/M),
  • Manipulation Spells: Armor (Target 6, Drain +2/M), Astral Armor (Target 6, Drain +1/M), Clean (Target 4, +1/M), Control Thoughts (Target Will, Drain +1/S), Create Food (Target 4, Drain +1/S), Fashion (Target 6, Drain +1/L), Fireball (Target 4, Drain +1/[Damage Level+2]), Fix (Target Object Resistance, Drain S), Lightning Bolt (Target 4, Drain +1/[Damage Level +1]), Magic Fingers (Target 6, Drain +2/M), Mana Barrier (Target 6, Drain +1/S), Physical Barrier (Target 6, Drain +2/S), Shapechange (Target Body, Drain +1/M).

   Contacts:

   L1- Seanan Flynn. A 37-year old Irishman with high mental stats and quickness, but low charisma. He’s a prominent member of the underworld and a decent magician. Hitoshi doesn’t care much for him, but he’s been helpful in the past and doesn’t really have any reservations about doing anything illegal, so Hitoshi tries to stay on good terms with him. Seanan’s a bit bipolar, with a somewhat dark sense of humor that Hitoshi finds annoying and somewhat disturbing. He was the first person to teach Hitoshi some of the less reputable uses for spells.

   L1- Basil Gifford. A british Archmage in his late 60’s, with a powerful mind but weakening body. Basil was Hitoshi’s college magic professor. He was one of Hitoshi’s favorite professors in college, and the man had a soft spot for the cranky little sorcerer. He’s a surprisingly good-natured man, and he was the first person at the university to notice that Alex was a shapeshifter. He knows a great deal about all sorts of things, from history to random mythology. He’s very wise in the ways of politics. He and Hitoshi aren’t often in touch much anymore, but Hitoshi occasionally asks the man for advice, and he’s always happy to oblige. Notably, the man is not aware of Hitoshi’s current political position – and may very well have a few issues with it. He taught Hitoshi some of the more powerful spells he knows.

   L3- Hadassah “Sal” Salazar. A 33-year-old latino woman with lots of cyberware, high physical stats, high willpower, and low charisma. A guard – ok, pretty much THE guard – who worked for Hitoshi’s predecessor on the Pitcairn Islands. She’d become quite fond of the islands and the islanders – it’s both a relaxed and lovely place – and she didn’t particularly care for her employer; he didn’t really give a damn about the place. She’s been pleasantly surprised to find that Hitoshi – or Hephaestion – actually takes an interest in the islands and in running things, even if he is a manipulative youngster and a bit overambitious. Despite his Machiavellian policies and “cult of personality” approach, he seemed to be genuinely trying to improve the place. She’s actually been putting her heart into her bodyguard and administrative-assistant work.

Exalted: Sergeant Jack Rackham

   Here we have a Dualistic Exalted character for White Wolf’s Exalted game system – in this case, an earthly interloper in creation (or in whatever other universe the group had gotten into this week).

Sergeant Jack Rackham

   Jack grew up wanting to be in the military. He wasn’t “officer material” – but, unlike most of the population of the 2030’s, a military career suited him perfectly. It gave him a welcome outlet for his bursts of violence, a chance to play with high-powered weapons, and a certain degree of respect.

   Being assigned as a guard at the Torridon hyperspace research facility didn’t really suit him at first – until he discovered that the intention was to open interstellar portals and send expeditions to explore alien worlds. That promised all kinds of fun.

   Regardless of their intentions, what the scientists actually did was overload the local structure of space, blow a hole in the universe, and dump several of their best scientists – and Jack, who’d been on guard duty at the time – into Creation, where they fell in with Zareth Eleris and accidently infused him with dimensional energies as well.

   Behind them, their home universe (perhaps under the direction of the Dimensional Auditors or some inter-dimensional entity) recoiled from the point of disruption, spinning time back some twenty years. On their return to it (and Zareth’s arrival), the Dualistic Exalted found themselves fitted into roles as fourteen-year-olds – and charged with regulating the dimensional contact points to prevent such disruption in the future.

   Jack found that annoying because he couldn’t buy beer and people kept trying to keep him from laying his hand on any weapons. Eventually he found that he could reach out into the inter-dimensional void for beer and weapons, which was pretty much all it took to make him content with the situation.

  • Caste: Dualistic Warrior (Earth)
  • Nature: Berserker (Regain willpower whenever his outbursts of violence help solve a problem)
  • Virtues: None
  • Willpower: 5

Physical

Str

2 (4) (6)

Dex

6

Sta

5 (6)

Social

Chr

3

Man

2

App

2

Mental

Per

4

Int

1

Wit

4

 

Dawn

 

Zenith

 

Twilight

 

Archery

 

Endurance

1

Craft

2

Brawl*

4

Performance

 

Investigation

 

Martial Arts

 

Presence

 

Lore

 

Melee*

3

Resistance

2

Medicine

 

Thrown

2

Survival

3

Occult

 
           

Night

 

Eclipse

 

Earthly

 

Athletics

1

Bureaucracy

 

Academics

 

Awareness

 

Linguistics

 

Computer

 

Dodge*

4

Ride

 

Drive*

3

Larceny

 

Sail

 

Engineering

 

Stealth

1

Socialize

 

Firearms**

5

  •  
    • *Master Skill. Rolls are made with +2 Bonus Dice.
    • **Heart Skill. Add (Essence) Automatic Successes.
    • Specialities: Small Arms 3, Karatends/Fighting Gauntlets 3, Heavy Weapons 3, Tanks 1.
      • Note that Dualistic Exalted may apply up to three Specialities to a given roll.
  • Focus: 2
  • Essence: 2 (No active essence pool, and thus no committed motes).
  • Merits: (0 Base)
    • Hulking (A.K.A. “Large”, 3): +1 Str, +1 Sta, and +1 “-0” health level. Obvious football-player build.
    • Sturdy (3): +1 Str, +1 “-2” health level, Lethal Soak at half of Stamina.
    • Full Military Kit (2): He’s so obsessed with the military that he has his own kit, as well as the officially-issued one.
    • Karatends (1): A modern version of the fighting gauntlet using kevlar and high-density plastic plates. +2L OR +3B damage, +2 defense, allows brawlers to block lethal damage).
  • Backgrounds: (5 Base)
    • Experience -2: Military Special Forces Training
    • Resources -1: Intimidates people into giving him small items.
    • Allies -2: He can always find some thugs to help him wreck things somehow.
  • Flaws: Derangement (violent, reckless maniac, -4), Disturbing (-2 dice on non-intimidation social rolls, -3), and Diminished Attribute (-1 Social Attribute Point, -3).
  • Freebie Points: 21 + 14 + 10 Flaws. Spent on Abilities 22, Merits 9, Specialities 10, and Attributes 4

   Prodigies:

   Initial Hyperstrength Prodigy:

  • You may reduce the effective mass of up to (10 x Str) tons of material in your grasp to negligible levels and, incidently, ignore leverage and wind resistance while doing so. Masses up to twice that great can be reduced to the point where you can – just barely – heave them into the air or drag them along.
  • You may dampen incoming physical attacks, gaining +4B/+2L innate Soak against them. Sadly, this does not affect energy-based attacks.
  • You gain a +2 bonus to your effective strength in other situations.

   Inherent Exalted Abilities:

  • May sense energies alien to either creation or earth, such as magic and radiation for Earth/Creation.
  • Immune to infection, drugs, radiation, toxins, and diseases unless the agent in question is administered in both worlds. Heals at twice the normal rate.

   Character Advancement (48 XP):

  • Athletics to 2 (2).
  • Stealth to 2 (2).
  • Martial Arts (6) as per “Claws”; may inflict lethal damage in “unarmed” hand-to-hand combat and parry weapon strikes while unarmed.
  • Toughness (8) +2 Strength, +1 Stamina, gains one -1 and two -2 health levels, may soak all damage with his full stamina.
  • Lucky 5 (10).
  • Learned Prodigy (20): Military Supplies: May simply produce large quantities of military gear (and beer) without apparent source – including things like satchel charges, anti-tank missile launchers, and so on.

   Current Combat Information:

  • Usual Armor: Soaks all attacks with 7/7 dice (Stamina, thanks to Toughness merit) + 4/2 (Hyperstrength Prodigy, although not versus energy-based attacks) +0/3 (Sturdy) + 5/3 (Tailored Kevlar) = 16/15 (15 versus Aggravated damage as well).
  • Current Health Levels: 3x -0, 5x -1, 7x -2, 2x -4, Incapacitated, and “Dead” (roll Stamina + Focus to make a successful Worldjump to survive).
  • Weapons Skills: Usually 14 dice, +2 automatic successes, with small arms and heavy weapons. Usually 15d while brawling.

   Jack was pretty simple to have around. He tended to sit around fiddling with his weapons and gear (and drinking beer) until there was a chance to do some scouting, somebody needed a guard, or a fight broke out. Then he either waded in with his fists – if his opponents were unarmed – or got out a weapon big enough to be a creditable threat to whatever-it-was. He did tend to go on about the general superiority of all things military to anything civilian – including how much better MRE-style rations were better than any local delicacy (most of the rest of the characters found reasons to doubt it). Sergeant Jack cheerily shot monsters, energy-beings, undead, humans, and exalted as required. If whatever-it-was turned out to be immune to his various weapons for some reason, it was a matter for the scientific types.

Exalted: Damage Overwhelming

   There’s always somebody who wants to know how much damage completely ridiculous things do – and how much power their characters are carrying about. So here’s the benchmark chart for our Exalted games, listed by the number of dice of damage followed by a list of things that will do that much damage. If your character insists on throwing around this kind of damage, this will also tell you the kind of side effects you can expect.

  • 20: Light Artillery, Missile Launcher, Medium Implosion Bow, high-speed vehicle crashes. The heaviest repeating man-portable stuff and light crew-served weaponry. The energy level of a moderately skilled mortal Thaumaturge.
  • 25: Medium Artillery, Heavy Mortars, Tank Guns, several-hundred MPH plane crashes. Generally stuff that’s too big to carry around. Attacks at this level and above tend to cause shattered windows and other side effects for at least a hundred feet around their point of impact. Comparable to the energy level of a highly-skilled mortal Thaumaturge, ordinary ghost, or young godblooded.
  • 50: Building-sized weapons: Superheavy Artillery, Heavy Implosion “Bow”, supersonic crash, Starship Energy Weapons. Attacks at this level can be counted on to destroy good sized buildings and cause serious destruction for a hundred feet around their point of impact and minor damage for several hundred more. Comparable to the energy level of a new Terrestrial exalt or an average Godblooded.
  • 75: Enchanted Superheavy Artillery, Plasma Coils, Tactical Nuclear Weapons. Will destroy at least a city block and cause serious damage for quite a distance. Comparable to the energy reserve of a new Lunar or Sidereal Exalt or a highly experienced Terrestrial one.
  • 100: Fission Bomb, Relativistic Projectile. Will usually destroy most of a city. Comparable to the energy reserve of a newly-exalted Solar or an experienced Lunar or Sidereal Exalt.
  • 125: Fusion Bomb, Antimatter Beam. Usually destroys a city and its metropolitan area. Comparable to the energy reserve of a highly-experienced Solar, a common Malfean, or a Major God.
  • 150: Total Conversion Bomb, Quantum Singularity Beam. Causes vast destruction in an area hundreds of miles across. Comparable to the energies tapped by the most powerful Solars in history, of common Primordials, and of the most powerful Gods.
  • 175: Stellar Flare, Gravitational Soliton Beam. Reduces a continent to a sea of molten rock. Comparable to the energies of the more powerful primordials or to large groups of Gods or Celestial Exalted.
  • 200: Nova, Core-Tap Sunbeam. Destroys planetoids, burns off planetary surfaces, shatters mountain ranges. Causes massive damage throughout the local solar system, light damage to nearby solar systems. Comparable to the energies of Autochthon, Gaia, or the massed might of the Celestial Exalted at their peak during the Primordial Wars.
  • 225: Supernova, Seyfert Flare. Destroys nearby planets, may cause severe damage in nearby solar systems.
  • 250: Hypernova, Gamma Ray Burster. Destroys nearby stars, damages much of the local galaxy.
  • 275: Being struck by Cosmic String or a Singularity. Destroys neutron stars and small star clusters
  • 300: Zero-point Phase Transition. Propagates out at the speed of light, gradually overwriting the current universe. Survivors using perfect Soak or Blocks find themselves in a dense plasma-photon cloud.
  • 325: Quagma Inflation Weaponry. Destroys local galaxy and stellar halo and drops the region out of normal space-time to form a new universe with modified natural laws. It will probably expand considerably.
  • 350: Force Inversion, Quintessence Burst. Collapses quarks throughout the universe into singularities, which then detonate in bursts of hard radiation. The universe is reduced to a burst of stray particles. Those using perfect Soak or Block defenses may survive, but will probably have nothing to do for the rest of eternity unless they develop some charms to start rebuilding the cosmos. The fey laugh their heads off.
  • 375: Unshielded Plank-Scale Spatial Inversion/Dark Energy Amplification. Annihilates the universe without further side effects. Space, Time, and Energy effectively cease to exist. The end except for anything out in the deep Wyld. The serious crusaders among the fey throw one hell of a party. Survivors are invited.
  • 400: Cosmic Singularity. Destroys local regions of multiverse (and incidentally creates new ones). Those with perfect Soak defenses survive, but will have to wait for the multiverse to evolve before there will be anything interesting to do. Hibernation or coming up with special rebuilding charms is suggested.

