Federation-Apocalypse Session 95a – Massive Ninja Assault

   They almost had second thoughts when they took a look at the route.

   Core->Crusader->Imperial China->Treacherous Mountain Pass->Shaolin Temple realm.

   Crusader wasn’t all that bad – but Crusader Tokyo? That was almost always complete chaos.

   Oh well. They had the wagon-loads of assorted trade goods, Kevin as a Taoist Mystic (thus accounting for his apparent youth), Marty as a Merchant, and the Thralls as Marty’s aides / employees / slaves as appropriate to whatever realm they were in at the moment.

   Kevin told the Thralls setting up the planet-moving to call him as soon as they were ready – it should be in a few days – since that pretty much took priority over most other business even if it shouldn’t take very long. All they had to do was go, open the gate, clean up any resulting messes, and leave again.

   Interestingly, Crusader had settled down again – at least for the moment. Either the stress was way down, it had already split (or merged, as the case might be), or someone was exerting a lot of effort in stabilizing the place… That could be a major coalition in Core, Ryan – it was his home universe after all – or any of several other major powers. Crusader was simply too convenient for too many people to let it run completely amok.

   Anyway, at the moment it was more in line with a typical superhero world now, as opposed to a realm close to fragmenting.

   Of course, in Crusader Japan, the standard battle for Tokyo was going on. There was always something… Giant monsters vs. giant robots vs. superheroes vs. ninja vs. samurai vs. aliens vs. otaku vs. magical girls vs cat girls.

   Marty thought it was just like home in some ways.

   At the moment, it looked like the city was currently under attack from a five-hundred foot ninja, which was hiding somewhere in the city.

   Kevin sighed, called the local office, and made sure that they were staffed with anthropomorphic cat-girls, fox-girls, and similar types. That should being in more recruits!

   Locally, with the ninja in hiding, the opposition was considering a variety of approaches on flushing him out.

   The guy in the giant robot’s tactic was the most straightforward: he was simply firing in all directions in hopes of hitting the ninja before leveling Tokyo. It wasn’t working so far…

   Marty wondered why they hadn’t set a ninja to capture a ninja?

   Kevin was busy making sure that recruiting-rumors were being spread amongst the youngsters who were watching and wishing that they could get involved more effectively! If he picked up a few applicants while he was here it would be a pleasant surprise – as well as an indicator that word was really getting out.

(Random Samurai, to Marty) “But that would be dishonorable!”

   Kevin punted Mr Samurai – with the help of a massed telekinetic push from the Thralls – into Tokyo Bay.

(Kevin) “Idiot! It is dishonorable to leave people in danger because YOU are too incompetent to locate a 500-foot ninja! Is he perhaps hiding behind a parked car? Look behind the skyscrapers you idiots!”

   Marty almost slapped himself. Was he getting caught up in Crusader too? Honestly, somehow there he’d almost forgotten that sky-scraper sized ninja couldn’t readily lurk in the bushes. There really weren’t too many buildings that a creature that size could hide behind.

   He went and had a look.

(Kevin) “Use Ninja strategy! Actually look instead of waiting for him to come out for an honorable battle!.. Idiots! Next up it will be Ninja-Pirate-Godzilla!”

(Mecha Pilot) “Wouldn’t it be easier to get all the buildings out of the way first? Or is that bad too?”

(Kevin) “It’s Tokyo, so that’s acceptable – but it’s more elegant to save the city WITHOUT destroying it! It shows how good you are!”

(Alien, utters something completely incomprehensible. A five-year-old standing next to it nods and translates.) “If ninjas just use the power of the darkness, wouldn’t it be best to try using the powers of the light?”

(Kevin) “That works too I suppose” (he gave the five-year-old a small present) “At least it’s daylight, which limits the silliness somewhat!”

(Captain Nobilis, Striking a dramatic pose) “Then let us shine forth the light upon all corners of the city and flush out these dark creature of the night!”

   Kevin booted Captain Nobilis skyward instead of into the bay. Very VERY high up, so that he could take a good look around the city. So high up that he was a mere twinkle in the sky, although he still managed to be annoying.

   Marty had wanted to pants him, but he was wearing a spandex bodysuit anyway.

(Kevin) “Thank the creator that I’m an antihero! I draw power from being impossibly rude and pre-emptive! No more !@#$ Dramatics! Just do something!”

(Cyber Pirate girl) “He’s right, now I think I have something on scanners that looks like it may be ninjutsu at work. Looks like he is hiding behind the tallest building in the city!”

   Kevin and Marty groaned; Tokyo towers of course, right on top of where their gate was. Where else?

   As they ran down the street and around the corner, they clearly saw a colossal ninja rather comically “hidden” behind the towers. He didn’t seem to have noticed them yet.

   They opted to set fire to his toes. The old hotfoot gag was always good.

   Marty – er, The Animator – pulled one out of nowhere. Kevin got the Thralls – and Captian Nova, a random nearby hero with flame powers – organized:

(Kevin) “Plasma pistols at the ready! Fire Spells ready! Captian Nova Ready (he always turned up when you wanted to start a fire)! Fireballs and witchfire ready!”

   The all-out blast – including attacks from several of the more sensible heroes – targeted the toes of the ninja’s tabi, with extra napalm and continuing spell effects. If they could drive him into the harbor, all the little plastic tanks with ray guns could take over.

   Sneak attack hotfoot!

   For a few moments it seemed like the attacks were having no effect – then they heard the ninja beginning to sniff the air.

(Kevin) “Pour it on men!”

   The ninja looked around for a moment – then looked down and began the hot-foot dance, setting off the equivalent of a modest earthquake as he edged towards the harbor.

(Marty) “Summon pirates! Everyone knows that Ninjas and Pirates are mortal enemies! Summon as many pirates as possible in the harbor!”

(Kevin) “Organize the Japanese Defense Force! Fire implausible lightning-ray cannons!

   The lightning cannons began to fire, the mecha fired rockets and lasers, tanks threw sparks into the air. The battle began to rage in full earnest.

   It was a bit odd though. The chintzy special effects weren’t really typical of Crusader, even if they were typical for bad old movies. Oh well, that was Tokyo.

   The various attacks hit the ninja, annoying him, blinding him, and slowly forcing him back into the sea. Buildings were having antenna knocked off and windows smashed – but they weren’t collapsing wholesale; they were doing well!

   Marty launched one of his patented massive strikes at the ninjas ankle as he strode towards the harbor – knocking him off balance and sending him (with the help of a massed telekinetic thrust from the Thralls that almost doubled the force of Marty’s strike) toppling (in slow motion, and with an instant replay from three different angles) into the waters of the bay.

   The ninja hit the water with a tremendous splash and sank beneath the waves of the harbor – despite the fact that it should be far too shallow for him.

   Kevin tossed in the Oxygen Destroyer! (Or at least something to make lots of bubbles). The Ninja would probably escape of course – being a Ninja – but it would let him know that the Heroes of Tokyo meant business!

   There were many bubbles and much cheering.

   They promptly put up a banner announcing “Organization Courtesy of Amarant Solutions”. It was good PR!

   Besides, the “Decapitation” one would give the wrong impression.

   Captain Nobilis did not approve. He was firmly of the belief that one did not need to seek out credit or adoration from the masses – and he went into a lengthy and disgusting speech on being humble.

   Marty actually listened. He might learn something!

   It rapidly became apparent that he wasn’t going to say anything all that interesting. Toonworlder rashness swiftly overcome the willingness to listen to vague sweetness-and-light moralizing…

   Kevin too lost patience after a few minutes. He spun a Shell of one-way Silence around the Captain so that he could hear himself – but no one else could – and then used a ventriloquism effect to turn his speech into a rant on civil rights for asparagus. Oddly enough, quite a few of the local phantasms were listening… Hopefully this wouldn’t REALLY start a veggie rights movement.

   Marty wondered if the next visit to Crusader was going to involve the Million Asparagus March.

   Kevin was mildly disappointed… The audience included several other heroes, some semi-heroes, a lot of civilians – and a disturbing number of children. None with souls though. It looked like the standard fair for Godzilla – with lots of children to cheer the heroes or to declare that the monster was poorly understood and an all around swell guy.

