The Storm Diaries of David Mayseren, Fits the Fourth and Fifth

  • Monday’s Child is Fair of Face.
  • Tuesday’s Child is Full of Grace.
  • Wednesday we’ll be lucky if we ever get to…

Whaaaaa? Was that ringing? At (Urrr… 5:00 in the morning? Grrrr…). Phone. Who in hell…

You need some more power? Electrical and Magical? So does the TV? It wants a satellite dish and cable access as well? I did a very sloppy job on enchanting all of you? Oh, fine – but the cable access will have to wait a bit. Is there anything else? Can I go back to sleep now?

So Michael’s calling… Why isn’t he here? He was thirsty – and we haven’t got running water? So why is he…

You’re at the little convenience store a few blocks outside the park entrance and the place is being robbed? By a gang of about 30 people? Heavily armed? They’re shooting at you, you’ve got the force field up – and you just got the comlinks figured out?

Solaman? You teleport… Could you pop over to (Er, map, map… Here), and check on Michael? There’s some kind of big robbery going on.

(–Pop–)

(Yawn… God, I’m tired… That ought to…)

Waitaminute… Why in the name of god would thirty people be trying to rob a convenience store? That’d be overkill for a major bank!

Oh hell. We’d better go look.

(–Yawn–)

Meanwhile, Solaman had stepped out of time, and hiked over to the place… The store was packed with people, all of them armed, all of them looking a bit blank – and all of them shooting at Michael/Xenomorph. They didn’t seem to have anything else in common…

They also didn’t pay much attention to his attempts to settle things down – until he moved out of time and took away all the guns.

They promptly fell unconscious.

Zarquan’s Quickie Mart?????

Well… I guess it does have the virtue of being a bit hard to forget. Now what…

Now that’s weird… All kinds of different people. Even an FBI agent. Azrael? None of them remember anything about this? Their memories just go blank earlier this evening?

Great. Mind-controlled. Nobody here but victims. We’ll never be able to get that through to the police. Timewalker? Could you scatter them around in some safe places to wake up? Good. Hm… Just leave the FBI guy. He was looking for paranormal phenomena… Here’s one for him. I’ll leave a note.

The police were not happy with Warlock’s rapid-fire “explanation”… On the other hand, it looked like the word was gradually getting around. Warlock only had to wipe away a few memories – of them spotting Robert Lee making himself a hoagie. (He was kind of wanted.)

Back at the sanctum, the TV had a show for Micheal; “The Family Channel”. His mother, on a plane, worried about him, and dealing with some highjackers along the way. It seemed that somebody named “Lothar” had heard about him and his friends?

That didn’t seem like her at all.

Monday, everybody overslept… Sealed away from any other disturbance, Desrae’s enhanced psychic field – and simple exhaustion – led everyone to sleep both deeply, and late… They didn’t wake up until fairly late in the afternoon.

Michael finally managed to get out of his armor – and settled down to doing a lot of eating and drinking.

Warlock went home to see his mother… She’d wanted to see him about something.

Desrae and the junior thug went clubbing… He saw a great opportunity to do some sponging.

Timewalker decided to stay in the sanctum and monitor things a bit. He wanted to get a little more famalier with this timezone before he went out.

The TV decided to help him out. This would get very weird later on. Azrael stayed “home” as well.

Robert went hunting…

On the way home a weird helicopter appeared just in front of Warlock, some sort of invisible binding field grabbed ahold of him and started dragging him in – and an overly-amplified voice started telling him to “come along quietly”…
He was not inclined to do so.

Whaaa!?! HEY! LEGGO! I will not come along quietly! (Probably some of Dr Genos’s guys again). Maybe I can force the helicopter down if I reduce the air pressure around the rotors…

Cool.

So I’ll crash too? We’ll all crash together then… (Drat. They aren’t going for it – and there’s no room to push the descent rate enough to scare `em. At least we’ll be on the ground.)

Actually, the helicopter never touched down… It’d landed on the top of a speeding bus.

A buncha guys in business suits and dark glasses?!?

No, I don’t believe you’re from the government! The Government would start off with identification!

If this is an arrest, what am I being charged with? “National security”!?!?

Look, can’t you go bother somebody else? Go arrest the Seer. He’s a bad guy – and I don’t have time right now!

I’m wanted for questioning? So what is it you want to know? (Maybe about the alien invasion?)

You haven’t got your instruments here? (Oh No. I’m not about to disappear into some sort of lab/prison! It almost sounds like they want to vivisect me! Don’t know what this fellow can do, but they’re holding onto me somehow…)

During the ensuing debate, one of the agents seemed to deduce that Warlock wasn’t very old, Warlock spray- painted everything pink, shut down every technological item in the helicopter, grounded out “whatever-it-was” that was holding him – and got handed an FBI ID to check out. Of course, anybody could fake an ID…

<Timewalker? Could you come and help me? I’m being kidnapped… Where? Well, look for the pink helicopter parked in the street.

OK, so I painted it.>

About then, David realized that they were on top of a bus, rather then on the ground, a spirit calling itself “The Voice” (Of truth, justice, rationality – and whatever) put in an appearance and threatened to tie the rotor blades in a bow – unless the pilots took it away RIGHT NOW – and Timewalker showed up…

With the solitary agent who seemed to have personal powers entangled in a psychic struggle with The Voice, Warlock and Timewalker tried to simply leave. This did not work out; trying to get the driver to stop the bus revealed that he was afraid to slow down – someone had threatened to blow up the bus if he did…

You’ve got to be kidding. A secret government group tries to grab me, and I force their helicopter down on top of a bus that’s rigged to explode? So where’s the bomb?

Someone’s made the bus itself into some kind of explosive somehow? That’s RIDICULOUS!

OK. Fine. Wecanhandlethis. Lets put the passengers in the helicopter… Timewalker? You know how to drive this thing? Great! (Look – We have to put everybody on your helicopter because this bus is rigged to explode. Yes, I KNOW that’s absurd!!! It’s been going like this for days now, it’swhyIhaven’tanytime, JUST TAKE THEM!)

Well, I’m not the one who’s spent the last ten minutes fighting a mental duel with a belligerent sprite!

Not enough room? I’ll have to bail out and use the feather-fall spell on the last few… Jeez, why are you trailing along? How do I do this? How the hell should I know! I’ve only been at this for a couple of days!

OK… We need a big empty field or something. DAMN. Nothing within a reasonable distance. Maybe a nice, big, condemned building to crash it into? One they’re going to blow up anyway? There. About six miles away. Head for it…

Timewalker shunted himself, and the entire bus, about five minutes forward in time. It would give the others time to find a route and to clear the way. “The Voice” turned into a huge (And extremely silly-looking” pixie” type thing, Warlock threw in some siren-spells, and that FBI agent used some gadget that turned all the traffic lights green…

Warlock went on ahead… The place wasn’t actually scheduled to be demolished until tomorrow; there might be somebody inside. Besides, some illusion-signs would help Timewalker find the place…

Three street children? Oh fuck! No time. {Sleep} I’ll drop them off down the block… Anybody else? On the top floor? Damn!

Up on the top floor, Warlock found someone who knew that the place was due to go, but who seemed less then familiar with a lot of ordinary things, and who seemed to “flicker” slightly at the edges of your vision…

Warlock tried to haul him out of there FAST – and got stopped in his tracks by a telepathic override.

Weird. What’s a bus? A bus is kinda like those cars down there, but – NEVER MIND! We’ve gotta get out of – HEY! How’d he… He seemed to change as I came in… Maybe a Zarkonian? Nah. It seemed more like they way Azrael makes my eyes water when he pulls that…

Hey! Azrael! If this is one of your guys, tell him to stop fooling around, we’ve gotta get out of here!

What’s that? Lessee. You’re glad you’re not alone, but sorry it’s not a girl – and you’re annoyed that he outranks you?

WE’LL TALK ABOUT IT LATER!

Despite the Warlock’s shielding spells, the mass of the building, and Thorn/”The Voice” growing to 50 feet tall and using his body to contain the blast, there were some serious injuries – and quite a lot of damage to the surrounding buildings.

They spent some time cleaning up… Warlock healed people, The Voice (Who seemed to be basically an earth elemental with a human mindprint) propped up and fixed buildings – and Timewalker went back to the sanctum to keep an eye on everybody…

Warlock and the police (when they showed up) kindof ignored each other until everybody had been patched up – at which point one of the senior officers at the scene told him to “Just get out of here… GO AWAY”. The FBI guy was still hanging around – although he was still a bit nonplused about Thorn/The Voice turning back into a tiny sprite, and going off to try and figure out who’d rigged the bus… He decided to simply give Warlock a plane ticket, and tell him that if he didn’t come in for an interview within two and a half weeks he’d come and get him anyway. Sadly, Thorn’s expedition simply led to the city bus terminal.

Elsewhere, Robert had been targeted by the Order Of The Firehawk – apparently some group which hunted down supernatural beings. Unfortunately, the seemed to feel that all supernatural beings were malevolent, and used silver knives that could turn their own powers against them.

Whether fortunately or unfortunately, they weren’t really ready for Mr Robert Lee, or for Timewalker, who went to his assistance. It wasn’t easy – especially after Robert went berserk and it turned into a massacre. Even a bunch of highly skilled archer-warriors were no match for a martial-artist werewolf, although they did manage to temporarily overload Timewalker’s abilities.

That meant he couldn’t intervene when an Ogre grabbed Desrae out of her car (Which got totaled), or when a suction tube made from slime sucked the thug (Desrae had refused to associate with him any longer) into the sewer system…

Desrae, rather worried about Mask, started draining the ogre – but it didn’t seem to have much effect. It hauled her off to a cave anyway; to meet it’s brothers and get tied up… “Pret-ty La-dy”…

The thug was confronted with talking mutant rats, and their slime-controlling “king”, his servants and their various minor talents, and a lot of rats with blowguns and poisoned darts. He managed to avoid being dinner – but had no idea what to do when the surviving rats started to surrender and worship him… They were afraid of the alligator-men, and wanted him to protect them. He wound up taking a nap in the slime (He was exhausted…) – and it promptly started mutating him into a giant rat…

He was very unhappy about it when he woke up.

Hi Mom! What’s up? Schools doing all right… You were worried about me? Why?

One of your colleagues saw my name on a list??? For possible investigation by a special department??? Sort of like the “X-Files”??? (Oh boy…)

I’m not on the top, and she’ll try to get me off the list – but those are bad people to get involved with?

I “haven’t been doing anything that might get their attention somehow?”

Errr…

David, have you been up to something?

Errr… Those would be the guys in the helicopter, with all the weird gear? (“Yes… WAITAMINUTE! They tried to pick you up already? What could’ve got their attention that fast… and you got away?! HOW? You’re not an alien or anything… I know – I was there!”

Well; It started with the dragon showing up for the game… (No I haven’t been taking anything funny – and I haven’t been playing the games too much… And it’s not flashbacks or anything!)

See?

Mrs Mayseren got the whole story… She found it a bit hard to believe – especially the bit about the bus and the explosion – and the vampire and werewolf. She told him to try not to get into trouble – and left for the airport back to the east coast in a great hurry.

In the meantime, Desrae had used her power to “turn into a mist” to escape the ogres – but took the wrong exit from their transdimensional cave, and wound up in an alternate world. She took refuge from the sun in a hollow tree – and used her link with Mask to call on her allies for help – before she slipped into her daylight slumbers…

Mask went and got the Warlock – and Thorn, who’d used his tracking powers to locate one of those interesting people he’d seen… Tracing Desrae proved pretty easy. The great big footprints were a dead giveaway.

What do you want Mask? We’ve got to go save Desrae? Don’t tell her you got killed? (WHAT?)

The ogres took her?

Ogres… Only four hit dice. Right. Waitaminute. They grabbed a vampiress?

No, I’m not good to eat… I taste awful… Where’s Desrae? The pretty lady? She turned into a cloud and left? Through one of the doors?

Oh boy…

Good Lord. This place is some sort of nexus! A gate to other worlds. Desrae must have gone through one of them. Great. Maybe if I anchor myself here, and then follow her, I’ll be able to pull us both back through. It’s worth a try…

Cool. Weird, but cool. Now where… You can track people Voice, where’d she go? Sunlight isn’t good for vampiresses…

We should “look out for the things that eat Ogres”? They come out after dark? With any luck, we’ll be out of here then… Thank you uh… Mr Tree.

Warlock and the Voice waited out the afternoon – woke up Desrae – and got the hell out… Even with Issilor’s ring, Warlock could barely manage it; despite Desrae’s apparently limitless confidence (“You’re a mage aren’t you? Just poof us there!”)… It was a very good thing that he’d thought to leave an anchor.

Meanwhile, Timewalker had recovered – and was back to watching the TV – Robert had eaten a deer, and gone back to sleep, and the Junior Thug had woken up and gone to deal with the alligator men – as well as to find a way out. He killed a lot of subsapient alligator-things, but couldn’t find an exit. “The slime” didn’t want to let him go…

Great! We’re back… So what’s wrong now? Your BMW got totaled? I’ll see what I can do with it… Maybe a series of repair spells?

Cool. She nearly kissed me. It might’ve been worth the explosion…

I’ve got to figure out that insulating spell.

What’s been happening to the thug? I’ve just gotta see it on the TV? It’s funny as hell?

Well – It fits him.
I suppose we’ll have to go and get him back… What if we can’t change him back? Do we really want to wind up associated with “RATMAN”? He was bad enough before!

Meanwhile, Desrae’s thirteen-year-old kid sister, and Robert’s young cousin, had gotten pretty curious about what was going on…

Remember; Shapeshifting runs in families.

Amd so do the psychic potentials which allow people to survive becoming vampires…

Robert’s still asleep? Good!!! At least he hasn’t gotten into any trouble. Desrae? Asleep again? But she just slept for… Oh. Sunrise. Tuesday morning… I think I’ve got “Dimension Lag” or something. At least I took a nap while I was waiting for sunset under that talking tree…

So: Mother called to say something about some sort of an investigative team, and wants to be called back. The TV wants to talk to me. The phone and some of the other objects want recognition and rights for sentient objects written into the constitution (OK, next time I have a chance to amend the constitution I’ll take care of it), and my home computer wants to discuss a business contract with me – and says I should bring a mainframe?

Not to mention that we’ve gotta go and rescue Ratman.

Urghhhh…

It’s too early to call mother… and the TV doesn’t seem to be too talkative at the moment. Solamon left a note saying that we shouldn’t try to go after “Ratman” for a few hours… Well, it’s not like there’s nothing else to do around here.

Besides… I think I might have a way to get those pesty ninja guys off Robert’s back; what if I can make the people who hired them think he’s dead?

Warlock spent the next few hours arranging; running water, waste disposal, electricity, a remote cable and satellite connection (He tapped into the rangers), and various other necessities for his sanctum. He also used some protein mush, magic, and Robert’s regenerative abilities to grow and tan a “spare skin” – a bit of “evidence” of Robert’s “death” to send to his school…

What’s up Michael? You think that my powers include something that really attracts girls? (Cool!)    Because Julia told you she wanted to go out on a date with me, and asked you to have me call her, she’s free Saturday night?

At least there won’t be an explosion…

Mother should be in her office by now!

The phone call was… odd. There was this low buzz in the background, the voice sounded a little off, her tone was far too emotional, somebody tried to trace it back (Cell Foe diverted that to the bottom of the Marinas Trench somehow), “she” sounded rather like a man – and kept trying to find out exactly where he was. She said there was some sort of investigation going on – and that she’d fly back and see him personally at 5:00.

Well… SHIT!

OK… Presuming that that really wasn’t Mother, all that interest in exactly where I was sort of indicates that somebody’s after me – and that they could get there fast. If they’re tapping mom’s line, they’re probably keeping an eye on the house. I could try to warn Dad, but I’m not even sure that there’s a threat, much less what it might be, it might do more harm then good, and I’d have to try to explain what was… and that mother’s a secret FBI agent… and how I knew… and try to get him to believe what’s been going on (Hah. I’ve been living it, and I don’t believe what’s been going on), and…

TOO FUCKING MANY IF/MAYBE/BUTS!

SHITSHITSHIT!

Maybe Timewalker will get back… I think maybe my best option otherwise is simply to be an “unsuspecting kid” and just show up… I’ve got help nearby, and it might be nothing much…

Damn.

Well, at least it’s late enough to go after Ratman.

Yeech.

Down in the tunnels, Ratman had found the Alligator King – and engaged him in conversation… He seemed to have been a stockbroker before the slime got him – and he didn’t really want to fight – even though something was making him feel like he ought to. They decided to combine their power over the slime, and to try to escape instead. If they couldn’t do it alone, they could try to recruit the Slug King and the Bat King as well. Back on the surface, Robert, David, and Azrael, had picked up a diagram of the sewer system and were on their way…

Ok, this is where he got sucked down. Right in the middle of the street. How very inconvenient. You don’t like the look of it either, Azrael? Well, you can keep us in touch from here – and that way you can field stray questions…

Well – a few “Men At Work” illusions ought to cover it. Yes, Robert – I’ll keep it out of your fur. A good slimeshield spell seems like a fine idea anyway…

(Disgusting… It looks like a big throat!)

Huh. Shut tight. Robert? Would you? Yeeech… Slime all over the street. (Sorry Azrael! How was I supposed to know that the sewer could vomit?). This way… Boy his this stuff got a weird aura to it.

There you are! So what’s with this fellow? You both want out? Fine – but I think we’ve gotta do something about this slime stuff…

After a brief discussion the the group went looking for the Slug King – and the center of the slime… It was a very nasty trip. They also had to evade talking, poisonous, guard-slugs, cleaner-slugs smoothing slime, and random garbage… At the center was a big, clean, and somewhat overheated room cut into the bedrock. It was occupied by a lot of equipment – and a man in a suit sitting behind a desk.

OH GREAT! The first guy who recognizes me, and it’s a guy who lives in the sewers!

Yes, hitting you is definitely an option! It kindof depends on what you say and do, so WHAT’S GOING ON!?

You were running an experiment on the slime-stuff – but Hardin Inc. refused to mass-produce it because all the test animals died within a month, even if they did show signs of vastly boosted intelligence. You got an offer of funding, you took it, got set up down here, and went to work with some “suggestions” from your backer; Dr Genos. (OH, NO!) It got away from you, sealed you in, and left you with nothing to do but watch TV and try to figure out what was going on. You have a phone, but it only connects to Dr Genos – and you’ve been reluctant to call him until you understand what’s going on.

Well, THE SLIME-STUFF HAS BEEN SNATCHING PEOPLE OFF THE CITY STREETS, you IDIOT! HAVE YOU GOT AN ANTIDOTE?

It’s only stays out of here because of the heater and the dehumidifier??? You have a counteragent – but the stuff has changed a lot? Give it to me, and I’ll try to enhance it…

Enhanced, the counteragent worked – on individuals. Not an infested sewer system… Warlock called in the other people who’d been mutated, and treated them (There were sixteen) – while Dr. Carlson raved at Dr Genos… Unfortunately, they couldn’t think of any way to handle the slime – and it would just keep grabbing people until they got rid of it. At least they could clear it out of the exit corridor and get the victims out.

Interrupting Dr. Carlson revealed that Dr Genos had a countermeasure – but it’d kill most of the creatures who’d been exposed. He was willing to improve it – but he wanted something in return; An opportunity to run a few tests on Mr Robert Lee. A full scan of a natural shifter could be quite helpful to his experiments. It took him a few minutes… Apparently the slime wasn’t exactly what he’d given Carlson any more – and getting enough of his new counter ready would take a few days.

OH NO! I’M NOT GONNA LET SOME GUY POKE AT ME UNLESS YOU’RE THERE TO KEEP AN EYE ON HIM!

“I don’t like it much either Robert – but I haven’t any other ideas! Has anybody got another idea on how to get rid of the stuff without wrecking the city? No? Hell…”

They told him all right – and he sent around a lab-in-a-truck and a sampling team… David knocked Robert out for the bits that would’ve been painful, and it only took a few hours…

“Don’t worry about it Robert. I’ll watch them”. Hm. Some neat Technology. At least ten years ahead on the computer stuff… Some “Psi-Based Technology”? How on earth would that work? Ahh. Thought so. Trying to scan at me too. That wasn’t part of the deal – so he’s got nothing to complain about if I block and erase it…

Actually, the tests were fairly straightforward, if repetitious. They wanted to run most of them at every step in his shapeshifting process… Fortunately, they were done about noon – just in time for them to attend a massive car pileup. Whether luckily or unluckily, at least one guy with a videocamera was around.

It took him almost half an hour to get everyone out and healed… At least the illusion-disguise he’d put on Robert was still running. He was very helpful about lifting smashed cars.

The police just cooperated. They were even obliging enough to keep the reporters out of the way.

(Non Igni!) ShiftThatCarWorstCasesFirst! OhGod, Half HisFrontRibcageIsShearedOff. TryAnyway… Nobody’sDead Yet. MaybeICanKeepItThatWayIfIKeepSnuffingFires…

Next? Aren’t any more? (Whew!) Good. Look, fellows, I just don’t have any good answers for you! Err, Well, it’s like this…

David tried to explain a few things – and then made the mistake of mentioning the slime. He’d thought that it might be a good idea to get out a warning until Dr. Genos had it cleared up, but the reporter’s were a bit torn… It’d be a great story – but people would panic and others would rush down to see… The second reporter looked at his torn colleague – smiled a bit, made some comment about reporting responsibly, and magically wiped the first one’s memory of that bit… “Being reporters doesn’t necessarily make our judgement any better then yours Warlock”.

Urr… Right. I’ve gotta be going.

12:30. About four hours until I’ve gotta walk into something-or-other…

Wait a minute… I’ve got an idea. I’ll need a few ingredients though… One of those “occult speciality” shops has gotta have a mandrake root… I’ll send in a simulacrum!

Along the way, David had to stop for cash, two pig- faced green demon-things popped in, said “Damn! Wrong Continent!”, and vanished again – and Michael tried to practice sneaking up on David and Robert, but couldn’t get the sound effects generator to turn off…

The Professor called – to announce; “I remember who you are… I have a lot to do right now – but someday I’ll be back!” (“Why?”) “VENGEANCE! (Click)”. Azrael and the Commander pestered David into scrying for a ship, and Warlock settled down to constructing a simulacrum he could channel a part of his power through…

Huh. Vengeance? For what?

Oh great… There’s one handy, but it’s in the navy construction yard, stuffed into warehouse 36. Great. Even if we manage to grab it somehow, we’ll piss off a major department of the government!

Cool. The Simulacrum bit worked! (For that matter, so did the extra memory chips I put in the phone. How did it manage to do a voice comparison anyway?) It’s a bit clumsy though…

Robert? Would you play reserve? Thanks…

Something’s bloody wrong. Dad’s nervous, he’s trying to get me to go away, and somebodies shoving something into his back. Let’s try and pull them out… Joseph’s upstairs? In his room? Why don’t I take him down for Pizza?

A dozen of those agent guys with weird weaponry? But they said they’d wait a week! (I think it’s stun stuff – but I bet this would REALLY hurt if I was really there). Well – lets collapse… Maybe they’ll haul “me” inside so I can see what’s going on…

Dammit! That one recognized that it’s a fake – and blew the head off it (Owww! Fuck! Not real, but Still. Bother. Now I can’t see… Maybe a scrying spell?).

Now who’s this? He’s smoking in the sunlight and his clothes are centuries out of date… Seems to fit the description of the guy who “sired” Desrae… Hell. He seems concerned. Maybe a darkness spell? Thanks, but it won’t work? You tried that sort of thing centuries ago, and it doesn’t work for you? OK… Yes, I know I’ve looked better! Maybe I can regrow the head… That’s a lot better. Yes, I’ve got family inside… You’ll distract the agents while I get them out? Deal!

Holy God! How can anything more that fast? He was through the door so fast I couldn’t even see him move!

David went through his brother’s window just as the screaming started downstairs…

There’s some fucking bastard ready to shoot Joseph? He’s only ten! <Corpus Humanis Mutis Corpus Canis!>

Don’t growl at Me, or I’ll leave you at the pound!
<Leash>    Yeah, “Whimper” is about right, asshole…

No, we haven’t time for you to write about this!

Warlock headed downstairs invisibly. “Lestat” had already killed eight men – and was moving too fast for the three remaining to hit… Eric was in shock. David threw some protective spells on him – but even warping time didn’t let him spellcast fast enough to drop more then two of them before Lestat killed the third and left in a blur…

Holy God! Dad?!? He’s OK… In shock a bit, but OK. God. The place is a massacre zone… Not as much blood as I would have thought. Lestat must have drunk a lot of it…

God.

Robert? Could you escort them back to the sanctum? I’ve got to clean this up a bit… “Just Vanished” is a lot better then “Slaughtered”… No, I didn’t do it, and I’m not proud of it!

Police? Hell! I’m not quite finished yet! <Forget!> <You don’t see anything!> Good… It worked. I guess the commotion was loud enough to reach the neighbors.

Right… That’s everything. No bullets, no bullet holes, no blood, no bodies – lots of odd gear, but I’m taking that along to check out… Along with the two I managed to KO (Plus the dog). The shield-spells and the rock should block any tracers…

But what the hell am I going to do with the agents?

I’ll just keep them asleep for a while… I’ve got to try and locate Andrea and Cathrin… They might be in danger as well.

Can’t find mother… Maybe she’s just out of range. Washington’s quite a stretch. Cathrin’s at work at the University… I can just call her.

Cathrin? It’s David… Look, we’ve got something of a family emergency… I can’t come over because of the security? How about I meet you in the parking lot? As soon as you can.

It took 26 minutes. Cathrin wanted to know what was wrong… She was being followed by a pair of agents, and so David told her he’d explain on the way…

He told her about the snatch attempt, and that he had Eric and Joseph hidden in Fern Park (Where’s that? If this as another one of your practical jokes, I’m gonna kill you David!).

“If this is one of my jokes, I’ll kill me!.. Those agent-guys are following us… Turn here!” David threw an illusion on their car and a passing car…

There. They’ll follow that one. “David? How did you do that?” I cast an illusion-spell, I’ll explain later – just turn into the park and drive up to that wall…

“You’re sure you haven’t been playing those fantasy games too much David? Do you think you’re Batman?” “No – look, I’ll explain in a moment, OK?”

Back at the Sanctum, Eric was recovered, and it was time for explanations. Fortunately, Eric had seen some of the film from the studio and wreck on the news. That made it a lot easier… Unfortunately, the proceedings were interrupted by the T.V.; It seemed that a trio of “Supervillians” had taken over the football arena, and were holding everybody hostage… One football player and a cameraman were already dead. They had a bomb – and wanted a lot of cash, and the release of six paranormals from secret federal detention. They were giving the authorities till dawn.

It looked like one semi-metallic brick, one energy- projector, and a martial-artist type (At least according to “Champions”…). There might be somebody off-camera giving orders as well…

Great. Just great. Well – we’ve got all night to do that. I’m gonna interogate the dog first…

Stubborn, huh? Desrae?

About 1200 agents and lots of cash? SHIT. No… It wasn’t me. You ran into an elder vampire. Yes, they’re nasty. Lots of trained (if very low-powered) psychics? “Q” determined my identity, and put a high priority on me? They’ve been tracking power-bloodlines for generations? Great. I’ve gotta set up some remote entrances for the sanctum…

So why aren’t you surprised about this Joseph? You want me to read your book; Man Into Magus; The Life Of A Teenager (!?!) A lot of your writing turns out to be about someone you know, even if you never know who?

I can’t find mother… If you get anything on her, please let me know about it, OK?

About that time, the special ninja squad (Based out of Los Angeles?) showed up to get Robert… There was a big fight with the ancient lich-ninja who could find the sanctum. The group won, but only managed to banish him… They did get some of his gear though.

Right. I’ve no time… They’re all gonna wake up as dogs. Desrae can question and drain them a bit. Hell. They were willing to shoot at Joseph, they bloody well deserve to be dogs. I’ll make myself a kennel!

Warlock is getting a bit stressed out here…

Right… So now we’ve got some cages.

Now who’s calling…? My computer? But… I haven’t even been back to the loft! How could my computer get enchanted?

It doesn’t like my roommate… It thinks he’s a bad guy because he feels creepy (OK, I can’t disagree with that), he wears black tights (?????), and he keeps odd hours. Er, well, I suppose we’ll look into it… (Why are all my appliances buggy?). You still need a mainframe?

So what else is going on? (Besides the mass hostage situation… Arghhh… What the hell are we going to do about that?). The TV has a show about a girl Ratman knows? She’s been kidnapped by a gang? About an hour ago? (Oh great). Last, but not least, the city Mayor is calling??? (HOW’D SHE GET MY NUMBER? You’ve – been – giving – it – out… ToEveryOneYouThoughtOughtToHave It. AAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!! YouThoughtIt’dBeOKSinceYou’reAutomaticallyDivertingAllAttempts ToTraceIt?!? ARRRGH! NeverMindNoTime! Put her on, oh “Cell Foe” (I begin to wonder if it’s serious about that!).

Everything out-of-the-ordinary that happened in the city went over the mayor’s desk – and there had been a lot of it over the last few weeks. Enough to convince her that, if her city had suddenly acquired a “superhero”, it might be worth going along with it…

Especially with whatever weirdness was going on out at the air force training center… Lights and noises, guards who acted semi-hypnotized, and a complete refusal to talk to the city police – or even to her – was just a “bit” out of place for a basic training camp…

The next call was from Julia… She had a couple of concert tickets for Saturday night, and she’d like David to go with her…

Pick her up Saturday night? Where am I going to get a car?

Oh, never mind! I’ll come up with something if I’m still alive by then! It’s only Tuesday…

Michael seems to have accidently teleported himself somewhere? Oh great! I don’t think he’s hurt, but it may take him quite awhile to get back… We’ll have to go without him this time.

All right already! We’ll got after Sarah first. It shouldn’t take too long, it’s just a gang…

Huh. Can’t find her now? Could be shielded somehow – or she might be dead. Damn.

We could go back and look? (Yes, Dad – he’s a time-traveler… Yes, I know that makes no sense! You seem pretty pale… Uhmmm… There’s a bed over there, OK?)

Leave us some margin… About an hour and a half?

Huh… Everything seems sort of stiff and sticky… Maybe something to do with being temporally displaced?

OK, she’s been snatched into this huge “warehouse”. It’s heavily guarded, belongs to the “Bloods”, and has only two entrances?

So we’re not just talking punks here. We’re talking major criminal organization… Just great. We need a diversion? How about an illusory drive-by while Ratman blows the door in?

Watch out, they’ve got automatic weapons and combat training?

Ratman? Do you think you could mention things like that a little in advance from now on?

WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?!?!?!?

Please tell me that that one guard-punk didn’t just take off down the street fast enough to be trailing a sonic boom?

Please tell me that?

Well, it’s not like we’re going to catch him! Let’s get on with the normal punks…

Actually, dealing with thirty or forty punks wasn’t all that hard (Especially with the amount of confusion an illusory “Aliens/Predator” assault motif spread). What complicated things was that they’d been running a private roman-style arena – and had been snatching any necessary “volunteers” from among the street people.

They’d also been making tapes. Unfortunately, none of their “productions” were on the premises. Weapons and such, yes, but no tapes.

TimeWalker fixed that readily… It was easy enough for him to go and do some personal filming…

Then they called the cops.

What a look. Surely they can’t really be swallowing this “Predator” bit? It’s only a movie! Well, it makes for confusion anyway… Let’s go with the gag.

No! You can’t just swipe the guns and drugs and stuff! It’s evidence, we’re the good guys – and we don’t need any more guns anyway!

I bet he sprouts whiskers again inside a week, just on force of personality…

Hello? Yes, I’d like to report a drive-by, murder, kidnapping, drug possession, conspiracy, and quite a few other things… Could you send someone around? Here’s the address…

It took the police almost half an hour to respond – but it was hard to blame them, given the area… They were a bit bothered to find that the Warlock and company had called them – but had to admit that it served as a great reason for a search. They didn’t need TimeWalker to turn up any more evidence though… The videotapes, the drugs, the setup, and the weapons, were plenty…

I HATE this sticky feeling… Let’s get back to the time when we’re supposed to be, and maybe it’ll go away. We can check out my roommate…

WaitASec… I’ll shield Sarah against my scrying and the TV’s first… A few hours should do. That way we won’t interfere with our own decision to jump back and look for her… No paradoxes please… OK.

Well, he seems normal enough… (Shaddup Solamon!!! You can’t just ask people if they’re villains and peer into their closets! Yes, I agree, he gives me a creepy feeling – but he’s always done that! He’s a creep, it doesn’t make him a supervillain!).

OK; You need a mainframe to run your sentience core on, and you want some “metals” from the “Spirit Realm” to bring your magical powers online, and you want some crystals to bring your psychic powers online – and you need more power, and a bigger drive, and a…

Spirit Realm? Matrix Crystal? Sentience Coding?

You can’t be moved because the “access location” is important? My enhancement spells are much too limited to be of any real help?

What in the name of God are you?

Unfortunately, David didn’t manage to find out before fatigue caught up with him and he had to crash for a couple of hours.

Next up: Wednesday!

The Storm Diaries of David Mayseren, Fit the Third

Fight using Kadhara

Image via Wikipedia

And on the second day of the Chaos Storm, things got even screwier, and the characters spake onto the game master, “why us?!”. Once again, far, FAR, more time (several weekly sessions) went by in the real world than in the game…

About a week ago, Robert Lee, a fifteen-year-old martial arts student, had been sitting in the garden and thinking about what jerks the guys from a rival school were, when the full moon rose.

The next day he woke up naked on the school steps – and the rival school had been massacred. The ensuing complications forced him to leave Bangkok very, very quickly. He hopped a freighter “in disguise” as a big wolfish mutt. If he could make it back to the American west coast, maybe his father, Adrian, could help him – even if the man was a survivalist loony. This was just too weird…

OK, so this flight business is a great way to avoid the traffic snarls… I wouldn’t have thought that acquiring a decent set of prospecting gear would be so hard. It is California after all, you’d think they’d stock that kind of thing just for the tourists.

Oops.

Sorry man, I didn’t mean to land on… What are you doing with that phone booth? And with the guy inside? You’re desperate, you’re hungry, and you keep losing all your clothes when you turn into a dog?

Oh bloody HELL.

Look kid… Put his wallet back, I’ll heal him up, and you’re coming with me… (Sorry officer, but It’ll be better if I deal with this. Who am I? Why, I’m The Warlock! Stop snickering! Yes I’m serious!)

Well, that’ll make him take me a bit more seriously next time… I got nice and high before kicking in the invisibility spell. Jeez… Strong, tough, and shapeshifting. The kid couldn’t be a Zarkonian could he?

Nah… What would be the point?

I’m not gonna set him down though. If I keep him levitated, there’s no way he can hurt anybody – and he does seem to have some awfully violent tendencies.

I’ll call the professor… Good Lord. He’s eaten up all the steak in the freezer ALREADY. I’ll have to go and pick up some hamburger or something.

Now THAT’S an AURA. A giant wolf?!

I don’t BELIEVE it. I’ve found a werewolf. NOW what am I going to do?

At about this point, Adrian Lee parked his helicopter in the street outside and started banging… Well, Robert had called him – and Adrian had implanted a radio tracker before he sent him off. Some sort of government job he stole. Stuck itself to the stomach lining. David and The Professor eventually managed to get rid of him… Seeing his son shapeshifting was enough to set off all kinds of paranoia. Still, what were they going to do with Robert? However unintentionally, the child was violent, dangerous, and had killed at least twenty people in Bangkok. Putting him in one of Dr. Genos’s cells seemed a bit much – but the juvenile authorities would never be able to handle him.

Now that’s strength… I’m not sticking my arm near him again. I’d like to keep it attached! He doesn’t have any idea what he’s capable of does he? Wait just a minute… Wasn’t there something about Bangkok a few days ago in the newspaper?

KILLED TWENTY PROFESSIONAL MARTIAL ARTS STUDENTS?!?!

We can’t just let him go… I don’t think he really deserves to die – but… Hmm.

Control. He needs control – or at least we do. If he cooperates, maybe I can work a binding spell on him somehow. It’s worth a try.

Cool.

Having settled that, The Professor sent them out to get the boy some clothes… Preferably, at the rate he seemed to run through them, some cheap ones.

Meanwhile, Desrae was learning to adjust to her new status as a vampiress. Quarreling with her father was just the start of it… Still, adapting to a new role wasn’t much trouble for a theater arts major.

Unfortunately for them both, (As faerie and vampire), She and David bumped into each other at the mall. It was proving difficult to find anything which satisfied Robert – except army surplus. Survivalists…

Now Isn’t that Desrae? From college? The one taking acting courses… God, she’s lovely.

(Slip… Bump… BOOM)

Whaaaaat the FUCK!?!?!

OWWW!

Good thing I can work some healing magic… So what the – the – I can’t think of anything obscene enough – was THAT?!?

The ensuing discussion had to be put off until after they evaded mall security and some would-be protectors (AKA about one-half of the the local male population). Both David and Desrae could see that each others auras were extremely weird…

Besides – the energy flares which started going off whenever they got too close to each other made it just a bit obvious tat something weird was going on… The professor found meeting her very, very, interesting…

At least she only needed to drain some C’hi energy, not blood.

Great. Just great… The most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. Bright, lovely, pleasant, and with a lot in common with me – and if we get too near each other we explode.

This really sucks.

Just to top the cake, on the television, they found THE CRIMSON EARRING (OK, so he claimed it was “the Crimson Seer”), had taken a studio hostage – and wanted Warlock to come and engage in a “test” of their mystic skills…

Just great. What skills? I’m running on guesswork here… He’s only giving me/us an hour. I guess we’ll just have to go…

So where is this place? Well… Hell. I’ll call and ask. Where’s the phone book?

What’s that Azrael? All of your ships are still in orbit – but they might have shuttled down? It’ll have to wait… We’ve got an immediate problem.