Exalted: Modern Weapons

   Back when we were playing Exalted in a modern setting, we needed some quick statistics on modern weapons and a few bits of other equipment – and the Exalted scaling is rather different from the various World of Darkness sourcebooks. Ergo, here’s a quick chart covering some modern equipment for Exalted:

Modern Firearms Chart (Personal Weapons)

Type

Dam

Ranges

Clip

Str

Size

Acc

Rate

Cost

Light Pistol

6L

20/40/80

18

2

1

+2

6

*

Heavy Pistol

8L

35/70/140

8

3

1

+1

5

**

Shotgun (1)

10L

20/40/80

6

3^

2

+3

3

*

Rifle

10L

200/400/800

12

2^

3

+0

3

**

Sniper Rifle

12L

500/2K/5K

1

2

3

+4

1

***

Machine Pistol*

6L

25/50/100

30

2

1

+1

4

***

SMG*

8L

50/100/200

60

3^

2

+0

4

***

Assault Rifle*

8L

150/300/600

42

3^

3

+1

4

***

Concussion Grenade

8B

10/20/30

1

2

1

-1

2

**

Fragmentation Grenade

6L

10/20/30

1

2

2

-1

2

**

Incendiary Grenade

8L

10/20/30

1

2

2

-1

2

***

Grenade Launcher

Var

50/100/150

6

2

2

-1

3

***

LAW

24L

50/100/200

4

3^

3

+0

1

****

   Special Notes:

  • Damage: Indicates the base damage of the weapon.
  • Ranges: Short/medium/long ranges in yards. Attacks at medium/long range take a -2/-4 penalty.
  • Clip: The number of shells a gun can hold.
  • Str: The minimum strength required to hole the weapon steady. Weaker wielders suffer a -1 die penalty.
  • Size: 1 = Can be hidden in hand, 2 = Can be hidden in coat, 3 = Cannot be hidden on one’s person
  • *Can autofire 3/10/20 bullets for +2/3/4 dice. 10 and 20 bullet bursts can be spread over multiple targets as multi-actions.
  • ^ +1 if used one-handed.
  • A shotgun can hit two targets next to each other.
  • Full-automatic weapons usually require special permits.
  • Grenades affect a fifteen-foot radius.
  • LAW’s are armor-piercing versus hardness only.
  • Light pistols through Assault Rifles work nicely with the Righteous Devil martial arts style.
  • Laser Sights reduce Firearms target numbers by 1 at a cost of **.

Modern Armor Chart

Modern Armor

Soak

Str

Fat

Mob

Cost

Heavy Clothing

2/1

1

0

0

Leather Outfit

3/2

2

0

0

*

Light Kevlar*

4/2

1

0

0

**

Tailored Kevlar*^

5/2

1

0

-1

***

Heavy Kevlar*

5/3

2

1

-1

**

Flack Jacket*

5/5

3

1

-1

**

Full Riot Gear*

7/7 (3)

3

2

-2

***

Military Ceramic*

9/9 (5)

4

3

-3

****

   Special Notes:

  • Soak: Lethal/Bashing. The number in () is the armor’s hardness rating.
  • Strength (Optional): If you don’t have at least this Str your armor will slow you down, adding +1 difficulty to your attack and parry rolls. Few exalted characters worry about this, but mortals often do.
  • Fatigue: The difficulty of the armors fatigue check. This must be made every so often on (Sta + End) to avoid a cumulative -1 penalty on all actions.
  • Mobility: The penalty imposed rolls involving agility or balance while wearing the armor.
  • * Bulletproof. Downgrades bullet damage from lethal to bashing
  • ^ Tailored to look like normal clothing. A must for the wealthy.

   Other Equipment:

  • Kit/Shop/Facility for a particular skill; +1/2/3 dice at a cost of 2/3/4. Superior and even “Perfect” versions are available, but if you want it enchanted you’ll have to do it yourself. This includes computers and programs (Lore and similar skills). You normally can’t carry anything bigger than a “kit”.
  • Surveillance Gear has ratings of 1-5 and a similar cost. Roll it’s rating to see if it catches anything about an action, extra successes indicate more information. Counter- surveillance gear has exactly the same costs and rolls an opposed check to try to find Surveillance gear. Jammers cost (rating-1) and roll against surveillance gear to reduce its successes.
  • Vehicles range from * (A used car) through *** (A light plane) on up through ***** (an aircraft carrier). In general, they can be assumed to be available.

d20: Captain Cliche, the Iron Raptor

   For today, it’s another sample character for the Eclipse: The Codex Persona classless d20 rules (available in print HERE and in a shareware version HERE). In this case we have Eric Rohan, a basic superhero. Like most basic superheroes, he’ll be starting out around level five.

   Super-strength, limited invulnerability, enough speed to get around quickly, and flight. The #1 super-power package of all time. Individual heroes may spice it up a bit – throwing in some minor energy-projection power, an enhanced sense or two, or any of a hundred other minor powers – but it’s still the basic framework on which a tremendous number of heroes are built.

   You can, of course, build a version of it in Eclipse: The Codex Persona for a normal setting – take a racial package with a big strength boost, hysteria, innate enchantment, witchcraft, or get your strength up in any of a dozen other ways, buy Damage Reduction and Celerity – but honestly, this sort of thing works best in a superhero world. Ergo, this character will be built using the Superhero Rule from page 161 – “Each major character may spend up to (Con Mod) free points of Mana each round without drawing on their personal reserves – although they can’t save up those points”.

   The point of that rule is to take abilities which normally have very limited uses and let characters fuel them with Mana so that they can use them all the time.

   Cliche Hero Power Package #1 (94 CP, +2 ECL Race or +3 ECL Template):

  • Berserker, with the Odinpower, Odinmight, Controlled, and Enduring enhancements (21 CP): +20 str, -2 AC. Rather than being “Uses per day”, this costs two mana to activate – and thus, in a superhero world, can be kept up all the time. This also means that our hero will have to make a DC 18 will check not to fall back on his super-powers as a solution to things while he has his strength running. Outside of superhero worlds, the game master should let him fall back on uses per day, or at least let him buy some personal mana.
  • Celerity with Additional movement mode (Flight) at a base of 30′ (18 CP).
  • Universal Damage Reduction 8/- (24 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment (10 CP, 9000 GP Value. All spell effects unlimited use-activated, caster level one, personal-only [x.7] where relevant): Force Shield (converts five lethal damage from each attack to stun damage, 1400 GP), Personal Haste (+30′ to movement, +1 attack at full BAB when making a full attack, 2000 GP), Immortal Vigor I (+12 + 2x Con Mod HP, 1400 GP), +2 Str (1400 GP), +2 Con (1400 GP), +2 Chr (1400). All are subject to disruption whenever he’s exposed to some odd material or form of energy, rather than to dispelling and antimagic. (A version of Eldritch, +0 CP).
  • Immunity/normal upper limits on lifting and carrying (Common / Minor / Epic, 18 CP). The good captain would be able to lift about four tons simply due to his strength. This will put his routine lift at around 60 tons – doubling with each immunity step – and put extraordinary efforts at whatver the GM is willing to put up with.
  • Immunity/Transit Time (Uncommon / Minor / Great, Specialized in Flight, 3 CP) increases his speed by a factor of 16 for long-distance travel (to around 500 miles per hour). Given that the characters tend to arrive on the scene whenever the game master wants them there anyway, “I can go very fast” doesn’t make a lot of difference in superhero settings.

Iron Raptor

   Level Five Superhero (L3 +2 ECL Heroic “Race”).

   Eric Rohan may have been born a mutant, struck by a radioactive meteorite, been granted powers by some mystical entity, have been exposed to some strange chemicals (in these days that can happen in your own kitchen), or struck by lightning. He doesn’t really know.

   What he does know is that it was raining, with the occasional bit of lightning and thunder – and when he tried to heave the overturned car off the kid it was pinning in the ditch, things went blank for a couple of seconds. When they were clear again, he was standing three feet in the air, holding up a car while a couple of the other people who’d been trying to help pulled the kid out of the ditch ahead of the rising water.

   He spent a few days thinking about that, and experimenting a bit with his new powers before embarking on a career as a superhero. He’d needed something to do with his afternoons anyway.

   As of yet, Eric is fairly inexperienced, tends to think with his fists when confronted with some weird super-situation, and has yet to fully explore his powers (much less determine their source). He has picked up a police scanner to let him know where he might be needed, but really hasn’t gotten very professional about things as yet.

   Available Character Points: Duties (Generic superhero, protection of the innocent, remaining +2 CP/Level), Disadvantages: Hunted (assorted super-villains), Obligations (has assorted friends who keep getting into trouble and needing rescuing), and Secret (keeps his identity carefully hidden, for fear of his enemies attacking his friends and family) for net total of (+10 CP), Restrictions (generally reluctant to use unimprovised weapons or to kill, +1 CP/Level), L1 and L3 Feats (+12 CP), L3 Base (+96 CP) = 127 CP.

   Basic Attributes: Str 18 (40)/+15, Int 13/+1, Wis 14/+2, Con 16 (18)/+4, Dex 15/+2, Chr 12 (14)/+2. Originally Rolled: 13, 15, 18, 14, 16, 12.

   Basic Abilities (82 CP)

  • Saving Throws:
    • Reflex: +0 (Purchased, 6 CP) + 2 (Dexterity) = +2
    • Fortitude: +6 (Purchased, 18 CP) +4 (Constitution) = +10
    • Will: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) + 2 (Wisdom) = +2 normally, +6 when resisting the tendency to always use his powers to solve problems (6 CP).
  • Initiative: +2
  • Alignment: Neutral Good
  • Move: 30 Base + 30 Enhancement = 60 (both overland and flying)
  • Hit Dice: L1 d20 (16 CP), L2-3d10 (12 CP)
    • Hit Points: 20 (L1d20) +15 (L2-3, 7, 8) +12 (3x Con Mod) + 20 (12 + 2x Con Mod from Immortal Vigor I) = 67
  • Damage Reduction: 8/- versus both physical and energy damage, also converts five points of lethal damage from any attack into stunning damage.
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Dexterity) -2 (Berserker) = 10.
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons and Light Armor (6 CP).
  • Languages (2): As suits the campaign setting.
  • Warcraft: +3 (24 CP).
  • Usual Weapons:
    • Fists +18/+18 (+3 BAB +15 Strength, bonus attack due to personal haste) 1d10+15 (d6 base, upgraded by martial art +15 Str), may do lethal or stun damage without penalty, automatic knockdown on a critical, breaking technique, may attack as a force blast with a 100′ range increment.

   Other Abilities (33 CP):

  • Immunity/Breathing, Vacuum, and Toxic Gases (Common / Major / Major, 9 CP. This reduces the damage from such things by 30 points whenever it occurs).
  • Martial Arts/”Rock-Hard Fists” (6 CP) Does 1d6 base damage with Unarmed Attacks and is always considered “armed”.
  • Spirit Weapon, Ranged and Exotic Appearance (Force-Blasts, Range increment of 100′) on Unarmed Strikes (12 CP).
  • Action Hero/Stunts Option (6 CP).

   Skill Points: 6 (Int) + 12 (CP Spent) = 18. He may improve later, but for now – in the classical tradition of superheroes who think with their muscles – he isn’t very skilled.

   Skills: Martial Art/Two-Fisted Hero +11 (+5 Str +6 SP), Bluff +5 (3 SP +2 Chr), Gather Information +5 (3 SP +2 Chr), Knowledge/Local +4 (3 SP +1 Int), and Spot +5 (3 SP +2 Wis).

 

Martial Art: Two-Fisted Hero (Str).

  • Requires: Str and Dex 14+, 1d6 or more base damage in “Unarmed” combat.
  • Basic Abilities: Attack 3, Power 2, Strike, Toughness 4
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Breaking, Mighty Blow, Combat Reflexes, and Expertise (AC for Damage).
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x2, Iron Skin, and Resist Pain.
  • Techniques Known (6): Power 2, Strike, Breaking, Mighty Blow, and Resist Pain.

