Monster Blood! Expanded Edition

Monster Blood!

Tweaking your beasties in a magical setting

This is an edited version of the Monster Blood file with some new additions and explanations. Hopefully the improved formatting makes this easier to read. Enjoy.

In fantasy settings, we often have a disgustingly complicated world filled with weird varieties of twisted creatures. The universe we inhabit operates with a few fairly simple laws. Those laws interact in some truly amazing ways, but it arises from only a handful of rules.

Fantasy universes are not like that. They feature arrays of energy types from different universes; these are often half-alive and capable of fuzzily choosing for themselves. Strange and amazing creatures exist which are not merely different in appearance, or even differ in body chemistry, but actively function on alien physics. Beings of living fire burn forever. Beings of water slosh around and can actually be hurt by swords. Living metaphysical principles stop by to chat.

Worse yet, they actually have children together. (When mommy water elemental and daddy fire spirit love each other *very* much…) And that doesn’t even reach into the confusing issue of how such creatures work together – or don’t. We can ask what they’ll understand – do they comprehend traps? Are they able to think abstractly?

Thus… keywords.

The keyword system gives you a quick rundown of three things:

… WHAT is a creature made of and how does it keep body and soul together?

… HOW does it think and understand?

… WHO lives together in their societies?


Metabolism Keywords

Metabolism describes how the creature gathers energy and uses it, and generally describes what kind of physical (or whatever) body it possesses.

Power Sources and Metabolism

In this bit, we’ll look at those sources of energy and suggest a few interactions for them. These aren’t the metabolisms, but groupings of the basic forms of energy.

Physical (Chemical, Electrical, Mechanical)
Physical energies are all the ones we’re familiar with: Chemical energy, Electrical energy, Gravity, etc. The nice thing about these is that they work almost anywhere. It takes an unusual universe if chemical creatures suddenly drop dead. Of course, hostile conditions can make surviving very long quite difficult – but that’s where the magic comes in.

Chemical energy derives from concentrated nutrients, which the creature’s body can break down by exposing it to other, commonly available materials. Electrical energy is a stream of electrons, which the creature absorbs from a concentrated source. Thermal energy is a concentrated source of heat, such as hot springs or volcanoes. Creature can live on the energy radiated from that source. Gravitational is an odd duck, but a creature could live on a fluxing gravity source, such as a moon with a very unstable orbit.

Physical creatures do have some vulnerabilities. These energy sources are a very thin and weak, so its creatures are rarely the most powerful and usually have only a few weaker special abilities. They don’t innately teleport across planes or shoot fireballs out of their hair. However, because chemical creatures have a very thin, diffuse innate power source, one which is almost completely neutral and does not interact with other magic, they can can possess any minor metabolism.

With one exception, that is. Negative energy is entropic and strikes directly at their being. This is extremely unstable, and a physical creature which starts feeding on negative energy can survive only with extreme measures. They’ll usually fall into undeath “naturally”. Even surviving long enough to get started on that is more a matter of special training and magical rituals – and hence appears in a few Prestige Classes. It’s not something suitable for a base creature, at least not without a convenient God watching over it.

Suggestion: Physical metabolisms CANNOT support a Negative Energy-based minor metabolism. They can live with any other power source or metabolism. However, Physical creatures can more easily fulfill the needs of any minor metabolism, and usually end up tougher for it. The minor metabolism will actually “support” the major, and fill in any gaps or weaknesses. Physical creatures with a minor metabolism are usually stronger in body and mind, suffer less from sickness or old age, and live longer.

Magical (Elemental, Arcane, Necrotic)
Magical Energies cover the raw forces which run the fantasy cosmos: pure magic, the elements, and positive and negative energy (life and death). These have powerful effects and completely define the creatures created from them. Unlike Physical creatures, a being needs nothing else except these forces: you can pretty much build an entire body from them. In addition, a living being made of them more or less absorbs energy, making dinner very convenient.

However, they’ve got some weaknesses. These should always have some critical weaknesses. You might say their structure is a tad… exposed. With a physical creature, the body is neutral to any kind of magic, and any attack does about as much damage as its raw energy would deal to anything. Magical creatures are different, and always have specific weaknesses which strike directly at the core of their being.

Suggestion: It is just barely possible to merge two completely opposing metabolisms, but not easy. They musty be balanced perfectly. Thus, you can have a Steam (Fire+Water) or Dust (Earth+Air) elemental. You can have a positive/Negative energy creature. However, it can’t have a minor metabolism. Then, or it will be thrown of balance, which is usually followed shortly by an explosion. This is the only time and way a creature can have two Major metabolisms.

Both minor and mixed metabolisms get trickier here, because a creature must fulfill both sets of metabolisms – and more. When you start dealing in pure forms of energy, you get all kinds of unpleasant side effects such as interference (or worse, resonance). In short, you need even more munchies to keep going. This is one reason you don’t get many Magical creatures with mixed metabolisms – it’s too hard. That said, the creature would have a slew of dangerous and unpredictable abilities.

Extra-Planar (Planar, Divine)
Extra-planar Energies are the forces of outer dimensions – the places of cosmic principles and ideas you are in separate from any immediate physical force. Despite this, they have a solidity and reality all their own. Corporeal creatures can easily interact with them.

This energy or types of energy have an intrinsic intelligence, or desire. It may not understand but it still reacts to its environment as though it were a living creature. Thus it is hard to ignore or re- purpose. It will act on its own, even if erratically, to further its purpose. Extra-planar energies can include morality, but also other concepts like shadow or madness. It should come as no surprise that the goals of these powers are not easily understood.

Another side effect is that extra-planar energy tends to… infect people. Those who use it begin to be… affected. You can’t keep summoning up evil energy without risking an evil taint upon yourself, as it starts to twist your very nature. And in fact, most creatures with an extra-planar metabolism literally can’t use other extra-planar power sources.

Because the energy is self regulating, it is very flexible and can associate with most metabolisms and other energies. Its conflicts revolve around other extra-planar energy. All such tend to compete and work to drive each other out. So while it isn’t totally impossible, usually beings have only one such metabolism. If they have two, expect that it’s a very well-known and regular occurrence, and you’ll find whole planes filled with those particular dual-natured creatures. Divine metabolism override anything else, but otherwise follows the same rules.

Now we’ll go in-depth into the actual metabolisms themselves.


Chemical Metabolism

We’re all familiar with chemical metabolism, the wonderful lovely system which allows us to eat, breathe, and sleep, enjoying our lives day in and out. Chemical metabolism use material substances which react. Their bodies use complex chemical pathways to strip food and drink) of useful materials and energy, which go into building and repairing the body and fueling activity.

Like all metabolisms, this has a number of advantages. Chemical creatures have low magical signatures, vary critical weaknesses (if any) greatly from creature to creature, and avoid vulnerability to magical attacks or mystical effects. Chemical creatures thrive in, or adapt to, a wide range of environments and reproduce quickly enough to maintain maximize the population for the land and resources available.

The downside is that chemical metabolism doesn’t have any great advantages. It’s not designed for any purpose in particular and has no self-organizing principles. It doesn’t come with any innate magical power, and remains heavily dependent on having the right chemicals and materials available for survival. In fact, magic is always an alien force to chemical creatures, who harness it only in very awkward ways. This actually can become an advantage because they lack many restrictions on what spells and abilities they can develop. (And here you always wondered why you got all the prestige classes and class advancement as humanoids.)

Mind/Body: Chemical creatures have constantly interacting mind and body. While separate, the chemical creature is simply not complete without a full, functioning body. As the body dies, part of the spirit dies with it. Lose an arm, and the spiritual aspect of that arm is dead. Damage the face so the creature can’t smile? The creature will actually have a harder time
understanding the meaning of other’s smiles.

General Rules: Chemical creatures need the wonderful everyday things we’re familiar with: air, water, and
food. They bleed and need sleep. Chemical creatures grow slowly to
adulthood (compared to some magic monstrosities, anyhow), but a small
population can reproduce itself indefinitely – no need for special
support or godlike authority figures. They have no magical weaknesses
or advantages, and need no magical resources to survive.

D20 Game Mechanics: Chemical creatures are the base standard for all beings. They are largely immune to spells of banishment and cannot easily be warded off, which is why those spells don’t target player characters often and don’t work so well if they do.

Electrical Metabolism

We’re all familiar with electrical metabolisms, since you’re probably reading this on a computer screen. Electrical metabolic creatures live on electricity. It powers them in a constant stream which gives them strength and vitality to move. The creature’s central core is the true living heart, and everything else is the shell.

For the most part, they don’t need many other resources, and what they do need is usually provided to them by a master or owner. Certainly, free-willed or naturally-occurring electrical creatures aren’t impossible, but most were deliberately created by someone else for a specific purpose and can count on that owner for support, repairs, and so forth.

Of course, that same monomaniacal dependency has its downsides. Lose power, and the creature shuts down or even dies permanently. Damage the core, and the creature is down for good. Magical attacks, sadly, can do both fairly easily. However, environmental hazards may be worse. Electricity does not work well with water, and cold and hot weather can weaken an electrical creature long before a chemical creature.

Mind/Body: Additionally, because they use only electrical energy for survival, many electrical creatures can completely replace whole body parts. Their physical forms are tools external to the mind, which is the “real” creature – a central core being.

General Rules: Cold temperatures can weaken electrical creatures unless they have a lot of energy to recharge. They’ll usually run down long before a comparable chemical creature would freeze. Water is very bad, and will short out any exposed components, while insulating them from liquid is expensive and bulky. On the upside, they need not breathe or sleep, and are immortal unless the core is damaged.

D20 Game Mechanics: While it’s not always important, an electrical creature’s core has a separate hit point total from its body. The body is easy to repair with appropriate spells, but the core usually has only a trivial amount of hit points (1d4+1/level) and will die easily. Substitute an appropriate Craft skill for that creature to repair. Most of the time, the core is only vulnerable once the body’s hit points run down. But an attack which penetrates deeply, or a magical spell which targets the core proper (+3 spell levels as a built-in effect), might cut straight through.

Cold attacks should deal an extra die of damage, and long-term exposure to cold weather should inflict and slowly increase stat penalties to Strength and Dexterity (a Fort save around every 8 hours, DC at GM’s discretion). Insulation only marginally protects against this, granting a +2 bonus on the save).

Water presents another danger, and an active electrical creature will take 1d4 damage every round (to the body, not the core) from water. Some electrical creatures can completely shut down, in which case they does not take damage, but they don’t have a way to turn back on again…

Mechanical Metabolism

Mechanical metabolism is almost strictly limited to constructs, though it’s possible to have other varieties. A Mechanical metabolism takes advantage of the compelling power of clockwork. Instead of organs and blood, mechanical creatures fill their bodies with springs and gears.

Exactly how they gather energy to survive is another question. Worlds with gravity fluctuations can support them, as can any world where very hot areas border on cool ones. Land that is always hot, such as a burning desert, is not ideal, but creatures might charge up during the day and be active only during the evening. An active volcano, on the other hand, could support thousands.

Further, mechanical metabolisms are unusual, to say the least. This is not the kind of thing you expect to evolve on a scientific world. Most often, someone designed and built mechanical creatures, at least simple ones, and only then did the creatures develop. Fortunately, mechanical creatures are perfect for doing so. They come with a lot of built-in mechanical know-how and may easily reproduce.

Mind/Body: Mechanical creatures are at least as similar to chemical ones as electrical. They have a similar mind and body connection as chemical creatures. Damage the body, and you at least harm the mind and spirit.

General Rules: These are covered under the description above.

D20 Game Mechanics: Mechanical creatures take an extra die of damage from sonic or shattering attacks. Most are metal, and need not breathe or “eat” normally, but they often need sleep and the occasional oil bath. Something like a rust monster can deal lethal damage to one. It’s assumed that any metal mechanical creature won’t rust from rain or casual water, but prolonged exposure to corrosive chemicals (including salt water) causes serious damage at least as fast might kill a normal
human from exposure.

Arcane Metabolism

Arcane creatures need constantly flowing magical energy to survive. Most often, they develop powerful spellcasting abilities or resistances to magical energy as a side effect. The other great advantage of arcane metabolism is that creatures with it are much, much tougher than common Chemical creatures. They can draw upon a far richer supply of energy to survive on. Of course, the downside is that they usually have very dangerous weaknesses. The correct attack of magical energy can leave them helpless, or even kill outright, because even the most complex Arcane metabolism will have a few…. holes.

Mind/Body: Arcane creatures have no clear separation between the mind and body. If they have a physical form at all, it’s little more than a shell to contain the awesome power within. Many are not native to the player character’s universe, since their magical nature makes them easy to summon or control. Others are created by powerful wizards as part of some twisted experiment.

General Rules: A pure Arcane creature may not have a physical form, and immaterial creatures are not blocked by many common defenses. You should determine if it can use minor magical abilities indefinitely, or if it has a reserve of magical power. Either way, such a creature could be a priceless catch to a spellcaster. Arcane creatures are also very resistant to some magic – the purer the magic, the least likely it is to affect the creature. Arcane creatures usually need not eat, breathe or sleep.

D20 Game Mechanics: Not many creatures have a full Arcane metabolism. Creatures like the Nishruu do, and they can be utterly immune to any spell. But everything has weaknesses. Most arcane creatures simply have high saving throws and resistances, but also substantial spell-like abilities. They often go intangible as needed.

Necrotic Metabolism

Most creatures use various energies to sustain life, but a few feed on death itself. In a manner of speaking, Necrotic creatures don’t even a metabolism, but the lack of one. Still, one way or another the undead manage to function.

Any creature which calls upon the power of Death (or Darkness, or Evil depending on the universe) to sustain a former existence can be called Undead. These beings retain a shell of their former lives. This is important because only the rarest and most terrible Necrotic creature can do without. The undead must retain part of its former existence or it falls apart. Without some kind of memory or reminder, even powerful undead lose their identity and will.

At the very weakest level, an undead creature might need nothing more than its own rotten flesh to “survive.” At the strongest, ancient mummies require a huge tomb and carefully guarded sacred vessels. Ghosts haunt places which remind them of their lives. Smash the flesh, and the zombie ceases its minimal existence. Destroy the sacred vessels, and the mummy falls to dust. Convince the ghost to let go, and it fully dies.

It’s no accident that necrotic beings have a bad reputation, either. Their existence is inimical to life. While intelligent undead can control this, it would be a rare Necrotic creature which did not willingly hurt others. While they don’t get stronger for it, undead actively enjoy the environment created by death and decay, much as most normal beings might like warm, sunny days.

Mind/Body: As mentioned above, the mind of a Necrotic creature depends mostly on the link to its , and not on the state of the body as such. However, they do need the body – it’s just sometimes immaterial ectoplasm or a rotten husk.

General Rules: Undead need not eat, breathe or sleep, and usually can’t. Poisons and disease do not affect them. Some enjoy eating their victims, but do not require it unless the dark power which created wants it that way. They are tough against most physical attacks. While never outright stated, most see well in the dark. Like many creatures with a magical metabolism, they have innate abilities. However, these are rarely all that useful except for killing and destruction (for some reason, powers of death, decay, and destruction aren’t good at anything else).

D20 Rules: D20 covers most undead, with a rich variety to choose from and plenty of rules for them.

Elemental Metabolism

Elemental creatures have a relatively simple, but powerful, metabolism. They absorb the relevant energy of their type. This normally means they are a living aspect of the plane they hail from. This doesn’t mean all that much – a chemical creature is a “living aspect” of a material universe. But elemental creatures, like many outsiders and unlike material creatures, form an active channel of energy when removed from the home plane. In their home universe, they have infinite energy sources to draw on, with the only limits being the natural forces which create them – their native strength of spirit. Outside of it, they release elemental energy into the local environment. This means even touching one can be fatal (in the case of fire or acid or similar “energy”), and they can slowly release their element into the world.

Having a body made of elemental forces grants magical power, but only in very narrow channels. An elemental creature of fire isn’t going to do much healing, let alone cast lightning or water magic, because all the energy is tied up in fire-based channels. The same goes respectively for other elemental forces.

While not universal, many elemental creatures lack much personality. Elemental forces don’t require it: they can exist without action. They can have mind without desire, being without much will. Again, many exceptions exist. But you’ll find earth elementals that simply stay put, water and air spirits who simply flow as the currents dictate, and fire spirits who may attack you solely because you’re made of burnable material. They react but do not precisely respond. Some consider this an exalted state of Buddhist oneness. Others consider such elementals to be mobile features of the landscape. Also, note that having a personality isn’t tied to personal power for elementals – the most powerful spirits could be quiet and inactive forever.

Mind/Body: Unlike chemical creatures, elementals have no separation at all between the mind and body. The creature’s mental processes occur just as much in the foot as the head, assuming it even has either one. In the case of elemental creatures, the complete lack of any internal organ or complexity means there’s nothing to hurt. They don’t feel pain as most creatures do, although are aware of anything which affects them. Moreover, as long as any part of the creature survives it can regenerate back completely. This limits the creature’s complexity of mind, as well, as the mind can’t develop beyond what it can regenerate.

General Rules: Elemental creatures usually need not eat, breathe or sleep. They can usually be controlled, bound, or summoned by the correct use of magic. Most other rules are covered above.

D20 Rules: Not too different from the basic rules, an elemental creature takes double damage from an “opposing element”. While this is usually defined as Fire-Water and Earth/Acid-Air/Lightning, you could add a great many more elements and more complicated interactions. A mystical China-themed game might have Metal → (strong against) Earth → Wind → Water → Fire → Metal, or even more complicated rules.

Planar Metabolism

Planar metabolism works very similar to Elemental metabolism, with more complications. Planar creatures naturally gather and use the energies of their home planes. This is not limited to merely alignment planes (In D20-based games), although those are common. Any kind of non-physical, non-elemental plane can create Planar metabolism creatures, including alignment planes and planes with strange or incomprehensible existences.

The twist is that all Planar creatures are at the very least somewhat intelligent. They might not be bright, but they intrinsically understand, use, and abuse the rules of their home plane. They can often be commanded by other, more powerful planar creatures, and will tend to target and attack “enemy” Planar creatures instinctively.

Planar metabolisms actually feed on the relevant energies of the cosmos (although they do eat). An evil demon, for example, starts to weaken if there’s no evil around to feast on. Sure, this doesn’t usually cause them much of a problem: no matter where they go, there’s enough nastiness to survive. But demons can be weakened gravely if surrounded by enough good, and so on. It won’t kill, but they do not like it.

Mind/Body: Despite the surface similarity to elemental creatures, Planar beings do have separate mentalities, slightly more so than Chemical creatures. They can often survive the destruction of their bodies entirely, though the experience would leave them scarred. Another unusual aspect is that they can often think much more rationally than humans – but are still tightly bound by the aspects of their home plane in what they can do, even if they partly realize the course of action is unwise.

General Rules: Planar creatures often talk about their “power”. Each world possesses its own scale of personal might – a measure of a creature’s authority and inner magical might from its own home. They usually instantly know how their power relates to each other. In any case, the more power inherent in a creature, the stronger and more resistant they become. This can manifest in unusual magical abilities, greater physical might, and almost always in superhuman resilience. Most powerful Planar creatures are immune to mortal attacks and weapons. However, they do need to eat, breathe, and sleep; the more powerful they become, the less they need those, with the most powerful needing none of them at any time.

D20 Rules: Planar creatures are covered adequately, and in almost every possible variation, by the established game books and settings. They will be fully tangible barring the odd special ability.

Divine Metabolism

Gods have their own metabolism. This is one key to their power, though lesser creatures can have a Divine metabolism, too. This is rare at best, and usually confined to powerful spirit beings.

In essence, Divinities can call down energy in its purest form from nowhere. Depending on the game world this might be Hyperspace, the Positive Elemental Plane, or The Heavens, or perhaps they create the possibility of that energy by their very existence. Gods are living channels of power into the world. In some universes, Dark Divinities exist which are corresponding channels of power out of the world, and into the underworld or whatever. Yup, they’re not only dedicated to destruction, evil, and decay – but they get their munchies as well as their jollies from it.

The mere fact of having power doesn’t automatically grant Divinities any control. And the more potent the God, the more energy he/she/it/other can manipulate. Thus, they do get inherent abilities, but these are a step above normal magic. They respond to the God’s will, and work according to the Divinity’s needs and desires instinctively. Divinities don’t need to study or even practice – it just works, and they can often bend the normal rules of the cosmos.

Even the best metabolism has a few downsides. Gods must have some sort of defining trait or factor. Think of this as their “gravity” – a chemical being needs some gravity to be able to hold onto the world, which gives them the ability to move themselves and other objects. The Gods have the same need, only on a much larger scale. The anchor for a God might be a concept, a thought, an emotion, a belief, or a physical place. The more powerful the God grows, the more it embodies that anchor. Contrariwise, Gods which rage against their anchors grow weaker, or at least insane.

Mind/Body: Gods have a huge advantage in the mind/body continuity. Specifically, they don’t have any problems. They can keep or lose their bodies without affecting or damaging the mind and most certainly can survive the loss of the body. They may make foolish choices because of their anchors, but not because of the body’s needs. They will be in full control of the body, which is mostly an energy structure anyhow – when you call down torrents of power, you don’t really need much else.

General Rules: Gods need not eat, breathe, or sleep, but they can do all of the above and will metabolize the full energy content of anything they consume. As a side effect of their metabolism, they can most certainly have offspring with anything living, and this occurs pretty much at their whim. Gods usually have ample inherent magical abilities related to their anchor.

D20 Rules: D20 has its own rules for divinities. However, the creatures they call Gods don’t really cover the spectrum. They often forget about minor, local spirits. Their Gods all get worshiped, but just having a Divine metabolism doesn’t require that. Creatures with Divine metabolisms are good ways to bring in nature spirits, revered ancestors, and other kinds of minor powers.


Lesser Metabolisms

Lesser metabolisms are for creatures with a secondary . This doesn’t really completely alter what a creature is. Think more along the lines of giving it a different “flavor” instead.

Chemical is an uncommon choice for a minor metabolism. However, it can mean that a creature is “clothing” itself in chemical matter to disguise its nature, or it needs some chemical energy to function in the world it’s in. Think the Terminator: sure, it can survive without flesh, but it wouldn’t be doing a very good job, would it? Chemical minor metabolism don’t require much breathing, but the creature must eat and starts suffering some penalties* if the chemical part starts to die.

*These penalties are usually social. Perhaps it doesn’t make much sense that Chemical creatures would have the Charisma I a universe of gods, powerful extraplanar creatures, and so on. On the other hand, chemical creatures seem to be the only ones with a stable, decent society most of the time.

Mechanical is another unusual choice, but you’ve always got cybernetics (Mecha-dragons! Cyber-demons!) Apart from that, imagine creatures reversing the Terminator setup. They may have metallic exoskeletons, or even mechanical muscles, but they’re mostly meat (or whatever). They’ll need concentrated metal nutrients to survive, but these have to be edible to the primary metabolism, too. On the upside, the being is usually tougher and stronger to compensate for the trouble.

Electrical minor metabolism are rare to the point of nonexistence. Sure, it’s not impossible, but it’s one form of energy which does not play well with others. That said, anything’s possible, and a creature with a minor electrical metabolism can probably use it to attack, or perhaps interfaces with other electrical creatures or systems (hacking, maybe). As with Mechanical minors, minor electrical metabolism can be awkward to fuel. Chemical creatures tend to be damaged by direct electrical energy, and it’s none too healthy for many other metabolisms as well.

Elemental is a common minor metabolism. While the exact effects vary by the element, it’s common to see some physical alteration along with minor related special abilities. In many d20 universe, such variants are hardly worth noting, as they’ve become so common as to be humdrum. Apart from occasionally hanging around their respective elements, such creatures are normal enough for the base species. Explaining the family tree might be rather more complicated, however.

Arcane doesn’t usually mix well with other metabolisms. It simply doesn’t have much physical (or whatever) force. Thus, it’s an uncommon minor metabolism. That said, you might imagine many otherwise-normal “mystical” beings, with strange insights and inexplicable minor magical powers. Those powers often need no explanation and don’t do much, but are flexible and useful in a minor way.

Necrotic is another uncommon minor metabolism, representing an unusual affinity for death. Like arcane, it won’t grant much in the way of mighty magic powers, but creatures with a Necrotic minor metabolism are resistant to negative energy attacks and work easily with undead. On another level, they often see well in the dark and function in hostile environments. Remember that such being aren’t undead themselves, but they may become undead should they kick the bucket.

Planar is a common minor metabolism, though less so than Elemental, and generally requires less hemming and hawing about how the being came into existence (many planar creatures have real reproductive organs, or for that matter have organs at all).

Divine is never, ever a minor metabolism. Ever. Period. (Nuh,-uh, not ever! Not even if you sneak it behind my back.)


Here follows a selection of a few variant metabolisms, along with the unusual powers they can grant. These minor metabolisms suit most Major metabolisms, aside from a few restrictions.


There are things Man Was Not Meant to Know. There are things of which you don’t want to know. Some creatures are not merely evil, but alien in a col and malignant sense. They don’t merely hate life, but the very laws which allow us to live. Their motives might be simple and plain or utterly inscrutable, but they view us as nothing more than obstacles in an incomprehensible plan. Worse, being a Horror is built into their structure. This isn’t merely a moral choice. No, these creatures are born and bred this way, usually coming from another reality, or even no reality at all.

Horrors do not merely exist; they disrupt. They are living expressions of alien laws. Even dangerous concepts like madness, evil, and decay are not foreign: they change reality but do not shatter it. But creatures of Horror actively break apart existence, and that’s usually their goal in the long run. Perhaps worst of all, we cannot fathom their actions easily, but they all-too-effectively comprehend us.

A Horror minor metabolism feeds on fear. This can’t completely sustain the creature – it will need some other kind of energy. But it does help and the creature needs it. Fortunately, it will have a suite of minor abilities which help it inspire terror, often including emotion-controlling powers. When on the hunt, they might have the innate ability to mimic a wide array of minor magical effects. For example, a Horror trying to chase down and murder a human can disorient the prey, create imaginary small sights and sounds, extinguish lights, conceal his/her/its nature briefly, and even distort space in order to catch the victim. Worse yet, these are no mere illusions, but fully real to the victim. True, the Horror can’t sustain that imposition upon reality, but it can make its will manifest long enough to kill… and feast.

Horrors must pay for this with strange restrictions. A Horror might not be able to cross running water: it’s literally incapable of doing so. A Horror might be required to gather up any loose grains of salt into a jar – and it cannot resist. These bans are the price Horrors pay to even exist in this universe. These can be symbolic, but just as often have no rational connection to the Horror.

Horrors cannot have Electrical, Elemental, or Divine major metabolisms. They also cannot normally reproduce. If they can reproduce at all, this will be one area filled with strange taboos and weaknesses. (Somehow, the heroes always arrive just in time to stop the monsters from unleashing a million spawn.)


While Horrors need fear to survive, Vampires need the direct life essence of the victim. Unlike a normal predatory species, the Vampire actually absorbs the living. Vampires can’t survive except on living creatures, and must have a steady supply of appropriate targets just to live. In order to drain life energy, the vampire needs to get near to his victim, and make some kind of close, personal connection. This need not be limited to classic blood-drinking, either. Breath, body heat, and causing fatigue are all common. The upside is that life energy is a rich source of power. The vampire gains much innate power, usually greatly increased statistics

There’s a bit of an odd issue with vampires in DnD. As undead they are negative energy creatures instantly harmed by positive energy. But as vampires, they can in fact eat the positive energy from living targets. There’s a few ways around this.

First, you can just ignore it – always the easy way. Second, you can judge that vampires are undead, but not negative energy undead (and there canon examples of non-negative-energy undead), but Chemical/Vampire creatures whose natural life functions may have ceased. They simply keep them going with life energy. Third, you can work out a way for vampires to convert life energy from victims into negative energy.

Vampires can reproduce (unless they’re a freakish once-off created by magical experimentation or divine curses), but generally feel no compulsion to do so. That said, a creature which was social before becoming a Vampire remains so afterward, and might “vamp” people to form a tribe or coterie for company. Also, having a Vampire metabolism, unlike a Horror metabolism, isn’t inherently evil. Vampires are inherently predatory, and only some forms are always evil.