Hell. That’s sixty miles away. With traffic like it is every saturday night? We’ll never make it… Put the guy on. Maybe we can talk him into waiting.

Yes, I know it would be a lot faster if you had one of your ships Azrael… We’ll try to get you one, OK?

OK, so that’s not going to work. There’s got to be some way… Ebonflame? You teleport… Can you carry other people with you? You think so? Let’s go for it guys…

The trip through the dimension of darkness wasn’t a pleasant one… The “place” seemed to be the domain of primal nightmares. Azrael went down instantly. Master Dao poured power into his psi-shields – but the effort left him dazed.

Warlock, still too young for his mind to have fully sealed away the childhood fear of the dark, was warded only by his instinctive solar spell. Primordial night poured through the open gateways of his consciousness.

And passed. Unlike his elders, the Warlock had yet to forget how to fully awaken, to find the world fresh and new and full of wonders.

Unfortunately, the strain of taking the other three through his portal knocked out Ebonflame as well. That left David and the Professor to deal with “The Crimson (Whatever)”

Uhhh… (gasp… pant…) Gotta remember not to do that anymore… Fuck… Is that what happened to the kids he swallowed up?

Well, there he is. At least he doesn’t seem to have brought any thugs. The studio audience doesn’t even seem to be taking it too seriously. They seem to think it’s some sort of publicity stunt.

Thank god we beat the cops here.

<Ahhh… There you are Warlock. Sneaky aren’t you? What’s with the goody-goody bit? As another mage, you surely understand that there are times when… (As he leaned forward, the Seer took a closer look). You’re just a boy! No wonder! You’re still full of totally impractical ideals aren’t you? How long have you been at this? THREE DAYS?!?! Look, I only sacrificed three homeless kids – nobody wanted them anyway – and it was for the greater good…

You haven’t taken philosophy yet?>

The Professor had recovered… The studio had more then enough electrical power to draw on. He channeled it into a massive electrical bolt, beginning a curious combination of an arcane battle and a discussion…

(Warlock) “Cuerennos Invocat, Entra Canis Perdo!” (Seer) “LATIN? Why on earth would you use LATIN?” (Warlock) “Fulimenta Jove!… It seems to work!) The Seer engulfed Master Dao in mystic flames… (Seer) “OK; what the hell are those huge slobbering things?” (Warlock) “If they’re what I called, they’re the hounds of the wild hunt! (Seer) “THEY’RE WHAT?!?! I’ve been trying for years – and I’ve never been able to contact anything like that! Could you call them off? I’d really like to talk about this!” (Warlock) “As far as I know, they’re supposed to be unstoppable!”

It got even more complicated when Michael showed up and started shooting… First with bullets (Look, kid, I was expecting the police – did you really think that I wouldn’t be prepared for bullets?), and then with some sort of plasma beam… (General chorus; Whaaa…?)

(SEER) “Look, can I have your phone number?”

(Warlock) “On TV!?!?”

Meanwhile, the audience was applauding madly – as a variety of binding effects, disruption, flight, mystic energy, and kinetic spells went off. The Seer complained bitterly when the hounds started levitating themselves after him (“What, now dogs are casting spells?”) – and tried to teleport out… David, while he wasn’t really sure what the Seer was up to, tried to stop him. He threw a disruption spell. The resulting wild gate took them both… Master Dao swore in annoyance… Wizards. He’d probably get a call asking for the fare back from Stonehenge or Easter Island or someplace like that.

He scooped up Azrael (Evidently Ebonflame was still someplace in his dimension of darkness) – and went after the earring. It’d seemed so important to the Seer that he’d gone to a lot of trouble to knock it off… It’d gone through the wall into the parking lot.

Unfortunately, an enormously fat fellow in a pickup truck had already picked it up – been compelled to put it on – and was peeling rubber getting out… Master Dao gave chase – and ran straight into a skateboarding teenager who’d just barely dodged the truck. He’d never catch it hauling Azrael… On the other hand, this was the one place in town where an alien napping on a park bench would attract no attention at all – just outside the Sci-Fi channels studios.

Oddly enough, the teenager was using his skateboard – and a handy passing car – to pursue the truck as well. He got there first – and started yelling… Master Dao flipped aboard and tried to grab the earring. It burned his hand off… While he was still in shock, the teenager smashed the back of the drivers head in.

At nearly 90 MPH, this did not work out well… The fat fellow wound up “technically dead”, sustained only by the power of the earring. Dao and the teenager wound up fighting a duel of psychic energies… Dao won, and stashed Azrael and the kid in a hotel room before going back to await an ambulance.

Elsewhere, David opened his eyes – and regretted it very quickly…

Urrgh… Ok. I’m lying on a glowing pathway made of golden light, which drips endlessly into a black void. The sky is purple, and covered with strange flecks and twisty patterns – and the path slopes steeply upwards. There’s the Seer…

Well – I don’t feel dead.

Call it a truce? Sure… We fought and we wound up here. I’m not about to try it again at the moment. Up or down? Up I think…

OK, so it’s clicheic. Look at this place. Have you got any better ideas?

Why did I interfere with your spell? Didn’t I have any idea how dangerous that was?

No I didn’t… And as for “why”, well, we were kind of fighting, so I figured that whatever you were doing would probably be bad for us.

The Seer groaned.

It was a long way to the gate… Just an extension of the path really. With bars of blue light. Warlock and the Seer spent a few minutes tinkering, but didn’t get very far before that fellow in the black-and-white outfit showed up again. This time he stuck around long enough to talk;

It seemed that this was the “Path Of Ascension” – a way of initiation into the higher magics. Most mages didn’t come here until they’d had a century or more of self-teaching – and they might spend many centuries more here, learning, in the realm of mages at the bottom of the path.

“Magic” wasn’t something you did – it was something you lived.

He asked how Warlock and the Seer had gotten there, and listened to their stories – the Seer’s tale of a tower in an ancient cave, the books and relics it contained, and of his years of study.

Of Warlock putting on Issilor’s ring last week, and the ensuing confusion…

WAITAMINUTE! You know about this ring? Who’s this “Issilor” guy? What do you mean he must be dead “Or I wouldn’t be wearing his ring”.

He’s the only mage who ever completed his Ascension and got out? How long does this stuff take anyway? I gotta get home by Thursday, or mother will have a fit!

“Your arrival was an accident child… I think that I can send you back. Perhaps you will return when you have outlived your ties to the outer world…”

(POOF!) Oops… Police again. Would-be interviewers and “we’d like you to answer a few questions”… Look, guys, I really haven’t any answers for you! Which way did Master Dao go? Through the parking lot? I’ll never get through this mess…

Hey! I can levitate without casting a spell! Maybe it’s some side effect of taking a walk on that path… That place had been incredibly overcharged with magic. It was made of the stuff. Now where? I’ll try another mirror spell.

OK, the Professor’s in the hospital (OW! That must hurt unbelievably… Maybe we can regenerate his hand somehow?). Still, he’s fine for the moment…

Where’s Azrael?

Well, perhaps you could… WHY AM I ARGUING WITH A HOTEL DOOR!!! Come to think of it… HOW AM I ARGUING WITH A HOTEL DOOR! SHUT UP AND LET ME IN! (How??? Oh. Am I radiating that much magic? Can’t bind it in. Hey! Maybe I can shunt it to the workshop I was setting up! It might even be useful there…)

Cool.

Azrael?… He’s way out. Maybe I can work a mind- healing spell? Huh… I can, but not a very good one. Oh well, it worked. So who’s this guy? No idea? Lets wake him up and find out why Dao flattened him.

So that’s why. He’s a nasty little thug with power. He wants his skateboard. Never mind. I’ll conjure him one and put a tracer spell on him (in case we want him later). Let’s get out of here…

It’s a door. It can’t have much of a mind. Just zap it would you Azrael?

Warlock and Azrael flew… The junior thug decided to hitch a ride in a Porsche and visit the hospital as well. Who knows why… Once there, he started looking for things to steal, but at least his skidding, spark-throwing arrival made a good diversion from Warlock and Azrael dropping in.

Dao was in surgery to get his stump neatened up. They were having trouble anesthetizing him… He kept using his powers to block the drugs.

A member of the surgical team then proceeded to use his pocket-watch to knock out everyone else and turned into a janitor. It didn’t work on Dao – but, this turn of events did leave him throughly confused…

When Warlock and Azrael showed up, he decided to go and check on the fat fellow in ICU instead.

Up in ICU, the doctors were puzzled. The fellow had no heartbeat, no blood pressure, and a wrecked brain – but he was still breathing and refused to die…

Unable to get the earring off, Warlock and the others decided to try and patch him up so he could do it. That idea left them with a virtually invulnerable “earring-powered” zombie on the rampage. Warlock repaired the walls – and most of the patients – on the way out.

Look at that loon skidding in… I’ll add a display of sparks. That ought to divert anybody who might spot us landing…

OK; the surgical team is unconscious, and the patient is awake. Aren’t you getting a bit overenthused about this knocking people unconscious bit professor? It was the janitor? With a pocket watch?

Maybe I should try the mindhealing spell on him.

So where’s the earring? (Shut up! I don’t talk to surgical tables! I’d better work on that power shunt a bit more…)

Look, why don’t you quit arguing, let us in, and go sound the alarm or something?

Yuck… So what’s wrong? He’s had a massive heart attack, a broken skull, brain damage, various injuries – and his heart quit beating twenty minutes ago? He’s still breathing though…

Hell. I’ll try. It’s not like I could hurt him…

Oops.

Well that was a lousy idea… Sorry about the wall. I’ll fix it… Hell. I’ll heal everybody while I’m at it.

How are we going to stop that thing? We can’t just let it smash it’s way through a hospital… Well, just blast the earring loose again! All together now…

PROFESSOR! DON’T!… OHSHIT!

Overcome by curiosity, Dao tried on the earring. It promptly took him over – and teleported him away.

This was not good.

Oh boy… Maybe I can get hold of the Seer? After all, it’s his earring. Maybe he knows how to…

Blocked. DAMN

OK, so where’s the Professor? He’s crawling down a crevice in a cave – someplace where there’s a blizzard overhead. Can’t see a thing – but it feels like a long ways off.

Damn. I don’t think I can do anything.

I’m not even sure I ought to.

Maybe I can do something with that big mirror I was working on enchanting… I can’t get into the workroom because it thinks I’m the wrong person? I think maybe that I channeled too much power into it.

Now my phone is talking to me. OK – telephones are supposed to do that – but not by themselves. I’ve got to find a way to cut off the rest of that mana leak… It says that Michael is calling. Caller ID. How very convenient! I’d been meaning to get back to him anyway.

So what’s up? You’re calling youself “Xenomorph”, and you’d like to meet me at the pizza place? You’ve found your powers? (Oh boy… SO WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?)

Let me get this straight… You “found” a secret US government base in a sub-basement of that condemned old office building you were using as your base – and it was full of alien technology and a bunch of GI stuff – and a bunch of records dating back more then twenty years.

(What, are we living on a planet or a swiss cheese? I mean, if you count the little workroom I set up in a cave back behind the house (on the edge of Fern Park) that makes three secret underground bases in less then a week…)

So you moved all the stuff to your new secret base, and put the armor on. You haven’t got it all figured out just yet, but some of it’s systems are really easy to use? Especially the flight, camouflage, and weapons systems?

WATCH WHERE YOU POINT THAT THING!!! JEEZ!!!

Look, Michael, lets just have some pizza, OK? Just don’t push that button again…

How come I can see the armor if nobody else can? It doesn’t work on strong minds? Weird.

Meanwhile, the “junior thug” had decided to go back to the hotel room… It wasn’t often he had a room. It talked to him… It (The consciousness of the room???) could feel where Warlock/”Father” had sent most of the power, and it wanted to be moved there… Otherwise, it would run out – and die – in a week or so.

Well, why not? Besides – if “Warlock” could simply conjure stuff up, he’d be a truly handy guy to know…

So. A map, a compass bearing, and a range estimate. Right on the edge of… Fern Park? Well, he guessed it wasn’t too unreasonable… Nobody ever went there. It was just a bunch of little mountain valleys and woods. It wasn’t even all that pretty compared to some of the NICE parks around…

OK; Off to Fern Park.

Unfortunately, the place turned out to have another visitor… The Lizard. Now eighteen feet tall and more annoyed then ever.

The ensuing conversation didn’t go well… Neither did the fight. He wound up on the run, trying to hide, and calling 911… (Would this be Fire, Ambulance, or Police? “YES!”).

Back at the professor’s place, Robert had finished cleaning out the refrigerator and pantry – and was looking for more. Desrae had woken up from her “afternoon nap” as well. Evidently even the little sunlight she got crossing the parking lot, and indirectly through the car windows, was enough to severely “tire” a vampiress…

Hrrrmmm… I’ve got to find somplace for Robert to stay… He can’t stay at the professors when the man’s disappeared.

Hey Michael – wanna meet a werewolf?

You guess your armor’s tough enough? It’s not like that, he’s got some control.

Back at the professors, there was some confusion… Geez… You’ve eaten everything already? Wasn’t there a chest freezer in the laundry room? (God. I hope his appetite tapers off pretty soon. Where can he possibly be putting it all?). Good… There is. Have a ham…

Desrae? We sort of defeated the Seer, The professor has been possessed by an earring and vanished – and we probably ought to clear out of his place, just in case he comes back as a megavillian. Besides – who wants to try and explain his disappearance?

At about that point, the TV came on – first with a smiley face (on every channel), then with a short film featuring the fight with the Seer (with everyone given full credit) – and then a scene with The Lizard on the rampage in the park…

Oh boy… I wonder how many things I’ve accidently empowered lately? Great. The Lizard again. Couldn’t Dr Genos hang onto him for twenty-four hours? He’s gotten too big for Ebonflame to swallow him again…

Well – who wants to fight the Lizard? Yes, Robert, I know you want to…

Well… I’ll work a shielding darkness spell around you, OK? You’ll have to drive anyway – you’re the only one here with a car and a licence.

Well, that’s a familiar-looking skateboard. Where’s the little thug? Ah. There he is. Flying by overhead headed for the bay. Looks like he’s been fighting the Lizard…

OK, maybe he’s worth something. At least he’s still alive…

So I’ll catch him… What’s with people falling out of the sky around here?

GAAAH! Where did you materialize from your armoured nastiness? (Isn’t it getting a bit crowded in the back seat with three?).

Your – name – is – Solamon – Riser – and – you – call – yourself – “Timewalker” – and – we’re – going – to – invite – you – to – join – in – a – few – months – and you – thought – that – you’d – drop – by – early – and – avoid – the – rush. Here’s – the – invitation – I – wrote.

Riiiggggghhhhhhtttttt…….

The TV is calling me through my talking cell phone. It says to “Look out above you!”???

Whaaaa???

The Lizard is jumping on us? Just step on the gas. He can’t steer while he’s in the air… Robert jumped out? Why?

Now what? We’re barely staying ahead… Maybe I can transform him?

Cool.

Why a dog you ask?

Well… He was chasing the car.

Hey Robert! What are you going to do with him when you catch him?

About then, this glowing blue portal opened up, and a lot of Dr Genos’s guys in power armor came out. They were looking for the Lizard.

They were sort of surprised (and extremely relieved), to find a big mutt with the Lizard’s energy signature.

It still wasn’t easy to put him out. There’d been some sort of accident when they were trying to put him in cyrostasis… He’d just been too dangerous to leave loose.

They thought that Robert was “one of their’s” for a moment or two – (“How did He get loose!?!”) – but were easy enough to straighten out…

While they were taking the unconscious (he fainted) park ranger back to his post, the guy in white and black showed up again, smiled – and put Warlock’s power-flow back under control…

Now what? Him again? What’s he want now?

Well – That solves that problem anyway. Dammit! I’m tired of not having a name for this guy…

From now on, I’m gonna call him “Equinox”… Maybe “Master Equinox”- He does seem to be a master mage…

Anyway, from now on he’s got a name.

After a bit more confusion involving Mask, Desrae’s sentient pet raccoon, the skateboarder’s bag of stolen candy, the gas pedal, and Desrae finding out about her shapeshifting talents while driving on a mountain road at 90 MPH, they managed to stop the car and locate the Warlock’s secret workroom… Desrae was feeling as if she’d “Gotten too much sun”, and a cavern sounded like just the thing…

Besides, his workroom had called to say that it was sorry it hadn’t recognized him before – but his power- aura had been too strong to see through.

Just park it here… I camouflaged the place pretty well and covered the entrance with a sheet of rock – but I ought to be able to spot it’s magical aura…

Cool.

Huh. The rock won’t flow. So how can we… (POP!) Errr… Just touch the wall and it teleports you through guys.

The workroom/base/sanctum seemed to be inhabited by several major spirits now… It seemed that they liked “Squishy Mages” – and there hadn’t been any around for quite some time…

They didn’t like vampires though – but were willing to put up with Desrae as long as she behaved.

Desrae rested… Around sunset, a bunch of japanese ninja types showed up… They were looking for Robert Lee (It seemed that his “school” felt dishonored – and wanted him back for judgement).

Look – guys – he’s a supernatural shapeshifter, and this is a really bad idea.

They didn’t believe it.

Robert (and the Warlock) gave them a demonstration…

They left very quickly, but did say something about “Sending in a special team”.

Well – Hell. At least I can blur the location they remember a bit… Too bad that they’re too many for me to make them forget it entirely.

I wonder if I can get them off his tail somehow?

Maybe fake Robert’s death somehow? But I’d have to convince the school…

Well, I’ll have to think about it.

Hey, Michael! Aren’t you going to take that helmet off?

WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T TAKE THE ARMOR OFF!? How are you going to eat?

You don’t seem to need to? Errr… Well – maybe we can figure something out later on.

If things don’t slow down a bit pretty soon, I just may collapse… I don’t think it can keep on. At this rate the world would be absolutely insane within a few months.

Warlock spent much of that night fixing up a mystic garage for Desrae’s sports car, reinforcing his spells on Robert, and gathering up the various mystic effects and devices that he’d accidently left scattered around (Luckily, transferring most of them, or at least their mystic essences, back to his sanctum proved relatively simple – for the most part).

Oh boy… Thank goodness that I don’t seem to need as much sleep as I did before… (Maybe it’s some sort of side effect?)… At least I don’t have class until tuesday… Class… Somebody’s going to take over the professor’s classes… I hope it’s not Pr. Carlson… The man’s a pain in the ass… It’s not fair dammit… I’m sleeping out with the most beautiful girl who I’ve ever seen, and we explode if we get together… Maybe an insulation spell would work… Try it tomorrow…

(Sleep)

The Warlock’s Personal Timeline:

  • -3) (Tuesday):    David finds a (Mysterious) cave.
  • 01 (Friday Night):    David holds his regular friday night game at an atmospheric location – the cave… He arrives early to set things up, and finds an interesting ring with a green stone…
  • 02 (Saturday):    Feeling a bit feverish, he doesn’t get out much – although he does take a few calls about the DRAGON! (???????????!!!!!!!???????????)
  • 03 (Sunday):    The odd stuff begins… Some little lapses of memory about what he’d cleaned and so on could be dismissed – but the weird auras was another matter.
  • 04 (Monday):    David discovers his “sensitivity” to cold iron – and begins to speculate.
  • 05 – 07 (Tuesday – Thursday): David’s increasingly dramatic experiments at last lead him to conclude that he can actually cast spells (unless he just needs some therapy). Of course, he has to work between classes…
  • 08 (Friday):    Deciding to consult with Pr. Willams leads to getting entangled in a bank robbery, police – and several other superhumans… Also, being late for his composition class, Michael discovering David’s new magical skills at the weekly game, and more experiments.
  • 09 (Saturday):    David visits home, sets up a small workshop-cavern in the hills behind the house, tries a few shape-shifting experiments – and then gets called to deal with Azrael, The Lizard, Dr. Genos’s secret base, Michael, Douglas, and THE CRIMSON EARRING… He misses his (special) writing-class workshop.
  • 10 (Sunday): Looking for a “prospecting kit” leads to a Werewolf and Adrian the Survivalist. Shopping for clothes for the werewolf leads to Desrae the vampiress – and a mystic explosion. Meanwhile, the Crimson Seer takes a television studio hostage and demands that the Warlock come to him… This leads to a mystic battle, a visit to the realm of the ascension, Michael’s grand entrance as a superhero, the earring zombie, Professor William getting possessed by said earring – and lunch. After lunch, they have to deal with the Lizard in Fern Park, the Warlock’s sentient sanctum, and the ninja…

Next up: Monday!

RPG Naval Combat, Part I

Combat naval de Iquique del 21 mai 1879 - oil ...

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Naval combat is full of details.

Environmental shifts may upset everything. For an age-of-sail vessel a change in the wind, or patch of fog, can change an entire battle. Even with later designs, storms, floating debris, rocks and reefs, powerful currents, and – at the most extreme – tidal waves, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions can easily damage or overwhelm any ocean vessel. Space is usually calmer, but even there you can have solar flares, meteorites of various sizes, radiation storms, and whatever demented disasters the physics of the setting will support.

When it comes to the ship itself…

  1. Cargo may be damaged or destroyed – including fuel, water, food, and other vital supplies.
  2. Drive and power systems may be damaged or destroyed. A mast may need splicing, a sail may be carried away or burned, the boiler may be threatening to explode, or the engine may lose power.
  3. Fire (or radiation leaks, or magical flare-ups, or whatever) may break out – which is especially bad if it’s near a magazine, or fuel stores, or a stock of canvas or tar, or anything else which burns or otherwise reacts really well – or explosively. It’s not like you can walk home.
  4. Instruments – whether for navigation, communication, or observation – may be damaged or destroyed. And yes, even rather primitive ships will have flags, lights, gadgets for navigation, and other instruments.
  5. Officers, crewmen, and passengers may be injured or killed.
  6. Steering systems – rudder, screws, altitude thrusters, diving systems, or what-have-you – may be damaged.
  7. Structural damage is often the least of it. Barring a major explosion or a collision with a much larger and tougher ship, a ship can survive enormous numbers of holes before it starts coming apart. That’s why so many wrecks are more-or-less intact; they failed to keep out the water (or whatever), they didn’t fall to bits.
  8. Water – or whatever hostile environment your craft may travel in or on – may be coming in, meaning that leaks need to be plugged, hatches that must be sealed, passages that need to be negotiated may be filled with something nasty (or vacuum), or support gear (pumps, atmosphere recyclers, etc) may need to be repaired or manually operated.
  9. Weapons may be damaged or destroyed – or simply run low on ammo, especially if a magazine is hit.
  10. Wreckage may be dangling over the side and acting as a sea anchor, or blocking access to vital areas, and will need to be broken through or cut away.

The trick here is that the character’s usually don’t care about the details.

Unless a character is dealing with it directly, that sort of stuff is simply background scenery – and even if they are, the details generally boil down to one of “You can fix it given a bit of time”, “You can try to fix it”, “trying to fix it will be dangerous” (perhaps you have to risk blasts of flame and steam to work on the boiler of a steam system), and “you can’t fix it at the moment”. Subcategories here would be “you can live with it”, “slow disaster”, and “fast disaster” – but most RPG combat systems call for ablative damage (since it gives the characters a chance to realize that they’re outmatched and pull out before they’re killed, making for longer games), hence things will always start with slow problems and build from there.

Seas – whether or water or space – aren’t like ordinary terrain. They don’t offer much cover save for the occasional patch of obscuring material or massive chunk of rock, they don’t provide meaningful height advantages, and they don’t allow characters to do a lot of independent maneuvering. Most characters are effectively going to be riding on a platform that moves around a bit with respect to some other platforms – and, once again, the details won’t matter.

Ships are complex and fascinating things, but for game purposes, ship-to-ship combat since the cannon came along mostly consists of (1) trying to maneuver so that you have more weapons bearing than your opponent does, (2) firing as many of the weapons you can bring to bear as quickly as quickly you can, and (3) handling damage control. Once in awhile you have (4) trying to get your opponent to run into a hazard (running aground, lured into a minefield, or asteroid field or some such), but most of the time such hazards are fairly obvious, and are easily avoided.

Yes, you can ram – but that often leads to the destruction of both ships if they’re of similar size, and is usually only a useful tactic if you can’t use guns for some reason or if the enemy ship is a LOT smaller and more fragile than your own.

You can end a naval battle by…

  • Winning.
  • Losing.
  • By one side or the other escaping.
  • By enacting a truce (whether by surrender of one side or the other, by mutual exhaustion and drifting apart, or by some diplomatic feat)
  • Or by boarding the enemy ship and ending the naval battle in favor of personal combat.

In reality, boarding actions are pretty rare. Most of the time, if you’ve beaten an enemy down to the point where this becomes practical, you might as well just demand their surrender. It’s going to be a more viable option in this system though, because it’s exciting and players like it.

So to command a ship in naval combat, you’re going to need to:

  • Know exactly what your ship (and hopefully those of your opponents) can – and, more importantly, CANNOT – do
  • Have enough tactical skill to pick out a good course of option within those limits
  • Have enough skill as a pilot (if you’re doing you own piloting) and leader (if acting as both ship captain and commander) to actually make your ship and crew do it.

Yes that’s right; the commanders are going to be spending their time watching the situation and issuing orders, relying on a set of skills that most player characters – who are used to operating in small, independent, units – are often not going to want to invest in.

Many other skills are useful before and after a fight. Navigation, Weather Prediction, Diplomacy, Geography (or perhaps Galaxography), Deception, and Intimidation may all help you locate the fight, avoid storms along the way, negotiate for passage and supplies, figure out where your enemies are going, bluff your way past an enemy fortress, or get an enemy to surrender – but none of them are much help during the actual fighting.

Of course, once you’re in position to injure your enemies, you need to actually do it.

Ship-mounted weapons are usually large and powerful, and they’re often numerous – but they’re also notably inaccurate. Like it or not, “precise fire” is more or less a myth in naval combat. This is another major reason why real-world naval engagements not too uncommonly result in victories for inferior ships; it only takes one or two really lucky shots to really ruin your day.

Why is it a myth?

Instrumental systems – at least as yet – only target ships as a whole. Just as importantly, at least for game purposes, they don’t allow a lot of human input; exchanging missiles or remotely-directed gunfire with a distant ship basically amounts to “push the button and hope” – especially if you’re firing missiles at a target that’s on or over the horizon. That’s really rather boring, and so doesn’t belong in a game.

Human-directed weapons are firing from an unstable, moving, platform, at an equally unstable, moving target, are normally too big to readily direct by hand (adding in lag time), their operators often have limited visibility (which gets worse when smoke is involved), they’re run by crews rather than by individuals, and they’re usually being directed to targets by someone who’s up on the bridge who is aware of the tactical situation, but only has a limited knowledge of what’s going on with the guns. There may (will later on) be mechanical assistance with reloading, but one or two shots per minute under actual battle conditions is pretty standard for main guns. That’s why there’s usually a fair amount of time to maneuver in between shots – and why a quick turn to allow you to fire your OTHER broadside was such a good maneuver in the days before turrets.

For simplicities sake – and playability – I’ll presume that naval-scale energy weapons, missile launchers, and similar weaponry have similar cycling times. Given that we don’t even know what laws of physics will be involved in this sort of thing in any given setting, that seems like a reasonable compromise. Secondarily, the officers, crew, and player characters are going to be presumed to be busy with orders, dodging fire, and other minor activities – so their personal actions are going to be reduced to the ship combat timescale as well.

Thus a good gunnery officer – one who can tell from the bridge whether or not the guns currently have a worthwhile chance of hitting and can come reasonably close to the optimal moment for firing – is worth his or her weight in gold.

So that’s what our rules will need to cover – hopefully in a simple, quick, and easy system that won’t get in the way of the game.

That’s next.

The Storm Diaries of David Mayseren, Fit the Second

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With the prologues out of the way, events in the setting began moving into high gear. In the first day of chaos there were actually several sessions…

Back in the city, a short bluish alien crash landed in the Professors back yard. The Professor used the cellular phones and beepers he’d passed around to call everyone in. The ranger had been staying there anyway while they talked – and the darkforce guy just teleported in – but David had to ride his bicycle… Between the neighbors, the fire department, and the police, things got busy, even before David got there, and healed the alien enough to wake him up… He turned out to be a powerful telepath. Out in space, his ship had been boarded by the “Zarkonians” – and he’d ejected to escape… They might already be on this world as well. They were shapechangers.

Finding out that half the “people” around him were shapechangers, that telepathy wasn’t normal, just how primitive this planet was, that he’d probably have to hide because there was no procedure for aliens – and that all of his stuff had apparently burned up in the atmosphere – was quite a series of shocks.

The group had to catch him.

Wow! An Alien! A whole civilized galaxy out there! A galactic war! (Oh bugger)

Errr… I gotta admit it… We have wars with each other.

Wait-a-minute here… An alien. A whole world to land in and it lands in the Professor’s back yard. With news of a possible alien invasion. Just after we all got powers.

Somebody or Something is setting us up.

At about that point there was a feeling of presence behind David. He turned to find that the guy in black and white was back. He pronounced “It has begun” – and vanished again. Once again, nobody else noticed him…

Riiiiight…

The alien jerked. Minds without bodies? How can that be? Is that normal for around here?

Well, while you’re here, you’ve gotta eat. Lets see what we can find… At least if it turns out to poison you, I should be able to counteract it. You used to be a spacefighter pilot? Cool!

Michael showed up about then. It seemed his younger brother, Douglas, had disappeared – and David (and his “companions”) were the only superheroes he knew… HE had decided that this sounded a lot like Champions… The coincidence level – and starting off with a bank being robbed – sounded just like it.

Well – maybe what people believe affects it somehow (“Have you ANY idea just how silly that could be?”) (A bit like this situation maybe?) (“Well… Maybe”).

OK… So you’ve gotta get a look at your orbit slot and see if the Zarkonians managed to take control? No, we really can’t get you there… We’re using chemical rockets, remember? How about a telescope? Sears ought to have some… You can telepathically disguise yourself? Cool.

They took a bus.

David, Michael, and the Alien went shopping… It was not a good time, as some scaly green reptile-man began tearing up downtown. The Professor put out an emergency call. Evidently, he thought that “THIS WAS A JOB FOR C.H.A.O.S! (Certain Heroes Acting On Standby… or Crackpot Heroes Awaiting Opposing Supervillians or any of several other versions the others had proposed…).

At Sears, David was a bit puzzled… Taking the bus didn’t seem like a viable option. Hey – maybe he could turn himself into a dragon and carry everybody! Well – evidently not. Drat… That would’ve been so cool. Oh well, time for the fly spells again. An invisibility charm too perhaps.

Damn. He really would’ve liked being a dragon for a while.

Downtown, Shadowmaster/Nightman/Ebonfire/Nightmare/Darkstar/Batman/Whatever (He hadn’t quite decided yet) had arrived… Mr Green-and-Scaly was busy punching big holes in walls, terrorizing the populace, and making a big mess. There were casualties already, and trying to blast him unconscious simply made him get bigger… He threw things – including a four-year-old child.

Whatever-his-name was tried to cushion the impact – but the kid simply got swallowed up into the darkness. How to get him back?

Master Dao and Mr Ranger / “The Changeling” were up next… They eventually managed to dump him way out in the bay – although it seemed almost impossible to hurt him.

Unfortunately, he was swimming back.

Back downtown, David and company had arrived..

Good Lord… There’s nothing I can do for him… His brains are (ulp…) smeared across the sidewalk… At least I can heal most of them… He went that way? Good. We’ve gotta stop him somehow.

Back at the shore, Mr Multiname had managed to pull the kid back out… The boy was throughly dead – and he felt… stronger? He took the idea that he might have just – consumed – a dying child – and pushed it firmly away.

Jeez… I don’t think there’s anything I can do to actually hurt him – and I don’t know if I’m up to transforming the thing – maybe a confusion spell?

It had some effect – at least it gave Mr Darkness a chance to… swallow him up?! What was that about? Was it… David got a look at the child’s body… Oh.

Back downtown, “Master Dao and The Changeling” were going down the hole. They wanted to know where “The Lizard” had come from. It turned out to be a heavily- guarded secret, underground, laboratory/base…

So you’ve… eaten him. Now what? Find out where he came from? Sounds like a decent idea to me…

Like, this place is for real? I’ve gotta start paying attention to those conspiracy theorists. At least the guards are easy enough to knock out…

Hey! An arsenal! And some prototype suits of power armor… Somehow, looking at those, picking up a suit of kevlar armor and a few handguns isn’t really all that comforting… Still, it’ll be handy for Michael.

The first set of guys in power armor were in a room full of electronic gear. Mr Darkness turned The Lizard loose on them. They died. David was a bit sick… It wasn’t easy to catch The Lizard again either.

They went on to confront the head of security, and got his boss on the phone. Master Dao looked through the files; they had four real nasties – and a bunch of failures. David was outraged.

I might’ve known… The place belongs to “Dr Genos” – a brilliant geneticist. Of course. Well, if any of his little experiments are sensible, I’m going to make damn sure he lets them go! At least we’ve got most of the layout – and I’ve taken a peek at the nasty cases in the files.

Oh great. There are another twenty or thirty guards out there – and we’ve just set off all the alarms. Their going to be waiting in ambush for us. Maybe if I whip up an illusion of the Lizard getting loose again.

They all “chased The (Illusory) Lizard” into the main security room… This didn’t entirely go over – but they wound up calling a truce until they could put Mr Lizard back into a reinforced cell… David (AKA; “The Warlock”), insisted on using his mirror magic to talk to the four “successful” experiments in their cells…

The plant master got to talk to more plants. The shapeshifter/were got a mental vacation – if he wanted it – and the Acidic blob didn’t communicate well.

Master Dao decided that he might have to “reign in” David’s idealism a bit. Sixteen-year-olds were like that.

Jeez… All these guys got a good look at us – and got a bunch of film records as well. Not good. Maybe I can use a little darkness magic to blur things a bit. Cool. It actually worked.

NOW what? Oh great… The armies coming down… At least the security guys seem confident that they won’t find anything. (Fool “Ebonflame”. Where else would it be but down the tunnel?).

So how can we hurry up that stupid cell ? Hold the pieces in place? Fine…

It’s still bulging? Good lord! Let’s get the hell out of here.

Whaddya mean we have to swim? You don’t know where the reasonable exits are ? What a stupid design for a secret base…

Jeez, I’d’ve thought that you’d kindof have to tell the security guys where the doors are… How can they do their job without knowing?

You’ve gotta watch it Michael! Think about how hard you’d have splattered if you hadn’t been over water when the flying spell ran out!

Look, kids – we’re superheroes, OK?

Back downtown, the military had been called out and the situation was turning into a riot. Master Dao and “Ebonflame” tried to calm everyone. Demonic clouds of darkness and weird Chinese guys with bizarre powers do not make for calm – especially with their tactics. At least “Ebonflame” avoided getting caught, while Master Dao escaped with his usual aplomb – and then confused a cat. Meanwhile, David and the alien went shopping.

So the military is out dealing with the riot. Good. Dao and Ebonflame simply seem to be making it worse. Weird guys doing bizarre things after they had a fight with a monster-lizard-thinge in the street just do not induce calm.

Never mind. I don’t think I’ve got the power left to deal with a riot (Maybe it’s an endurance battery?) and I’ve got to get our resident alien a telescope. A good thing that it’s easy to prompt a telepath about things.

At least they let the professor go… I’m not sure “Crackpot” is the best reputation for a superhero, but I guess it’ll have to do.

Back at home, the Professor had to explain the hole in his yard to the guys from the gas company.

Darn it… Looks like I do have to worry about just how much power I’ve got left, and I still have to look for Douglas.

Maybe I can manage a simple scrying spell?

<Michael? Could you Fax me a picture of Douglas? In a minute? You’ve got a hot date?> (Odd – Michael never has a date. He couldn’t get a date to save his life… He’s a total geek. Hey! Maybe I can do something about that. Never mind. I’ll try the picture under a mirror or something. That ought to be a good focus…

He’s chained up? In an underground chamber? Ohshit. This is serious! Now who? Huh. “The Crimson Earring” I guess… Great. Grabbed by a loon… OHSHIT! He sees something? HE”S BLOCKING ME? ANOTHER MAGE?!? Probably higher level too. The odds on spotting someone using a scrying spell aren’t so hot. Great… I’ll need the others.

Come to think of it, I’ll also need some clues.

“The Crimson Earring”… Probably The Yellow Claws brother-in-law.

Phooey.

OK… For the moment we’re gonna be “The Guardians”

Michael’s not in but is answering the phone? How is he…? Ah. Extension cords. Now how did Douglas… He was snatched from in front of the school!? A bunch of other kids saw it!? Along with a teacher’s aide? The police are already involved then.

So what are you up to? Seeing if you’re an “super- inventor”? You guess not? (I’ve just gotta find some way to divert this boy…)

OK – so how can we get a copy of the police report? Your mothers got one? Well, Mr. Ebonflame ought to be able to swipe it easily enough…

Three nearby witnesses… All about nine. Azrael? You think you can get more out of their heads then the police did? Probably?

Right. That’s the kid’s house. Are we close enough?

Well – how was I supposed to know that you normally read the thoughts of opposing spacefighter pilots?

Well, the car’s plate number is helpful. Now if we only knew somebody who could run it for us… You can get it? Now THAT’s handy. Maybe you’re a super-hacker Michael…

From a mansion in a ritzy, private, neighborhood you say? Well, that fits – in a sick kind of way… Where else would THE CRIMSON EARRING (In a deep ominous tone here guys) alias JACOB EMERSON (Hell. Even the earring bit sounds better then that) hang out?

You’re coming Michael? I suppose I’d insist if it was my little brother… Bring your pistol and kevlar vest then.

So; There’s a storm coming, my ring’s emitting lots of bright green flames – and the spectacle has already caused a five-car pileup. MR. Ebonflame has gone into balrog mode and is pulling people out… Could we get any more conspicious guys? Hire a band maybe? (I guess it’s mostly my fault – unless it’s “my” ring’s fault – but still).