   No point in making recruiting speeches then. They just paid the local ice cream vendors to distribute their stock and headed out before captain goody-goody could start to wonder why everyone was looking at him so oddly.

   There was cheering as they made a break for the gate.

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Ninsei’s Secret Diaries – Legion Edition

   Here we have a special excerpt from Ninsei’s Secret Diaries – complicated by the fact that now there are not only the Lunar and Solar-oriented versions of Ninsei, but also a set of dream-duplicates with differing elemental orientations and Solar Ninsei has recombined with what was left of a badly damaged version of Lunar Ninsei from an alternate timeline and didn’t exactly win the battle of identities. Ergo, we have multiple entries…

   Arasai (Air Ninsei)

   There are days when I am convinced that I must be the smart one. The “original” continually runs around from one problem to the next with only the vaguest outline of a plan at times. And now he has managed to get himself caught in a situation where he cannot escape without further repercussions beyond what we already face. Good thing I have a plan to get his rear out of the oven.

   A little thought, divination, and weaving can reveal a great deal about what you can expect to face. Using such information effectively and applying the minimal force in the right place can accomplish far more than the biggest fireball spell. Like today, I was able to stake out an important beachhead within the capitol without resorting to overwhelming firepower. All it took was some bait, some smokepowder, and pretending to be a firemage to make powerful opponents step back and negotiate. Now granted there was a great deal of luck involved but I can’t say I have had much time.

   So we still have Gems of the Designer, the Yodatai, the Yobanjin, Asuras, weird eldritch abominations from beyond, Shin and Fu Leng to worry about. Never mind the fact that we still have the possibility of one of us going rogue. We were barely able to stop it the last time, and even then, our side lost the battle of wills. We need to make plans, stash away resources, make contingencies and prepare for the worst should it happen.

   Sigh, it is going to be difficult to keep track of all of this. I am really going to need to work on the ability to process information better. Those people from the universe Ninsei and Kochige created had learned something of this, as had the people of the “Central Worlds” universe where that lunatic embedded in a crystal came from. It may well be worth studying all that material we have brought back from all these realms on advanced magic and such. There may be insights into how to better handle more information and multiple tasks going on at once. Worst case, I could visit our friends from the dying universe in the realm of dreams and ask for advice or instruction.

   Speaking of the Realm of Dreams, I must really find out how the Nightmares were constructed and by who. Not only could whoever it is still pose a threat – the Nightmare of the Mantis is new after all – but that knowledge could also lead to greater insight into how to better anchor my own existence. The tangled webs of fate and knowledge gleaned from the Void say this might be important.

   Lanwei (Water Ninsei):

   Yet again, more people I/we/he care about are getting hurt or nearly killed. Of course, when your answer to everything is fireballs or sunbeams, I guess that’s to be expected. Unless I figure out a better way to respond to this sort of situation, someone is going to get killed. Tying Ninsei to a chair, while amusing, is going to be impractical. Ergo, best option is to find a way to protect them from the damage Ninsei is so bent on exposing them to.

   Okari seems to be really good at this sort of thing, but as best as I can tell, his method relies on some quality unique to himself that no one else can duplicate. That’s probably not surprising in this group… On the other hand, it does suggest a line of approach.

   I can tie threads to people just as well as the others can. These people can then be monitored over these threads. Spells can also be cast over these threads. Is it possible to sense through the threads when someone is in danger and ward them with a protective spell? To be honest, I haven’t the faintest. On the other hand, it may be worth experimenting. If I can even develop the sense to know who is in danger and get to them sooner, it would be beneficial (and less hassle).

   I wonder if I can package a healing spell in such a way so as to be reflexive or nearly instantaneous? Also worth experimenting on. If the pyromaniac can chain cast six sunbeams, then surely I can get a heal spell off quickly. Of course it may be better to try and prevent the damage in the first place with some kind of warding spell.

   Hmm, now there is an interesting question: what measure of power can be inherited? If some of these future family members can be given some modicum of power, then the need to intervene on every little thing can be reduced. Too bad I don’t have supernatural mice to try ideas with. Although it does occur to me that the Unicorn priests had something working for them. Something about coupling power sources together.

   Nevertheless, I am going to have to do something about making these people more durable.

   Yindae (Earth Ninsei)

   My detailed review of the plans for the Power Grid has definitely been a learning experience. While it is certainly a marvel of design and something to be proud of, a few shortcomings do make themselves apparent.

   First off, the system’s greatest strength is also the greatest weakness. The ability to control power flow from a central location makes the system a great tool for social manipulation. On the other hand, should something happen to the controls, then the entire system goes down. Lunar Ninsei combated this issue by burying the control system in a location difficult to find without either knowing what you were looking for or by knowing a great deal about our family. It was then manned only by people he could trust to the utmost.

   Is this the best solution? I am not sure, although I will have to give it more thought. Although I shall have to look into the idea of multiple Control Cores or distributing the control functions.

   It is also becoming apparent that one of the limiting factors of the system will be availability of power. The system looks like it did fine under the load it was designed for. On the other hand, Ninsei with his Obsidian Magistrate system is going to be pushing the limits of the system by a good margin. So we are going to need more power to feed the system.

   It looks like the future Lunar Ninsei pretty thoroughly tapped all the energy sources in the Empire. So not much improvement to be had there. On the other hand, it looks like we might be able to incorporate the Shadowlands and parts of the new lands between the Empire, the City of Jewels, and the Yodatai Empire. That should add to the reserves.

   Another dangerous option would be to look into the Void-Shadow thing the Naga and that Deva use. Seems to be plenty of power there, just a great difficulty in control. Having reviewed the books and other materials from the other realms, I have learned much about concepts like fuses, circuit breakers, switches, and programs. While this electricity thing seems to have no relation to anything in our realm, it does look like magic and gemstones can mimic at least some of the functionality. It may be worthwhile to find a secluded island (or a pocket dimension) and run some very small scale experiments.

   And even if that does not work, and the energies are found to be too uncontrollable, it is not a complete failure. It will still be a learning experience on adapting this information on computers to Rokugani magical laws. This knowledge can then to applied to improve the Control Core of the Grid and even in making automata similar to the Designer for use in bolstering the ranks of the Obsidian Order. Hey, while the Designer was a horribly evil monstrosity, it did have some great ideas. Like that one with imprinting a consciousness into obsidian. I am sure something useful can come of that tidbit.

   Regardless, I have plenty of books and other materials to shift through for useful ideas. Some of them may prove useful to me and the others, some may not. It is not like I am in any hurry, I will have plenty of time on my hands.

   Lunar Ninsei

   All right, what in the name of the Kami is going on?! First Solar Ninsei is here, then he falls off the face of Rokugan, then he’s back again. That time he came back with three copies of us. Then he disappears again and comes back with copies of all our siblings and the princesses. Is the goofball actually trying to make backups of everyone important to him? And now he sends me a message “Congratulations, you won the battle of wills.” Which last I recall, since I am still here, is friggin impossible. I mean, the only way that could even work would require either alternate dimensions or time travel…. oh god damn it.

   I am going to have to send Kochige and Alex a fireball equal in power to the migraine I am now getting. I think I may have to find one of the copies and ask if there even is a plan or if Solar Ninsei is just winging it. I might even get an account of what happened that he ended up fusing.

   And if he has managed to fuse with another version of me, then I may have to step things up to keep pace.

   Solar Ninsei

   It seems like nothing is ever quite as simple as it initially seems. This latest development with Shin illustrates this perfectly. One of the reasons I haven’t tried to escape this escort of mine is simply because I do not know what to do with the boy. Simply running isn’t going to look good in front of someone who takes his oaths as seriously as he does, and it doesn’t help my case that I believe we are the good guys in this dispute.

   Did Fu Leng recruit him because he knows Shin can kill otherwise intractable opponents? Or is he simply looking to put Kochige in a bind by forcing him to fight his own son? Or perhaps the Gem of the Designer has had a hand in suggesting this idea? Regardless, this is one of the most troubling developments since learning the Emperor was likely possessed.