   Actually, Mr Rohan wouldn’t be that far out of place in a regular d20 game; he’d be pretty absurd when he has his strength hyped up to forty – but, in a normal game, he’d only be able to do that a few times a day, and not for very long then. He’d still have some very powerful abilities for his level – a consequence of not having any level-based purchase restrictions – but he isn’t especially flexible. He flies, he takes a beating, he hits people. I’ve seen considerably worse.

Continuum II: Introspection Powers

   Today it’s another segment for Continuum II – a set of rules I’ve had knocking around for many years now. Since they were designed to be modular, some parts may find a home in pretty much any campaign. This particular module is concerned with Psychic Powers – in particular, the lowest levels thereof. Introspection Powers are based on an enhanced awareness of, and the ability to manipulate, the user’s own bioenergy aura and it’s interactions with other auras. They work just fine in all but the most low-psi universes. In fact, there are stories of many of these abilities working in the real world.

   In Continuum II, psychic powers are phenomena of the Empyrean Plane – the interface between Astral Space (the realm of pure concepts and mentalities) and the bioenergy fields generated by material bodies. It is the realm of spirits, dreams, and myths. It’s the medium for psychic powers and through which invocation magic draws its power. Unlike most places, the “landscape” of the empyrean is perfectly free to be contradictory – and many of it’s “residents” are basically a part of that landscape, psychic constructs rather than living (ensouled) spirits.

   Every living thing (and not a few constructs) exists on the empyrean plane. That means that they can, however subtly, interact there. If you are aware of that, and perceptive enough, you can feel and interpret that interaction. If you are skilled enough at perceiving it, you can learn to manipulate those interactions. You can sense impinging fields, cloak or manipulate your aura, control the psychic feedback involved in interpersonal relations, and resist a variety of psyche-targeted devices, drugs, and effects.

   Effectively using Introspection requires an Empyrean Transfer Impedance (the resistance to transferring energy through the Empyrean Plane) of less than 5. Full effectiveness requires a value of 4 or less (at which point the study of C’hi powers – revolving around transferring large amounts of your personal energies from point to point within your bioenergy aura – can begin). Uniquely, introspection still works to some extent at E.T.I. 5 – at which point it permits normal social interactions, such as “feeling” lies or presences (if you’re alert and lucky) and minor biofeedback tricks, such as fooling lie detectors, yoga, and pain control, with extensive training.

   Like most personal abilities in Continuum II, Introspection Abilities are essentially skills; you need at least one skill point in them to use them effectively, and they’re normally subject to an upper limit of seven skill points. Characters who begin with access to Introspection – whether by Class or Talent – begin with (2*Int)/3 skill points to spend on the Introspection abilities listed below or on related psychic skills and gain an additional skill point to expend on such abilities each level. How they use their talents is, as always, up to them – which is why the basic abilities are fairly standardized, while the advanced abilities vary wildly between each user.

   Under stress, a psychic can maintain up to three basic effects at a time – most often an attack, a defense, a utility power or second defense, or doing something physical (usually combined with defensive or sensory effects). Unfortunately, there are times when a psychic will want to do more than that – whether that means raising a combination of defenses, performing some very complex operation or launching an attack built up from five or six basic effects. To do so, a psychic may set up list of up to (Int/2) practiced combinations of up to three basic effects; using such a practiced combination counts as a single effect. They can even change out items on the list given a few months of practice.

   Finally, while Introspection doesn’t usually cost much in the way of psychic energy, there are some disciplines which cost a fair amount. If a psychic wants to overspend his or her energies they may do so – but every two points so used inflicts 1D6 points of damage on the user and one point per die of this damage is on the psychic level and must heal naturally.

   Ritual Channeling is an enhancing skill which allows the user to reduce the cost of using psychic abilities through the use of some minor ritual to aid his or her concentration and fine control. This requires one minute per psychic energy point saved up to a maximum cost reduction of 50%, rounded down. The exact nature of the ritual isn’t very important to anyone except the user; appropriate rites include meditation, tea ceremonies, shamanistic dance, and sandpainting.

   Advanced versions of this skill involve imbuing items or locations with minor psychic energies, while third-order versions resemble the Psychic Ritualist skill (Q.V.).

Introspection Abilities:

 

Basic Ability:

Cost

Advanced Ability

Cost

1)

Analytic Probe

Structural Probe

2)

Animal Friend

Animal Communication

3)

Anticipation

1/T

Muscle Reading

3/T

4)

Aura Detection

Psychic Tracking

5)

Dowsing

Elemental Empathy

6)

Electrocybernetic Perception

Cybernetic Telepathy

1/R

 

-Machine Empathy

-Intuitive Engineering

7)

Green Thumb

Plant Communication

8)

Intimidation

Presence

3

9)

Intuition

Social Perception

10)

Intuitive Healer

Empathic Healer

Sp.

11)

Intuitive Piloting

Intuitive Navigation

12)

Measurement

Eidetic Memory

Sp.

 

-Loremaster

1/T

-Reflexive Adept

13)

Mindlink

Mindbonding

12

14)

Missile Deflection

Evasion

15)

Mystic Sensitivity

-Analysis

2

16)

Natural Empathy

Vital Points

17)

Persuasion

Mesmerism

2

18)

Presence Sense

Windreading

19)

Projected Scan

3/R

Clairsentience

5/R

20)

Psychic Awareness

Psychic Analysis

1

21)

Psychic Fugue

1/R

Acceleration

3

22)

Relaxation

 

Restoration

23)

Sensitive

Recognizer

 

-Dreaming

-Dreamfaring

 

-Divination

2

-Visions

-/8

24)

Sensory Stun

4

Mirage

3/R

25)

Unpresence

Psychic Camouflage

   Analytic Probe: Straightforward enough in theory, this technique is difficult in practice, relying as it does on detecting the subtle changes in the users aura caused by it’s interaction with inanimate matter. The basic level simply allows the user to locate flaws and discontinuities – “feeling out” points of high stress, tension, pressure, and so on. While this isn’t all that useful against anything that moves, it’s very handy if you want to demolish a bridge, escape from shackles, or otherwise take things apart. The advanced version allows the user to “read” internal structural details. While the range is very short (approximately [Dexterity] inches), this ability gives the user a good shot at solving mechanical locks and puzzles, finding various traps, doors, and wall studs – and helps a lot in things like defusing bombs. Further improvements usually involve things like locating the weaknesses in armor and combat armor, learning to read the contents of books and envelopes without touching them, chemical analysis (a very difficult trick to develop), or tracking, reading and interpreting the tiny traces people leave behind them (fingerprints, trace chemicals, etcetera).

   Animal Friend: Partly a tap into the user’s own, deep-seated, animal instincts and partly a developed affinity, this technique grants the user an intuitive ability to “read”, and understand, non-sapient animals. This grants the user a +3 on his or her effective charisma versus animals – and eliminates the usual penalties for lack of a common language and being of a different species. User’s can readily grasp an animal’s motivations and behavior patterns and project it’s probable reaction to various stimuli. Users also receive a “+3” bonus on any skill rolls involving an animal, including his or her combat skills if such activity becomes necessary. The advanced version permits basic communications with animals, primarily on the nonverbal and emotional level. While this can be very useful, it should be remembered that most animals simply aren’t very smart. Further improvements often involve affinities with particular types of animals, an extended range, extending this to cover alien and/or extremely exotic “animals” (creatures of the sea, non-sapient supernatural beings, and so on), or to sentient beings who are behaving in an animalistic fashion.

   Anticipation: This useful technique lets the user “read” the bioelectrical activity of other creatures nervous systems as long as their auras are in contact. While the “basic” version only allows the user to sense gross neural activity, this does suffice to discern the “subjects” level of tension, how hard they’re thinking – and to sense their muscle activity, allowing the user to begin responding to their attacks and movements before their opponent actually begin to move. This results in a +2 bonus on the users attack rating and defense rating against who- (or what-) ever he’s “reading”. The user may also make a perception roll to detect when someone is about to strike at him, or when some other violent voluntary action is about to occur in the immediate vicinity. The advanced version permits the user to read suppressed responses, “hearing” subvocalized comments (often revealing the targets surface thoughts), functioning as a superb lie detector – and detecting various insanities and neural disorders. Further improvements may involve “reading” a targets neural activity or “thoughts” in more detail, receptive empathy, an initiative bonus, or even slightly enhancing the attack rating and defense rating bonuses – although there are definite limits. The maximum possible bonuses are unlikely to exceed +3.

   At least one user had great success employing muscle reading in rodeo and horsemanship demonstrations. Other applications include enhancing pickpocketing skills or whatever else the user can come up with.

   Aura Detection: A technique which allows the user to “see” psychic auras – in detail. While this gives a rough indication of the target’s raw psychic strength, the fine structure includes a lot more then that. The only problem is that it includes far too much data for easy assimilation. A targets aura is influenced by his or her emotional state, mental disciplines, beliefs, motives, attitudes, thoughts, and anything which affects his or her mind. Worse, each user has his or her own personal symbology, and learning to interpret it will generally take some time. Aura detection is a powerful tool, but it’s only really effective if backed with the intellect. (“I don’t know. He talks like a friend, but his aura shows malice and growing anticipation. I think that he’s trying to lead us into a trap”). The advanced version permits the user to perceive the energy traces left on inanimate matter by contact with bioenergy fields. While this is best employed in an area where a creature remained for some time, such traces can also be used for tracking – although such traces fade quickly and are easily overlaid unless they’re unusual or exceptionally powerful. This technique can also be used to trace back various kinds of energy projections and sendings – but this can get tricky if the path the projection followed is physically difficult. Psychic tracking is subject to modifiers like normal tracking, although what constitutes the skills and abilities which may be applied to confuse the trail and what constitutes “terrain difficulties” differs wildly. Advanced forms of this may include the ability to “read” the target’s personal energy patterns in order to discern physical, psychological, or arcane, weaknesses, to determine the nature of previous incarnations, to extending your “sight” to see mystical auras, the ability to see and read sigils in the targets aura (odd, idiosyncratic glyphs and symbols which offer clues as to a target’s abilities, potentials, and antecedents), more detailed “sight”, or even the ability to “read” a beings evolutionary history.

   Dowsing: A technique which permits the user to sense local geologic structures – including caves, underground water, loose rock, fault lines, major ore bodies, volcanic activity, instabilities, and so on. The range is proportionate to the scale of the structure. The fields associated with a few loose rocks in the ceiling will probably only be detectable within the user’s aura, but the energies of a major earthquake or volcanic eruption may be detectable at immense distances. The advanced version allows the user to “commune” with stone, an ability which can be used to identify minerals, to sense and communicate with earth-associated supernatural entities – and to obtain a great variety of information about the local geology and the natural world. It’s a wonderful technique to know if you want to be a farmer, miner, or explorer. There are a variety of advanced techniques – or basic technique variants – associated with the other elemental forces. The most common variations are “Weatherwise” and “Sealore”. Others can be developed involving fire, light, darkness, and so on, but such abilities are rare enough in most settings to lack common names. Other possible improvements include attuning yourself to an element’s mystical side enough to draw the energy for a few elemental cantrips from local sources, using this sense to evaluate items of various sorts, hearing the echoing “memories” of creation woven into the deep structure of the world, concealing the users mind and aura by merging his or her thoughts with those of the earth and waters, or acquiring bonuses on attempts to ritually contact, persuade, and befriend supernatural beings related to an element.

   Electrocybrenetic Perception: This bizarre talent allows the user to “scan” the energy fields associated with electrical or photonic flows, evaluate circuitry, probe electrical systems without the usual instruments, “see” magnetic and electro-magnetic fields, etcetera. This is a rare technique in many settings, although some users simply want a built-in compass. This is very useful in other settings, where it allows the user to “sense” various types of alarms, equipment, weaponry, and instrumental scans. The advanced effect can be used to “communicate” with, and to manipulate, electronic systems. Note, however, that this is a relatively subtle effect – dependent on inductively linking the user’s nervous system with the device to be manipulated. The power output is low, and the difficulty of exerting precise control over things as complex as a computer system is immense. This is a great good way to open electronic locks and such though.

   The “Machine Empathy” variant specializes in larger and more powerful mechanisms – detecting and evaluating high energy fields and radiation, power systems, various mechanical features, and so on. While such mechanisms are far too crude to be influenced by neural feedback, this does allow the user to sense what adjustments need to be made for a given purpose readily, check on how well they’re working, identify places that need maintenance or repair, and otherwise be a good mechanic. The “advanced version” of this variant extends this to an intuitive ability to understand the operation and maintenance of major machines, to make major repairs or modifications on them without proper research and design, and to design and build fairly sophisticated mechanisms based on whatever technical background the user has. This is not the ability to make great advances, but it’s often useful in getting something to work well enough to get by in an awkward situation.