Vampires are usually chemical, but it doesn’t actually matter as long as their primary metabolism matches their most common victims’. However, a Mechanical Vampire would be unusual, to say the least, while most others would be rather rare; a planar vampire must hunt extremely dangerous prey indeed. This can also form an adventure seed. Imagine that somewhere the Elemental Earth Vampire is crumbling his/her/its rivals while growing stronger by the day. Elementals couldn’t easily defeat it, but plain-Jane humanoids would be quite immune to its big draining attacks…


A Psicho is a creature which consumes “mental energy”, a rarified diet indeed. While in most game universes, you can expect a probably-psychic creature which drains the mental abilities of others, a few universes have so much brainpower floating around that greater beings simply drift around eternally.

The basic concept of a Psicho is a being which feeds on information, specifically that possessed by intelligent beings. If this is an actual energy source in your universe, a Psicho can survive on it. However, unless the universe is indescribably ancient, there simply won’t be enough to go around, and the Psicho must be a predator. Fortunately, mental energy doesn’t decline – the more intelligent beings which exist, the more it accumulates indefinitely. Eventually, Psichos no longer take it from the brains of the living, but simply live in an endless ocean of thought.

Not all Psichos have actual Psichic powers, but they are pretty common. Psichos who feed on others mental energy, and extract that through violence and a sheer love of brain sandwiches, more commonly use that extra energy to enahnce physical abilities. Expect sudden bursts of strength or unpredictable rage when the creature gets hungry… but may stop in the middle of combat to feast on its latest victims. Of course, that only gives it even more energy.


Fey are creatures of belief, and sustain themselves partly on the ideas of others. They may not need this in their native universe, but in the “real world,” Fey are shaped by the nature of others’ beliefs in them. Without those beliefs, they either die or return to amorphous creatures, pale shadows on the world.

As a consequence, expect to see strange restrictions and taboos, often completely nonsensical. The creature innately understands these, even though they make no sense to anyone else. A Fey may instinctively know it cannot cross a line of iron filings, even if it never had a chance to try. Speaking of iron, the cold metal is a powerful ward against most Fey, evidently being something outside of their normal abilities.

Most Fey, even dark and dangerous breeds, have many powers of illusion, trickery, and deceit. This merely extends the principle which keeps them in the world, for their very bodies are formed of illusion-substance given a half-reality by the beliefs of those around them. Their sources of power and their greatest weakness is but one thing. Any other power they possess must be developed the usual way, or is innate to the other part of their metabolism.

Most Fey have a Chemical, Arcane, or Divine metabolism. Some local spirits of waters or the land and such are Elemental instead. While not always friendly, the latter are the most reliable and down-to-earth Fey.


Existing Types Breakdown

Most of the subtypes are pretty obviously fit into one category or have don’t matter to the metabolism system much, but the following gives a little information on the major types.

Aberration: There’s really no explanation for Abberrations. Arcane and Chemical are the most common metabolisms.

Animal: Usually Chemical, or Planar if native to a weird dimension.

Construct: Usually Mechanical or rarely Electrical. Although given the little information on them, you could easily treat the body as a shell powered by almost any metabolism.

Dragon: Usually both Chemical and Elemental, both as major metabolisms. A few oddball dragons have very exotic combinations.

Elemental: Always Elemental, can have a second major Metabolism.

Fey: Usually Chemical. Fey are a pain, because the DnD Fey don’t have much to do with classical fey. The Fey were dangerous, unpredictable tricksters who ran the gamut from spirits of justice to nigh-incomprehensible sovereigns to little people who stole your crumbs. If you want to use more classical fey, give with an Arcne or Chemical metabolism with the Fey minor.

Giant: Usually Chemical. Combined Chemical/Elemental major metabolisms are also pretty common here.

Humanoid: Usually Chemical.

Magical Beast: Usually Chemical. Many Magical beats have exotic abilities, often as Arcane, Planar, or Elemental combined or minor metabolisms.

Monstrous Humanoid: Usually Chemical.

Ooze: Usually Chemical. There’s really no explanation for oozes. They just are.

Outsider: Usually Planar. Combined metabolisms aren’t that common but hardly inconceivable. Djinn are combined Planar/Elemental, for example.

Plant: Usually Chemical, or Planar if native to a weird dimension. Most of the really weird plants would have a combined or minor metabolism, the commonplace stuff isn’t cosidered exotic in a world with magic.

Undead: Usually Necrotic or Arcane. Ghosts are listed as Undead of course, but should probably be Arcane metabolism. Vampires could be Necrotic/Vampiric or Chemical/Vampiric. Some exotic non-negative energy undead should also have Arcane metabolisms.

Vermin: Usually Chemical.


Sentience Key

How much thought does a creature have? What can it actually perceive, consider, and guess at? How well will it comprehend human motives? These questions and more are part of a creature’s Sentience Key. The Sentience Key simply explains whether a creature can think or not, and what mental capabilities it possesses.

These capabilities are progressive. That is, having a higher one implies mastery over lower abilities. Is this strictly perfectly rational? No, surely there’s some creature in the universe with vast mental capabilities in one area but complete failure in another. But it’s not common, because brainpower tends to build on itself. The Keywords don’t prevent creatures from having specialties, but we’re assuming they tend not to be total monomaniacs.

Likewise, these keys are not linked to the Intelligence score. You can now have a brilliant animal with lots of Int-based skill points and bonuses to any Int-based skill it can use, but still lack a human-scale mind or the ability to play Chess.

I break down the “features” of a mind into several categories. There’s Will, desire and ability to choose between options. There’s Knowledge, having a significant body of information on some subject, or a skill. There’s Learning, the ability to gather more knowledge, develop skills, and in particular learn from mistakes. There’s Abstract Reasoning, which allows you to think about concepts and numbers without reference to specific physical examples. There’s Control, which grants the ability to refocus the mind and allocate resources consciously. There’s Foresight, which allows you to predict outcomes with a reasonable certainty. And finally, we have Metacognition, where a creature can use its full power for all tasks and concepts


Mindless creatures don’t actually have a mind at all.

A Mindless creature reacts physically (or magically or whatever) to changes in the environment. Usually such creatures can’t fight at all. If they have any kind of combat ability, it mostly uses eating reflexes to swallow things in the vicinity. Mindless creatures have no real senses, but may have triggered reactions to release toxins, eat nearby objects, or similarly mindless responses. In each case, the “reflex” is purely local. Mindless creatures have reflexes, like when your knee kicks if the doctor taps it just right.

Think plants or protozoa and viruses. Neither type acts or reacts in any kind of coherent manner, but they’re no less dangerous for it. Plants in the real world have deadly toxins, attract animals, and sometimes kill insects all without a thought. In a world of magic, they may be much bigger challenges or threats. Sure, the neighborhood pine isn’t a threat to a player character, but the legendary Volcano Tree of Mount Inferno might be a wee bit more trouble.

In game terms, a Mindless creature is a lump. It doesn’t act, gets no initiative or combat actions, and can’t attack. They’re challenges or traps, not enemies.


Reactive creatures have Will but not Knowledge.

A Reactive creature lives, and even to a small degree thinks. It has desires and pursues them. However, its knowledge is instinctual and can never increase. An insect doesn’t learn even if it grows; it doesn’t have the capability. But bees know they need to find food and know how to cooperate with the Hive. Bees have a very tiny brain which decides between needs. They can and do communicate and cooperate. Other insects don’t work together, but they do fulfill needs in other ways, and many other creatures like fish do the same.

In game terms, Reactive creatures are not predictable. If you understand the situations which push them towards one or the other, you can reasonably push how they’ll respond – they don’t have enough brainpower to analyze you back. But it’s never certain. Individuals will differ and can choose.

In combat, they use very simple tactics and fight mercilessly. On the plus side, they don’t have enough brainpower to come up with a clever strategy or use caution. On the downside, they’re well adapted to their style of combat and don’t feel much pain. Most should have one good attack or special ability, and do nothing but attack until dead.


Programmed creatures have Knowledge but not Will.

A Programmed creature is usually a special-made creature, like a golem. It has a simple mind, able to handle some task or duties effectively but otherwise hollow. It doesn’t think as such, but simply responds to trigger conditions. However, when actually using its skills or abilities the creature responds very effectively. Examples include basic undead and most constructs: they aren’t exactly stupid, but they don’t act on their own. They can fight effectively, and serve well if given very clear instructions. Apart from that, Programmed creatures merely stand around waiting for orders.

Programmed and Reactive creatures  aren’t all that different. Differences between creatures often  expand as they develop more powerful capabilities, no matter how many lower abilities they share.


Animal creatures have Will, Knowledge, and Learning.

An Animal creature is much like a Reactive creature, but generally larger and more complex. Animals have a significant mind and devotes a lot of time to learning new skills. They frequently raise their own children, playing with each other and their children. They have primitive emotional responses, which can even stretch beyond the boundaries of species. Unsurprisingly, Animal creatures make the best pets. You can enjoy the presence of mindless creatures, like plants. You can enjoy watching Reactive creatures, like insects or fish. But you can only enjoy the company of animal creatures. They can learn new ideas, although they have some limits on how complex those go, and can choose for themselves within the limits of their understanding.


Pre-Sentient Creatures have Will, Knowledge, and Abstract Reasoning.

Like Programmed creatures, Unsentient creatures usually come from the deliberate creation of other, greater beings. They can think very well. Within the limits of their knowledge, they’re fantastic. Unsentient creatures can analyze problems, put together complex concepts, and think without any reference to physical events. They reduce everything to its perfect mathematical formulas. Even better: they communicate quite well with humans.

They don’t have anything beyond that, however. Unsentient creatures aren’t alive in that sense. They accept any input that follows the proper channels, and can’t distinguish between who does the inputting. And what they accept, they obey. The Unsentient creature will exterminate a billion lives as handily as it deletes a billion numbers, and for the same reason: it was told to.

In fiction, Programmed creatures are  Robots as opposed to Unsentient creatures as mighty computers. This  simply emphasizes the distinction between the mute robot and the  communicative computer. The former acts but does not think. The  latter thinks but does not act. However, there’s no reason an  Unsentient creature can’t have a body; you just don’t need it to.  Powerful computers you can talk to have uses very different from a robot laborer.


Sapient creatures are like humans. We think, learn, and create. We can choose to act or not in a certain situation, and choose how to act. We analyze the universe and develop strategies for achieving goals. Our behaviors are complex and vary between extremely predictable and wildly unpredictable, often with little middle ground. The result, in fact, is that we find it easier to study the vast and deep mysteries of the universe than successfully investigate ourselves.

A Sapient creature possesses all of the lower mental abilities: Will, Knowledge, Learning, and Abstract Reasoning. They cannot control how they allocate mental energy, focus poorly, and display very little understanding of how their actions will impact the future.


As we get to the Superhuman stage, we begin to see minds that we have no experience with, let alone can easily comprehend. A Superhuman mind controls itself, allocating resources. Up until the Superhuman Stage, creatures largely use unconscious processes. Even a Sapient creature mostly works invisibly, even to itself.

The superhuman mind does not share that weakness. A superhuman creature chooses what inputs to pay attention to and ignore. It customizes its own brain, “evolving” intelligence suited to the situation. In short, it’s an intelligence which is superficially similar to our own, but controlled and capable of incredible focus.

Trying to torture a superhuman creature? It decides to ignore the pain and concentrates on controlling its body to maximize healing, focusing its attention on looking to escape. It may concentrate all its efforts on social analysis, figuring out what to tell you to manipulate your reactions. Or it may wait until you tire, then override its muscle limitations to tear out of the restraints and break your neck. Or it could put itself into a trance, feigning death until later. The superhuman creature can’t be easily predicted or constrained, because it adapts to overcome any obstacle. It becomes what it needs to be to accomplish whatever goal the creature has in mind.

This author views the conscious and unconscious distinctions with suspicion. We don’t admit why we think something, but usually people know why – if they care to look. We usually don’t want to look. Talk Therapy works – if we answer questions we don’t want to answer.

True, we face many influences which we don’t completely recognize. But people are rarely helpless before the deep workings of their brain. Many of the “unconscious” influences which supposedly control us are social choices: peer pressure, cultural assumptions, and our own desire to belong. You can call these unconscious, but they’re hardly invisible. Likewise, unless they’re totally disturbed, people know they’re often being irrational, affected by anger, and so on: we  often give into those urges anyway because it feels good.

But what we’re talking about here is a bit different. Any part of a Superhuman creature’s brain which isn’t working can watch the rest. They always know about every single assumption, environmental influence, and instinct affecting them, and exactly how much it affects them. Yes, this completely shatters the limits of physical reality. They have control over the true sub-conscious: the actual mechanics of the mind.

General Rules: Superhuman characters can move around any stat points they may have in mental stats, altering any and all bonuses they give. To a limited degree they can also enhance physical attributes temporarily (call it a 2-for-1 deal compared to mental). It’s also almost impossible to control or even read their minds, unless you’re on the level of “local demigod.” Superhumans don’t have to focus on only one task at a time, and can divide up the mind as needed to work on multiple things at once.


Seers know the future. And this sucks for everyone else. Unlike mere mystic divination, a seer can predict with frightening accuracy how likely any given course of events is. They have a very good idea what will happen, when, and can make educated guesses as to why.

Needless to say, this is no minor ability.

Seers with enough population and interest to have societies tend to have extremely boring civilizations. Somehow, no disaster ever finds them unprepared. When the orcs come charging over the mountains, they run right into exactly the right defenses to utterly crush them. Somehow, their enemies miss with bullets and even missiles.

Even internally, seers have extremely boring politics. Usually, they don’t even have a government. They don’t need one: everyone has a very good idea of what will happen and arranges things to their best advantage. They farm only what they need, build only what they need, and generally don’t have a great deal of conflict over resources.

That said, Seer-based societies are rare, and they aren’t invulnerable. All the foresight in the world won’t help when you have no chance to survive, and merely seeing the path to victory doesn’t mean you have the capability to exploit it. However, they’ll always have a substantial advantage, are rarely caught off-guard, and

Remember that being a Seer-class intellect isn’t magical. They do need information to work with. But Seers can make connections and predictions far beyond the mundane, and the more they know, the more they foresee.

General Rules: Seers should have a modest bonus against being surprised, and have a good idea of what kinds of attacks or surprises an opponent might have available. In a universe where Seers can prepare magic spells, they can keep a modest selection of slots ready to cast any spell they happen to know. Likewise, Seers always seem to have any small, readily-available item they might need hidden away somewhere. If they need a pin or handkerchief or spare knife, they have exactly that right at hand.


The Metamind is the ultimate expression of intellect. With every capability, a creature with this kind of mind is more an expression of pure thought than anything else. They’re virtually impossible to defeat without overwhelming power, and even then a Metamind can easily put superior forces to shame.

Remember that a Mastermind not only foresees everything, but has no biases, no assumptions, and will not make mistakes easily. They are capable of assimilating data on an unimaginable scale, from reading multiple books and watching multiple news channels simultaneously, to pulling together information from hundreds of sources they remember, using that to predict the future. You don’t surprise one in any way, shape, or form unless you have access to some power they cannot possibly predict or find any information about.

General Rules: Metaminds have all the advantages of Seers and Superhumans, along with the effective ability to alter probability around 25% in their favor. They don’t actually change the odds of a given event occurring, but are assumed to have predicted the outcome and arranged it to their advantage.


Social Key

Creatures don’t exist in a vacuum, except for Star Dragons.

Every being and every creature lives in a world filled with other living things. How they interact and deal with those things plays a critical part in defining that creature. And most beings’ most critical interactions occur with others of their own kind. Those most like us shape our community and our people. On the other hand, some creatures shun their own kind, or any kind. Others form complex societies so they can manage nations of thousands or millions.

This forms the Social Key. Social Keys are the most flexible of all Keys. Whatever a creature’s most common traits are, it has some flexibility when it comes to figuring out how to deal with others. Culture matters – a lot! Also, culture matters much more the more creatures gather together. And individuals might just be weird outsiders who don’t fit in.


A Solitary creature cannot interact with other of its kind except in limited ways. It has no social role whatsoever, except possibly for an urge to reproduce now and then. Solitary creatures don’t merely live alone – they actively avoid contact with others. If intelligent, they dislike the presence of other beings. They would never seek out others except in utter desperation, if then.

Unintelligent Solitary creatures are more common. Plants might happen to live around others, but they have no interest in them and choke the life out of them if they can. Every other plant is an enemy, competing for food, space, light, and water.

The odd fantasy “hive-mind” is also usually a Solitary creature. Most such “hive-minds” are completely incapable of social interaction, and have only one actual mind no matter how many bodies it may possess. When hive-minds do interact with people, they usually treat them as a threat to be destroyed or devoured. Note that the hive-mind is nothing like a real Hive society.


Independent creatures tend to live alone, but can enjoy the company of others from time to time. Many animals are independent, preferring to keep their own dens but playing with others, hunting with others, and seeking out mates. Examples include raccoons, bears, foxes, many cats, most lizards and snakes, and even sharks. Independent creatures simply like to work alone, but don’t object to the presence of other creatures. They can make good pets if they’re small or intelligent enough – they understand affection and often reciprocate warm feelings.


Hive creatures have strict but often simply organizing principles that everyone always abides by. Most often, the individual has a specific role assigned at birth, and carries out that role until death. Everyone is taken care of precisely and specifically as the rules allow, and goes to their death without question. Examples include ants and bees, of course. While both of those species have “queens,” no queen creature is necessary for a Hive society.

For obvious reasons, most Hive creatures aren’t very intelligent. If your individual members think too much, they might not obey the absolute rules. In fact, most Hive societies don’t even have laws as such. The hive’s needs, from agriculture to construction, are simply what life is. Hive creatures don’t even think in terms of “we” – they’re so much a part of the group that they don’t even consider the question at all.

That doesn’t means that a small selection of intelligent individuals can’t exist. The odd mutant can exist, and many Hive species have an intelligent leader caste with its own politics. Exactly what that leader caste does is another question entirely. Certainly in d20 they traditionally have powerful magic and free use of endless hordes of loyal, disposable minions.

As mentioned, variants on Hives include: Queen Hives, where the focus is on a single female who births every creature, Caste Hives, in which a powerful elite control everything, and Egalitarian Hives, where instinct is so strong no individual stands out.


A democracy is an odd form of social organization which on rare occasions turns up in fantasy or science fiction, and a great deal in human history. In essence, a democracy has some kind of direct social link between people, or a mystical or psychic mental connection, or extremely fast polling. This organizes the rules for society. People instantly respond and enforce their opinions. The downside, and why it’s a democracy, is that the majority or very popular factions rules. Minorities, or whomever the controllers dislike, get screwed and have no recourse.

This works very well in a small-scale setting. After all, everyone in a small village knows everyone else, their needs, and the village’s interests, particularly if technology is limited. Powerful people are immediately present and can’t ignore you, so minority opinions have weight. In larger societies, democracy starts to edge into mob-rule, or outright stupidity. Even at its best, society members are forced to exercise control over things they don’t understand or cede power to the most vocal speakers. Democracy can work. The less knowledge people possess about each other, the less well it works.

For obvious reasons, democracies often require intelligent members. But not always. You’ll find no purer democracy than a school of fish or a flock of birds. Mice and rats often live in close quarters, but don’t need much hierarchy or much cooperation.

Variants on Democracy include: Village Democracy, where a small population intimately know one another, Psychic Democracy, where everyone is mentally linked, and Techno-Democracies of hyper- connective information networks. The first only works with low-tech settings. The second leans heavily toward mind control and compulsion. The third tends to create degenerate “governments” run by fashion and tawdry popularity contests.

You may object to the negative notes.  The benefits are obvious, right? Yes, but the downsides aren’t.  Democracy by definition is popular: that doesn’t make it good.  Throughout most of human history, it’s been the weak horse.  Democracy led Athens into disaster, defeat, and eventually tyranny  more than once. Roman democracy strangled itself and first gave rise  to the elitist late Republican state and then the Empire. A noble  democracy crippled Poland when the great powers of Eastern Europe set hungry eyes on their land. In short, democratic rule proved to be a  considerable trouble to most of those who practiced it. The great democracies of today practice a broad but very limited version of


Tyranny isn’t merely one-man rule, but a power structure which claims that one leader is proper. Creatures great and small may share in it. Nor is it necessarily evil. A tyrant is simply the one who rules, for good or ill. When it comes down to it, most human societies have preferred tyranny in practice, and particularly when it benefits from support by the middle classes. On the other hand, the cruelest and most terrible regimes also tend to be tyrannies (exceptions definitely exist).

Animals too, practice Tyranny. The strongest rules wolf packs and deer herds alike. It’s a fact of life for many organisms intelligent enough to have groups. If creatures can have more status or power than their fellows, they can practice Tyranny.

Variants on Tyranny include: Despotism, rule by one man and military force, Monarchy, a hereditary or elected rule usually with established traditional or legal limits, and Empire, in which the tyrant controls lesser monarchs or polities. While the methods of selecting monarchs change from nation to nation and time to time, the situations do not. Those who rule by their personal military elite wind up acting an awful lot like each other no matter what culture they’re in, because the situation differs. The Despot will be cruel and decisive, or rebels drive him out. The Monarch will feud with powerful families, or they weaken him. The Empire will fight with foreign powers, because Empires tend to expand until they simply cannot.

Why defend what I myself call Tyranny? Well, most human beings in any form of civilization lived under a Tyranny of some kind. Yet they mostly managed to get by pretty well, have children, and live their lives. Tyranny isn’t exactly good. But it isn’t always evil, or at least not the worst evil. But that’s a question for the ages, and we’re not going to settle it here.


Tribal creatures form larger communities which interact, and are almost always intelligent. Tribal creatures identify themselves with the tribe, whatever else they are. Because the tribe is spread out over a large area, it cannot meet like a democracy. Because it tends to fragment back to its homes, it tends not to unify like tyranny. Left to their own devices, tribes chose some men or women to meet and decide very important issues. The village Democracy allows anyone to speak; the Tribe allows only the chosen to speak because a thousand people can’t talk at once.

Because an “egalitarian hierarchy” is inherent in a tribe, it practically requires an intelligent being. You can’t form a hierarchy of nominally equal people without some method of choosing individuals for leadership. It’s not outright impossible without intelligence, but much rarer.

Tribes are inherently structured. They have specific, established rules and laws which let them choose courses of action. The Democracy and the Tyranny don’t need those to function. The Tribe can’t function otherwise, and this is its one great weakness, because those can be manipulated systematically. Sure, you can sway the democracy or persuade the tyrant. But you can’t count on doing those forever, and the people who do tend to wind up executed in horrible ways. But you can game the rules of Tribes on and on.

True Tribes are regional confederations of people who belong to one culture. They tend to have loose and individual groups or clans may use widely varying procedures for choosing leaders, but they rarely tolerate tyrannical leadership for long. The True Tribe can easily meet wherever convenient. Republics unite even more varied subcultures through formal methods and meetings. They usually possess cities and possibly a bureaucracy, but tend to dislike bureaucracy as a rule. Republics place a high value on legal scholarship and procedure. Nations are the pinnacle of scale in Tribal creatures, being able to unite numerous regions and subcultures sharing the same ideals or culture.

I consider humans to be at heart a tribal creature. From primitive man to modern citizens, people identify their culture and often race with a specific ethnic group, and often an ancient tribal group. Wars and feuds within the tribe are simply different than those outside the tribe: more emotional, more fundamental. People naturally feel it’s normal to associate within the tribe and unusual (bad or good) to associate outside it. The tribe doesn’t always agree but everyone within it has roughly the same values, the same language, and the same way of life. Only two limits exist on the size of the tribe: the number of people who share the same culture, and the number of subgroups you can tie into a government. In this sense the Nation is no different than the Tribe.

There’s always the possibility of even more, and more complicated, social systems, but the above should cover almost anything you’ll see in a game. Let’s not get too hung on the fact that the real world often mixes all the possibilities.


There ya go. There’s always the possibility of even more expansion if people have requests, but that would probably go into another, separate file. Hopefully it’s inspired some monsters, and helped people think about ways to approach existing foes.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 182 – The Coral Dragon

Vulcano Island

Is it worth getting through that reef just for THIS?

Splitting their disputants across two ships settled things down easily enough – and they continued their trip edgewards.

Kevin had become tired of heroically posing, and had retired to his cabin to enjoy some less-heroic companionship.

Now that they were past the reef, and were moving back into the deep waters, one of the consequences of the mixing of currents – both oceanic and atmospheric – was becoming apparent. There was a major storm rising… There were tall clouds rising in the distance, and heading their way. There were flashes of distant lightning dancing along the clouds and striking the surface of the sea… The wind was shifting, and slowly intensifying. The air had gone from semi-tropical to somewhat chilly.

It didn’t take Elerra much divination to say “major storm coming”. The sailors were making a fuss, a number of the less experienced ones were panicking, and the more experienced ones were shouting orders and getting rather worked up.

Coincidence or enemy action?

Meanwhile, the convoy was passing along orders to change course, to get the ships moving as fast as possible, to fasten everything down, and to make sure that all the weight was near the center of the ship.

The Thrall-crews followed suit – and prepared safety lines, repair-spells, rescue operations, and reinforcing effects.

Marty didn’t bother giving many orders about it; the local sailors were providing a sufficiently sensible example… Hm. It looked like the platypus navigator was trying to reach a set of islands before the storm hit them.

Kevin didn’t really see that big a problem; unless there was a LOT of magic in it, their massed magical resources should be able to handle virtually any storm. Wind-control spells were pretty easy after all!

The islands… looked to be a volcanic and covered with a good deal of dense vegetation. There were no obvious signs of habitation as yet though.

With various wind-control spells in operation they closed with the islands swiftly. They were soon in the outskirts of the archipelago as the navigators poured over the maps trying to find a poorly documented bay said to be in the area.

(Navigator) “I know it’s near here! I’ve seen it myself! But this blasted chart isn’t showing it!”

(Captain) “I thought you said you brought the best charts of the region?”

Well, the crew had done this trip before… Kevin had some thralls do aerial sweeps looking for bays – and for large-scale illusions or new volcanic flows. It had been some years after all, so the landscape COULD have changed naturally – but he was betting on people.

It didn’t take the Thralls long to report that there was a shielded bay hidden by some sort of illusion/redirection spell on the other side of the big island up ahead, along with a number of smaller areas covered with illusions spread across the other islands.

(Captain) “Who is throwing illusions over the bay?”

(Navigator) “You suppose it is the otters trying to foul things up?”

(Kevin, sighing) “Who’s been raiding the locals? If you hide, it’s because you don’t want to be found. If someone else hides you it’s more complicated – but wouldn’t they be likely to notice and do something about it? Large-scale illusions are fairly fragile things for their difficulty.”

(Sailor) “I would say that it was the otters that have been raiding the place. They’ve been trying to keep others from using it as a resupply port by stirring up the locals against outsiders.”

(Kevin) “These otters have got a long reach! Amalgamated with otters in other ports have they?”

(Captain) “Great, agititated locals while stuck in a port in a storm.”

(Marty) “Wouldn’t surprise me.”

(Navigator) “Wouldn’t put it past them, they’ve been trying to gain control of the whole region for a long time now.”

(Captain) “So which do we fear more? Agititated natives or a massive storm?”

(Kevin) “Well, let’s visit the locals! If the otters have been pissing them off, they may be glad to have allies who want to break up the cartel!”

Marty had to agree; storms weren’t good for ships at sea from what he’d heard, and there didn’t seem to be enough magic in the storm for him to stab and disperse it. That was pretty much automatic in Battling Business World – you could fight almost ANYTHING there – but he wasn’s sure that it worked like that in this realm unless it was a really big elemental or quasi-sentient spell or some such.

The Thralls agreed; the storm didn’t seem to be magically augmented in any obvious way.

Marty headed in first; at least his ship wasn’t a dedicated warship; hopefully the locals would take that better than if the Nightwind Voyager headed in first.

It might indeed have been a better reaction, but it wasn’t MUCH better. As the ship slipped through the illusion and into the harbor Marty was confronted with the remains of a burnt-out port facility and docks. On the opposite side of the bay from the port, there was a mast and rotted sails sticking out of the water. There were a number of canoes drawn up on the shore – and there were footprints heading deep into the forest on the shore to the left. The rising wind was rustling leaves and branches significantly but Marty thought he could make out a number of shadows shifting through the forest.

Kevin cheerily (and instantly) started speculating about Cannibals raiding the port and throwing maidens into the volcano!

Marty wondered if the place had been sacked by pirates.

As the Lissifea moved in Marty and the Thralls saw several small fires appear in the woods. A moment later, one of those fires suddenly leaped out of the woods and headed towards the ship!