Well – we could always just ask “Mr Emerson” to let us use his phone to dial 911. Let’s just head in fast guys…

The butler doesn’t find anyone (except Michael) too abnormal.

This must be the place.

So where are the frightened minds Azrael?

The ensuing high-speed “tour” of the house required very little time. They just went through things… The servants got out of the way or got stunned, and the kids and other prisoners got turned over to the cops out near the accident scene. Confronted with this bunch of unknown factors, THE CRIMSON EARRING decided to bug out. Michael rescued Douglas – and a news helicopter got some fine footage of our heroes battling disappearing thugs and rescuing kids from the altars on the roof.

Miserable bastard… No, I don’t think shooting him is actually going to do any good Michael. Go ahead and try it if you want. The bastards been kidnapping, and evidently sacrificing, little kids… At least we got Douglas out of that ritual room. (Hush kids… You’re safe now).

What the hell are all these specks-of-blue-light-in -a-cloud up here?

Oh great… The professors trying to explain things to the police again. What do you want to bet that they soon dedicate an entire wing at the Los Angeles Mental Hospital to him? Let’s get out the back guys…

No, I don’t think I can handle too many more spells at the moment… Let’s just wait until they’re looking the other way, OK?

A good thing I disguised the car – but I don’t know how to drive the thing – and the professors got the keys anyway.

Now that’s a handy talent to have Michael… Where did you learn to hotwire and drive a – never mind, I’m not sure I want to know. At least you’re still invisible…

Come to think of it. that may attract attention all by itself. Oh well – I’ll just shut off their engines.

Now let me get this straight… OK; Morning. I get up. Things go to hell.

Maybe I should try to put the pieces together a bit better then that. Morning. One week since (I think) I got my powers… I visit home, talk to Dad and Joseph, and go out back to practice a bit. An alien crashlands in the professors backyard with news of a potential space invasion. Michael’s little brother disappears. We go out to get a telescope and a lizard-monster escapes from Dr. Genos’s secret laboratory and goes on the rampage. We defeat the lizard, haul him back down to Dr. Genos, talk to some of his other experiments, take a minisub- marine out, catch Michael when he comes falling out of the sky, get named by some kids, get tangled up with a riot and the military – and then get back to looking for Douglas (Michael’s kid brother), who turns out to have been kidnapped by the “Crimson Earring”. We trace him, convince Michael that he’s not a superhero, run off to the rescue, cause an automobile accident, and battle the minions of the Crimson Earring (who escapes).

Then we drive off with an invisible chauffeur – and have to evade the police. Meanwhile, I missed another writing class.

This job better have a damn good vacation plan.

I need some cash. Come to think of it, I also need some gold. Magic rings and such always seem to be made of gold… Maybe just because it’s easy to work and it doesn’t tarnish or anything – but I’m not gonna fly in the face of tradition on three days experience.

OK. I’ll go prospecting in the morning. Of course, with my current luck, I’ll probably find a secret army missile base or the ring of the Nibelungs or something like that… At least a basic kit is cheap enough. I can get one in the morning.

The Storm Diaries: Part I. The Players and the Stage

Example of a subject in a Ganzfeld experiment.

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The Chaos Storm game was set in modern San Francisco, in a world much like our own. While that world allowed magical and psychic powers, for many centuries they had been mere whispers – carefully hoarded by a few survivors from past ages of enchantment to support their own extended lives, and insufficient to have any real impact on recent history.

A few years before the start of the game those powers had started to rise, and various individuals and groups had begun exploiting the subtle special abilities that made possible. Those who had been most dedicated to seeking power and to peering into the shadows of the world – or who were, perhaps, the maddest – tapped into those forces first. Strange things had begun to happen, but had, as yet, little impact on the modern world.

One week before the start of the game the cycle of ages had turned – and those forces, once mere traces hovering around rituals and ancient foci, had erupted, flooding the earth with power. That surge had  ignited the hidden strengths of a thousand ancient occult bloodlines. A new heroic age had begun, even if most of its major participants had, as yet, no clear idea what new superhuman powers they now possessed.

Dramatis Persona:

The G.U.A.R.D.I.A.N.S. (Generally Underage And Rambunctious Delinquents In Another Nasty Situation)

  • Master Dao (Dr. Tristan Williams): A most notable researcher in physics and chaos mathematics, Professor Williams taught at Berkley, practiced Tai C’hi – and was a powerful C’hi Master. Currently, he’s under the in- fluence of the malevolent Crimson Bangle.
  • Changeling (Billy-Joe Cobb): A “Good Ol’ Boy” Park Ranger, “Bob” gained nifty shapeshifting and animalistic psychic powers when lightning “activated” long-dormant areas of his brain. He’s accompanied by “Ragnar” – a huge, wolf/dog sidekick/monstrosity which seems to tap into it’s “masters” powers a bit.
  • (The) Warlock (David Mayseren): A fairly powerful, if woefully inexperienced and untutored, mage, Warlock is underage, brilliant, and a bit over idealistic. He has yet to become fully aware of his powers – although quite a few magical beings seem to have ideas for him. Both his mother Andrea, and his younger brother, Joseph, seem to have some psychic abilities of their own – and Andrea seems to be a highly trained “secret agent”.
  • Lone Wolf (Robert Lee): A 15-year-old werewolf with psi-enhanced strength and toughness, Lone Wolf would be dangerous enough without martial arts training and his unfortunate berserker tendencies. Currently, Warlock has used binding spells on him, in an attempt to limit the problem. His father, Adrian, is a survivalist nut, and believes in a massive government conspiracy. While he may be right about that, he’s still a nut case.
  • TimeWalker (Solamon Riser): Originally from 12’th century england, Solamon’s was recruited, and his latent temporal powers trained, by the “TimeWalkers Guild” – an organization of “extratemporal dogooders”. He uses his own powers, and a suit of futuristic power armor, and is currently assigned to this temporal zone. Sadly, the guild has a lot less information on this timezone then it would like. There seems to be some instability.
  • Malavator (AKA; “RatMan”. Timothy Veil): A feral street thug with power, Malavator’s telekinetic powers are already frightening – and are still growing. He’s violent, unethical, a petty thief, and obnoxious – but has enough loyalty to his friends, and is handy enough to have around, to have led them to put up with him so far. It’s always nice to have a cannon handy.
  • The Voice (“Thorn”, Mark Randall): The result of a bizarre accident, Thorn is a mid-sized, rather benign, earth elemental bearing the mindprint of Mark Randall; a navy SEAL who’s minor, latent, talents for Telepathy and Summoning suddenly kicked in, and flared into terminal overload, a few days ago. Mark died, but bits of his mind overwrote parts of the elemental’s mind, creating a bizarre composite being.
  • Twilight (Desrae Grey): A talented young actress, Desrae was also fabulously beautiful; lovely enough to attract the attention of Lestat – an elder vampire. He inducted her into the vamphyic ranks – and continues to take an interest in her affairs. She has a variety of vamphyric powers and is mystically linked with Mask, her sentient “pet” raccoon.
  • Mara (Alexis Grey): Desrae’s little sister started wondering what was going on a few days after her older sister moved out. Unlike most 13-year-olds, she has vast, if still poorly developed and focused, telekinetic and telepathic potentials to use to find out.
  • EbonFlame (Louis Vanderin): Generous contributions and family connections virtually predestined “Louie” for a college slot and a degree. Louie didn’t know that his family heritage also destined him to host the power of primordial darkness as the cycle turned again. That was something of a shock – especially when the powers turned out to have a sort of “awareness” of their own.
  • Hawk (Real name unrevealed): Shapechanging runs in families. When Hawk heard from Adrian that his cousin Robert “Had been subjected to government experiments and turned into a werewolf!” he was very interested. He’d recently taken hawkform himself, and flown through the spirit world. He hadn’t seen Robert since Adrian had sent him to Bangkok, but if he was shapeshifting – and back in San Francisco – he ought to find him.
  • Azrael (No pronounceable name): Strong, tough, and powerfully telepathic, Azrael is still at something of a disadvantage socially. Being a crash-landed, scaly, blue, alien can do that. By training, he’s is a space- fighter pilot, and he’d really like a ship. He brought the group the news of a possible Zarkonian invasion.
  • The Commander (No pronounceable name): Another one of Azrael’s race, The Commander was just that; a starship captian. While his telepathic abilities are far better developed then Azrael’s, he’s spent most of his life in space and in the military – and he’s having a hard time adjusting to earth.
  • XenoMorph (Michael Thelin): While he hasn’t gotten all the details of the control systems “down” yet, the battle armor Michael found is quite powerful enough to let him play superhero. Even outside his suit, he’s a skilled hacker and a decent techno-tinkerer. Douglas, his nine-year-old little brother, was kidnapped by the Crimson Seer for reasons unknown, although, judging by the restraints the Seer used, he may be on the edge of acquiring powers of his own.

Acquaintances:

  • Adrian Lee: A rampant survivalist, utter lunatic, and latent shapeshifter, Adrian sees conspiracies, and the intrusion of government spies, everywhere. While he may be right about the existence of the conspiracies – if they were that interested in him, they’d have “gotten him” long ago – if only on weapons and theft charges. He seems to have an entire military arsenal on hand. An attack helicopter is not exactly easy to obtain.
  • The Crimson Seer (Jacob Emerson): Maybe a middle- aged wizard would do a better job of running the world then the current system does, but most of the group was unwilling to put up with someone who sacrificed little kids – especially uselessly. Not utterly an enemy, but hardly a friend.
  • Dr. Genos: A brilliant, if lunatic, scientist and maniac geneticist, Genos has yet to appear in person – but he’s managed to make more then enough trouble even without that, thanks to his creations, minions, money, and sewer-slime. Again, not necessarily an enemy, but often at cross-purposes.
    • The Lizard: Violent, super-strong, idiotic, and virtually indestructible, this massive “alligator man” seems to get bigger and stronger every time he shows up. Unfortunately, he also seems to be able to escape from virtually anywhere. A creation of Dr. Genos – and a definite pain in the ass.
    • Shifter: A full shapeshifter, apparently with a variety of minor physical enhancements, some lack of education – and a small problem with being influenced by random animalistic and predatory instincts. A possible ally – or maybe an enemy. Who knows?
    • The Blob: An acidic, corrosive, all-devouring “thing”, apparently sentient, if uncommunicative. Yet another creation of Dr. Genos. Probably destined to be a problem at some point.
    • Sequoya: A fairly normal-looking fellow, with various, enormously potent, plant-manipulating powers. He spends most of his time talking to plants. Maybe a possible problem, maybe benevolent – and maybe quite irrelevant.
    • Lt. Carl: Dr. Genos’s current security chief. Loyal, efficient, and quite unimaginative.
  • Equinox: An elder mage – and some sort of patron to Warlock. He sometimes helps out with magical problems, but tends more towards cryptic remarks. This may not be his “real” name, but it feels right to Warlock.
  • Lestat: Desrae’s “Sire”, an elder vampire, with a variety of quite formidable powers, and a selection of his own, special, curses. While his interest seems to be more or less benign at the moment, he’s the kind of “friend” that you’re not entirely sure you want.

Organized Opposition:

  • Department X: A secret, quasi-official, department of the federal government, which has been in operation since some time in the 1840’s. It seems to be charged with the investigation, and containment, of paranormal phenomena, including people. They’ve been operating in emergency mode since the cycle began shifting sometime last year. Their general mode is snatch – and either recruit, or eliminate. They have training methods for low-powered telepathy, and plenty of hyperadvanced gear. They’ve been keeping track of “exceptional” bloodlines for generations – and have identified the Warlock. About 1400 agents nationwide, 6 major headquarters (Assigned 24-30 men each), about 60 major-city offices (With six men/two squads each), about 60 trainers – and around 100 “floating” agents. The rest are on vacation. The job is apparently pretty stressful. Maybe they mean well, but they’re ruthless, pay no attention to “rights” – and are willing to blow away kids for “the greater good!”.
  • The Matoshuko Ninjas: Apparently an expansionistic clan, with a base in Los Angeles and a variety of super- operatives available. They currently have a contract from his school to capture and return Mr Robert Lee.
  • The Order Of The Firehawk: These “monster-hunters” seem to be highly-trained normals – wielding enchanted silver blades that pass through “monstrous” defenses and turn supernatural talents back against their wielders. Unfortunately, they seem to be pretty undiscriminating about who and what they class as a “monster”.
  • The Zarkonians: These shapeshifting, telepathic, and reportedly-hostile, aliens have recently pirated a few ships belonging to Azrael’s species – and are now either still orbiting earth, or have already invaded. While there really isn’t any hard evidence that they’ve done so, there have been a number of incidents that seem to point that way.

Assorted Confusions:

  • Cell Foe: Warlock’s accidentally animated and enhanced cellular phone. Other accidentally-enchanted items include his TV, Mirrors, Table, Computer – and a Room.
  • (The) Ogre Brothers: This massive, indestructible, and stupid trio is relatively harmless – unless you look either collectible or edible.
  • The Secret Master (or Masters): The unidentified person or persons behind the convenience-store attack, possessed of some sort of mind-controlling power.
  • “Zardoz”: An unidentified and possibly alien being, possessed of vast strength, durability, two hearts – and advanced weaponry. “He” led a bank robbery, and escaped.
  • Troy Anderson: A responsible reporter – with some sort of mystical powers.

Others:

  • Eric Mayseren: Warlock’s father, a brilliant electrical engineer.
  • Gilead Mayseren: Warlock’s uncle, a business CEO. A fairly important and wealthy man, often worried by the antics of his son, Andre’.
  • Cathrin Mayseren: Warlock’s mother. Supposedly a corporate lawyer, she now appears to be a secret agent and to have some measure of psychic power.
  • Eidth Milner: Warlock’s aunt, a somewhat “flighty” artist.
  • Andre’ Mayseren: Warlock’s cousin (QV; Gilead), a small-time scam artist (More for fun then for anything serious). Age 17.
  • Julia Ambrose: A girl in Warlock’s chemistry class who wants to go out on a date with him.
  • Bryce Arhuss: Warlock’s sensai, a master of tiger style kung fu at the fourth – or possibly even fifth – level. For his “real job”, he’s a biotechnician at one of the local companies.
  • Cuerennos: An ancient celtic diety of nature, raw virility, and the wild hunt. He seems to have actually taken a personal interest in Warlock.
  • Spot, Fido, and Rover: Once agents of Dep-X, now pet dogs and psychic energy sources for Desrae. They were useful sources of information on Dep-X, it’s equipment and training procedures, and it’s bases – but Desrae and Warlock got most of it out of them fairly readily. At least for now they’ve been throughly bound down to the “good doggy” level.

.
The Storm Diaries of David Mayseren, Fit the First:

(Setting up for the weekly role-playing game).

Now THIS is cool… I think I’ll run the game down here this weekend. Talk about ATMOSPHERE. Nothing like a real cave to play in when you’re describing the lair of a dragon…

Interesting ring. I wonder who lost it? Not much of a chance of finding out I suppose…

Never mind, I’ve just about got everything set up for the game.

Where the hell did everybody go?

(On the Phone): How the hell did I do that? What? The DRAGON!?! I was describing it and it actually came around the corner? Everybody ran? Err…. Geez, it was just a smoke pot and a projector… (It must’ve been the atmosphere). Yeah, Right, I should work for Lucas. See you next week…

Power of suggestion maybe? Some sorta fumes?

A DRAGON?!?

??????????????????????????????????????????????????!

This is getting seriously weird… Either somebody slipped me something or I’m seeing auras. Weird stuff just keeps on happening too…

OUCH! What the fuck… How could I burn myself when it’s not even hot? Couldn’t be an electrical shock… It’s just an old iron skillet. It hasn’t even got any wires!

Iron.

Cold Iron.

Oh NO. It COULDN’T be…

David was rather preoccupied for the next few days, as a series of cautious experiments revealed that – if it wasn’t magic – he’d certainly acquired some strange talents… Still, magic was hard for a physics student to accept. He decided to ask his favorite professor (Dr Tristan Williams – a notable expert on physics and chaos mathematics) about it.

He stayed to talk to him after class. It turned out that Dr Williams had recently had a rather eye-opening experience himself; On a recent sabbatical (in Tibet), he’d managed to bring his C’hi into focus… He’d been more then willing to talk to David. The boy’s aura was very strong – and very strange. Of course, while they were talking, in burst a park ranger (He’d been having some very odd experiences, and decided to ask one’a them thar professor guys, and the department secretary sent him to the most “weird science” professor they had), and his enormous dog…

UFFF! Get Off! GETOFFAMEYAMUTT! Yeecchhh… Wait-a- minute… Maybe I can clean things with magic… (That might be what’s been going on in my apartment!). Yeah! Cool… Take that you mangy mutt! Next time I’ll throw in some perfume!

This is GREAT!

They opted to continue the meeting at Dr. William’s house… David stopped by his apartment to get out his various rulebooks. If he was a mage, what kind of mage was he? AD&D? Champions? Runequest? (Hopefully not)

Whether luckily or unluckily, his route took him by the bank – where a group of crooks had decided to take everyone hostage and demand a huge ransom… He was just riding past the front of the bank when the police came screeching up… Sensibly enough, David stopped – just in time to get yanked inside as another hostage.

Police?! What’d I… Not me, OK. I’m getting out of the wayyyy… Errrkkk!

Lessee… onehandholdingmebythethroat-an’oneholding agunthatfeelslikeacannonagainstmyback.beveryveryquiet. they’vealreadyshotatleasttwopeople…

Outside, the professor was also passing by… Well, he’d proposed being socially responsible and acting as heroes… This looked like a good time to start.

Thanks to cosmic coincidence, a man wrestling with his newly-active powers of cosmic darkness was already inside…

Ok; In with the other hostages… I think I’ll just lay here and see if I can throw some shield spells. It looks like I can… Oh great. That guy over there is turning into a balrog and firing darkforce bolts… I wonder if I can manage some sleep spells?

Cool.

Things degenerated into confusion rapidly. Between an invisible darkforce wielder, the Professor’s shapeshifting talents, and people falling asleep, the thugs never had a chance.

Their alien boss with the energy-weapon was another matter altogether. He crashed out through the wall and got away… By the time the SWAT team got to the bank, it was all over – though they did manage to take a few potshots at the darkness-guy…

The Professor wasn’t very happy though… He hadn’t meant to kill anyone.

Oh great… Interviewed by the police. Well, they’d never believe the truth anyway. Hell… they probably wouldn’t believe the bank cameras. At least he hadn’t done anything that would show up on film.

OHSHIT! The officious pest was calling his father! He’d have a fit!

Eric did. He also made a most embarrassing fuss over him… Right in front of everyone who’d come down from the college to see the excitement.

Oh GREAT. I’m NEVER going to live this down. Why such a fuss? I wasn’t hurt or anything…

Meanwhile, the Professor / “Master Dao” escaped in a bodybag. His powers let him pretend to be dead very, very, well – although the driver nearly died of shock when one of his “passengers” got up…

The professor had to jog the rest of the way back – although he did find the time to strip the clothes off a few muggers along the way.

He didn’t hafta drop me off… It wasn’t very far. Jeez, you’d think I was six… Now what? It’s that guy with the darkness powers falling out of the sky? Not a good thing. Wonder if I can use a spell to catch him? Looks like I can… Cool. Now what should I do with – He’s out cold. I’ll wait for the professor. It’s his place. UHFFF! GEDOFF! BAD DOG!

This time I’m gonna perfume the damn thing.

The meeting got a bit confused, but they did decide to work as a group… David’s rulebooks were actually fairly helpful at first. At least they had a long list of powers to check for. David also found that he could heal people…

Huh. Cleric/Magic-User? Can’t be… I’d have to be demihuman for that. Maybe it’s Champions. I might have a power pool. Huh.

At about that point someone/thing? tapped David on the shoulder… Some guy in a white and black outfit whom nobody else seemed to see. He (?) disappeared a few moments later.

Whaaa… OK! Now I’m seeing weird guys in bizarre costumes… What Professor? What am I looking at? You don’t… He’s right over… Now I don’t see him either Never mind. No, no, nothings bothering me… What was that? You’re right; I do need a disguise. Dad came and got me right in front of all those people from the college.

No, I can’t stay any longer. I’ve got a composition class to get to and a game to run this evening.

Class was an ordeal… He was a bit tardy, and the pesky instructor made a point of it. Still, he didn’t have an answer for the statement that “I was late because I was busy being held hostage in a bank robbery”, even if he believed that it was only a creative excuse at first…

The game was worse. Only two of the six regular players showed up – and they seemed pretty nervous. It got worse when that fool ring started glowing… David damped it fast, but Kevin still made excuses and left – quickly.

Michael’s curiosity was much stronger – and he wasn’t going to swallow any more half-assed “explanations…

Urrr… Well. It’s like… Well I wasn’t sure you’d believe it. I’m still not sure what’s going on, but it seems like I can work magic…

No I haven’t made a deal with any evil powers!

They experimented a bit – and concluded that David was at least fifth level… Michael thought that the “fly” spell was really great – and was hoping to develop his own powers any time now. Still, it all gave David an idea – a motorcycle racing outfit would make a good costume; tough, strong, concealing, and protective.

I’ll have to make time for a visit home tomorrow… simply to assure mother that I’m free of bullet holes.

Ok, so she won’t be home till Tuesday… What’s Dad working on? A strange circuit design with a gargantuan current capacity? (Hey, Dad? What on earth would anybody want something like that for?)    Unfortunately, his father had no idea what it was for either; it was simply part of the specifications.

David said hello to Joseph – and headed up into the hills behind the house to experiment a bit… He felt like he could manage shapeshifting.

Being a wolf felt really weird. Hmm… It kinda felt like his C’hi had been boosted too. He’d have to check that out later.

Cyberpunk Street Occupations and Backgrounds

Child beggers begging infront of a church on a...

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As a general rule, most street characters will have the “Streetwise” general skill, and many will also have area lore, begging, or something similar.

For their occupations, and their more important skills, roll 1d40:

.

.

Unskilled
Occupations:
Special Notes and Requirements
01) Acolyte Enough patience to hang around and be
respectful with a straight face.
02) Artist/Crafter Relevant general skill, such as “painting”.
03) Hobo / Bum Being willing to put up with anything.
04) Day Laborer Often idiots or thugs. Servants and such will
need a general skill such as “Butler”.
05) Dependent “Property” as far as the streets are concerned.
If you don’t like it, all you have to do is get
out on your own.
06) Driver A driver’s licence.
07) Entertainer Needs a relevant general skills or skills.
08) Guide Needs city knowledge and – preferably – an
extra language or two. Salespeople are a
minor variant.
09) Lab Rat “Volunteers” are always handy.
10) Plaything Mostly for runaways. This is awfully easy at
first, but rapidly becomes less pleasant.
11) Social Worker From babysitters and volunteers on up.
Higher-ups may have contacts, law, legal
protection, psychology, and linguistics.
12) Street Vendor Those who restrict themselves to legal items
are usually barely getting by.

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Skilled 

Occupations:

Major Skill Minor Skill
13) Begger Con Artist Begging
-“Gypsy” Syndicate Backing Fortune Telling
14) Enforcer +3 Martial Art Intimidation
-Hitman Sniper Ambush
15) Gang Boss Information Gathering Gang Leadership
-Yakuza Syndicate Backing Intimidation
16) Go-Ganger Acrobatics Piloting
-Courier Evasion Smuggling
17) Hacker Computer Operation Forgery
-Executive Syndicate Backing Extortion
18) Lookout Stealth Tailing
19) Messenger Dodging Recognizer
20) Petty Thief Slight-Of-Hand Evasion (1)
21) Poseur Thespian Disguise
-Celebrity Professional Skills Reputation
22) Prostitute Information Gathering Seduction
-Geisha Professional Skills High Society
23) Rebel Saboteur Field (City) Lore
24) Shoplifter Stealth Casing
-Burglar Locksmith Search
25) Street Dealer Fencing Contacts
-Fixer Information Gathering Connections
26) Tinkerer Technician Scrounging
27) Warewolf Cyberware +2 Martial Art
28) Wiz Kid Minor Magic (Psionics) Sensitive
-Mage Add any one magical skill Mystic Tongue

.

Highly Skilled 

Occupations:

Major Skills Minor Skills
29) Bodyguard Alertness and Missile
Deflection
Ambush and
Cyberware (2)
30) Bookie Syndicate Backing and
Con Artist
Gaming and
Connections
31) Cyberdecker Computer Operation and
Technician
Cyberware (2)
and Contacts
32) Nomad Caravan Master and
Guild Member
Personal Vehicle
and Piloting
33) “Preacher” Guild (Church) Member
and Select
Oratory and
Religious Ritual
34) Quality Goon Combat Armor and MOS
(3) Training
Brawling and
Intimidation
35) Reporter Surveillance and Select Photography and
Connections
36) Rich “Kid” Cyberware and Legal
Protection
Contacts and
Money
37) Rigger Cyberware & Electronic
Warfare Sensor Operator
Combo for remotes only.
Special
Vehicle(s) and
Gunnery
38) Street Cop Legal Protection and
Law/Criminology
Brawling and
Contacts
39) Street Doc First Aid and
Drugs/Medicines
Advanced First
Aid and
Technician
40) Street Shaman Minor Magic/Pacts and
Special Devices
Contacts and
Bargaining
  1. Evasion is normally a major skill, but Petty Thieves get a small break for their lifestyle. They could certainly use one.
  2. As a minor skill, Cyberware is limited to appropriate items.
  3. Military Occupational Specialty.

Continuum II divided most character abilities into General Skills (common, ordinary, talents that everyone got some of), Minor Skills (specialized talents covering either some special ability or a narrow field of training), and Major Skills (the items that tended to define a character – major special talents or broad fields of expertise).

The Street Runner vocation includes;

  • Militance II: 4D8 Vitality, +3 Attack Rating and Resistance Rating, and Semicombatant vitality bonus.
  • Expertise II: Two major and two minor skills, usually determined on the occupations chart above. Unskilled Occupations simply provide background. If you get a Skilled Occupation just roll up a second one and take the skills for both, ignoring “Highly Skilled” rolls. If you roll a skilled occupation twice, upgrade to the advanced (unnumbered) version if there is one, otherwise roll again. If you get a Highly Skilled Occupation first, you’re done.
  • Martial Arts I: Normally basic skills with Pistols and blades.
    • Street Survival Martial Art; Exclusive Weapon Katas (Blade and Pistol 3), +1 Attack (2), +3 Attack Rating(2), +2 Defense Rating (1), Fast (-1 on initiative, 1), No formal training (-1).
  • Either Mastery II – or Mastery I and a Vocational Speciality covering basic gear, credentials or a reputation, some minor auxiliary skills/etiquettes – and the fine art of getting along without an official identity.

Street Runner is not the most efficient vocation around – but it does have the advantage of being something that you can simply pick up as you go along.

Andaras and the World of Sidri

The heroine of Diamonds and Toads is the young...

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History

The history of Sidri is, at least as far as Andaras is concerned, the history of Andaras. While this is hardly accurate, or fair, Andaras is currently one of the planets major powers, and it is what everyone is likely to have been exposed to. Hence…

Long centuries ago, the peoples of Dorasin lived as primitive, warring tribes. They farmed and they fished the seas. They raided each other, and traded with the islands nearby – and then the Verathi came.

In great ships they came, first to raid – and then to conquer. They built impregnable fortresses, abused and enslaved the people, and none could stand before them. For a generation and more they spread across the land, until King Andarun rose up to oppose them. First with a small force of loyal men, then rallying the defeated tribes to his cause, Andarun drove the Verathi back to Athas, unifying the country under his rule as he went. King Andarun received his deathwound at Loshkean, when he fought the high lord of the Verathi – and slew him. With the death of their leader, the Verathi (not knowing that Andarun was dying as well) fled. Andarun gave his enchanted sword to his oldest son, Prince Harnwel, and commissioned him to take the battle to the foe. He did so.

King Harnwel drove the remnants of the Verathi from his shores, fortified against their return, and governed the land wisely and well. However his brother, Prince Jural, was not content with his place in the court. He schemed, successfully, to get Harnwel to launch a premature attack on Athas, entangling Harnwel, and his men, in a hopeless campaign. Left to govern Dorasin for his King, and the King’s young son, Jural poisoned the child and seized the throne, sending his own forces to crush Harnwel’s army against the Verathi. Harnwel, warned by his fathers ghost, evaded the trap and returned to overthrow Jural’s corrupt reign. Resolving not to make the same error a second time, Harnwel sent the next attack under the command of his younger brother, Prince Lars, and remained to rule at home.

Unwilling to see his younger son perish in hopeless battle, the spirit of King Andarun intervened, leading his son to an astounding victory. While it took many, many, years to pacify Athas and the Verathi, there was never any doubt as to the outcome. Prince Lars united his newly-conquered realm with his brothers, and finally inherited the crowns of both lands. (Harnwel sired no more children, thanks to Jural’s dying blood curse).

Under the descendants of Andarun, Andaras gradually civilized the minor islands of the Solantic arc – save for Sicar, which remained independent. Eventually, the great King Haden II readied his army for the conquest, and celebrated his victory by instituting the Charter, permitting the nobles and citizens of Andaras greater say in their governance, now that the last of the “nearby” threats had been dealt with.

Over the next four centuries, Andaras gradually built a trading empire, establishing colonies, and governance, on many primitive islands elsewhere in the world. While still expanding, the empire has run into at least two other “major” cultures – the isolationist Naraki Islands and the bellicose Yagura. While there are skirmishes on a few islands, there are no major wars.

Historical Commentary

The Verathi: Despite the legends, the Verathi were little more then another barbarian tribe. They simply had access to more metal then was available on Dorasin at the time, allowing them to forge better weapons and build better ships. The “mighty fortresses” were only motte-and-bailey “castles”, possibly treated with elivar sap to help prevent fires. Arguably, they were better carpenters then the people they came to conquer.

King Andarun: While there is some evidence for the existence of a skilled warleader at the time, it seems likely that diplomacy played a larger role. His wife’s name would seem to indicate Verathi ancestry – and a few rebellious Verathi nobles would provide a rebel leader with a secure base and badly needed support. Despite the considerable body of legend about him, it seems rather unlikely that any individual warrior, however powerful he was, could establish an entirely new social system.

Andarun’s Sons: Stripped of the melodrama and the legendary portents, this seems to be nothing more then a fairly standard squabble over succession. What there is in the way of material from Athas supports the idea that Andarun’s youngest son married a major noblewoman of Athas first, and then got support from his brother in first resisting attempts to overthrow “the outlander”, and then in conquering the rest of the country, becoming his brothers chief vassal in the process. All of this depends on the historical existence of King Andarun, and should be taken with a grain of salt. This may well be an account of the doings of generations of war leaders rather then of the doings of a single family. There is a bit of evidence for the existence of one “Jamall”, a minor early ruler, notable for instituting some needed reforms, but nothing to justify the evil reputation of “Jural” if there is any identity between the two.

The “conquest” of Sicar was more of an amalgamation then a conquest. By that time the nobles lineages were so intertwined that the only real barriers to unifying the countries was political; the nobles of Sicar had a much larger say in their government then the nobles of Andaras. This was eventually solved when the nobles of Andaras managed to extract a charter or “constitution” from Haden II in exchange for their support in attacking Sicar – which promptly forestalled the attack thru “signing onto” said charter – giving it far more force then Haden had anticipated. Many scholars suspect that the Sicarese planned the whole episode in advance.

Andaras Society

Andaras is quasivictorian at best, and has a few spots that are downright medieval. For example, the legal system (like almost everything else) is very heavily influenced by social rank. Penalties are minor for aristocrats, light for the gentry and the wealthy, ordinary for the middle class, and severe for the poor (the vast majority). It isn’t uncommon for lower-class ten-year-olds to hang for stealing food. There are no “controlled substances”, mostly because only the upper class can afford them. Weapons laws are rather vague. Generally, the richer you are, the more you can expect to get away with. A pistol or two for self-defense is almost expected among the upper class. Among the lower class, even a knife is grounds for grave suspicion. A few weapons (garrottes and such) are considered evidence of guilt in themselves. Aristocrats may carry swords if they wish, but few do so. A characters social class also determines how much his or her word is “worth” in court. Any aristocrat can pretty much condemn a street urchin simply by making a complaint.

Physical Description

Sidri has a rotation period of 21.87 hours, a year of 423.32 (of it’s) days, and a radius of 5318 miles. Heavy metals are somewhat scarce on Sidri and the nickel-iron core is relatively small, resulting in a surface gravity of only 1.06 gravities, a reduced gravitational gradient – and it’s consequence, a thicker atmosphere. Sea-level pressure is about 17.7 pounds per square inch – but the air has a lesser absolute oxygen content. Tectonic activity is limited by the smaller core and lower level of heat-supplying radioactive materials, hence land masses are smaller, scarcer, and usually center on areas where what few mountains there are break the waters surface.

Seas cover about 90% of the surface, the humidity is high – and the climate is consequently cloudy and rainy. All these factors combine to generate exceptionally potent storms. Hurricane-class weather is relatively common. Despite a somewhat bluer sun, the clouds and the thicker atmosphere combine to both make sunburn scarce, and to limit photosynthesis – slightly reducing crop yields and the potential atmospheric oxygen content. On the other hand, deserts are nonexistent and the ocean moderates the climate – extending Sidri’s temperate zones nearly to the poles. Overall, the climate is warm and humid.

Much of Sidri still remains relatively unexplored, due to distance, the shortage of the metal needed to build modern ships, and the tremendous storms. There are no known “continents”, although there are some very large islands and broad stretches of shallow seas. The people of Sidri eat a lot of fish. Overall, the biosphere is superficially ordinary – however there are traces of a secondary biochemical system in scattered enclaves, as well as the usual “supernatural” flora and fauna found on every world with reasonable magical impedance levels. Such things are, however, very scarce.

Astronomical Data : Sidri is fourth among the eight known planets that orbit it’s G6 yellow sun. While the primary has a red dwarf companion, that sun is far too distant to have much effect on Sidri’s system. The red companion may have planets of it’s own, but this is as yet unknown. Sidri has one major moon (Khavron) and one smaller one (Tarote’). A nearby asteroid belt leads to relatively frequent meteorite impacts and the capture of moonlets. Meteorites are actually a significant source of accessible iron. Sidri has a meager “starscape”, as it is currently located well above the galactic plane. This supplies a marvelous view of the “local” galactic spiral, but results in few stellar neighbors. Current calendars are badly in need of major reform, resulting as they do from attempts to combine roughly three week and five week lunar cycles with holy days derived from a solar tradition.

Technology

Overall, Sidri’s technology is just a bit behind current earth technology, although the lack of sufficient metals limits it’s distribution and use. High technology is limited to the social elite – while the “masses” are normally restricted to quasi-Victorian technology levels. Aviation and space research are both considerably behind earth-level, thanks to the weather and to Sidri’s higher orbital (and escape) velocities. Basic preventive medicine is available to everyone, as epidemics are certainly undesirable, but major medical attention is typically reserved for the rich. The poor must simply hope that they don’t get sick or that they can find a physician who’s doing charity work. Trains are the prevalent means of transportation. Automobiles are limited to the middle class and up, while trucks are limited to valuable or perishable cargos. If any form of atomic weaponry has been developed it’s still being kept a secret. The fact that uranium is extremely rare on Sidri may be responsible for this aberration. There are a few bright spots. Drugs, medicines, and immunizing techniques are remarkably well developed, fusion power is approaching practicality – and research into genetics and superconductivity is doing very well. As might be expected, Sidri is well ahead of earth in ceramics and cellulose-based plastics and materials.

Powers

While both magical and psychic powers work well on Sidri, both are limited by a shortage of power to work with, and by the consequent scarcity of training in the necessary skills. Magery was never a dominating force on Sidri, and – with the rise of technology and official disapproval – has retreated further; becoming something of a family affair passed down among the talented lineages, and usually quietly used to further their own ends. Thanks to a high difference in the aspect potentials which results in a shortage of magical energy, the usual “supernatural” flora and fauna are extremely scarce. With few nearby stars to generate gravitational stresses, powerflows are rare as well. Hence, outside those few talented families, magic has almost been forgotten. Psychic powers are popularly believed in – and are generally regarded with suspicion, frowned upon by the church, and regarded as unreliable. Thanks to the shortage of usable electromagnetic fields on or near Sidri, this is often all too true. Most publicly known psychics possess very little actual power. Rumors that more powerful psychics often “disappear” shortly after they reveal themselves get very little credit. Most or all of such powerful psychics seem to be frauds in any case. Invocation is extremely limited, partly due to a shortage of beings to invoke, and partially due to the fact that Sidri’s local natural laws make it difficult to transfer energy to and from astral space. Most of the “invocation” practiced is actually empyrean magic.

Social Classes

Slavery is legal in Andaras, although it is relatively rare – mostly because slaves have (at least in theory) some rights. Their masters are responsible for feeding them, providing basic medical care, and so on. All children are born free, and those born to slaves generally become wards of the church. Actually, slaves are more trouble then simply hiring some desperate man or woman to whom you’ll have no obligations except for their salary. Since this is cheap, slaves are usually only used for things which no free servant will put up with. Slaves are usually obtained by purchasing lower- class children, import, judicially, or by the purchase of condemned criminals.

Indentured Servants have to serve for anything from six months to twenty years, but have far more rights then slaves. Adults are usually indentured for debt, children as “apprentices”. Many lower-class children are “apprenticed” as servants, receiving room and board and eventually – a reference allowing them a chance to move up a bit… Such servants are utterly vulnerable, as their masters can easily have them hung – and no one is likely to protest or investigate if an “overenthusiastic” master beats them to death.

The Poor include the petty thieves/gallows-bait and the “working poor” – mostly day-laborers. While they are better-nourished then might be expected (thanks to public-health programs), the conditions of their lives are still appalling. The poor are generally terrified of being sent to the workhouse – or of being forced to sell some of their kids simply to keep the others from starving. There are lots of charities that assist the poor – but the upper classes sponsor them because it’s supposed to improve and uplift their souls – not because they feel any obligation to the poor… They wouldn’t want them to “get above themselves” now would they?