   Further improvements may involve deducing the principles behind new devices, direct “psychic links” with computer systems, reading data directly off storage media, and “tinkering up” quite unreasonable devices and repairs.

   Green Thumb: This interesting ability allows it’s user to sense and interpret the energy fields of plants. At it’s simplest, this permits the user to sense their health, needs, and general characteristics. While this is useful, it’s a rather unspectacular sort of power – unless you’re somehow being assaulted by weird plants. The advanced version allows the user to employ psychic feedback to “communicate” with plants – although their “minds” aren’t very responsive compared with the minds of even the simplest animals. “Intelligent” or active plants can also be influenced in a variety of way, but most plants are pretty unresponsive. Further improvements usually involve learning to link your own energy fields with those of plants – allowing the user to use his own strength to animate them, to analyze their uses and properties, to shrivel them with raw hostility, to encourage them to grow at a fantastic rate, to hypnotize or manipulate intelligent or mobile ones, or to channel energy to them.

   Intimidation: This interesting ability allows the user to manipulate the natural feedback between his or her bioenergy aura and that of a target. A subtle, but curiously potent power, since such feedback is a major factor controlling the “intuitive” aspects of personal interactions – instinctive likings, trusts, hatreds, and friendships, “feelings” about people, first impressions, knowing when someone’s concentrating on you, detecting lies, and so on. Perhaps unfortunately, attempts to take conscious control of such a subtle feedback process is invariably a bit clumsy at first, leaving targets with the impression that some immensely powerful, and quite alien, presence is focusing on them. It tends to be upsetting. It’s a great way to scare people though, and is often used as a fast way to avoid difficulties with them. The advanced version allows the user to make the feedback feel “natural”, avoiding the inhuman quality. This allows them to “radiate” power and importance, an effect that tends impresses people and gives their words considerable weight. Of course, the user may decide to enhance instead of diminishing the inhuman feeling – and thus terrify people. Further improvements may involve inducing attraction or other subtle feelings, inducing “fascination”, beglamourment (creating an “impression” so strong that it overcomes the evidence of a target’s other senses), increasing the radius of effect, “crowd control”/manipulation, seeming incredibly trustworthy, enhancing social skills – and simply dominating people with raw psychic force.

   Intuition: This deceptively simple ability simply makes the user more aware of normal auric interactions (Q.V.; Intimidation, above). This allows him to evaluate the motives, personality, and “congeniality”, of other character’s at a considerable (+3) bonus. It provides a similar bonus with respect to detecting uncertainty or lies, and in reading emotions. The advanced version increases this bonus to +5 and allows the user to detect truth, general intent, and the social relationships in a group, automatically. Further improvements commonly involve evaluating a groups size and structure, “seeing” a target’s social links to people who are not present, enhancing your ability to persuade people by examining their reactions to various lines of argument, picking up “psychic impressions” from areas and objects, being able to tell the difference between shapeshifters, the various look-alike species, and most normal illusions by auric clues, and being able to tell (and possibly even modify) who’ll get along well, make a good leader – or otherwise fulfill a particular role in a group.

   Intuitive Healer: This useful ability allows it’s user to “read” the underlying cause, and proper way to treat, virtually any physical ailment. The user may make an (Int or Per) check in an attempt to understand the mechanism, causes, and vector of any problem that he treats. Regardless of the “technique” the user employs in his treatments (herbs, advanced technical medicine, acupuncture, or whatever), his intuitive understanding of what to do can sometimes accomplish “miracle cures” which baffle more rational physicians. Truly effective use of this discipline does, however, require at least a basic understanding (1 skill point) in whatever mode of treatment the user selects. A herbal healer has to have at least some knowledge of herbs, a massage therapist some knowledge of massage, and so on. The advanced version allows the user to “link” his bioenergies with those of the patient, enabling him to manipulate their life processes, share his or her vitality with them, and employ his own healing abilities on their behalf. This “sharing” of the problem both reduces it’s effects and allows the user to transfer some of the damage as fatigue, with a net result of roughly tripling the result of the users healing abilities or of whatever vitality the user decides to transfer to his patient. A broken bone might transfer as a nasty bruise / strain, poison as a miserable illness, and so on. In extreme cases, the user can even “heal” death – provided that it occurred within the last few minutes (more, if action was taken to prevent brain damage) and that the user is willing to sacrifice a portion of his own vitality to “start” the corpse’s life functions. This manifests as 1-2 points of damage that will never heal, or 2D6 points which will require a month each to do so. On a less drastic level, user’s can also induce or enter healing sleep, a trance which triples the normal recovery rate. Healing sleep may be used on normally lethal injuries, but the energy cost is enormous. Life functions are slowed and thrown into healing mode, major traumas are isolated, and blood loss is stopped, but enough of the body must be functional to sustain life given such assistance. Healing sleep will not be effective if the condition of the body is beyond hope, but can save victims who would normally be expected to die within minutes due to shock and/or blood loss. The user will subconsciously try to enter healing sleep if he or she suffers such injuries, but success is hardly guaranteed. Further improvements include extending the user’s abilities to treating psychological “problems”, an intuitive ability to determine the potential uses and liabilities of unknown drugs, herbs, medical lore, and equipment, psychically-augmented surgery, life support abilities, induced regeneration, healing spiritual injuries, biofeedback techniques – and inducing bizarre, extreme, changes in a cooperative patients physiology.

   Intuitive Piloting: Allows the user to “read” the patterns of the surrounding medium and their interaction with a vessel of whatever type he or she is skilled in piloting. The exact nature of the medium (atmospheric, gravitic, oceanic, ethereal – or even hyperspatial) is basically irrelevant. The user receives a “+5” bonus on his “effective” piloting skills. The advanced version permits the user to extrapolate from his or her immediate surroundings – providing a similar bonus when laying a course or trying to pick a route through natural hazards. Further improvements often involve getting good enough to notably speed up a trip (cutting travel time by 30% or so, depending on the navigation roll), an intuitive talent for ship engineering, enhanced skills with ship weaponry, the ability to get far more information from sensor systems then is strictly reasonable, an ability to make extremely fast (if crude) repairs to a vessel, and even the ability to predict and compensate for the effects of unusual stresses.

   Measurement: Also known as “Man is the measure of all things”, this exotic ability employs psychic means to enhance the accuracy of the user’s senses. The user can accurately measure weights or pressure by feel, distances and angles by eye, distinguish shades of color and fractions of a degree of temperature, “analyze” tastes and odors, time things to within a fraction of a second, and so on. While such remarkable accuracy can be useful in a wide variety of ways, the user must actively seek such data – and it doesn’t enhance the users senses. Being able to determine the exact frequency and volume of a sound is an invaluable asset when tuning things, but is of very little help in determining what it means or picking it out of the background noise. It’s of no help at all if said noise is too faint, or of an inaudible frequency, in the first place. Obviously enough, the precise uses of this ability depend on the user’s creativity. The advanced version extends things to the psychic level – psychic senses and the users memory. Total recall. A very useful ability – although the difficulty of using it varies with the complexity of the information and how much attention the user gave it the first time around. While this vastly accelerates the users acquisition of the “basics” of many skills, it doesn’t provide him or her with the ability to properly access, organize, and interrelate that information. Even worse, most skills require practice and experience. Still, the user will be able to acquire a basic familiarity with (Int/2) skills and an additional two general skills – given time. It may take several years to do so. Further improvements may involve a precise understanding of the structure and workings of the users body (and, by extension, others), the ability to evaluate the precise impact of assorted drugs and external influences, the ability to sense, and neutralize or ignore, external psychic influences, the ability to precisely evaluate and tap the resources of the users body, or just gaining more skill points (two for one, albeit with a probable delay of several years).

   The Loremaster variant stresses a similar precision focused on the user’s own thought processes – a finely focused concentration on logic and deduction, bringing “hunches” to the conscious level, organizing and using all available data on a subject. While this is handy, the user will still need at least a basic knowledge of the subject to work with. The net effect is to enhance any scholastic or knowledge-based skill with which the user is at least “familiar” by one skill point as long as he or she employs this discipline. The “advanced” form extends this focus to the purely physical level – the level of dance, of movement, of acrobatics, and of the martial arts, with similar effects. Sadly, it must be improved even further if the user wishes to enhance intuitive, social, or artistic skills. Other possible improvements include the ability to seek deeply enough to tap the (your?) racial mind, hyper-calculation and/or probability evaluation, empathic prediction, the inner knowledge to deal with personal psychological trouble, and intuitive psychology.

   Mindlink: Another ability drawing on an aspect of natural auric interaction (Q.V.; Intimidation), Mindlink taps and amplifies the low-grade telepathic component. The basic mode is also known as “The Gift Of Tongues”, as it allows the user to understand any form of speech directed to him from within a radius in feet equal to the user and target’s combined dexterity scores and to make his own words understood in a similar radius. Sadly, the more alien or damaged the target mind, the more limited this ability becomes. At some point the user will be reduced to communicating simple ideas or even basic emotional states. Unfortunately, this only works on directed speech – and so does not permit eavesdropping or addressing a group. Obviously enough, it also does not extend to recordings, writing, “live” transmissions, or similar media. While there are many possible improvements, Mindbonding is the most common. It allows the user to attune a portion of his personal psychic pattern to another’s, creating a permanent, if low-grade, psychic link. These links provide a “basic” awareness of each partners general location and situation and can transmit especially strong images and impressions. Short of some tremendous psychic trauma such links are irreversible, although they can be manipulated in many ways or even temporarily blocked. An unfortunate side effect is that creating such a link can lead to severe psychic disorders if the beings involved are seriously incompatible. Worse, such a mental link can be a point of severe vulnerability if one partner is captured or under mental attack. Other improvements often involve extending the effect to a radius, “tapping” the racial mind (or even, with further extension, an alien mind), gaining conscious control of bonded links, the ability to “feel” and recall mental patterns, the ability to adapt to local cultures, extended range, learning to pick up the psychic traces of meaning left on unliving media, improving the level of communications available over mindbonds, impressing psychic messages on unliving material, and the ability to produce psychic “yells” loud enough to damage or momentarily override minds.

   Missile Deflection: This handy ability allows the user to sense, and reflexively move to avoid or block, incoming attacks that would otherwise strike home. The basic level of this ability is limited to missiles, to a maximum of [(Dex+1)/3] missiles per round, and by the necessity of making a Dexterity check to succeed. Arrows and such usually require a 4D6 check, but circumstances will modify this. While most users simply deflect or dodge these attacks, some like to catch the missiles (+1D6) or use flashy powers to divert them (neat-looking, but no real effect). The advanced version bypasses neural delays thru extremely low-level psychic energy transfers within the user’s central nervous system. This vastly speeds the evasive response, allowing the user to roll one less D6 then usual when deflecting missiles – and providing a bonus of +2 to the users Defense Rating and Resistance Rating. Further improvements often involve increasing those bonuses (+2 to each per extra point, maximum +6/+6), acquiring the fractional-second precognition necessary to evade lasers and other high-speed attacks, using the neural-bypass techniques to neutralize the effects of spinal injuries and some paralytic agents, developing a “radar sense”, evading melee attacks, simply increasing the number of attacks that can be avoided – or even attempting to manipulate other peoples muscles (this rarely works against much resistance though).

   Mystic Sensitivity: This straightforward technique allows the user to detect the interaction of his / her personal energy fields with Mana – the stuff of magic. At it’s most basic, this can provide the user with the ability to sense magic’s presence, location, strength, and general nature. The advanced version allows the user to examine the structure of a pattern of mystic force, permitting him or her to examine its attunements, triggers, and other occult features. Unfortunately, determining the exact function and nature of such patterns usually requires some knowledge of the underlying theory – and works best if the user understands the specific branch of magic involved. Further improvements often involve improved precision, turning this ability into an automatic “sense”, increasing it’s sensitivity, seeing how to use your personal mana to tinker with magical constructs, and enhanced analytic abilities.

   Natural Empathy: This subtle ability permits it’s user to attune himself to the natural energy fields of the environment, thereby sensing atypical or unnatural presences, energy patterns, and forces. Thanks to the fact that such fields extend far beyond the users, the range can be considerable – although it depends a good deal on the scale of the disturbance. It also gives the user a good chance at predicting the weather, lets him “feel” the presence of various natural hazards, and the presence and general health of nearby life-forms. As might be expected, such “feelings” become increasingly vague with increasing range. It can also be extremely uncomfortable, and so is usually only developed by those with special interests in nature. The advanced version allows the user to “focus” on the life energy patterns of individuals. While this has many benevolent uses in healing, acupuncture, massage, diagnosis, and therapy, it’s often used to enhance the user’s effectiveness in combat by guiding nerve pinches, aiming blows at vital points, and so on. While such tricks usually require Dexterity checks, and often allow resistance checks, they can still be handy. Further improvements may involve extending the range, learning to analyze unnatural disturbances, learning to speak with nature spirits, remote mapping, enhanced empyrean magic, and tracking unnatural entities by the disturbances they produce.