Luckily they were still layered in fire-protections!

The fire will struck the sails to no effect as a number of the other fires leaped out and swarmed the ship.

One of them hit Marty himself, which was annoying – but little more. It seemed to be mostly natural fire… Well, that was an easy way to conserve magical power for a long siege!

Most of the rest of he less-distracted crew dodged easily; it seemed that the enemy was working at a range extreme enough to hamper their aim significantly.

Marty considered… The town was definitely shot. The cannon weren’t too likely to reach that far – and even if they did, they might have hostages. Try for negotiation? It was a bit soon for THAT… They only had half an hour or so to get into port and get set up for the storm! Ah! He’d have Limey do some scrying over there! He’d eaten more than enough scrolls to have all the basics handy!

Scrying revealed sixteen natives performing some sort of ritual around a bonfire. Another eight were scooping fire out of the bonfire using their bare hands and then flinging it with some sort of sling weapon.

Marty considered going to say “Hi!”! It wasn’t like the locals didn’t know they’d arrived – and he could take a Thrall or two along to watch his back; they were good at escaping.

(Kevin, to the Navigator and Captain) “This is depressing! No supplies, port mostly burned down, no fun… I presume this was a civilized port last time you were here?”

(Captain) “Yes it was. Although I had heard rumors that the place had been coming under increasing attack in recent years.”

Kevin, meanwhile, was bored – and began fixing the port. They’d need it in good shape to ride out a major storm! He got some docks and a breakwater in place, erected a few defensive towers and such on the breakwater, put up a lighthouse/lookout post, got some nice solid buildings up, erected some city walls…

Then the Nightwind Voyager and the other ships in the convoy approaching behind the Lissifea started to come under fire as well. Kevin put some Thralls on fireball-deflection duty, and added some Geothermal Magma Cannons – a very short-range gate to tap into the volcano’s magma reservoir did it very nicely – then started to wonder; unless these really were invaders, why would the locals be objecting to his fixing their city?

To Marty it looked like the natives were busy altering the ritual around the bonfire since it seemed that their fireballs weren’t working. At least that meant that they weren’t paying particular attention to anyone approaching.

It looked like… they were switching from a fire spell to some sort of summoning spell – possibly pulling on a really major source of fire nearby.

Marty let Kevin know over the link. They were probably trying for a major magma elemental. They were on a volcanic island after all!

That at least meant a lull in the attacks. They got the rest of the ships into the newly-refurbished harbor while Kevin went off to see what the problem was.

Marty was still considering the ritual… sulfur, charcoal, obsidian, and a piece of wrought iron in the shape of a sword. What would happen if he made one of those magical components disappear? He was fairly sure that the iron would be hard to come by on a volcanic island – although, if they were smart, they’d have spares. It would probably fizzle the ritual – but if it didn’t they might wind up with a berserk magma elemental running loose. That wouldn’t do… Should he just say hello?

He did.

The ritualists botched things in their shock at his arrival, setting off a small explosion – but it wasn’t much more than an annoying distraction for them.

Marty found a number of spears and other weapons pointed at him as the shamans readied spells.

(Tribal) Why you hear to harm our people again?!

(Marty) “Hey, that wasn’t us! We just arrived in port to trade! What the heck’s going on?”

Kevin wondered… Could they have gone that far downhill that fast?

(Tribal) “You’ve come to kill our people again and use our land for your own purposes! We’ve sacked your damned port and destroyed your ships, but you keep coming, but we will never surrender or lose!”

Oh! Presumably the Otters had tried to exploit the natives, they’d fallen back into the forests and driven out the traders (wrecking the port in the process) and the Otters had simply settled for raiding and thus preventing anyone ELSE from using the place as a resupply port by stirring up the locals against outsiders.

Well, they didn’t even have any otter slaves aboard; the Platypi had insisted on keeping them out.

(Marty) “I bet you’ve been raided by the Otters! Well, we’re a different bunch altogether. There’s a storm coming, and we pulled in here to ride it out.”

(Tribal) “You people on the boats are all the same! You come, take over the land without any regard to what we might be doing! See, even now the big wolf creature is building a big structure without any heed to whose land it is!”

Marty sighed again and told Kevin to quite fixing things since the local regarded the port as an imposition…

(Kevin, popping in) “Oh. Well, what kind of things would you like? I kind of figured that this was your city and needed fixing!”

(Marty) “Hey, he’s willing to give you what you want. So what DO you want?”

The tribals seemed to be thrown off guard by that statement – and begin conferring with each other in their own language.

(Tribal, after a few moments) “The means to defend our lands against the boat people who continually harass our shores.”

Kevin looked thoughtful… Hm… There was a good-sized reef that surrounded and linked the entire archipelago, and a series of volcanoes of course, and a sizeable gap in the reef near the entrance to the harbor – where a freshwater current from the main island kept the corals from growing as well; otherwise the lagoon would be nearly freshwater after a few decades…

(Kevin, to the Shaman) “I can provide such power in a number of forms… Who among you will control it?”

An elderly local who’d been quietly sitting next to the fire rose to his feet and approached…

(Elder Shaman) “ am the lead shaman of our people and so the defense of our people both spiritually and magically falls to me.”

(Kevin) “So be it then… The reef that surrounds your islands defines the borders of your lands and the realm your gods have given you, does it not?”

(Elder Shaman) “Indeed it does, and the bounties of the reefs provide much in food and precious corals for our magics.”

Hm… Coral polyps had nerve-connections to each of the polyps around them, and passed signals between themselves. A coral reef was, in fact, a gargantuan neural network… He could work with that! And with the approaching storm!

With almost a thousand Thralls nearby to back him, and another guardian requesting aid, the power poured through him freely.

The elder shaman was momentarily paralyzed with shock, as the youngster became a rift in the universe, a bottomless darkness where galaxies and universes spun – and reality twisted around him, scattering wonders across the archipelago as a myriad unlikely worlds and futures collided within him and shattered into a blizzard of shards of possibility.

The boy chose one glittering shard – and the power cascaded through that possibility, into the stone and coral and reality of the archipelago, terrible in generosity.

The child was… attempting to encompass all space, and time, and possibility, and to… offer it as a gift wherever it was needed… A young – and insecure – CREATOR GOD?!?

Kevin was cheerily slightly offsetting the archipelago into it’s own pocket realm – still firmly a part of Ciarkian, but with limited approaches and a few extra rules of its own… He attuned the neural network of the barrier reefs to the local’s minds – giving them control over the access-ways and allowing it to act as a psychic reservoir, amplifier, and (for any who cared to stick around for a bit after they died to watch over their descendants and use their magics on their behalf) a short-term afterlife.

If more active measures were needed, there would be more than enough power there for the locals to manifest a suitable guardian – an island-sized Coral Dragon who’s breath would channel the fiery energies of the island volcanoes.

He focused on the deeper layers – leaving the primary reef ecosystem available for the local life and the natives. The storm could be folded into the dimensional interface, available to help protect the approaches – or to control the islands weather if that should be needed.

As the islands, sea, and reef, glittered and sang with the wave of cascading from Kevin, several of the local ritualists nearly fainted. They’d… they’d been throwing attack-spells at this… this… this THING.

In the end it was pretty subtle for a reality-tweak. If Kevin had had more experience with such things – outside of creating entire dimensions – he could have handled the job with a LOT less raw power. Still, he was pretty pleased! Turning the place into a closely-associated pocket realm would handle a LOT of the defense needs!

The thunder of the approaching storm stilled as it’s power was absorbed into the new, magical and psionic structure of the coral reef and the reality-pocket – becoming little more than gentle breezes and cooling showers as it gradually dispersed.

He gave the elder shaman primary control for the moment, the other shamans got secondary control – and the entire local population got some influence on things…

The gaping hole in reality closed back up to become Kevin once more.

Marty sighed. The shock was going to wear off in a few moments. Oh well! After they settled down they could still do a little trading!

For at least the first few moments, most of those the ones who came out of shock reacted with horror…

(Kevin) “What? You asked for the power to defend your realm!”

(Warrior) “What? Weapons and fortifications wouldn’t be good enough? Or do you insist on creating gods every time someone asks you for power?”

(Kevin, slightly miffed that no one was appreciating him. Grant people’s wishes, and what did they do? They complained! At least the Thralls never complained!) “Hmph! I didn’t create a god! Just a hospitable environmental feature… And I made some stone structures suitable for local defense, and people complained about them!”

Marty sighed. The locals seemed to have some pretty strong cultural traditions, and perhaps to want to stay off on their own. It might not be wise to interfere with them further; Kevin HAD just handed them an awfully big stick – even if they did seem to have struck a nerve with Kevin there.

(Kevin) “Now, I’d hope that you’d still allow peaceful visitors! Otherwise you’ll be giving your attackers what they want – which is to make it awkward for anybody else to trade in this part of the world.”

(Shaman) “I must admit that this was a bit more than we anticipated. Do all your kind have this sort of ability? We had never seen the other boat people doing something similar.”

(Marty) “Nah, Angkor’s REALLY exceptional.”

(Kevin) “Shall I leave a couple of agents so you can keep in touch? That way you can be sure who’s just here to trade and visit and who you need to keep out.”

(Shaman) “I suppose that is unavoidable. Very well then, who are these agents and what sort of accommodations will they need?”

(Kevin) “Oh, they don’t need anything special!”

He assigned a random pair of Thralls.

(Shaman) “And how will they know who is here to trade and enter port and who is hear to cause mischief?”

(Kevin) “Well, one can go out and look and report back – but there are only a few trading groups operating in the area thanks to the one group that’s trying to run everyone else out, and the other major group here will have some of my agents along. They can fairly readily get into touch with each other at that range.”

(Elder Shaman) “This is awfully…. generous. Do you do this sort of thing often?”

(Kevin) “Nobody’s asked for a while – and you’ve had to put up with a lot. So why not? There’s no point in having power if you don’t use it once in awhile!”

(Marty) “Yeah, otherwise it gets all flabby and useless!”

(Elder Shaman) “I see. I hope then that other people in need end up encountering you in the future given your generosity.”

(Marty, cheerily) “Oh, they will. Angkor likes to travel!”

Marty settled down to organizing a bit of trading – while Kevin wandered back to the fleet.

Not totally unexpectedly, soon after Marty returned, the Commander wanted to know why Kevin and Marty were BOTHERING with either a fleet OR with trading!

(Kevin) “We’re on a vacation, the fleet was there, and the Otters are being really unpleasant! Don’t you want to trade?”

(Marty) “Yeah, I mean we might as well make some profit off the emergency landing.”

(Commander) “Do people of your power often bother yourselves with the concerns of minor mortals such as us? Or is this a rare event?”

(Marty) “Hey, you’re not minor! You command a fleet!”

(Kevin) “And people like you are where the power comes from; I simply focus it and give it back. If I tried to keep if for myself, it wouldn’t work. It’s a bit like running a bank! You have to invest and send the power back out and you have to pay dividends! And you have stockholders – everyone who invests power in you – and employees.”

(Commander) “I see… I take it these children are the employees then?”

(Kevin) “Yep! They get some of the power and work for me until they learn to generate and channel the powers I give them on their own – at which point the link breaks and they can go and do whatever they want… It has to be people who don’t have much power on their own yet though; if they have too much I can’t give them more.”

(Commander) “So am I right to suspect that we might see more overwhelming displays of power in the future then?”

(Kevin, a bit blankly) “Did you need them for something? They won’t hurt you.”

(Commander, rather hurriedly, lest something he said be taken as a request to turn the universe upside down) “No, no, I don’t think that will be necessary unless we come under attack. I prefer not to have to rely on massive displays of magic and power.”

(Kevin) “I prefer being a bit more subtle myself – but they wanted me to provide them with the power to defend their entire realm, and I couldn’t think of a subtle way to do that offhand.”

(Commander) “I see. Now, do we have anymore business here? I imagine some of the traders want to have a go with the locals, but otherwise with the storm having dispersed, I see no pressing need to remain in the harbor.”

(Marty) “I’ll be with the traders, I think, but otherwise I’m good to go.”

Kevin wandered of to eat lunch. No one had ever asked for anything quite like that before!

The Captain thought about that for a few minutes – and almost choked. The clan-chief had… been frantic for a way to protect the family – wishing for the money to pay off their creditors, and for a way to fend off the Otter clan, and for a few successful trading voyages…

And Angkor had wandered by.

Was all this… Simply to grant that wish? Was Angkor re-arranging the universe simply to make sure that the family had exclusive access to a major trade route?

Meanwhile, Marty had gone back to trading food, tools, and other minor items for charms and exotic jewelry made out of coral, rare woods, plants, fruits, and seeds, spices, pearls, obsidian, and other volcanic products.

None particularly vital, but every trade a bit more profit – and a closer bond for the Platypi and the locals. Marty focused on the seeds a bit; they weren’t likely to thrive elsewhere, but it was always worth a try!

The Captain focused on laying in some additional supplies. With the addition of another ship and crew, they were depleting at a slightly faster rate than originally estimated. It wasn’t a problem yet – but it might get to be if there were more major delays.

That really wasn’t a big problem.

Assorted Eclipse Builds by Christopher West

"April Fools Day" is an illustration...

No, not these characters

Christopher West has been putting up a fair number of Eclipse character designs over on his RPG Blog over the past month or two – and I thought I’d set up some links here. His notions of how to build things tend to be very different from mine – and that’s a very good thing; original approaches and differing interpretations create interesting characters.

Ergo, here we have some links…

  • The Battle Sage (Basic Concept, Build, and an Adventure Log). I really like this one; I’ve always been rather partial to the notion of including a scholar in a group as something other than a primary spellcaster – and this character (a scholar so knowledgable that he can call forth a weapon designed to work against a particular opponent) works in that role very nicely.
  • The Planer Mage-Assassin: Some notions for a magical assassin specializing in destroying extra-planar beings. The things certainly make enough trouble to justify a small society of such people after all.
  • Building Warlocks in Eclipse: Basic Thoughts and Greygin the Render – a Warlock-style build using Spirit Weapon. Both definite contrasts with the way I was building a Warlock and (in Greygin’s case) an EXCEPTIONALLY nasty specialization
  • The Jester: A basic layout for creating that old second-edition April-Fools favorite class.
  • Star Wars Eclipse – thoughts on converting the Saga Edition.
  • Dark Era Priests – a partial design for priests as a medieval player might have viewed them. Most suited for a low-magic world.
  • Burnt Meat – an (extremely) troubled young woman with flame powers.
  • The Anti-Magus. A few possible designs for a character who’s very presence negates magic – a powerful, but not-especially advantageous ability.
  • The Shifting Mind – a character who has the classic day/night split personality problem – although, in this case, the “monster” only comes out during the day…
  • The Healer: A dedicated healer – and an exceptionally good one.
  • The Dagger Master: A roguish specialist in Daggers in a second-edition style – back when daggers were faster, and got more attacks, than other weapons did.
  • The Arch Mage: A youthful mage who is being consumed by her own, terrible, powers.
  • The Blood-Fueled Mage: A notion for creating a mage who draws power from blood and slaughter. Sadly, I have some serious doubts about the first option on this one; a requirement for killing other creatures doesn’t really effectively substitute for a personal cost. Most of the others look good if you can get the speciality spells past your game master.
  • Creating A Monster: This one is a massively deadly barbarian-type, mostly revolving around using Augmented Bonus to get massive numbers of hit points. I’d – as usual – want a good explanation for why you got to add your strength modifier to your constitution modifier for calculating your hit points – but there are certainly more atrocious builds out there, even in standard d20.
  • The Elder Scrolls Hero: Here we have a generalist adventurer – some skills, some combat, and some magic – but not too much of anything.
  • A Healer’s Nightmare: A healer with a severe flaw – the life she grants must be taken from elsewhere…
  • Wasting Time with 3.5: More or less a short review of Eclipse (and why Mr West is enjoying it more than 3.5).

A Feat full of Tricks, Part II – Clerics

Magic Water Fountain Light at Night Garden

This is for the storm gods temple, remember? You're fired.

Cleric Tricks are kind of awkward. After all, most of the other classes have clearly defined roles; Druids, Paladins, and Wizards are may use a variety of tactics, but we know what they do.

Clerics… not so much. Are they the Spanish Inquisition? Laid-back Universal Unitarians? Holy Men? Demon Worshipers? Cultists? Hermit-Philosophers? Military Heroes? Wise Councilors? Wandering Preachers and Missionaries? Sedate Keepers of Temples?

When the answer is “All of the above!” or even simply “Yes!” there’s a bit of a problem.

That, of course, goes all the way back to the early editions – where the actual mechanics were minimal, the game master was supposed to play the cleric’s patron and be heavily involved in the spell choices (often permanently denying any that were out of theme), and the generic cleric base was supposed to be whittled down a bit to suit the deity in question. Your battle-god wanted his Clerics to show their courage by fighting in light armor? Your cleric did just that or he or she did not get his or her spells renewed.

In later editions, of course, the role of the game master faded; as the rules grew more complex, he or she no longer had time to fiddle with individual player-character choices. Speciality Clerics were introduced to help deal with the problem – but there wasn’t any quick-and-simple way to handle game master involvement in spell selection, or to place some spells either off-limits or make them “only available in exceptional circumstances”, without making a long list for each god.

That wasn’t practical, so “staying in theme” fell back on the players.

You can guess how well that worked. Some players DID do a wonderful job. They played their priests to suit their characters god. Sadly, that only tended to happen with the deep-immersion role-players.

Others, of course, simply took everything the Cleric class made available, rather than stripping out the items that didn’t fit in their particular deity. Sometimes that was simply because they leaned towards the “gamist” side of things, and regarded not taking every possible advantage that was offered as poor gameplay – which, by the gamist standard, indeed it was. Sometimes it was because the intent wasn’t clear – and sometimes it was just because that was the way the game was being played when they were introduced to it.

It worked reasonably well for awhile – long enough to cover the transition – simply because of a few lines in the first edition player’s handbook:

A study of the spells usable by clerics (see CHARACTER SPELLS) will convey the main purpose of the cleric. That is, the cleric serves to fortify, protect, and revitalize.

That told everyone who wasn’t into deep immersion that clerics were boring. They didn’t do the exciting bits; they were support characters!

When Druids were folded into Clerics, people got the same impression of them.

It took quite awhile before it became common knowledge that – if you just took everything that the class had to offer – your supposed “pacifistic priestess of the goddess of mercy” could be a mighty warrior, powerful spellcaster, and an all-around badass.

No, that made no sense – but now that CoDzilla had arrived, “sense” bought tickets for Hawaii and went on an extended vacation.

Ergo, our “Cleric Tricks” are going to include packages for several different roles rather than a generic boost. That way we can give clerics some individuality again quickly and easily.

It’s interesting to consider how the Dungeons and Dragons game might have gone if – instead of “speciality priests” – later editions had split up the “Cleric” class a bit. While that would have made party composition more awkward, and annoyed the people who already disliked playing a “support character” even more, turning the early edition generic “Cleric” into a small suite of classes – perhaps “Guardian”, “Demon Hunter”, “Cultist”, and “Councilor / Healer” – might have worked quite well.

If you want to try that in Eclipse, simply note that the costs for the “Cleric” and “Druid” progressions are already considered “Corrupted” / outside of a few basics (the list in Paths of Power is pretty good) the spell selection must fit a relatively narrow theme. CoDzilla-style full access will then cost 50% more – forcing some tough choices and reducing the number of points available to buy hit dice, attack bonuses, saves, and other special abilities.

Cleric Tricks

Limitations: All Cleric Tricks require:

  • Ongoing, “on screen”, devotion to the deity in question – refraining from activities the deity disapproves of, performing minor rituals honoring the deity in question, supporting the church and undertaking occasional missions for it, acting in accordance with the values of his or her faith, and otherwise making his or her religion a major factor in the character’s life.
  • Acceptance of life as a target. Drawing on the power of your faith directly, for “Cleric Tricks”, tends to draw opposing forces. A firebrand preacher is a threat to other faiths, a demon-hunter to undead and manifestations of darkness, and so on – and threatened creatures tend to fight back.
  • Focus – either an appropriate holy symbol or several minutes of concentration and prayer.

Firebrand Preacher Tricks:

Firebrands are the mouths of the gods, voices crying out in an unbelieving wilderness, and speakers for those who dare not speak for themselves.

  • Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will (neither pain nor magic can dent the faith of the Firebrand), Elfshot (Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect: this only works against religious enemies or during religious confrontations and only when the user’s patron god approves of the usage. Even then, it only equates to the effects of the “Bestow Curse” spell), and Glamour (Specialized for Double Effect; only while preaching or inspiring other members of the faith).
  • Advanced Abilities: Advanced Glamour (Specialized as per Glamour, above, allowing the Firebrand to sway crowds, spread the word, and offer substantial morale bonuses to masses of the faithful), The Sight (Firebrands are notorious for prophecy and issuing dread warnings from their god), and Dismissal (many weaker spells and spirits are unable to withstand the voice of the Firebrand).
  • Pact: Duties. It is the duty of the Firebrand to carry the word of his or her faith into places that would rather not hear it, to be a light in the darkness (or vice versa), and to inspire the populace to rise up against anything that’s incompatible with their faith. At their best, Firebrands may lead slave revolts, overthrow repressive governments, and scour away terrible infestations. At their worst they may exterminate thousands over religious quibbles labeled “heresy”, cause wars, and watch approvingly while their followers burn down cities. Either way, they’re rarely welcomed by secular (or practical) authorities.

Wise Councilor Tricks

The will of the gods is often obscure – but ventures which challenge it rarely prosper. Few realms dare attempt to make do without a priestly advisor who can invoke the blessings of the gods on their behalf.

Wise Councilors are usually expected to be learned, capable of offering useful council on a wide variety of topics, and to be willing and able to spirit youthful heirs away from evil usurpers on a moments notice – but those are optional extras.

  • Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will (a councilor must be able to keep secrets), The Inner Eye (an eye for motivations and hidden creatures is a vital skill for any councilor), and Infliction (a councilor must be able to defend himself or herself in SOME fashion).
  • Advanced Abilities: Blessing, Divination, and Warding. The Councilor must be able to aid and protect his charges and to obtain information – all of which this set of abilities allows, at least in desperate situations.
  • Pact: Either Rituals or Guardianship. Wise Councilors are almost always responsible types – which means that they can be entrusted with acting as regents, looking after those evil artifacts, or presiding at major religious ceremonies.

Alternative sets of advanced abilities include Spirit Binding, Advanced Spirit Binding, and Web of Shadows (allowing the Grand Vizier variant to instill compulsions, seal oaths, command spirits, and collect a selection of minions) and The Dark Flame, Mouth of the Earth, and Spirit of the Sage – granting the Religious Leader enhanced intelligence and charisma when he or she needs it, as well as the ability to gather some minions or spies.

A Feat Full of Tricks

The writeup for “Ghost”, and her Shadow Mastery ability, has produced a special request – some as-cheap-as-possible “signature” power packages for other types of low-level characters.

That’s actually pretty easy; the Witchcraft system was designed to flatten the d20 magical power curve – offering small-but-versatile abilities to start, hitting the most potent abilities in the system by level five or so, and expanding in versatility, but not raw power, after that. The initial costs are low, which encourages dabbling – and the existence of Pacts allows dabblers to expand their abilities a bit over time without additional investment. That way their characters can pick up useful talents by taking on responsibilities, quirks, and problems – which can add a good deal of depth and individuality to yet-another-fighter. A serious witch will find that the most powerful abilities in the system are augmentations – which means that you need to have other abilities to build on to make them useful.

Now, like almost everything else in the game, there are ways to stretch that basic structure into “cheese” territory. If the game master is willing to let the characters get away with taking entire groups of feats all at once, jumping straight to the “best” abilities, and slapping weird limitations on something that’s already cheap to make it even cheaper (or even doubling up on the limitations to make it both cheap and doubly effective), it’s possible to get Witchcraft at bargain-basement prices.

Some settings allow that, but most won’t – so I wouldn’t count on being able to get any of these abilities into a particular game unless you know that it’s wide-open.

  • The basic package is pretty much the same for all of these; buy Witchcraft I and II (gaining a little bit of Power and three basic abilities to spend it on), 3d6 extra Power and Mana, and three Advanced Witchcraft Powers, all Specialized and Corrupted for reduced cost – taking a 36 character point package down to 12 points. Now throw in one Pact to reduce the cost by 6 points and behold! You have an effective little power package that only costs six character points or one bonus feat (and the commitment of that Pact of course).

You won’t have enough Power to use the advanced abilities very much or very often, but they make a great ace-in-the-hole to pull out in emergencies.

Barbarian Tricks

Blood… Death… and Vengeance!

Limitations: Barbarians draw on the wild and brutal power of their primordial gods. Their tricks will not work:

  • In heavily civilized places where their gods have little power – unless, of course, a barbarian invasion is underway.
  • If they become too civilized – such as by studying arcane magic, learning to farm, wearing heavy armor, not using their tribal weapons, or failing to start brawls in bars.
  • Without loud battlecries and conspicuous war paint or other fetishes. These will reveal the barbarians tribal affiliation, religion, and many other details to any knowledgable observer and prevent him or her from using these abilities stealthily.
  • Without regular offerings and small rituals in honor of those gods.

Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will (Barbarians shrug off pain and weak attempts to control their minds!), Healing (Specialized for Increased Effect (Reflexive Use)/Self-only. Barbarians are blessed with incredible natural health, and can easily resist diseases, poisons, and wounds that would turn a civilized man into a deliquescent heap!), and Witchsight (Barbarians share the sensory acuity of animals).

Advanced Abilities: Master The Elements (Barbarians are notorious for dream-questing), Bones of Iron (they’re also infamously tough), and Darksense (since when has being blind drunk – or simply blind – inhibited a Barbarians ability to wreak mayhem?).

Pact: Taboos. Barbarians are subject to various Geasa or Prohibitions. They might be forbidden to eat fish, or to harm a woman of their ethnicity, or to cut their hair. A barbarian with this package will have at least three such sometimes-troublesome Geasa. If they violate a geasa they must properly atone before their powers will work again.

Ranger Tricks

“The Spirits of Nature cannot aid you here foolish wanderer!”

“That is why I come in the company of more material friends foolish monster!”

Limitations: Rangers, rather like the barbarians, draw on the wild powers of nature. Their special powers…

  • Require the use of a medicine bag full of various animal totem-tokens blessed by appropriate shaman and spirits. This is a vulnerable focus and a considerable pain to replace.
  • Will not work in large urban areas, aboard space stations, or in other unnatural places.
  • Are slow to recover. Since they rely on spirit favors, they recover only 1d6+2 Power per day – unless they do minor favors for the spirits to build up credit.

Basic Abilities: Healing (usually calling on the bear totem), Hyloka, and Witchsight (both calling on various animals for their strengths and senses).

Advanced Abilities: Breath of Puruza (Rangers can keep going when they really ought to be dead and endure all kinds of things), Leaping Fire (Rangers may move very quickly – and their wounds are rarely serious), and Longevity (that healthy outdoors lifestyle really pays off).

Pact: Missions. The totem spirits the ranger calls on will occasionally request various nature-related services, such as saving endangered creatures, stopping charcoal-burners from destroying a forest, and so on. These are over and above any favors the Ranger decides to do for the powers of nature on a voluntary basis.

Next up, of course, will be tricks for other classes…

“Ghost”, Level One Shadowwalker

For today it’s an optimized version of “Ghost”, a character from the “Chosen Ones” campaign. That particular setting casts the characters as heroes who were being given a variety of special enhancements to meet the demands of a particular set of missions – and hopefully accomplish them easily.

Unfortunately, the process was interrupted and the mystics who were providing those boosts were all killed – leaving the characters to awake with amnesia, with an assortment of enemies, a half-finished set of enhancements, temporarily reduced effective levels, and a set of missions to carry out that they don’t remember and won’t be getting any briefings on.

What was supposed to be a fairly simple set of errands just got a lot more complicated.

Ghost is a Drow stealth expert and shadow master – and doesn’t really remember much more than that save for a sense of paranoia and an affinity with the shadows.

“Chosen One” Template (also known as the “GM Plot Hook Bonus”): This provides +2 each to Strength, Constitution, and Charisma, 60 Darkvision, a mental link with the other Chosen Ones, a bonus language (Draconic), Grant of Aid with the regeneration option, and 1d6 Natural Weapon Claws. There may be (almost certainly is) more to the template than this – but, as of yet, the characters have no idea what that might be.

