Eclipse Thaumaturgy – Machine Mastery and Chaos Magic

   Thaumaturgy, From Eclipse: The Codex Persona, is an open-ended magic system where the user picks a theme, and then names the magical skills that he or she feels fall under that theme. There are a few examples in the book of course – but, since there are as many possible themes as there are players, here are a few more.

   Raphial, from the Federation-Apocalypse game, opted to use Thaumaturgy to represent his implanted nanite control computer and nanite production unit. For him, the Power cost represented the mental stress of maintaining control and the Mana cost represented the drain on his nanite stock and their energy reserves. His abilities of Machine Mastery all tended to manifest as fogs, dusts, oozes, and liquids which performed various functions and – in general – only worked well on technological targets. Other targets were more difficult to deal with, requiring higher-level effects.

   Corrupting or Specializing Machine Mastery by limiting the range, by making higher-order effects require more time, by making such abilities vulnerable to monitoring and jamming, and by making the systems technologically detectable, is, as always, optional – but such modifiers will be important to lower-level characters who can’t afford to pay full price for everything.

   Machine Mastery Skills:

  • Amplification. This skill covers temporarily increasing the effects of existing devices, environments, and powers directly, using nanites to reinforce structures, boost the energy output of various systems, and otherwise step things up.
  • Assembly. His skill covers making things out of existing materials and accelerating work. Naturally enough, building simple objects is easiest, machines are harder, and complex devices are very difficult to create.
  • Augmentation. This useful skill covers using your nanites to enhance your personal abilities – tapping into their ability to scan the wider electromagnetic spectrum or to conduct detailed chemical analysis, linking them together to armor our skin, or using them to create a strength-amplifying exoskeleton. Sadly, unlike true magic, such augmentations are subject to practical engineering limitations.
  • Data Links. This straightforward skill covers setting up links between machines, or between machines and the user’s nanite control system, to transfer or duplicate information. It’s useful for datathefts, real-time reprogramming, and similar stunts. Sadly, the data-storage systems in living beings are not especially orderly, and are quite difficult to deal with.
  • Hijacking. This is the art of manipulating mechanisms, computers, and constructs, by means of inducing currents and otherwise tampering with their control systems. Sadly, used on living things, it’s very difficult to do more than induce seizures and simple convulsive movements.
  • Modification. This skill covers making lasting modifications to devices. Unfortunately, the difficulty of such tinkering depends on the complexity, and activity level, of the system and the desired modifications. Just as importantly, it’s also limited by practical engineering and physics; there are some things you just can’t do with machines.
  • Power Transfer. This straightforward skill covers moving energy around. Electrical energy is easiest of course, but various forms of chemical, kinetic, and thermal energy can be transferred as well. If you need to power up a system, jump a car, recharge a batter, drain a generator, short an electrical outlet through a target, or deliver metabolic chemicals to help out a friend who’s lost a lot of blood (tricky, but possible), this is the skill to use.
  • Repair. This skill covers putting things back together. This works best on simple, inactive, mechanical systems. The more complex, or active, the system, the more difficult it is to repair. Living things – being both very complex and metabolically active – are generally very difficult to repair (with the exception of simple bone damage, torn ligaments, and similar structural-tissue damage).

   Shadow-Of-Dark-Wings, a spirit-reaper from the Darkweird setting, opted for Chaos Magic – in her view, a method of manipulating probability and entropy. This particular field is also a good illustration of a basic principle; the more broadly applicable the principles underlying a particular skill are, the harder it is to produce any specific effect with said field.

   Chaos Magic Skills:

  • Ban Event. This skill is pretty straightforward. Worried about something in particular happening? Fix it so it doesn’t. Sadly, you can’t prevent the inevitable, but you can (briefly) ban critical hits, keep people from seeing you, or prevent other specific outcomes. It’s dangerous to use this on long-range things though: events can get very twisted if they have to avoid some really likely event.
  • Confusion. While this skill is good for disrupting almost any kind of activity, it can also get you promoted for doing foolish things, make people think they heard the correct password or saw the correct ID, get you mistaken for a visiting VIP – or at least someone who belongs there – and otherwise produce almost any kind of mistake or mis-communication. It’s very handy if you want a mass of troops to start hitting each other, if you want to recover from foot-in-mouth disease (“that’s not what I said!”), or if you want to curse a group with inefficiency.
  • Balance Force. This skill is a straightforward neutralizing effect. Most obviously, it can be used to counter various forms of energy attacks, to contain explosions, and to break falls. Less obviously it can counter kinetic energy to reduce the effects of impacts or bring things to a halt, prevent explosives from being triggered, create force barriers, counter spellcasting and other powers, counteract Van Der Walls forces to turn matter into gas, disrupt nuclear structures, or shut down electrical systems. Effects such as neutralizing gravity, inducing paralysis, and restraining excessive emotionalism are higher level, but quite possible. Unfortunately, while the mechanism of this skill is very broad, it’s correspondingly difficult to use; most effects can be more easily countered in other ways.
  • Increase and Decrease Entropy: This pair of skills produces order and disorder. They can catalyze or suppress chemical reactions, make things older or younger, re-assemble destroyed targets or destroy intact ones, refine raw materials or separate the components of mixtures (yes you can unscramble an egg), trigger or suppress explosives, induce or remove corrosion, raise or lower temperatures, increase or decrease the efficiency of machines, create or cure genetic disorders (including cancer), concentrate or dissipate energy, and either create or destroy information.
  • Pattern Breaking: While this is good for virtually any kind of destruction or dispelling effect, it’s also good for disrupting communications, breaking addictions, getting people out of bad relationships, making people have new and creative ideas, disrupting formations and traffic, putting images inside of crystals, inducing epileptic fits or other weird behavior, disrupting reflexes, immune responses, and other body systems, suppressing inhibitions, making sure that no one can predict your actions, and getting people and groups to accept new ideas.
  • Phasing. While it’s great for evading injury. It’s also good for reaching into things, sticking things together by phasing their surfaces together, creating explosions by putting two solid objects into the same place, hiding things inside of other things (or even yourself), taking away people’s gear, bypassing armor and parries, sabotaging electronics by contaminating vacuums and semiconductors, passing through or hiding in solid objects, attacking through barriers, breaching the barriers between dimensions, and
  • Warp Odds: While this is the basic effect for modifying dice rolls it can also be used to force unlikely events (the more unlikely, and the more control you want over how it happens, the higher the spell level), for divination via coin tosses (or similar random systems) via changing the odds of getting the right answers, to cut travel time by manipulating happenstance, to direct research efforts, and to cause technical malfunctions. In general, looking for very general (everyone on my side will have good luck in this battle!) or very short-term specific effects (I will make this shot!) is far easier and safer than trying something like “The dark lord shall fall by my blade!”

   Orthan had a very different idea of what “Chaos Magic” meant: to him, Chaos meant a force that broke down the order of reality, a dark and dangerous power that was (thanks to his Specialization) almost as damaging to channel and use as it was to his targets.

   Chaos Magic Skills:

  • Chaos Field. This skill allows the user to interrupt the processes that allow other things to function properly – whether the user is disrupting technology, magic, or psychic powers. Effects range from simply weakening such powers, rendering them less efficient, or making them more difficult to use, on through simply shutting down such abilities in a wide area.
  • Chaotic Restructuring. This skill allows the user to channel the warping and mutating effects of chaos into rebuilding inanimate matter. Unfortunately, such chaotic forces are virtually impossible to fully control; unless great caution is taken (making the spells more difficult), the results are likely to be warped, twisted, and (often) radioactive.
  • Curse of Chaos. This dubious “skill” allows the user to infuse his or her targets with the energies of chaos – or, alternatively, to destroy some portion of their inherent order. Targets can be cursed with degeneration, cancerous growths, breakdowns in various internal systems, ongoing chaotic effects, and – at the highest levels – even shapeshifting and lycanthropic effects.
  • Disruption. This distressingly easy effect simply channels a pulse of chaos into the underlying structure of matter or patterns of energy. This won’t have much effect on simple unstructured materials such as water – but the delicate structures of spells, electronic mechanisms, psychic constructs, living creatures, subtle enchantments, and complex organic molecules, are quite a different matter. Worse, the more complex and energetic the structure affected, the more likely there is to be a violent release of energy.
  • Entropic Shield. This useful skill allows the user to wrop himself or herself in an aura of chaotic energy which is capable of disrupting incoming attacks or – at higher levels – of injuring those who contact it. Sadly, this sort of thing tends to damage the surrounding area.
  • Fleshwarp. This dangerous skill allows the user to alter living things – but, unlike many other forms of shapeshifting or transforming magic – it has no innate provision for the safety or survival of those affected. Tweaking the shape of a nose or transforming fingernails into claws is fairly simple, and reasonably safe. If you care about the survival of your targets, it’s best to know a great deal of anatomy and biology before making any major alterations. On the other hand, since it makes true physical changes, it is quite easy to make its effects permanent.
  • Unnatural Life. This dangerous skill blurs the line between the animate and inanimate, infusing its targets with an unnatural chaotic vitality. Unfortunately, the exact properties and behavior of such things can never be precisely predicted – although the creator can usually at least designate an initial target.
  • Warp Reality. The final skill of Orthan’s Chaos Magic allows its user to disrupt the structure of whatever dimension he or she occupies – creating dimensional pockets, opening gates between places or into other dimensions, and breaking or twisting natural laws. Sadly, once again, this has bizarre and unpredictable side effects – possibly releasing strange and bizarre creatures from other realms, releasing destructive energies in the vicinity, or simply being violently unstable.

   So which of these sets of chaos magic skills is “correct”? I hope that it’s not too unexpected that both of them are correct. The theme of any given thaumaturgy field, and it’s interpretation, are always up to the character who’s using it. The basic rules – that a given Thaumaturgy feat opens up 6-10 (usually eight) thaumaturgy skills, that all those skills must be related to a particular theme, and that the broader the skill the more difficult it is to produce specific effects – are the same for all thaumaturgists, as are the rules for actually producing effects. The individual skills can vary endlessly.

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