   Persuasion: This subtle talent allows the user to directly sense how his presentation is affecting his audience – and to quietly slant his arguments, tone, accent, and choice of words to suit. While it is possible to sabotage yourself if you want, most choose to enhance their oratorical talents (+3 bonus, up to +6 with good roleplaying or a decent strategy). This skill is often known by other names – such as “psychescan”, “fortune telling”, and “fast talk”. The advanced version enhances the effect through auric feedback – allowing the user to convince people of remarkably unlikely things, lie most convincingly, and gradually, subtly, condition people. Further improvements may involve full-scale hypnosis, a radius effect, the ability to sense moods, attitudes, and lies, swiftly implanting suggestions, issuing preemptive commands, calming and moodcasting, the ability to “intuitively” come up with effective arguments, evaluating people through subtle clues, and rapid conditioning.

   Presence Sense: This ability is based on a fairly “generic” sensitivity to any form of impingement on the users aura, whether of matter or energy. Sadly, such a generalized ability provides little detail. Still, it greatly reduces the penalties for maneuvering “blind”, lets the user roll to awaken if someone approaches – and greatly enhances the user’s ability to protect himself against attacks from the rear (halving any bonuses the attacker would otherwise receive). It is, naturally enough, most effective when concentrated on – suffering a substantial penalties otherwise. The advanced version allows the user to maintain an “automatic” awareness of the general layout and contents of a (Dex) foot radius. This readily compensates for the effects of blindness or darkness within that area, and includes the location and activities of those within the area. It negates positional bonuses for attackers, and lets the user attack in any direction without penalty. Further improvements may involve the ability to “scan” through solid objects, increasing the level of detail the basic ability provides, developing a “radar” sense, automatic awakening, and “seeing” the subtle fields associated with sensor systems.

   Projected Scan: This energy-intensive skill allows the user to voluntarily expand and shape his bioenergy field, allowing the user to exercise introspective abilities at far greater then normal ranges. The “basic” form of this ability is often used in conjunction with sensory talents – although such extended scans tend to lose detail. They are also quite conspicuous, and rather vulnerable, on the psychic level. The advanced version extends the effect to “process” feedback-input through the usual sensory channels, resulting in clairsentient effects – if at a high cost in psychic energy and rather short range. Further improvements may permit the user to cloak others within his auric “bubble”, to “extend” personal defenses to affect an area, to “pool” his own vitality with others (or simply to absorb area-effects himself), fascination (and other field-intensification effects), and resisting (or overloading) vampires who attempt to drain his or her energies.

   Psychic Awareness: An extremely basic discipline, this is simply the ability to “feel” the interaction between external psychic energies and the user’s own. In may ways, this is equivalent to sight; the range at which a psi-effect can be detected is determined by the amount of energy involved, it’s subtlety, the psychic background level, intervening obstacles, attempts at concealment – and by just how attentive the user is. An effect that doesn’t “radiate” (well-shielded, passive/introspective – and/or very subtle) is usually undetectable beyond the user’s aura. Truly subtle effects are usually best studied at contact (or near-contact) range. The advanced version allows the user to “analyze” psi-energies more deeply, gaining a rough idea of their nature (IE, what they’re being used to do) and power level, a more precise idea of the activities range and direction, and possibly even the general nature and power level of their source.

   Further improvements may involve the ability to see individual psychic “signatures”, the identification of precise disciplines, reading psychic traces on objects and from areas, analyzing peoples psychic abilities or (even more subtly) their psychic potential – and using this ability to permit a kind of “psychic dodge”, improving the odds of evading incoming psychic attacks.

   Psychic Fugue: At it’s simplest, this is merely a controlled version of the usual timesense “distortion” which occurs under stress or when extremely bored. The basic effect is entirely mental; the user may “stretch” or “compress” a period of time, allowing him or her to leisurely note the details of a brief event, read a page at a glance, take time to consider options and plans during a fight (this can be especially handy if you’re mentally linked to any allies – but can also be used to get a substantial advantage in combat. Time to plan your responses can be quite invaluable. +2 on Attack Rating, Defense Rating, and Resistance Rating when so employed) – and make hours pass like minutes when bored. The improved version allows the user to take an extra unresisted action each combat round – or to convert the usual unresisted action to a resisted one. This is, sadly, subject to restrictions; neither can be an extended action (attack sequences or complex rituals), at least one must be relatively fast and simple – and the combination must be acceptable to the GM. Absurd combinations usually are not. Further improvements may involve multi-tracking, increasing the users ability to handle data overloads, improved fine control of other faculties, reducing the psychic strength cost of other disciplines somewhat through enhanced fine control (Q.V.; Ritual Channeling. At this level the user is normally able to spend the equivalent of two or three combat rounds on using other psychic disciplines – even under combat conditions), and even increasing the effect to the point where you can fit hours of thought into a few seconds. Unfortunately, this level is so divorced from physical reality that thinking is really the only application.

   Relaxation: This ability begins with superb – but not superhuman – biofeedback control, techniques which allow the user to control tension, addictive cravings, and a variety of physical functions, half the need for sleep (and regulate it’s length), hold completely still, resist apprehension and pain, and tap deep reserves of energy (Q.V.; Optional Attributes, Power). The advanced version allows the user to regain his psychic strength at twice the usual rate, substitute an hour (or so) of meditation for a nights sleep – and roughly double his or her natural healing rate. Further improvements may involve tapping into various “latent” attributes (see; Optional Attributes), delving for memories of previous incarnations, “improving” that into “channeling” them, hibernation, supernormal states of awareness (see; Advanced Meditation), gradual regeneration, transferring your entire consciousness to the astral level (This is a useful defense against many telepathic effects, lets the user function on a purely intuitive level, and has a variety of other effects. Q.V.; Astral Space), boosted vitality (+1 die per skill point), “transition” to the empyrean level upon physical death, or even karmic invocation (essentially using your contact with your own “past incarnations” to stir up things from a target’s. This can get truly strange).

   Sensitive: This most generic of psychic senses is essentially little more then the ability to “detect” a disturbance – the energy fields of magical, emotional, psionic, physical, and spiritual, forces, beings, auras, and residues. Unfortunately, the price of such a wide range is incredible vagueness. This “ability” is noted for producing “feelings”, chills, brief and obscure bits of descriptive dialogue (“Don’t open it! It hungers and it waits!”), peculiar images and sounds, and various other manifestations of data being “processed” through entirely inappropriate sensory channels. The advanced version lets the user subconsciously sense distinctive characteristics and patterns – allowing him to recognize anything he / she’s previously encountered, regardless of attempts at disguises. Interestingly, this ability extends to the users physical senses, although it does require the use of the same senses – being able to recognize a voice heard from behind a wall does not mean that you could recognize the speaker by sight. It can also be used on items and “makes” of items, allowing the user to recognize a particular swordsmiths or jewelers work. Further improvements may include tapping into the “currents” of the empyrean (permitting the user to engage in prophecy or “the-map-is-the-territory” style divination), enhanced empyrean magic, getting a better idea of what’s causing a given sensation, the power to intuitively sense how to use various devices, acting as a “cultural chameleon”, the ability to swiftly evaluate the various tensions and relationships within social situations, acting as a focusing “lens” for psi and empyrean energies, generating ectoplasm, feeding raw psychic energy into empyrean constructs, spirit-sight, and acting as a classical “medium”.

   At the basic level, the Dreaming variant simply takes advantage of the immense sensitivity of a sleeping mind, opening the user to the energies of the empyreal and astral planes – and clairvoyant, prophetic, meaningful, or otherwise helpful, dreams. While simple autosuggestion usually permits the user to dream about particular subjects, the most helpful dreams are often spontaneous. Attempting to “have another dream” about the same subject usually results in repetition, unless some major element of the situation has changed. This skill is limited by the basic nature of dreams, things tend to be heavily stylized, buried in symbols, and very disconnected. Highly sensitive users, along with those who choose to invest an extra skill point, may develop low-grade links with individuals in other dimensions and places, “living other lives” in their dreams – whether in whole or part. Users normally acquire 3D4 “regular” contacts – but others may occur pretty much at random. Perhaps fortunately, links depend on psychic affinity, although exotic stresses may result in peculiar short- term contacts. The exact effects of this are up to the GM, however “living” relevant “lives” often “supplies” small amounts of experience. Irrelevant ones are noted for bestowing equally irrelevant skills. A bronze age shaman might easily thus acquire hyperdrive mechanics, tridee gameshow hosting, automobile driving, steamship handling, cordon bleu microwave cooking, heavy blaster use and maintenance, lightfiber sculpture, flint working, squaredance calling, and fluency in old Martian. These are unlikely to do him much good. As a final benefit, if the adept ever goes dimension hopping his “regular” contacts may become real local contacts if he (or she) happens to run across them somehow. It’s worth remembering, however that such links are definitely two-way. The advanced version allows the user to employ short-range empyrean projection, walking the realms of dreams and the near empyrean. This does not allow it’s user to reach the deep empyrean, or the afterworlds, without additional improvements. Further improvements may involve extended “range”, the ability to manifest thoughtforms (QV), dream-sending and -weaving, creating psychic constructs, enhanced empyrean combat, developing pure astral projection, limited powers of empyrean magic, and empyrean “armor”.

   The Divination variant employs subconscious psychic senses to draw appropriate interpretations from, or to influence the results of, various classical divinatory methods. This allows the user to get better-then-usual results from things like tarot cards, the I-Ching, and sets of symbolic tokens – receiving helpful hints even if they normally wouldn’t work, and extra information if they do. Whatever the means, the GM should compose the augury based on his knowledge of the situation. Sadly, the classic methods of divination can be rather vague. As a rule, each practitioner has his or her own method of divination – and will have little luck with others. The advanced version is equivalent to the rogues “Minor Divination” skill, although the users limit to attempts to call on his gifts is dependent on his psychic strength rather then his perception. Further improvements often involve adding new modes of divination (allowing a bit of cross-checking), spotting true illusions, the ability to sense when you’ve just heard someone propose a really BAD idea, perceiving hidden patterns, an ability to sense the currents of the empyrean plane and make long-range prophecies, riddlemastery, hyper-alertness, a form of danger sense which reacts to hostile intent, and even a form of nymic awareness.

   Sensory Stun: This bizarre ability uses inductive neural feedback to manipulate a target’s sensory nerve endings, a technique bordering on c’hi or psychomantic techniques. It’s only possible because sensory neurons are the most sensitive and exposed cells in the entire central nervous system. In any case, the basic version of this ability simply attempts to “scramble” a single sense, overstimulating and briefly exhausting the nerves involved. Most targets will attempt to resist, and the effect is very short-term in any case, but blinding or deafening an opponent for a few moments can still be a very useful effect. The advanced version allows users to employ complex manipulations – imposing illusions and subtle sensory modifications. For example, the wielder might simply “edit himself out” of what a guard sees – and so slip past him. Further improvements may involve affecting more then one sense at a time, “borrowing” a targets senses, manifesting thoughtforms (Q.V.), causing terrific pain or pleasure, extended duration, a radius effect, allowing feedback-based “interaction” with the hallucination you’re weaving, generating a distracting “field” of random sensations – and using the sympathetic link to inflict your own sensations – and injuries, if any – on your target (An interesting defensive option, sometimes called a “death link”).

   Unpresence: At it’s simplest, this ability simply involves pulling your innate bioenergy aura tightly around you and damping it’s interaction with other energies – such as those of other living creatures. This makes the user difficult or impossible to spot with “passive” psychic senses, and negates the subliminal sense of “presence” creatures normally produce. While this doesn’t really make the user invisible, it makes him / her incredibly easy to overlook or dismiss as insignificant. Almost any distraction will suffice to let the user fade into a crowd, and any witnesses will probably forget what the user looks like. Sadly, it’s still possible for users to sabotage themselves by being over-conspicuous. This ability is helpful, but not, in itself, sufficient. It’s usually worth a “+3” bonus on appropriate skills. The advanced version allows the user to generate an overlay that simulates the feedback of some other type of creature. While this doesn’t change what the user actually looks like, it can greatly modify how people interpret it. (It’s amazing! If you don’t inspect him carefully, you would swear he was a troll!). Given a decent disguise, this can usually be counted on to cover up things like inappropriate body language and minor errors. Further improvements may involve generating a low- grade psychic shield, the (expensive) ability to briefly override people’s physical senses with the impressions you’re “broadcasting” (“Psychic Disguise”), drawing on the power of various archetypes and empyrean nexi, minor powers of invocation magic, faking death really really well, aspect assumption, generating an aversion field, allowing would-be possessors and mind-readers to think they’ve succeeded (or even entrapping them), “masking” the presence of personal mystic abilities, acting as a focus or amplifier for empyrean forces, very low-level psychic grounding, or allowing someone else to channel psychic or empyrean powers through you.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 64: The Black Navy

   When you come right down to it, in those cases where there’s any real question about the outcome, naval races and combat revolves heavily around the piloting skill; in a race? Roll and add the speed modifier. Maneuvering for position or in a fight? Roll piloting and add the maneuver modifier; the winner gets a better position (+2 to hit) and gets to shoot first. In general, a ship in a fight can use two sets of guns – one side and either fore or aft – in any given round. A ship that’s lost motive power may use one set, and the two captains roll opposing maneuver checks to see who gets to pick them.