Race: Drow Elf

The standard breakdown for a drow elf looks like this. For good or ill however, the setting calls for a few small changes, which will be detailed below.

  • Attribute Shift: +2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution (6 CP).
  • Self-Development: +2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma (24 CP).
  • Improved Occult Sense/extended Darkvision, Specialized/user is susceptible to light blindness. Abrupt exposure to bright light will blind him or her for one round and leave them dazzled as long as they remain exposed (6 CP).
  • Improved Spell Resistance (10 + Level) (12 CP).
  • Immunity/Sleep Effects (Uncommon/Minor/Major, 3 CP)
  • Resist/+2 on Will saves against spells and spell-like abilities (3 CP).
  • Resist/+2 on Saves versus Enchantment Spells and Effects (3 CP)
  • Inherent Spell/Darkness (L2, Corrupted/only usable once per day, 4 CP)
  • Inherent Spells/Dancing lights (L0) and Faerie Fire (L1), taken as a pair of L0-L1 effects normally usable twice per day each, Specialized/only usable once per day each (3 CP).
  • Proficient with hand crossbow, rapier, and short sword (a limited group of weapons, 3 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Detect Secret Doors (Specialized: requires a Search check and passing within 5 feet, 3 CP)
  • Skills: Extra Languages, Elven and Undercommon, +2 on Listen, Search, and Spot (8 CP)
  • Disadvantage: Outcast (-3 CP). Dark Elves are widely regarded with fear and suspicion.

That’s 75 CP (in +2 ECL territory). Fortunately, the setting modifications save Ghost a few points here and there.

  • First up, the game is using the half-price rule on buying attribute bonuses. That saves 12 CP up front and lets us drop the “-2 constitution” bit while keeping the +2 Dex.
  • Both the template and the race provide darkvision. Since you only need it once, I’m going to presume that the non-bothersome (if shorter ranged) Chosen One version is paramount; with exposure to more light, her eyes have gotten a bit less sensitive. That saves another 6 CP.
  • The game rolls the Listen, Search, and Spot skill into a single “Perception” skill. That means she can have a +2 racial bonus on Stealth and still save 2 CP.
  • The usual Drow Inherent Spells (Darkness, Dancing Lights, and Faerie Fire once per day each) are being subsumed into her Shadow Mastery talents. That saves 7 CP.

That reduces the cost of her race to 48 CP – or the 31 CP available to a +0 ECL race and 17 CP out of her level one allotment.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level One Base) +10 (Disadvantages; Hunted, Valuable, and Irrationally Secretive) +12 (2x L1 feats; the GM here is giving out an extra one) +2 (Duties – another GM-determined item) = 72. Subtracting her racial costs leaves 55 CP to spend on her level one build. The game master is using a (rather generous) attribute array of 12, 12, 14, 14, 16, 16. Even more importantly, he’s not restricting the characters choice of abilities – allowing them to gain some fairly powerful specialities early on.

Basic Attributes: Str 14, Dex 18 (20), Int 18, Wis 12, Con 16, Chr 16

Basic Purchases:

  • Warcraft (BAB): +0 (0 CP).
  • Hit Points / Dice: 6 (L1d6, 2 CP) +3 (Con Mod) = 9 HP.
  • Proficient with All Simple Weapons (3 CP)
  • Armor Class 10 (Base) +5 (Dex) +2 “Armor” +1 (Martial Art) = 18 (21 when using her Shadow Form).
  • Initiative +5 (Dex)
  • Save Bonuses: +1 Will (3 CP). This gives her Fortitude +3, Reflex +5, and Will +2.
  • Skill Points: 6 (Purchased, 6 CP) +16 (Int Mod x 4) +2 (Fast Learner) = 24 SP.

Usual Weapons:

  • Sai: +8/+8 (+3 BAB +5 Dex, Serpents Strike), 1d6 (improved base damage) +2 (Str), Crit 20/x2. 1d6 Sneak Attack. She usually dual-wields, but – at the moment – this is just a special effect.

Other Abilities:

  • Finesse: uses Dex Mod instead of Str Mod to hit with knives, daggers, short swords, sai, and similar weapons (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (starting at level “-1″, 6 CP).
  • Adept: pays half cost for the Acrobatics, Deception, Stealth, and NightWraith Martial Art skills (6 CP).

Nightwraith Package (9 CP total):

  • Innate Enchantment/7000 GP Value (8 CP). All abilities; (Spell Level ½ or 1) x (Caster Level 1) x Unlimited-Use Use-Activated (2000 GP) x .7 (Personal-Only, if applicable).
  • Increase Attribute/Dex +2 [1400 GP]
  • Martial Mastery (+3 to hit – Sai) [700 gp]
  • Fortune’s Favor II (+2 Luck Skills) [1400 gp]
  • Expertise II (+2 Competence Bonus to All Skills) [1400 gp]
  • Serpent Strike (Additional Melee Attack) [1400 gp]
  • Immunity/the normal XP costs of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial / only covers L0 and L1 effects at caster level one) (1 CP).

Using Serpent Strike is more than a bit cheesy, but restricting it to a second melee attack (instead of an extra attack at any moment) makes it somewhat more reasonable. It still means that a simple “dispel magic” against that “caster level one” will drastically reduce the characters combat abilities though – and it’s so useful to a melee combatant that they’d be fools not to take it.

Shadow Mastery Package (12 CP Total):

“Ghost” can tap into the magics of twilight and darkness, channeling those hidden forces into a modest variety of tricks. This particular ability package is being purchases as Witchcraft, with all abilities Corrupted / will not work in areas of bright illumination and can be dispelled by light-based powers. That’s a bit of a bottleneck – but this is only a supplementary set of abilities.

More importantly, Witchcraft is a very cheap and efficient way to get some fairly good powers – but it doesn’t improve much (if at all) with level. Thus it’s great for low-level characters, fair for mid-level characters, and only a minor supplement for high-level characters.

  • Witchcraft I and II, 8 CP. This provides (Str+Dex+Con)/3 Power (that’s 17 power) and three basic witchcraft abilities. Where relevant, the Will Save DC against these abilities is 16.
  • The Adamant Will. This allows her to spend 2 power as a reflex action to resist various forms of mind control or to make a second save against mind-reading or “truth” effects. For three power she may reflexively present a false aura to detection spells or ignore pain.
  • Shadowweave and Advanced Shadowweave (Specialized/only allows access to second level effects, 2 CP). This allows the manipulation of light and darkness to create minor illusions and special effects. Cantrip level effects can provide bonuses of up to +6 on things like disguise checks and cost one power per ten minutes of activity. A first level effect (such as Color Spray or Faerie Fire) costs one power while second level effects (such as Darkness) cost two power.
  • Witchsight: She may spend one power to enhance a sense for an hour – gaining either a +6 bonus on relevant checks or extending an existing sense (such as upgrading her sense of smell to Scent). Spending one power on a specific roll – such as attempting to detect poison by scent – triples the bonus.

As a level one character “Ghost” can have two Pacts – providing an additional 12 CP worth of Advanced Witchcraft abilities. She currently has only has Duties (she must spend a great deal of time lurking in the shadows, for only there can she feel at home) – providing only 6 CP worth of abilities. In her case, those have been invested in

  • “Shadow Form”/Ashen Rebirth (with the Dimension Door and Teleportation upgrades, 8 CP). Ghost may spend one power to merge with the darkness for one minute. In that form she gains DR 10/-, the ability to walk on walls and ceilings, the ability to pass through cracks and crevices, a +5 enhancement bonus to stealth, and a (Cha Mod) deflection bonus to her AC. While in this form she may spend 2 power to dimension door from one shadow to another as long as she can trace a transverseable path between them or 7 power to teleport to another shadow.

This is a minor variant on the usual Ashen Rebirth power – notably weaker, but without the damaging side effects or the conspicuousness of turning into flame.

It’s worth noting that Shadow Mastery focuses on tapping into the powers of physical darkness; it has no inherent morality. While many evil creatures like concealment, illusion, and the ability to merge with the shadows, nothing prevents a character from using those powers heroically.

  • Since Ghost has 2 CP left over at the moment, I’ll invest those in Mana as Power (Specialized and Corrupted for one-third effect, or +1d6 Power, 2 CP). That gives her a total of 21 Power to work with each day (17 + 1d6 [4]).


  • Acrobatics: +4 (2 SP*) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +13
  • Deception: +4 (2 SP*) +3 (Cha) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +11
  • Nightwraith Martial Art (Dex): +4 (2 SP*) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +13
  • Perception: +4 (SP) +1 (Wis) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) +2 (Race) = +11^
  • Perform (Stringed Instrument) : +4 (SP) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +13
  • Persuasion: +4 (SP) +3 (Cha) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +11
  • Stealth: +4 (2 SP*) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) +2 (Race) +2 (Synergy) = +17^
  • Thievery: +4 (SP) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +13

*Adept Skills, purchased at half cost.

^ May be augmented with Witchcraft.

Skills in the setting have been somewhat condensed – although everything else is as per the SRD.

  • Acrobatics: Covers Balance, Tumble and Escape Artist.
  • Athletics: Covers Climb, Jump and Swim.
  • Arcana: Covers Knowledge (Arcana) and Spellcraft.
  • Linguistics: Covers Forgery and Decipher Script.
  • Deception: Covers Bluff and Disguise.
  • Survival: Covers Knowledge (Nature) and Survival.
  • Perception: Covers Search, Spot, and Listen.
  • Persuasion: Covers Diplomacy and Intimidation.
  • Stealth: Covers Hide and Move Silently.
  • Thievery: Covers Disable Device, Open Locks, and Sleight of Hand.

Nightwraith Martial Art (Dex):

The Nightwraith Style focuses on concealment, sudden strikes at vital areas, and on the use of the Sai – as well as inherent mastery of the powers of (physical) darkness. It is smooth, flowing, and generally performed in dark, loose-fitting clothing with wide sleeves and pants – both of which serve to conceal the user’s movements in swirling folds of cloth. It’s generally regarded as the private art of the Lahir Wraiths (a secretive order of Drow assassins) and they’ve been known to object to having it spread around.

  • Requires: Access to the Shadow Mastery package – or at least something similar. Uses the Sai.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 2, Defenses 2, Power 2, Strike, and Synergy/Stealth.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Combat Reflexes, Sneak Attack I, Prone Fighting, and an Unarmed Kata (allows use while unarmed as well as with a Sai).
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Light Foot, Serpent Strike, and Touch Strike.
  • Known Techniques (7): Defense 1, Power 1, Synergy/Stealth, Combat Reflexes, Sneak Attack I, Prone Fighting, and Touch Strike.

Exalted – Exaltation Research

the chest

What's in this thing?

“Lesser Exaltations” are one of Charles’s research projects – and the techniques involved may or may not have anything to do with actual Celestial or Terrestrial Exaltations. What they do involve is bonding a mortal or god-blood character to three especially-designed and augmented five-dot Manses and twelve dots worth of artifacts – a Soul Sheathe (Artifact ***) containing a Least Rune Weapon (Artifact *), a Greater Ring of Thaumaturgic Mastery (Artifact **), a set of Commando Armor (Artifact ***), and a Lesser Sigil of the Moon (Artifact ***).

That’s still no match for the potential of a genuine Celestial Exaltation – but it does provide a good deal of immediate power and some fairly good defenses.

Unfortunately, the effects of three complex augmented manses and five complicated artifacts is kind of hard to keep track of – especially when the manses are designed to modify and amplify some of the effects of the artifacts. Ergo, we have a (still fairly complicated) summary sheet.

Lesser Exalts Gain:

  • +1 Essence. They may continue to buy up their essence at (x8) as per the usual rules and gain an essence pool of ([Essence x 6] + [Willpower x 3] + [Sum of Virtues] +4). While they regain essence at the usual base rate (4/8 per hour) they are effectively “in” two manse *****’s at all times – providing an extra 40 motes per hour.
  • Three Spirit Charms and the ability to buy more spirit charms at 8 XP each. They may buy Terrestrial and Celestial Martial Arts if they can find a teacher. Spirit Charms may be combo’d freely at a cost of 1 Will, but combos involving martial arts charms must be developed normally.
  • +3 Strength
  • +1 to each attribute other then Strength.
  • Nightsight.
  • Double their base ground movement speed.
  • Base Health Levels of 2x -0, 8x -1, 8x -2, 2x -4, and “Dead”. Thanks to their investing a health level in each of two manses, for them “Dead” usually means “becoming a normal – if fairly minor – spirit”.
  • Stamina-based Soak as per an Exalt.
  • Immunity to Crippling, Unnatural Mental Influence, and unwanted Shaping effects.
  • +10 Bonus Successes against Poison and Disease.
  • +12L/+12B Soak and Hardness 6L/6B – although this does not stack with external armor.
  • Cannot suffer more than three levels of damage from any single attack or flurry.
  • Can reduce the final damage from any attack or flurry to zero three times per scene.
  • +4 to Integrity and Resistance. These raise their effective skill rating, and so affect any figured abilities. They do not, however, raise the cost of increasing the base skill and may result in skill totals beyond the usual caps.
  • +2 to Archery, Awareness, Martial Arts, Melee, Stealth, and Thrown. These raise their effective skill rating, and so affect any figured abilities.  They do not, however, raise the cost of increasing the base skill and may result in skill totals beyond the usual caps.
  • +2 to their Dodge DV.
  • They regenerate one level of bashing damage every three actions in combat, all bashing damage over the course of a minute out of combat, one level of lethal damage every half hour, and one level of aggravated damage every two and a half hours.
  • Their aging rate is negligible. They can expect to remain in good health for several thousand years.
  • They may carry and attune two hearthstones without need for a socket or essence commitment.
  • They may maintain a link with an external source of power – whether that’s an entity (which can communicate with the user, transmit powers through the weapon, and – if capable of becoming immaterial and not otherwise restrained – travel to it), place (in which case the user can draw upon that place as if he or she was within it), or device (in which case the user may draw on it as if he or she was in contact with it). The link can be changed, or renewed in a few moments if dispelled, but the Lesser Exalt may only maintain one link at a time.
  • They need not eat, sleep, drink, or breathe, and are immune to natural environmental hazards.
  • May invoke up to three thaumaturgic effects per day without having to expend motes or will. They do not, however, automatically know any thaumaturgy. Most do learn some though.
  • Can store three thaumaturgic effects, ready for immediate use.

Each Lesser Exalt is attuned to a particular type of weapon – sword, staff, bow, etc – and can imbue any one such weapon at a time with the following powers:

  • Perfection. Such weapons get two +1’s and a +2 to be divided between Accuracy, Damage, Defense, and Rate – although Rate can only be increased by +1. This does not stack with artifact powers however.
  • Collapsible. The weapon can collapse into a small, easily-concealed, form.
  • Unbreakable. The weapons cannot be destroyed save by truly grotesque intentional abuse or major directed magical acts.

Thaumaturgic Suite:

These powers are protected against countermeasures short of Celestial Circle Countermagic. If so dispelled, they can be reinvoked six ticks later.

As Needed:

  • A blurring/multiple-image effect, adding (another) +2 to their Dodge DV.
  • +3 bonus dice to any roll they make.
  • +6L/6B Soak that reduces Ping damage.

May spend one mote to:

  • Be able to physically attack immaterial beings for (2 x Essence) hours.
  • See the flows of essence, revealing the presence of immaterial spirits, spells, active charms, and similar effects for (2 x Ess) days.
  • Stunt as an Exalt or other supernatural being for (2 x Ess) days. While god-bloods do this anyway, this is often useful to mortals.
  • Negate up to four botches per scene that would otherwise harm them for (2 x Ess) days.

May spend two motes to…

  • Take on up to twelve points of mutations for up to (2 x Ess) Days. This will not stack with itself, but can be dropped at any time.
  • Occultly perform an hours simple work, such as sorting and filing, cleaning, cutting wood, weeding a garden, and so on. Sadly, this will not accomplish magical tasks other than alchemy and cannot be used on anyone above essence one who wishes to resist.

May spend three motes to…

  • Generate a shadow-shield (as per desired physical shield) or up to a 10 x 10 wall. These have 12B/12L/12A Soak, require 12 levels of damage to destroy, and last for ten minutes otherwise. No cost for the first three times in a day.

There are, in fact, a number of ways this package could be made more powerful, more coherent, and better unified (most notably by using fewer, but higher-rated, artifacts) – but Charles has taken the “throw everything and the kitchen sink in” approach this time around and is designing around the use of artifacts that he can mass-produce with relative ease.

His next approach is to use manses in another way – as in the Bazaar of the Bizarre – to imbue mortals with the abilities of powerful manse guardians.

After that he may combine the two approaches – resulting in some pretty impressive powers – or try for the all-in-one uber-artifact approach like Authchthon. Uber-artifacts are a lot harder to make though.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 181b – The Crimson Permanent Assurance Trust

Vulcano Island

Fresh water? You'll drink seawater and like it!

As the convoy moved into deeper water again the temperature dropped significantly. It seemed that the reefs covered the top of a mid-ocean mountain range, creating a seascape of scattered islands surrounded by mile upon mile of barrier reefs stretching across a multi-thousand mile arc – and had inhibited exploration and trade for a long time before routes through had been found or carved out with magic. Apparently the rich waters on the far side were cooled and fertilized (at least where there wasn’t any volcanic activity) by a deep ocean current converted into an upwelling by its collision with the undersea mountains.

Marty found that quite interesting! So the land and water and such wasn’t just THERE like it was in Battling Business World and volcanoes (despite his personal experiences) weren’t out to get anyone in particular in most places!

He spent some time looking into “geology”, “hydrology”, and “oceanography”. It was really rather fascinating… All that stuff had reasons behind it, and a sort of life of its own, and wasn’t always just “drawn in” like it was in the toonworlds!

Raphael wondered too… Warm air blowing into a colder zone and meeting a cold upwelling current meant weather disturbances; they’d been lucky – and no wonder the reefs had blocked off exploration for centuries. A little fog or rain would make them extremely dangerous. A storm – even a small one – would make them a deathtrap

As the day turned (rather suddenly given a flat world) into night, the sunlets circling other disks glowed like stars, and the blue of the sky faded enough to reveal the outlines of the giant flying turtle-realms which flew slowly between the branches of the world tree. The waves lapped at their hulls, as the phosphorescence of the sea answered the lights of heaven.

First Marty, then Raphael, and then others began to hear a deep echoing sound that seemed to reverberate through the ship and the water – and flashes of colored light that seemed to come from the stygian depths below.

That seemed unlikely to be good! There were reds, blues, greens, yellows, purples, oranges, and more. Each flash was a particular color. They didn’t seem to be magical though…

Raphael promptly had the Thralls pass the word up and down the line – and asked for an update from the swimmers.

Well, none of the sailors were saying anything along the lines of “Well, that’s just old flashy again!” so Kevin sent some of the swimmers down to have a look…

They reported the presence of something massive deep below, further than they could dive. It was stirring up the waters, and was the source of the sounds. In it’s wake, it appeared to be stirring up something that was giving off the flashes of light.

According to the sailors, the lights were probably spores from fungal things that were believed to grow along the bottom. They tended to be a bit dangerous if they breached the surface, but usually only came up one or two at a time. They had no idea what the large creature might be though.

The spores were filled with a volatile mixture of methane ice, alcohol, and other flammable compounds. Upon exposure to air, they tended to catch fire and begin zipping around as the methane ice melted and expelled methane gas which propelled the spores and spread them across a wide area.

A bit of divination revealed that the creature was an immense fish-like animal that was skimming along the bottom and filter feeding on the spore clouds. In it’s wake it was kicking up an immense number of spores – which we re steadily rising to the surface.

Kevin sighed and added more wards – protections from fire, spore-diversions, and air-cleaning spells.

Raphael set up his bottle-spells to catch some.

There was a rather impressive display of fireworks as the spore clouds rose to the surface, caught fire, and then zoomed around the area like deflating balloons with fiery contrails. Thralls were busily running around using telekinesis and abjuration spells to defect the fireballs zipping about while ensuring that the fire protection spells held out. Raphael caught a number of spores with his bottles – and then, as Kevin, Marty, and the Thralls ducked and weaved across the decks, caught one right in the face.

It wasn’t that damaging, but it was annoying, and nearly pushed him overboard, and it spewed burning gas and slime everywhere – and the SMELL was quite atrocious! Like someone had been burning rotting eggs in a furnace for weeks!

Marty batted it away for him while the Thralls handled protecting the sailors. It tore off into the distance with “pfffffffft” sound.

Marty went “pfffffffft” back. Stupid fireball getting in Raphael’s face…

(Raphael, while holding his nose and looking for a way to get the smell out without bothering with magic) “We need depth charges next time those things show up. That is annoying. Pine scented depth charges with soap.”

After much dramatic pyrotechnics, the scene calmed down as the stirred up fungal spores started rising in other locations along the ocean’s surface.

Kevin contemplated the possibility of unusual depth charges – while Raphael got a bright idea for a far smelling spell that replaced the normal sense of smell.

Meanwhile, the Thralls healed the minor injuries amongst the crew and helped clean up.

The rest of the night will go smoothly enough after that. Come morning the crews found the water to be lightly dusted with colored dusts giving the water the look of a fine sheen of oil.

(Marty) “That’s interesting. Now, if only it hadn’t been from those damned spores!”

Raphael checked… Hm. Not flammable unless dried and ground into a fine powder.

Well, who knew? Somebody might find it useful.

They had the Thralls skim up a load for the mostly-empty ship – storing it quite carefully, with containment measures and spells. They didn’t need any explosions aboard!

They had to resort to wind-creation spells that afternoon; the light breezes weren’t getting them very far – but the magical wind got the ships moving again at a steady clip.

They did pick up a school of dolphins though – which promptly began to follow the boats and to leap out of the water alongside it as they swam along.

Marty thought they were friendly little guys and telepathically hailed them.

(Marty) “Hi! How are you today?”

(Dolphin) “Hi! You sure are moving fast for such a calm day! I bet you are using magic aren’t you?”

(Marty) “Yep? Hey, see anything interesting or dangerous in these waters? I’ll give you food either way.”

(Kevin) “Yep! Magic is fun to use anyway!”

Huh… It seemed like a mixed bag of normal and neodolphins. Were the Neodolphins out upgrading the dolphins in the dolphin manifold to their level of sapience? That would be a BIG project! The Cetacea were FAR older than humans! Or Neanderthals! Or even the early primates!

(Dolphin) “Not much around here beyond the big smelly thing that passed a while ago. It stank. Lot’s of fish to eat though.”

(Other Dolphin) “Although not all the fish are good to eat. Don’t eat the yellow ones. They’ll make you sick.”

(Marty) “Anything else we shouldn’t eat or touch around here?”

(Dolphin) “Yellow fish, big smelly thing, the grassy islands are dangerous too. Most of that stuff though you can tell by the smell. We think they come from elsewhere and are settling into the deep waters here.”

(Marty) “What’s with the grassy islands?”

(Other Dolphin) “Weird plants from the bottom that break free and float to the surface when they die. I think they eat off the volcanic vents at the bottom. They don’t seem like typical plants per se and are highly toxic to eat as we’ve seen from the fish near them. The gases they give off as they decay are unpleasant to breath.”

(Marty, handing out dolphin snacks) “Huh. Well, thanks.”

The place was definitely getting things wandering in though. Had they started that by – in effect – putting the place “on the map”?

For the night they had a fight breaking out aboard one of the merchant ships with lots of shouting, weapons drawn, and alcohol.

Naturally enough, they had to stick their noses in.

(Raphael) “All right you guys, you can fight and drink or you can have weapons out. No weapons where they could damage good alcohol or bad alcohol.”

(Marty) “I agree! It’s wasteful… Seriously though, what’s all this about?”

(Wolf) “This creep has been secretly meeting with my sister before we left port! It’s a disgrace to my family’s honor!”

The “creep” was a dog member of the crew. Apparently the two were drinking and telling stories until the wolf found out that the girl the dog was bragging about was his sister.

Oops! Marty had definitely been there.

Currently the wolf wanted to kill the dog to preserve his family’s honor, while the crew was busily trying to keep the two separated. The fact that large quantities of alcohol had been consumed wasn’t helping matters.

Kevin sobered people up.

(Raphael) “Shouldn’t you take that up with her? I mean she did it as much as he did.”

(Wolf) “Are you saying that my sister would willingly debase herself with a crettin like him?!”

(Kevin, who – being from Core – really did not understand at all) “Isn’t that their business anyway?”

(Raphael) “Are you saying you have proof she didn’t?”

(Wolf) “My family is a most honorable one and would never engage in such relations with riff-raff.”

(Raphael) “Then obviously it didn’t happen so it’s not a problem. This guy obviously got drunk and got carried away telling a story.”

(Wolf) “But these baseless accusations simply cannot stand! He would tarnish the name of my family and my sister in order to boast of his own “conquests”.”

The dog was busys backpedaling on the extent of the “conquest” but was NOT backing off on his relations with the girl. He was refusing to stop seeing her and was quite willing to fight for the right.

(Kevin, to the Wolf) “Sorry – but it sounds like she may like him, which is entirely her business. So do love affairs make fools of everyone!”

Marty guessed… Dog wanted to see her, Wolf’s family wasn’t too happy, and he did it on the sly anyway. That was absolutely classic.

(Marty) “And if she wants to see him, what can you do to stop her other than lock her up forever?”

The wolf looked like he was really considering volunteering “kill him” as a possible solution, but is holding that comment back at the moment.

Marty sighed. The two should probably be on separate ships for the duration.

(Raphael) “She’s not on the boat with us right?… can’t this wait till you get back and she can tell everyone how she didn’t do anything with him.”

(Kevin, to the Wolf) “So what’s your problem with him anyway?”

The wolf’s problem was that the dog was a lower class peasant with no major family name and thereby wasn’t suited for someone as well stationed as his sister… They got the impression that the wolf’s family wasn’t as well to do as he was trying to make out though.

Kevin had figured that; no major aristocrat would be crewing a down-and-out merchant ship!

The wolf ‘s attempt at carrying himself as an aristocrat was coming off as rather comical.

(Kevin) “Piffle. Why don’t the pair of you wait until the voyage is over? You’ll find out how much money you’ll have then – and both of you might make your families rich. If one of you gets killed early, your family won’t get as much!”

That line of logic didn’t really work, but it was easy enough to keep them separated on different ships anyway.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 181a – Jaws

In coral reefs, gamete incompatibility prevent...

Pretty but painful!

Kevin promptly had the Nightwind Voyager move up front for the trip through the reefs; that way he could both pose in the front and be ready to do something about the reefs if necessary. Besides, he had one of the larger ships – and the toughest.

Raphael preferred not to be distracted while navigating reefs that had already gotten one ship. At the moment, the Corals were just as big a threat – at least to them – as the Machines! Still, he left most of it to the Thralls – who actually had some nautical skills. He knew spaceships, matrix hoverships, and core vehicles – but not ancient sailing ships!

Marty was piloting his ship; looking at the channels, this wasn’t something he’d want to take in even a light rain. Visibility of the reefs was limited at best, and the navigation was tedious. The blasted corals apparently didn’t like to grow in straight lines or to provide nice wide spaces to navigate through. Luckily, it did look like the traffic through the area had slowly widened a small channel through the reefs.

Of course, that left thralls piloting the remaining four ships in their little flotilla. Two elected to take the reefs slow and steady – but Te’gani thought it best to get through as quickly as possible and challenged another Thrall (who looked at him like he was crazy) to a race to the far side of the reefs.

Kevin advised them to pay attention to the people who had done this before!

(Te’Gani) “Why don’t we strap lots of iron to the front and simply plow our way through? I’m sure that would be faster!”

(Kevin, with some exasperation) “Because this is a sailing ship, not a starship with a fusion drive, atomic and plasma weaponry, and a defense field!”

It was a tight fit – especially in some locations. Other channels weren’t nearly so bad. Marty went with shiphandling (at which he was actually pretty good!) while Kevin – of course – went with layering their hulls with protective spells and having the Thralls conjure some reef-spirits and water elementals to help them avoid bumping into and damaging the reefs.

There were still a number of close calls, including times when the hull ground worryingly in some of the tightest spaces. During one of the tight turns the Nightwind Voyager nearly got rear-ended by the thrall in a hurry before the rest of the thralls involved managed to bring that ship to a controlled stop.

(Kevin, with more exasperation) “What’s the rush Te’gani?”