   The pragmatic side of me says to simply knock out Shin, erase his memory of the summons entirely, and then stuff him somewhere safe until this is all over. I think I could probably get the jump on him enough to pull that off. The idealist in me tells me that Shin has had enough with people messing with him magically and that he needs to face up to this himself. I just do not look forward to the idea of Shin fighting against us.

   Of course, thinking about that alternate future timeline, maybe Shin is destined to live a long, unhappy life. That is not a pleasant thought.

   I am also pondering the fact that shortly I will be leading an army to attack the Imperial capitol. I am putting a lot of trust into the Lost commander I put in charge of the combined army. Should she perform anywhere near as well as I hope, she will likely serve as one of my generals for a long time. Hopefully with Shigure’s advisement, she can keep casualties to a minimum.

   There is also the fact that Fu Leng is trying to drive a wedge in the Empire so that no one has the strength to oppose him. I really need to counter his efforts there while at the same time preparing for the assault on the capitol. Not going to be much point in saving the Empire from Fu Leng if the Empire is already destroyed. Frankly though, whatever political capitol I had was lost when I was declared a traitor to the Empire. And as evidenced from the battle at my parent’s house, trying to declare the Emperor false or possessed will only lead to further strife.

   Now only if we had access to someone with Najite’s skills. We could make a serious effort at discrediting Fu Leng’s position on the throne through embarrassment, get annoying people out of the way, and collect the “information” that could be useful in getting everyone to drop their support of Fu Leng. Thereby creating a serious effort to rally around our Emperor. It is too bad that Najite has disappeared and I know of no one that has similar abilities to him.

Eclipse – The Magical Girl Template (+2 ECL)

   I just know I’m going to regret this – but I’ve had a request for a template for an anime-style “Magical Girl” (or, far more rarely, boy).

   The trouble with creating a Template for a “Magical Girl” is simply that “Magical Girls” are pretty ill-defined. Fortunately, there are a few near-universal elements. Pretty much all magical girls have:

  • A need to keep their powers a secret. There’s usually no actual reason for this, and the Magical Girls battle-costume “disguise” is usually hopelessly inadequate as far as disguising the Magical Girls identity goes – but no one ever suspects anyway.
    • We’ll call that Immunity to anyone independently making the connection between the Magical Girl and her Secret Identity (Common, Minor, Minor, 4 CP) without the use of a great deal of detective work, powerful magic, or some similar method.
  • An absurdly-elaborate and lengthy Transformation Sequence, usually with implied nudity, which they must undergo before they can use most of their other active powers. Fortunately, no one ever simply interrupts the transformation.
    • Innate Enchantment/Transformation Sequence, Transmutation, Level One, Components; V, Casting Time; One Swift Action, Range; Touch, Area; Creature Touched, Duration; Instant, Saving Throw; Will Negates (Harmless), Spell Resistance; Yes.
    • This peculiar spell changes the user’s clothing into some stereotypical battle-costume or back to normal. The change is actually instant, but the spell effect gives everyone watching the vague impression of a lengthy and dramatic transformation, with background music and appropriate imagery. Any adult viewer may make a will save to gain the impression that they saw something briefly titillating, despite the fact that they haven’t actually seen a thing, which at least usually relieves the mental boredom. Most Magical Girls have the personal-only version of this, for a 1400 GP value as an unlimited-use use-activated Innate Enchantment.
  • A magical catchphrase and/or gadget that catalyzes the Magical Girls powers. This is occasionally a disadvantage – but it’s not a big one. It’s effects aren’t too predictable either, and if the gadget is really critical, somehow it never goes missing for long. Ergo, it’s a Restriction (worth +1 CP per level): A Magical Girls powers and abilities may be weakened, or even temporarily negated at the convenience of the game master by preventing her from using her talisman, uttering her catchphrase, changing into her battle-costume, or by whatever other means the game master feels is appropriate.
  • A Magical Talking Animal Sidekick/Servant (rarely non-fuzzy, and always around somewhere), which usually doubles as a wise elder mentor or trainer – because Magical Girls are usually pretty incompetent and even squirrels make wise elder trainers by comparison. Of course, the things are usually quite independent, occasionally need rescuing, and otherwise act up. That’s Companion with a Template (Mystic Aide/Tutor), Specialized/the companion does, and doles out information, as he, she, or it pleases (6 CP).
    • A few Magical Girls have Leadership, and a magical sidekick or boyfriend instead – but that’s a pretty minor variation.
  • Uber-Cuteness – often sufficient to make villains fall in love with them – about which little more need be said.
    • That’s +2 Charisma (12 CP as a part of a template) and Innate Enchantment/unlimited-use use-activated Attribute Boost (Charisma +2) with the Personal-Only Modifier (1400 GP Value).
  • An Aura of Innocence, which apparently protects Magical Girls from mind control and such – and can even break other people free of such effects as long as they’re in close contact and the Magical Girl can make some dramatic appeal to friendship, love, and generic goodness.
    • That’s Innate Enchantment/unlimited-use use-activated Protection From Evil with the Personal-Only Modifier (1400 GP).
  • Fairly ineffectual combat skills (which neatly match the fairly ineffectual villains).
    • I could call this a Restriction – but this really won’t work out in most games, which tend to rely far more on actual combat than the original source material. Ergo, I’m going to skip this bit.
  • A Romantic Interest, most often with lesser powers but far more competence in using them, who can come to the rescue occasionally.
    • I’d say this is a Minor Privilege (3 CP): the Magical Girl always gets to have a relationship with someone who’s either a good catch or one of the major villains.
  • While Magical Girls have no actual abilities as planners or researchers, somehow any even remotely plausible plan which they do come up with invariably works out – somehow – at the critical moment.
    • That’s Luck, with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/It only works when both the game master and the player agree that it’s a critical situation and that it should, can only be used on rolls which are somehow a part of a “plan” – however inane that plan may be (4 CP).
  • Absurdly good morale. In fact, whether it’s through vast self-confidence or simply being too perky for words, it’s almost impossible to get them down.
    • That’s Innate Enchantment/unlimited-use use-activated Inspiring Word (2000 GP).
  • They’re fairly tough to hit. Given that – in a d20 game – there’s going to be some fairly heavy combat involved, I’ll give them Innate Enchantment/unlimited-use use-activated Mage Armor (personal only, 1400 GP) and Shield (2000 GP).
  • They tend to bounce around like superballs. Magical Girls are forever leaping out of the way of attacks, yanking people out of the way of onrushing doom, and pulling off similar stunts – just like most anime characters. For this we’re want:
    • Opportunist: May take a Move Action using Acrobatics, Jump, or Tumble once per round as a Free Action. This may be combined with Tumble to avoid Attacks of Opportunity (6 CP).
    • Innate Enchantment/unlimited-use use-activated personal-only Jump (1400 GP).

   Magical Girls share a variety of other, standard, anime abilities – in this case, represented as another batch of Innate Enchantments – once again, all effects use-activated unlimited use at caster level one, personal only):

  • Mending (this fixes their hair, clothing, and other personal items, 700 GP). Now you know why a Magical Girl can be blasted with flame, have their entire body scorched and burned – and then appear in the next scene with clothing intact and her hair in place.
  • Disguise Self (+10 bonus only, 1400 GP). Oddly enough, the skimpiest disguises work quite well for Magical Girls – and all other anime characters.
  • Resist Energy (1400 GP). This will provide Resistance-10 to all forms of energy. Like most Anime characters, Magical Girls can stand up to bolts of lightning, flame, and corrosives – but knives and bullets still affect them normally.
  • Fast Healing I (up to a limit of 20/level/day, 1400). Magical Girls recover from Injuries with fabulous speed.
  • Prestidigitation (only provides glowing special effects, half cost, 350 GP).
  • Immortal Vigor I (provides (+12 + 2x Con Mod) bonus hit points, 1400 GP).