   The Distant Voyager, commanded by Captain Rata, is a three-masted schooner. While the good captain prefers peaceful trading and exploration, over the last couple of thousand years he’s made sure that he’s ready for pretty much everything – right down to taking most of the Rider sequence and Skill Focus (Epic Stunts) with his piloting skill. Like so many other Captains of the Manifold however, he prefers relatively small ships to larger targets.

  • Schooner Basics: 90×18 feet, 160 HP, Universal DR 8/- (Copper-Sheathed Oak), AC 12 (Base 16, size modifier of -4), Cargo Capacity 80 Tons, Draft 7-8 feet. Critical hits may do extra damage, damage a randomly-selected system, cause crew injuries, or start leaks, with roughly equal odds.
  • Crew: Nominally Captain, Navigator, Carpenter, Surgeon, Magician / Technician (depending on primary area of Manifold operations), Gunner/Armorer, twelve seamen, and up to four apprentices, with provision for up to six upper-class passengers. Can carry a contingent of up to 16 additional sailors or marines with crowding. Currently Captain Rata, Navigator Maui, several specialists (as yet un-named), and 16 Thralls as seamen.
  • Drive Systems:
    • Low-Tech Mode: Wind, crew 8, Speed +8, Maneuver +2. Standard iron anchor and sea anchor.
    • Mid-Tech Mode: Unknown, a steam system is likely.
    • High-Tech Mode: Unknown. Likely none, since Captain Rata spends most of his time in low-technology regions and probably wouldn’t want to waste the space.
  • Instrumentation:
    • Low- and Mid-Tech Mode: Lookout and Spyglass, Sounding Line, Compass, Sextant.
    • High-Tech Mode: Unknown, but unlikely. Neither Captain Rata nor Navigator Maui need such things.
  • Weaponry and Defenses:
    • Low–Tech Mode: Four light catapults (apparently using greek fire firebombs).
    • Mid-Tech Mode: Muzzle loading black powder cannon. Two light chasers each forward and aft (Swivel mounts. Cannon Ball; 3d6, Crit 19+/x3, 200′ range increment, or Grapeshot; 2d6 to all hit within a 5′ line, 40′ range increment), six medium cannon (5d6, Crit 18+/x3, 150′ range increment), each port and starboard.
    • High-Tech Mode: Repair microbots, otherwise unknown.

   The Saucy Wench, commanded by Captain “Black” Marty Tabard, is a light sloop, rigged for exploration, speciality trading (due to limited cargo space specializing in light, high-value, low-bulk items), and light anti-pirate actions. Despite Marty’s ambitions, he does not yet feel comfortable commanding the hundreds of men that crew really large sailing vessels.

  • Light Sloop Basics: 85×20 feet, 180 HP, Universal DR 8/- (Copper-Sheathed Oak), AC 12 (Base 16, size modifier of -4), Cargo Capacity 60 Tons, Draft 6-8 feet.
  • Crew: Nominally Captain, Lieutenant, Carpenter, Surgeon, Cook, Sailmaker, Magician / Technician (depending on primary area of Manifold operations), Gunner/Armorer, twenty-four seamen, and four apprentices, with provision for up to four upper-class passengers. Can carry a contingent of up to 20 marines, but this gets pretty cramped. Currently Marty, Limey, Kevin, Jamie, A’ikana, 22 werewolf-Thralls and 14 Thralls. Fortunately, thanks to Marty’s inspirational abilities, the Thralls are generally capable of handling most of the specialist jobs.
  • Drive Systems:
    • Low-Tech Mode: Wind, primary mast and foremast, crew 8, Speed +6, Maneuver +2. Standard iron anchor and sea anchor.
    • Mid-Tech Mode: Steam, light boiler (the tank of fuel oil is good for about twenty-four hours at full steam, can burn coal or wood with minor adjustments), crew 4, Speed +6, Maneuver +6.
    • High-Tech Mode: Fusion generator, rating-II force-field generator (+10 AC vrs physical attacks, +10 DR versus physical attacks, manipulate up to 50 tons of material, crew 2, Speed +10, Maneuver +8
  • Instrumentation:
    • Low- and Mid-Tech Mode: Lookout and Spyglass, Sounding Line, Compass, Sextant.
    • High-Tech Mode: Radar, Sonar, IR/UV, Chemical, and various other systems, generally with a base range of 3000 feet (or to the horizon for radar). Computer piloting and force-construct assistance. Four probe/light-combat crew-support drones.
  • Weaponry and Defenses:
    • Low–Tech Mode: Two light catapults, two light ballistae.
    • Mid-Tech Mode: Muzzle loading black powder cannon. Two light chasers each forward and aft (Swivel mounts. Cannon Ball; 3d6, Crit 19+/x3, 200′ range increment, or Grapeshot; 2d6 to all hit within a 5′ line, 40′ range increment), four medium cannon (5d6, Crit 18+/x3, 150′ range increment), each port and starboard.
    • High-Tech Mode: Four microfusion missile launchers (5d20, 10-40 foot radius depending on setting, no criticals, 200′ range increment to a maximum of -6 due to active guidance), Rating-II Force-Field Generator and Casamir Negative-Energy Generator (+10 AC vrs physical attacks, +10 DR versus physical attacks that also protects passengers from external attacks, energy-absorption capacity of 150 points recharging at ten points per round).

   With the expedition underway – hopefully to wind up at the Crusade Kingdoms (although you never really knew out in the Manifold) – things rapidly settled down into a shipboard routine. The first day or so out of the harbor (when it would be easy to turn around) always went smoothly.

   Well, mostly. With a monk aboard who didn’t approve of any of them in the slightest, twenty-two werewolves trying to sort themselves out into a pack, and a sentient child laptop/spellbook who was a bit too fond of polymorph effects, things never really had a chance to get entirely quiet.

   At least they didn’t get stopped by any of the upper-circle carrier battlegroups on patrol. Quite a few of the first and second-circle worlds made a point of patrolling their waters, whether in an attempt to restrict shipping, to stamp out the slave trade, or simply in self-defense – and they tended to use high-tech, military-class, ships to do it.

   And, in a way, they really couldn’t deny being slave-traders, even if they did recruit volunteers.

   The lookout did sight an unmarked ship on the horizon – but Captain Rata simply gave it a wide berth. After all, it could be pirates – and you never knew what sort of weird powers they might have (or what kind of creatures they might be) out here on the open seas. It could be ordinary saber-and-pistol types – or it could be something far worse.

   He kept it on the horizon, never losing sight of it until they were well around it. Whoever-it-was either did not notice or did not (apparently) care.

“Well, that was easy enough!”

“Whew.”

“Aye, it is a good omen. Hopefully the rest of this voyage will be so easy.”

   Marty and Kevin got on a private channel… “Oh no, he jinxed it!” “By this time I bet he has an immunity to jinxes!” “But do we?” “No, I think our mere presence tends to jinx things.”

“We should be coming up on the straits here sometime in the next day or so. Hopefully things have died down since the last time I was through there.”

   Marty, Jamie, and A’ikana got busy on what they could expect, what plans they might make, and on general preparedness.

   Kevin – who had long ago concluded that the Manifold was pretty much impossible to anticipate, and that the best you could do was make sure you were ready to go and relax otherwise – opted to snag one of the werewolves and start tickling. Limey joined in; he was about equivalent to eight now, and thought that werewolves made GREAT pets. (Marty thought that Limey’s TEEN years were going to be interesting – although then he’d get old and wrinkly, and start needing to be dipped in the fountain of upgrades / youth).

   As far as preparations went, it seemed that “the” Straits (actually a selection of straits in one area) were normally under the control of the British (depending on where you went the Napoleonic, Victorian, or Colonial Empire bunch). The British were usually well-mannered and ran a smooth and efficient operation there; a ship came by, an assessor came on board – or called for assistance if the ship was a blatant pirate, slaver, or full of undead or something – and asked a few questions about cargo, origin and destination. After that, the assessor usually leveled some sort of fee for free passage through the straits – most of which apparently went to paying for the patrols. It was well worth it for the travel time saved by not having to go the long way even if you didn’t need the protection of the patrols.

   Unfortunately, the last time he’d been through, there had been some pretty fierce fighting going on. It had looked like the French and German navies had been trying to assert control over the straits or otherwise blockade traffic.

   Meanwhile, Kevin and Limey were giving the (rather embarrassed) young werewolf a belly rub… So the French were after the straits? It might be part of what was going on with the English Magi and the Continental Werewolves in that quasi-Napoleonic realm they’d pulled most of their current crew out of; that sort of thing tended to echo in nearby realms. He’d have to tell them to stay in human form for awhile. Otherwise they might wind up with people after them from all sides.

“Oh well… Who’s a french werewolf then? I’ve got your ears!”

   A’ikana gave Kevin a rather chilling look for that; did the boy have no respect for the dignity of his bondservants at ALL? – but it just slid off him like she wasn’t even there.

   The dawn wasn’t particularly impressive, unless – perhaps – you were into lowering clouds, general dimness, and chilling winds. Distant thunder, distant gunfire, and flashes of light up ahead. The seas were rough, and getting rougher – and there were traces of foul magic everywhere. Blasted psychotropic landscape. Well, at least there was enough magic to use.

   Marty had Limey go inanimate and put him away for the moment: no use getting him exposed to cannonfire again.

   Within the straits, they had rain, lightning, thunder, cannonfire, magical spells being hurled, and general destruction. It looked like there was a good-sized battle going on.

“Well drat, I was hoping this business had finished by now. It looks like the battle is running even fiercer now than last time. The way I see it, we have two choices here; we can go around and add two or three weeks to our travel time or we can run the straits and hope the Brits have those bastards busy enough not to notice us.”

“Well, you’re the ship pilot: I’d prefer speed, and we can defend ourselves fairly well – but I don’t have much information on the risks here.”

“Alright, speed it is then.”

   They signaled to the Saucy Wench to follow fast and tight and started their run through the straits.

“Looks like their foul magics are kicking up a storm as well, so I want everything tied down! Make sure the weapons are ready if we should draw unwanted attention!”

   Kevin and the Thralls got to work on a selection of minor protective, blurring, and speed-boosting spells on both ships. They couldn’t do much to a ship with low-level magic, but every little bit would probably help. By the time they were done, and the rest of the preparations were complete, the rain was falling hard and heavy. Lightning, flashes of magic, and cannonfire lit up the dark sky as ships and coastal fortifications duked it out in the midst of the storm.

   Kevin and the Thralls kept an eye out for swimmers, floaters, and small boats; they could fish them out pretty easily with a bit of telekinesis without even having to slow down – and they might have some useful information. If they were really hostile, and they didn’t pick it up on the way up, they could always toss them back in.

   They picked up about a dozen – all there seemed to be – when they passed the burning remains of a British vessel slowly sinking beneath the waves. Definitely a magical zone; none of them were at all surprised at being snatched from the water by invisible forces.

“Thank you for saving me and my men, I am captain Ramius, former captain of the HMS Gertrude.”

“Oh you’re welcome. Couldn’t just leave you to drown.”

“Well, welcome aboard the Distant Voyager. Captian Rata is over there. I am ambassador Kierroth, and this is Captain Marty; his ship is currently following. I take it there is an ongoing battle in the area?”

“Pleased to meet you. And yes, there is a rather significant naval engagement going on. Looks like the French have allied with some German prince and are trying to make an attempt for the Straits. Bloody bastards are using necromancy.”

“That a German specialty?”

“Well, that’s usually self-destructive in the long run.”

“Germans never have a set specialty, every bunch of them seems to have their own little thing. Some can be the most unflinching supporters of God, and then others aren’t. This just looks like one of the worst of them.”

“So what are these guys making corpses into?”

“Well I will tell you it’s been pretty destructive around here. We’ve lost about 20 ships thus far and although the French have lost more than that the Germans are fishing up bodies and using them to replenish the French forces. Thus far we’ve seen ghouls, skeletons, zombies, and the occasional lich from one of our mages. Luckily mainly skeletons and zombies.”