(Te’gani) “They said we needed to get to the other side before nightfall. So I am trying to move this ship through quickly. Besides, we have enough magic to repair any damage and we can’t permanently die either.”

(Kevin) “No, but some of them can, remember?”

The near-collision had left them turned in a very awkward way, and wedged. It took some time to get unstuck…

Fortunately, Marty (with the telekinetic thrust from the Thralls to help) was up to it – although the whole episode reminded him of Battling Business World Miami and their speedboat races!

Well, “battles” would be closer.

Kevin, meanwhile, had put Te’gani in his pocket and put someone more patient, thoughtful, and considerate in charge of steering!

Hmph. Maybe he should send the idiot kid to work for Dr Brenner for a bit. Better him than some random Thrall! Still, he might be able to cause some sort of disaster there too…

Marty, in passing, suggested simply sending him to sailing school, so he’d understand why you didn’t pull stuff like that!

After finally getting the ship unstuck, and a little more careful winding through the reef, the final obstacle was a sandbar.

Oh well! At least that was only a “get stuck” sort of problem! Marty aimed as directed, took a good look first (Aaagh! This “caution” stuff really WAS getting to him!) and was just about to go for it…

Meanwhile, Raphael had gotten bored waiting – and had decided to make things easier.

He made some “ship-in-a-bottle” pocket dimensions tied to rowboats. That way they’d be able to breeze through the reefs and the shallow water – and it would like them up for broadsides if they encountered a waiting enemy!

He started with his own ship, then rowed over to the next of his ships… It only took a few minutes per ship.

He caught up with the front of the line as Marty was starting to consider closing on that sandbar – and Marty was delighted! That would make things much easier on everybody, AND he got to say that he’d been on a ship in a bottle!

Kevin settled for heroically posing on a rowboat. It would look silly in a bottle!

As the giant glass bottle approached to swallow his ship, Marty suddenly had the revelation that the BBW model hobbyists had gone too far! It was bad enough when they stole a carrier battlegroup to put on the mantle, but now they were stealing fleets in other universes too!

Well not really – but it certainly looked like it…

(Marty, jokingly) “Hey, you really are going to get us across, right, and not stick us on a mantle?”

(Raphael, puzzedly) “Why would I put anything on my mantle besides robot squid heads?”

(Marty) “Okay, just making sure! Go right ahead.”

Sadly, neither Raphael nor Kevin had ever tried to row a boat – and Kevin was busy posing heroically in the bow anyway. That would make it hard to row across the dangerous bits of the sandbar…

Raphael figured that it couldn’t be terribly complicated – it was an awfully primitive and simple method of transportation – but all the random, conflicting, currents were making it more complex than he’d thought.

Kevin promptly threw raw (telekinetic) power at the problem.

There was a bit of confusion as Raphael threw in his own Telekinesis – he figured that he’d be far more helpful that way than actually rowing with his “stick-like arms” – but between telekinesis, magic bottles, and a rowboat with shallow draft, they got through the rest of the reefs without any major issues – except for attracting a number of fish and other sea life interested in the sparkly glass bottles floating in the water.

Marty in particular watched uncomfortably as a shark easily big enough to eat his ship followed along close behind, lurking in the murky waters.

(Kevin) “Don’t play the music! It makes them aggressive and smarter!”

Marty had to laugh a bit… Wow. He hoped that none of the sharks from the Green Galaxies had decided to go on vacation. Also, playing THAT music would indeed be a terrible idea.

(Raphael) “Ah too bad we cant make these little guys go faster. it would be nice to go the whole way like this.”

For a moment Marty was tempted to fill the water with caffeine-laced chum – but Raphael was so proud of his bottles that it would have quite spoiled the moment.

As they moved into the lagoons beyond the reefs and pulled up the bottles to remove the stoppers and release the ships one of the larger sharks got enticed by the movements of the bottle that held Marty’s ship – and gulped down the bottle and dived. That had the effect of dragging the rope and the rowboat behind it as it went off through the reefs at an impressively high speed. Kevin managed to hang onto his heroic pose (and look very dramatic) when the rowboat took off like a speedboat, but Raphael – with less impressive reflexes – had been leaning over the side to fish bottles out, and went overboard.

In the meantime, Marty had the interesting view of the inside of a fish’s stomach… Well, he’d always wondered what it would be like to be swallowed by a fish… Sadly, the neat coins and treasures inside were limited to… a fishing lure, a pair of reading glasses, and a ring.

Kevin dashed forward up the rope to hook an arm through the sharks gills while he pummeled it!

OK, he was ready to cheat with TK, but – as it turned out – his reflexes were good enough to get away with it.

The shark was moving through the water with incredible speed as it easily wove through the reefs, speeding along at nearly 80 knots. Kevin could practically hear the tail humming as it pushed the water along.

Pummeling it was only moderately effective. Well, he didn’t have much leverage at the moment – and was somewhat reluctant to hurt the thing; there wasn’t any evidence of hostility yet and they HAD dangled a glittering lure in front of it’s nose!

Still, he definitely had it’s attention.

(Kevin) “Open your tiny mind oh Shark! Let me see if you’ve being manipulated…”

(Shark) “No, no, my food! Get your own!”

Aw! It was a genuine non-malicious shark!

Meanwhile, Raphael was facing down another pair of sharks looking at the new meal that had suddenly landed within reach. Fortunately his implants included some that boosted his swimming ability – and he already had a telekinetic effect running that he could use to hold them back a bit.

Even his nanotech underwater mist-wings didn’t make him quite as fast as a shark though; he just wasn’t built for it. Worse, he hadn’t been running a very STRONG telekinetic effect! Kevin had been providing the power, he’d been doing the steering!

Oh well… At least he could multiply his mental timerate enough to do several things at once.

Sadly, shoving sharks aside and throwing off their aim simply made them even more agitated!

Meanwhile, Marty was considering… Use Witchfire to heat the bottle? But the “bottle” was the dimensional interface… that could do all kinds of weird things! And even with fireproofing, that might do bad things to the ship. Cold, maybe? That was probably not much better, but at least it might get the shark to spit the bottle out. Push out the stopper so that he could pummel it from the inside while Kevin hammered at it from the outside? How much shark fluid would leak out? And would they return to full size underwater? What would expanding inside a shark do to his ship? Maybe he could make the bottle spiky? Would that just leave him stuck inside an injured or deceased-and-sinking shark?

Drat it! This “caution” stuff was REALLY putting a damper on his spontaneity!

(Kevin) “Dummy! That food will kill you!”

He promptly used his psychic talents to painlessly pull out the offending bottle and heal the wound – and stuffed the shark full of meat. It was right enough; it HAD put out more than enough work to earn a good big meal!

As Marty contemplated his plight, a gargantuan hungry looking wolf tore open the shark’s gut and reached for the bottle!

(Marty, in the spirit of giant monster movies and Battling Business World Japan) “AAAAAA!!!!”

Raphael would have cursed if he had time… One of the blasted things had twisted back, gotten a good hold on his foot, and was busy trying to drag him down into the depths of the reefs!

His frantic twisting – and a sizeable dose of luck – left it plunging into the depths with a leathery meal consisting of his shoe as he accelerated upwards, breaching the surface like a dolphin.

He took the chance to switch to flight even if he WASN’T very good at it. That should put him out of reach of sharks!

While a – or perhaps THE – shark made a valiant attempt to leap up and grab him, it missed his other shoe by mere inches and crashed back into the water – leaving Raphael clear to make it to the ship before any other sharks can make the attempt.

(Raphael) “Arg! My genuine imitation leather boots! How will I ever find such rare and comfortable boots again? They banned genuine imitation leather years ago! Robots get me some sharkskin for new boots… Ranged weapons only”

Oh drat! Most of them were still in bottles!

He didn’t get any boot leather.

Kevin cheerily descended carrying Marty’s bottle. It was time to let Marty out! And then to pose!

(Marty) “Woo hoo!”

They opted not to “avenge the loss of Raphael’s shoe to the vile sharks” – although they did have to laugh when a Thrall suggested it.

Raphael made himself some sandals – and moved that they get on with the voyage while he grumbled about the damned fish.

After checking the ships for damage they did so – although Kevin was sympathetic enough with the sharks to cheerily wave goodbye – and to leave some meat in the water (albeit well behind their little convoy).

(Raphael) “Hey stop feeding them! They got my boot and that is enough!”

(Marty) “I gotta agree with Raphael on that one. Remember, we’ve got our fleet in bottles!”

(Kevin) “Not any more! (after all, rowboats weren’t all that seaworthy, so they’d undone all the bottles after passing the reefs) – and anyone following us can just deal with the shark-infested waters!”

The convoy moved on.

Eclipse Pathfinder – Basics and Races

Top hat as an icon for magic

Hey, GM! Watch me pull a species out of my hat!

I’ve put up articles on how to build (and expand on or modify in an assortment of ways) the various Pathfinder classes in Eclipse. (Alchemist, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer), Hence here we have the basic package deal for Pathfinder games and the assorted Pathfinder variations on the races.

The Pathfinder Package Deal is actually a small template, which provides… .

  • +2 to an Attribute, Corrupted/the attribute is fixed by race (8 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted/only works as long as the user sticks to a particular archetype and relatively narrow plan of development chosen at level one at each level, points may only be spent on skills and additional hit points (2 CP).
  • Immunity/not being allowed to buy up their (normally maximized) level one hit die later on. Uncommon/Minor/Major (3 CP). There are several ways to get more hit points which are more effective – but Pathfinder effectively equates skill points and hit points as far as “favored classes” go, and this is the easiest way to go about that.
  • Pathfinder normally grants immunity to the experience-point cost of making magic items on the grounds that “experience isn’t something you use up”. Unfortunately this means that a long-term, campaign – where years may pass between major adventures – destroys the magic-item economy. It also misses the fact that “experience points” – some sort of magical energy that accumulates in you until it transforms you – have nothing at all to do with experiences or memories. Ergo, I’m going to substitute Action Hero (the Crafting option), Specialized and Corrupted/the user still has to spend the time, and money, and may ONLY create items by spending action points (2 CP). That will let characters use their item-creation feats without spending XP, but will limit item creation during any long stretches of downtime.
  • Pathfinder provides a +3 bonus to “Trained In-Class Skills”. This isn’t properly part of Eclipse, it’s simply an option attached to the skills system – “Characters get a +3 bonus on skills that fit their character concept”. The awkwardness in Eclipse comes in deciding which skills qualify as “In-Class” given that Eclipse doesn’t really HAVE classes. The simplest option is simply to let the character consider Craft, Profession, and their selection of a dozen other skills “in-class”. No cost.

The Pathfinder Package Deal thus has a basic cost of 15 CP – three more than you can normally get out of a package deal. Fortunately, all Pathfinder characters suffer from a major disadvantage; Accursed (must use the Pathfinder versions of spells even where those have been downgraded, may not take “overpowered” feats, -3 CP).

That gives us a net cost of 12 CP for the Pathfinder Package Deal – and it gives Eclipse-style builds an option; they can accept the Pathfinder Package Deal, or they can use another one, or none at all.

Pathfinder gave the basic races a slight power-up so as to make them more attractive than the various races that were published later on – and so were subject to power creep. Since Eclipse lets players build up racial abilities, and provides a firm pricing system on racial powers, there’s no reason for that – and so the “Pathfinder Package Deal” given above can be applied to pretty much any species.

Now, as far as the actual Pathfinder Races go… unless noted otherwise, all basic Pathfinder races are medium-sized, have a base speed of thirty feet, and speak common.

Dwarf Racial Traits (31 CP. Pathfinder Template adds to Wisdom).

  • +2 Constitution,–2 Charisma (Attribute Shift, 6 CP).
  • Their base movement is Corrupted for Increased Effect; it is reduced to 20 feet, but is never modified by armor or encumbrance (no cost).
  • Occult Sense/Darkvision (6 CP).
  • Defender/+1 AC (Double Specialized: only versus monsters AND only versus creatures with the giant subtype, for +4 AC, Corrupted/does not improve with level, 4 CP)
  • +1 to Appraise, Specialized for Double Effect/Only for checks made to determine the price of nonmagical goods that contain precious metals or gemstones (1 CP).
  • +1 Warcraft, Specialized/only versus humanoid creatures of the orc and goblinoid subtypes, Corrupted/does not add to iterative attacks (2 CP).
  • +2 racial bonus on saving throws against poison (Resist, 3 CP).
  • +2 racial bonus on saving throws against spells, and spell-like abilities (Resist, 3 CP).
  • +4 to their Combat Maneuver Defense when resisting a bull rush or trip attempt while standing on the ground. Specialist x2: +4 to resist being Bull Rushed or Tripped (Both Specialized: defensive only, Corrupted: only when standing on the ground, 2 CP)
  • Occult Sense/Detect Unusual Stonework (Specialized and Corrupted/only provides a +2 bonus to Perception to notice unusual stonework and an automatic Perception check when passing within ten feet of such stonework, 2 CP)
  • Proficient with Dwarven Cultural Weapons (Specialized: only fully works with simple and martial weapons, simply reduces exotic Dwarven weapons to martial ones, 1 CP)
  • Bonus Language: Dwarven (1 CP).

Elf Racial Traits (27 CP. Pathfinder Template adds to Intelligence)

  • +2 Dexterity, –2 Constitution (Attribute Shift, 6 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Low-Light Vision (6 CP).
  • Immunity/Sleep Effects (Uncommon/Minor/Major, 3 CP)
  • +2 on saves against enchantment spells and effects (Resist, 3 CP).
  • +2 bonus on caster level checks made to overcome spell resistance (+2 Caster Levels, Specialized and Corrupted/only to overcome spell resistance, 4 CP).
  • +2 on Spellcraft skill checks made to identify the properties of magic items (Specialized, 1 CP).
  • +2 on Perception skill checks (2 CP).
  • Proficiency with Elven Cultural Weapons (A narrow group, Specialized/only reduces elven exotic weapons to martial weapons, 1 CP).
  • Bonus Language/Elven (1 CP).

Gnome Racial Traits (30 CP. Pathfinder Template adds to Constitution).

  • +2 Charisma, –2 Strength (Attribute Shift, 6 CP).
  • Shrinking I (Corrupted: Reduces base movement to 20′, 8 CP)
  • Occult Sense/Low-Light Vision (6 CP).
  • +4 dodge bonus to AC against monsters of the giant type. Defender/+1 AC (Double Specialized: only versus monsters AND only versus creatures with the giant subtype, for +4 AC, Corrupted/does not improve with level, 4 CP)
  • Ability Focus/Illusions, Specialized/only adds +1 to the DC of saves against their illusions rather than +2 (3 CP).
  • Occult Talent (Normally allows Speak With Animals, Dancing Lights, Ghost Sound, and Prestidigitation, 6 CP).
  • +1 to hit humanoid creatures of the reptilian and goblinoid subtypes (Warcraft, Specialized versus humanoids with the reptilian or goblinoid subtypes only, Corrupted: does not add to iterative attacks, 2 CP).
  • +2 on saves against illusions (Resist, 3 CP).
  • +2 on the Perception skill (2 CP).
  • +2 on a Craft or Profession skill of their choice (2 CP).
  • Proficiency with Gnomish Cultural Weapons (A narrow group, Specialized/only reduces gnomish exotic weapons to martial weapons, 1 CP).
  • Bonus Languages: Gnome and Sylvan (2 CP).

That comes out to a total of 45 CP. That would be a problem, but – fortunately – the entire racial package is Corrupted: Pathfinder gnomes are tied to the fey. They are widely regarded as strange, do not form large social groups and rarely form long-term bonds (which pretty well cripples them as a sapient species), and have a hard time interacting with other races. The GM should play this up – and reduce the cost of the race to 30 CP.

Half-Elf Racial Traits (26 CP).

  • Half-elves get to pick which attribute enjoys the Pathfinder Template bonus – buying off a Corruption worth (4 CP).
  • Half-Elves get to pick two “favored classes” at first level, buying down he Pathfinder Templates “Fast Learner” ability to merely “Corrupted” (1 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Low-Light Vision (6 CP).
  • +1 Bonus Feat (6 CP).
  • Count as both elven and human for any effect related to race (No cost).
  • Immunity/Sleep Effects (Uncommon/Minor/Major, 3 CP)
  • +2 against enchantment spells and effects (Resist, 3 CP).
  • +2 on Perception skill checks (2 CP).
  • Bonus Language: Elven (1 CP).

Half-Orc Racial Traits (17 CP)

  • Half-Orcs get to pick which attribute enjoys the Pathfinder Template bonus – buying off a Corruption worth (4 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Darkvision (6 CP).
  • +2 on Intimidate skill checks (2 CP).
  • Count as both human and orc for any effect related to race (No cost).
  • May remain active below zero hit points (but above dead) for one round once per day. Immunity/Unconsciousness due to being below zero hit points (Common, Major, Major, Specialized and Corrupted – only for one round, only once per day, 3 CP).
  • Proficiency with Orcish Cultural Weapons (A narrow group, Specialized/only reduces orcish exotic weapons to martial weapons, 1 CP).
  • Bonus Language: Orc (1 CP).

Halfling Racial Traits (31 CP, Pathfinder Template adds to Charisma).

  • +2 Dexterity, –2 Strength (Attribute Shift, 6 CP).
  • Shrinking I (Corrupted: Reduces base movement to 20′, 8 CP)
  • +2 bonus on all saving throws against fear (Resist, 3 CP).
  • +1 racial bonus on all saving throws (Resist, 9 CP).
  • +2 Acrobatics, Climb, and Perception (6 CP).
  • Proficiency with Halfling Cultural Weapons (A narrow group, Specialized/only reduces halfling exotic weapons to martial weapons, 1 CP).
  • Speak Halfling (1 CP).
  • Disadvantage – Racial reputation as sneaky thieves (-3 CP).

Human Racial Traits (13 CP).

  • Humans get to pick which attribute enjoys the Pathfinder Template bonus – buying off a Corruption worth (4 CP).
  • Bonus Feat (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills (3 CP).

Yes, Humans are still kind of boring.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Shareware 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. It will be updated with Eclipse III when that’s done as well.

   Oh yes, here’s the OGL on the Pathfinder SRD site I referenced.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 180b – The Convoy

A reef surrounding an islet.

Ten thousand square miles of open ocean, and what do you manage to find...

It wasn’t easy to get out of view of the port on a flat world – – you had to get far enough out that atmospheric hazing did the job for you – but a few patches of mist helped. Come to think of it, that meant that – at least on the open sea – any ship that DID sneak up on you was almost certainly hostile.

Still, thanks to some privacy-spells and some patchy fog they were likely unobserved when they got all their ships together.

Their first destination was a tropical port far to the South called Li Cae, where they would sell their cargo of enchanted and manufactured goods and pick up various silks, gems, and rare woods and supplies for sale at another port off to the East – a part of a plantation isle called Isle Sorna. There they would pick up various foodstuffs and other plantation goods that didn’t grow very well back in the city for sale back in Cyrweld. It was a fairly simple triangular route – far from the most profitable possible route, but relatively fast, offering a solid and dependable profit, and not one the Otters could undercut thanks to some old quarrels and contacts in those ports.

Hurston suspected that the most likely place for an attack was during the stretch to the plantations – although the odds of harassing attacks at any point during the trip were high.

Raphael busied himself providing various skill enhancements to the sailors aboard the Salty Jerky while Marty used his oratorical talents to do the same aboard the Lissifea.

Kevin didn’t bother. Thralls already had plenty of enhancements, and throwing spells over and over and over again to give them minor boosts just wasn’t something that could hold his attention.

Towards the evening Raphael was the first to notice a selection of barrels, planks of wood, and crates floating by in the water as they sailed along.

Raphael promptly divined that there was a large concentration to the northeast – and several smaller concentrations scattered around the large one – information which he promptly broadcast.

While Marty was suspicious – those floating things could be traps or be serving as supply depots for the Otters aquatic allies – the Thralls in the sea easily determined that the stuff had no nets, or mines, or other booby traps with it. It simply seemed to be wreckage and lost cargo.

There was… barrels of sugar and flour, a crate full of silks, a plank of wood badly cracked and splintered, and a barrel of rum. The dolphin-form Thralls reported the sound of wood grinding on stone and the crash of waves. The shark-form Thrals reported the smell of death and blood.

Kevin thought that that DEFINITELY sounded like debris from a destroyed ship (or perhaps someone trying to simulate such, although that seemed pretty unlikely). He dispatched a contingent of Thralls to gather stuff up and hunt for survivors while Raphael and Marty collected floating stuff a bit more directly.

It… looked like a ship had hit a coral reef. Judging from the damage, they’d either hit it very hard indeed or something really weird had happened; the ship had been broken in two. The rear of the ship had broken off and sunk to the bottom, while the forward section was laying on it’s side on top of the reef.

The Thralls reported three survivors tucked in an air pocket in the aft section currently unconscious from depleted oxygen, and five survivors on the fore section huddled on top of the exposed sections of the ship. Rescue operations were underway – along with some secondary investigations.

The survivors were quite pleased – and very surprised – to be seeing rescuers. They hadn’t thought that anyone would be coming in this direction.

With elemental magic, flotation, some pulleys, and a lot of repair magic and nanite swarms they soon had the ship re-assembled and afloat, and most of the cargo either returned or replaced. Still, with only eight survivors, they still had trouble – even if Raphael’s weird, buzzing, fog was wrapping itself around their ship and putting everything back into shape. Their ship normally called for at least fifteen people to handle it well…

(Raphael) “Ah the solution is obvious… robots. now where do I find find the materials for seven sailor-bots? There isn’t much around here but seaweed and coral.”

(Kevin, assigning a few Thralls to help them out) “So what happened?”

(Survivor) The Captain was taking us through the reefs towards a cove he knew was in the area. He said he had done this hundreds of times, so we trusted him to know what he was doing. While we were quietly threading the reefs, the sails suddenly went full as a massive wind came out of nowhere driving the ship forward hard. We were trying to drop the sails before we hit something when James said the anchor was dropped. There was a massive scramble to cut the rope when it went taunt and the ship swung hard into the reef. There was a lot of cracking of wood and flying debris and I lost consciousness. Next thing I knew I was upside down on the main mast as it angled into the water.

Huh. That certainly sounded like a lot of power invested in taking out some small time traders who ran up and down the coast. A wind burst and a bit of TK could do that easily – and produce a quick wreck. Was it because their ship had beaten the main convoy to the area and been taken as an outrider?

(Raphael) “Sounds like the penguins got you.”

(Survivor) “Penguins? You mean the pirates got us?”

Marty was enthused! Aha! So they WERE penguin pirates!

(Survivor) “I thought pirates would be after the cargo, not just out to destroy ships and kill crew.”

(Raphael) “Well they might not technically count as pirates if what I suspect is true.”

(Survivor) “If what you suspect? What do you mean?”

(Raphael) “Someone might be paying them to stop competition. and we might be the competition that they were aiming for.”

(Kevin) “Would they like to come along with our expedition?

(Survivor) “But that means you might be attacked by the pirates too if you head out there. Are you planning to get attacked?”

(Kevin) “Well, really yes; catch the pirates is one of our goals… Most of the convoy, however, are simply merchant ships who will be leaving dealing with the “pirates” up to the rest of us. We have a bet with a rather dishonest Otter clan who are using “pirates” to maintain their trade monopoly. Still, it’s quite possible that they’ve opted out; the bet and monopoly may not be worth what it would cost them to try to maintain it.

There was some internal discussion among the survivors, but they eventually settled into coming along on the expedition. The head officer asked if they would consider their service payment for the rescue.

(Kevin) “Oh, that was free! But OK! Why not?”

(Ship’s hand) “So what trade route are you planning on taking and can we expect a share of any of the profits?”

Kevin assured them that they could expect a basic share – especially since they’d be providing extra transport room and whatever was left of their own trade goods – and pointed them to the Platypuses for the route.

(Ship’s hand) “Ah very good. I’ve been on that route a few times, the locals can be a bit testy but friendly enough.”

(Platypus Captain) “Well then, let’s be off now. I would like to be through these reefs before sundown. They can be treacherous at night.”

Federation-Apocalypse Session 180a – Driven with the Wind


THIS is your "Crew"!?

The cook was most impressed with his new place of business. Not only did it have plenty of seating, an excellent layout, secret escape routes, and built-in conveniences, but the granite walls and vaults, asbestos hangings, and other fireproofing tricks might well stand up to pretty much any fire – even one of his worst. He provided lots of second and made up some EXCELLENT (and very generous) sack lunches for the young mage who’d built the place!

Raphael was inspecting his ornate ship’s wheel. Definitely enchanted, and the style was similar… the odds looked good that this was the right item! Particularly since the protective spell on it was good enough to get it through the cooks repeated fires! OK, having to come up with something that had an “equally interesting history” in trade was a bit weird – but he could surely come up with something. .

Marty and Kevin were both most pleased with their meal!

Raphael pessimistically considered just how long it would be before he was serving chicken roasted over lava after he – somehow – burned this eatery down.

Marty promptly stationed a Thrall nearby in case that happened – because this guy was good!

While they were eating, the cook busily told stories of the good days out at sea exploring, sailing, and partying.

Kevin listened closely… After all, they were going on a trading expedition tomorrow! With Platypuses! And Enemy Otters!

And it might be good to know something about what local sailing voyages were like – even if you could count on the cook to focus on the most exciting bits.

Marty listened to! He had a good deal of zenni riding on that bet!

It soon became apparent – at least to Raphael – that the cook was deliberately withholding some details, but he could make out some bits… First off, the pirate captain had seemed to target specific ships and convoys as opposed to whatever happened to be found. Secondly, given the travel times specified, he was fairly certain that the base they launched attacks from and resupplied from could not be the cove he’d found. Third, most of the treasure and such they captured was not brought back to the city. That they tended to bring back piecemeal to keep from arousing suspicion and to keep mages hunting for large concentrations of wealth finding their lair.

It looked like the captain had been targeting specific trading groups based on prior history and power. Priority was given to the larger companies and ships while repeatedly ignoring the smaller ships going about their business. Targetting would be changed every time they went to port and the captain had time to talk with the local pubs and underworld a bit. Whatever criteria he was using, it wasn’t cargo though.

Well, they HAD started off as a legitimate group that had gone pirate because of debts and grievances. Even if a lot of the crew had been added or replaced later, that kind of company tradition tended to carry over – at least in part. Once you went pirate, things tended to slip a bit unless you were Captain Blood.

Marty tried to subtly steer him toward that island with the teleporting creatures on it.

It was an island they had stumbled upon after a particularly fierce battle with an Otter convoy. The main ship wasn’t going to be able to make it far since the mainmast had been cracked – so they needed some logs to shore up the mast for the journey home for full repairs. The captain had known of an island some ways north of the shipping lanes with substantial forests that no one had bothered with. Leading the trio of ships there, the captain and some of the crew went on repair duty while the rest of the crew scavenged for supplies and food. The crew had finally gotten the repairs somewhat done when the foraging crew came back running and told the rest to make sail and get out of there. At that point two monsters broke out of the forest and started attacking. They took substantial losses fighting off the creatures long enough to get out into the open seas – and had to fire off some pretty potent spells to get away.

Well, that gave them a better idea of where the eggs had come from.

As far as the otter tactics went… there was a heavy reliance on mercenaries, infiltrators, and some sort of aquatic ally. The infiltrators were usually fairly easy to find (the Thralls had found quite a few would-be infiltrators) and the mercenaries made the fight tough, but it was the aquatic allies that continually fouled up attempts to manuever and at the end escape. It took everything they had to get away with most of the ships intact.

They never did find out what kind of creatures the Otters were using; they’d never before encountered the tactic and had been unprepared for it. They’d mostly suspected dolphins at the time – but, in the years since, the reports of Otters working with penguins had sounded more and more convincing. Both were pretty well suited for getting under ships and doing all sorts of nasty things to the hulls.

Kevin considered all of that. He’d never gotten any Neodolphins to sign up, but the Thralls could always transform. A few of them could run anti-sabotage duty beneath the ships, then. Their smartclothes could let them use dolphin-form (for the sonar) and still breathe.

Meanwhile, Raphael was inquiring about the planned platypus route.

(Cook) “Used to be an old trade route the we frequented. Getting silks, gems, and various rare woods from the tropics to the South. Platypi and a few others had some good contacts down there that gave them business, but the Otters never did make many inroads there and had to get their wares from another location even further South. That ended up with them losing quite a bit of money compared to the Platypi and others. That resulted in them taking less orthodox ways of trying to squeeze the competition.”