The Artisians are the skilled labourers, craftsmen, and better servants. Given long days of labor they can actually aspire to a fairly comfortable lifestyle, and a bit of schooling for their children.

The Middle Class is relatively small, but is likely to be the most familiar group among the classes. While a member of the middle class is likely to have several servants available (Nannies, part-time cleaning women, errand boys, and so on), otherwise their lives are quite a bit like those of the middle class today. This also includes the upper-class servants of the wealthy and the aristocracy. While the middle and lower classes have a voice in the government via the House Of Commons, this is more a theoretical then a practical thing. Most of them have their children privately tutored.

The Aristocracy, Wealthy, and the Gentry, are chiefly distinguished by whether their money is new or old and by how much of it they have… Most of them live in a vaguely “manorial’ style. The House Of Lords is one of the major powers in Andaras, with a power rivaling (or exceeding) the power of the reigning monarch.

The Haelin Church is the state religion of Andaras, and a major social and political factor, the Church is responsible for public education (Such as it is. It’s efforts are supported by several secular organizations who have an interest in seeing that the members of the lower class can at least read a bit) and for the moral guidance of the people. It’s a bit of a mystery cult, and has many levels of initiation – ranging from those open to lay members, up to secrets only the primate is permitted to know. Sadly, truly dedicated priests are rare… While theoretically dedicated to monotheistic worship of Amat, in practice most prayers are directed to his servants, the “Haelea”. The Haelin Church tends to support the status quo, has a quite severe attitude towards liars, oathbreakers, thieves, and others who act in violation of trust, rebel against, or betray, those set over them, but has little to say on the subject of sex or the various aristocratic vices. It regards both magic and psychic talents with considerable suspicion. Interestingly, the church supports women’s rights – not that they need much defending. Aristocratic women have always had considerable power and influence, while the lower classes have few rights, whether male or female.

Money: Andaras uses pounds, shillings, and pence. For practical purposes, a pound is about equal to 10$. A middle-class income runs around 2000 pounds a year.

Skilled Codex Powers III: Tempus Techniques

The oldest star of our Galaxy: HE 1523-0901

Image via Wikipedia

Past the instinctive and basic uses of the three Codex skills – Phasing, Shifting, and Tempus – there are a variety of more advanced powers that are only available to those with monotalents or actual Codex skills.

The manipulation of the user’s personal timerate is not so complex in itself – but the interface with the rest of the world is incredibly complex. A character using hypertime at a mere ten-to-one ratio should find himself or herself trapped in a world with an effective temperature of one-tenth normal as measured from absolute zero – minus 273 degrees Celsius, or minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit. To the rest of the world, he or she should now have an effective surface temperature of around five thousand degrees. The user should freeze to death in moments. He or she should be unable to see – or find the world impossibly dim. The inertia of his surroundings should seem vast. If he or she accelerates a pocket of air around him or her, it should rush away – it’s vast relative temperature giving it a huge effective pressure. Temperature, Mass and Inertia, Radiation Frequency… so many MANY things are dependent on time, and can so easily kill.

Such things do happen. Knowing or not, unskilled attempts to use hypertime beyond those minor warps which occur naturally when people are under great pressure, deliberate attempts to achieve a Codex breakthrough, and otherwise meddling with the “natural” flow of time, are all too likely to lead to catastrophe. People mysteriously burned to ash, or frozen to death, dead in mysterious fires, found starved to death in their rooms, somehow irradiated, or suddenly aged, are all signs of Tempus handled poorly – without the instinctive control of the interface that wards the people who do successfully break through.

Worse, thanks to the consensual nature of time, a runaway hypertime effect can easily involve those in the area, especially if they’re an isolated population – bringing catastrophe upon entire asteroid colonies and other settlements. Given stress and isolation, many such colonies do fail eventually, lost to accidents with Tempus or Phasing.

Large-scale Phasing accidents are rare, and typically involve simple disappearances, but incidents involving Tempus often become large-scale mysteries. Thus the preference for planetary colonies and large-scale ships; the greater the numbers involved – and thus the stronger the force – the less vulnerable to large-scale codex accidents a group becomes.

On a small scale, of course, Tempus provides a substantial edge to a single talented pilot with a craft small enough to be affected by his or her personal timerate. In space, and behind even the lightest sort of radiation shielding, many of the interface-related problems vanish. Thus the best pilots can outrun pursuit, maneuver more quickly, fire with greater accuracy, and weave through fields of fire that are specifically designed to be impossible to escape thanks to unconsciously tapping into traces of Codex potential – with no risk of falling to the dark side by attempting to use the force to help them kill.

Thus, while unfriendly physics and logic says that space colonies should dominate the universe, leaving planets to a minor role, and that space-fighters are a rather silly and impractical idea, in  Star Wars it is the planets that dominate, the space colonies that are rare, and the fighters which keep bringing victory DESPITE the tendency to build far-larger-than-practical ships.

Skilled hypertime techniques revolve around control of the consensual time / hypertime interface.

  • Force Suppression is the simplest skilled use of Tempus. The force is deeply entwined with time, which is why precognitive dreams, visions of what might-have-been, and sourceless intuitions are among its most common untrained manifestations. To sever the threads of time is to become invisible to direct sensing through the force – and to any effects which depend partially on being sensed through the force. The user vanishes from precognition, clairvoyance, and similar senses. While a clever force user can potentially locate the user at short range by looking for holes in his or her perceptions, that’s a technique with very limited uses; it takes a LOT of time to scan any significant area. Of course, drifting along in your own private timestream that is nonetheless in lockstep with consensual time accomplishes nothing else, save to make you more vulnerable to certain indirect effects and to accidently winding up in a secondary (or even dead end) timeline – but such problems are quite rare. Many people drift along, isolated from others, in a private world of their own quite a lot of the time anyway.
  • Hyperstrike involves the manipulation of the inertial aspects of the interface  – allowing the user to pull off tricks like NOT bringing water touching him into his or her timestream, allowing it to act like a solid for him or her to walk over – or to withstand the pressure of enormous depths like it was a heavy mist in slowed time. He or she can flick pebbles and have them assume bulletlike speeds as they pass through the interface, slow incoming projectiles, or exert enormous forces in an instant by turning several minutes worth of effort on their part into a moments exertion (from an outside prospective). Of course if you slip up a bit in your control of the interface, you can easily injure yourself – potentially quite badly if, say, you accidentally amplify the impact of a stomp on yourself rather than on the intended target.
  • Multiaction simply allows the user to act very very quicly. While this is limited by the fact that interacting with others tends to once again entangle your timerate with theirs (thus limiting its use in combat to using Tempus dice to counteract multi-action penalties). If you avoid interacting with others much, multiaction can be used for high-speed travel (although it cannot accelerate hyperspace travel), making rapid repairs, and otherwise getting enormous amounts of work done – if you care to put up with the way it burns up your lifespan.
  • Re-Experience allows the user to essentially relive moments of the past. While the past cannot be changed, it is unwise to give into the temptation to try to do so; it runs a slight risk of splitting off a private, small-scale, timeline just for the user – and of causing him or her to simply vanish. It is also possible to use the technique to simply skip forward in time – from an external point of view simply ceasing to exist for the interval – but this is dangerous; if you skip past a decision-point vital enough to fork your timeline, you will only materialize in one of them. Wise users simply stick with looking back to review the past, rather than meddling with the larger structure of time.
  • Sensory Shift allows the user to adjust the frequency and intensity of electromagnetic radiation passing through the interface – using strange frequencies to see with or upgrading the effects of your energy weapons, creating tremendous bursts of light, and pulling similar tricks. Sadly, this sort of thing risks accidently dosing yourself with massive amounts of radiation – or emitting it. Of course, compared to many of the other risks of using the Codex, that’s a relatively trivial danger.
  • Thermal Control allows the user to adjust the effective temperature of the interface – using heat to melt through obstacles or weld doors shut with an accelerated pass of a hand, freezing liquids, turning fires into cooling breezes, or projecting gouts of flame. With a carefully unbalanced interface, it’s even possible to produce a classical ramjet-style reaction drive. Unfortunately, such stunts take a great deal of fine control unless the user wishes to risk roasting or freezing himself or herself in a few instants.

Star Wars d6 Ship Organizer

Here we have another Vehicle Design System for Star Wars – in this case from Anthony and Harvey, two of the players who have their own take on the subject, building somewhat from Editorial0’s version with their own notions.

Star Wars D6 Vehicle Construction Organizer

There are two items that determine what a ship can hold, Power Consumption and Hull Space (HS). So the first question to ask yourself is the style of ship that you wish to purchase/build. This will determine the amount of HS you will be working with to add all the accessories you can cram into the vehicle.

The following table is a basic reference guide for various objects found in Star Wars.

Size Reference Object(s)
(1) Human, Speeder Bike
(2-3) Speeders
(4-5) AT-ST walker, Truck, A-Wing, Tie
(6-7) AT-AT, Star Fighter, Light Freighter, Heavy Tank
(8-9) Patrol Ship, Cruiser
(10-11) Heavy Freighter, Frigate
(12-14) Battleship
(15-17) Battle Plate
(18-19) Super Star Destroyer
(20-23) Major Asteroid
(24) Death Star I
(25) Death Star II
(26-30) Planet
(31-33) Gas Giant
(34-36) Star

Along with the size of your vehicle, there is the quality which you are purchasing, i.e. how much your ship is capable of before you have to start paying more for the extras. The quality of the vehicle you purchase greatly affects what you can do with it. A cheaper vehicle has less power, and the hull is not as responsive to modifications. Conversely, a better vehicle has more power and the hull is constructed with greater sturdiness.

A “Brand Spanking New” vehicle will generally be at the Good Quality. Now to see the start numbers for the vehicle you wish to have:

Quality Start Power Start HS
Junker 75 80*Size
Cheap 100 90*Size
Average 125 100*Size
Good 150 110*Size
Excellent 175 120*Size

There is one level above Excellent, however, this is only achievable via two paths. 1) You sink character points into the vehicle (this is the most common but more costly).

OR

2) You and your ship have achieved great prestige and are well known throughout the galaxy. This achievement allows you to push your vehicle even farther, thus the ability to perform the needed deeds to become a Legend!

Legendary 200 150*Size

Junkers are the cheapest vehicles you can buy and rightly so, seeing as most have seen rough and abusive use or only barely survived an armed conflict. An Excellent vehicle is much more sturdy and more energy efficient, but costs several times more to purchase. As stated before, a Legendary grade vehicle is never purchasable with cash, it can only be created by your character putting the time and effort into creating the legend.

Additional reference stats for determining various abilities:

Size Modifier (M) Base Hull (BH)
1-3 2 2
4-5 4 3
6-7 6 4
8-10 9 5
11-14 12 6
15-? 24 10

NOTE: Modifier (M) and Base Hull (BH) are listed in die equivalencies.

Base Maneuverability is derived from your vehicle’s size as follows:

Size Initial Maneuverability
1 4D
2-3 3D
4-5 2D
6-7 1D
8-10 0D
11-14 -1D
15+ -3D

Section I (Power & Consumption):

With these size and quality ratings in mind we can now start the process of designing your ship.

Our next step is to decide on how many items will be supported by your ships reactor. So let us start with the power systems of the vehicle.

I-A: REACTOR

The first step is to decide on how much power your reactor is going to produce. Most vehicles are designed to include a Standard reactor, this is where your start power comes from. Just as with ships your reactor has several quality ratings.

Quality Power HS Cost
Cheap -2M +2BH
Standard 0 0
Enhanced 2M -2BH
Good 5M -4BH
Excellent 8M -6BH
Amazing 14M -8BH

NOTE: If you finish designing your vehicle and find you have plenty of HS left and not enough power, you may always purchase a second reactor (if you have the cash). However, since you have already placed the wiring for powering your ship the HS cost of the additional reactor of equal or lesser quality is ½ the original cost of that grade. The higher Quality reactor MUST always be the first one purchased and Cheap may never be purchased if you go with more than 1 reactor. Limit 1 extra reactor 2 BH. As you can see the better the reactor the less overall space it needs, however cost for such reactors is somewhat exponential as the materials needed to make it are rarer and harder to get in large supply.

I-B: LIFE SUPPORT

Next we determine the Life Support rating of your vehicle. There are several options here, each step up builds on a previous step. The following chart details those options.

Life Support Power Cost Description
Open Air 0 The wind in your hair and sun on your face.
A beautiful ride so long as the weather is
nice. There is nothing here to protect you
from the elements.
Unsealed 10 A minimal elemental protection, maybe
even a convertible. Any dangers other than
temperature will go right on through.
Sea Worthy 20 This level of protection allows the vehicle
to travel over or land on water without
worry of sinking. It also protects the
passengers and vehicle from the spray and
corrosion of water. Most hover vehicles do
not worry about this, unless they plan to
land on the water.
Pressurized 20 Does not include Sea Worthy. This offers
enhanced protection from the elements and
keeps the cabin in a comfortable range
regardless of the exterior conditions. Offers
protection from atmospheric toxins such as
gases, and minimal protection from small
arms fire.
Space Worthy 30 Includes Pressurized. A vehicle with this
level of support can travel through space
without worry of common natural space
dangers. Also includes enough atmosphere
for a reasonable amount of passengers.
Lack of pressure is not an issue for a
vehicle equipped with this.
Submersible 30 Includes both Pressurized and Sea Worthy.
A vehicle with this support level allows for
travel under and through water without
worry of the crushing pressures, down to
Vehicle Size in kilometers. Includes internal
atmospheric controls.
Space &
Submersible
Worthy
40 Power &
30 HS
To have a vehicle that is both Space Worthy
and Submersible it will cost a grand total of
40 power and 30 HS to ensure that there is
adequate plating to sustain increased
differential pressures.

I-C: COMMUNICATIONS

Next there is the Communication system of the vehicle. Why is this at this point? It, like Life Support, has a standard energy drain, there is no scaling to the power consumption. The communication classes are as follows:

Comm Range Power Cost HS Cost
Common 0 0
System 20 2
Sector 40 6
Galactic 60 18

Now we start getting into the Power hogs of vehicles. Maneuverability, Engines, Weapon Systems, Targeting, Hyperdrives, and Shields all use immense amounts of power to use.

I-D: MOVEMENT

The start maneuverability numbers can be increased by pumping more power into the propulsion systems. The extra maneuverability scales much like character skills except that it’s cost is 5 for the initial “+1” for installing the power grid and then an extra +1 per each die past the first, as the grid has to be reinforced to handle the increased power supply. The following table demonstrates the first 3D worth of bonus maneuverability.

Maneuverability Power Cost
+1 5
+2 6
+1D 7
+1D +1 9
+1D+2 11
+2D 13
+2D +1 16
+2D +2 19
+3D 22

Next we will take a look at the engines. This determines how fast your vehicle will travel at sublight speeds. But of course the faster you wish to go the larger your engines will have to be. The following table lists the move rate for the various ship sizes in space with a comparison to approximate Atmospheric Movement for each level of Space Movement:

Atmospheric Move Space Move Power Cost HS Cost
0-26 1 1 0
27-99 2 2 M
100-150 3 4 2*M
151-200 4 6 3*M
201-250 5 9 4*M
251-300 6 13 5*M
301-350 7 17 6*M
351-400 8 22 8*M
401-450 9 27 10*M
451-480 10 33 12*M
481-520 11 39 14*M

Vehicles which can only operate in Atmosphere (or under water) work a bit differently. Take the engine rating chosen above. Multiply it by ten minus the Base Hull Number. If this would reduce the vehicle to 0 Move, it’s too much to fit in an atmosphere in the first place.

Example: The vehicle was purchased at 5 move and is a size range 6-7. Atmospheric Move = Base Move * [10-BH]5 * [10-4]?5 * 6 = 30 Atmospheric Move. Atmospheric Move and Space Move work on different scales. Space Vehicles calculate their atmospheric Move with this table from page 113 of Star Wars Role-playing Game 2nd Edition revised. The following table is a copy of the one from page 113:

Move kph (max) Move kph (max) Move kph (max)
3 10 55 160 225 650
5 15 70 200 260 750
7 20 80 230 280 800
8 25 90 260 295 850
10 30 105 300 330 950
14 40 115 330 350 1000
18 50 125 360 365 1050
21 60 140 400 400 1150
25 70 150 430 415 1200
26 75 160 460 435 1250
28 80 175 500 450 1300
30 90 185 530 470 1350
35 100 195 560 485 1400
45 130 210 600 505 1450

Final NOTE on movement: Armor has an effect on your Move and Maneuverability. Keep this in mind when you design this part.

1-E: ENERGY ATTACKS

This brings us to the major portion of the vehicle’s power consumption, Energy Weapons! What you will be purchasing here is the Base Damage of Each Attack, NOT the number of weapons. In other words, this is the Number of Attacks your vehicle has each turn. The number of weapons your vehicle will have is covered in the Aesthetics section.

Remember that this step involves purchasing how many attacks your ship gets, not how many weapons are esthetically on the ship; the cosmetic appearance doesn’t matter. The following chart details the amount of damage you get from the power you put into the system.

Damage Power
1D 2
1D +1 4
1D+2 6
2D 8
2D +1 11
2D +2 14
3D 17
3D+1 21
3D+2 25
4D 29
4D+1 34
4D+2 39
5D 44
5D+1 50
5D+2 56
6D 62

NOTE: If buying a Tractor Beam weapon add 3D to damage. As a side note, it would be suggested that when considering Tractor Beam damage it should be used versus Engine size as strength. Every “wound” received would move you closer to capture.

Additionally Gravity Well Projectors or such type weapons have to be bought at the 6D cost due to the power required to disrupt Hyperspace.

As an additional bonus you can purchase “Batteries” for your attacks. These allow you to go above the 6D limit in damage, up to a max of 11D, however they are limited to vehicles at size 8 and up due to the amount of power stored in them. The bonus to this is that once purchased the bonus applies to almost all energy weapons. Limit 1 per ship.

Damage Power
+1 3
+2 6
1D 9
1D +1 13
1D+2 17
2D 21
2D +1 26
2D +2 31
3D 36
3D+1 42
3D+2 48
4D 54
4D+1 61
4D+2 68
5D 75

NOTE: Does not apply to Ion or Tractor Beam type weapons.

I-F: TARGETING SYSTEMS

Weapon systems cannot be considered to be complete without a targeting system. The basic targeting system starts at -1D due to the ranges, jammers, and moving targets in vehicular combat. With the aid of programs or droid brains it is possible to improve the chance to hit the desired target. Just as with Energy Damage this is purchased per attack, NOT per weapon.

Fire Control Power
-1D 0
-2 1
-1 2
0 3
+1 4
+2 5
1D 6
1D +1 8
1D+2 10
2D 12
2D +1 15
2D +2 18
3D 21
3D+1 25
3D+2 29
4D 33
4D +1 38
4D +2 43
5D 48
5D+1 54
5D+2 60
6D 66

I-G: HYPERDRIVE

And now we have arrived at the apex of travel modes in Star Wars, the Hyperdrive! If your ship is a space worthy ship then it is assumed that the ship was built with the capability to have Hyperdrive. With a few exceptions this is true and thus there is no Hull Space penalty for a Hyperdrive and more efficient Hyperdrives are only that way because they are made of better materials, not that necessarily that they are larger or smaller.

Multiplier Power
x15 3
x10 5
x5 7
x4 10
x3 13
x2.5 17
x2 21
x1.5 26
x1 31
x.90 37
x.75 43
x.60 50
x.45 57
x.30 65
x.20 73
x.10 81

I-H: SHIELDS

Now we have reached the best defensive item of vehicles, Shields! Unlike Hull rating, shields must be deliberately placed at each attack angle: Bow, Aft, Port and Starboard. Each sector covers a three-dimensional arc, so only four angles are needed. Some alien species divide their shield space differently, but the end result is the same. Ships may purchase Ray shields, which are good against Energy Weapons, and Concussion shields, which are strong against physical impacts, Missiles, Torpedoes, Projectiles, etc.

Many smaller starships and fighter craft carry a combination shield, which protects against both. However, such shields are less effective, acting at 1D6 less than the numerical rating bought. Shields of 1D are normal for most fighters with shields. Even Large Capital vehicles rarely go above 3D. Generally only top of the line military vessels buy 4D and only Titanic vehicles and Planets have the space to buy the 6D or higher rating. The following table details Power costs for Shields:

Shield Strength

Power

+1

1

+2

3

1D

5

1D +1

7

1D+2

9

2D

11

2D +1

15

2D +2

19

3D

23

3D+1

29

3D+2

35

4D

41

4D +1

49

4D +2

57

5D

65

5D+1

75

5D+2

85

6D

95

I-I: SENSORS

Most vehicles have some sort of sensors, but some rely on the Driver’s awareness through open portals while others have sensors specifically designed to keep the vehicle out of danger. There are four levels to sensor packages, Passive, Scan, Search, and Focus. Each level has a range and die bonus for the user, generally denoted as Range/Bonus. The range is the amount of “Space Units” that the sensors can detect (see the movement table from I-D for equivalent atmospheric range). The basic Sensor package gives you 80 points to spend between Passive, Scan, and Search modes, with a starting 1 point in Focus mode. It also grants a total of 0/1/2/3 die of bonus for the sensor skill. Most ships divide the Basic package as; Passive (15/0D), Scan (25/1D), Search (40/2D), and Focus (1/3D). While the range is increased by pumping more power into the systems, the bonus die increases by having better readouts and sensors. The following tables list the costs for increasing sensor effectiveness:

Range Power
80 0
120 5
135 10
150 15
165 20
180 26
195 32
210 38
225 46
240 54
255 62
280 73
315 84
350 95
385 110
420 125
455 140
490 160
525 180
570 200

NOTE: When dividing the numbers up into the component parts Passive is always the Lowest (aside from Focus) and Search is always the highest. No two can have the same number and Passive cannot be allocated less than 10.

Focus Power
2 5
3 10
4 15
5 20
6 30
7 40
8 55
9 75
10 90

.

Bonus Die HS
+1 5
+2 10
1D 15
1D+1 30
1D+2 45
2D 60
2D+1 80
2D+2 100
3D 120

NOTE: The bonus die start at 3D for focus and then have 1D removed for each step down. For a complete understanding of how Sensor function please see page 120 of the Star Wars D6 2nd Edition Revised Rulebook.

Section II (Hull and Consumption):

With most of the Power allocated now, we can start on the items that actively use the Hull Space (HS). This section deals with the various items that use HS but are not always on a ship, such as Projectile weapons, Hidden Compartments, Repair Bay, Medical Bay, Docking & Cargo, Armor, Food Stores, Back up Hyperdrives, and Reserve Shields.

II-A: AMMO ATTACKS

Our first item will be the Ammo type weapons. This includes Missiles, Torpedoes, Bombs, Mines, Harpoons, and miscellaneous Projectiles. Since the damage that these weapons deliver varies so much depending on the type of warhead attached, we will not be dealing with the damage they deal. Instead we will focus on the number of reloads your ship can handle before it
has to be reloaded. As a reminder, just as with Energy weapons in section I-E, you are buying reloading capacity per attack not per weapon.

As a side note, your ammo weapons are not interchangeable. If you buy reloads for a Torpedo launcher you cannot then stock it with missiles, unless you have the Torpedo launcher removed and a Missile launcher installed. The following table details the HS cost per reload of the chosen ammo type:

Type HS Cost Notes # Shots/Reload
Missiles 2 Full damage against Fighter craft, -1D6 damage against other types of
vehicles. 1D3 turns before impact.
1D6
Projectile 1 Concussion Shields lose 1D6 power
when hit by these, does not damage
the vehicle until shields are removed.
1D6
Torpedo 4 Full targeting against Capital Class
ships, -2D6 Fire Control against other
types of vehicles. 1D3 turns before
impact.
1D6
Mine 6 Cost is per Mine not per reload here.
These can be placed anytime, even
during battle, however there is no Fire
Control for this weapon. Once placed
you have no control of where it goes
or when it goes off.
1
Bombs 8 Once launched they will “fall”
towards the largest mass in vicinity,
which is why they are rarely used
outside of an orbit. Since bombs can
be deployed via opening a bay door
and unloading, cost here is for
number of rounds until payload has
been fully deployed. There are no
reloads until resupplied.
2D6
Harpoon 1 Great for tripping Walkers or
anchoring to another vehicle, not so
great for damage. Most commonly
used by Bounty Hunters and Pirates
to keep their pray from escaping, the
Harpoon is highly adaptable and
easily changed. Each reload comes
with 500 meters of Tow Cable. If a
Tow Cable is Attached the damage
from the Harpoon is 0.
With Cable 1No Cable 1D6

NOTE: The Cost here includes your first attack with that weapon type.The cost to reload any attack is the same as above, however if you wish to have more than one attack the following table details that cost and some customization of your self-propelled weapons:

Type Extra Attack Extra Damage Extra Shots/Reload (1D6
per)
Missiles 4 4 2
Projectile 3 2 1
Torpedo 6 5 4
Mine NA 10 NA
Bombs 10 12 5
Harpoon 3 2 2

NOTE: Harpoons can be upgraded in damage or cable length, every additional Extra Damage bought will give 500m of cable. The amount of Extra Damage is dependent on two things here, 1)  The amount of money you are willing to spend, and 2) GM discretion.

Notice here that there is no Power cost to projectile weapons since they are self propelled. However they still need programming and targeting, see Section I-F for Fire Controls.

II-B: SMUGGLING

One of the key components for any smuggler or bounty hunter is the Secret Compartments. Even if you are not a participant in such activities, it is still a nice idea to have a couple of small compartments for hiding items that the local authorities believe are contraband. But to really fool the authorities the compartment needs to look and feel as if it is just another section of paneling. The following table details the costs associated with Hidden Compartments:

Size HS Cost Power per 1D of Hide
Small (Foot Locker) 1 2
Medium (Human Size) 2 4
Large (Half Bath Size) 4 6
XL (Full Room) 16 specific, 8 converted 8 / 10

NOTE: XL compartments can be bought as Hidden only (16) or Passenger Compartment Convertible (8). The added power cost for the Convertible is to hide the power signatures of the livable compartment’s amenities. The starting difficulty to find a Hidden Compartment is 15. The Power cost adds 1D difficulty to find the compartment when searching due to the incorporation of power conduits through the opening hatch. There is a limit of +4D to all but the XL size which has a limit of +6D but the starting difficulty to find an XL compartment starts at 10.

II-C: REPAIR

Repair Bays are often found on freighters and larger ships. Depending on what your ship will be doing and how long it will tend to be out of dock, you could stock up on anything from droids to replacement parts. The following table details the initial cost to include various sizes of repair capabilities, the cost to improve them, and a short description:

Repair Bays Install Upgrade Description
Work Shop 6 4 More material to work with or better
tools
Spare Parts 12 6 More parts to work with
Fabricating 24 10 More scrap material to manipulate
Complete Repair 48 14 Manual libraries and the ability to
upgrade on the fly
Droids 2/droid 1/droid/option Better Equipped or Programmed
Droids

NOTE: Every step up in Bay size includes the previous size’s items and one upgrade. The exception is the Droid option here, which effectively stands alone. Droids are also bought at only 2 or 3 or 4 each depending on how they are upgraded if at all, and they do not have to all be upgraded the same amount.

Generally anything smaller than a freighter only carries droids for emergency repairs. Freighters and small Capital ships might go as high as a Fabricating Bay, however they will not be able to do incorporate Complete Repair Bays. Large Capital ships may have a Complete Repair Bay, and Titanic vessels may even have more than one.

II-D: MEDICAL SUITE

Next up is the Medical Bay! Even the smallest of vehicles at least have a First Aid kit on board. The larger the ship the more elaborate and complete the Medical Suite becomes. The following table details the initial cost and upgrade costs as well as a description of abilities:

Medical Suite Install Upgrade Description
First Aid Kits 2/BHin Kits 2 Each upgrade – kits better stocked
but bulkier
First Aid Station 4 2 Extra Beds, Extra Droids, etc.
Informatory 6 4 More Beds, More Droids, Privacy
Screens, etc.
Bacta Tanks 10 6 Start 3 tanks per Suite, upgrade to
3 per, etc
Surgical Suite 14 10 Includes all medical suite options
above + staff

Fighter craft and smaller can never have more than just Kits on them. Bacta Tanks and Surgical Suites generally are only installed on Capital class and larger vehicles., but bounty hunters, adventurers, and other characters with violent lifestyles may put them into smaller vessels.

II-E: BAYS

Bays are options on Capital Class and up ONLY. Bays and Crew Quarters are the main reason that ships in Star Wars scale exponentially and therefore they also work slightly differently than other items that use HS points. In the case of Docking Bays a vehicle may never dock another vehicle inside that has a Base Hull (BH) plus Size equal to or higher than its Size. Each purchase here gives you a number of slots to use to dock or store items. Those slots are then used up by the BH of the ship(s) that are docked. The following table details the costs for Bays and a description of upgrades:

Bay Type HS/2Min slots Upgrade Description
Star Fighter 40 25 Power Add auto launch or retrieval options
Docking 40 10 HS Upgrade to convertible space in Cargo Bays
Cargo 5 10 HS5 Power Add cranes, conveyers, warehouse supplies,
etc.

NOTE: 1) Once you buy the Docking upgrade may also pay the upgrade cost of the Cargo bay and gain that upgrade in the Docking bay. 2) A Cargo bay may never be upgraded to a Docking bay, Cargo bays just do not have the room for the facilities needed handle anything larger than a supply shuttle. 3) The purchasing price for a Cargo bay gives you 10*10M in Max metric tons of
cargo capacity, but generally does not handle much more than the 10M. 4) A converted Docking bay gives you 50M in Max tonnage. But for every Ton of cargo you will lose 2 Slots of Docking capacity (cannot fall below zero) because of the equipment to move and store the cargo.

II-F: ARMOR

Now we come to the Second line of defense for many vehicles, Armor! Armor is a very interesting area of the ships exterior hull. Please note exterior there, which means that it does not actually cost all that much Hull wise to install. That stated, please keep in mind that Armor rapidly adds mass to a vehicle and mass tends to make a vehicle a bit sluggish to respond.

Armor Strength

HS

1D

3

1D +1

4

1D+2

5

2D

6

2D +1

8

2D +2

10

3D

12

3D+1

15

3D+2

18

4D

21

4D +1

25

4D +2

29

5D

33

5D+1

38

5D+2

43

6D

48

NOTE: For every 1D in armor your vehicle will receive a -1 Maneuverability and -1 Space Movement. So at 3D Armor you have -1D Maneuverability and -3 Movement penalties.

II-G: FOOD STORES

Any long trip, be it across country, planet, or galaxy requires that a supply of nutrition be at hand. For you vehicle you will be adding a Food Stores area that contains said supply of bodily fuel. Every upgrade in Food Supply gives you better food.

Food Stores HS/2 weeks Upgrade
1 1

NOTE: Upgrades apply to only one week of food, not the entire Store. To upgrade the entire Store it would cost 2HS/week. Additionally if your vehicle will not have a full week of store, you can use spare Quarter Points (See Section III-F).

II-H: BACKUP HYPERDRIVE AND RESERVE SHIELDS

There are two things that you never want to happen. One is get stuck in the middle of nothingness without a Hyperdrive to get you home, and two get stuck in a fire fight and have your shields fail. Here we address both of these events by supplying the option of Hyperdrive Backups and Shield Reserves! The reason these are in the Hull Space expenditure part is because you have already spent the power for each of these via the Power supply to the original objects. For the case of the Hyperdrive you are just buying the space to store your spare, albeit weaker, Hyperdrive and for the Shield you are buying the space to install capacitors that can discharge and reenergize your shields. Unfortunately you do have to run all those power cables to both locations in the case of the Hyperdrive, so the better the drive the larger the cable to it for backup.

Multiplier HS
x15 5*M
x10 7*M
x5 9*M
x4 11*M
x3 13*M
x2.5 15*M
x2 17*M
x1.5 20*M
x1 23*M
x.90 26*M
x.75 30*M
x.60 34*M
x.45 38*M
x.30 43*M
x.20 48*M
x.10 53*M

.

Reserve HS
1D 5
1D+1 7
1D+2 9
2D 11
2D+1 13
2D+2 15
3D 17
3D+1 20
3D+2 23
4D 26
4D+1 30
4D+2 34
5D 38
5D+1 43
5D+2 48
6D 53

Section III (Aesthetics and Extras):

This section covers the Extra options that you can place on your vehicle, functional or not, and the Aesthetic feel of it. Covered here are the Extras; Central Droid Command, Landing Gear, Cafeterias, Cloaking, and Ship Security. Also covered are the Aesthetic items of your vehicle; Crew/Passenger/Prisoner Quarters, Actual Number of Weapons, Escape Pods, and Miscellaneous Appearance Items.

III-A: DROID CONTROL

A Central Droid Command has not seen massive use since the Clone Wars. Via use of a Comm system this device enables you to control an army of droids. The major bonus for this is that all droids receive a +2 bonus on all skill and attribute rolls due to the number of droids focused on the task, however this leaves a -2 penalty for initiative due to waiting on commands.

Central Droid
Command
unit
Power HS Cost Upgrade Description
50 50 5 Power The initial unit can control around 500 droids, upgrades add 250 to this number without slowing down the processing abilities of the unit or droids.

III-B: LANDING GEAR

Many vehicles have Landing Gear but often this is left out of the description or planning and are just added in afterwards. But here we have the option of incorporating said Gear into your vehicle from the start. You might be wondering why do we need to incorporate this? Well if your vehicle can travel planet side and land, it would look funny if you were asked if you had landing gear and you had to answer no. So to keep this interesting here are some added features that you can give your Landing Gear.

Landing Gear HS Cost Description
Standard 0 Access pads and flat ground
Clawed 2 Additional access to cliffs and unsteady ground
Pontoon 2 Additional access to water (need not be
Seaworthy)
Anchor Point 4 So long as there is room your ship can land and
hold itself there
Special 1-4 Insert your Description here!

III-C: FOOD PREPARATION

Another often overlooked component of vehicle’s is the Cafeteria. Anything larger than a Fighter or Skiff will have some sort of food preparation area. Depending on your tastes you can have somewhat elaborate dining areas. Capital ships have to have at least 1 Dining area.

Cafeterias HS Cost Upgrade (each) Description
Mini Bar 2 2 Fridge & light snacks, upgrade for
better food
Kitchenette 4 2 Small cooking area, upgrade staff &
seating
Dinning 8 4 Complete Cooking, upgrade quality
& space
Mess Hall 16 10 Cap. Class up, see above for
Upgrades

III-D: CLOAKING DEVICES

Cloaking Devices sound like they are a really good idea, but there are some issues with using them. One issue is that a cloaking device that works great in space is virtually useless in atmosphere and vice versa. Another is that if a device is truly affective at hiding your vehicles signature from others the odds are also great that you will be hiding them (and any obstacles in your path) from yourself as well. But if you are really gung-ho about having one, or just want to keep people from passively noticing you they can be really handy at times.

Cloak Bonus Power Description
2D 25 Great for passing through a crowd unnoticed
4D 50 Was that a ripple in the sky?
6D 75 If they don’t know you are there they will never see you
8D 100 Good luck finding you

NOTE: Dual systems cost and extra 10/20/30/40 to compensate for the differences in needs from Space to Atmosphere.

III-E: SECURITY

Ever lay awake at night worrying that your ship will be boarded? Well fear not, with Automated Ship Security you know you will be warned before they ever get to you. Ship Security provides defense bonuses during boarding attempts.

Ship Security Power
+1 5
+2 10
1D 15
1D+1 20
Every +1 +5 cost

NOTE: This can be upgraded, 15 Power & 2 HS per remotely operated Blaster Turret

III-F: QUARTERS

First item in the Aesthetics department will be the Personnel Quarters. Quarters are the other half of the reason vehicles scale exponentially and like with Bays they work a bit differently than everything else.The first question here is how many people does it take to operate your vehicle? Next, how what are the max passengers you are expecting to carry? Finally, how many Prisoners do you expect to take on at one time? Once you have these three numbers, Crew, Passenger, and Prisoners you can start to get an idea for how large your vehicle will end up truly being. Like with Bay in Section II, Quarters will use the Modifier (M) number from your vehicle size. Cabin size ratings put Passengers at top with the most spacious rooms, followed by Crew, and then finally Prisoners.


Living Slots Typical Size Passenger Crew Prisoners HS Cost anycombo
A* (2) 2 1 1 0 0
B (4) 4 2 2 0 M
C (80) 7 10 60 10 2M
D (10,500) 10 400 10,000 100 3M
E (61,000) 12 10,000 50,000 1,000 5M
F (105,000) 14 25,000 75,000 5,000 8M
G (168,000) 15+ 50,000 113,000 5,000 12M

NOTE: Listed here are suggested divisions of rooms, however you can divvy the space up as you please. If you do not use all the Living slots granted you can always say the rest is taken up by extra crew storage space, or game rooms, or lost to high ranking officers requiring larger rooms, etc. This is all about the feel of your vehicle after all.

* Can only be purchased by Size 1 or 2 vehicles and can only be purchased once.

Now there are several types of Quarters that can be used to fill in the Aesthetic portion of this:

Type Living Slot Cost
Ride 0
Spartan 1
Ordinary 2
Luxurious 5

NOTE: Food stores for short usage can be bought at 2 Days to 1 Living Slot.

III-G: WEAPONS

As stated before, you buy attacks and not necessarily the weapons. Now we get to the part where you get your weapon totals. This is interesting because you could feasibly have lots of weapons, look really impressive and only have 1 attack. In this case loss of a weapon would not mean loss of an attack. Earlier you bought the number of attacks your vehicle could use, that determines the number of different weapon styles your ship can have. If you have two attacks you can have say a Quad Laser grouping and a Missile Launcher grouping, however if you only had one attack you would only be able to have either the Quad Laser or Missile Launcher groupings not both.