   Now, we’ll need a few mechanical elements here…

  • Immunity/Stacking limits when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (Common, Minor, Minor; covers effects of up to level three, 4 CP).
  • Immunity/Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Major, Epic, Specialized and Corrupted/only protects innate enchantments that provide personal augmentations, 9 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Minor [only covers first through third level effects at caster levels of five or less], Specialized/only to cover initial racial abilities, 2 CP).

   Finally, we’ll need Presence. Magical Girls are always either inspiring, or intimidate enemies, or cheer everyone up, or provide morale bonuses, or shield people and creatures against mind-controlling enchantments by their mere presence – and Presence will cover that for a mere (6 CP).

   Now lets see… That comes to 56 CP (so far) and 17650 GP worth of Innate Enchantments – 19 CP worth. A total of 75 CP so far.

   What else do we need?

   A set of normal companions, most often a tomboy girl and a very feminine girl, who are so hopelessly incompetent that they can make the Magical Girl look good, is a common option – but are also free, since they’re totally useless in game terms.

   Oh wait; we need a few actual active magical powers.

   Since the Magical Girl is already heavily into Innate Enchantments, we might as well continue with the theme.

   Lets call it…

  • Three additional usable-at-will level one innate enchantments at caster level one – for 6000 GP / an additional 6 CP.
  • A usable-at-will level two innate enchantment at caster level three – for 12,000 GP / an additional 12 CP.
    • These will commonly include a basic ranged mystical attack or the ability to produce a magical melee weapon, often includes enhanced movement or acrobatic abilities, some sort of animal-themed enhancing transformation (a specific version of Aspect of the Beast [from The Practical Enchanter] with attribute modifiers), the ability to control some element, to walk up walls, or any of a hundred other specialized effects.

   That’s 93 CP, and I’d like to get to 96 CP – for mathematical reasons to be noted later.

   For 3 CP, each Magical Girl gets a unique Privilege. They may be regarded as the Princess of the Squirrels, be high-ranking nobles, have the ear of some powerful spirit, be automatically invited to all the best parties, or have someone who covers up their frequent absences for them.

   Whether for good or ill, the entire Magical Girl template is Corrupted – reducing it’s net cost to 64 CP, or a +2 ECL Template. Magical Girls:

  • Invariably have a nemesis, with loads of minions to send after them.
  • Must keep their true identities secret, on the pain of endless plot complications.
  • Invariably have a duty to whoever or whatever gave them their powers, and will get constant missions from them.
  • Swiftly become famous; their enemies will invariably be quite familiar with their abilities.
  • Are always emotional and easily distracted. Whenever a relationship problem comes up, they must make a will save to avoid penalties of the game master’s choice until they deal with it.

   Further Advancement: Well, the Innate Enchantment route will be useful for a bit – but it will soon become impossibly expensive to buy higher-level powers, no matter how useful a swarm of lesser abilities may be. Personally, I’d usually recommend saving throws, decent sized hit dice, Empowerment (to boost those offensive powers to more effective levels) and some levels of the Wilder progression – granting increasing mastery of higher-level powers which, sadly, unlike the basic stuff will NOT be unlimited-use.

Continuum II – Dark Japan

   Recent History:

   In 2026, Japan deployed the first of a long series of solar power satellites. Now able to provide power to remote locations with ease, Japan began to rapidly expand it’s economic base in the third world – and soon announced the “creation” of the new Japanese Imperial State. Despite having to deal, like most of the rest of the industrialized world, with an aging populace, Japan’s influence was at a peak when the global plagues broke out – apparently the result of military research gone terribly wrong. By the end of 2040, more then 30% of the global population was dead. Despite an excellent medical system, Japan’s tightly-packed population proved terrifyingly vulnerable to contagion. The retroviral legacies of warped genes soon sent a second panic sweeping thru desperately race-conscious Japan, sending it’s historic prejudices against handicapped, foreign, and minority, individuals soaring to heights which remain a desperate problem today. The Japanese belief in “punishment for spiritual contamination” as an explanation for malformations, along with the idea that such contamination might be “catching”, provoked mass violence when another wave of plagues broke out in 2046.

   At least the second great plague – and the death of another 10% of the global population – had a calming effect on the riots. Crowds meant exposure.

   Already afflicted with massive social problems, in addition to an economic near-collapse as local fusion plants began supplanting Japanese solar satellites in 2052, Japan was ill-prepared for the global economic crash of 2058. A nation which – thanks to soil exhaustion and a shortage of arable land – imported more then 50% of it’s foods and raw materials could not withstand a global economic disaster. Desperate efforts to expand the production of synthetic foods somewhat alleviated the disaster – but starvation, emigration, and rioting swept through the country again. Still, the settlement of Japanese citizens around the pacific rim set the stage for the expansion of Japanese military influence once more.

   By 2064, Japan’s food supplies were more then adequate, a massive rebuilding program was underway, and sheer exhaustion had led to stability. In 2037 the Diet instituted a policy of deploying Imperial troops to protect expatriate Japanese in unstable areas. By 2070, this had resulted in the gradual development of De Facto Japanese “imperial enclaves” scattered about the pacific rim.

   Unlike most of the world, Japan still has a well-organized government and a functioning (If badly overloaded) social safety net. Food, some basic (public health vaccinations and so on) health care, basic clothing, and shelters, are generally available. Sadly, the administrators tend to be officious, nosy, and authoritarian. Those with reasons to hide – such as the various mutants – stay away.

   Current Nipponese Statistics :

Japan has a current population of about 60 million – somewhat less then half of it’s peak value. It is, however, at least 80% urbanized. The major cities include Tokyo (8 Million), Yokohama (~2), Osaka (~2), Nagoya (~1.5), and Kyoto (~1). Buddhism and Shintoism (Often combined) are the primary religions, but other groups are well tolerated – if relatively scarce. The country is extremely mountainous, chilly, and extremely well-watered. Volcanic and tectonic activity is common. Major industries include fishing (This is quite a bit more dangerous then it used to be, since the mutagenic retroviruses affected many species), electronics, biotechnology, and heavy equipment. Unfortunately, major industrial export production has been superseded by local facilities in the new global economy. Imperial Japan is a constitutional monarchy – as well as being one of the few remaining states to maintain a notable conventional military force (In part because there is no significant distinction between it’s police and it’s military). Japan also maintains a serious commitment to educating it’s population – although, at the lower social levels, this often means little more then making sure that educational programs, small rewards for passing standardized tests, and cheap basic computer/entertainment systems are available.

   Kyoto :

   The imperial capitol for 1074 years, Kyoto hosts a vast (2000+) array of Buddhist and Shinto shrines, some 60 museums, extensive gardens, the imperial palace, and assorted tombs, castles, and relics. Manufacturing and industrial facilities are scarce in Kyoto, but it has extensive research and corporate administration facilities, as well as being the center of a thriving trade in traditional handicrafts and tourism – which serves to support the subcorporate economy.

   In a city which is heir to a thousand years of imperial tradition, it is a rare week in Kyoto which doesn’t offer some kind of festival or major event. Most have several.

   Geographically, Kyoto is surrounded by mountains and hills – which supply it with numerous springs and small streams. Nearby, island-studded, lake Biwa is Japan’s largest body of fresh water. The city has close ties with the cities of Osaka and Kobe, which – with their metropolitan areas (and Kyoto) – make up the “Hanshin Conurbation”, housing a total population of about ten million. Transportation includes airports, a network of “Bullet Trains”, and an extensive bus system. While motorcycles and bicycles are common, the ancient road layout of the city means that larger vehicles must be severely restricted. Private vehicles, and taxis, are extremely scarce.

   Major landmarks in Kyoto include; the Old Imperial Palace, two royal villas, Nijo Castle, Sanjusangendo Hall (With it’s 1001 statues of Kwannon), eight miles of Hozu Rapids, the Gion Amusement District (and it’s famous Geisha quarter), Nanzen-Ji (perhaps the oldest center of Zen Buddhism in Japan), the cherry trees of the Heian Shrine, Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji (the “gold” and “silver” pavilions), the magnificent extravagance of the Sambo-In Gardens, the world-in-minature of the Katsur Gardens, Saiho-ji (the Moss Temple), the rock garden of the Ryoan-ji Temple, the viewing platforms of the thousand-year-old Kiyomizu-Dera, Todai-Ji (and it’s 53-foot Buddha), Katsura Imperial Villa, Byudo-in (the Pheonix Temple), and the towering To-ji Pagoda. More modern landmarks include the “floating market” and restaurants along the river, convention halls, major universities, the exotic foods of the Nishiki Market, and any number of teahouses, minor shrines, theaters, and museums.