Marty translated that as “sabotage”. It could have just been bad luck, but the Otters did not strike him as terribly reputable.

Kevin had to agree; they hadn’t yet heard of a single person DEFENDING the otters business practices – and they had tried to use arson to win a bet. He was willing enough to presume that they were obnoxious!

(Cook) “We always figured sabotage was likely. Difficult to prove though. I suspect now that they’ve finally become the dominant group these days, their activities have become much more overt.”

Marty could not wait to put egg on their faces. Could they fire rotten eggs out of the cannons, actually? He was pretty sure that some spell would suffice for that.

They headed back to the cove to try out their new key.

Raphael opted to try it from the inside. It would be less of a trip if it didn’t work!

They took one of the small boats.

When they got close to the door to the cove, the wheel began to float in the air – and hung there pointing at the door.

Well it WAS a kay and a wheel – so Raphael spun it slowly to the right. With a flow and spark of magical enchantments unused for many years the wheel turned smoothly and quickly. A sound of grinding stone could be heard as a ray of light appeared in the middle of the door. A flow of water began to enter the cove as the water levels equalized. After a few moments, the door had opened wide enough for the biggest ship in the cove to leave through.

(Marty) “That’s not a bad way to hide your port of call there!”

(Raphael) “Finally… Now what do we do with the rest of the day?”

Kevin was quietly checking his list… Still nothing from the wolf-matron, they were all right with most of the other clans, the rabbits and panthers were sorted out, the dragons he’d made were doing well, the lizard guys were settled down, drafting the panthers into Kadia was complete, the Fox kid was doing all right, the nine-tails was apparently moving towards the powers of light (although he still suspected that she might be whoever was in the role of a local creator goddess anyway).

There really wasn’t much of anything LEFT to do locally (unless they got entangled in the local politics – which Marty might through his marriage and Kevin might because he’d be keeping an aspect present) except the trade expedition! A good thing they were about ready for it! The Thralls on repair duty even had Raphael’s damaged ships pretty much ready to go, and Kevin had brought in more for crew – so all they needed to do was to load some supplies and go!

Raphael closed his door.

They spent a little time on final preparations – fireproofing and protective charms on the ships, some nets which could be deployed to make an underwater approach awkward, instructing the Thralls on a few illusion and protective charms to use.

Kevin really wasn’t very worried. The Otter Clan might have a lot of wealth and influence in the city – but when you came down to it, they were just one clan – and not all that big a one at that. Worse, everything they spent over the 100,000 was pure loss, and merchants were averse to loss. At this point he figured that it was even odds that the Otters would cut their losses while they had the chance.

They might call in some allies – but unless they could get some of the people who were after them anyway (which was part of the POINT of dallying around in this world!) that still wouldn’t get them up to “major threat” level.

The next morning the platypi were making the last preparations to make sail – despite the jeering otters. The head platypus walked up with a clip board.

(Platypus, cheerily) “Things are going well, and we should be ready to make sail within the hour! I am Captain Hurston, and I will be your interface to our people on this voyage. May I ask how many people you are bringing and if you have any ships of your own?”

Marty used his own magics to produce a quick list.

(Hurston) “Very good, and who will be in command on your side?”

(Kevin) “I shall be taking the Nightwind Voyager as an escort vessel! We should already have some of my agents assigned to your crews! I believe that Martin of House Macaw will be taking the Lissefea… Raphael? Were you planning to bring your own Flotilla?

(Raphael) “Why not? It sounds like fun. Admiral Midwater… I like the sound of that. The ships will keep their names as we are restarting their old mission. and I think they should meet away from the city.

So he was going to set sail with the Salty Jerky, the Sour Grape, and the Cold Fish.

Hm… It might be a good thing that – while the Nightwind Voyager was already in port, and was known to be going – it hadn’t been revealed that it was a specialized warship, not a trader or a raider. Raphael’s ships were semi-forgotten (and wouldn’t have been ready to go without a lot of Thrall-work, and wouldn’t have been crewed without drawing on Kadia), so their presence probably wouldn’t be full expected…

(Hurston) “Very good, and do you have any suggestions as to how we should arrange our ships? I currently have seven ships in our fleet, in addition to your five.”

Kevin had no actual piloting experience, and so deferred to some of the people who did… He kind of suspected that it would be best to be to one side of the convoy and upwind – so he could easily swoop down on anything that threatened them – but for all he knew in front or behind would be better.

Fortunately Marty had a pretty good idea about what a captain did other than pose and throw spells at enemies. He’d acquired some actual sailing skills on a previous pirating trip… He and Raphael eventually concluded that – for the initial trip before the wind – putting the Nightwind Voyager and the Lissefea up ahead and to the sides, and allowing Raphael’s small flotilla to join the end of the convoy, would be best. Kevin and Marty were a good deal more impulsive, notorious, and combative than Raphael was, so he could watch their backs when something attracted their attention or they got attacked.

(Hurston) “Our own ships are merchant vessels, but they do have weapons of their own. I’ve been told to expect attacks on this voyage.”

They set sail within the hour.

Eclipse Compiled; Umbra and Penumbra

Since I’m putting a combined version of Eclipse and Eclipse II into print, I thought I’d put up a bit about what it’s all about.

“Eclipse d20″ was meant to be quite literal. Most of the upcoming problems with the d20 system were obvious from the very start, and Eclipse was designed to solve as many of them as possible – while remaining back-compatible so that the monstrous heaps of villains, character write-ups, and monsters already out there would remain usable with minimal tweaking.

The way that prestige classes and feats were set up, coupled with the need to sell more books, meant that the lists of sourcebooks would get got longer and longer – and that power creep was inevitable. That also meant that the old “every game is played under a unique system of house rules” problem from earlier editions would be coming right back, first in the form of “what sourcebooks are allowed” and later in the form of specific lists of disallowed items. Everything you’d need to make any kind of character you wanted for any setting needed to be generalized, tweaked to allow for power creep, broken out of the class frameworks so the players forget about classes and prestige classes, and put into a single book.

Races, templates, and effective character level modifiers never worked quite right, in part because of the lack of a firm system for race and template design (which, once again, led to power creep), in part because templates were unequal and interacted oddly, and in part because the value of most racial abilities was constant, but the value of another level in a class – and especially in spellcasting classes – went up as the levels got higher. Races and templates needed a design system and to be set up so that racial and template abilities could be built up as easily as class-based abilities and by the same basic mechanism.

The introduction of individual turns and the concentration skill meant that Spellcasters no longer required careful protection if they were to get to use their spells, and they were given more spells – but the spells weren’t much decreased in power. That meant that combative characters would need a lot more options if they were going to keep up. Those needed to be added.

Skills were going to be progressively devalued as spells and abilities that bypassed the need for them were introduced and as character types were given special bonuses to make them good at particular roles – and everyone else worse in comparison. That meant that there needed to be some options for making skills cheaper to accommodate later builds.

You needed to cover things that d20 missed to make sure that any type of character could be played – adding options for children, changing base caster level to work like base attack bonus, allowing magical variants, introducing disadvantages and quirks to encourage characters having small flaws, providing complete coverage for metamagic, providing for playable deities, covering political abilities, allowing odd backgrounds, covering rituals and inner powers, permitting freeform spellcasting, adding low-level psychic powers, and horrendous high-level spells. You needed some alternative systems for “alignment” and some options for giving characters more motives and personalty traits.

Those all went in.

I made as much of it Open Game License as possible in hopes that it would be picked up, and thus help forestall the near-inevitable upcoming d20 collapse. Sadly, that didn’t work out – although it never had seemed likely that it would. I have been pleased to note that Eclipse still works with virtually every version of the d20 rules which has appeared since, including the “3.75″ versions which have come out since the discontinuation of the d20 license.

Eclipse does make a few demands of it’s own of course.

First up, the game master pretty much HAS to use the campaign options checklist in the back of the book and tell the players about what kind of setting and game he has in mind. Otherwise just saying “use Eclipse!” is a lot like saying “use any sourcebook ever published or imagined for any setting”. Some game masters can deal with that – but most will find that taking a party consisting of Urdon the Alien Medieval Jedi Samurai, 10110 (a cyborg computer hacker and his robotic laser-drones from a cyberpunk world), a multitalented skillmaster adult version of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, and Kadoth the Living Darkness (a quasi-demonic vigilante superhero) makes things pretty hard to make sense out of.

On the players side, they need a strong concept to start off with. It’s not like saying “Just take a Druid, they’re cool!” or even “OK, I’m a Cleric; where’s the list of decent cleric builds?”. Going into Eclipse without a good idea of what you want to build is like going into a thousand-vendor flea market with a wad of cash and trying to find the “best deals”. You’re likely to wind up with a weird assortment of incompatible bits that looked good at the time but which really don’t work together at all.

On the other hand, if you know what you want, you can almost certainly get it.

Eclipse also has a bit of a learning curve; if you’re used to point-buy systems, like GURPS or the Hero System, you should find it fairly familiar. If not, it’s probably best to start building with a good look at the free web expansion, which includes a sample level-by-level build and the reasons behind the abilities that were taken.

If that’s not enough in the way of examples there’s Eclipse II.

Eclipse II was published to provide examples of how to use the system – breaking down twenty-four standard races (although back-compatibility means simply being able to use old races and feats and such as-is as long as the game master approves), adding forty new races and hundreds of variants and an explanation of how to use them as templates, throwing in twenty magical birthrights, ten personal templates (including Narrative Powers – for those characters who simply must mess with the plotline), an assortment of more than forty fantasy and science-fiction archetypes, seventy relics (in Eclipse an entirely new type of item), fifty-four martial arts, thirty-six sample builds with their variations, level-by-level breakdowns of the SRD base classes, party templates, power packages for artificers, cyborgs, cinematic talents, psychic pilots, taskmasters, reserve feats, weapon specialists, the spirit-touched and those touched by death. You’ll also find guides on designing spellcasters, psychics, the fair folk, and more.

If there’s anything else – well, one of the reasons why this site exists is to answer gaming-related questions. They’re always welcome.

Eclipse and Eclipse II are available in a number of ways:

There’s the Freeware Edition at RPGnow or Box.Net. It’s complete, but – if you like it – it would be nice if you helped support the system by spending ten dollars to pick up the full package, which includes Eclipse, Eclipse II, the Web Expansion, and will be updated with Eclipse III when I get time to finish that up (a notification to download the package again will be sent out). There’s a review up which also briefly covers Eclipse II Here.

In print-on-demand we have the Softcover (30$), the Hardcover (35$), and the “Direct” softcover edition (24$) which uses a cheaper set of printing options to lower the price. Unfortunately, the cheap options are only available for printing in North America – so for anywhere else, the original versions are probably cheaper anyway.

Eclipse II normally comes with the Eclipse download package – but you can download the PDF on it’s own for five dollars here or buy it in Hardcover (32$) or – once again – in that cheaper North America only Softcover Edition.

By request there’s also the Combined Edition – Eclipse I and II – making sure that you have the complete system, and plenty of examples, in one volume. It’s available in Softcover (36$) and Hardcover (45$). Those are expensive but are, of course, notably cheaper than buying the books independently. Of course, only one person can use it at a time instead of two.

To make it easier to cross-reference between people using the PDF’s and those using the print versions the page numbers and indexes have not been changed. In the case of the combined edition to look at Eclipse II simply flip to the second half of the book.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 179 – Any Old Port in a Storm

Raphael and Marty’s continued investigation into the survivors of the Pirate’s Cove Massacre had led from one of their contacts and suppliers to the Port Authority – where one ex-pirate might be working. Who knew? He might turn out to NOT be the accountant who’d run off…

Raphael rather felt that just walking up, knocking on the door and asking for the appropriate individual would probably work best. After all, it was an official building! People went in and out and saw various officials all the time!

Marty was inclined to do some stealthy scouting. The last time he’d gone to the Port Authority the entire place had fallen apart!

Well, this WAS a social investigation – and Raphael was of the opinion that a businessman like Marty would know more about how to get information from such an organization than he would AND had had prior dealings with it since he came in by boat…

(Raphael) “Wait, fell apart? I thought their magic was better than that or do they just not care about the shape of the docks?”

Marty explained; their encounter with Customs resulted in the officer trying to overcharge them. Kevin took offense, magic was used by both him and Marty, and the building wound up turning into mud and collapsing. On the bright side, only one person died (more or less suicide by idiocy) and one had fled – via teleportation – from the massive display of magical power. Pretty much everyone in town had heard variously-distorted rumors of the event.

Kevin was still aggrieved about that; they’d carefully made sure that the building collapsed in such slow motion that the occupants all had plenty of time to teleport, run, walk, or – for that matter – crawl out. How were they to know that a port official would be so stupid as to hide in a closet or something, fail to use any protective or escape spells, and fail to leave with the city guard?

(Raphael) “I have a bad feeling about this. I guess we should get moving and check if our guy is still here.”

Marty had suggested scouting, so Raphael spent some time thinking of plans to efficiently map the area, tally it’s population, and evaluate it’s defenses and routine.

Marty had MEANT socially, but Raphael took his scouting militarily. Social scouting would never occur to him.

That was why Kevin and Marty went to parties a lot more often than Raphael did.

For good or ill, Raphael was assuming that Marty – while from a violent and silly world – was more-or-less a conventional businessman at heart, and wouldn’t really be planning . He knew that Marty was a toonworlder, but he had never actually experienced Battling Business World.

Marty, of course, was a lot closer to a berserker mercenary in a nice suit. He hadn’t really been considering a military assault given that the place was open to the public and that they didn’t want to take it over – but a bit of social scouting was considered a proper prelude to the paramilitary invasion of the enemy’s corporate headquarters and a way not to get conned on office supplies back home.

He was a bit surprised when Raphael suggested that they find someplace secluded to observe the area. What good would that do? Oh well, Raphael WAS a master diviner. Presumably that sort of thing would tell him something useful! If he knew a fight was coming, it might be best to get a good look at the forces the enemy-to-be could muster before starting in on the social stuff!

Marty offered to help Raphael and his robots get a good map of the area of the docks and a count of the people and armorments involved with an eye for cover and other things of military value.

(Raphael) “Oh no, that is what robots are for; to go into dangerous situations and get kille… get valuable information while people plan out what to do with the information. So how does helping them scout help us get the information we want? Or is it just in case a fight breaks out?”

(Marty) “That, or if he tries to run. It’s good to know where the exits are when that happens. After we do that, I suppose we can start on the social stuff.”

Marty contributed a lot of practical tactical insights, and help in hiding the robots, since most of Raphael’s military skills were purely theoretical – while Marty had been in a lot of ground conflicts. Admittedly that assault on that ground-floor far eastern theme restaurant hadn’t gone so well – but he should never have gotten into a land war in Asian Gardens.

Without that input, the illusion-disguised robotic scouting wouldn’t have amounted to much more than generating a map and counting people and other passive things.

Nobody seemed to notice the robots given the rather inconspicuous positions they were hiding in and the illusions. Currently there were some forty-one employees in the Port Authority building going about their work. All of them have some magical power and were using it quite frequently to perform simple tasks. Important strategic locations in the building included the roof, the front and side doors, the rather large vault in the basement, the archives, and the Headmaster’s office. Currently some two dozen of the employees were coming and going from the building and the docks and warehouses near the harbor. They were carrying clipboards and were constantly jotting down notes. Inside the building ten people took the papers from the clipboards and made even more notes which were then summarized. The notes then went into the archives while a report was sent up the chain to management. Eventually the paperwork all led to an old badger in the top office who was constantly swearing about his assistant having left.

(Marty) “Well, lets go in and see if our man is there! If we’re lucky, we won’t have to use this intel at all. If we aren’t, well, we have it.”

(Raphael) “Lead on then!”

Marty did. He considered bashing in the door and demanding their surrender and pastries – but the pure Battling Business World approach probably wasn’t really suited to Cyrweld! He just went in and informed the front desk badger, quite politely, that he’d like to talk to Axel Renquist. If they needed an appointment, that was fair enough! Waiting was not a problem!

(Front Desk Badger) “I’m afraid Mr Renquist is quite busy right now. Ever since our Operations Manager fled during the attack, Mr Renquist has been having to do both jobs at the same time. Is your business urgent?”

Fortunately, Kevin had been keeping an eye on the place, and had a Thrall applying for the job already. After all, Smartclothes were probably every bit as good as a magical abacus! He’d been having trouble getting past the front desk – who thought he was far too young to be applying for such an important position – but Raphael and Marty provided a wonderful distraction

The Mr Axel’s secretary was busy bemoaning the issue.

(Secretary to the thrall) “And you are?”

(Thrall) “Temporary or permanent aide sir!”

(Secretary) “Rather young to be applying for an accounting position aren’t you? Do you have any mathematical aptitude?”

(Thrall) “Yes Sir! Do you wish to test me?”

The secretary pulled a stack of papers out of his desk.

(Secretary) “Please look these over, answer them as best as you can then return them to me.”

(Thrall) “Certainly sir!”

He scanned them in, analyzed them, and started checking… Fortunately young Verdith Narr had excellent basic mathematics and bookkeeping skills (and had run away from Coruscant because he thought that the bank position he was being pressured into taking would be utterly phony). He’d also taken the organizational package deal…

(Secretary, turning back to Marty and Raphael) “Now, is your business urgent? I might be able to get a few moments of Mr Renquist’s time if it is.”

(Marty) “My associate here is writing a history on some of the pirates who’ve plagued the city. We’d like to ask him some questions. If we can’t get an interview today, when do you think he’ll be available?”

(Secretary) “Hard to say, a lot of that depends on when we can fill the missing accounting position.”

At about which point Verdith was finished with the stack of papers.

(Marty) “Wow. Kid, you’re a natural!”

OK, that was obviously another Thrall – but if Kevin had called for an accountant, no dount there were at least a hundred or so Thralls with talents along those lines – and it might help them get an interview in TODAY.

(Secretary) “Finished already? That should have taken you nearly an hour to work through. Are you sure you did that right?”

(Verdith) “There are six ambigious entries; to be found on pages 3, 5, 6, 6, 8 and 11, eleven typographical errors, and a set of inconsistent values in section 17; any of those may have led to an error – so I cannot be entirely sure sir!”

(Secretary) “What? Let me see that. Hmm. It looks like you are correct. My, you are talented young one. Do you have time to sit through an interview with the Headmaster right now? We might have a position for you after all.”

(Verdith) “Certainly sir!”

(Secretary, to Marty and Raphe) “And if this young one works out, we might actually have some time for you after all. Would you mind coming along then?”

No, they didn’t mind a bit.

The Secretary led the three of them through the halls of the port authority building. The fact that the building was destroyed and reconstructed only a week or so ago wasn’t even perceptible in the place – save for the minor chaos that seemed to surround the Headmaster’s office as they arrived. The stack of paperwork was large and growing larger. Three people were currently trying to hand over reports while the Headmaster was tearing up a stack of papers in frustration.

(Headmaster) “What? More people wanting my time? Can’t you see that I am busy right now!”

(Secretary) “We have an prospect for the accounting position.”

(Headmaster) “What, the three of you? Do you split the tables and papers among you and work in parallel or something?”

(Marty) “No, just the kid. My friend and I are here for something else.”

(Headmaster) “The kid? What, you have some weird magic math talent?”

(Secretary) “He did complete the test in a matter of minutes and found a number of errors.”

(Headmaster) “Errors? What sort of errors?”

(Secretary) “Let’s see, in the young one’s own words; “There are six ambigious entries; to be found on pages 3, 5, 6, 6, 8 and 11, eleven typographical errors, and a set of inconsistent values in section 17; any of those may have led to an error – so I cannot be entirely sure sir!”

(Headmaster) “What? Let me have a look at that! (He grabbed the papers out of the Secretary’s hands.) Hmm, alright who taught you accounting young one?”

(Verdith) “The Imperial Accounting Schools sir!”

(Headmaster) “Imperial? Then you’re from the lands near the center of the continent?”

(Verdith) “Near the core sir! I left ahead of a small internal war!”

Raphael started… Was that… Did the Emperor’s reach extend even to a minor, distant, weird dimension where animal people lived in a giant tree?

(Headmaster) “Alright, I want you to take this stack of papers (he gestured to a stack about two inches thick) and give me an itemized report for that trading company’s exports for this year. If you manage to come up with results identical or better than my own, you’re hired.”

(Verdith) “Certainly sir! I shall get to work!”

(Headmaster, turning to Marty and Raphe) “Now, what do you two want?”

(Marty) “We would like to talk to Mr. Rehnquist, sir. My friend is doing some research for his book and we think he could help out.”

(Headmaster) “Well, I am Mr Renquist. What sort of book are you working on?”

(Raphael) “The History of the pirates of the Salty Jerky.”

Renquist dismissed the Secretary with a wave of his hand.

(Renquist) “And why are you coming to me regarding a book about pirates? I don’t get many pirates coming into this port except those about to be executed.”

(Marty) “Oh, Gussey suggested you . . . Nelson.”

(Renquist) “Damn it Gussey! Are you really here for some book or are you really after that bounty still on our heads? I bet you are the bunch that found that cove aren’t you?”

Raphael looked a little uncomfortable with taking such a direct approach.

(Raphael) “No and yes. We are not after the bounty, but I did find the cove.”

(Marty) “We just want to ask you some historical questions. No need to get too worried.”

(Renquist) “And what sort of questions? If it’s treasure you want, I don’t have any.”

(Raphael) “We’re not looking for treasure – just for what happened to the survivers after the massacre and some other small things.”

(Renquist, sighing) “There weren’t very many survivors after that last bad haul. Then when those monsters caught up to us it got even worse. I am only aware of two others that made it out of there alive.”

(Raphael) “Would they happen to be the chef and the captain?”

(Renquist) “And how would you know that?”

(Raphael) “I am quite capable of finding information when I want to, but cities full of people tend to leave far less clear records than empty coves that have not seen a living person in years – especially when someone had to have put up those wards on the cove that protected it from most detections”

(Renquist) “I take it you compared crew manifests and bodies then? Sigh, I figured none of the others made it out alive, but it’s still depressing.”

(Raphael, sighing a bit himself) “It does not sound nearly as impressive if you say it that way but yes – and yes, it is depressing.”

(Renquist) “Last I had heard, the Captain had gone to shack up with his girl, although her parents weren’t exactly pleased with that. Went legit as a banker. Adams I think opened up his own pub serving up more of that greasy mess he called food to anyone willing to pay. Last I had seen him, he had really let himself go and was at least double the man he used to be. I think he called the place the Grease Pit. How that man managed to make a barrel of carrots catch fire is beyond me.”

(Marty, who had to smile at that) “That’s pretty impressive there.”

(Renquist) Was that what you were wanting? Or is there something else you wanted to know?

(Marty, privately) “I believe that was it, wasn’t it?”

(Raphael) “Yep – unless we want to try for the items we are actually after… but I don’t want to actually bring that up until we have an idea what happened to it or have completely lost the trail.”

(Marty, on whom some of Kevin’s utterly direct approach was rubbing off, privately) “Why not just ask? It’s not like he can really come up with a price you can’t pay, it’s only to make our lives more convenient anyway, and it’s useless to him in any case.”

Raphael had to admit that that was a point… Oh why not?

(Raphael) “Do you know how the door was opened?”

(Renquist) “The door? You mean to the cove?”

(Raphael) “Well the one from the cove to the sea. I would rather not try to make a new opening.”

(Renquist) “The Captain had a key. A round silvery object about so big (holds up hands). Turning it would open the main cove entrance to the sea. Magically bound so that attempting to use something else would cause it to detonate. I know there are other protections over the door, but that was Emerson’s job to maintain, not mine. I just got him the supplies he needed for whatever enchantment he wanted to put on the place… I take it you weren’t able to find it in the cove?”

(Raphael) “Indeed not. We assume that one of the survivors has it. It would be handy to have – but I can write the book without it, and we can always disenchant and re-enchant the door.”

(Renquist) “Well, I don’t. Sorry.”

(Raphael) “Ah well! On to the next on the list then.”

(Renquist) “What exactly do you plan on doing with the old place anyway?”

(Raphael) “Oh a couple of things – building a small shipyard and secondary port, using it as a local base of operations, and opening a museum, a tour, and a gift shop to go with the book!”

(Renquist) “Well, if you are looking for any help with that, I may know some names that you might find useful. It’d be nice to see the old place up and running again.”

(Raphael) “Well we shall have to see after we see the condition of the place after we get the doors open.”

They left for “The Grease Pit”. They didn’t yet have a clear answer as to the identity of the Captain, and it was time to eat anyway…

Kevin, having completed his morning arrangements and “recreational activities” rejoined them…

Raphael sighed… You didn’t have to know him all THAT well to figure out what he’d been up to! Yet ANOTHER girl? Wasn’t he already towing around a harem? AND keeping one in Kadia?

Marty was anticipating! It had been a while since he’d had some good, greasy food! But would it be as greasy as that dive he went to once on Staten Island? He’d needed ice skates to get around there!

Kevin was anticipating too! Greasy fattening food appealed to all teenage wolves!

It took a little searching to find the right neighborhood, but once they were there, it was easy to find; it was the building that was currently on fire.

Marty had to admit, with flames that high there might be even more grease HERE than on Staten Island! Hopefully nothing had happened to their guy!

An assortment of City Guards were standing around the place, watching the fire burn as they sighed.

The largest and roundest Chipmunk that they’d ever seen was busily opening a streetside grill in the meantime as his pub burned down behind him. They got the impression that this was not the first time, since the various pedestrians weren’t paying any heed to the fire save to get in line at the grill.

Nobody watching the fire? Marty thought that THAT was a sign of a good greasy spoon! He got into line!

(Chipmunk) “What’ll you have? We got various sorts of meat, the vegetables are already smoked, and today’s special is a wood fired chicken straight out of the kitchen!”

(Marty) “What do you have for roasts?”

(Chipmunk) “Well we’ve got various portions of pig, chicken, seasoned and roasted nuts, the steak is probably a bit roasted and more than a little smoked too, and I think I have a turducken somewhere.”

(Marty) “Turducken sounds good! I’ll have one of those with a side of nuts!”

He didn’t have any idea what it was, but it sounded exotic enough!

The chipmunk rifled through a box behind him before he pulled out the oddest looking roasted bird Marty had ever seen and slapped it on a plate. He then shoveled a side of nuts that were visibly distorting the air with heat and handed the plate to him.

(Chipmunk) “That’ll be fifteen seventy and careful of the nuts, straight off the fire!”

Marty gave the man his zenni and ate, being careful to let the nuts cool down a bit before tasting them. That took several minutes…

Meanwhile Raphael was orderin the days special and Kevin was ordering LOTS of pig! Three orders!

(Chipmunk) “Today’s special is straight off the impromptu wood fire! Honey baked ham marinated in a fine beer base and then roasted with a ummmm…… cedar wood fire! The potatoes should be done any moment, the nuts are still very hot, and the vegetables are quite smoked!”

Marty thought that THAT was a businessman!

(Kevin) “Sounds great!”

He grossly overpaid for freshness!

The food was incredibly greasy, a little burned, and the impromptu seating area was a bit cramped – but the taste was quite good. Especially so considering the fact that he was working out of a few boxes, at pile of burning wood, and was limited to whatever casks of food and drink got blown out of the pub.

That was just the way that Marty liked it! Since it was considered polite to leave a tip he left a very generous one – accompanied by a note indicating that the group would like to talk to him after his workday was done. That seemed like a nicely discrete method to get into contact! A small spell from Kevin easily made it look like an innocuous bit of paper to anyone else.

Raphael also – rather calculatingly – left a tip even though greasy stuff was hardly his favorite.

The chipmunk looked at the note, seemed a little surprised by it, then nodded in assent before continuing on with his serving of food.

They waited. That load of grease took a lot of digesting!

After a couple of hours the lunch crowd died down and the Chipmunk began to assess the damage now that the fire had gone out.

(Chipmunk) “Bah, put another tin roof on top of the place, some new furniture and stocks, and the place will be as good as new!”

(Marty) “Need any help with that? That meal was great!”

(Chipmunk) “You got tin sheeting, food and drink stocks, and some furniture?”

(Kevin) “It was tasty! If I make another building, can you put up a box lunch for three for tomorrow?”

(Marty) “And Angkor isn’t kidding about that either! He will happily make a new building for you and eat your box lunches.”

(Chipmunk) “Sure thing, but I have to warn you, simpler buildings are best as they are easier to fix after a fire!”