Either way you only have one attack per weapon group. By purchasing your attack(s) earlier you get your vehicles Size in weapons, and if your vehicle is a Capitol Class (Size 8) or larger then it may have up to 10 base weapons per attack. This does not mean you have to have the max number of weapons, remember this is about making your vehicle’s description feel real. The following table details the price to increase the amount of weapons your vehicle has per attack:

Max Weapons (Size <8) Max Weapons (Size 8) HS Cost
Size 10/Attack 0
2*Size 20/Attack 5/Attack
4*Size 40/Attack 10/Attack
6*Size 60/Attack 15/Attack

Titanic Vehicles get an additional two options for their weapons:

NA +5M/Attack 20/Attack
NA +10M/Attack 30/Attack

NOTE: The two Titanic (Size 15+) choices here are in addition to the initial 10 per attack.

A final thought here, you might want to consider giving each weapon a Firing Arc. This aids you in envisioning vehicular battles. It can also give you a particular area that your vehicle is best defended or weakest at. This is purely an aesthetic feel, but if you want your vehicle to be able to shoot only at things in front of you it would be a good idea to list that at construction. Common Firing Arc directions are Bow, Aft, Port, Starboard, and Turret (360 degree plane, 180 degree dome). However unconventional vehicle designs may also include Top, Bottom, or any designation that fits your particular design.

III-H: ESCAPE PODS

The most often overlooked item on a vehicle is the Escape Pod. Most vehicles are designed with enough to let everyone escape, usually 2-4 in a pod. But you can opt for having no Escape Pods on your ship. Since this is an option and ships are usually built with them anyways the grand total to have pods is M in HS Cost. These can be anywhere from Ejector Seats to the actual Pods on the side of the hull. More elaborate pods cost 2M instead (they are after all just lifeboats until rescue). But if you wish to have a single massive pod for your Grand General, it will cost HS equal to M*BH of the size of the Escape Yacht.

III-I: MARKINGS

Finally we reach the conclusion of this explanation. The last thing to keep in mind when you are building your Vehicle are its special and unique markings. This can be anywhere from blaster scoring to racing stripes. Just remember to give your vehicle its own flare, it is your special creation and – like your character – has its own quarks and personality.

The Burning Wrath of the Terrible Eye

Melting metal in a ladle for casting

Image via Wikipedia

A Practical Enchanter question: I have an idea for a wand of fire that can only harm orcs, nothing else. Would that be a decrease in cost as the target is extremely limited or an increase as the wand won’t cause collateral damage (eg forest fires)?

-Derek

That’s an upgrade. After all, an explosion isn’t very complicated, and it’s the nature of fire to burn whatever it hits – but now you not only need to produce fire, but you have to carefully control it so as to hit only specific targets.

Since that is a fixed effect it’s not as bad as the full Targeting (+3 spell levels) option on the Sculpting Metamagic (from Eclipse), but it’s definitely pretty handy.

  • Surrounded by orcs? Ground-zero fireball.
  • Six orcs piled up on a friend? Fireball those too.
  • Orcs holding hostages? Fireball them all and let the wand sort it out.

Not so useful if you can’t find any orcs of course – but if that’s the case, no one would come up with such a thing.

Perhaps a Phantasm might work better. After all, that’s a very underused type of spell – the SRD only lists Dream, Illusory Script, Nightmare, Phantasmal Killer, and Weird in the basic spells category – and a phantasm spell that only affects creatures who already have a particular set of experiences or cultural beliefs (since it relies on those to work) could reasonably be less complex and require less power. Ergo “Recall the Dark Waters” – a version of Phantasmal Killer which only works on targets who have memories of nearly drowning – might well be a mere second level spell. It’s much less versatile and useful than the generic Phantasmal Killer spell of course.

So… “Burning Wrath of the Terrible Eye” – a phantasm spell which only affects worshipers of the local God of Orcs – might look something like this:

Burning Wrath of the Terrible Eye

  • Illusion (Phantasm) [Fear, Mind-Affecting]
  • Level: Sor/Wiz 3
  • Components: V, S
  • Casting Time: 1 standard action
  • Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
  • Target: All creatures in a 20′ radius who are vulnerable to Phantasms AND who worship the local Orc God or Pantheon.
  • Duration: Instantaneous
  • Saving Throw: Will disbelief if affected, then Fortitude partial; see text
  • Spell Resistance: Yes

Burning Wrath of the Terrible Eye draws on the victims own worship and fear of the terrible powers and anger of the local Orcish Gods, focusing the uncontrolled psychic energies present in every mind through that minds own belief. Only those who worship the Orcish Gods can percieve the terrible manifestation of “their” vengeance, and so only they can be affected. Those who make a successful Will save will resist the spell in the first place, and will see nothing but vague images. Those believers who fail will suffer 8d6 points of damage, although they may make a Fortitude save to halve that damage.

A first level version – “The Lesser Wrath of the Terrible Eye” – only targets a single creature and only does 6d6 (or 3d6 on a successful Fortitude save) damage, but is otherwise be pretty much identical.

Now that will let you make an interesting wand of orc blasting – although you will fail if you’re up against an orc atheist, or one who’s been raised to worship some other set of gods, or something like that – and you may blast the occasional non-orc who’s been raised to worship the orc gods.

Spells like that are never going to become too common – they’re too specialized for that – but they’ll certainly be unusual and interesting when they do pop up.

For a bonus answer, we have Editorial0

It’s an upgrade.

The Practical Enchanter notes that spell levels are controlled by Power AND Complexity. Spells which hunt orcs are more complex, not less. Hitting only orcs is probably a +1 or +2. (I have to double-check some sources on that).

Granted, sometimes you can get away with a cheaper effect based on the “natural” forces of a certain game universe. If fire elementals and similar creatures are actively harmed by water, then a spell which creates some water also functions as an effective combat spell against them and only them. And you can cut the magic which ties an outsider to the world. But generally, focused and discriminate magic is more complex, and more expensive, than otherwise.

There might be some variations, too. You possibly could work on a sickness spell which only creates illnesses which hurt orcs. That’s be uncommon, but at least theoretically possible. And that might be eligible for a cost break. On the other hand, it’s a lot less practical than a Fireball, too.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 156 – The Carnival of Cats

Sausages from Réunion

Image via Wikipedia

Hm. The three-year mark for this particular game.

With the books being carried back to their ships by some of Kevin’s entourage, Kevin abruptly realized what he’d forgotten at the bookstore – haggling. Considering that it was rather unlikely that a randomly-selected bookseller had books worth more than a trading fleet, they’d probably overpaid by a factor of ten or so. Oh well! One VERY happy bookseller there!

Meanwhile, he’d found a sausage vendor selling what – as a human – would have been perfectly horrendous sausages… As a Wolf, they were just right!

Conley checked out the sausages Kevin was wolfing down, and decided to wait a bit to sample the local cusine. A street festival probably wasn’t the place to go looking for the better dishes anyway… Besides, he had a lot of reading to do!

Marty was looking over the event list again. There were races, brawling, feats of strength, music, drinking, sociability, debate, trivia, lying, and dancing, along with some less-formalized events… He opted to sign up for racing and sociability – even if he still hadn’t found out exactly what that event entailed. Not drinking though. There’d be plenty of time for that anyway. Feats of strength? Nah, he wasn’t a specialist in that and didn’t want to embarrass himself. Debate? Maybe when it came up. It might be incompatible with drinking.

Kevin signed up for dancing – although he also checked on what “sociability” contests were about. He’d take whatever partner he could find. After all, he didn’t know any local dances, and wasn’t intending to use a lot of magic; this is simply for fun and to show off his natural talents a bit. He so rarely got to and this WAS just for fun!

He elected to keep an eye out for someone suitable.

They apparently entailed a competition… Numerous ladies and gentlemen throughout the festival had been given red ribbons. The objective was to convince as many of them as possible to give the contestant the ribbons. Mind magic was, of course, strictly forbidden. Whoever returned with the most ribbons was considered the winner – and it was generally considered more sporting to use social skills to get the ribbons, as opposed to mundane or magical theft. Fabricating ribbons was also against the rules of course – but personal buffs (within reason) were considered fair enough. It ran through the length of the festival, and was the last event to be judged.

Marty thought that sounded like fun! He’d see how far his best excellent plumage spell would get him then!

Kevin thought it sounded rather like a courting-game to him, and he was having pangs of conscience at the moment; he opted not to get involved. Besides! He had to save room for the parties tomorrow! And possibly save time for going panther-chasing if the map arrived in time!

Marty promptly went ribbon-chasing… It would be more fun to prowl around and try to wheedle some out of people than to just go around demanding the things!

Hm… Yes indeed, there were quite a few people who were wandering around the festival wearing a red ribbon on their arms, neck, or head. Mostly in small groups, although a few were running around solo. Was that because the individuals were especially confident, or were they especially nervous? In any case, groups would obviously be harder to charm or impress, but the rewards were correspondingly greater…

Time to test the waters! Marty tried approaching one of the loners…

(Marty) “Good evening!”

(Loner) “Evening! And how are you doing?”

(Marty) “I’m feeling great! Say, that’s a nice ribbon you have there! Looks good on you!”

(Loner) “Why thank you, now you wouldn’t happen to be one of those people trying to get their hands on my ribbon now would you?”

(Marty) “Good, clever fellow! Yes I am. Really does look good on you, though. Really brings out the color in your fur”

(Kevin, on the private links) “Hey, why not try ‘No! Never! But they are! Look out! You’d better give that to me for safekeeping!”?

Conley had to admit that it would impressive if you could win using THAT tactic.

(Loner) “Awwww, now you are going to have to give me a compelling reason for giving this to you. Perhaps doing something impressive? Or maybe giving me something in exchange?”

(Marty) “I can do that, I think!”

He drew on his mystical public speaking – since that was apparently considered fair – to evoke delight and made a most stirring speech  about the wonderful festival, and how he hoped that it would be full of joy, mirth, and pleasure.

(Kevin, privately) “You could just invite them to your own party later!”

(Marty) “If we have enough time to fit one in, why not? It’s not like we can’t afford it.”

(Loner) “A resounding speech there, full of optimism and life! Plus an offer of a party to boot. I think that might be worth one little ribbon. Here you go!”

(Marty) “Thanks a lot!”

Marty hung the ribbon around his neck, since it would be too cumbersome on a wing.

Hey? Why not impressions? They’d always gone over well at the office parties… Marty headed for a group… hm… didn’t want to offend people… Kevin (who was watching the jugglers and the acrobats) threw in a few suggestions, and he wound up doing a generic busybody port official, that otter fellow they’d bet with (since there weren’t any other otters in the immediate vicinity at the moment), and Kevin.

Sadly, Kevin was not yet well enough known to be a good target and just confused people a bit (which, come to think of it, might change but was often a PERFECT impersonation of Kevin), but the others went over very well – and got him some more ribbons!

He’d thought of doing Eight-and-a-Half-Tails too – after all, she hadn’t seemed to care too much about what people thought of her, and might even have found word of a good impersonation charming – but Kevin had thought that the crowd might not like it…

Kevin, meanwhile, had moved on to the illusion-casting talespinners – but found that they didn’t fare all that well in comparison to personal adventures in the Manifold or even the full-sensory immersive virtual realities of the Core, even if the traditional tales had a certain charm of their own. Still, they were an EXCELLENT distraction for the young pickpockets, and he made sure that his pockets were well-stocked with his food-producing pouches and their recruitment messages.

Still no rabbits or wolverines waiting to ambush him in back alleys though… He had the Thralls check to see if any traces of those rabbits had turned up; depending on how the rest of the rabbits reacted, they could have been sent off to an expert for treatment, be leading a revenge party of robot rabbit ninja, be hiding in shame to wait out their curses, or be up for sale on the slave market… The Thralls didn’t turn up anything though. Ergo, most likely being hidden by their clan, which meant that the attempt to open a clan war was a more-or-less official policy, and the three would be getting sympathy rather than scorn (save, perhaps, for losing). The Thralls did report that a number of Rabbits were prowling about the festival making general nuisances of themselves though… None near their ships or the Platypus facilities though!

Marty tried business negotiations on the next group! He had plenty of trinkets available to trade for ribbons! He deliberately avoided offering anything BUT trinkets. Offering disproportionate trades was no challenge at all and would be quite unfair to the other competitors – but he still went looking for the wealthiest and most influential group he could find… Might as well make a few business contacts along the way! It would suggests that he was wealthy enough to offer them much more than mere trinkets!

Ah! There was a group that was composed almost entirely of felines – and seemed to include several higher-ups in their house even! Marty moved in… Cats would be a hard group to impress, especially for a Parrot! They would be a challenge!

(Head Cat to Marty) “Ah, has this brave young bird come to offer something to us? And what pray tell could such a delectable morsel wish to offer us?”

Marty puffed out his chest to display what he had to offer for ribbons! An assortment of nice, but not tasteless, necklaces, bracelets, headbands, and other jewelry, even fancier than ribbons!

His sales pitch went fairly well…

(Tiger) “A tempting offer to be sure, but not offering a meal as part of the deal? Where’s the treating your business partners? The wining and dining?”

All right… there were plenty of food stands around; there had to be at least one that was selling something tasty made with good red meat (other than not military macaw!) for all the Cats!

Hm… There was a Canine wandering around with a portable grill on his chest and back who was selling a number of meaty foods. Still, his goods didn’t look quite suitable… Not to mention the fact that – judging by Kevin and his ongoing consumption of sausages – the local canines liked some very odd spice combinations!

Ah, there were a few more elaborate stands! He treated the cats to some excellent little stuffed and roasted birds on sticks with some decent wines and side-dishes!

Meanwhile, Kevin was growing annoyed… The rabbits appeared to be determined to spoil his fun! They were making trouble, harassing the performers, annoying the other party goers, and trying to spoil the food and drink… Evidently the cats were sponsoring the festival, which neatly explained Marty’s little cluster of high-ranking ones. They’d also be the prime targets for being pestered, so he dispatched a few Thralls to watch over Marty and the Cats – as well as more of them to scatter throughout the fair and suppress trouble while harassing troublemakers with their own psychic powers. Witchcraft was SO good for that – and starting a fight with them would play into their hands.

Marty didn’t see the rabbit using a little magic to fill his purchases with laxatives – but one of the Thralls did, and promptly used a bit of molecular telekinesis to transfer the laxatives back into the rabbit’s digestive tract.

Meanwhile, Kevin was having a few Thralls go and plant a vaguely-menacing horde of very crude and tacky ceramic garden gnomes on the rabbit clan properties – complete with a charm that made them seem to sneak up on people whenever they weren’t looking. The Thralls so rarely got to play this way! He gave them Carte Blanche for small practical jokes and harassment of the Rabbits!… Well, so long as they didn’t go completely overboard.

Marty did note the Thrall altering the food he’d just ordered, including the food of the other patrons. And the Tigers look to be pleased with the offer of food.

(Marty, privately) “Hey Kevin! What’s up with the food tinkering?”

Kevin explained on the private link.

(Marty) “Ah! Damn. They really are making pests of themselves, aren’t they?”

(Kevin) “Yep! I wonder why? Trying to take over on sheer numbers perhaps? Wanting more room?”

(Marty) “I don’t suppose this has anything to do with those muggers you caught, does it? I mean, I don’t think the Rabbits are in to crime that much.”

(Kevin) “Oh, them? They seemed to be out to start a clan war for some reason.”

(Marty) “Well, the Cats are running this, so that’s the most likely target.”

Marty continued his meal with the Tigers, being brave amidst some of the Parrots’ natural predators. After the meal, they did indeed give him a number of ribbons in exchange for the food and items. The Tigers looked forward to seeing him in the future, few were brave enough to just come forth and speak with them. He thanked the Tigers for doing business with him and wished them a good evening – before putting his ribbon collection around his neck, head, and legs.

It looked like he was… currently in second place (although not by too much), behind a young Fox kid.

He headed over to one of the other groups and do a little singing. He didn’t have any mystic artist powers that went with singing, but he was pretty decent!

Kevin was doing more checking… He didn’t get many rabbit-kid recruits around here – and they only seemed to be the weaker and less talented ones. He got more recruits from the other clans, even though they were less populous…

The rabbits were seriously up to something.

Marty put on a spectacular performance, drew a bit of a crowd in the process, and pulled cleanly into the lead as he began to build a reputation for his versatility in the performing arts.

This was fun! He tried acrobatics next, to show that he was more than a pretty voice!

Meanwhile, Kevin was muttering darkly about Rabbits spoiling his fun with noxious pranks – and allowing his own mystical oratory skills to broadcast sheer nightmarish unholy terror into the minds of anyone nearby who fell into the “rabbit troublemaker” group.

That cleared out a number of them.

Kevin kept complaining under his voice for a bit – but then forgot about it.

Marty’s acrobatic performance went well enough, wasn’t quite wowing the crowd… Ribbons were still coming in, but a particularly specular spectacle right now could cinch matters. Hm… probably not martial arts, so he resorted to psychic witchcraft for  illusions and light tricks. It wasn’t enough to really wow the crowd – but it did bring in a few more ribbons, putting him in first place by a good margin.

Kevin felt it wasn’t quite fair there! Marty had quite an edge on any normal person and so the charming and talented fox kid would need a consolation prize! He’d just have to arrange one!

The usual prize looked to be is a meal with the head of the Cat Clan and (typically) an offer of employment. That was a bit tricky… The kid was about ten years old, and had been using a combination of social skills and illusory art to wow the crowd, but was now being overwhelmed by Marty.

(Marty, privately) “Are you going to make him an offer, Kevin? He is pretty good!”

(Kevin) “Hrm. Probably a bit young for employment and has excellent prospects on his own, so he has no real need to sign up as a thrall – although he certainly can if he’s interested. A meal is easy.. perhaps assign him an aide?”

Yes, that would do! He decided to assign the kid a vixen thrall-girl with enough age-shifting to match his age and then “age normally” thereafter. He’d tell the kid that – as a consolation prize – she’d been assigned to his service for as long as he wished. Slavery was accepted locally, so there’d be no problem there – and that covered the “job” too, since the Thralls all had incomes!

Marty got word of that a few moments later. Oh dear… Even Kevin usually had more of a sense of proportion than THAT. The kid would surely appreciate it when he hit puberty, and Thralls WERE incredibly helpful – but that WAS a bit much!

(Marty) “You… feeling okay, Kevin? I know slavery’s legal around here, but what are his parents going to think about you giving their son a concubine?”

(Kevin) “Er… I’m fine! Yes. Fine. And why not? I’m not sure exactly when fox-kids hit puberty but they’ll probably be too young for that sort of thing for a bit, but Thralls make great playmates and guards for kids!

Oh dear. There WAS something seriously wrong there. Kevin wasn’t normally anywhere near that protective or worried about kids getting what they “deserved”… He’d been acting as if he was suppressing a lot of anger too. He asked his own Thralls and agents to look into what was up with the kid. They didn’t need him going on a wolf-rampage at the moment!

Meanwhile, Kevin was checking on when fox-kids DID hit puberty… Huh. It looked like the kid would be adolescent now. Foxes matured faster, but typically had longer lifespans in proportion to their power level. The most powerful – like Eight-and-a-Half-Tails – had very long lifespans, but the ones that never progressed beyond one or two tails got shorter than typical lifespans.

Well, that was an incentive system. He’d throw in a contraceptive amulet with the selection of minor prizes that would go with the Thrall-services – and rooms someplace and a meal or two if the boy wanted to indulge himself with the girl right away.

Marty sighed a bit. He could just see the kid’s parents reaction to “I won her at the festival! For being second-place in sociability!”. That was Kevin: giving some kid a gift – a girl of his own species – that HE would have killed for as a kid, but now had the knowledge to consider unwise.

(Kid, eyes going wide) Coooool!!!

The boy then got a bit embarrassed… Well, THAT was easy enough to read; a burst of standard adolescent fantasies, then the realization sinking in that this was real and that having a slave girl at his beck and call meant that none of those notions needed to STAY fantasies  past the next few hours – and then the thought of having to explain this to his parents. He really wasn’t supposed to be here, but the idea of getting patronage and someone to help his education was tempting enough to sneak out (mage schooling was expensive). He wasn’t really thinking about getting a concubine as part of the plan. The idea of having a concubine is his room at his parents was enough to really embarrass him.

That was cute!

Kevin gave the kid a pat on the head and cheerily pointed out that there were some mage-tutors available; he always needed business representatives – and that the grant included a room for her to stay in (or for him to take her to “to get acquainted”) and support; it would be a poor prize that burdened the recipient!

That would keep the kid – and, for that matter, the Thrall-girl – safely out of the way of anything drastic the rabbits might try for the moment…

Meanwhile, Marty was finishing up with his second event – the footrace!

Well, to be more accurate, track and field. Running, jumping, acrobatics, and more… Run from checkpoint to checkpoint, use whatever magic you can to speed yourself along, no interfering with opponents during their runs, and you had to actually traverse the distance. The best time won.

So flying was out. No matter, he was fast even with these silly bird feet!

Hrm… Mostly he didn’t have much suitable magic. Just some basic witchcraft and that bit of time-bending he’d picked up – and Elerra was off with the artificers, so she couldn’t use boosting transmutation effects on him. He still had all his basic enhancements though!

Sadly, despite a good showing, that was only enough to get him second place. Ah well! At least he’d placed! Clearly he needed to broaden his magical abilities! And perhaps acquire some more performance skills!

Federation-Apocalypse Session 155 – The Code Duello

Thor's duel with Hrungnir

Image via Wikipedia

Returning Lady Istral to Ciarkian, and Cyrweld, through the Pasta Palace proved simple enough – although Conley did a bit of a double-take when he realized that Kevin and Marty had changed again – this time into an anthropomorphic wolf and parrot.

Then he realized that he’d changed as well – into some sort of anthropomorphic gryphon-creature – without consciously doing so. Was this what they meant by an “Identity”? A transformation that included the powers, abilities, and personality factors needed to fit into a new realm? He could see how that could swallow some people up… Was that part of what they claimed a “soul” was? A hard core of identity that let those who possessed it resist complete transformation and immersion?

He would have to escort a few of the soulless from world to world and see what happened!

The Lady Istral was quite thoughtful… With her cursed wound in abeyance she could feel the injury to her power. She had been set on the path towards recovery, but only she had the power to chose her fate – to choose between the light and darkness – and heal herself.

Conley had overheard her wondering murmur.

(Conley) “Light and darkness? That is simply a matter of whether or not one has turned on a switch. If you have, there’s light. If you haven’t, then it’s dark.”

(Kevin) “Ah well. She had a spiritually-based injury, and required spiritual advice on it’s healing.”

(Marty) “I guess you could put it that way.”

Conley really had Marty befuddled! Was he becoming one of those pretentious people he used to pants back home?

(Kevin) And welcome to Cyrweld Mr Conley!

(Conley) Is this another one of those made up places?

(Marty) “Yeah, it is!”

(Conley) “Is it as ridiculous as the overgrown teacup?”

(Kevin) “This particular universe takes the form of a tree several billion miles tall, supporting a variety of civilizations on its branches, as well as on chunks of stone and metal like this one and on the flying turtles (some as large as Jupiter)… This particular chunk is somewhat larger than earth.”

(Conley) “So, the answer is yes.”

(Kevin) “As you can see up above, this particular area has it’s own tiny sun orbiting it and a couple of moons of it’s own… Why shouldn’t people live in places they think will be fun?”

(Conley) “So, if the place is imaginary, are the people? How many of them, percentage wise?”

(Kevin) “Here? The percentage of phantasms is quite small; only a few of the slaves and street kids. This universe is quite popular!”

(Conley) “Thank you then, for the kind welcome.”

Marty took a few moments out to check with the two Thralls Kevin had assigned to his little dragon project… He’d set them up with a small clan and some slaves and servants and a house and some money, so hopefully they could come up with enough explanations so they wouldn’t have to bail them out right away…

(Conley) So, is this where our fox lady lives?

(Kevin, bowing politely to Ms Istral) “I hope that we have been of some service. It was most pleasant to meet you! (and, to Conley) “And yes, Mrs Eight-and-a-Half hails from this universe.”

(Marty, also bowing) “Yeah, it was a pleasure.”

(Conley) “Nice to meet you.”

(Istral) “Yes, I have definitely been given much to think about. Entire disciplines and worlds out there I have never witnessed before is something to behold… And nice to meet all of you.”

(Kevin) (to Conley) “We’re here on a bit of a vacation! It makes it easier for the assassins and demon-fighters and exorcists and such to find us! It’s not sporting to move around TOO much when people are after you!”

(Conley) “And how many assassins, demonfighters and exorcists do you have after you?”

(Kevin) “Don’t know really… we’ve been moving around so much that they only very occasionally catch up!”

(Marty) “Yeah, we’re very busy guys. It’s rare for us to spend more than a week or two in one dimension!”

(Conley) “OK then.”

(Kevin) “Well, we did spend almost two weeks at the siege of Jerusalem!”

Evening was fast approaching, and the lights in the city were beginning to come on. The shoppers and traders had largely been replaced with people going to restaurants, a minor street festival in one corner of the city, a couple of shows, and a mage’s duel revving up in one of the main squares.

(Kevin) “Now, is there anything you’d like to do in particular Mr Conley? Since this is all new to you, it seems only fair to ask!”

(Conley) “Mostly explore I think. Check out the local area, might go to the festival and check out the local cuisine.”

Kevin was watching the duel preliminaries at the moment – he wanted to at least see what the local preliminaries were – but staggered a bit at that line. Go to a street festival to check out the local cuisine? It was a carnival! Cheap sweets, unidentified bits of fried stuff, and hot sausages on sticks would be about the limit!

Still, he could check out the duel along the way!

Marty was more than willing to go along with that plan! A street festival was always good fun!

(Conley) “Then I might check out local libraries. See what the local fauna is like.”

(Kevin) Well, the first wildlife is on the streets!

He headed for the duel. It should be a good show, even if – or perhaps especially if – it was just a diversion for some pocket-picking.

(Conley) “Well, I was referring to the things that weren’t considered ‘people’.”

(Kevin) “Oh! Well, there are lots of normal animals, and lots of weird things! We’ll get some books! Manuals for adventurers usually cover a lot of the more interesting ones! We can stop by a bookseller on the way to the duel and carnival!”

(Conley) “Sounds like a plan.”

Kevin made sure that his pockets were well stocked with the magical snack-food purses.

The first bookseller on the way was a rustic place owned and operated by an elderly owl.

(Owl) “Is there anything in particular you are looking for that I can help you find?”

(Conley) “I’m interested in books on the animal life of this realm. With a focus on those who are considered dangerous, including extinct ones. Additionally, I’m looking for books on mysticism as it applies to said animals.”

(Owl) “We have plenty of those, there is Notch’s book on The Creation of the World and It’s Inhabitants, Klithe’s book on Dangerous Fauna and Their Habits, Extinct Creatures of Legend and Legacies by Formath is also good.”

(Conley) “Sounds good. And while we’re on that, what do you have in the way of texts on myths, legends, gods, etc. Include current religions.”

(Owl) “Of those there are also plenty. Most consider Brady’s History of the Cities of the Coast to be the definitive work on the subject.”

(Conley) “Excellent! I think those will be enough light reading for tonight.”

(Owl) “Anything else I can do for you at this time?”

(Conley) “Nope, just those for now.”

The Owl scribbled some notes into a book and then manipulated an abacus for a few moments…

(Owl) “That will be 150 Zenni then.”

Conley swore to himself. Drat it! He’d forgotten that money might be different here!

(Kevin, producing money) “Hm. If we’re doing books… Whatever your top twenty most definitive books are!”

(Marty) “And I’ll take a book on local history!”

The Owl’s eyes lit up at that

(Owl) “Very well then, let me go collect an excellent sampling of the material!”

(Kevin, to Conley) “Not to worry! I’ve got lots of cash!”

(Conley) So, what is the local currency like?

(Kevin) “It’s coins made of a magically-charged alloy, it can be used to make enchantments easily! Very handy!”

(Conley, frowning…) “OK. That’s going to be somewhat harder to duplicate.”

(Kevin) “Not to worry! We brought in a big cargo of treasure to fund our vacation, so there are several million available…”

(Conley) “So how well do items go back and forth? For instance, moving a mountain of materials from a freshly made realm to an established?”

(Marty) “It depends on the materials and the realms. If you move a magic sword to a nonmagical realm, it’s just a really nice-looking sword, for instance.”

(Kevin) “There really isn’t any problem unless the materials aren’t compatible with the new dimension, in which case things can get weird. If you’re moving exotic matter around, it might blow up, or become radioactive, or turn into pure fire, or something.  If it’s creatures, you usually just get something equivalent”

Conley had just been wondering what would happen if he wanted to shift to the local equivalent of something nasty from elsewhere – but it sounded like it would be roughly equivalent. That was sensible enough if this universe really did work the way that the people who’d… imagined the place thought that it SHOULD work. Tailoring even a pocket dimension that way took monstrous power though! Magic or psionics at the archmage or grandmaster level!

And… this pair claimed that creating universes that was a power that having a “soul” let you use without even knowing it – and that there were higher orders of powers available.

(Marty) “This one time, we went to this… steampunk?… dimension. It turned my blaster pistol into some kind of steam gun.”

The owl returned after a few minutes with several stacks of books.

(Owl) “Now, I figured you would like a copy of Hasting’s Magical and Psionic Codex and Appendices. It is substantially pricier given the magical and psionic formula present in it, but is almost universally consider The Definitive work on the nature of Magic and Psionics. I even here our illustrious Lady Istral was the last to edit it and made numerous additions of her own to the work.”

(Conley) “Sounds intriguing.”

(Owl) “If the price is considered a bit much, I can find another work more cost conscious.”

(Kevin) “Not to worry! What does it all come to?”

Hm. The bookseller was busily working the abacus again. He might be taking a month off here. They were probably cleaning out his supplies rather nicely.

(Owl) “That will come to a grand total of 11,517 Zenni.”

(Kevin) “Oh well! Here’s 12,000, consider it a tip since we’re in a rush and have no time for change!”

Kevin started hauling out stacks of 120-Zenni trade-bars.

The Owl looked very impressed at the display of money.

(Owl) “Thank you for your business! Can I get someone to deliver the books for you?”

Kevin called the servants and had them load the books in the sedan chair. He’d been walking anyway, since he had Mr Conley to talk to – and Marty was still enjoying flitting about.

(Kevin) “Thank you for your advice on the selection!”

(Owl) “You are welcome, and I hope to do business with you in the future.”

(Kevin) “Perhaps in a week or two! Or maybe tomorrow, you never know!”

The duel was almost ready to begin, and wasn’t much further along… Only a few blocks. It seemed to be between two rival Canines fighting over the affections of a female.)

(Marty) “Oh, of course. Fight to prove your enemy can’t handle the lady.”

Kevin thought that sexual rivalries were always dramatic, and promptly asked the local Thralls if there was some sort of obligation on the females part, or was she free to look over the two battered combatants and say “You Morons!” and stalk off?

Huh. She was free to declare them both morons and stalk off. That would be funny!

Ah, it looked like she was actually trying to get one of the duelists to back down and walk away – but he wasn’t listening.

Hm… It seemed that the other male had been aggressive, persistent, and more than a bit condescending to her and derogatory to him. The general consensus seemed to be that the one who was defending her was going to get overpowered quickly – probably within a few seconds after the mages had finished setting up the dueling circle in the plaza. One was placing blue dust in a perfect circle while another one followed along behind, scribing symbols into the dust. Everyone was advised to stay outside the line – or risk becoming a participant.

(Kevin, who was unable to resist, loudly) “So who’s the arrogant obnoxious fathead who can’t find a woman who actually wants him and is resorting to pestering people who are actually mature enough to handle a relationship?”

He didn’t know what the local ethics on provoking one of the participants in a duel before it started, but the one fellow had obviously been doing it to someone else.

Marty didn’t try to stop him. He agreed! If you wanted a woman, you had to treat her like she meant something, not like a little kid grabbing for a prize! Kevin was a terrible meddler, but it looked justified to him this time around.

The aggressor Wolf looked at Kevin for a moment.

(Wolf) “What business is this of yours? Can’t you see this is between me and the pup that doesn’t know his place?”

(Kevin) “So you think of him as a pup? And you’re still attacking him? Over a woman who doesn’t want you? I’m SO impressed. I presume you’ll be pummeling infants next?”

(Marty) “Or taking eggs from mother parrots and making omelets.”

(Conley) “What’s wrong with… oh, right. Here that’s bad.”

(Wolf) “If you are really set on standing in for the pup, then feel free to enter the duel on his behalf. I’ve been meaning to try out some new ideas on someone anyway.”

Kevin strode forward and lifted the young man out of the area.

Marty was inclined to interfere as well – but wouldn’t unless a second participant sided with the aggressor wolf. Dueling seemed to work somewhat like it did in human history; so tag-teaming the guy wouldn’t work. Several to one was unfair.

According to some quick queries to the local Thralls, this was one Antonio Cadnor – an up-and-coming prodigy / post-graduate student /master at one of the Magical Academies and considered well on his way to becoming an Archmage (if he wasn’t there already). He was well versed in boosting spells and manipulating them to penetrate defenses or resistances on the fly. He was even rumored to have fired off a spell through an antimagic sphere without breaking it. He was highly aggressive and competitive and had come to view getting a privileged position as a right – as opposed to something to be earned. The duel was not officially to the death, although it sometimes happened. Killing the mages protecting the public or the public was considered a capital offense. Some of the higher level mage duels resulted in the loser getting stripped of their powers for a time determined by the victor. Physical actions were allowed, but mages were usually trying to show off their magical abilities anyway. There were two basic forms; the first was a formal exchange of spells one at a time, the second was an informal free for all. The Referee Magi would try to keep the duel within the magical arena, but they had been shown to have limits on what they could handle. The “Begin” signal would be one of the referees casting a light spell. There were normally only two participants, because the referees could only ensure that they could contain two mages. More than that would stress their ability to hold the barrier.

It was really too bad that there wasn’t room for more duelists! Marty wasn’t as big on wanton violence as he used to be, but this didn’t seem quite so unnecessary. Still, the kid didn’t get to do much fighting, so it was – in a way – his turn.

Conley actually approved as well. Bullying people – whether through religion, magic, or social power – simply wasn’t right.

The young woman was very happy indeed to have her friend be ejected from the circle, and began scolding him soundly.

With that, the referees finished setting up their circle.

(Referee) “Now, will the participants please enter the barrier? Enter at your own risk as the barrier will not let you out until a victor has been decided. Disrupting the barrier or attacking anyone outside it is strictly prohibited. Do you wish to make this a Formal or Informal Duel?”

(Kevin) “Oh, Informal! It’s more fun and – besides – it can hardly be formal, we’ve never been introduced! Not that I really care to be introduced to this fellow…”

(Referee) “Very well then, since a challenge has been made, and the challenge has been accepted, an informal style duel will commence. Will the participants please enter the arena created?”

Kevin and Cadnor entered the arena. The circle of dust illuminated and generated a translucent blue sphere around them with a radius of some thirty feet.

(Referee) “The duel will now commence when I give the signal.”

Cadnor actually managed to go first! Kevin was pleased! Cadnor evidently had excellent reflexes and this might really be challenging! It looked like he was… Oh! Raising a psionically-generated antimagic sphere that he could manipulate on the fly, then tossing a massively-boosted fireball out of it towards him, and then… raising a force wall between them! Quite impressive!

He warped time a bit to throw up a defensive spell – a massively powerful absorber of incoming magic, drawing on his mastery of negative energy and mana reserves.

(Kevin) “Descend Star of Nightfall!”

The whirling vortex of darkness dimmed the sunlight around and disenchanted the cobblestones of the street as it drained magic from the circle… It couldn’t directly negate an antimagic sphere, but it could – and did – neutralize anything that came out of it unless the guy was good enough to make it unabsorbable – at least until it was full up.

Marty wished he knew more magic theory! It would probably be even cooler!

Wait, this was twice that he’d watched Kevin fight recently! Once with words, once with magic!

(Kevin) “Snap of the Void!”

An ongoing disintegration of anything within the shield except Kevin himself (and the stuff inside the antimagic sphere) left Kevin airwalking, the entire area in a vacuum as the air rushed out of the antimagic sphere (hooray for Smartclothes!), and the lump of pavement falling under Cadnor’s feet. Having nothing to breathe should hinder his spellcasting – and talking, and any possible attempts to surrender…

Cadnor managed to retain his balance as the lump of pavement he was standing on hit the bottom of the barrier. Magical and psionic energies twisted oddly as he opened a gate – allowing a stream of air to rush into the barrier as an angry Centaur Lion hybrid came through wielding a large club, fell to Cadnor’s control, and focused on Kevin.

Unfortunately, the continuing Snap of the Void turned the air from the gate into a hurricane wind that vanished – and began eating away at the centaur-lion.

Kevin simply switched to witchcraft to penetrate the Antimagic Sphere – and flipped the lump of pavement over on top of Cadnor and melted it down into a red-hot mold for him. It really wasn’t all that hot – it was only Witchfire remolding it, not true heat – but it would still be pretty awkward for Cadnor. Of course, if Cadnor dropped the sphere, the molten shell around him would disintegrate – but that was his decision.

Thankfully for Cadnor, he managed to fire off a telekinetic shield inside his own antimagic sphere – which caused the molten rock to encase him without touching him. The radiant heat would cause issues in moments – but for the moment he was simply trapped in a molten lump at the bottom of the barrier. Still, at least he had something to breathe, even if he was overheated.

The unfortunate lion centaur was attempting to howling in pain as it thrashed around wildly – expiring and fading into dust without managing anything more than hammering on the shield and the molten lump of rock to little effect.

(Kevin, on the private links to Marty and Conley) “Hey Marty? Since he wants to fool around with gates, shall I fill the inside of his sphere with boiling nitric acid?”

(Marty) “That’s sadistic, don’t you think, Kevin?”

(Kevin) “Well, it would get him out of it wouldn’t it?”

Conley though it was in interesting idea, and was waiting to see the result.