   Kyoto Statistics;

   Population; 1,063,200 (Est). Approximately 55% are dependents in one way or another – and it is believed that less then 5% are “unofficial residents”. Most of the population is human, due to the powerful japanese prejudices against mutants. Mutants maintain a “significant” presence in the nearby mountains – but are (supposedly) rare in the city. Per Capita Income; 36,000 Cr, 20% subsist below the poverty level. \

   Special Notes;

  1. Unlike most of the world, Japan has no market for “donated” human organs. It is, after all, one of the world centers for biotech.
  2. Kyoto, as an ancient cultural and religious center, has a very powerful Empyrean presence – as well as an auric “background rating” of 2. For those hackers who are sensitive enough to interact with the web in it’s empyrean aspect, as well as it’s electronic one, this means that Kyoto will be a unique experience. It will also be a very dangerous one… The creatures of myth are alive and well in Kyoto’s network. Outhacking a systems engineer is one thing. Outhacking a god is something else altogether.
  3. Continuum II Notes: This world has a basic Empyrean Transfer Impedance of 2.2, although some few exceptional natural talents do manage to override this limitation. Along similar lines, the local laws are fairly “tight” (Limiting Resolve to 1/3 normal, and restricting most ordinary mages to a maximum level of 1/2 their intellect score) and there don’t seem to be any Manitou, Demons, or Gods – although some empyrean spirits assume similar roles. Most “priests” and “magi” are either vocational or roguish wielders of assorted “minor magic” skills. In general, epic magic, casual “resurrections”, dimension-warping effects, inventive genius, spellcrafting, super-hero style psionics, and so on, will not work.
  4. “Standard” lifestyles in Kyoto are more expensive then in most cities. Thanks to the shortage of usable space, apartments and residences also cost twice as much as usual if rented separately.
  5. Some of Kyoto’s more notable street gangs include (the) : Shi Lung, Ronin, Miya Tong, Kenshi, Bakemono, and Hengeyokai. There are a variety of rumors about the Hengeyokai; that they’re actually mutant psychic shapeshifters, that they have magical backup or members, that they have a clever bluff going – or that they’re actually a bunch of rich brats with fancy gear.
  6. Some local VIP’s include; Huan Okabe (Kyoto chief of police. He’s reputed to be incorruptible, but this probably isn’t true), Shighero Goro (The local Yakuza Oyabun), Kaoru (A mysterious “man” reputed to run the Tong infiltration of Japan. Reputedly a mage), Som Ki (Either a secretive mage, a messenger for a major corporation, or a con artist, all depending on who you ask), and Taiga Junzo (“Mayor”).
  7. Women are on far more equal terms then was at all traditional throughout Japanese history… While this trend began shortly after WWII, the drastic losses in the epidemics, the economic crash, and the rioting, gave it a tremendous push. The personnel shortage would’ve made it almost impossible to “keep the women in their place” in any case. The fact that quite a few of them had inherited major blocks of stock – or had taken up a sick/deceased husband’s job – made it impossible.
  8. It should be remembered that Japan possesses huge orbital facilities and practical – an orbital elevator, AKA a Beanstalk, commercial transport to and from them.
  9. Most Japanese are highly protective/possessive of kids. Most adults (25+ to really be seen as adult in Japan. 21+ for legal adulthood) remember losing kids or siblings to the plagues and/or starvation all too well.
  10. Mutants are not considered “human” in Japan – and have no rights. They’re “animals”. It is possible to purchase Japanese citizenship, but it costs. Human residents can buy citizenship for about 200,000 CR – but Mutants are a different story. It’s still possible, but he official price is 500,000 CR, and the bribes will probably quadruple that.
  11. The feudal tradition has a much stronger hold on Japan then it used to; the carrying of swords and light weapons is absolutely normal for “Samurai”, feuds and personal duels are permissible, the code of Bushido and and Honor are ruling forces in many lives, and “Giri” (Obligation) is the major “social currency” of Japan.
  12. Magic exists, but is very rare. It’s not generally something which can be “picked up”; you usually have to be born with it. Approximately 1 person in 10 is sensitive enough to be able to do things like feel the presence of magic or read tea leaves with a great deal of training. 1 in 100 will have the potential to learn “mystic” martial arts, low-grade psychic stuff, or a particular magical “skill”/power. 1 in 1000 has the potential of learning several “minor magics” (The usual level for a “Mage”) – and perhaps 1 in 10,000 has the potential for truly major magic. Since that can only be exploited by those with high level potentials as well, even potential Archmagi are 1 in 1,000,000.
  13. Like the rest of the world, Japan views psychic, magical, percipient, and empyrean-based powers simply as “Magic” – and deals with most of them with roughly equal competence. That’s one reason why arcane theory and research are such a mess; the planet isn’t entirely aware that there’s a distinction between powershaping (fire), pyrokinesis, sorcery (fire), and empyrean-based “fire magic” – which makes hash of their observations and theorizing.
  14. Weaponry is generally limited to the “High-Tech” level. Ultratech weaponry is bulky, clumsy, and mostly experimental. On the streets grenades and an occasional rocket launcher are about as far as it goes, and even that is pretty rare. Most people settle for the basic pistols and blades which the authorities are willing to “overlook”. Displays of military-grade weaponry and/or armor are a sure way to get the SWAT teams called out – and they’ve got more resources then any runner.
  15. Drugs, medicines, and antidotes, are sophisticated – but not miraculous. The hottest items at the moment are gene-tailored microorganisms designed to help the body deal with various difficulties. In the interests of controllability, these organisms are programmed to die off a few hours after they’re used. A variety of recreational, knockout, and toxic, drugs are available. Other items include Aneuron (A nerve gas antidote, 24 hour effect), Antishock (+6 End for survival checks), Fleshbond (Heals 1/round for 3D6 rounds. Don’t use it too often), Berserkerite (Induces a ferocity score of 3D6+6 until it wears off. Very dangerous), Menemosyne (Enhances learning and recall, may roll for “eidetic” feats), Detox/Purge (A scavenger microorganism. Gives a retroactive +7 End vrs toxins, drugs, and so on. It rapidly looses effectiveness if not given the time to get excreted before it’s used again), Boosters (These boost a particular attribute by 1D4. They’re usually highly addictive and often have side effects. Vitality, PS, and similar boosters are good for 4D6), Hippocrates (Supercharges the immune system, +7 End vrs disease), Docilator (A potent calmative and hypnotic. Often used as a “truth drug”), Antirad (+6 End vrs radiation, 24 hours), Ecstasy V (Aphrodisiac, uninhibiter, pleasure enhancer, and neural stimulant. Ultimate party drug), Morphite (Total painkiller, +2 toughness, but limited sense of touch), Regenite (5x base healing rate, lets user’s regenerate organs – very slowly), Narcosis (An extremely potent knockout drug, works on contact, and can used as a mist), Superman II (A potent stimulant. A large enough dose permits incredible feats – at the cost of extreme physical stresses), Anacept (A fast and reliable contraceptive for both sexes), Mood Shifters (Induce various emotions and moods), Danse (Shifts eye, hair, or skin, color as set when the drug mixture is compounded), Nightfall (Wipes a good deal of the victim’s recent (6-36 hours) memory), and Braindance (A neural accelerator/stimulator. Greatly enhances the abilities of those using neural interfaces, but also tends to cause epileptic fits and brain damage).

Federation-Apocalypse Session 94b – The Witch-King of Lawyers

   While Marty was waiting three people called the office, giving the secretary – who’d eaten the phone – mild indigestion. A fax was received, and was promptly shredded by something obscene sounding behind the desk. Several human-shaped packages arrived (some looked like they were wriggling slightly), which she signed for.