(Marty) “I take it you have a lot of them. Think you can fireproof the kitchen there, Angkor? That’s GOT to be a hassle.”

(Chipmunk) “You might also want to fireproof the fireproofing enchantments if you go that route.”

(Marty) “Now that’s what I call fire!”

(Kevin0 “Solid monolithic stone I think! And a fireproofing spell!”

(Chipmunk) “Now what can I do for you chaps?”

Kevin cheerily wandered off to make a building; this wasn’t his treasure-hunt after all. Hmm… Walls of solid granite, about three feet thick, archways, domes, and deep cellars should work well. Lots of private nooks, a couple of secret passages, some arched staircases going to more private nooks on a second-floor balcony that had a clear view of the first floor (and doors) with a rear exit, some iron-reinforced stone doors that seal well (to contain fires), thermal vents, an extinguishing system (using rainwater cisterns on the roof), and a few other minor long-term effects and enchantments…

Meanwhile, Marty and Raphael approached the Chipmunk about their scavenger hunt.

(Raphael) “We are here looking for information about the pirates of the Salty Jerky. Specifically the key to the sea door. or the captain if you dont know anything about the key.”

(Chipmunk) “Did Nelson send you? If he is still upset about me catching the sails on fire he needs to get a life. Wait a minute, a key? What did it look like?”

Raphael repeated the discription he’d gotten.

(Chipmunk) “Silver you say and so big around? And the captain had it with him all the time?… Hmm, let me check something. Could you help me move this wooden beam that’s fallen in the way?”

Raphael said “Sure!” – but suddenly got VERY paranoid… Was this guy about to turn something really nasty loose? A jet of concentrated grease-fire from HIM might melt down half the city!

Marty was suddenly paying attention now, too – but Kevin wasn’t worried; A few questions weren’t worth starting a war over!

After some heavy lifting and breaking of burnt wooden supports, they managed to move a section of the collapsed roof out of the way to reveal a large decorative ship’s steering wheel. Embedded in the wheel was a plaque and a silver ring.

(Chipmunk) “Captain brought it in the last time he came to visit with Ole Nelson. He wanted me to put it up on display for nostalgia’s sake. Is that what you are looking for?”

Meanwhile, Kevin was transmuting the burnt furnishings into nice new ones, adding fireproofing, decorating with mosaics (non-flammible tile), and ordering in some supplies.

(Raphael) “Looks like it. but the only way to tell is to try it.”

(Chipmunk) “Are you the bunch that found the cove by chance? Yes? And what are you going to be doing with the cove?”

(Raphael) “Assuming I can get it open, a shipyard, museam, base of operations and second port for the city”

(Chipmunk) “Well, I suppose the captain would’ve gone with that. Tell you what, I’ll give it to you on two conditions: First I would like my shipmates to have a proper burial, rather than being disposed of like criminals like I am sure the guard wants to do. They deserved something at least. Second, I want another souvenior to replace this. Preferably one with a really good story behind it!

(Raphael) “Well, that’s reasonable enough – but the souvenir will take some looking for unless Marty knows of something off the top of his head.”

Kevin suggested one of the ships figureheads, or a selection of weapons and cannon or whatever they used, or perhaps the original ships log?

Marty kind of liked the figurehead idea.

(Marty) “How about we trade a wheel for the figurehead? There’s got to be some history to that, right?”

(Chipmunk) “Hmm, the figurehead might be nice, but I was hoping for something exotic. How about you think about it a bit and when you find something bring it here?”

(Marty, privately) “Do we need to get this to him right away, Raphael? If not, we could find something on the voyage.”

(Raphael, also privately) “We can wait a bit… the burials will take a while anyway.”

(Marty) “Tell you what. Me and Angkor are going on a voyage soon. I’ll bring something back for you. Deal?”

(Chipmunk) “A voyage? Hmm, alright bring me back something real nice and with a good story. In the meantime here you go (he grabbed the wheel and handed it to Raphe). Take good care of it. I am sure the captain wouldn’t mind you having it.”

(Raphael) “Thank you”

(Marty) “Yeah, and keep up the good work here! I’ll definitely be back for seconds.”

As the cook concluded his bargain and turned to look over his new establishment, he was more than a bit shocked… The wolf-kid had just casually thrown THAT together? It looked like a nautically-themed fortress!

Federation-Apocalypse Session 178b – the Monks of Meanderment

Painting by Grigory Gagarin. Cossac pirates fi...

You can't say that about our Nell!

Marty sighed when he saw Raphael in the tavern… You’d think he was expecting the violence to break out – and someone to cut his arm off – at any moment! He wouldn’t get anything out of people when he looked like a hermit crab clutching a concealed weapon! He practically had a sign up saying “Stay Away! I’ll Shoot!”

An impulse-imp waving such a sign promptly popped into existence behind one of Raphael’s shoulders, but the little angel with a big hammer promptly knocked it out into the street to get trampled on.

The shoulder-creatures looked embarrassed and went away as Marty locked down the energy-trickle from his aura.

No wonder Kevin used his power so casually! Sometimes it was hard to keep it from just using YOU.

Raphael, of course, saw that as perfectly normal! Now that robots could pass the turing test (unless you were REALLY CLEVER) you could never quite be sure! The machines might be rising up to take over the world, and people needed to be warned – if, of course, they WERE people and not infiltration machines!

For a moment he saw a sentinel drone wearing a cheap mustache and glasses disguise sitting at the bar – but it was just an armadillo.

Raphael had tried buying a round and starting to talk about local history in hopes of bringing out some information – but had to pour so much alcohol into everyone that his results were pretty general – and took a lot of analysis just to sort out from the incoherence, even when he got painfully obvious about what he was fishing for.

Eventually he (well, OK – mostly Marty, afte a quick smartclothes briefing on what it was he was looking for) got them all started on reminiscing about the good old days of sailing before the Otters got such a stranglehold on the shipping market. Regular poaching by the Pirate Lord Henson had done a lot to keep any of the various trading houses from becoming too dominant.

Marty had to laugh! That did tend to happen! The pirates of the – what, the “Salty Jerky”? really? – sounded more and more like his kind of businessmen!

He set about steering the conversation towards piracy – and the “Salty Jerky”. A bit of background on the sailors who used to frequent the bar might come up as well – but things like that stuck in memory less than tales of pirate treasure!

Raphael noted that it was important not to tell anyone about the items if they could help it; that way no one would try to raise the price if they had to buy the one they wanted!

Marty was too used to working on an expense account to consider that his funds were pretty much unlimited now… He didn’t question the point.

Kevin was busy conducting an estate tour, but did reply to their quick data-briefing…

(Kevin) “Twenty years? Something is really up with those cat-creatures. Were the parental pair hibernating or something?”

Well, that wasn’t exactly helpful. Kevin would probably be assigning Thralls to researching hibernation next.

Anyway… Thanks to Marty’s social skills, barcrawling skills, and brawling skills, they soon learned that that particular band of pirates was originally a merchant company that ran into a number of debt issues – and had elected to use their ship to find alternate sources of revenue as opposed to selling the ship to settle the debt. Most of the crew – at least to start with – had been legal citizens of the city before becoming pirates and made a point of going after the merchant groups who were threatening to put the others out of business – both because those targets were more lucrative, and because of a sort of vigilante justice self-justification.

They’d been very successful for a time, but had suddenly disappeared off the high seas about twenty years ago after a particularly fierce battle with the Otters resulted in significant damage to both sides. The pirates retreated and where never seen from again. Rumors that some of the pirates returned to the city to live quiet lives incognito were consistently dismissed as rumor given that most of them were well known wanted criminals and the fact that it would be hard to hide several ships worth of people suddenly entering the city.

Well at least they knew what had happened – and that any survivors had likely just merged back into the population.

Raphael, of course, was not hiding his pirate cove. In fact, he was thinking of opening his own museum, gift shop, and second anchorage for the city… He cheerily filled in a few of the holes in the story – going over how they’d been attacked by their loot and how only a few had survived after hiding their ship in a cove connected to the city’s well.

He even covered his “battle” and negotiation with the poor misunderstood and confused creatures that had killed off the pirate crews.

Marty had rapidly determined that most of the local sailors worked either for the limited navy, the Otters, the Platypi, or the independent traders that visited the city every so often but were based elsewhere. Resentment of the Otters had been building for some time as they squeezed out all the local competition. Most of the sailors had either been joining the independent traders and leaving the city, joining other professions, selling out to the Otters, or drinking away their problems in the pubs and taverns near the docks.

Well, that was about the picture they’d had of the otters. They were cute and cuddly – but they were also lightning-fast vicious little predators!

Or at least they were if you looked like a fish. Come to think of it, he couldn’t recall having seen the Otter clan chief at that meeting with Kevin and the local “king” (perhaps it would be a more accurate translation to say “chief executive officer”?). Were they in denial about what was going on, or were they cutting their losses on getting involved in a personal argument with Kevin and himself? Admittedly that would be wise of them – but it would be a bit disappointing really! He’s respect them a lot more if they fought it out to the very last!

Well, that did have a potentially way higher cost here than in Battling Business World. Still, they could fight it out until they were really in trouble before falling back!

Er… They probably had some information on what had happened to the bandits too – and that gang had been nearly as large as some of the clans around here and way over-equipped.

Well, a good try would do!

(Bartender) “Ah, if only three survived that might well explain how they could blend into the city and disappear. A lot easier than three ship loads of people at least. Now Old Nelson always had plenty of contacts with the various suppliers around town and had quite a talent for logistics and supplies. Wouldn’t surprise me if he hid among them. The cook Adams, I am told he was always looking to retire from the business and open his own pub in town. I suppose it is possible that one was started around that time, but I have no memory for dates. As for Captain Arson, it occurs to me that he always had a thing for Miss Madalyn. It was a bit of a scandal when her parents learned of the “visitations”. Wonder what ever came of her?”

[Raphael, Memoirs File 116a] “After many hours of stalemate with my magic and golems, we finally convinced them to talk to us – and then we heard the story of their lost eggs hidden so that even after years of searching they never found them. so I divined their location right then and there and sadly pointed them directly to them without considering to make the spell point the way through doors and open passages so they would not blow a hole in my ship.” -A segment from the middle of Raphaels overdramatized telling of the fate of the pirates and how he found the log that made him curious about the previous owners of his museum.

(Marty) “You know anybody named Gustav? Our sources said Old Nelson was going to meet him.”

(Bartender) “Gustav? (He tapped his chin thoughtfully) Must mean Gussey Huggens. That man can get his hands on most anything within a day given the right price. I remember a bet someone made with him whether Gussey could deliver a full set of Klithenician Gold Coins circa 1508 within 24 hours. I think the idiot offered to pay double for the set if delivered on time, and triple if delivered by a pretty albino tigress. Poor bastard nearly went bankrupt paying the bill for that one.”

(Marty) “Wow. What was he thinking? Anyway, do you know where the guy hangs out?”

(Bartender) “Hmm, these days I think Gussey can be found near the Monastery overlooking the bay. Ran into a bit of legal trouble some time ago with the Guard and ended up shacking up with the monks up there to ride out the heat. I would be shocked if he still wasn’t running his business from inside there. After all, the monks have to be getting their Ash from somewhere after all.”

Raphael made a note to find Miss Madalyn, check for restaurants that opened at the right time, and possibly check on exotic goods sellers in the area around the same time.

Oh yes! And to go and see those monks! Kevin would probably just send a thousand thralls to bludgeon all clues into unconsciousness!

Marty thought that one. If the Thralls could do that and have a hope of succeeding, that would be hysterical… He could just see them out chasing clues with butterfly nets and clubs now!

Still, he was for visiting that monastery – and maybe finding Miss Madalyn after that.

Raphael could go with that – and he was busily spreading the word that he was looking to write a great heroic history of the pirates of the Salty Jerky. Maybe he should develop his skills in writing exciting fictions…

The monastery was a building high up on the mountain side overlooking the bay and the city below – although the enchanted cobblestones made it an easy hike. Raphael thought that it looked oddly… defensible for a religious institution. Oh dear! Were these going to turn out to be the local equivalent of Sith monks?

Still, the place WAS surrounded by flowers and other pretty plants and he and Marty could smell the faint smell of almonds in the air as they approached the place.

Wait, almonds? This wasn’t another ninja assassin monastery was it? He’d had quite enough of them on that trip to Japan! Practically on every damned streetcorner!

Raphael thought that was an interesting idea! Breed almond trees in the exact opposite direction that they had been traditionally selected for to try to gather cyanide more easily!

The local Thralls said… the place was highly disreputable, the guards were visiting all the time, and attempts to bring the entire place under arrest for tax fraud had been made, but had not gone well in the past. The monks were considered a public menace and the neighbors were complaining constantly about the smell and the noise. The “Ash” seemed to be blamed for a number of the problems.

Oh dear! This time it was a classical Hashshashin sect!

As best the Thralls knew, “ash” was an extract of a wheat type of plant grown in volcanic ash. It supposedly promoted a feeling of well-being, visions, contentment, and a complete disregard for social norms. A number of the nobility also held that it deadend the senses of fashion, dignity, and fine taste.

Marty had taken several drugs like that back in his college days (and a lot of those memories were REALLY embarrassing now). He was prepared for anything though, so he headed in.

Raphael was still going, but now he was kind of nervous about it… if they were using that stuff regularly it could be really weird in there. It all depended on how far it had gone in a closed environment and a tight social group.

Marty thought about that… what was the worst they could do? Kill or drug them? He had ways of dealing with that sort of thing, and he was pretty sure that Limey had eaten a scroll of Remove Poison or Remove Hallucinogens somewhere on the way.

They just walked up and knocked. They might react very weirdly to anything overly extravagant.

Raphael let Marty lead; he felt safer with someone else is in front – and Marty WAS a toonworlder after all.

Marty was fine with that! He’d used to do that with Gelman because he could take an angry refrigerator to the chest!

Shortly a Raccoon wearing a loin cloth opened the door. A thick plume of smoke drifted out of the opening, and made their eyes water as they caught a whiff of the almond smell. The raccoon belched loudly and scratched himself.

(Raccoon) “I told you people that we will pay the rent! Quit oppressing us!”

(Marty) “I’m not your landlord! And is there a Gussey in here?”

(Raccoon) “A gas leak? What sort of things you trying to accuse us of now?”

Marty described him – a male spider monkey, probably in his sixties, who always carried a notebook.



Were they messing with him or were they just that high? Marty was betting on the latter.

An older looking spider monkey came to the door.

(Gussey) “What sort of nonsense have you stirred up now? Who are you people and what do you want?”

(Marty) “My friend is doing some research on the ship called the Salty Jerky. Says he want to write a history. What do you know about Old Nelson? Our sources say he was going to visit you.”

(Gussey) “So you are not the Landlords?”

Everyone denied that.

Gussey smacked the raccoon on the back of the head and pointed inside the house. The raccoon skulked off, muttering something about spider monkey ancestry.

(Gussey) “And what makes you think I had anything to do with a pirate like Old Nelson?”

(Marty) “We found the Salty Jerky, actually. The log said he was going to meet with you.”

Raphael abruptly found himself tempted to say “Reeeeeeasearrrrch” and do a wise old sage routine – but that was probably just the smoke talking.

(Gussey) “So that was you bunch that found it? Well I suppose it was only a matter of time before it got traced back to me then. Now you want to find where Old Nelson is hiding I take it?”

(Marty) “Yep!”

(Gussey) “And what exactly is in it for me? Old Nelson could be in a lot of trouble with the guards if they found out where he is and I ain’t exactly popular myself already.”

(Marty, leaning in conspiratorially) “How would you guys like to go to a dimension where no one will ever complain about your activities?”

(Gussey leaned in close as well) “You see, the trick is to take an antidote at regular intervals and not breath the fumes too deeply. Helps keep the hallucinations down.”

(Marty) “You’re a smart guy. But I’m not hallucinating. I OWN one. Want to see?”

(Raphael) “You do realize that does not sound nearly as good out here as it did in your head? that could sound like a death threat if you don’t know about the manifold.

Marty was a bit startled to think of it that way! Was Kevin’s “just fling them off the deep end and get away while they’re floundering” routine rubbing off on him?

(Raphael) “Here is the deal; we just want some information and really don’t care about telling the authorities anything about this. the history will end at the death of the rest of the crew. we just want a few details. We do not care about turning anyone in or naming names. If the city is fine after twenty years it will still be fine with letting him go without involving anyone else. I just want a few details.”

(Gussey) “All you are wanting is historical information then?”

(Raphael) “Pretty much”

OK, while he did mean to collect the history and try his hand at writing it, his true goal was still to get the door-opener. The location was historical information though…

(Gussey) “Alright, I haven’t spoken with Old Nelson in years, but I imagine he is still working the books like he always has. He should down at the Port Authority building running the customs department. He always did love the irony of it. He goes by the name of Axel Renquist these days. Not sure how he’s doing though. I recall there being a major tussle at the Port Authority building a few days back.”

(Marty) “What species was he?”

Marty was worried for a moment – but then recalled that the only “person” who’d gotten killed was a relatively young phantasm – not exactly elder pirate material. Had the accountant who’d run away been a badger? Drat! That could have been him!

(Gussey) “Nelson? He’s a Badger, people kept saying he was always badgering the books, but you couldn’t find anyone who could get a better deal than Nelson.”

(Raphael) “Well I gues that is the next stop then. Thanks.”

Federation-Apocalypse Session 178a – The Councils of Holmes

Angkor Wat, the front side of the main complex...

No it's NOT named after you! Get that ego under control why don't you?

With the platypus trading expedition departing early tomorrow morning, it would be their last day in Cyrweld for a bit…

Kevin was spending the last day in port at the moment sorting things out with a young lady, getting a local mansion (since he’d decided to keep up a presence in Cyrweld), seeing if the wolf-matron has reached a decision or wanted to talk (or if the local council of nobles would want to), and helping repair and crew Raphael’s ships in case he figured out how to open the door and wanted to come along.

Raphael decided to go looking for the door opener… An expedition with a 99% chance of pirate attack sounded entertaining and he’d always loved a puzzle!

Kevin left that more or less up to Raphael and Marty. Raphael was the diviner and detective work really wasn’t his thing! He was in charge of random speculation and of vast bursts of raw power!

Raphael went to check the captain’s cabin on the biggest ship first. It certainly seemed the most likely place! Even if it wasn’t there, there might be some clues… Presuming that it hadn’t been carried into the city and either lost of stowed away as Kevin suspected.

If it had, he might have to resort to a major locating spell, but he wanted to hold off on that for a bit. Kevin’s reckless spellcasting attracted quite enough attention already!

Kevin, still sulking a bit for being blamed for tipping the universe, made a few sarcastic comments about “giant flares of techno-magic tipping the world towards technology” – but, while the idea of “techno” as a type of magic was kind of interesting (and presumably existed somewhere) he had other things to do at the moment – such as searching for the old captain’s log, diary, shopping lists, unpaid bills, and where he kept his gloves.

Still… Techno-magic. Could you shove portions of the manifold past the industrial revolution and straight into the information age? That might be worth looking into later on!

There was indeed a captain’s log, along with cargo manifests, crew listings, and a number of balance sheets that looked like they were in the process of being consolidated when disaster had struck… The gloves were on a shelf in the closet above the boots and next to a hat. It looked like the man had been a bit of a neat freak.

Raphael checked the glove box first for tradition’s sake – although he had to wonder just where that ancient tradition had come from in the first place. Still, an organized guy was useful; he would have put it in a safe place rather than leaving it laying around.

Still, there didn’t seem to be any reasonable candidate-items around.

He tried a history divination to scan through the last couple of days the captain had actually been in his cabin…

It looks like the pirates had gotten back the “previous” day from a major haul. Casualties were high from an unexpected side trip into some ancient ruins the captain had decided to investigate. They had found the ruins to be pretty much picked clean and were about to call it quits when they stumbled upon the eggs. Bringing the eggs with them, they ended up fighting a monster most of the way back to the cove, but figured they had lost it in the midst of a supernatural fog near the bogs to the North. Returning to the cove, they began to unload their spoils as the captain began tallying the losses, spoils, and expenses. As he was finishing the tally of the dead and preparing to write letters to the families of the lost, a commotion broke out in the docks. The captain ran to look out the window – and saw something that horrified him. He’ run back to his desk, grabbed a key, a book, a cloak, and a ring of some silvery metal nearly a foot in diameter and two inches thick. With that in hand, he ran out the door in a hurry while wrapping the cloak around himself.

Well bother! Was it the ring, the key, or the book? Or maybe even the cloak or something the man had in a hidden pocket?

Huh. He knew what conclusion Kevin would jump to; he’d pick the ring, just because keys and books and cloaks had other functions.

Meanwhile, Kevin was intercepted by a courier in the streets with a summons to the Council of Nobles.

Well, why not? Nothing else was too urgent today.

The Council of Nobles met in a rather small – yet ostentatious – house with a coat of arms displayed prominently in a number of locations. What really stood out about the place was the air of concentrated money and power; the large gardens around the house obviously required a sizeable and skilled staff to maintain, the servants were almost invisible, yet ever-present, there were a set of guards wearing red armor who quietly blended into the background, and there was a rather large fountain that seemed to be enchanted to play music by controlling the flow and path of the water – and a specialist musician playing it.

Kevin was escorted through the – rather empty – house and to a small conference room off the main hallway. There he found a number of the heads of the various Clans seated at the table with a rather large chair seated at the elevated portion of the table opposite the door. In that chair was a rather forgettable-looking bear.

He was presented with a selection of drinks by a servant that seemingly appeared out of nowhere.

(Bear) “Ah, you must be the one everyone is talking about. I am Prince Salison. Pleased to meet you. I am sure you have met some of the others here in the room, but let us continue with the introductions anyway.”

There were many introductions. Kevin, of course, introduced himself in the Angkor identity – but did throw in the “Warden of the Marches” title.

(Salison) It is rare for us to get a visitor to our fair city with such power and wealth. I have heard tale of some of your deeds since arrival and have found myself quite impressed. Not since the arrival of the Great Nine-Tails has one of such power as yourself shown up. Luckily she arrived during our darkest hour in a tale we all know quite well, but I have to say some of the nobles wonder what brings you here and if your arrival portends another similar near disaster. While I believe this sort of omen to be utter nonsense, I fear the nobles are a bit superstitions about these things and would like assurances on your intent.

(Kevin) “Hm. Well, I came here for two reasons – for a vacation and to allow the various people across the worlds who wished to speak with me to catch up and do so. Your city is a pleasant place, so I may establish an aspect here for a long time – but that should present no danger to your realm; the conflicts I play a part in are generally not resolvable by violence – and where they are, it is not likely to occur in this realm. Your realm is interesting, enjoyable, and pleasant – but not pivotal in the War of Souls.”

(Salison) “The War of Souls? I imagine this is a war that has been raging across the Great Sea? I must also confess to not being familiar with the term “Aspect” in this context. I will admit that I am pleased you have chosen our city to come relax in and sample the local pleasures. I trust you’ve found things to your satisfaction.”

Kevin checked with the local Thralls – but, as expected, the “Great Sea” was only a reference to one of the oceans around this subcontinent, not to the High Seas realm.

(Kevin) “Ah. No, the War of Souls crosses many universes. As far as an “Aspect” goes, I will simply be maintaining a portion of my existence here, as I do in several realms.”

(Salison, looking only slightly surprised) “I’ve heard tales of other universes before, considering the sheer number of traders we get here in our fair city, it’s only natural. However, the idea that one can leave a portion of their existence behind is fantastical to say the least. Tell me, by chance are you one of the Creators? If so, please forgive us for not showing the proper hospitality to begin with.”

(Kevin) “Oh, I didn’t have anything to do with creating your universe! Mine tend to be more specialized. Creating universes really isn’t that tricky anyway; it’s just holding them stable that takes a lot of power.”

That led to a lot of murmuring amongst the nobles.

(Salison) “Interesting, then it seems we have a most rare guest indeed in our fair city. And that you should take it upon yourself to assist us with our bandit problem, helping the Rabbits with their internal disputes, and helping the Platypi with their… financial difficulties is most generous of you.”

(Kevin) “I hope I haven’t upset people… Those were rather minor interventions.”

(Salison) “Not at all, although I must admit you’ve concerned a number of people with the amount of wealth and power you’ve shown. As I said before, the last time someone with similar power showed up, our city was quickly under siege and receiving visits from near mythical heroines.”

(Kevin) “Well, hopefully that will not happen. I am not, however, a prophet; my talents lie in other areas. If something like that does happen because of my presence – or while I am here in any case – I will deploy my resources to fix or prevent it.”

(Salison, turning to Marty – a slightly later arrival) “And what about you Martin of Clan McCaw? Are you also a Creator from another place come to visit our fair city or have you come for more mundane reasons?”

(Marty) “I’m less experienced in the Creator game than Angkor, but I came for the same reasons. Besides, he likes what I can do with a knife.”

(Salison) “Fair enough. Now the Commander of the City Guard has requested I ask this, although I think it in bad taste: could you give us an explanation about the nature of those children that have been attending to you and even participating in your battles? He tells me that his mages are quite upset over what “implications” of what they see, although I am not sure I understand what he is talking about.”

(Kevin) “It’s simple enough: youngsters who opt to enter my service are granted a variety of powers and enhancements, including immunity to aging and resurrection in Kadia if they’re killed. They remain bound to my service until they grow into those powers, a process which will require several centuries. Of course, after that, they may continue to enjoy those powers and benefits until they tire of their lives and wish to reincarnate and find new challenges.”

(Salison) “Interesting, well I am sure that will keep the mages and scholars busy for quite some time, but that isn’t my problem I think. Now, it is probably rude of us as hosts to keep you here as we pester you with questions. Unless the nobles have any absolutely urgent questions to ask, I would say you are free to return to your business.”

Well, there didn’t seem to be any further questions – although it was obvious that there would be a heated discussion going on as soon as they left the room.

Marty went to check on Raphael and see what he’d found. His last check-in had said that he was currently investigating a bar… He’d probably get a drink too – well, OK, FIRST.

Kevin wandered off to try and impress that lioness-girl he had his eye on… Would his new – and wildly enthusiastic about him – panther-girl concubines be a plus or a minus in her eyes? She already knew that he kept a harem of course, but would the “he’s great!” report from them balance out the “too many girls already” factor? Would the inevitable touch of jealousy induce her to compete or to step back? Would the report of the Thrall-powers attract her?

Hm… Judging by the local standards, the most likely attitude would be dismissive as long as he was spending time with her; they were only slave-girls, and the only important part of that relationship in her eyes would be the report on how much fun he was.

Well, that and how they – and she – were treated. Of course, by the local standards, he was already acting most extravagantly. Not only was he polite and obliging, but he was providing slaves, valuable presents, and a potential life of luxury… The tour of the new estate he’d just purchased and staffed as a “local household” said quite a lot about THAT.

The young lady did see a downside that Kevin was more-or-less blind to – but it was pretty standard for wolf-types; he’d be very possessive / protective once she was “his” – but he would tend to provide everything that was needed. That wasn’t too bad… Wealth, power, servants, and luxury as a pampered consort in a term-marriage was an excellent prospect.

She wasn’t so sure about this “Thralldom” thing though. Immortality and the other benefits were pretty attractive; but handing over her will like that… Still, it was temporary, and it looked like the “price” would just be a stint being his consort even if it wasn’t quite a term-marriage. If she was going to be doing that anyway… well, there was no rush about deciding on Thralldom.

It took her a few minutes to realize that – in skipping over to consider THAT decision – she’d pretty much made up her mind on the “consort” part.

She sealed that part of the deal towards the end of the tour.

After his divination-trance was over, Raphael had opted to go with some mundane detective work – counting the bodies to see how many had escaped, checking to see if the Captain’s body was among the fallen, and then – since he was NOT amongst the dead – checking the ships log for clues as to places he might have gone.

Comparing the crew list against the thralls’ count showed a total of three bodies missing. It didn’t take long to find that the three missing were the captain, the cook, and the supplies officer.

Reviewing the log showed a few passing references to a family in the city, but it seemed like he took care to avoid writing down anything that might tie them to himself. He did mention a tavern his crew frequented a lot in town and that his supplies officer had gone to see “Gustav” shortly before the attack.

Hm… It hadn’t been THAT long ago. It looked like… the lower classes tended to age rapidly, the middle class and nobles tended to age at 20th century rates, and the truly powerful could be nigh immortal. This tendency was most exaggerated with the foxes; one-tails typically didn’t make it to forty, common 3-5 tailed foxes had fairly normal life expectancies, and the near mythical nine-tails were nigh immortal.