(Marty) “Yeah, but don’t you want to toy with him a bit longer? Really humiliate him!)”

(Kevin) “OK, ok… No nitric acid.”

He filled the inside of the shield with heated Tear Gas, Itching Powder, and Pepper Spray – still enough to leave nothing else to breathe. That should inconvenience him!

That resulted in the barrier dropping in short order – and the mage-referees declaring a victory, although they seemed to be more than a bit surprised at the outcome and the amount of power that had been used.

Cadnor was still encased in a lump of rapidly cooling stone at the bottom of the pit. Well, hopefully he was still alive.

(Marty) “Congratulations, Angkor! That’ll make him think about picking on people weaker than him!”

Kevin prepared to dissipate unpleasant anything left inside and cracked open the stone…

It was only a bit of tear gas, and that was easy enough to dissipate. Cadnor was still alive, although only thanks to a combination of the antimagic shell, an environment effect, and metabolic stasis.

Kevin was pleased. He prepared to restrain Cadnor if necessary (it wasn’t; it looked like the conditional triggers to pull him out of the metabolic stasis hadn’t activated yet, so he was largely unresponsive),  removed the antimagic – and started laying massively powerful curses…

  • I curse you with an inability to use your magic to harm anyone you hold in contempt unless they are attacking you.
  • I curse you with compassion. Unless you use at least a third of your magic helping others without seeking payment, your power will not return to you the next day.
  • I curse you with respect. Unless someone else truly wants to share themselves with you freely and without coercion, you will be impotent and uninterested.
  • I curse you with an inability to make any voluntary attempt to have these curses removed.
  • I curse you that you must always tailor your antimagical, dispelling, and protective effects to keep them from affecting these curses.

It took some work to make sure that all of those stuck really well; the psionic parts of the pests mind kept trying to wriggle free. Still, liberal applications of raw power could solve that problem. He might find a way around them eventually – but by then he might actually have found that people liked him a lot better. That level of curse would be hard enough to get rid of to restrain him for quite awhile.

(Marty, privately) “Ouch! That’ll definitely show him! Doing good in evil ways are we?”

Conley was mildly amused. Social engineering, one deviant at a time!

(Kevin, stretching, paying for the hole in the street, and congratulating the young man) “That was fun!”

Hm. It looked like… the Judges were quite impressed by the display of power and control. They hadn’t expected “Angkor” to be able to overwhelm Cadnor so readily – if at all. The curses did have them a bit concerned though; that level of “fate manipulation” was very rare in their experience. They’d probably be keeping an eye on him – or at least be passing their impressions to the city guard.

Most of the observers… were rather pleased to see Cadnor get trashed – evidently he was pretty unpopular – but they were a bit startled that anyone had managed it. He was apparently popularly regarded as a near-archmage and dueling specialist.

Kevin was a bit relieved. He’d started wondering after he’d started if laying curses like that would violate the local rules about compulsions even as a duel-aftermath – but apparently it was acceptable.

Oh well! In just a few minutes he’d made enough of a spectacle of himself for a few hours! Off to the street festival!

They might be seeing more of Cadnor later on – although whether or not he’d have a change of attitude remained to be seen – sometime later. He really did have rather a lot of power, on both the magical and psionic level. Still, curses on the power level he’d used would require intervention by another god, or some mighty quest, or some such to remove – which would at least keep Cadnor out of their hair for a bit unless he realized that he wasn’t forbidden to attack anyone he respected…

(Kevin, privately) “Hey Marty! Do you think we may have spoiled our game with the otters a bit? They’re sure to hear about this and get some reports – even if the protection barrier may have kept most of the crowd from seeing exactly what went on!”

(Marty, privately) “Maybe, but we were going up against a noble house there, and you do have a hard time not flaunting your power around here. I’m sure they would have found out one of these days.”

(Kevin) “True enough… We are certainly showing every single local power symptom. I suppose this just says that we aren’t faking any of them.”

(Marty) “Well, we might want to watch out for this one, then. Let’s hope the otters don’t get him involved in our little voyage! Besides… you might want to hold back a bit for awhile. You’ve been going more than a bit wild there”

(Kevin) “But it’s fun to be all fighty for once!… Oh, all right.”

After all, if MARTY thought he’s going overboard with the violence, he was probably already three miles behind the ship and a hundred feet down.

The street festival was celebrating some ancient event of other. Most of the people they talked to gave them different stories regarding the origin and nature of the celebration – but they all agreed that the origin wasn’t as important as enjoying themselves was. There were performers, music, food, games, contests, dancing – and lots of alcohol – to be had.

Marty got himself a string of drinks and set out to see what kind of contests they were having!

The contests included races, brawling, feats of strength, drinking, and “sociability”.

While Kevin went looking for things to eat, and Conley started paging through a few of his new books (finding out where he was seemed like it should have a decent priority) Marty set out to find out what the “sociability” contest was about.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 154 – The Harmony of the Sneers

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the...

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Conley was beginning to wonder if he’d made a serious error… Pouring his own magical powers into the gate system had indeed sent him far beyond the reach of the secret police – but he seemed to have miscalculated and sent himself out of the usual array of inner planes altogether. Was the blasted imperial gateway network using something beyond normal magic?

In any case… This miserable place was low-magic, limited technology to the early bronze age, apparently had nothing in the way of elemental or draconic forms to take – in fact, the elemental planes seemed to be virtually sealed off – and apparently even limited psionics to relative trivia (not that he had much skill along those lines anyway). Even the local spirits were pretty low-key.

OK, the climate was fairly comfortable, and the pastoral locals had plenty of goats, sheep, grapes, figs, beer, wine, and bread to eat – but he’d had enough of that within a week. There had to be SOME way to get back to some sensible dimension!

It had been easy enough to take the role of a wandering wise man or seer – his medical skills were far beyond what little the locals knew – and that let him start tracing legends. Every realm had at least a few gates – otherwise he couldn’t have gotten into it in the first place – and in a realm with so little magic, the forces that leaked through such gates would surely inspire legends.

He’d found one eventually – a place called “Bethel” where the locals were talking about building some sort of temple. It was a gate of sorts – and even if it did seem to lead to some sort of pocket-realm who’s inhabitants were trying to establish some sort of mythology featuring themselves as the representatives of some a unique supreme being.

Humph. Everyone – well, everyone in more sensible universes – knew that “gods” were just really powerful extradimensional beings. The nerve of these things, trying to pass off a fraud on such a scale… Most of the stories sounded like a high-powered weather-spirit. Still, at least the realm they were working from seemed to have a reasonable amount of magic available. All he’d have to do was access it – and he might even be able to sabotage their little game a bit at the same time.

It took Conley some time to attune himself to the gate enough to pass it – but he was a potential Opener, and his uncontrolled power rippled across the realm he was stepping into, causing temporary reality warps. He’d prove that this omnipotent being did not exist if he had to shift his way through half of “heaven” to do it! Overgrown spiritual conspiracies, overgrown psychic entities, and egotistical extradimensional aliens did not count! People should just go on and do things because they believe they can, not because some entity was tricking them!

Meanwhile, Kevin and Marty were visiting Menthas…

(Kevin) “Anyway Mrs Menthas, we brought you some get-well presents!”

Kevin unloaded the oddly-selected pile, leaving Menthas watching with some bemusement. The pair seemed to mean well, but they also seemed to have no sense at all… At least they hadn’t put anything too outrageous on their list. She accepted graciously – although, as an angel, she was hardly capable of being ungracious.

(Menthas) “Any news on the Technomancer? I haven’t been told much other than that people are looking into it.”

(Kevin) “Well… he’s apparently stuck in some sort of ancient historical realm based on his first life. I’ve started some research on how to bail him out.”

(Marty) “We’re definitely going to get him out of there.”

(Kevin) “It’s apparently a pretty nasty place.”

(Menthas) “Oh dear, I hate to hear that.”

Right about them a dimensional overlay rippled through the area – leaving the area a tangle of realities, bathed in a brilliant white light, and with a strange hissing coming from the sky.

(Kevin) “Hey! Who’s mucking about with reality?”

(Marty) “Yeah! We’re visiting a friend in the hospital here!”

The hissing reached a crescendo – followed by an enormous BANG. Suddenly the lights went out across the realm as the sun went out – and the sound of numerous angels yelling angrily arose in the distance.

(Marty) “The big guy’s not going to be happy about this…”

(Kevin) “Well, I think the guy who hangs out here is only a local rep… I’ll try to see what’s going on”

Kevin started probing. He wasn’t much of a diviner, but this wasn’t too subtle.

(Marty) “Yeah, but this is still pretty insulting to the guy.”

Marty was busy trying to hide that he was actually somewhat impressed with the intruder’s cheek. It took guts to rush into a heaven full of warrior angels and pull this kind of nonsense!

Ah yes. Over there. A trio of angels chasing a young man across the fields. They appeared to be yelling at him about how difficult it was to replace those lightbulbs… Caught in the overlay of course; they wouldn’t normally act like that, even if there were normally any light bulbs in the realm…

Even Kevin was somewhat nonplussed!

Conley was feeling right at home! He’d just shown that the entire place was a complete farce; even their so-called Sun was actually just a giant lightbulb! It did look like accidentally breaking it in the process had annoyed the locals, but being pursued was making him feel right at home!

Marty headed over that way. Hopefully they wouldn’t knock the guy out before he could ask him how he did that!

(Conley, to the universe at large) “I knew it!”

(Kevin, to Menthas) “Oh dear. Does this sort of thing happen a lot?”

(Conley, keeping an eye out behind him in case he should need to duck) “It’s all a farce!. You won’t hold the people in submission to your outmoded, stifling ideologies any more!!”

(Menthas) “This is the first time actually that I know of. We get the occasional odd visitor or lost wanderer, but they usually don’t have the ability to alter the local landscape like this.”

Marty, still in his “Krishna” Identity, intercepted the parade at that point before they all drifted off into the Monty Python or Benny Hill heavens. It was too silly! He was going to put a stop to this sketch right now!

(Kevin, to no one in particular) “Hm… Another Opener? About time! We’ve only run across… one for sure and a couple of ‘maybes’”.

(Marty) “And what’s going on here?”

This guy was obviously either an atheist or an irreverentist like you found back in Battling Business World. Still, he wanted to know why he’d done that!

Conley started as a multiarmed blue thing appeared in front of him. He wasn’t sure as to it’s intentions, but it certainly hadn’t featured in any of the tales he’d heard of this so-called “Jewish Heaven”!

(Kevin, to Menthas) “It is very rude anyway… I will make sure that the neodogs can come and visit, but please pardon me.”

Conley headed straight for the blue thing – it was blocking the way anyway – and shifted to ferret-form at the last moment to run under it’s legs – easily zipping past the blue thing.

(Marty, executing a telekinetic grab) “You’re a powerful one! I just want to ask you some questions…”

Whoa! He was a slippery one! Even for a ferret! If he hadn’t managed to startle him, he’d have gotten clean away!

(Marty, telepathically) “That took guts! How’d you pull it off?”

Conley considered turning into a mammoth or elemental – but that wasn’t all that good for losing pursuit. Still, it was only three minor “angels” and no more approaching at the moment. It might be worth trying to debate this thing! He started expanding very slowly, preparatory to going back to his near-human form.

(Conley) “I just poked it! Honestly, it was screwed in pretty loosely. But then, if you’d read what passes for their doctrine, you’d realize whoever wrote had to have something loose up top.”

(Marty) “Yeah, tell me about it. You would not believe this Jewish guy I work with. Mitzvot this and kosher that. Geez.”) What are the angels doing?

The “angels” (ah, mostly phantasms of the overlay) were demanding an apology and that he fix the sun – also part of the overlay of course.

(Marty) “Well, you’d better apologize, I think. You did knock out their power. Now fixing up the sun, though… Hey, I’ll ask Kevin!”

(Marty) “Kevin, I found the guy who broke the sun. I think he’s some kind of religious skeptic. Want to help him out in return for a favor from him?”

(Kevin) “What’s up Marty? Putting out the lights is a nasty thing to do in the medical wing!”

(Conley) “Apology!!! You want an apology?!?! If you apologize for holding back the advancement of the people you subjugate with your false promises and pretensions, for the uncountable millions you’ve caused to be slaughtered in the name of a stupid notion, then still no!!!!”

Conley slipped out of Marty’s relaxed telekinetic grip in favor of getting in the “angels” faces and arguing loudly.

(Kevin) “Well aren’t YOU fluffy and cranky! Want a ferret-treat? I’ve got some here somewhere, and some friends you can play with!”

(Marty) “He’s being uncooperative and demanding an apology from them for the people they’ve subjugated and killed. Gotta admire his guts… But he did say the sun was screwed in pretty loosely. Maybe we should do something about that? I’m sure this isn’t the first time somebody’s tried. Don’t think it’ll be the last either.”

Kevin was busy offering Conley ferret treats and more ferrets to play with!

(Conley, nonplussed) “Look, fine, I’m not REALLY a ferret, would you let go of me? I’m having a discussion here!”

(Marty) “Oh. Well, I’m keeping my eye on you.”

Marty let him go, since he seemed to be more focused on arguing than on running.

(Kevin) “More of a rant I think! Sure you don’t want to play with my ferrets?”

(Angel) “You dare enter our sacred realm and utter such blasphemy? We welcome visitors with open arms and this is how you repay us?”

(Conley) “Yes. Yes I do. Cause it ain’t blasphemy if it’s the truth. You’re just using your spells and powers to convince the locals that you are ‘agents’ of some sort of ‘god’, which we know don’t exist, in order to gain some sort of power over them.”

(Kevin) “Well I never claimed otherwise actually! Although I’m an agent of the powers of darkness!”

(Conley) “Then you load them down with rules to follow that require they follow you and submit themselves to your will without question. And that anyone that tries to point out where there’s a hole in the logic, or to help them grow in a direction you don’t like, is an enemy of your ‘god’, and should be attacked ruthlessly.”

(Kevin) “You DEFINITELY need a ferret treat and some other ferrets to play with!”

(Conley) “It’s all a light show. Well, I’m letting them know. I’m on to you, and it ends here!”

(Kevin, switching to offering a bottle of ferrettone) “And it’s still rude to turn out the lights in the hospital wing!”

(Conley) “Look you! I’m NOT A FERRET!!! I just didn’t feel it would be polite to change into a bull and run over the blue fellow here!”

What, it was polite to twist the local reality and assail the very fabric of existence, but not to knock people over?

(Marty) “So, you going to do this in the other versions of Heaven? I think you still need to get to Muslim and Christian Heaven before you can say you’re onto them, and even then, you probably need to do this in every version.”

(Conley) “I didn’t turn off the light intentionally, I didn’t realize how loosely things were screwed in.”

(Kevin, offering another Thrall in ferret-form) “So? They don’t have to be ferrets either…”

(Conley, to Marty) “Oh, I have plans for them!

He didn’t really. What, were those other departments of this fraud-operation or something?

(Conley) “But you have to start at the root of the issue! And what’s with mister giving here? Let me guess; you’re in the role of ‘dark tempter’? (sigh) “You religious loonies are so predictable!”

(Marty) “Hey, I’m not a religious loony, I’m a regular loony!”

(Conley, back to humanoid form and starting to walk away from the angels) “Well, at least there’s SOMEONE I can relate too!”

(Kevin) “I do most of my dark tempting by recorded speeches and my advertising campaign!”

(Conley) “Well, at least that’s a bit more modern than the usual.”

(Kevin) “What’s wrong with a little dark temptation?”

(Overlay-Angel) “Hey, don’t walk away from here until you fix the sun and apologize for damaging it!”

(Kevin) “You know Marty… I think we have an off-Core opener here! I’ve never actually met one!”

(Conley) “There’s nothing “Dark” about it!”

That was impressive! There weren’t many people who could enunciate quotations and capitalization’s like consonants!

(Conley) “It’s just temptation, people call it dark to try and either relieve guilt, or to add emphasis to it to make it easier to resist. And more often, to blame the source of the temptation rather than take it upon themselves for giving in.”

(Marty, sarcastically) “Really, Kevin? I had no idea!”

(Kevin) “Hey, I call it dark because it’s accepted terminology… want a brochure?”

(Conley) “Oh, go ahead, pronounce your holy doom upon me or some such. Just this time, try to leave out all the first born male children, will ya? Nah, I don’t need a brochure. But, what’s this “Opener” thing you keep mentioning?”

(Kevin, with extra-cheery sarcasm) “OK! From now on all your children, will cry most annoyingly when they’re hungry and too young to talk!”

(Marty, to Kevin) “Belramos! The guy’s already annoyed enough, let’s not provoke him further.”

(Kevin, to Conley) “Oh, people with the knack of opening gates and altering reality that way!”

(Kevin, to Marty) “Well be fair Marty! He’s not from a toonverse, his kids will probably be born as infants!”

(Conley) “Yep. Sounds like a religious curse. Either something that is going to happen anyhow, or so far in the past or mystic double talk that they can get away with saying you have no way of proving it didn’t happen.”

The Overlay-Angels produced a twenty-ton lightbulb for the repair work. It was easy enough to get the lights back on, especially since the overlay was rapidly starting to fade. It was difficult to tamper with such an old, well-established, and well-supported realm for long.

(Marty, to Conley) “Anyway, you never heard of an Opener? Where are you from?”

(Kevin, to Conley) “And you did ask for a curse. I just don’t stock them normally…”

(Conley) “If you’re just talking about gates, well, I haven’t opened more than one or two. Mostly just to get across town or such.”

(Kevin) “Or to get here?”

(Conley) “Nah, though I think I took a wrong turn somewhere. I was originally looking for a different plane entirely! Mostly though, to get to some afterlife, you just need to alter your energy form a bit to the appropriate psychic resonance. I think I went and twisted on the 37th binary warp-pulse instead of the 39th.”

(Kevin) “So why are you down on religious types anyway?”

(Conley) “Because they hold sway over several people, and the nature of their arguments are such that just about anyone can use them to prevent people from thinking for themselves. It keeps back advancement and growth. People tend to start relying too much on others and less than themselves!”

(Kevin) “So why blame the angels?”

(Conley) “Their great enemy becomes themselves. I’m just looking to get rid of the excuses people use to keep from advancing, to stay in their miserable mediocrity.”

What, “Angels ate my homework”? People had never needed any excuse to stick with whatever it was they found comfortable and familiar.

(Conley) “They propagate the tools. They provided the tools as a means of control, whether for themselves or for others of their choosing. Regardless of their intentions, it’s not good, and ultimately must be overcome! Besides, if I can get their focus away from people, maybe it’ll give people a chance to think for themselves without quite as much fear of reprisal!”

(Kevin) “Uhm… Humans created both the angels and this realm – and it and they have very little power in Core.”

(Marty) “So you’re saying humans created the means to enslave themselves, then, and they need to throw them off now.”

(Conley, to Kevin) “Yeah, Sure. Humans can barely figure out how to bake bread without taking thousands of years to do so. SURE they built this!”

(Marty) “Wow, seriously, where are you from? It definitely isn’t Core. Otherwise you’d be nodding along with him.” (pointing to Kevin)

(Kevin) “Why not? Worlds are easy… All you need is to dream of them and talk about them.”

(Conley) “I’m saying their allowing themselves to be so controlled, and that religion is the worse crime, as it puts shades over their eyes, preventing them from coming to terms with the reality around them.”

(Kevin) “I’d watch out trying this sort of thing in the abyss though, the demons get awfully cranky!”

(Conley) “Of course. Because their holy or unholy dogma tells them they are supposed to. Have you ever tried to get them to get over that? To talk them past it, convince them to throw off the shackles holding them down, and to become something better?”

(Kevin, privately to Marty) “I dunno! This guy sounds like he’s assuming that the religious realms shape societies instead of the other way around!”

(Kevin, to Conley) “I kind of think that maybe you should talk to one of the unified church guys!”

(Marty, privately to Kevin) “Must be from one of the outer circles then, or really untrained. He seems to like debating, though!”

(Conley) “I’ve talked to the central churches! I’m from Endragar 9, originally, but lately I’ve been on the Throneworld itself. I’ve played around a bit in the frontier, but I’ve mostly mostly stayed around civilization!”

(Kevin) “Oh, I work in Dragonstar sometimes!”

Marty was watching there – and Kevin suddenly looked rather disturbed and shut up. That wasn’t at ALL like him while he was debating… Had something happened on the Dragonworlds that was upsetting him? He just hadn’t been so enthusiastic about dragons lately…

(Conley) “Draconis that is. Not the actual star. Visited it, but it wasn’t anything special. That was a stupid cult. Had to eradicate them before their lunacy spread. What a waste.”

(Marty) “That’s pretty impressive.”

(Conley) “So, now that we’ve talked about me, what brings you here?”

(Marty) “Just wanted to help this fox noblewoman heal a spiritual wound and visit a laid-up angel friend.”

(Kevin) “Well, we dropped by because the angels here did us a favor and we wanted to return it and to visit Menthas and to bring in a lady with a mystical injury for treatment! And that’s why I keep telling you that it’s rude to be running around yelling in the convalescent wards!”

(Conley) “Were that it was a hospital! That would be useful at least… So, how is your friend?”

Kevin sighed and pointed at the chairs, the therapy sessions, and the route to the medical lectures.

(Marty) “Menthas? She’s healing up pretty good.”

(Kevin) “Almost recovered thank you so much! Although all this roughhousing with reality isn’t good for her!”

(Conley) “Glad to hear it. And it was just turning out a light bulb, hardly a distortion in reality.”

(Kevin) “You’ve got two separate realities overlapping each other at the moment actually… Oh never mind.”

(Kevin, privately to Marty) “Now what? We can’t exactly drop him on Cyrweld and expect it to still be there next week!”

(Marty, also privately) “Do you think that Kadia could handle him? If you’re worried about that, the Tux Brigade told me they just finished work on Escrima.”

(Kevin, still privately) “Well, he could be very disruptive almost anywhere… and we have enough enemies without someone trying to kick down the walls from the inside out. Perhaps let him debate with some Thralls?”

(Marty, privately) “Sounds good to me!”

(Kevin) “Hey! Would you like to talk to some of the people who have succumbed to my dark temptations? You can try to talk them out of it!”

(Conley) “Ah. And now you think I’m some sort of joke? I can see that you don’t believe me. Too caught up in your ‘identity’ as a dark lord or some such? Fine, I’ll talk to them. We’ll see if we can straighten them out, then it’s your turn. Though it’s more likely that you all need psychologists than anything else. But that’s not a science either.”

Kevin promptly had his current pocket-companions turn back into young women to debate their contracts with Conley. He’d been getting bored with that pair anyway, so it was time they had a new assignment in any case.

That did divert Conley temporarily, if only because he could see that there wasn’t anything else around that he was going to have to get involved in immediately.

The two girls were pretty firm on their points; they had a contract that they were actually willing to show him. They belonged to “Lord Sanwell” until they managed to make all the powers that he had bestowed on them fully their own. They had plenty of time to do that because those powers included immortality and perpetual youth.

Now that HAD to be the biggest fraud he’d ever seen!

(Conley) “Uh huh. And how do you make immortality your own? You either are immortal or you aren’t. As for perpetual youth… that’s something he can’t deliver. Even if he can keep you from aging physically – and that’s a pretty big IF – he can’t prevent you from getting older, learning more, and becoming more than you already are. So it’s a false promise.

(Girls) “Actually, EVERYONE is immortal. It’s just keeping your memories that’s the trick – and he handles that for you for as long as you like! And he can keep you from aging and you come right back if you’re killed, and – as far as mental youth goes – you’re as young as you feel! It’s all in the brochures and the contract!”

(Conley) “Brainwashing and implanting memories. And you’ve got it there. As young as you feel. Well, if your know more, and become more jaded, you feel older, you are older, so you are no longer a youth, and you are no longer “Innocent.” There is no perpetual youth without brain damage.”

(Girls “By that definition you’d no longer be a youth after the first second of experiences; there’s no hard limit on how long you can be a youth! Maturity can readily be delayed indefinitely.”

Marty sighed. Core and Kadia schooling. Even the kids were willing to engage in semantic debate…

(Conley) “How? How can you keep yourself from growing up?”

(Marty) “Hey, Kevin! Do you have a technical explanation you can show him?”

(Kevin, looking at Conley quizzically) “You can stop the physical aging process by balancing catabolism with anabolism while correcting entropic errors. You can stop mental aging while still allowing experience by locking down the information-processing functions of the mind. That cannot be absolute, but you can slow mental aging by any desired ratio, including a hyperbolic scale. Why should they grow up if they don’t feel like it? You seem to be trying to insist that others conform to your definitions so that you can impose your own beliefs upon their life choices!”

The Angels seemed to have settled down to watching the debate, although Menthas did seem to be enjoying it. So, for that matter, was Marty. Debate still wasn’t really his thing, but it was rare to find someone who could debate with Kevin and his Thralls on equal terms!

(Conley, somewhat impressed) “So, you’re locking down their physical growth, fine. But locking down their mental patterns? You’re keeping them stagnant! How are they growing if they don’t have a chance to change how they think with their new knowledge? Facts aren’t enough, you have to be able to change to use the facts effectively! If the information-processing functions aren’t allowed to alter, then they don’t have a chance to evolve into something that can truly take advantage of the information in new and potentially more useful ways. You’re essentially just letting them choose different tools to solve the same problems, while taking away the ability to change how they see things so that they may approach the problem in a different way, so that where before they may have tried to hammer their way through, they might now try to bypass the issue, or no longer see it as a problem!”

(Kevin) “Yep! They’re getting an extended childhood, just as it says in the contract! Once they’re done with their indenture, they can start ageing again at whatever rate they desire. They don’t have a chance to really evolve during their indenture period – but that’s part of what they agreed to, and it’s what makes me a Dark Lord! You didn’t think that signing such a contract would have no downsides did you?”

(Conley) “And I’m not insisting that they conform to my ideas, but that they be unrestricted to decide their own!”

(Kevin) “And they did. And they signed up. Why is that not a respectable choice? Because it’s one you don’t like?”

(Conley) “So you’re a “Dark Lord”? And how did you come to that conclusion?”

(Kevin) “I decided to take the title – and I have all the abilities and a solid majority of the traits that accompany the definition in the standard unabridged dictionary of 2550!”

That took Conley a bit back again. There were established qualifications for being a “Dark Lord” in the dictionary? Some sort of checklist? What kind of religion WAS this?

(Conley) “Well, at least you’re honest about it… So, they’re not getting past childhood? You’re enslaving children?”

(Kevin) “Yep! I’m enslaving children. That’s why they get full disclosure first!”

(Conley) “That at least puts you ahead of most religions by a fair margin. And you do seem to be delivering on your promises so far, at least from what little I’ve seen… You do release them eventually, correct? No false pretenses, no trying to sway them to follow and obey for all eternity? O.K. with if eventually they choose to follow goals that might be counter to your wishes and desires?”

(Kevin) “I can’t stop them from releasing themselves when they’ve mastered all the powers I give them. Permanent soulbonds are fundamentally impossible – unless you merge souls, which hardly anyone is ready for I think. Maybe in a few hundred billion years and a lot of incarnations…”

(Conley) “And realization, as opposed to fighting the inevitable… I can work with this. Mind if I tag along for a bit? This would be interesting to observe.”

(Kevin) “Oh why not? I do want you to think carefully before you break any more worlds though! People make them to suit themselves, and breaking them is like kicking over someone else’s sandcastle!”

(Marty) “Yeah, I’d hate to see somebody’s hard work get trashed over a silly debate.”

(Conley) “Look. It was an accident. I didn’t poke it that hard. Not my fault if their dogma isn’t screwed down very tightly. At least they didn’t let it get out to run around the neighborhood. Dogma off it’s leash isn’t very pretty.”

Kevin sent a private mental message to Menthas – “Sorry to run off, but I think it will minimize the disruption here if I take him away”

(Kevin) “Oh, it was your projected concept you know! This place predates light bulbs by several millennia; you just imposed your own form on the local reality. You can do that if you have enough power…”

(Conley) “What a bloody stupid way to run a universe, or a theology, if one can cause it to shut it down by accident.”

(Kevin) “Oh, out of the five trillion or so souls running around infinity, there are only about a thousand with that power.”

(Marty) “Hey, I agree. They better screw that lightbulb on tighter this time! That could really cause some problems!”

(Conley) “Five trillion doesn’t seem like that many people. Soul is a useless term, there has been no discernible proof of one. But I’d dare say that there are probably close to that many in the dragon empire alone. And then of course, there’s the scientific theories about multiple layers of realities, as time progresses, alternate choices causing a split into a different universe where things are different. If that turns out to be true, five trillion is a very minor number.”

Menthas, meanwhile, was laughing and enjoying the debate – although she didn’t mind them leaving to keep an eye on Conley either. She wished them all well.

(Kevin) “Oh, souls are easy to test for! Send people realm-hopping, and the ones that can go and come back without getting confused over which memories are real and which go with local ID’s are the ones with souls. They’re also the ones who can either keep areas of a universe from resetting or who remember through it – of just make new universes. All part of the benefits of having a soul!”

(Conley) “I imagine that most of the alternates wouldn’t matter so much, it wouldn’t make a significant difference as to whether I ate my toast before or after drinking my tea this morning, for instance. Those could be overlooked, though scientific theory would indicate that through the quantum fan, both were perfectly viable.”

(Kevin) “Shall we go? And would you like me to assign the girls there to you?”

(Conley) “What, just go realm hopping, and if you come back, it means you have a soul? As opposed to “didn’t get killed by the locals or die of food poisoning”? Decide to move in and set up shop? Get lost on the way back or find a different place that they wanted to go to instead… Sure, lets go. No, I don’t need the children.”

The girls popped back into ferret-form and headed for Kevin’s pockets again.

(Kevin) “Nope! As opposed to pick up a local identity and get lost in it. That’s the first test.”

(Marty) “Well, yeah. You… don’t know that much about the Manifold, do you?”

Kevin and Marty started quietly herding Conley off towards the medical lectures. They needed to pick up Mrs Eight-and-a-Half.

(Conley) “I never got much into mechanics. I believe they help transfer energy from various forms into mechanical energy so that vehicles can move. And picking up a local identity and getting lost in it sounds an awful lot like hiding out from the authorities or wanting to start out fresh in a new place.”

Oh yes. Conley wouldn’t know most of the Manifold terminology would he?

(Marty) “That’s one way of looking at it.”

(Conley) “And much more logical than some mystic “Soul”. Never attribute to the supernatural when there are better, more logical explanations available. Test and proof. Always, test and proof.”

(Kevin) “Why should supernatural things be hard to test and prove?”

(Marty) “Yeah, people who do that where I’m from wind up trying to conquer the world with superweapons. I’ll pass.”

At the lecture area, Raphael was continuing to lecture the class on medical techniques. Istral had taken to watching the classes and participating in the lessons. Raphael noticed their approach and called for a break from the lesson for a few minutes.

(Raphael) “Ah, Ms Istral is a fine student. She is picking up the basics quite readily. I am sure she will make a fine healer one day.”

(Conley, to Kevin) “Because of the very nature of “Supernatural”. Beyond nature. Nothing is beyond the natural world. How can you test what doesn’t exist?”

(Marty) “Look, I saw him blow himself up once, and he SURVIVED. How do you test that?”

(Kevin) “Uhrmm… 999,999 worlds out of every million are beyond the natural world, and the percentage gets closer to unity every second. We’re beyond it now; we’re in a world created by some humans who dreamed it up.”

(Conley) “Is it repeatable?”

(Kevin) “Only under protest…”

(Marty) “Yeah, though I don’t think he’d enjoy the experience.”

(Kevin) “It was painful.”

(Raphael) “And I would have to ask that you do not do it here. This is a place of healing, not a place of self-detonation.”

(Kevin) “Ms Istral? Would you like to stay here for a bit? I can arrange the ability to commute on a weekly basis if you’d like.”

(Conley) “Well, if he can do it, then there must be a mechanic behind it. Just because you don’t know what it is, doesn’t make it something that isn’t real, something that is accounted for in reality. So it’s not supernatural. Just beyond your normal experiences.”

(Istral) “I think I would enjoy that – although, at the moment, I think it would be best to head back home for a bit, so that I can contemplate all of this for a bit.”

They started on out…

(Kevin, to Conley) “Ah, another semantic loop! You’re defining “supernatural” so as to mean “something that does not exist” and then arguing that no examples that fit your definition can be found.”

(Conley) “As for 999,999 out of a million worlds etc., can you go there? Can you prove that they exits? If so, they aren’t beyond reality, are they?”

(Kevin) “We’re in one now – and they’re still beyond reality.”

(Marty) “I think he knows that. You do, right? You don’t seem to think we’re figments of your imagination.”

(Kevin) “Reality is beyond my ability to reset. It’s the universe that existed before complex life forms began creating worlds from their imaginations.”

(Conley) “No semantics. I’m freely admitting that not everything can currently be explained. But it doesn’t mean that it’s supernatural. Just beyond what we’ve learned how it works as of yet. It still has a scientifically identifiable and reproducible basis.”

(Kevin) “And I’m pointing out that you’re equating “supernatural” with “cannot be explained”. The rest of the universe tends to define it as “effects which cannot be produced by mechanistic means in the one-and-only natural universe” – or, more locally, as “effects that cannot be produced within a particular universe without the intervention of an ensouled operator who can tap into the local laws and energies of normally-disconnected realities”.

(Conley) “I’m scoffing though at saying something does or doesn’t exist if you can’t prove it. The burden of proof lies on the person saying that something exists to prove it. And unfortunately for them, proving it makes it something that is no longer supernatural.”

(Kevin) “All things exist, as soon as they’re imagined.”

(Conley) “No. I’m imagining a nice hot cup of tea right now, but if I don’t go get it, or someone doesn’t whip up one for me right now, it doesn’t exist.”

(Kevin) “There’s no burden of proof really; it’s well known that people create any world they imagine – and can visit those worlds.”

Marty had Minel whip up drinks for everybody. He was beginning to see the scholars viewpoint! This was like a knife fight, but with words! Thrust, parry, evade, slash, entrapment, feints… it was all there! A bit slower but more intricate, and with a wider array of hidden facts than anyone could normally carry in the way of weapons but fewer underhanded options, but the basic dance of combat was there… Was this duel of words what Core had substituted for physical combat?

Suddenly that was a bit chilling. Ideas had always been more deadly than any mere physical weapon – and out in the Manifold, that could be very literal and immediate indeed.

(Kevin) “Are you envisioning your cup of tea clearly? And perhaps – say – a place where it’s sitting?”

(Conley) “What, dreaming? That’s hardly the same thing. Mental wanderings while you’re sleeping aren’t the same thing as creating an actual physical universe. Now YOU’RE getting into semantics.”

(Kevin) “Actually, yes they are… Now, have you imagined your cup of tea, and some surroundings for it? Perhaps a wild and crazy universe with your name on the sky?”

(Conley) “No, I was rather imagining one that I could pick up and drink.”

(Kevin) “Hordes of some sort of alien creature mining for sugar for the tea perhaps or whatever else you have in mind? A simple cup of tea you can pick up and drink is pretty banal. Try imagining a personalized universe for it. It’s more fun! Got something in mind?”

(Conley) “Or, I could deal with the reality of the universe that I find myself in, as opposed to wandering off into fanciful diversions.”

(Kevin) “That’s what you’re refusing to do actually. Are you afraid to contemplate the notion that you might be wrong? Will attempting an experiment to discover proof be against your philosophy?”

(Conley) “I’m willing to accept it. Show me that I am, and I’ll freely admit that I am mistaken.”

(Kevin) “Got something in mind then? Add any details that you think would convince yourself; it’s your imagination after all.”

(Conley, sighing) “Fine. One humongous cup of tea in the middle of a valley. Alien creatures mining for sugar, milk raining into the tea from the sky, and a floating resort built onto the inner edge with a diving board so I can go swimming in it.”

Kevin channeled a burst of Mana through Conley. Marty put some in too. That world sounded like a lot of fun!

(Kevin) “If they’re mining for sugar, perhaps the mountains are made of tea-cake! With cream and jelly geysers from the crustal pressure on the filling!… Hm. We’d better not stay TOO long. Universes tend towards the self-consistent, so there’s probably something around big enough to eat this setup that the miners are making…”

(Marty) “Depending on earthquakes, won’t that mess up the frosting?”

A gateway in space and time opens before them, as power was channeled through the thought construct – creating a link and opening a doorway to a world imagined only moments before.

(Marty) “I gotta see this! You first though, it’s your world.”

(Conley) “Right. And now we step through the portal into the illusion you’ve cast. Fine.”

He stepped through.

(Kevin) “Besides… unless we tell a lot of other people about it, and get them interested, it won’t be stable for long – although it may just append itself to the big rock candy mountain.”

(Marty) “We should go there sometime.”

(Kevin) “Ah, I got really sick there as a kid.”

(Marty) “Of course you did! It’s full of candy and you stuffed yourself silly! Come on, let’s see what he’s doing.”

They stepped through after Conley and closed the portal – although they did take care to tell Istral that this would just be a brief side-trip.

(Kevin) “Well, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t like Core candy! It really was just sugar and flavoring and a few nuts and some butter and such!”

Conley, meanwhile, was busy trying to poke holes in the “illusion”… The landscape before them was a teaside resort. The rim of the cup is visible as a bowl around them, mountains of tea-cake and sugar mines could be seen. A light (and rather sticky) rain of milk and honey had begun. There were solid sugar rocks, crumbly cake for soil, and sticky icing slopes… Ah! There were some toast-and-marmalade shales!

(Marty) “LAST ONE IN’S A ROTTEN EGG!”

Marty – back to his usual plump, short Brooklynite businessman form – was going diving. The rest of the people in the resort were somewhat more reserved, and were all sporting British accents.

(Kevin) “Hey Conley? You wanted a drink, would you like a smaller cup?”

(Conley, who was busy testing walls that hadn’t been in view a few moments before…) “Sure. Fine, a cup of tea would be nice… Hey, wait a moment! What happened to the wings and halo? Or to all of his (jerking a finger at Marty) extra arms?

