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.