   After about an hour she turned to Marty…

(Secretary) “Alright sweetie, the Witch-King, Lord of the Nazghul will see you now. He will be behind the big towering doors at the end of the hall.”

   Marty smiled, trying – and perhaps failing – to look bold and confident!

   Lawyers and Accountants. Sometimes it was really hard to tell which was worse!

(Marty) “Thank you, ma’am.”

   The hallway grew ever more cold as Marty walked down it, until he could see his breath fogging and then freezing. It seemed to take forever to reach the towering doors at the end of the hallway, and yet all too soon he stood before the giant skulls etched into the woodwork.

   As Marty opened the doors he was confronted with a dark room, large enough that the walls were lost in shadows. There was a desk and a large chair facing away from him. The only light in the room came from the doorway he had opened and a heatless fire next to the desk. There seemed to be the faintest echoes of horrible screams hanging in the air. From the chair he heard a voice, so cold and leaden as to have a near-physical presence of his own, and saw a bony hand wave him in.

(Witch-King) “Ah come in, come in. Have a seat young mortal and let us see what assistance you need in your affairs.”

   The chair turned slowly, revealing a haunting figure that would have fit right in with the Death Knight army outside Jerusalem – if only it was far more cute and cuddly. Every time the Witch-King spoke the temperature seemed to noticably drop for a few seconds.

(Witch-King) “And what ails you that you would come to the Nazghul for legal assistance? It must be a terrible predicament to have to come to us.”

(Marty) “My ex is trying to cut off my visitation rights to my kid. I know she’s going to hire the best she can, and I want to do the same.”

(Witch-King) “Then you have done well to come to us. For we are the greatest and most terrifying of the legal forces in the nation. Do you know that we even regularly break accountants? Even them and their numbers pale in comparison to our legal assaults. Now please, give me some background information on why your ex believes you unfit for visitation.”

   Marty explained.

(Witch-King) “Hmm, indeed, you have dug deeper and farther than most any I have seen in my career. And yet you kept digging, I must applaud your dedication to stirring up trouble. We shall have to look into matters and do a bit of research. We will get back to you when we have some results to report, but you will need to make a tribut… cough… payment up front to cover our expenses. We will also need you to sign these papers.”

   If these people could break people like Jenkins, no way in hell was Marty being foolhardy! He found the strongest magnifying glass he could and examined the contract before signing. No serif unturned!

   Hm… It looked like it really was somewhat honest. It granted them full disclosure and the relevant power of attorney with respect to the case. It also prohibited them from sharing information with others on pain of several horrendous penalties from the pits of hell. It also includes a full disclosure that the Nazghul were without souls, and so could not be held liable for any damning or blasphemous activities they might engage in while under contract to you. There were also clauses on how failure to pay would result in many unspeakable and damning things happening to Marty, his loved ones, and to his friends, family, neighbors and people who had run into him on the street. Plus a little statement at the end declaring how they fully complied with all California EPA rules on damning activities.

   Oh dear. He was trying to be more ethical. Would it be ethical to hire this bunch? It wasn’t good if getting Julia back would cause a lot of people to suffer – even if they did come back the next day!

   And this section… clauses noting that – should a client ever get involved in damning or accidental loss of soul – then the Nazghul got full power of attorney.

   Who else was available? He was willing to sacrifice some quality for ethics. Not too much of course – he didn’t want a bunch of hippies handling his case.

   Wait. He was looking for a lawyer with ethics? In Battling Business World? At least enough ethics to… Dammit! Core was rubbing off on him AGAIN!

   He took the best and crossed his fingers. How bad could Abigail’s team be anyway?

   Oh god, who had she hired?

   Plus… It would be just like her to fight fire with fire… She’d doubtless pulled in the Thralls to start, backed by the Kadia computer systems with an analysis of Battling Business World law and their various enhancements. After all, they made just as good a set of legal assistants as anything else.

   Would the Tolkien monsters stand a chance?

   After much hemming and hawing Marty wound up hiring the Orcs and Nazghul. He did his best to put on a happy face – and kicked himself for giving Abigail a weapon with which to stab his very heart!

   Still, the court date wasn’t for nearly six months. Time to get back to Kadia…

   Marty asked if they had any transrealm communications so they can keep in touch, but only got blank looks. He settled for leaving them some contact numbers that should work most of the time and advising them that he’d be back before the court date. He’d overestimated THIS Dark Army’s capabilities – and he wasn’t sure that he’d want to leave any Thrall, much less Elera or Minel, with them Who knew what could happen?

   GAH! He couldn’t deny it any longer! He was in a steady threesome!

(Witch-King) “Very well then, Mr. Tabard. That concludes our interview. We shall inform you of any developments when they occur Mr. Tabard. Is there anything else you require?”

(Marty) “Nah, that’ll be all. Thanks for your time.”

(Witch-King) “We look forward to working with you (laughs evilly).”

   Marty forced a smile. He felt dirty. Had bringing in the Orcs and the Balrog has distorted Battling Business World? It had never been all that stable to begin with with so few souls to anchor it – and half of those had been leaving.

   More for him to feel guilty about! Talk about your doomed hometowns! Marty Tabard, Destroyer of Worlds!

   Oh well, there wasn’t all that much he cold do except rely on the Thralls to get Abigail and Julia out if things started going pear-shaped.

   Marty left. Why LA? Wasn’t New Jersey a much more suitable environment? Was it just that the Gateway Arch was a good place for an unblinking, flaming eye?

   Marty headed back to Core, where Kevin was concluding his discussions with various parents, and placed a call:

(Marty) “So how have things been treating you, Kevin?”

(Kevin) “Hey; how did it go with the lawyers?”

(Marty) “Good, but I think I broke my home realm.”

(Kevin) “Er… Sorry… But how can you tell? It seemed kind of dysfunctional to begin with.”

   Marty gave him the story…

(Kevin) “Well that sounds like you’re merging with some of the messier anime realms… Isn’t Battling Business World basically focused on Tokyo, London, New York, and a few other major world cities like Paris and Beijing? It’s… what… a dozen major cities and a few resorts and such? That does leave 99% of the world to fill in – or to basically be located in other cartoon universes.”

(Marty) “Okay, so it isn’t broken. That’s a bit of a relief. I was worried that Sauron was going to do the mother of all very hostile takeovers.”

(Kevin) “Marty… I kind of hate to say it… But who would want it? There’s nothing there that you can’t get elsewhere, more easily, and dealing with the kind of population that comes up with Trojan Possums just drives most people nuts.”

   Marty had to think about that for a few minutes.

(Marty) “Good point. I’m not sure *I* want it… Anyway, any news from the House?”

(Kevin) “Not really. I sent them more agents, but Vekxin is still holding out. I sent more to the military, but mostly just got a ‘very helpful, thank you’.”

(Marty) “That stinks… So what should we do now? I wouldn’t mind a visit to that Anthropomorphic Realm once you finish what you’re doing, but I’m game for anything.”

   Kevin had to think about what to do next… Lets see; he had the studies on how to steer souls into phantasms and on how the barriers worked, Kelsaru’s pregnancy, moving the “Amish” planet, figuring out how to do something for the nicer drow goddess if possible (and if they finally decided that it was any of their business), visiting the anthropomorphic worlds, locating the Singular Kids if possible, the datagathering from the old singular base, locating those contacts that Master Tindale had recommended, and their new desire to investigate Merlin.

   Well, they could review the results of the datagathering project on Singular while they were enroute to Kadia to start another project, so that came first.

   Hm…

   It seemed that there was evidence of at least three gates in the area. The Thralls had been unable to open them though… There was also lots of evidence of equipment being imported from elsewhere – while other items were exported in return. Data-mining the computer systems had brought up some interesting profiles of the various outsiders who’d been visiting – including recordings of several interesting conversations – and quite a bit of information on how Singular science worked.

   There was also a list of worlds where attacks/recon missions had been sent. Quite a lot to the Linear Realms, a few to some of the more advanced worlds now under attack, and others to worlds where the Singular technologies had either simply failed to work or had malfunctioned in very messy ways.