(Kevin) “Oh, those? Those were just a local identity! Worlds tend to fit you in, so you can pick up all kinds of things like that when you visit! Fortunately, souls are more durable than worlds, so if you have a link with one identities are only superficial!”

Conley wasn’t paying too much attention to that… Although he did note that there might be some communications difficulties resulting from their apparent use of a specialized jargon of some sort rather than the definitions he was used to. Some of the phrases they used seemed to be almost… technical.

He was too busy testing solidity, tasting a bit of the landscape, and otherwise poking around. This WAS a good illusion… but he hadn’t seen one yet that could stand up to all the senses he could manifest!

(Kevin) “Anyway, Welcome to the world of Tea!”

Marty was loving it so far. English breakfast tea it was, with sugar and milk… Not at all bad!

Conley was running through the full electromagnetic spectrum, checking particle radiation, analyzing chemical compositions, testing bonding and solidity, and listening in on various frequencies – including the subsonic groans of shifting-teacake substrata.

Every test reported simply… reality.

OK, not too nourishing a reality, and one with FAR too much sugar, but… reality.

In fact, this Kevin and Marty character were apparently exerting their own powers to keep from getting too sticky – and were extending them to cover the fox-woman too.

This illusion was VERY good. Still, he’d never heard of an illusion that couldn’t be broken.

Meanwhile, Marty was completing his refreshing swim and cleaning up after it.

(Marty to Conley) “Hey, you’ve got a talent for this! Can I use this in my dimension?”

(Conley, abstractedly) “Uh, that’s odd. Usually most illusions will give way well before you start checking out the micro-gravity of the minor objects… The chemical breakdowns look good, and I seem to actually be raising my blood sugar tasting things…”

Oh dear. This was “reality” to every sense he could dream up. If experimentation couldn’t show a difference… was there one?

Kevin, meanwhile, was letting his pets gallop about – there was nothing like a ferret on a sugar rush! – and was getting tea for Istral. The other guests all seemed to be phantasms at the moment of course, but that might change eventually!

(Conley) “I think I need something a bit stronger in my tea.”

Marty was talking with the staff, just to see if his unusual accent (for this world anyway) got him any special attention.

Sadly, with the usual British imperturbability, it didn’t.

(Kevin) “What would you like?”

(Conley) “Something that makes sense.”

(Marty) “Ah, that’s good! Even if there’s no alcohol here, their strongest tea is pretty strong

(Conley) “You’ve never had brandy in your tea?”

(Marty) “I’m afraid not. Though it makes sense considering they put alcohol in egg nog.”

(Conley) “Or a shot of whiskey? Scotch? Or tried irish cream in something besides coffee?”

(Kevin) “There’s only one natural universe. The creatures that evolve there are, however, permitted – and no, I don’ t know by who or what – to imagine new ones as desired and to move into those realms when they die or when their population reaches a critical level. That’s just the way it is. Now, shared fantasies make stronger, more enduring, universes.”

(Marty) “Tea with brandy then!”

(Conley) “Uh, ok. And can they go back and forth to these ‘realities’?”

(Marty) “Only if they’re Openers. Then they can make gates, like we just did.”

(Kevin) “Yes. This is a cake-and-tea world. You didn’t imagine much past the hills I suppose… Past them, you can probably reach places like the Big Rock Candy Mountain, or Whizzo Chocolates, or Wesleys Wizard Wheezes – they had candy – without a gate. Opener-scale gate travel is harder, but lets you go anywhere. Magic and psychic powers and such are a lot more limited.”

(Conley) “So, I take it these openers have essentially unlimited resources where they come from, as it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine a world where the resources you need are freely available.”

(Marty) “It depends, doesn’t it Kevin? Not all of them are like us.”

(Conley) “Not all of them are blue sometimes?”

(Kevin) “Yep. At least as far as physical resources go… Dreamers cannot, however, directly create souls; these aliens you’ve imagined can only exist directly here, in this world. Take them somewhere else… and they’d merge into that reality, and take on new roles – and if you brought them back here again, they wouldn’t be quite the same when they reverted. It’s like feeding a message through a bunch of translator programs. It distorts. People with souls aren’t subject to cumulative distortion.”

(Marty) “Hey, I swapped back to my usual ID. Or is this payback for Kevin treating you like a ferret?”

(Conley) “Perhaps not, but with such availability to resources and things, buying the people you need probably isn’t hard.”

(Kevin) “And that is the one true competition in the universe – to find or attract souls to bring stability and independence to the universes you imagine. That may not be the definition of a “soul” that you’re used to, but it is observable, measurable and testable in a variety of ways.”

(Conley) “So, why create these other univers… Oh. Your one personal heaven, catered to you. Yeah, I can see how people would find that attractive.”

(Kevin) “Yes. Now, a lot of people simply use other people’s universes. They lack the discipline, or imagination, or will, to make their own – or aren’t satisfied with their own and want surprises and things they didn’t think of.”

(Conley) “So, if I created this reality, why isn’t it subject to my desires? Why can’t just change it?”

(Kevin) “Because it exists now – and we’re here and seeing it. It’s no longer just your fantasy; now it’s anchored in multiple ensouled minds. Without souls to stabilize it you could change it easily – but its extent and detail would either be limited to what you could hold in mind at one time or it would run wild around the edges. More souls make it more interesting. They add detail, and extent, and surprising things you hadn’t thought of yourself.”

(Conley) “Fine. Let’s explore this multiverse of yours then. In for a penny, in for a mega-cred. Besides, I think I’ve had enough tea for a bit.”

(Kevin) “One-theme universes do get dull quickly… And we must get the Lady here back to her home universe.”

And so they did – although Marty recorded the realm as a possible fourth planet for his godrealm. He could have his cake and eat it too!

Istral – and Conley – already had enough to think about anyway.

Monstrous Characters Through The Years

Cover of "Official Advanced Dungeons and ...

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So you want to play a powerful creature?

That’s been handled in several different ways through the various editions of Dungeons and Dragons – and the various methods are worth a look, since you can see variations on all of them in many of the other games that have been designed since.

In First Edition AD&D the idea was squelched right up front in a number of ways.

First up, there WERE no creatures which were more powerful than humans. In the end, everyone, including the gods, was weaker. Only humans got unlimited level advancement. Demi-humans got limited level advancement, monstrous quasi-humans got a tiny taste of level advancement, and outright monsters got what they got. If you wanted to play a monster the game master was called on to break up the abilities of a fully-adult specimen into levels roughly equivalent to those that humans got and to let you advance through them in one way or another until you dead-ended. In the meantime, he was encouraged to make your characters life a living hell and to throw in extra obstacles. As far as playing monster’s went, Gary Gygax was pretty clear about his – and thus the rules – take on the topic. From the first edition Dungeon Master’s Guide:

The considered opinion of this writer is that such characters are not beneficial to the game and should be excluded. Note that exclusion is best handled by restriction and not by refusal. Enumeration of the limits and drawbacks which are attendant upon the monster character will always be sufficient to steer the intelligent player away from the monster approach, for in most cases it was only thought of as a likely manner of game domination. The truly experimental-type player might be allowed to play such a monster character for a time so as to satisfy curiosity, and it can then be moved to a non-player status and still be an interesting part of the campaign – and the player is most likely to desire to drop the monster character once he or she has examined it’s potential and played that role for a time. The less intelligent players who demand to play monster characters regardless of obvious consequences will soon remove themselves from play in any event, for their own ineptness will serve to have players or monsters or traps finish them off”.  -Gary Gygax.

Ok, I think that’s pretty clear. Matters remained that way until Unearthed Arcana, wherein some of the exotic demihuman subraces were given actual modifiers and opened for play. If the attributes you’d rolled qualified you to be a member of an exotic race – and you did indeed need to qualify for some races, just as you needed to qualify for some classes – you got some extra goodies at the cost of knowing that you’d have to live with their restrictions, including those pesky level limits.

Second Edition AD&D was not quite as critical of playing monsters as first edition. It included some guidelines for playing them and stated that most players who wanted such characters only wanted to try the role – even if there were a few who were looking for a cheap way to dominate the game. Humans, of course, still had unlimited level advancement – and thus were still the most powerful actual race in existence since gods no longer had statistics for anything but avatars.

Those guidelines could be summarized as:

  1. The creature should fit into the campaign, being humanoid or centauroid, able to move about on land, intelligent, sociable, and willing to fit in with humans (specifically excluding such creatures as duergar and satyrs).
  2. The prospective player-character creature was NOT allowed to possess special abilities beyond those of the existing player character races, in general excluding creatures with shapechanging, breath weapons, innate spellcasting, magic resistance, extradimensional origins, which were able to draw on extra-dimensional powers, or were undead, and specifically excluding dragons and brownies.
  3. Only allow one at first, on an experimental basis.
  4. Use standard ability score generation with modifiers – which must total zero and would never exceed +/-2, with the sole exception being Strength (which could reach plus or minus four for very large or small creatures respectively – and there was a discussion of the problems of being over- or under-sized).
  5. Someone who wanted to have a character of the new race would have to qualify for it – meeting minimum ability scores for the species and respecting any maximums. The DM could waive the minimums if there was a reason, thus your Str 6 Hill giant might have been thrown out as a runt – but he or she certainly wasn’t obligated to do so.
  6. Class choices for creatures were very limited, and they were subject to strict level caps – even lower than normal demi-humans – although, if you were lucky, there might be a multi-class option.
  7. You could gain a few bonus hit points at level one if you were playing an oversized creature – one per additional hit die that your creature type normally got. Of course, you also took extra damage from many weapons…
  8. Natural armor didn’t stack with external armor.
  9. You got the movement rate from the Monstrous Manual, but your attacks were based on your class and level.
  10. The game master was advised to make NPC reactions a major problem.

A small tweak was added considerably later; when the “Complete Book of (Dwarves / Gnomes & Halflings / Elves)” series came out. Those books included some subraces who were assigned experience point penalties. To quote from the Complete Book of Elves:

Each elf subrace has different talents and hindrances in an adventuring career. Each achieves levels differently and at a different rate than the others. Some, such as the drow, have a large number of benefits while suffering few disadvantages. (Of course, the major disadvantage to being a drow is being a drow.) Subraces that have more advantages require more experience points to advance to the next level than those with few advantages.

and

Additional Experience Cost. The penalty for playing a naturally powerful subrace. Because certain subraces have a number of advantages that other subraces do not, they must work harder to become better in their chosen professions. Experience adjustments for high ability scores cannot be taken by races with additional experience costs.

Thus experience penalties were not added to “balance” (say) drow against humans, they were just a part of a set of penalties intended to keep all the different types of elves attractive without resorting to first edition Unearthed Arcana’s maze of maximum level tables for each subrace. They were there to be a minor annoyance among many – and that’s all they ever were; the ever-increasing experience point tables ensured that no reasonable XP penalty would ever put a powerful sub-race character that much behind, even if having a penalty also eliminated the 10% experience bonus for having high attributes.

Experience Penalties didn’t really last very long. The AD&D Player’s Option books that came out a little later dropped the entire idea. Those books weren’t enormously popular, but they did considerably expand the range of playable races – although they still stuck fairly closely to the original second edition Dungeon Master’s Guide rules about what was available and how to manage it, including strict level limits for monstrous characters.

Dungeons and Dragons (a separate game from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) simply didn’t support monstrous characters. If you wanted to add such a thing, coming up with a racial class for it was your problem – as was persuading your game master to allow it.

Third Edition discarded the old notions of “Game Balance”. In earlier editions, “Game Balance” was quite automatic; everyone got the same options and chances when they sat down and picked up the dice. Yes, chance, skill, and player choices started to favor one or the other as soon as the first roll to generate a character was made – but that was part of playing the game, and characters didn’t usually last too long anyway.

Third Edition Dungeons and Dragons attempted to achieve “Character Balance” instead of “Game Balance”, making all the races and character design choices equally good. Unlike “Game Balance”, “Character” or “Play Balance” is nightmarishly complicated.

Thus Third Edition introduced Effective Character Level Modifiers “rather then” applying experience point penalties – thus “solving a problem” that it had brought into existence by making unlimited class advancement available to every sapient creature out there. Sadly, ECL modifiers not only meant that high-powered races were unusable until the campaign hit minimum levels, but they meant that attempting to play a race with low hit dice and a high ECL penalty was virtually impossible until the games level substantially exceeded the ECL modifier. Otherwise your “powerful species” character had so few hit points that the first area effect took him or her out. Thus you had the strange spectacle of such races only springing into existence at medium or higher levels – with no real explanation of where they’d come from.

As was demonstrated with the later release of Savage Species (which went back to first edition principles of breaking down a monsters abilities into levels), ECL penalties simply didn’t work very well.

Of course, that was obvious from the first.

Lets take a +1 ECL race with fixed benefits. Lets say that this works at level one, while the rest of the characters are level two.

So our +1 ECL level one Wizard is balanced with a level two Wizard.

So those fixed racial benefits – whatever they are – are as useful as +1 BAB, +1 Will, +1d4 hit die, +1 Cantrip, +1 1’st level spell, and +1 on caster level checks and the level at which those spells were cast.

Now lets look at things a little later. Our +1 ECL Wizard is now level eleven, and his friend is level twelve. What are the differences between those levels? Our level twelve benefits are now +1 BAB, +1 Fort, +1 Ref, +1 Will, +1d4 hit die, +1 fifth, and +1 6’th level spell, and +1 on caster level checks and the level at which those spells were cast.

Wait, aren’t a fifth and sixth level spell worth a lot more than a cantrip and a first level spell? Not to mention those extra save bumps?

Yes they are. Higher level abilities tend to build on older ones, and become more useful. Feats at the ends of chains are generally better than basic ones. Like it or not, an ECL penalty is generally either a lousy deal that steadily gets worse or is a net benefit at low levels, a balanced deal later on, and a penalty at high levels. It’s even worse if the character is working outside of his or her racial tendencies, where attribute boosts do not provide an ongoing benefit. For example, lets make a Wizard – and take a +3 ECL Gnoll. Why not? If ECL’s are balanced, this should work fine shouldn’t it? We’ll style him after some anime-character or another for whom a human – canine persona works.

So Gnolls get…

  • Medium Size and Speed 30, just like most characters.
  • Strength +4, Constitution +2, Intelligence –2, Charisma –2.
  • 60′ Darkvision.
  • Two levels of humanoid, granting 2d8 Hit Dice, a base attack bonus of +1, and base saving throw bonuses of Fort +3, Ref +0, and Will +0.
  • 5 x (2 + Int modifier) Skill Points wiith ONLY Listen and Spot as class skills.
  • One Racial Feat.
  • A +1 natural armor bonus.
  • The ability to speak Gnoll.
  • Favored Class: Ranger.

Wait. When my elven buddy is level eleven, and throwing Disintegrate, I’ll still be stuck with Fire Shield – and every spell I cast will be easier to resist. I’d be way better off as a dwarf or a half-elf or something with three levels of Ranger and a canine mask – and three levels of Ranger would STILL be a lousy choice for a career spellcaster. It’s off to the isle of misfit character designs for our gnoll wizard, to wait for Rudolph and an elf who wants to be a dentist instead of an adventurer to come along and extract him.

If you’re chasing that elusive specter of “balance”, and want “character level” to mean something, that doesn’t work. The trouble is, most racial abilities do not scale – and you can’t readily build on them as you can with class abilities.

Now, I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be sub-optimal choices. If you choose to play the pack mule instead of the noble knight, that’s probably not going to work so well. If the game master is setting up for a classic fantasy romp, and the character you make up is a English Royal Marine with an assault rifle and a bandolier of grenades, that character probably won’t work very well at all (as in “not in this game!) – unless the game master shrugs and says “OK. Monk 2, Ranger 2, Wizard 1, Wand of Magic Missiles at Caster Level Five (for rapid fire), six 5d Fireball Gems, has a few eccentric delusions”.

There do need to be bad choices. Otherwise there’s no point in making choices. Sauron really would have been better off surrendering to the Vala and reforming – but that’s not what he did.

The problem with ECL modifiers is really a just a subset of the problems with multiclassing – and an illustration of why third edition multiclassing simply does not work properly. If it did, my Bard-3, Ranger-3, Wizard-3 would be just as effective, and useful to have in the party, as your Cleric-9 – yet it just doesn’t seem to work that way. Isn’t “level” supposed to be a good measure of how effective your character is?

Prestige classes tried to fix that. If your character conception (say “mystic archer”) couldn’t be properly represented within a single base class, and trying to represent it with multiclassing simply resulted in a crippled character, than you could just take a prestige class.

The trouble is that this multiplied the prestige classes to the point of insanity – and a lot of them were poorly written, or could be combined in unanticipated ways to create absurdities.

The introduction of “capstone abilities” only makes this worse. Now a L20 “Mystic Archer” base class was generally noticeably superior to a Fighter 5/Wizard 5/Arcane Archer Prestige class 10, which was – in turn – notably superior to a character who was Fighter 10 and Wizard 10 – yet, within the game world, they might all have the same training. The only difference lay in which of the players fished through sourcebooks more energetically (or could afford to buy a bigger heap of them) or came up with the niftiest new class proposal.

Now, all too commonly, the specter of “balance” is invoked to cover things that simply don’t make any sense – but this is definitely not working properly even as “balance”.

What we want to fix is multiclassing – and to keep the game playable, and the number of sourcebooks down to something usable, we’ll want to knock the notion of prestige classes over the head while we’re about it and go through it’s pockets looking for any spare character conception gems it may be carrying.

That was a large part of the point of Eclipse. The power creep, and the smothering mass of new base classes and prestige classes, was inherent in third edition from the start – so Eclipse drove a stake through that particular nightmare. It purchases racial abilities, template abilities, and “class” abilities with points – and lets you build on any or all of them just as easily, since character advancement brings you more points. You can make racial or template abilities scale, slowly acquire powerful racial abilities across many levels or build on them, or design exactly the powers and abilities you want your character to have without having to bother with a class beyond your own personal character description – which basically determines what skills will be slightly more expensive for you (yes, Ugh the Caveman will have to pay a bit extra for Craft/Electronics).

Fourth Edition, of course, tries to make all races more-or-less equal – which “balances” at the cost of excluding most creatures from use as player-characters again. Oh well.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion.

Eclipse d20 – Volund Saril, Budding Thief Lord

A full view of the Giant Buddha Statue of Lesh...

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Volund’s father, Maynard Saril, sailed aboard the Askari, a merchant vessel of the Havelund family, while his elven wife, Erilitha, remained safely in the Havelund enclave with their young son. They were never well accepted there, but the Havelund walls and guards made a safe haven in a dangerous world.

The Askari, and Maynard with it, was lost when Volund was roughly equivalent to ten. Once that fact was well established, Leshan Havelund – the throughly corrupt local shipping master – rewrote a few records to “prove” that Maynard had owed some rather large debts, and took Erilitha and Volund as slaves to “pay it off”. Without any close friends in the enclave to speak up on their behalf, the Saril’s had little recourse.

When Leshan tired of Erilitha he had the Saril’s sold – but, once outside the enclave and it’s alert and well-trained guards, Volund promptly escaped and fled into the local woodlands.

There was no search; a young slaveboy simply wasn’t valuable enough to merit one – and, in the wilds of a d20 universe, something would surely catch him soon enough.

Something did. Volund, equipped with little save his imagination and a head full of old tales of shapeshifting kitsune, takuki, and similar beasts, bonded with the Dreamspawn Sevarangin, who had slipped through an old gateway while it’s keeper was distracted. Suddenly he had a good start on the powers and the skills that he’d need to rescue his mother – and, perhaps, to avenge himself and her on Leshan.

Since then he’s focused on acquiring the resources he’ll need to locate and either buy out or rescue Erilitha (presuming that she’s still alive) – and, just possibly, to hire some mercenaries or assassins to repay his “debt” to Leshan. To that end, he’s assembled a gang of thieves – who are glad enough to split the take with Volund and Sevarangin (even if they’re not sure WHAT Sevarangin is), given how much the pairs abilities have enhanced that take.

While he’s collecting money – and Sevarangin is collecting magical power – Volund is making sure that the kids in the little gang of thieves that he’s collected at least have enough to eat and drink, clothing to wear, and a warm, safe, place to sleep – which is better than they HAD been doing.

Relatively recently, Volund has begun making offerings to the Masked One, God of the Sheltering Night, the Patron of Survival by Trickery, of Witchcraft, and of Vengeance – and his offerings have been accepted.

The Masked One is a force of chaos rather than evil – a patron of power used for petty, personal ends, of stealth and survival, of small witcheries and magics, of the revolt of the oppressed, and of the vengeance of the wronged. Still, his devotees are rarely welcome in “civilization” – even if they can be a welcome aid to adventurers who happen to be dealing with an oppressive society.

Volund is extremely powerful for his level. Not only does he have a Dreamspawn Companion (a creature designed for the “little kids with their pet magical monsters” genre with a net challenge rating of about nine) but his creature is giving him a massive boost. Personally he’s using clerical magic and witchcraft, which are two of the best deals available for quick power at lower levels. Of course, Witchcraft doesn’t scale that well, his Companion is already about as powerful as it can easily be made, and clerical magic loses it’s edge over other forms as levels go up. That means that Volund and his young street-thief friends can serve as a serious nemesis or rival for a low-level party (especially since he prefers not to kill; it gets too much attention from the authorities), can morph into a temporary ally of convenience or source of missions later on (thanks to his Missions pact), and will fade into the background at very high levels – when the characters will no longer be concerned with street-level problems.

If you want to formally account for his gang, He’ll need the Leadership feat – but given that the majority of them are level zero children, they really don’t need too much formal accounting. I’d presume that getting a dozen or so street kids to follow someone who can feed, clothe, enhance, heal, and protect them really isn’t much of a trick.

Volund Saril:

Budding Half-Elven Thief-Lord, Equivalent human age approximately fourteen.

Half-Elven Racial Modifiers (+0 ECL):

  • Immunity/Sleep Effects (Uncommon/Minor/Major, 3 CP)
  • Resist/+2 on Saves versus Enchantment Spells and Effects (3 CP)
  • Occult Sense/Low-Light Vision (6 CP)
  • +1 each to Listen, Search, and Spot (3 CP)
  • +2 on Diplomacy and Gather Information (4 CP)
  • Privilege: Treated as Elves wherever this is advantageous (3 CP)
  • Speaks Elven: (1 CP).

Street Kid Package Deal (Free):

  • Luck with +2 bonus uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for skill rerolls (3 CP)
  • Fortune/Evasion Variant, Specialized/the user must be un- or lightly armored and encumbered, must be free to move, and must have space to dodge in (3 CP)
  • Spell Resistance, Specialized and Corrupted/only works against divination magic directed at determining the truth of the user’s statements (2 CP)
  • +3 Specialties in Bluff/Denying Things, Sleight of Hand/Swiping Small Items, Knowledge/Local/Home Town, and Perform/Acting Innocent (4 CP).

Thanks to Sevarangin, Volund – and the kids in his gang – are normally enhanced by a long-duration channeling spell, granting them most of the abilities and enhancements of a Dire Raccoon wherever those are superior to their natural racial abilities. Those enhancements include +4 Str, +8 Dex, +6 Con, and +2 Wis, +(3d8 + 3 x Con Mod)/2 hit points (added to their existing total), a +2 BAB, the ability to inflict a base of 1d4 damage with their bare hands, Low-Light Vision, Scent, a Climb speed of 20 (and the usual +8 to any required rolls), and the Alertness feat – along with the Spirits base skills (add the hosts current attribute modifiers) of Disable Device +6, Hide +6, Listen +5, Move Silently +6, Open Locks +6, Sleight of Hand +4, Spot +6, and Swim +4.

Available Character Points: 96 (Level Three Base) +10 (disadvantages: Insane [sees nothing wrong with having a weird monster from beyond hanging about, Outcast [many people DO see a problem with having a weird monster from beyond hanging about, and History) +12 (level one and three bonus feats) +6 (Duties +2/Level) = 124 CP.

Basic Attributes:

  • Rolled Attributes: (4d6, keep 3): Str 11, Int 18, Wis 16, Con 12, Dex 17, Chr 14.
  • Age adjustments: Str -1, Dex +1 (Adolescent).
  • Net Attributes: Str 14 (+2), Int 18 (+4), Wis 16 (20) (+5), Con 12 (18) (+4), Dex 18 (28) (+9), and Chr 14 (+2).

Combat Basics:

  • Initiative: +9 (Dex)
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +9 (Dex) +4 (Armor*) +1 (Martial Art) = 24
  • Move: 30 +30* = 60, Climb 20
  • Hit Points: 22 (L1 d12, L2-3 d6, 12, 5, 5, 12 CP)  +12 (2d6 Magic) +20 (5x Con Mod) +16 (Raccoon Spirit) = 70 HP.
  • Damage Reduction 10/Psionics
  • Energy Resistance 20, 10 versus psionically-generated energies.
  • Saves: Fort +11, Ref +12, Will +8 (using his companions saves).
  • BAB: +2 (from companion, 0 CP), +3 BAB, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/Only for Melee, only for Blades, and only for knives and shortswords (18 CP).
  • Proficient with all Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP).

Attacks:

  • Short Sword: +15/+10/+5 (+11 BAB +2 Martial Art +2 Str), 1d6 +2 (Str), Crit 19-20/x2, +5d6 Sneak Attack.
  • Dagger: +15/+10/+5 (+11 BAB +2 Martial Art +2 Str), 1d4+2 (Str), Crit 19-20/x2, +5d6 Sneak Attack.
  • Thrown Dagger: +22/+17/+12 (+11 BAB +2 Martial Art +9 Dex), 1d4+2 (Str), Crit 19-20/x2, 10′ Range, +5d6 Sneak Attack.

Spider’s Fang Martial Art Techniques (8): Attack II, Strike, Sneak Attack III, Combat Reflexes, and Light Foot.

In the city, Volund usually prefers to render foes unconscious, rather than killing them; it makes for a lot less trouble. Fortunately, with the Strike technique, he can opt to do stunning damage, even with thrown weapons and/or his sneak attack.

Thanks to his bond with his Dreamspawn Partner, Volund doesn’t need to Eat, Drink, Sleep, or Breathe, is effectively immune to poison*, and gains Fast Healing I (up to 60 hit points per day)*, Protection from Law*, and True Strike 3/Day*, all use-activated. Effects marked with an “*” are subject to dispelling and antimagic versus caster level one – but will come right back again next round.

Purchased Abilities:

Dreamspawn Companion (Dire Raccoon Base) with Template II, Might and Transference, Specialized / Dreamspawn tend to wander off on their own (although never out of range of their link with their bondmate, a mile or so is plenty of range to roam a bit), spontaneously try to help out, and otherwise do troublesome things. They’ll often have bad habits, and will indulge them no matter what their bondmate says when they “forget” – which they do a lot. It’s not always wise to tell them when they’ve created a problem though; if you do that, there’s a good chance that they’ll try to fix it – and that can be even more disastrous than the original problem (15 CP).

Adept: May purchase the Gather Information, Knowledge/Local, Knowledge/Religion, and a chosen Martial Art for half cost (6 CP).

Clerical Spellcasting Package Deal III with added Component restriction (not usable while wearing armor) (24 CP), Provides:

  • Daily Spellcasting: 4x L0 Spells, 5x L1 Spells, 4x L2 Spells, L1 and L2 Domain Spell Slots. Note that his Save DC’s are (19+Spell Level). His usual spell selection depends on what clerical magic the GM is allowing, but a reasonable SRD -based list includes:
    • L0: Detect Magic, Detect Poison, Mending, Purify Food and Drink.
    • L1: Cause Fear, Divine Favor, Obscuring Mist, Sanctuary x2, and (Domain) Personal Haste.
    • L2: Augury, Enthrall, Hold Person, Silence, and (Domain) Psychic Ritual.
      • His Psychic Ritual is most commonly used to access Dreamgathering (for secret gang “meetings”), Nightforge (to equip himself and his gang with temporary “adamantine” blades to cut through walls and such), and Divination (to identify the things they steal). He may well buy Nightforge next level.
  • Spell Conversion to Harming Spells (Currently Inflict Minor Wounds, Inflict Light Wounds)
  • Thievery Domain: Grants +2d6 Sneak Attack. L0: Prestidigitation, L1; Personal Haste, L2; Knock, L3; Shrink Item, L4; Tricky Fingers (Skill Mastery/+10 Competence Bonus to thief skills).
  • Witchery Domain: Grants +6 CP worth of Witchcraft. L0: Charm Person (Note that this version also costs a point of Power and is affected by defenses against both psionics and magic), L1: Amplify Psychic Power, L2: Psychic Ritual, L3: Magic Circle against Chaos/Evil/Good/Law, L4: Telepathic Bond.

Witchcraft Powers:

  • Witchcraft  I, II (with his Domain Power), and III (with his Rituals pact). His Duties (“teach other kids about the Masked One”) and Missions (“undertake occasional missions against oppressive and over-lawful individuals”) pacts provide Mana/+3d6 (15) Power and Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized / requires a twenty-minute ritual in honor of the Masked One (may regain 4d6 Power five times per day).
  • That gives him Power 45, Save DC 15, and the witchcraft powers of The Adamant Will, Dreamfaring, Glamour, Healing, The Hand of Shadows, Shadowweave (with advanced illusion-weaving), and Witchsight (12 CP).
  • Volund prefers to use Glamour, the Hand of Shadows and Advanced Shadowweave for…
    • Charm Person, Color Spray, Disguise Self, Hypnotism, Silent Image, and Sleep (1 Power)
    • Animate Rope (or similar effects; leaving someone wrestling with their own clothing can be quite effective), Darkness, Entangle, Hypnotic Pattern, Invisibility, Mirror Image, and Minor Image (2 Power)
      • and…
    • Displacement, Invisibility Sphere, and Major Image (4 Power).

Finesse: Bases his Clerical Spellcasting on Dexterity rather than Wisdom (6 CP).

Innate Spell (two level one spells), Specialized and Corrupted / each is usable only once per day instead of twice, they only function in cities, and each requires the expenditure of there Power. Both use the Skill Mastery Spell Template from The Practical Enchanter. (2 CP).

  • Pulse of the City: +10 Competence Bonus to a single Gather Information check.
  • Lore of the Crowds: +10 Competence Bonus to a single Knowledge / Local check.

Skill Points: 20 (CP Spent) + 20 (Int) = 40 SP.

Granted Skills Base Att Other Total
Climb (20′ Climb) Sp. +2 (+8) +10#
Disable Device +6 +4 +2C +12
Hide +6 +9 +15
Listen +5 +5 +10
Move Silently +6 +9 +15
Open Locks +6 +9 +2C +17
Sleight of Hand +4 +9 +2Sy +15
Spot +6 +5 +11
Swim +4 +2 +06

.

Personal Skills Base Att Other Total
Appraise 1 +4 +05
Balance 5 +9 +14
Bluff 5 +2 +07
Diplomacy 1 +2 +2Sy +05
Gather Information 6* +2 +2Sy +10^
Jump 1 +9 +2Sy +12
Knowledge
-Local 6* +4 +10^
-Religion 6* +4 +10
Search 6 +4 +10
Sense Motive +5 +05
Spiders Fang MA 6* +9 +15
Tumble 6 +9 +15

Skill Notes:

  • *Half cost due to Adept
  • ^Running his own street gang usually allows him at least a +10 Aid Another bonus on these two checks. When he’s planning a job, he will further augment those rolls with his Pulse of the City and Lore of the Crowds effects – providing another +10 bonus. “Taking 10″ will thus give him a 40 on both checks. That’s usually quite enough for a thoroughly planned-out robbery, with contingencies planned for and bonuses for all.
  • #With a 20′ climb speed, checks are not normally required. When they are, a +8 bonus applies.
  • Spider’s Fang Techniques (8): Attack II, Strike, Sneak Attack III, Combat Reflexes, and Light Foot.

Equipment:

  • Magical Items:
    • Boots of Agile Leaping (600 GP): The wearer may add his or her (Dex Mod) to Jump checks instead of his or her (Str Mod) and may regain his or her feet as a swift action without provoking attacks of opportunity if he or she has five or more skill points in Balance.
    • A Chronocharm of the Horizon Walker (500 GP): The wearer may take a half move as a swift action once per day.
  • Alchemical Items:
    • Acid Flasks x4 (for locks and safes and such) 40 GP.
    • Alchemist’s Fire x3 (for diversions) 60 GP.
    • Antitoxin x2 (in case someone gets poisoned) 100 GP.
  • Expensive Tools:
    • Masterwork Thieves Picks and Tools, 100 GP.

Volund might have a few minor potions and scrolls about, but it isn’t very likely; between his own powers and those of his companion, he rarely needs such things – and they cost money that could be better spent on his search or on enhancing Sevarangin.

Other than that, he’s got quite a lot of knives, rope, a small grappling hook, several holy symbols (including, but not limited to, several of the secret symbols of the Masked One), a shortsword, some caltrops, a small crowbar, an assortment of random bits and pieces, and some pocket money – as well as several modest caches worth a total of about a eight hundred gold pieces stashed away in various well-hidden locations.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.

Eclipse d20 – Conley Mac’Gregor

Clanescudo

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Level Eleven Dragon Empire Shapeshifter, Federation-Apocalypse Campaign

Conley was a very angry young man… Why should the dragons lord it over everyone else when technology could virtually level the playing field and they were far outnumbered by the other races? Why build clunky ships instead of expanding the teleportation gate network? Why was EVERYONE so stupidly accepting of things the way they were? Of self-contradictory religious myths, of bad government, of disorganized archives, of the ten thousand irrationalities he could see on every side!

Change WAS possible! Less than a decade ago, a wave of transformation had swept over the Dragon Empire and had left the place strewn with anthropomorphs and talking animals – and even if the pattern of life in the Empire had promptly settled back into familiar patterns, the changes were there…

Exploiting and developing his knack for shapeshifting to the fullest, Conley flowed through the Dragon Empire, playing roles in amidst a dozen races, absorbing skills and information from the very aether like a sponge, and often attempting to shake those around him out of their staid acceptance of the status quo.

There WERE a few other forces for change in the Dragon Empire – this “Ailill”, a few parties of adventurers, the slowly-expanding imperial gate network, and occasional oddities like himself – but they were so few – and the forces of the Empire and the Twelve Gods were so strong…

It wasn’t long before he drew the attention of the secret police, even if it took them some time for them to close in on their protean quarry.

They were waiting for him when he emerged from one of the interplantary gates – but they weren’t prepared for him to step back into the gate and join his energies to its to jump out of the Dragon Empire entirely into a far stranger plane.

“Pureblooded” Human (31 CP / +0 ECL):

  • Fast Learner/Specialized in Skills: +2 SP/Level (6 CP).
  • +4 Intelligence (Normally 24 CP, reduced to 12 CP by world laws). In worlds without the half-price modifier on Attribute Upgrades, reduce the racial attribute bonuses to +2 Intelligence and add a Bonus Feat.
  • +2 to any one attribute other than Intelligence (normally 12 CP, reduced to 6 CP by world laws).
  • Immunity/Aging (uncommon/minor/minor, 2 CP). They can expect to live for several centuries without much of any signs of aging.
  • Grant of Aid/Specialized (requires several hours): May heal 1d8+5 damage OR 1d3 points of attribute damage OR one negative level once per three levels per day or part thereof, 3 CP), with the Regenerative option/Corrupted (requires lots of food and rest, 2 CP), allowing them to slowly regrow lost limbs and organs.

Character Basics:

Package Deal: None – as yet.

Available Character Points: 288 (level eleven base) +22 Duties (self-imposed obligation to help people in general throw off the assumptions and false beliefs that are holding them back) +10 Disadvantages (Compulsive/argumentative and stubborn), Irreverent, and Outcast/annoys religious realms) +24 (L1, 3, 6, and 9 bonus feats) = 344 CP.

  • Basic Attributes: Str 12 (18, Provides DR 4/- under local world laws), Dex 18, Con 14 (18), Int 22 (28), Wis 20 (26), Chr 14 (20).
    • Racial Option: +2 Wis
    • Level Bonuses: +1 Int (L4) and +1 Wis (L8).
    • Purchased: +4 Dexterity (24 CP).
  • Usual Modifiers: Hybrid Shapeshifter Young Bronze or Silver Dragon.
    • Attributes: Str +6, Con +4, Int +6, Wis +6, Cha +6. 1d6 Natural Weapons, Immunity to Sleep and Paralysis effects, 60′ Blindsense, 120′ Darkvision, and Low-Light Vision, Speed 40′.
    • Bronze Special: 6d6 Lightning Blast, Repulsion Blast, Immunity to Electricity, Water Breathing, Speak with Animals, +11 Natural Armor, Alternate Form. Swim 60′
    • Silver Special: 6d8 Cone of Cold, Cone of Paralysis (1d6+3 Rounds), Immunity to Acid and Cold, Cloudwalking, Vulnerability to Fire, +12 Natural Armor, and Alternate Form.

Combat Information (116 CP):

  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +4 (12 CP) + 2 (Con) = +6
    • Reflex: +4 (12 CP) +4 (Dex) = +8
    • Will: +4 (12 CP) + 8 (Wis) = +12
  • Hit Dice: L1 d20 (16 CP) +2d4 Bonus Hit Dice (16 CP, 8), L2-11 d8 (40 CP, 8, 6, 3, 8, 5, 4, 6, 5, 4, 5) +52 (13 x Con Mod) = 134 HP (+30 Smartclothes)
  • Proficiencies: All Simple and Martial Weapons and Small Arms (12 CP, -8 from Dex per world laws = 8 CP).
  • Move: 40 Base + 10 Exoskeleton = 50
  • Initiative: +4 (Dex),
  • BAB: +0 (0 CP)
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) + 4 (Dex) + 8 (Wis, per world rules) + 4 (Military Smartclothes) +11 (Natural) +4 (Martial Art) = 41 (and DR 8 due to Smartclothes, AC 45 and DR 14- vrs physical attacks due to heavy effector module).