   Kevin had to fight the impulse to wander off into a local ID and get involved. That was just the adaption talent working!

“Well, I hope that we do not encounter any major battles: we are not exactly set up for them since this is, in theory, a peaceful mission.”

“Well good luck with that, as the bastards have been pretty focused on our ship and fortifications. Although some of the German ships have been attacking merchant vessels looking for more corpses to add to their ranks.”

   The occasional stray cannonball lent that some emphasis, even if they did tend to prompt Marty to wave and grin.

“Blast; seas are too rough to run along the edges of the straits. We are going to have to move a bit closer to the center. I want some wind in those sails and I want it now! Should be plenty lying around as we’re sitting in the middle of a damned storm. So move it!”

   The Saucy Wench was struggling to keep up, so Marty called on his girlfriends to help him out with a telekinetic boost as he jumped back over. It was his ship, and he was by far the best sailor normally aboard.

   As he leapt into the air, soaring across the sky, he landed on one foot on top at the top of the mast of a French vessel. The mast bent over into a inverted U shape as it absorbed Marty’s momentum and he had a brief moment to wave at the French captain – staring, with his jaw hanging open – as he bounced off again towards the the Saucy Wench.

   Marty spoke French, so why not?

“Surrender now, I know you’re going to anyway!”

   The mast – already weakened and overstressed in the storm – rebounded, slapped the water on the other side of the ship, and broke in half. Marty left a storm of angry curses behind as he landed on the Saucy Wench. He laughed and brandished his blade, drawing on his inspirational talents;

“Hoist the sails, ye buccaneers! The Distant Voyager be fast, and I don’t want to be too far from it! The wind be blowing mighty fine, and I wish to tame this wench!”

   Marty had things running more smoothly soon enough – Jamie was strong on discipline, if not much for piloting sailing vessels – but found it almost impossible to make up the distance (except when Captain Rata hung back a bit) or to avoid coming closer to the other ships in the strait than the Distant Voyager did. While they were only a thousand feet or so apart, one of the German ships got close enough to the Saucy Wench to try an interception.

   Kevin and Captain Rata got the message through a Thrall – but without a local ID, Kevin’s power was pretty limited at that range. He could start their rigging decaying, but it was going to take a couple of minutes to really take effect.

   Kevin hyped up his senses and started in on watching for incoming spells and on destroying the rigging of all the French and German ships he could spot. It looked like the locals were into more flashy magic, so his little long-range curses might pass unnoticed long enough to cause some real trouble – especially in a storm like this.

   Meanwhile, Marty was readying the cannon. He couldn’t match the locals raw firepower, but his ship and crew were fresh, his crewmen were tougher and stronger than any normal human – and their morale was perfect. He might take more than he gave in an exchange of broadsides, but he could make it up again in the boarding action – and all he had to do was hold them off for long enough for Kevin’s little cursing spree to take effect.

   Back aboard the Distant Voyager, Captain Ramius was evaluating his hosts. Marty’s little leap had been pretty impressive – although it didn’t really seem like much of a spell on it’s own – but this youthful Ambassador apparently also had magic to burn, and Captain Rata’s skills were most impressive as well, despite the fact that the crew seemed to consist entirely of youngsters. The flag though… It was stirring some old memories. Nursery tales? No, Fairy Tales. The seal of… One of the kingdoms of the fey? Tir Nan Og? Oh, surely not.

   Then he looked at the crew and the “Ambassador” again.

   Well, they seemed to dislike necromancy, they wanted to sail the straits without them being a war zone, and it wasn’t like they couldn’t use some allies. It wouldn’t make up for the loss of his ship of course, but it was something positive to report.

   Meanwhile, Marty was having a grand time. With the sea so rough, cannonfire wasn’t quite a waste of time – but it wasn’t far from it either. It was going to come down to a boarding action, and that was HIS speciality.

   Marty pointed and laughed as cannon shots proceed to go all around the Saucy Wench, hitting everything but it. There was swearing in German as whoever was in charge aboard his opponent shouted at his crew.

“Do ye need new glasses cap’n, or just new eyes?!”

“Maybe I will take yours! SCHIESSEN!!!”

   Marty had the Thralls hold their fire until the last moments of closing: at that range you almost couldn’t miss! He brandished his blade as he shouted the order to unload a full broadside into the enemy ship – and scored four direct hits!

   Sadly, neither could the enemy – scoring four hits as well before the boarding action began!

   Still, it was all well above the waterline. Nothing critical on either side. He and the enemy got in another barrage each – both aiming low (despite the fact that that order clashed with every ridiculous motivational seminar that Marty had ever had to attend), and scoring several hits – but then the ships were simply too close. Artillery duel; inconclusive. They’d both be taking on some water – but not enough to stop them any time soon.

   One of the sailors they’d rescued started blasting away with fire magic – some sort of pillar of flame effect or a minor elemental or some such – but it was a bit too soggy for that to be an ideal choice.

“Prepare for boarding!”

   The crew – and the non-spellcasters among the Brit’s they’d rescued – began scrambling onto deck with a variety of weapons. Many were thrown from their feet as the ships collided, but Marty held his ground – and led the charge, screaming, frothing at the mouth, and milking his Presence power for all it was worth!

   The wave of undead horrors rose to meet him, bringing with them the sickening stench of an opened grave as they strove to overwhelm the crew with sheer numbers!

   They were a nuisance – but such minor undead were no match for Marty, Jamie, A’ikana, and a crew of werewolf-thralls in a melee. The fact that several of the older Thralls – better trained in the use of their abilities – simply leapt over the undead swarm to take the fight directly to the living enemy was a nasty surprise for the Germans as well. When the British mage hit the enemy sails with a fireball it was just icing on the cake.

   Marty let his wounds heal themselves as he hewed his way through the swarm – but the enemy mage hit the British mage with some sort of electrical attack, sending agonizing electrical arcs rolling across his body. Fortunately, there were more than enough Thralls available to help him out – and he got off another spell, although it didn’t have any obvious effect until a wave of undead reinforcements ran into an invisible barrier when they tried to leap across the gap between the ships and fell into the sea.

“Yarr! Me ship is too good for ye scallywags!”

   Marty was mildly impressed; invisible barriers were pretty handy, and it was a good spell to be able to get off after what had looked like a pretty nasty hit. It started looking even better after the necromancer’s next spell bounced off it – starting him cursing furiously.

   Unfortunately, the barrier kept Marty from reaching the Necromancer as well. Ah well, they were just trying to hold them back and it looked like their mage was down to magic missiles.

   With it’s sails scorched and crumbling, the attackers started to fall behind. The Necromancer threw an ominous bolt of dark destruction at the wall of force – which held for a moment, but then collapsed. The mage swore as the necromancer gloated – and a last few boarders managed to cross the gap.

   Marty had about half the Thralls give the ship a telekinetic push. They couldn’t keep that up for very long – but it sent the ship lunging forward, beginning to gain speed as it crushed undead between it and the enemy ship and ran others down.

   Marty grinned and started eliminating the last remnants of the boarding party. They’d lost about half a mile during that brief conflict – but a lot of the other enemy ships were having trouble with their sails.

“No eyes for ye, ye Kraut!”

   They managed to make up some distance on the Distant Voyager before the telekinetic push wore off. Cannon fire zipped by all around them as ships fired at each other – but it looked like Captain Rata’s course was successfully zig-zagging them past the battle areas and avoiding getting in-between the opposing sides. Soon enough, they were through the battlezone and in the straits.

   Well, they’d annoyed at least one German captain and necromancer, and hopefully Kevin’s curses had annoyed others among the French and German combatants. It certainly looked like they’d had some effect, since the British seemed to have a good edge at the moment.

   According to the British sailors the French had been attempting to take over as many of the major trade and navigation hubs and chokepoints as they could. It looked rather like they were trying to seize the Manifold travel choke points. The Germans were a recent addition to the mess, and their motives weren’t exactly clear.

   It looked like there was a major age of exploration trade war going on. The type of economic activity that Marty could normally get right behind (He’d have to open up an office around here!) – but the undead were definitely a downside. They weren’t any fun, a suit couldn’t make them presentable, and they couldn’t sell stuff worth crap.

   The British had a stronghold at the other end of the Strait. It would be a convenient place to drop off their passengers. There were places for sailing overland, but this wasn’t one of them.

   The place was a mess though. There were warships attempting to go the other direction, ships coming in for repairs, and merchantmen dropping of supplies to be carried overland to the battle. They tried to avoid formal entanglements; there would be inquiries of course – in fact, someone was coming to meet them as they pulled into the docks – but they might be able to get away without too many formal explanations.

“Welcome to Las Kaches. I am Jason Custone, a member of the dock authority here. May I please ask for your names, ship names and business?”

“I’m Captain Marty of the Saucy Wench.”

“I am Ambassador Kierroth, this is Captain Rata (Kevin ran through the list of officers), the ships are the Distant Voyager and the Saucy Wench, and we are simply passing through; we of course rescued those in need of assistance on the way.”

“Ah good, nice to have good Samaritans help out along the way. I am rather surprised you managed to get through the battle at the other end based on everything I’ve heard. Must have been some real good sailing to have gotten through that mess with as little damage as you did. We shall pay you then for the return of our sailors. That should be more than enough to cover the repairs, but I am afraid you may have to go elsewhere for that or do it yourselves. As you can see our shipwrights are rather busy.”

“Where’s the nearest port?”

“That would be the Port of Reung about 15 nautical miles out, an island situated near the entrance of the straits. Not officially ours, but well governed.”

   Hm. The Thralls could do a lot of mending where magic worked, but it would be a lot easier – a day or less rather than a week or more – if they weren’t underway at the time. They thanked Mr Custone for his directions.

“Thank you for returning our sailors, and if you are ever looking for some cash, please remember we pay privateers handsomely for their services.”

“Thanks, I’ll definitely remember that.”

   Kevin sighed. Marty was going to be starting a navy next… The Battling Dutch East Indies Company?

   Port Reung was decent enough. While repairs were underway, Kevin took a look around for local thrall-candidates; it gave him a chance to try out his summoning talent. He looked for “kids who need someplace to go and are desperate enough to really seriously consider signing up”. That would reach a six mile radius – and there might be a few; large-scale war made a lot of orphans and such.

   As it turned out, there were six available. They got a good meal, and some money to pay for their walk, and the usual sales pitch. All of them signed up, so there was no need for memory-blurring. That would cover Marty’s office staff here – but he refrained from setting up a gate for them as of yet. That would sort of undermine the traveling-by-sea-to-avoid-detection bit.

   Marty spent some money and got an office set up. It would be handy for starting that fleet!

   Secondarily, he reported in and spent some time with Limey and tried to gauge his maturity. What kind of training would be best for him? He was fair at magic and his social skills should improve with more interaction – but it looked like he’d be good at number crunching, reference searching, and other abstract skills. No real surprise there, but he’d have to get Limey some more spells and perhaps a computer programming and security tutor.

   Well, so far it hadn’t been too bad. According to Captain Rata, it should be fairly clear sailing until they hit the border regions near the End of the World. There were some pretty ugly storms that they were going to have to sail through.

Mr Leland

   For today we simply have a link to another classless d20 Eclipse character – Peter Leland, Marty’s boss in the Federation-Apocalypse game. That may or may not be it for today, but it’s pretty late now and it’s been very busy.

d20: Haurgrim the Sagacious

   There was a request for an illustration of the Mystic Artist ability in Eclipse: The Codex Persona Classless d20 – so here’s a character who employs an obscure branch of that ability sequence; mystic architecture.

   He also uses a couple of other unusual abilities – a branch of invocation magic calling on entities that will occasionally ask for favors and services in exchange for the use of their power and Immunity to the normal limitations of a skill – a way to pull off tricks that skill alone won’t normally cover.

   As usual, Haurgrim is designed using the classless d20 rules from Eclipse: The Codex Persona (available in print HERE and in a shareware version HERE)

Haurgrim the Sagacious:

   Level Eight Magus.

   The mountains soaring above were no place for humans. There, where the deep wells of magic nourished their stony roots, were ancient caverns, wells of magic, and things sealed away since the world was young. Even the surface reaches were the domain of giants, fey, and dragons, not of men and elves.

   The depths of the forest were more friendly, but still a place of peril. But there were places where old bargains held sway, where hoary rituals and old pacts held the worst of the wild magic at bay, where the younger races tilled their fields, raised their beasts, and worshiped their gods.

   Being a Druid was a highly respectable trade. SOMEONE needed to enact the old rituals, cut the symbols into the hillsides, maintain the mystic boundaries, and mediate between the young races and the old powers. Young Haurgrim was studious, observant, and methodical – and so was apprenticed to the village druid early on. His father – Eurathin, a local baron who cheerfully acknowledged and made some provision for the bastards he fathered – cheerfully paid the apprenticeship fee.