   The visitors had seemed to express a great deal of frustration on that fact, and it had been a part of why the Linear Realms had became the focused target.

   The group had to wonder which it had been; The visitors didn’t want the Singular bunch leaving while they were useful. Ergo, were they annoyed that the singular technologies didn’t work in a lot of places, or were they faking annoyance and intentionally steering them to worlds that they couldn’t move to so as to keep them available for use?

   Also caught on camera was the spectacular execution of one of the praetorians for failure on a mission… A young man in his late teens was only other person present beyond the praetorian. The praetorian did not take kindly to receiving a lecture about failure from the teenage, and tried to smash his face. His fist had stopped in midair and his arms and legs had been into a reverse fetal position, apparently very painfully. As the praetorian lay there struggling to break whatever invisible hold was on him, the young man had said “Now I tend to tolerate failure so long as you idiots learn, but attacking me was a mistake you will not repeat.” – at which point a black ball appeared above the praetorian. It had slowly engulfed him over the course of three minutes and fourteen seconds. The praetorian had screamed in increasing pain and terror until fully engulfed.

   Well that was moderately nasty. Marty didn’t want to fight that kid – while Kevin was wondering; negative energy or “Sphere of Annihilation”? He’d run across something like that once or twice before…

   Couldn’t be Merlin though, unless he was in disguise. The Commonwealth version of Merlin was one of the older ones, 60’s or 70’s supposedly.

   It didn’t look like the loon from Baelaria.

   It didn’t look like Spellweaver either.

   It really seemed like Kevin had seem him before – somewhere at Hogwarts – but anything more than that came up with a blank.

   Oh well. It could be a lot of people; Kevin had visited Hogwarts a lot of times… Hopefully it wasn’t someone from his original class though. As far as he knew, Kevin had been the only Opener in the – fairly small – demon-infused group (and the odds were enormously against another one) – but it could possible be one of the other kids who’d been gatekeepers or just lucky.

   Marty had no idea either. It certainly didn’t look like Vexkin anyway.

   Now, the Outsiders had mostly seemed to have odd ideas of chivalry, had some odd powers that they used sparingly, didn’t seem to understand electronics and computers, and had strongly defined social classes… Quite a few could be traced back to Arthur’s court: Derfel, Morfans, Balin, Sagramor, and Culwheh. Two others traced back with that group but were not recognizable – and three others were frequently escorting of the executioner but seemed to be from a 22’nd century fictional universe. A popular series depicting an alternate world presuming that events during the 21st century had gone differently. It had been called the “Inversion” series, and had presumed that fusion was found to be unworkable as total ecological collapse began to occur. Discovery of the basis of psionics and better control of Casimir systems had prevented a total collapse of society, but the world had become increasingly dependent on infrastructure systems and the ones who maintained them to survive.

   Now that must have taken some odd physics. Hm… They were probably using negative-energy implant systems and psionic controls. Hard tech, very destructive, and probably loosely compatible with Singular tech. A mach field system, force field, and negative energy system with psi-controls probably could handle a praetorian easily enough – at least in those few worlds where it would work. Hybrid psionic-technical systems were awfully undependable when you were world-hopping.

   Anyway, the modern social structure had begun to collapse as control of limited resources had put ever more power into the hands of the few able to run the systems. Limited guerilla warfare had broken out as those psionics who were not a part of the system tried to liberate those without psionics caught in the system.

   The series had been very popular at the time – just as Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter had been a century before – and so there were quite a few souls there. At the least, there were tens of millions, and there might be as many as a few billion. No proper survey had been done.

   Other conversations had included discussions of the Linear Realms defenses, preventing outside interference and dealing with openers (Ryan was mentioned there), resource procurement, and the limitations of logistics in the Manifold. Apparently they didn’t have many gatekeepers (it seemed to be one of the major limiting factors in their operations). They were mostly using magical and technological gates for a lot of things.

   One conversation touched upon a “flawed” opener. Apparently he or she either had trouble regaining his or her power or could only access particular types of worlds or took a long time or some such. That hadn’t been too uncommon early on, but most Openers had grown out of that sort of limitation fairly fast – but it was quite possible that some never had.

   Well, at least that was one major advantage to them and the Core; they had the Thralls… Now, if only they could find some of the people behind things.

   Obviously Merlin and Famine were major figures – but they weren’t exactly ready to do battle with either of them.

   Ergo, another investigation trip. Probably to Inversion. They had far too many places to go already though… The Linear Realms, Ealor, after the kids from Ealor, the Great Lakes Trade Colonies, the Napoleonic Werewolf Wars, to meet some contacts, to the Anthropomorphic Worlds, to talk to the Core Military, to check in with the House of Roses (if only to get their promotions)…

   They eventually decided on looking up those contacts. They’d been on hold for quite a while. Heck, the Thralls had mostly found theirs already in their time off.

   They decided to visit the Shao-lin temple first. That version of China had… it looked like… some wild martial arts and supernatural abilities, lot’s of wandering monsters occasionally attacking villages where lone martial artists on pilgrimage seeking enlightenment would rescue the village. Naturally enough, most of the martial artists were trying to right some wrong that they’d committed or felt that they’d committed through hubris.

   Merchant, Wandering Taoist Master, and gaggle of servants working for the Merchant? Seemed to fit in well enough.

   They picked up a pile of random trade goods, some basic weapons, and a few musty old tomes and headed out.

   It looked like the fastest available route would be Core->Crusader->Imperial China->Treacherous Mountain Pass->Shaolin Temple realm.

   That’d do.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 94a – Visitations

   By the time Marty got past the stupor – even with his healing ability, imbibing from a filling station could get him pretty blitzed – the penguin from the Tux Brigade had slid off into the night. It looked to him like the toonworlds were starting to bleed onto each other more than usual. They’d already been porous at the borders anyway, and there was a lot more travel going on now. It was probably going to be fun!

   Still, the place was straining even HIS suspension of disbelief now!

   Kevin, meanwhile, had visited a few parents.

   The individual reactions had varied of course – but given that they hadn’t been able to keep the kids from wandering off into the Manifold in the first place, and the general hostilities that could be found there, the returns from death and temporary indenture looked like a pretty good deal to most of the parents – especially since the kids got to keep the powers once the contract ended.

   The regular messages home had defused any potential fits, although they wanted a few demonstrations – and they kept demanding having a way to get messages through and to visit the Thralls when they WEREN’T on missions. It wasn’t like they had any hope of restraining them; the shapeshifting-and-orbital jump demonstration was enough to eliminate that idea.

   Well, arranging visitation was easy enough; all they needed to do was to forward the messages to Kadia and to drop by when they got responses that their kids were in.

   Overall, they weren’t entirely happy with the situation – but if their kids INSISTED on going adventuring, it looked to them like signing up with Kevin might be among the best possible ways of doing it, even discounting the public-service aspects of rescuing planets from the nova-shockwave and similar projects.

   On the side, sending another wave of Thralls back into the Linear Realms to help maintain order – and making offers to the syndicates to get them to help as well – was straightforward enough. The setup for a trip to the Anthropomorphic worlds was underway, even if it was mostly getting some idea of what social roles and customs would fit in properly.

   The search for the Singular kids was underway as well – even if it was mostly a gate-mapping project at the moment and an attempt at probability analysis (unless one got killed; they’d show up in Kadia then and could give the staff some idea of where they’d all wound up).

   The data from the Singular military base/refuge had been collected, and was now being compiled – and they still had to look into those contacts that Master Tindale had recommended that they look up.

   Finally, on the information-gathering and investigative side, they had a new emphasis on Merlin and the Commonwealth.

   Meanwhile, with his headache, Marty was looking into lawyers for a custody battle. He had to go to Los Angeles.

   At least his care was done drinking – even if it smelled a little drunk and looked shinier.

(Marty) “Pew! Let’s take you through a car wash, or sentient police cars will pull me over!”

   The nearest car wash was a sentient fire hydrant running a a street side business.

(Marty) “Hey, can you wash the ethanol off this guy? He overdid it a bit.