Conley does carry a plasma pistol, but he mostly uses it as a tool. At the moment, he’s entirely too used to relying purely on magic in combat.

Purchased Abilities:

  • Shapeshifting, all Corrupted/automatically fails any saving throws required while shapeshifting and takes double damage from any attack which is made while he’s “between” forms. If he’s confused, feebleminded, or otherwise mentally incapacitated while in an alternate form, it’s instincts tend to take over and can strongly influence him at other times. 90 CP.
    • Shapeshift (6 CP), with +20 Bonus Uses (30 CP), with the Enchanted Draconic (12 CP), Enchanted Elemental (9 CP), Enchanted Beasts (9 CP), and Dire (3 CP) modifiers. Growth (3 CP), Shrinking (3 CP), Attribute Modifiers (6 CP), Hybrid II (12 CP), Clear Speech (+6 CP), Immunity to the limitation that Hybrid can usually only me taken once (Common, Minor, Great, 12 CP; this allows him to keep his “Dragon” modifiers while using special abilities from other types of creatures, such as elemental beings rather than recalculating all the time), Variants (+3 CP), Exemption (+3 CP), Inanimate (+12 CP), and Natural Magic (+6 CP). (135 CP in total, 90 CP after Corruption).
    • Path of the Dragon/Shaping, with Pulse of the Dragon II and Heart of the Dragon III, both Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (spell effects of up to level six): only effects which enhance shapeshifting or are closely related to his current form) (66 CP).
      • This normally works fairly simply: Conley can add attributes from two of the other forms he can take to his body and use spells of up to level six at an effective caster level of eleven to enhance his shapeshifting or to produce effects appropriate to his forms. He usually maintains a set of draconic enhancements – simply because dracoforms offer the best available bonuses – and an elemental form, such as a Genie or Efreet. That gives him substantial physical and magical powers to play with, even if it does make him look a bit odd; there’s only so much that his “Variations” power can cover up.
  • Reflex Training, Three Actions Per Day Variant (6 CP).
    • This save-my-neck ability lets Conley take a standard action out of the normal initiative order, as needed, three times per day.
  • Mystic Artist/Oratory (6 CP): Conley can use his oratorical powers up to (Level) times daily, and has the abilities of Fascinate (DC 17), Hold Audience (DC 18), Emotional Auras (DC 21), Freedom (breaks enchantments), and Mass Suggestion (11 Targets, DC 27) from the Manipulation list and Block (disrupts sonic and oratorical attacks), Group Focus (helps others concentrate), Harmonize (lets you combine two other powers), Serenity (acts as a nights rest once per week), and Rule the Horde (calms and Suggests to everyone in a 30′ radius, DC 27) from the Synergy list.
  • 6d6 (27) Mana with the Reality Editing Option, Specialized and Corrupted/no conscious control (12 CP)
    • Reality occasionally warps a bit around Conley, and gates unexpectedly open for him. Sadly, as yet, he has no real control over this.
  • Augmented Bonus: Conley adds his (Wis Mod) to his (Int Mod) when calculating the bases for Int-based skills (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (6 CP).

Skills:

Total Skill Points: 12 (CP Spent) +28 (Racial Bonus) +78 (Int, 5 x 6 + 6 x 8) +28 (Fast Learner) = 146.

Broad Skills:

  • Physical Skills: Acrobatics +21 (6 SP +4 Dex +2 Synergy), Stealth +19 (6 SP +4 Dex), Rifle Expertise Martial Art +15 (2 SP +4 Dex), Wind Dance Martial Art +27 (14 SP +4 Dex).
  • Perception Skills: Spot +25 (4 SP +4 Gear), Listen +22 (1 SP +4 Gear)
  • Knowledge Skills (all at +27): Alchemy, Anatomy, Anthropology, Archaeology, Architecture, Astronomy, Biology, Botany, Chemistry, Computers, Cosmology, Electronics, Elementals and Elemental Beings, Genetics, Evolution, History, Magic Theory, Magitech, Mathematics, Mechanics, Medicine, Military History, Mythology, Nuclear Physics, Organic Chemistry, Paleobiology, Pharmacology, Philosophy, Physics, Physiology, Politics, Psionics, Psychology, Quantum Mechanics, Robotics, Sociology, Strategy and Tactics, Theology, and Zoology (1 SP each, for 39 SP).
  • Other Skills: Disable Device +25 (12 SP +4 Dex), Disguise +15 (1 SP +5 Cha), First Aid +18 (1 SP +8 Wis), Gather Information +15 (1 SP +5 Cha), Oratory +28 (14 SP +5 Cha), Soldier +18 (1 SP +8 Wis), Research +27 (1 SP +9 Int +8 Wis), Search +30 (4 SP +9 Int +8 Wis), Security Systems +25 (12 SP +4 Dex), Survival/Wilderness +31 (14 SP +8 Wis), Writing  +27 (1 SP +9 Int +8 Wis).

Narrow Skills:

  • Physical Skills: Climb +19 (1 Sp +4 Str), Jump +19 (1 Sp +4 Str), Skydancing +19 (1 SP +4 Dex).
  • Knowledge Skills (all at +32 Base): The Dragon Empire, Evolutionary Psychology, Hydraulics, Metallurgy, Power Systems, Weapons of the Dragon Empire (1 SP each, for 6 SP).
  • Other Skills: Acting +20 (1 SP +5 Cha), Card Games +32 (1 SP +9 Int +8 Wis), Forgery +32 (1 SP +9 Int +8 Wis), and Formal Debate +32 (1 SP +9 Int +8 Wis).

Wind Dance Techniques Known (14): Defense 4, Strike, Synergy/+2 Acrobatics, Mind Like Moon (allows a save versus surprise), Instant Stand, Whirlwind Strike, Deflect Arrows, Inner Strength (lets him use Vanishing and Light Foot once in awhile without depleting his personal reserves), Vanishing (lets you move almost instantaneously – very rarely), and Light Foot (boost movement and allows water walking, but no more than once or twice a day).

Conley is a minor atrocity of power, thanks to his grotesque exploitation of Shapeshifting – but in the Federation-Apocalypse setting, where hand-held nuclear military weapons are available, and much of the combat is starfleet-to-starfleet, this is pretty much expected.

Star Wars – Skilled Codex Powers II: Shifting Techniques

Alternate History Image can be used as a tag o...

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Past the instinctive and basic uses of the three Codex skills – Phasing, Shifting, and Tempus – there are a variety of more advanced powers that are only available to those with monotalents or actual Codex skills.

Shifting is the art of playing with probabilities and timelines. In many ways it’s the most tenuous of the Codex powers; most of it’s effects are relatively subtle. Still, like most things to do with the Codex, there are always exceptions.

  • Assess Odds is the simplest skilled application of Shifting; it simply allows the user to survey the myriad timelines of the future and quote the odds. The better the user rolls, the more precise he or she can be. Sadly, the same detached viewpoint that allows the user to survey a huge number of timelines makes it impossible to focus on any one of them, including the one the user currently occupies – so while Assess Odds may tell you that there’s a 40% chance of finding Darth Cheesy on the ship’s bridge, it’s telling you that “in 40% of the nearby timelines surveyed where you went to the bridge, you found Darth Cheesy was there”. It’s still possible that, in YOUR timeline, Mr Cheesy took a shuttle down to a bar fifteen minutes before you asked. That’s why, as a rule, Assess Odds works best with simple, immediate, plans; any future that looks really probable, and is more than a few hours out at best, is usually an indication that something is massively meddling anyway. On the bright side, using this particular discipline takes no time at all and is almost perfectly safe; only a truly catastrophic and unlikely check can cause problems – usually of the “psychic exchange with a counterpart” variety.
  • Hexcraft is the art of causing a locally temporal divergence – splitting off a private or near-private timeline – and then patching it back into normal reality before it expands very far. This is one of the most dramatic possible shifting stunts; you can use it to momentarily vanish into a divergent reality of your own, move, and snap back into existence – or to cause wildly improbable events, such as the molecules of a metal door abruptly crystallizing. Hexcraft is awesomely powerful, but is also perhaps the single most dangerous Codex technique; causing wildly improbable events is bad enough – but at least you’re carrying everyone in the immediate vicinity along for the ride, and their presence will help re-anchor you to your original timeline or provide a little company if you fail to do so. Splitting off a private timeline and then trying to re-anchor it into the original is a feat that even masters of the codex treat with great caution, as even a “success” is quite likely to amount to simply vanishing from your original timeline to reappear in a very similar one – often one where there’s a vacancy to be filled.
  • Navigation is essentially the art of forced prophecy – constantly nudging events towards a desired outcome. Unlike the more dramatic arts of causing unlikely events, Navigation constantly tips the odds just a little towards a desired end result. Unfortunately, Navigation takes the path of least resistance; if you want to “stay in town safely overnight”, you probably didn’t have “get arrested and be put in solitary confinement to await a trial next week” in mind as the method – but if that’s one of the easiest ways for you to get what you set your mind on, it’s one of the options that events will tip towards. Fortunately, the “Monkey’s Paw” effect can be easily minimized; try to push towards “all of us surviving this battle” or “doing well in the tournament” or any other relatively generic, short-term, goal – and you and your friends will enjoy some good luck (in the form of small dice pool bonuses – or perhaps a single larger one for very short term goals, such as “laying in a good course”.
  • Optimization is the fine art of scanning related timelines looking for things you can do that will improve your odds of success in an endeavor. The trouble here is the same as it is with Assess Odds; you’re scanning related timelines that are ahead of yours, not the actual future – and so you may wind up with complete misinformation. You want to get to Alderaan? Your powers might tell you to (1) tuck an oxygen mask in your pocket, (2) spend the trip taking an art course, and (3) pick up a complete “Military History of the Fifth Sith War”. Because, in some timelines, those things helped. Perhaps in one group of alternate timelines you were killed by lack of oxygen during a pirate attack, in another the art class led to an assignation in a lifepod with a budding young artist of your species during an orbital collision, and because in another that book collection convinced an official that you really were just a collector of antique weapons. There’s no guarantee that any of that will actually happen to YOU, but the cost is usually pretty small and such things do come in useful often enough to make the discipline worth using. Pulling out just the small item you need can be pretty handy.
  • Overlay is the art of showing people the things that might have been if they had taken another course – momentarily pushing their minds into contact with the greater universe. This can be used as a kind of stunning attack (although this is not especially wise, as “victims” may gain useful insights), but is principally useful as a method of changing someone’s beliefs and attitudes. You may not know how they’ll react – but if they’re being a giant pain in the ass at the moment, you don’t have a lot to lose.
  • Temporal Perception allows the user to project his or her consciousness across timelines, briefly sharing in other lives and witnessing what might have been. Sadly it is one of the easiest Codex powers to interfere with, since it relies on some very delicate adjustments indeed. Still, if an opponent is NOT actively interfering with it, Temporal Perception can be used to continue thinking while in stasis, to tap into skills and information to which the user has no normal access, and even to help guide a controlled departure via Phasing for another world which has caught the user’s fancy. Unfortunately, Temporal Perception is one of the few Codex powers which tends to directly undermine the user’s sanity: interacting with dozens of other realms that are not there, hearing their voices, and seeing visions of what might have been – especially when timelines split or merge – tends to disrupt the user’s ability to interact properly with the timeline he or she is actually on.

Star Wars – the Twelve Moons of Varen II

Lakagígar, Iceland

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Note: Over the centuries, most of these worlds have had many names in various tongues and with various factions. The most common name is noted in brackets, but the names of the families and the orbital order is far more constant.

Varen IIa – Iresha Family (Am Mu)

The Iresha family moon is a major center of commerce and trade in Varen space. Rich in precious metals and supplied with ample energy due to it’s proximity to Varen II’s magnetic fields, the moon has become a major manufacturing center in the system. Goods manufactured here tend to have a significant price premium versus other similar goods, but are typically made with the best materials and standards of quality available. While the moon is capable of meeting all calorie needs via manufactured calories, the metal rich soil and water precludes more conventional farming. Importation of food is a significant sink of wealth on the moon and is a sign of wealth and class.

A focus on grandiose architecture gives the various cities a majestic air. Towering skyscrapers, lavish parks, sprawling estates, and highly stylized designs rule the skyline with each city having a particular flavor and style. It is commonly said one could identify the city a building is located in merely by how it looks. Use of artificial gravity in building construction has been banned though as a power failure in one district resulted in the deaths of over three thousand.

The Iresha family runs the largest bank on the moon and frequently has it’s hands on most every major enterprise in the system. While actually defaulting on a loan with the Iresha typically has dire consequences, the family bank typically will provide a number of alternatives to cash repayment for those unable to pay. Indeed, these alternative payment options are made available to all, so that even the poor are able to procure loans.

Varen IIb – Cantel Family (Inkess)

The Cantel family moon is a volcanic water world. Floating coral reefs provide dry ground for the inhabiting land dwellers to live on. The aquatic Cantel and their base species (the Lotados) typically live beneath the surface in sea floor cities. Interaction with surface dwellers occurs via specially made chambers in the islands or via communication systems. Lotadas can be found in the water areas of every moon in the Varen system, but only really participate in the political process on the Cantel Moon, where there are enough of them to be influential.

The Cantel and the associated Lotadas are largely involved in the aquatic infrastructure projects of the other Varen families. Deep sea equipment is manufactured here and then flown to the appropriate moon or planet along with a team of techs and droids to finish installation.

The Lotados (and by definition, the Cantel) are an aquatic species vaguely resembling long necked fish. They originally evolved in the ecosystems surrounding underwater volcanic vents and have developed a technological society since then. Their technology has allowed them to colonize waters far from the volcanic depths of their ancestors, and the species exists in a largely peaceful isolation on a number of worlds on the outer rim in the depths of the oceans. The Cantel have been steadily bringing the Lotados into a mutually beneficial relationship with the surface dwellers of the Varen Commonwealth since the family joined the Varen Council long ago.

Varen IIc – Rote Family (Luzel)

The Rote family moon is also known as the Moon of Lights. The use of holo projectors has become a ubiquitous art form locally and is incorporated into the architecture, lighting, and even clothing. According to the historians, this initially started back when the moon was first colonized and there was a dearth of aesthetic materials but a preponderance of electronics. Buildings and even entire cities can change their appearance with a simple press of a button. In many ways the local population has become nocturnal because of this, preferring to sleep during the day and be active at night when the cities become truly alive.

The theatrical arts have also become a major pasttime on the moon as the local culture has emphasized adaptation of form and appearance not only in their cities, but also themselves. Festivals and parties are a common occurrence on the moon as the locals are continually looking for an excuse to have another. Fashions and styles change almost as rapidly as electronic communications will allow. The local Holo and color changing technology is some of the best available. A continual emphasis on compact and realistic displays has driven the costs down on a lot of the more expensive components in order to meet the local demand.

The Rote family has been known among the Varen for being some of the best infiltration and stealth experts available. A long cultural tradition in the arts of acting and disguise has had numerous military and covert operations applications when applied correctly. The Rote family has also been a strong force in the diplomatic arm of the Varen government; their ability to put on convincing fronts while teasing out the subtle meanings in the motivations in others has served them well in making contacts and manipulating others towards mutual benefit.

Varen IId – Vascud Family (Natsen)

The Vascud family moon is a typical habitable world that wouldn’t look out of place in most Republic systems. Diverse ecosystems, mild climate, and relatively common resources have given the Vascud a relatively secure position compared to the other families. This has been interpreted several times as complacency by others who find themselves woefully mistaken. The people of the Vascud moon are a resilient people and not one to let others achieve even a minor victory without dire cost.

The moon holds the distinction for having the most recognizable features. At first it was natural parts of the landscape like Alyssian Abyssal Whirlpool, or the Cantenabra Mountain springs, but then began to include artificial features as well. Festivals, landmarks, cultural rituals, historic battlefields, and even government institutions are known far and wide. These symbols of the people and their culture are robust and have withstood many attempts to destroy them and what they stand for. After all, these symbols have been far more enduring than the legacies of any one Varen no matter how powerful he or she was at the time.

The Vascud family specializes in Symbols. Symbols have power far beyond the meaning of whatever the symbol is made up of. A symbolic victory can be more advantageous than any strategic victory given the effects on morale and sense of accomplishment. This applies to more than just war though, symbols of power, wealth, achievement, and generosity can have great power too. All it takes is giving the masses an appropriate symbol, and their faith in it will do the rest.

Varen IIe – Morrowain Family (Trosnar)

The Morrowain family moon is a cold forested world. It’s heavy cloud cover keeps temperatures low and ensures a steady supply of rain across the moon. Much of the forest floor is a murky swamp proving difficult to navigate and live in. Most of the population lives in houses built into and around the overly large trees that make up the forest. The locals take great care to disguise the use of galactic technology within carefully sculpted wood furnishings. Carefully sculpting the growth of the trees and plants that grow on the trees has become a major portion of the local economy.

The locals themselves have developed a white skin bordering on marble, black eyes, and black lips. The only other variation from the human standard is the typical Morrowain is much broader and more stoutly built than normal. Indeed, the typical Morrowain female is usually more than a match physically for typical human males. Morrowain males are even more so.

Part of the culture is the art of ritual war paint and the participation in major games and feats of strength. Even the Morrowain Varen will participate, in their own league of course. One of the more common games is finding and riding one of the Thessals that roam the forest. Thessals are indigenous herbivore creatures resembling whales that internally generate hydrogen gas which is then stored in air sacs to keep the creature buoyant in air. The Thessal songs will reverberate throughout the forest for tens of miles.

Varen IIf – Soung Family (Zaine)

The Soung family moon is a wild and untamed wilderness for the most part. Boasting the most diverse ecosystem in the Varen system, it is a favored hunting ground for safari. Much of the land has been divided up into various large estates with villas that are practically cities in their own right.

The Soung moon is also the only Varen moon to host any sizable natural satellites of it’s own. In fact it is these three satellites that house the vast majority of the population and industry. While each satellite lacks sufficient gravity to hold an atmosphere, the slowly expanding glass ceilings are slowly turning the dead satellites into greenhouses and living space. Structural glass has become a common building material on the three satellites, which has led to the satellites having a stained glass appearance from orbit. This in turn generates a number of colorful light effects on the moon itself as the satellites traverse the sky.

The culture is one of politics and social events. The Soung family frequently hosts festivals and parties with the general populace and more exclusive occasions with more distinguished guests. Safaris hosted by the Soungs are an exclusive and highly sought after invitation. With a strong family talent for precognition, the Soungs have been able to procure resources, talent, favors, and knowledge from seemingly nowhere at times. Receiving a favorable fortune or prophecy from a Soung has become local blessing highly sought after by the people.

Varen IIg – Gruber Family (Cafed)

The Gruber family moon is a world that doesn’t have a lot of things going for it. The ecosystem is not particularly lush or fertile, the ground is rather mineral poor, and the neighbors haven’t always been friendly. Lacking resources, the people of the moon have turned to making up for quality of resources with quality of people. An hard emphasis on training and experience coupled with ensuring those few chosen for a profession have the best equipment available has ensured that the typical person from the Gruber family moon is better able to compete with their counterparts elsewhere despite the handicaps presented by their more limited resources.

Historically, the Gruber weren’t able to field the largest fleet, or train the largest army, but their troops and ships were some of the best in the system. The best engineers and technicians available designed and built the equipment used. The best soldiers were rigorously trained. And the best pilots were given the best fighters that could be made. A force led by the Gruber could be counted on to be far more effective than the numbers would lead one to believe.

This culture did have downsides though. The elimination of the experts in a given field would seriously cripple the efforts to rebuild. This was most evident when others managed to destroy Gruber forces on the field of battle (typically at great cost though) as it would take many years for the Gruber to recover, whereas the other families could recover from a similar defeat in a matter of months.

The culture also made the effects of personality clashes much more devastating to the rest of society as a whole. A good team of talent that worked well together could accomplish great things, but a team with fundamentally incompatible personalities would quickly fall apart. Sometimes it pays to have a large supply of more-or-less average replacements available to fill in positions emptied by those who are more talented, but less cooperative.

The Gruber family itself has been the caretaker of the system. A combination of precognition, telepathy, and management skills have enabled the Gruber to recognize talent and put it to the best use possible given the situation. Those that abused the system, or got too complacent with their duties would be quickly dealt with. This has included the Gruber, albeit on rare occasions, as well.

Varen IIh – Logosa Family (Muscron)

The Logosa family moon is a world of chaotic and violent weather. Due to various quirks of geography, the moon is prone to powerful hurricanes and tornadoes wrecking havoc across the surface. Much of the local flora and fauna has adapted to the circumstances, but the human inhabitants have struggled. Hollowed out mountains, cliffs, and even entire underground cities have been built to hide from the chaotic whims of the weather.

Attempts at controlling the weather with technology ran into issues with having to re-engineer the entire surface of the moon. Eventually though, the local industrial base developed enough to build large scale shield generators and high strength building materials capable of withstanding the random but constant onslaught of the elements. The arcologies have been reaching ever skyward after poking through the tops of the hollowed out mountains. The multigenerational nature of the projects has led to the people of the Logosa family moon taking a long view of things and what it means to accomplish something.

It was the Logosa that were central to this effort of keeping the populace focused on the long term goal of building the industry and infrastructure needed to move above ground and towards the sky. The Logosa are major planners and have a superb ability to organize people towards a goal or project. It is said that the family keeps a master record of plans, contingencies, instructions, and stockpiles of potentially useful equipment and supplies hidden deep within the family vaults in case of emergency.

Varen IIi – Maha Vailo Family (Ongis)

With a continent at each pole, and an ocean straddling the equator, the Maha Vailo family moon has been a place of opposites. The Maha family of Sith quickly established control of the Northern continent, but ran into increasingly fierce resistance in attempting to consolidate control of the Southern continent. Attempts to stamp out the resistance and gain full control of the moon ran into continual issues with the hit and run tactics used by the resistance.

The resistance became really organized when Vailo family joined the fight. A higher than normal propensity for Force Immune among the Vailo ensured the Maha had a difficult time tracking down members using Force powers. Eventually the Vailo developed fighting styles and techniques specifically for combating Sith.

The Maha war against the Vailo was an open secret for centuries among the Varen. The other factions turned a blind eye to the fighting so long as the Maha kept the Vailo contained on the moon. Eventually things settled into an equilibrium with the Maha in control of the Northern continent and the orbital defenses, while the Vailo controlled the Southern continent and most of the ocean.

The stalemate was finally broken when a rogue Holosith pushed into the system and landed on the moon looking to establish a new base of operations. Practical expedience took precedence against the foreign invader as the Maha and Vailo fought on the ground together while the other Varen families attempted to defeat the fleet in orbit. After the battle and death of the Holosith, a marriage alliance was established between the heads of the Maha and Vailo families finally uniting the moon under a single faction.

Since then, the Maha Vailo family has been merging the traditions and organizations together into a single coherent core known as the Grenkay Corps. The effectiveness of the Grenkay at dealing with renegade Sith has become well known, and the order has slowly been taking over the duties of policing the Varen. The appointment of the Grenkay to oversee the security of the Varen Council has been one of the biggest political victories the Corps has made recently.

Varen IIj – Gasden Family (Rurno)

The Gasden family moon is the most cosmopolitan moon of the system. This is largely due to the fact that the Gasden family has been the one adopting the vast majority of non-human Varen. Most of the cities are segregated into various enclaves of the most common races and subraces. The commons areas in the middle of the cities is where the vast majority of the inter-enclave trade and services are carried out.

The Gasden family itself would have collapsed some time ago due to a shortage of Force sensitives in the family if it weren’t the reliance on adopted family members to shore up numbers. This policy has in turn made the Gasden family the largest family in the Varen system, but has also led to a loosening of the family ties that have bound it together. Indeed, it isn’t uncommon these days for the adopted Gasden to only refer to themselves as Varen.

The typical Gasden Varen is typically a rather neutral presence in most events. They typically will work in the various governance and infrastructure roles and are counted on for their impartiality to family politics. Their personal projects tend to consume a large amount of their time and resources, but this is also tempered with the realization that there are only so many resources to go around. Cooperating and sharing may not lead to results faster, but it does lead to results more consistently over the long term.

Varen IIk – Shana Family (Savcor)

The Shana family moon has frequently been in conflict with the Brooke family moon. The Shana had been investing resources into expanding their presence in the outer ring system of Varen II through colonization and micro-terraforming. This brought them into conflict with the Brooke family that were also trying to expand into the ring system for their own purposes. This has given the Shana a distinct population advantage over the other Varen.

The people of the Shana moon are master terroformers and biologists. Initially this skill was needed in the repair of the ecosystem of their own moon from some prior catastrophe, but has since expanded into terraforming a wide variety of worlds into forms more suitable for oxygen breathing life forms. These techniques have turned their moon into a gaian paradise. Varen vacations to the Shana family moon have become quite common recently.

Currently the Shana family has been extending this expertise to the Varen and any territorial acquisitions that have been made. An attempt at forming a marriage union with the Brooke family ended disastrously do to issues of infidelity. This has resulted in a renewal of heated antagonism between the two families, but both have otherwise kept the peace of the Varen.

Varen IIl – Brooke Family (Pin-Mernu)

The Brooke family moon has historically pushed to better exploit the resources of the Varen II ring system. This had frequently brought them into conflict with the Shana family looking to expand it’s colonization efforts into the same territory. Minor skirmishes were frequent and full out wars between the two moons happened occasionally. These battles would become particularly pitched as the two moons approached each other in their orbits and their orbital defenses would begin shooting at each other.

The Brooke resource and manufacturing base has been the largest in the Varen system. While not up to the standards of quality of the Iresha, the Brooke can much more readily manufacture in bulk. This has led to the Brooke heading up the current efforts to map and patrol the borders of Varen space. Brooke repair and refueling stations are a common occurrance in the local stellar cluster as the exploration sphere expands outwards.

The Brooke family has a long history of exploration and prospecting. The Brooke have a strong family talent for navigation that has served them well in venturing into the unknown fringes of the Outer Rim. Attempts to foster a marriage union with the Shana family failed miserably when the head of the Brooke family took to illicit laisons with his personal pilot. Since the breakup of the marriage, the antagonism between the two families have reignited, although both have kept the peace of the Varen Council.

Star Wars – The Varen Council

The current occupants of the twelve Council Seats of the Varen Council include:

  • Mistress Yessa Iresha – Yessa is the head of resource allocation and logistics within Varen space. While she has no direct control over military expenditures, she does control how much gets put into the military budget each quarter. Known as a person that deeply attached to money, she is good at finding “wasted” money – although this has resulted in comments that she has traded in her lightsaber in favor of auditing people to death, much to her displeasure.
  • Master Ord Cantel – Ord is the council member most likely to attend council meetings via holo. His aquatic species limits his ability to interact with the rest of the council save for the most important of affairs. Master Ord is typically the most laid back of the Council; he likes to play the devil’s advocate and expose the flaws in the plans of others. While this behavior hasn’t earned him any friends, having your plan hammered by Ord relentlessly and still getting his vote is seen as a major achievement.
  • Mistress Hazel Rote – Hazel is the head of the diplomatic offices. A master of illusions, telepathy, and coercion, Hazel has managed to extend the Varen influence across the region. While seen as more than a bit heavy handed at times with negotiations, neutral parties tend to agree she’s fair if demanding. Not so neutral parties don’t tend to get to interact with her much until they’ve had an attitude adjustment.
  • Grand Mistress Naga Vascud – Naga is the current head of the Council. While this entails a lot of prestige for her and her family, this actually comes down to her vote counting twice in matters of a tie. Her focus has been on economic growth and the symbols of it. The construction of the three command ships was her idea as is the current push towards capturing assets that will become strategically important after the war.
  • Mistress Admiral Vera Morrowain – A Force user talented in the art of fleet enhancement and tactics. Vera has been widowed three times, but her last marriage did result in twin daughters: Farah and Karah. She is good friends with Valerie’s mother Lessa Soung from their days at the Academy. Currently is head of the Varen fleet, although this usually consists of assigning objectives to her subordinates and letting them fulfill them however they chose. Those who do well, get promoted.
  • Master Zertil Soung – Lessa Soung’s father and Valerie’s grandfather. He is the first male from the Soung family to hold the council seat in two centuries. With age beginning to take it’s toll, Zertil has begun to look for a successor to take his place. Zertil has been renowned for his ability to cut through irrelevant banter and get to the heart of a matter – no matter how much someone else would like to obscure the issue.
  • Master General Neer Gruber – Commander of the Varen armies and a skilled strategist. He likes to micro-manage things and makes it his personal quest to know the names of every soldier under his command. While criticized for wanting to know exactly what subordinates are doing and why at all times, he has punished commanders for following orders as opposed to sense. Ask Neer why he put someone in charge of an operation, and Neer will go into exhausting detail on the matter. Some joke that even the enemy don’t want that level of detail.
  • Master Tacit Logosa – Tacit is a schemer. His plans typically reach out decades, and if rumor is true, he has detailed instructions for his successors on what to do and when. He is usually the one to propose plans within the Council and is fond of challenging opponents in games of strategy. His list of contacts is large and is frequently quite knowledgeable on obscure groups and organizations. Rumors that he knows members of the Jedi Council are frequently denied.
  • Master Tieren Massud Maha Vailo – As the leader of the combined Maha and Vailo households, Tieren is a major power within the Council. The Grenkay Corps reports to him and is responsible for policing internal affairs within the Varen. It was Tieren that pushed for the expansion of recruiting efforts during the war. The appointment of Zertil’s son-in-law as the head of that project was a concession to the Soung family for support on the project.
  • Master Horas Gasden – Horas is the leader of the Archives and the associated Varen network. He takes pride in the size of the Archives and is not above using construction of Varen network relays as bribes to get what he wants. His personal goal is to establish a major connection to the Republic network without the need to go through the major Hutt backchannels given the major fees the Hutts have charged. The others fear that establishing such a connection may lead to the Republic growing fearful of the level of Varen development.
  • Mistress Robana Shana – Ex-wife of Klepp Brooke, Robana is head of the settlement and development departments. This typically involves terraforming efforts and containment efforts for truly annoying species. Robana’s grand plans for terraforming often set her on a collision course with Yessa Iresha. Rumors that she sterilized a planet with a particularly vexing Force predator in the wake of her divorce are as yet unvalidated due to lack of evidence.
  • Master Klepp Brooke – Ex-husband of Robana Shana, Klepp learned that seeing other people while married wasn’t the best move on his part. Currently overseeing the exploration and mapping departments, Klepp has taken to participating in council meetings via holonet. While normally working towards mapping new routes and systems, the war has redirected his efforts towards watching the borders and finding new routes to Republic and Sith space.

Star Wars – History and Philosophy of the Varen Commonwealth

Moons of solar system scaled to Earth's Moon

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Here we have a slightly-edited series of items from Kira’s player, detailing the homeworlds of one of the currently important factions.

Out beyond the borders of the Republic, there are many small, independent, domains. The Varen Commonwealth is one of those domains – consisting of the usual a scattering of outposts and territorial claims in nearby systems clustered around a modest group of inhabited planets and moons.

In this case, the center of the Varen Commonwealth lies in a single system – and that system has a vested interest in isolation and concealment from the rest of the galaxy.

History of the Varen Commonwealth

The Varen system lies on the Outer Rim of the galaxy, and is mildly unusual in that the Jovian class Varen II has a large number of habitable moons in orbit. There is evidence that at least some of the twelve inhabited moons were terraformed or moved into Varen II orbit from Varen III and IV. This combined with the Varen system’s location at the end of a minor hyperspace route gave it an excellent defensive position.

This in fact is what drew the first modern settlers to the system millennia ago while fleeing yet another Sith war raging across the galaxy. Inevitably, Sith fleeing the Republic also arrived in the system and set up shop. Keen not to draw the ire of a vengeful Republic, these Sith did their best to lay low and not draw attention to themselves. Those likely to draw too much attention, or to threaten the others, were killed before they could pose a threat.

Families of Sith arose to power on each of the moons of Varen II as each found ways to gain political control without drawing too much attention to themselves. With their footholds firmly established, each family began to look at the other moons with an eye towards conquest. And so began the trade wars, assassinations, political alliances and backstabbing that typically accompanies internal strife. However each family was keenly aware of the danger the Republic could pose should it detect another Sith empire forming. To that end, whenever one faction began to gain too much power, the others would unite to suppress it.

This continued on for hundreds of years – until the veritable stalemate began to become the goal and not the undesirable intermediate. Correlating with this change in philosophy was a shift in the doctrine of not drawing attention to the system. This changed from it’s original context to one emphasizing control of the Dark Side over sheer power.

Soon enough the next Sith war erupted due to the actions of another group elsewhere in the galaxy. The Sith of the Varen system joined the rallying cry only to experience severe culture shock upon meeting what they once thought to be their Sith brethren in the galaxy. Superweapons, devastating plagues, continuous backstabbing leading to defeat at the very moment of victory and more abounded. Had this type of behavior held in the Varen system, none of them would even exist! In each other, the Sith of the Varen system found a common cause, in the other Sith, they felt only disgust. Once again the war ended in a victory for the Republic, and the Sith of the Varen system fell back to their home system quietly.

Those that fought in the war did not forget the lessons learned though. Realizing that they had more in common with each other than with other Sith, honest peace dialogues started. Soon a council was formed of the heads of each of the twelve major families. This council originally served as a platform for mediation and negotiation, but in time grew to become a major decision making body for the system. Internal conflicts began to wane, and resources consolidated. Soon the inhabitants of the system began to call themselves Varen in recognition of this fact.

In the aftermath of the latest Sith war, several nearby systems were either abandoned or found themselves isolated from the rest of the galaxy. Most did not exactly welcome the Varen with open arms, remembering the atrocities from the previous Sith oppressors. It was true that the locals of the systems taken over lost a lot of political freedom in the process. On the other hand, the Varen encouraged economic growth and industrialization – despots yes, but despots with a clear sense of enlightened self-interest. Healthy economies, rich worlds, and functioning societies with reasonably contented populations made a FAR more useful power-base than attempting to rule by sheer terror.

Force sensitives born among the populace were systematically taken in by the Varen and taught the Varen ways. Those that managed to control their powers were adopted by one of the existing families and given rights and privileges to go with it. Those found to be lacking the necessary control were ruthlessly eliminated for the danger they presented to all the Varen had built.

In the larger galaxy, the cycle of Sith Wars came and went, although the Varen would always limit their participation. Choosing to cherry pick the spoils of war and peace while letting the Republic and more showy Sith continue their endless dance was much more profitable. Varen territory and assets grew over time and the Varen even began to try to limit the greater Sith excesses through assassinations and sabotage – or allowing a few Jedi to take care of their problems for them. After all, a vengeful Republic could destroy all they had built as much as a rampaging Sith Lord.

The Varen government has grown into a hybrid system split along class lines. The Varen families are governed by the family courts and the Varen Council. The non-sensitives who are not members of one of the families are instead ruled by the Parliament. Parliament can make laws and run social programs, but is not allowed to make laws regarding Force sensitives, manipulate military spending, or run major infrastructure projects. Funding is provided as a percentage of annual taxes.

The Varen Council is made up of the heads of each of the Varen families. It has the authority to make decisions regarding military expenditures, major infrastructure improvements, taxation, and laws regarding the Varen themselves. The organizational structure is much like any nobility class with minor fiefdoms and territories being held by various members of the family. Fiefdoms and territories are usually handed out by the Council or the families in the case of locations dominated by a single family. Appointments to various jurisdictions is doled out based upon a combination of merit, family connections, and political intrigue. A fiefdom performing well under one’s jurisdiction is looked upon well, but a rapid decline after departure is looked down on unless it can be shown to be the result of an incompetent successor.

Sadly, even with careful management, the Outer Rim just isn’t nearly as resource rich as the Mid-Rim or the Core. That territory was firmly under Republic control though and the Republic wasn’t likely to give it up readily. Nonetheless, there was more than one way to make a credit. The first envoys to the Republic wishing to set up an Embassy and trade relations was dismissed as a joke. Subsequent attempts at discrete negotiations fared well until some objecting Senators learned of the discussions and launched a public campaign to derail the efforts.

With discussions with the Republic failing repeatedly, the Varen looked elsewhere for lucrative trade routes. Hutt space proved productive if rather low quality in trade. The insect swarms of the Oort systems also proved to be a successful trade partner. All this time the Varen have quietly built up their industrial base, made connections, and established contacts.

As the most recent Sith war has broken out, the Varen have been attempting to take a more active role in the effort. While they don’t have the resources to compete with the Mid-Rim systems that defected to the Sith, the Varen are typically better organized, and further from the war front. This time they should be in a much better position to limit the damage caused and to pick up some prime spoils. Who knows, if they can manage to capture a real prize from the Republic, the Republic may be willing to exchange something precious to see it returned intact.

Besides, recruiting has gone way up this time around. Even if this particular war doesn’t go well, the next is sure to go differently.

The philosophy of the Varen Sith

The philosophy of the Varen Sith is simple; many, or perhaps most, force sensitives will eventually fall to the negative emotions of the dark side of the force, and this must be accepted. Thus they focus their training on unemotional logic – learning to transform the blazing fury of the dark side into cold fury, a force that can be directed towards their own utterly ruthless goals, rather than a into uncontrolled destruction of things which might be useful later – or which might attract too much attention.

Rather a lot of trainees prove unable to focus on their goals when the power of the dark side pours through them, and so either eliminate themselves or are eliminated – but the modest percentage who survive are tempered by it. The Varen Sith will always be a tiny minority of force-users because eight or nine out of ten will die in training.

On a large scale… they look remarkably similar to the Jedi from the outside. A Jedi might save children because it is the right thing to do. A Varen Sith might save children because the reputation is useful, gratitude is useful, they are potential future resources, and it helps keep the society that he or she is depending on for power functioning – but, either way, the children will be saved.

Of course, the Varen might use them for experiments or a diversion later on – but only if such use promises to be more profitable than keeping them alive and healthy for the future and if it can be concealed well enough not to cause social disruptions.