   Haurgrim, however, was too curious for his own good. He looked beyond the minor spirits and shallow pools of earthpower which most druids called upon, becoming fascinated with the old powers, the wild magic of the outer planes. Caught up in a bit of petty warfare – another minor noble had a small quarrel with Eurathin – he called upon those powers in desperation.

   And he was answered. The chaotic power of the Wild Magic, of the Old Powers, poured through him – striking down his enemies and marking him as a true mage.

   Eurathin was delighted – the greater magics were rare, and usually only the upper nobility could boast a true mage at their courts – and sponsored him, ensuring that he had every opportunity both to study his art and to fulfill his obligations to his supernatural patrons.

   Over the years since, Haurgrim has become a master designer of mystical architecture, a skillful ritualist, and has undertaken a variety of missions – some trivial, some baffling, and some vital – on behalf of his various supernatural patrons. That’s been a large enough pain that he prefers not to call on his patrons for anything major if he can avoid it (burning a few incense sticks or something is usually sufficient to pay for cantrips and first-level spells and such, so that’s all right). For the most part, Haurgrim prefers to rely on his knowledge, his skills, and occasionally on his connections; if he can avoid an encounter, determine the weakness of a creature, or solve an ancient puzzle without resorting to magic, that’s all to the good.

   Available Character Points: Duties/Court Mage (+2 CP/Level), Restrictions/Finds armor impossibly burdensome (+1 CP/Level), Compulsive (curiosity) and Recorder (keeps notes on all the NPC’s for everyone) (+6 CP), Human Bonus, L1, L3, and L6 Feats (+24 CP), Level Eight Base (216 CP) = 270 CP.

   Human Racial Package (+0 ECL): Bonus Feat (6 CP) and Fast Learner (Specialized in Skills, +1 SP/Level, 3 CP).

   Basic Attributes: Strength 11/+0, Intelligence 20 (24)/+7, Wisdom 16 (18)/+4, Constitution 14 (16)/+3, Dexterity 12/+1, Charisma 12/+1. Original Rolls: 12, 16, 18, 12, 14, 11. Level-Based Bonuses: +2 Intelligence.

   Saving Throws (36 CP):

  • Reflex: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) + 1 (Dexterity) +2 (Resistance) = +5
  • Fortitude: +4 (Purchased, 12 CP) +3 (Constitution) +2 (Resistance) = +9
  • Will: +6 (Purchased, 18 CP) + 1 (Wisdom) +2 (Resistance) = +9

   Basic Abilities (65 CP):

  • Initiative: +1
  • Alignment: Lawful Good
  • Move: 30
  • Hit Dice: L1-8d8 (32 CP)
    • Hit Points: 8 (L1d8) + 42 (8, 8, 5, 8, 3, 7, 3) + 24 (Con Mod x 8) = 74
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +1 (Dexterity) +4 Armor (Mage Armor) +4 Shield (Shield Spell) = 19.
  • Proficiencies: All Simple and Druidic Weapons (9 CP).
  • Languages (6 + 4): Common, Elvish, Celestial, Infernal, Sylvan, Draconic, and the four Elemental Languages.
  • Warcraft: +4 (24 CP).
  • Usual Weapons:
    • Scimitar +5 (+4 BAB +1 Masterwork), 1d6, Crit 18+/x2.
    • Light Crossbow +6 (+4 BAB +1 Dex +1 Masterwork), 1d8, Crit 19+/x2, 80′ Range Increment.

   Purchased Abilities:

   Greater Invocation (24 CP): 4 Levels of Intelligence-Based Wilder Power Progression as Spell Levels (Divide power by 1.8 to convert to available spell levels. Substitute Components for Restrained on the basic progression). Specialized and Corrupted for triple effect (effective level 12): does not provide any actual powers to work with, these must be bought separately, only works to power Paths and Metaspells which invoke various entities, such entities may occasionally call on him for various services or favors – and the more often he calls upon them, the more likely this is. Provides (126 + [Int Mod x 6])/1.8 (85 total) spell levels to work with and allows him to use path- or metaspell-based effects of up to level six.

   Paths and Metaspells: 36 CP.

  • The Adamant Darkness of the Nameless One: Creates and – at higher levels – solidifies and manipulates – darkness. Often used to create barriers, chains, weapons, and storms of darts.
  • Eilken’s Word of Unbinding: Breaks spells and controlling effects, releases bonds, and – at very high levels – can disintegrate matter.
  • The Winds of Malgaunt: Provides telekinetic effects.
  • The Eye of Sutekh: Lays compulsions and commands.
  • The Krellian Beasts: Creates – or perhaps unleashes – psychic constructs.
  • The Transmutation of Ordanth: Elemental transmutation and polymorph effects.
    • OK, these are a quick set, and could use more descriptions and limitations – but this is getting long enough already.

Mystic Artist / Architecture (6 CP).

  • Haurgrim can design and build structures that affect all those within or around them with the power of his art. With an applicable skill of 24 (since reference-work and magical bonuses do not count in determining how many ways he can use his power), he is entitled to use ten of the basic abilities. In his case he has selected the following options:
  • Inspiration Abilities:
    • Emotion; he can design structures that inspire strong emotions in all who view or enter them (Save DC 11 + Int Mod).
    • Competence (Skipped).
    • Greatness; he can design structures that inspire those contemplating them or within them with +1 Positive Level and 1d10 temporary hit points.
    • Excellence; he can design structures that grant those within them or contemplating them to +4 Morale Bonuses which may be applied to their saves, their AC, their attacks, or to the damage they inflict in melee.
    • Mass Greatness; basically as above, at least for someone who creates buildings rather than arts which only affect a small number of people.
    • Mass Excellence; basically as above, at least for someone who creates buildings rather than arts which only affect a small number of people.
  • Synergy Abilities:
    • Block; he can design his structures to resist magic which would damage them, such as Earth to Stone or Disintegrate.
    • Group Focus (Skipped).
    • Amplify; he can design structures which boost the abilities of friendly spellcasters, providing them with a +2 caster level bonus.
    • Harmonize; He can incorporate any two these functions into a single building.
    • Serenity; he can design structures that will, once per week each, allow anyone who contemplates them to regain “uses-per-day” abilities and be refreshed as if by a nights rest.
    • Rule the Horde; he can design structures that render those who contemplate or enter them non-hostile and inflict a chosen Suggestion on them (Will save DC 22 + Int Mod).
  • Mystic Architecture Ability Modifiers:
    • Seeking (6 CP): Haurgrim can limit the effects of his architecture to particular targets, such as “the rightful inhabitants of the city” or “the followers of a particular god” or some such. This allows him to design a wide variety of custom structures.
    • Whispers (6 CP): The source of his architectures effects is not immediately obvious; it will take special measures, such as divination, to trace them down.
  • Mystic architecture can produce some fairly powerful effects relatively cheaply – at least in terms of Character Points. On the other hand, the direct utility to most characters is strictly limited. It does, however, offer a wonderful way to create castles that cannot be easily penetrated by a few spells, glorious temples that actually impress visitors or which enhance the powers of the priests within them, and similar dedicated structures. If the architect who designed the walls of a town happens to have incorporated the Block and Greatness effects with the Seeking modifier, the walls will not readily fall to supernatural attacks – and the guards upon them will gain a very useful advantage.

   Immunity to the normal restrictions of the Heal skill (Uncommon / Major / Major, covers effects of up to L5, Specialized; requires ten minutes of work with a bagful of tools and medicines to bypass such limitations, 3 CP). The user can also:

  • DC 20: Splint broken limbs, relieve allergies and arthritis, and reduce similar troubles to something manageable.
  • DC 25: Maximize the effect of a healing spell or perform simple surgery (curing 2d4 damage). DC 30: Cure blindness, deafness, or disease, or perform a Lesser Restoration (once per day per patient).
  • DC 35: Perform complex surgery (curing 3d6 damage), Neutralize Poison and heal it’s effects.
  • DC 40: Revival (allows normal treatment and recovery for up to 3 minutes after “death”), provide a full Restoration (once per day per patient).
    • These effects will require an upgrade to the Great Immunity level, for +3 CP.
  • DC 50: Perform organ transplants, perform advanced surgery (curing 4d12 damage), cure a supernatural disease, or Quicken Recovery (as per the Epic Level Handbook).
  • DC 60: Perform ultra-advanced surgery (curing 5D20 damage), rebuild limbs, or redesign bodies.
    • These effects will require an upgrade to the Epic Immunity level, for another +3 CP.
  • DC 75: Build a Flesh Golem. This bypasses the usual prerequisites and 80% of the GP cost – but does not bypass the experience point cost.
  • DC 100: Induce a Perfect Recovery (as per the Epic Level Handbook).
    • Unfortunately, any given patient can only be healed via surgery once per day.

   Minor Abilities:

  • Druidic Spellcasting I (8 CP): 3L0 and 2L1 spells per day.
  • Ritual Magic (6 CP): Can produce a wide variety of magical effects with his Spellcraft skill – given time and materials.
  • Augmented Bonus/Perceptive Studies (6 CP): Adds his Wis Mod to his Int Mod for knowledge skills.
  • Augmented Bonus/Defensive Charms (6 CP): May add his Int Mod to his saving throws three times per day.
  • Innate Enchantment (6 CP/5000 GP value): All spells unlimited use-activated at caster level one, Shield (2000 GP), Mage Armor (personal only for x.7, 1400 GP), and +2 Wisdom (1400 GP).
  • Skill Emphasis/Knowledge; Architecture and Engineering (3 CP): +2 bonus.
  • Favors (3 CP): Haurgrim has connections with the local nobility, and can obtain some minor favor or bit of aid from them once per session.
  • Fast Learner: Specialized in Skills, Corrupted for Knowledge Skills Only (+3 SP/Level, 6 CP).
  • Adept II (10 CP). Corrupted, may only be applied to knowledge skills, and only then if the user takes time out to study in a library. 1.5x Effect (six knowledge skills) on the first instance, reduced cost on the second, to cover all knowledge skills.

   Skill Points: 34 (CP Spent) + 11 (Human) + 24 (Fast Learner, only for Knowledges) + 55 (Intelligence) = 124 SP.

   Knowledge Skills: Arcana, Dungeoneering, Geography, History, Local, Nature, Nobility and Royalty, Religion, and the Planes, all +11 (Skill Points spent) + 11 (Effective Intelligence Modifier for Knowledge Skills) + 2 (Masterwork Reference Work) + 3 (Competence) = +27. Architecture and Engineering also gets a +2 bonus from his Skill Emphasis. Net cost: 50 SP.

   Other Skills: Concentration +14 (11 SP +3 Con), Craft/Alchemy +8 (1 SP +7 Int), Disable Device +18 (11 SP +7 Int), Disguise +2 (1 SP +1 Cha), Heal +15 (11 SP +4 Wis), Listen +10 (6 SP +4 Wis), Ride +2 (1 SP +1 Dex), Search +15 (11 SP +4 Wis), Speak Language/+4 Languages (4), Spellcraft +18 (11 SP +7 Int), Spot +10 (6 SP +4 Wis).

   Major Equipment:

  • Masterwork Items: Silver Dagger, Scimitar, Light Crossbow, Mages Bag (+2 to Spellcraft), Healers Pouch (+2 to Heal), and an Alchemists Kit.
  • Magical Items: Ring of Feather Falling, Wand of Cure Light Wounds, Cloak of Resistance +2, Hat of Disguise, Universal Encyclopedia (Masterwork Reference Work, +2 Enhancement and +3 Competence bonus to all Knowledge Skills), Heward’s Handy Haversack, Amulet of Health +2, Headband of Intellect +4.
  • Minor items: Riding Horse and Tack, Packmule and Tack, Fine Clothing, 20 Bolts, Sling and Bullets, Rations, Bedroll, Water Flask, Writing Kit, Candles, Silk Rope, Hammer and Pitons, 3 Oil Flasks, Bullseye Lantern, Thieves Picks and Tools, Small Steel Mirror, Silver Holy Symbol, Signet Ring, Spyglass, Tarp, assorted minor personal items (grooming, bathing, etc).
  • Special Materials: 3x Holy Water, 3x Antitoxin, 6x Sunrods, Tanglefoot Bag, and an assortment of incenses and such for making offerings to his patrons.

   Haurgrim is a pretty formidable mage if he’s forced to use his powers – but he’d really rather not. On the other hand, knowledge is also very useful – and that he has in plenty.

   For future advancement, Haurgrim would be well served by the Sanctum ability sequence, by acquiring a few more metaspells, and – perhaps – by upgrading his Innate Enchantment (despite the experience-point cost) and his druidical talents. Ways to boost his healing skill even further are probably in order as well. He may want to start getting into politics soon – or to try to obtain a domain of his own and thus enter the nobility in his own right.