(Hydrant) “Sure thing, the ethanol should come right off, of course we could light it on fire first and then let me douse it. I’d do it for free then!”

(Marty) “Nah, I’ve got the money. Besides, he’s never this shiny back home. Too much soot!”

(Hydrant) “Awwww, I never get anyone to let me set their stuff on fire. Oh well, when I earn enough money I can then buy stuff to burn. Or join fire-fighting school (the hydrant looked quite proud as it said that).

(Marty) “Well, I hope you make it in!”

(Hydrant) “Thanks, now either roll up the windows or stand back, cause I am going to wash it!”

   Marty gunned the power windows – and barely got them up before the fire hydrant suddenly took a deep breath, grew to the size of a large van, and expelled an enormous gush of water at his car. The buffeting was intense, the car was sent flying, to come to a stop against the opposite curb – although many of the other cars in the floated away, some getting sucked down the storm drains down the road.

(Marty) “Now that’s why people shouldn’t drive compact cars!”

   Marty paid the fire hydrant and headed off to LA! This was going to be exciting! He’d never driven in a city where every non-surface street was a road rage lane!

   He managed to avoid the racecar-policecar chase running along one of the highways, although the helicopter nearly clipped him as it dived through the tunnel next to him. He managed to successfully negotiate the bridge span over the Mississippi river where they’d built the ramps, but not the middle section of the bridge. He even managed to avoid hitting anything in the Dakotas when he fell asleep at the wheel… He was getting good at this long-distance travel thing! It had to be all the practice out in the Manifold, it was hard to get much longer-range than that!

(Marty) “Dammit, couldn’t they at least put up a few ramps? Geez… Hey Limey! What do you think about the wastes of Flyover Country? I’m sorry about the lack of easy Wi-Fi!”

(Limey) “It’s alright! I managed to get a hold of your cell phone contract and am now data roaming over the 3g network!!! I blew through your 4 gigabyte limit in minutes. I am so proud!!!”

(Marty) “Augh!”

   Oh well…

(Marty) “We’re going to California, little buddy. That’s where they make Macs!”

   Soon enough the sky became clouded in eternal darkness, the air burned with smog, and the sound of sirens became omnipresent.

   Ew. No wonder Corrigan had moved – although it wasn’t like New York was much better!

   Now where was that law office? Hm… According to the GPS, it would appear to be that enormous black tower with the giant burning eye at the top.

   Hoo boy.

   Marty took Limey along. You never know what lawyers had up their power suits!

   As he entered the front door he was confronted with the ridiculous sight of an orcish female wearing the most unflattering dress behind the desk. She appeared to be chewing something at the moment, and he could see a phone cord hanging from her mouth. Had the Balrog been expanding his business interests?

(Marty) “Hi! I need to make an appointment.”

   It was a bit startling to hear her speak with a perfect southern belle accent.

(Secretary) “Sure thing sweetie, let me check when the next opening is.”

   Could this be the source of the Orcish restaurant franchise? Operating out of Battling Business World?

   The secretary pulled out a clipboard, frowned, pulled out an axe, screamed something quite primal, chopped the clipboard in half, then hammered it to another clipboard in a most disgusting display of poor carpentry skills that Marty had ever seen.

(Secretary) “Sorry it seems that the printer forgot to include Tuesdays on the calender again. We should have an opening after lunch if you would like to wait.”

(Marty) “I will, thanks.”

Civilization – On The Rocks

   Today it’s something from the old files – a set of optional rules for the old Civilization board game that got proposed when we were a little bored with the original game.

   They did liven things up quite nicely.

   Civilization suffers a bit from stratification and an over-dependence on backstabbing. It’s also hard to balance if some players are too inexperienced compared to the rest, a common situation in a game that calls for up to seven players. To avoid this, and add a note of whimsy, here is “an” optional rule:

   At the start of the game each player may make any one of the following changes to the rules. While any such change must be agreed to by at least half the players, each player is entitled to keep proposing alterations until one has been accepted. Alternately, you can just use the list below:

   1) Add a new “calamity” (or bonus) to the usual selection, this new event is linked to a standard calamity and rolled for on the chart below (1D10):

  • 1 : Neither “calamity” occurs.
  • 2-5 : The normal “calamity” occurs.
  • 6-8 : Both occur.
  • 9-10: Only the added “calamity” occurs.

   Possible new calamities include, but are not limited to the following list of examples:

  • A) Earthquake / Crustal Collapse; Recipient loses any one city he chooses, next turn their degenerating descendants climb up through some convenient crevice to attack a randomly selected player, destroying 2 cities and 7 population.
  • B) Superstition / AD&D Party. A party of adventurers plane-shifts into the recipients territory, he loses 3 cities and 10 population but receives the “mysticism” card for free, if he already possesses mysticism he can curse any one other player for similar losses.
  • C) Famine / Immigration; Player may add transfer up to 6 population from any adjoining territory(s) to one of his own, these may be claimed from another player but the tokens must be replaced with those of the gaining player.
  • D) Civil War / Looting releases hoarded wealth but may lead to other dire results as civilization breaks down, draw two extra trading cards during the next turn, these may be drawn as desired as long as they are not drawn from the same stack.
  • E) Slave Revolt / Horsecollar; Eliminates slavery by making it unprofitable, also increases agricultural efficiency, allowing areas to support one additional population. This is in addition to the effects of the agriculture card.
  • F) Treachery / City winds up burned to the ground, the player who would normally have gained it loses two population of his choice who would normally have taken possession of it.
  • G) Flood / Space Gods; Flying saucers are moved to intervene, bringing with them the Engineering Card, which immediately applies to mitigate the effects. If you already have engineering the flood is repelled by presser beams and has no effect. You must immediately devote one board space in your territory to a system of nazca lines, no population may be placed there from this point on.
  • H) Barbarian Hordes / Cultural Transfer; The invasion (or rumor of same if it doesn’t occur) drives travel and brings new ideas, gain a 100-point credit towards your next civilization card purchase.
  • I) Epidemic / Venereal Disease; causes widespread sterility during the next turn, reducing potential population growth by 50%.
  • J) Civil Disorder / Paper Money; Allows the player to vary his taxes as coinage does and is cumulative with that card, it also reduces the effects of the civil disorder by one city per three tokens spent from the players treasury. Paper money works well for 3 turns but then causes a currency collapse, eliminating one city, the “coinage” card if present, and itself.
  • K) Heresy / Prophet; A wandering prophet leads a mass exodus into the wilderness, player may establish 2 new cities at any location or convert one of anyone else’s to his own through the new religion.
  • L) Piracy / Freetown; Any one city breaks free from the “central governments” control, becoming a thriving free town and a center for trade, as long as the free town survives, the player may draw his “highest” available trading card draw to draw from any trading card stack. Thus a player with 6 cities and a free town draws six cards normally but may draw his seventh card from any stack. A player with more then one free town may draw his two “highest” cards from any stack. No taxes are collected for free towns.

   2) Add a set of three (identical) new civilization cards to the usual ones available, possible cards include:

  • A) Block Printing; This card only costs 80 points to purchase, but has a value of 240 points. It also contributes 20 points towards the purchase of civics and science cards but triggers an immediate civil war.
  • B) Great Wall; (Crafts), This card costs 30 points and contributes 5 points towards the purchase of roadbuilding, engineering, and military cards only. During the first round of any war the attacker loses two units instead of one.
  • C) Cultural Catastrophe; This card is useful only if there are limits on the number of civilization cards which can be held, it costs 180 points and immediately annihilates itself and one other card, removing both from the game.
  • D) Pacifism; (Civics, 30 points); Adds seven units to the first faction during a civil war, but makes it difficult to defend yourself, attackers ignore the first unit lost during a war. Contributes ten points towards the purchase of Arts civilization cards.

   3) Add a set of five (identical) new trading cards, such as:

  • A) Spam; a base value 2 card, multiple cards have values of 2/8/24/48/72. Spam keeps forever, so any number of spam cards held between turns counts as only a single card. Spam can help mitigate the effects of famine as the grain/pottery combination does, but must be discarded thereafter.