Raphael determined that the tavern mentioned was still in business and headed for it. Maybe he could pick up some additional clues and information there!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXIV – A Pointed Plot

Midtown Atlanta, Piedmont Park

Now that's more like it

Tomorrow was indeed another day – and Charles’s morning project was to follow up with Rachel’s father about that weird starmetal item she found on herself after the fit. Fortunately, they were all worried enough about it to be up early as well.

He headed on down to the family home in Atlanta – an older place in the suburbs. Easily within range of his bicycle even if it HADN’T been a “swift rider”. He could get around Atlanta very nicely with a bit of travel thaumaturgy!

The house was warded – albeit mostly for privacy and protection against stray spirits.

Charles cheerily knocked, and a servant answered…

(Housemaid) “Good afternoon. How may I help you? If you’re wanting assistance with your school drive, we’ll need you to sign the list.”

(Charles) “I called ahead! I’m here to help examine a small device! Oh, I’m Charles!”

(Housemaid, looking somewhat surprised.) “Well, come in, dear. Young Mr. Cartier will be here to see you shortly.”

She sat Charles down with a nice big pitcher of water and a glass. The house’s interior was well-appointed, with a chiaroscuro color scheme – and the chair was very comfortable. Mitchell was down shortly, to find Charles happily having some water.

(Mitchell) “Hello there, Charles. I guess Kiko or Rachel told you what happened.”

He sighed.

(Charles) “I’m afraid so! Although it sounded very much like a setup to me… There’s nothing much in the records like it!”

(Mitchell) “I hope so. Rachel can be a handful sometimes, but I think she has more sense than that. Let’s head upstairs. This thing is giving Raymond trouble.”

(Charles, getting up) “What kind of trouble?”

Hopefully it was summoning the primordial power of pie fights or something! There had to be SOMEBODY out there with a sense of humor!

Mitchell escorted Charles up the stairs.

(Mitchell) “He believes it’s a personalized artifact. Nothing we’ve done so far can open it.”

They headed down the hall, toward what appeared to be an ordinary door – although there was strong illusion magic coming off it. A magical containment vault? The door is certainly reinforced that well enough!

Mitchell was looking a little awkward there, as if there wass something he would like to tell Charles about – but Charles was cheerfully oblivious.

He might have known more if he’d thought about the fact that he hadn’t asked for parental permission before gating Rachel out of Creation, or about the fact that her message had mostly consisted of “Charles has a really good place for me to hide, so I’m going to stay there and out of the way for a month or two!” – but he never had paid attention to that kind of thing!

The room was indeed a small magical containment vault. The walls were reinforced to protect against intruders and Terrestrial animas alike, and there were no windows here. He knew Howard and Raymond – but not the stocky, sturdy, woman who was also present.

Raymond was looking over what appeared to be a large starmetal amulet with a magitech sensor. Howard looked antsy, and got up once he saw Charles. The woman was simply watching for the moment, but she smiled when she saw Mitchell enter.

(Charles) “Allo everybody!”

(Howard approached) “Glad you could make it, kid. Now, before we get down to business… where is my kid?”

(Charles, blinking) “Uhm… It would be easiest to show you a bit later if you have some spare time! She should be very safe from the Bronze Faction there though!”

(Howard, not entirely satisfied by that.) “Our scryers say she’s not on the planet anymore. That doesn’t happen!”

(Woman, clearing her throat) “Priorities, dear. I’m sure Rachel is fine.

(Charles) “Oh yes! The locals will have lots of things to tell her there!”

(Woman) “Ah, where are my manners? I’m Nadine Cartier, Rachel’s mother. Now Mitchell tells me you can help Raymond analyze this item? We could use the assistance.”

(Charles) “I can certainly try! I take it that it doesn’t react to most auras and that the probe hasn’t yielded much information?”

(Raymond, looking up) “Ah, there you are! Sorry I didn’t hear you, this is the toughest Insidi… Er… Sidereal artifact I’ve seen yet. I’m pretty sure it’s a weapon, though.”

(Charles) “Well… Lets see now; have you gotten anything?”

(Raymond) “Nothing other than what Rachel’s friend told her and a bit of clairvoyance.”

Hm… Charles considered the device before doing anything active. It did look somewhat familiar, possibly form one of his older. Books… Possibly a switchklave? But most switchklaves were, like switchblades, minor sidearms. They normally wouldn’t carry major protections or mental compulsions… The style seemed to be Usurpation-era. Maybe it was something made for that period?

Engraved with five interlocking squares? Ah! During and shortly after the Usurpation, the Sidereals had manufactured some fated weapons, using living strands from the Loom as components. They hadn’t been made to kill Solars though; they’d been made for the aftermath, when the more perceptive Sidereals had realized they would have to deal with the things that the Solars and Lunars had used to handle.

(Charles) “Hm… It looks like usurption era, a fate-crafted weapon designed to let Sidereals defeat major menaces from outside fate. A very rare trinket! Certainly not something that Rachel would be likely to pick up at random; things like this are mostly in the arsenals of elder Sidereals – or occasionally in the hands of their enemies. If someone gave it to her, they doubtless had a major purpose in mind – and Rachel may not have any major mental defenses as of yet. A compulsion might have been placed on the weapon or simply applied directly. The odds are good that it’s on the weapon though! Whoever owns it would not want it on the loose in Rachel’s hands at the moment I think!”

(Raymond) “Huh. Well, that friend of Rachel’s did say the Sidereal tried to defend himself. That was AFTER she went berserk though.”

(Charles) “I suspect that it was given to her and she was aimed at a target there – not that she removed it from that target. It would neatly explain how she managed to inflict so much damage on a highly-experienced Sidereal. While they are less… direct than Solar exalts, their powers are still quite formidable – and Rachel is relatively new to her powers.”

(Raymond) “I’ll say! From what I heard, he was bleeding pretty much as soon as his anima went full.”

(Charles) “Do you mind if I run a communications link out? I may be able to get something in the files”

(Raymond) “Hey, ask Howard, it’s not my house.”

Howard and Nadine agreed. After all, the kid could just step outside anyway, and was courteous enough to ask.

Charles checked with the aides in the Orrery and had them use the Efficient Secretary Technique. The fated weapons had been fairly public at the time, and were likely still listed in the libraries…

Hmm… A few decent matches – but the most likely seemed to be Deva Cutter, a fated switchklave made explicitly to be easily smuggled into the heart of enemy territory, such as a freehold, unshaped, or Malfeas. It could inflict aggravated damage on beings outside of fate. Its fated weapon power pulled the target into fate and twisted fate so that it was easier to attack the target (-1 TN to all attack rolls) for a battle. It, and it’s abilities, did not show up on supernatural senses unless the entity examining them was able to overcome it’s potent protective enhancements. Still, it was only a fourth-rank weapon; hardly the most potent fated weapon ever produced.

He passed on most of that… He could attune it if necessary – he was using a Wonderworker’s Mantle that let him attune any magical material without a problem after all. Still, that did leave the problem of a possible mind possessing it or a compulsion.

Charles got out his wand, and alchemical powders and reagents, and started looking. Nothing was ever truly perfect; all creation was founded upon that paradox – a flaw of order in the infinite chaos of the Wyld – and nothing within it could transcend that limit.

Deva Cutter, of course, did not even come close. It’s defenses were good – but there were still faint threads of essence to analyze, channels over which the power flowed…

A powerful compulsion unfolded from within those concealing spells and struck at him as he probed – and hammered uselessly against the energies of Dudael while Charles took a quick look at it’s structure.

Rather nasty… It would have tried to make him attack the strongest looking other person in the room, and would have been severely draining to resist! Interestingly, it would not necessarily have required an attack with Deva Cutter; he would have been forced to use the weapon or weapons he considered most appropriate to his target.

(Charles) “Hm… There’s a nasty compulsion attached to it all right; it seems to be designed to make anyone who attunes it love the weapon – and attack the strongest person in the area in the way they think is most likely to work! It… doesn’t seem to be an innate part of the weapon though; it’s just hung on it… and it’s… Demonic. With an airy and abrasive feel to it, and a hint of faint laughter. Several months old, and probably dating from only a few days before the attack. Someone with access to Yozi charms – if, perhaps, a bit short of information on current affairs – apparently wants to provoke division between the major powers of Creation. The power level is impressive, although the targeting was poor; the Bronze Faction has much less influence than the Gold – unless there have been other, similar, attacks that I have not heard of. That might be worth looking into.”

Rachel had been hiding out on Earth since then, which was part of the reason why Howard had been so worried.

(Raymond) “I didn’t even know about the factions until recently. They’re the minority party, right?”

(Charles) “Yes – although not, I believe, the smallest. Of course, given the tendencies of the Sidereals, I expect that there are at least half a dozen “factions” with only one member apiece.”

Raymond laughed at that one, which led Howard to interject:

(Howard) “From what Mitchell’s told me, it’s more like scapegoat. I see a few things here. Somebody wants them to circle the wagons, run scared, or do something they’ll regret later.”

(Charles, sighing) “And is using major demonic powers to do it”.

(Mitchell) “AND has the skill to get them into Yu Shan without getting the lions’ attention.”

(Charles) “True – although these weapons were designed to be almost impossible to detect, so that they COULD be readily smuggled past guardians. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more about what kind of demon or anything, but I’ve never seen this particular signature or type of charm before.”

(Nadine) “Regardless, we need to get whatever-it-is off. It’s not the item itself that’s evil, Mr. Cisneros’ leeriness toward starmetal aside.” (Raymond gave her a pointed look there.)

(Charles) “You might want to leave it on – if well-shielded – in case you need to use it to clear Rachel’s name. Evidence is evidence…”

Since he still had a communications link open, Charles started having his aides at the Orrery pass the word to his vulnerable friends to keep an eye out for such items and to avoid them.

Meanwhile, the funny looks started once his three companions were over the initial shock and really started to think about what he’d told them.

Raymond’s look was particularly intense – although Mitchell was also looking at Charles a bit more carefully; most thaumaturges couldn’t analyze artifacts anywhere NEAR that well – and most didn’t seem to have immediate access to that kind of lore!

(Howard) “That was some good Essence reading there. Um… you’re not a sorcerer by any chance, are you?”

(Nadine) “If he was, there would have been anima flare…”

Raymond was just looking Charles over.

(Charles) “I like to study artifacts and manses! And I mostly do thaumaturgy! It’s a lot more flexible than fooling about with Sorcery!”

(Raymond) “Yes, but most thaumaturges take hours to analyze something like that. And what you did at Beech Street was like nothing I ever saw before… Howard, have you seen anything like that before?”

(Howard) “Not really.”

(Raymond) “And yet you’re this nice little kid, probably a god-blood of some kind.”

(Charles) “There’s nothing wrong with being god-blooded I think!”

Raymond wondered… He could be reading FAR too much into a simple name… But had there been a “Dexter Ward Senior” perhaps? “Dexter”… Left… Sinister? “Ward” – a magical barrier, or a child left in someone’s care? And “Senior”, of course, was “Elder”… “Sinister Elder Magical Barrier”? “Child of the Sinister Elders left in care”?

Nah. That really was going way too far. You’d have to be INCREDIBLY paranoid – and, at the same time, believe that secretive opponents would blatantly proclaim major clues – to go for a theory like THAT.

(Raymond) “Any idea who your divine parent was, if you don’t mind me asking? I think you’re tapping into some primal stuff when you do these things. That can be dangerous if you mess up.”

(Charles) “I don’t know really… My parents left me with Gramps when I was about four…”

(Nadine) “A classic story. Is your Gramps a god as well? I doubt he would talk to the rest of us, but spirits have always liked Mitchell. We could use help with this item.”

(Charles) “Uhm… I don’t really know what he is; but I’ve been told that he showed up in heaven towards the end of the last age – about 20,000 years ago. (Complainingly) He won’t tell me much of anything!”

That made them blink for a bit. Mitchell was quite impressed; he could only think of one individual who fit THAT description – there weren’t many non-gods in Yu-Shan who were more than 20,000 years old – and he’d had no idea that Charles had such an influential relative!

(Mitchell) “I’m not sure I could get a minute on his schedule book, then. I’ve heard even elder Sidereals have to wait months.”

(Howard) “That’s probably out, then. If there’s some demon thing running around up there, we don’t HAVE months to get on his schedule.”

(Charles) “Anyway… Did you want to go visit Rachel for a bit?”

(Howard) “Yes. I want to see where she is. She should have left a note!”

(Charles) “Well, if she had left a note it would have been within fate, and that would make it traceable! And she wanted to really hide!”

(Raymond) “The boy’s right. And I think the last thing any of us wants is a brawl on your doorstep. Rachel would do too much damage to the house, and the cleanup would be a pain.”

There was mutual nodding there.

(Charles) “I can take you there – but if I do it might be best if you stayed for a bit! They might be watching you, even if that wouldn’t be easy for them – especially in here! Do you have time to stay there for awhile? It is an interesting place!”

(Nadine) “I’ll have to make arrangements with the office, but they know not to pry too deeply in our business. Howard, dear, could you dial them up?”

He did so. From the sound of things, a lobbying firm in Washington and a few other places.

Hm… If they went straight, it would be observable and trackable and would give some things away. On the other hand, he went into a heavily shielded magical vault with them… ergo, it might be best to leave from there to go outside of fate directly.

(Charles) “Mr Raymond? If the Cartiers are going to be away with Rachel for a bit, I presume you would rather not know where?”

(Raymond) “It would be best for all of us, I believe.”

(Charles) “Well then… these are a nuisance to get restocked, but it’s probably a good idea to use one!”

He fished out a vial with a strange stopper covered with mystical symbols – a stored spell that only required thaumaturgic skills to unleash, no matter what went into casting it… That way Raymond would see him use a device that any occultist could use – but still no personal major magic.

He teleported them straight into the out-of-fate overlay around the fey pocket, from their own wards to behind his own, and ushered them inside for the (rather short, thanks to travel thaumaturgy) stroll to Hoenheim…

For a brief time, the questions were muffled by shock.

Nadine regained her composure the quickest.

(Nadine) “Are we in the Wyld, young man?”

(Charles) “A pocket really! It’s the quickest way to get outside of fate and it’s really hard to scry through or anything like that! And it makes it much easier to set up for the main jump! There are some Fey around, but they’re OK; I used to play with them when I was younger, but there usually isn’t time any longer!

(Nadine) “Well, you should have said something – play in them!? With the Fey?!?! These pockets are dangerous!”

Howard and Mitchell suddenly looked nervous – but Nadine touched both of them, and the nervousness dissipated.

Huh. Probably an earth aspect, since they got the Wyld Resistance Charms.

(Charles) “Well, I didn’t want to say anything while we were still where we might be overheard – and the Fey were fun to play with! Anyway, this way to the gates…”

There wasn’t any trouble reaching the gates – although there was some awe at the raw power of the Hoenheim manse. They’d thought that the Water Tower was near the pinnacle of power for a manse… but this place…

Mitchell – a martial artist and spirit negotiator – was awed by the tree than by anything else.

At least until Charles shifted the aspect and pulled up the gates.

Those looked rather like “stargates” of course. Charles WAS a sci-fi fan, and that was one of the aspects he’d manifested. Mitchell smiled for a moment at that – but then thought about it a little more… The only way that they could look like a popular TV program was if they were new – and “New” meant that Charles had either created them himself or that someone (or THING) had installed them for him.

There were flares of essence-lightning and such as the gate opened to the Dragon King realm – and Charles sent some messages in – and answered queries about his guests (mostly assuring the Dragon Kings that there were only three, that they weren’t particularly warlike or ready for war, and that they were the family of one of their current solar guests).

(Charles) “Anyway… Rachel’s currently hanging out through here, in Relkithian, with the Dragon Kings! It’s a really neat place, even if it is a little sad!”

(Nadine) “Dragon Kings? I didn’t even know there were any left…”

(Charles) “Oh there aren’t HERE – but THERE there’s pretty much nobody ELSE left!”

The Dragon Kings were willing to let them in.

The Cartiers thanked Charles – although Nadine, at any rate, told him quite firmly to be careful – and, for the love of the Dragons, to get protection if he was’s going to insist on playing with raksha!

Mitchell was a bit more direct, although they were all about ready to explode.

(Mitchell) “OK… where in Oblivion IS this place?”

(Charles) “Oh, it’s all that’s left of an Alternate Creation that fell to the Balorian Crusade! The Dragon Kings here had some warning of the Great Contagion, so they built a dimensional refuge – but there’s pretty much nothing left of the main cosmos here but the deep wyld! I figured an alternate universe would make a GREAT hiding place!”

(Howard) “I guess so. We should be safe from any scrying Sidereals here.”

(Nadine) “Just don’t go exploring too deeply, dear. I know you.”

Mitchell knew enough about what that implied to go back to the very funny looks, if not quite looks of outright horror. He HAD been studying First and Second Age lore up in Yu Shan.

(Mitchell) “Are you sure, Charles?”

(Charles) “Pretty sure! It’s hard to guarantee that – but they have recorded the death of the sun, the destruction of creation, and the annihilation of the human race here – and there are more Dragon Kings here than are left in our universe! So this is another one! Could be a separate creation in the deep wyld or an alternate timeline though; I’m not really sure that there’s a difference!”

Mitchell contemplated that for a moment.

(Mitchell) “I have no idea. I’m fairly sure Rachel could repel several young Fair Folk, so we should be safe if we stay close to her. And that temple we just left looks sturdy.”

(Charles) “Oh, there aren’t any here! This is a pocket-realm, sealed on itself, like Yu-Shan! It’s just Dragon Kings and a few guests!”

(Mitchell) “You would know better than me on Manses, I believe.”

He was still looking at Charles a bit oddly. More weirded out than hostile though. God, raksha, primordial, or just oddly socialized god-blooded?

Well, Charles HAD been cultivating the art of making people have REALLY weird speculations about his parentage.

Rachel turned up about then – looking very happy to see her family.

(Charles, waving) “Hi Rachel! How’s it going here?”

(Rachel) “Great! Nobody gives me any trouble!”

She headed off to show them the wonders of the pocket world – and Charles shut down the gate, put Hoenheim back in it’s usual configuration, and headed for school – wondering who to show that switchklaive to.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXIII – The Great Gates

Tower at the Arcosanti experimental town.

The Blue of Arcosanti

After Charles got back to Dudael – and some secure communications – he got in touch with Rachel through her old “trans-dimensional cell phone” (he ought to make more of those some day!) to find out why she’d apparently attacked Astrid…

The response was pretty prompt: Yes, she’d attacked Astrid. No, she didn’t remember a thing about it. One minute she’d been accompanying Kiko to a neat little unofficial athletics shop in the slums in that quadrant of the Celestial City, the next she was covered in blood, Kiko was dragging her away, and she saw this woman glowing white off in the distance. The glowing woman was carrying what she was pretty sure was a Chosen of Secrets. Fortunately, Kiko was disguised at the time. The only reason she knew that she had attacked Astrid was because Kiko had told her so… She was very worried, was currently in hiding, and was not planning to go back any time soon. She seemed kind of distraught over the entire business.

Hm… That didn’t sound like the typical solar madness. Amnesia wasn’t usually part of that sort of thing as far as he could remember… Had someone used some sort of mental compulsion on her?

According to Kiko, Astrid wasn’t the only person who’d been attacked – and she’d been carrying her husband back to their manse when she’d last seen her.

Well, if Rachel wanted to go somewhere else for a while, that could be arranged! And it would neatly keep everyone separated!

He gave them a basic description of the attack from the Sidereal point of view – and told her that the head of the Bronze Faction would like her restrained.

(Rachel) “Aw man. I’ve really screwed up.”

Yes, she would like to go someplace else, since they were likely looking for her.

(Charles) “Well… There are many places on earth, and there’s offplanet. There are also some extreme refuges – the underworld or… How about with the Dragon Kings for a bit?”

Then she recalled one more thing… She’d had this “neat curio” on her when she’d snapped out of it. Her grandfather and Mr. Cisneros were studying it right now since it was made of starmetal.

Charles thought it might be wise if he took a look at that if he could. He was, after all, an expert artificer – and he suspected that Rachel had been played. Probably an attempt to split the bronze factions attention off from current affairs to a wild solar chase – not that the reclaimed territories and their minority status hadn’t been pretty throughly distracting already. Still, getting them involved in a useless perpetual solar hunt would mean that they would accomplish nothing at all for the next century or two… They did kind of tend towards paranoia, and an apparent solar attack was not going to help that a bit.

Rachel promised to see if she could talk her dad into it then. He was a bit easier to maneuver into those things than her mom was.

She called him – and left a message for her mother – and decided to take Charles up on his offer of a month or two in hiding.

The selection of options for that was… just a bit appalling. How much of the universe did Charles’s grandfather allow him to knock around in anyway? Some of those places had been – supposedly – sealed away since the end of the last age! Others were in different galaxies!

Still, as far as refuges went, Tarvail looked quite advanced and peaceful – although the Lunars (and perhaps the Silver Faction) were likely involved there somewhere – but there was a much more exotic location on the list… Relkithian looked pleasant enough, if a bit alien to humanity – and the notion of actually visiting the legendary Dragon Kings was fascinating! The few remaining enclaves of their race had been lost for thousands of years! Scattered across the cosmos during… scattered across…


Relkithian simply wasn’t POSSIBLE. There weren’t that many Dragon Kings left in all Creation!

That meant…

Some sort of private primordial project?!? An alternate timeline? Someplace thrown up by the Deep Chaos beyond the borders of the cosmos?

And Charles had ACCESS to such places?!?!

What kind of parent did he have?!?!

Still… Outside the known universe in a small world full of ancient solar allies – who might even be able to show her a few tricks – was certainly a good place to hide.

She settled for Relkithian.

Charles settled for bed. It was late!

Charles spent most of his free time in school the next morning tinkering with ideas for new manses… If the Demesne that was coming up in Arcosanti was powerful enough the Bazaar of the Bizarre would be really useful! It would be excellent “neutral territory”, it would add several hundred helpful, activist, guardians to creation and the city, and it would make it WAY easier to get all his shopping done! It would help Gri Fel AND Terapishim too! They’d both be pleased to have several hundred fairly high-powered deity-level enhanced humans supporting them and working to enhance the splendor and importance of their city and it’s surrounding lands! And it would keep everyone involved and with plenty to do!

Hm… Maybe he could build up the demesne a bit if it WASN’T strong enough? He hadn’t done that before, but the procedures were obvious enough… It would take so long though!

Well, there were ways to cheat of course… He’d have to bring some especially-equipped assistants though! If that horrible “Death at the Root” thing could do it (at least according to some of the old records), there was no reason why he couldn’t design something much nicer – and without all those other nasty effects built into it – that would do the same thing!

Outside of that though… He needed some highly-specialized high-powered manses to power some of his Exaltation experiments, and a place to stash things and people that was well out of the way – and it was hard to find high-level demesnes to work with on earth! Most of them were taken already! He might have to go offworld to find anything, but some of the Hoenheim gates seemed to go to other planets after all… He’d have to put together some scouting expeditions! All he’d done so far was to run a few probe-spells on the gates to get a general idea of where they went and a quick peek at what was there – but with a few geomantic precautions thrown in, a random location in the galaxy should be pretty secure!

He was still going to keep the gates to scary places closed though.

The locations of the Hoenheim gates included two in Yu-Shan (one currently in Dudael, one in the Orrery of Istilian), The Underworld, Malfeas (twice, making Charles a bit nervous), the Deep Wyld, Autochthonia, the Daystar, Gnosis, The Far Realms, six on Earth (the Great northern forest of Canada, Brazil, Kyoto, France, Siberia, and the Serengeti), Stormhaven (a pocket-realm adrift in Chaos, apparently dominated by a couple of Lunars), Relkithian (the last refuge of the dragon kings), the Endless Skies (an apparently infinite realm of flying patches of vegetation with no gravity), Kyrthia (a long forgotten – and apparently long-abandoned – city of the Jadeborn buried in deep tunnels and caverns, possibly an alternate creation), the “Elemental Plane of Earth”, Valandur (an apparently unpopulated forest-world), Rokugan, Tarvial (an advanced interstellar empire populated by several types of beastmen), and the Archipelago of Dreams (a realm of high seas and cloudsailing adventure allowing travel between hundreds of realms).

He’d have to go and take a quick survey in Arcosanti as soon as possible! Then he’d have a better idea of what he had to work with!

Oh, wait! He could send an Inukami to do it! They weren’t as good as he was of course, but they could take a day or so and run the survey from various locations around the city, and that should tell him pretty much everything he needed to know!

Charles – as usual – wasn’t really thinking about it, but erecting such a manse, and unleashing all of that occult power in Arcosanti, would not go unnoticed. Still Gri Fel might be quite willing to take some credit for REALLY knowing how to manage a city – especially one that was full of Manses and occult beings, like his previous one – leading to the conclusion that “clearly it had been a good idea for whoever backed him (even if no one was sure of exactly who that had been) to take a chance on him”.

Then, of course, the investigations into just how that much magical power had managed to collect under everyone’s noses would begin.

Charles, of course, was optimistically oblivious to such future problems. From his point of view, what would matter was that a city that had suddenly become so important, and which had that much essence running around in it, would need a staff of subordinate gods in Yu-Shan – and that would get even more disenfranchised gods back to work! Even better, the jobless gods had the biggest interest in getting things fixed! It was no fun being a homeless god living off the dole!

Sure, it was inevitable that – eventually – things would be traced back to him, but (according to his cheerful worldview) that shouldn’t be too hard to deal with! He was only doing good things, and who could possibly object to that?

For good or ill, his “secondary smokescreen” was doing well; most of the few people (other than the Celestial Lions, who relied more on observation and logic than on charms and guessing) who were seriously looking into his affairs were indeed currently working on (presumably) wild “theories” about his possible relationship to the Primordials. He’d need some non-amalgam servitors and sub-aspects to really play that role – but then he was already planning to make some manses that produced creatures like that for him, on experimenting with turning Manses into sub-aspects of himself, imbuing agents with some of his own power, and – perhaps – even gaining access to some sort of “internal world”. After all, didn’t everyone with a good imagination do that in a way? All you needed was a way to get inside of it… A properly-attuned Wyld zone might let you build an internal reality in a manse too, something like a Vault of Woven Dreams but with a lot more power behind it…

That sort of thing would probably be a job for some more custom charms – starting with some that enhanced the manse-link. That might not fool someone who had REALLY studied the primordials, but – perhaps fortunately – people who really studied Primordials and other oddities were pretty rare.

Kiko, meanwhile, was working on some advanced disguise charms… She’d had an interest in that aspect of solar power anyway, and after that little incident with Rachel and Astrid it certainly seemed like a good idea!

She might need a safehouse sometime too… After all, you couldn’t rely on disguises always working!

May be she ought to talk to Charles about that! The kid seemed to be pretty adept at not being around when he didn’t want to be and he certainly seemed to have the resources. He’d certainly made Rachel vanish really really well too! Surely there’d be something she could help him out with in exchange! That constant ingredient-hunting couldn’t be easy!

Catherine and Ms. Tengu were back late that evening… Ms. Tengu DID think that it would be a good idea to hide out for a bit – although she didn’t much care where as long as there were restaurants and it wasn’t too alien. She’d worked in food service for most of her life, although her heart’s desire was to be a popular musician.

It might be easier to achieve that outside of the Celestial City, where – until recently – any god or Sidereal with a Performance Excellency could easily overshadow her. Kyoto sounded nice…

Well, Kyoto should be reasonably secure for the moment – and Charles could readily make her a “panic button” amulet or something if she would like.

She would, so he did.

Along the way though Ms. Tengu and Catherine just couldn’t contain it any longer… They were about to burst with curiosity! How on earth had a child of Charles’s age gotten access to a private manse gateway network linking most of the major aspects of the known universe? Catherine had figured that Charles had a powerful patron to get the factory-cathedral job, but this was a bit much.

They just HAD to ask about the manse…

(Charles) “Oh, it’s a very old one! Gramps let me have it – it’s been in the family quite awhile – and I’ve channeled a lot more power into it to boost it up some! I’m not sure he ever knew about the gate-aspect of it though!”

(Catherine) “Wow. Your Gramps must have a lot of these Manses if he lets a-what, ten, eleven-year old?-have one. What’d you do to get it? He didn’t just give it to you, did he?”

(Charles) “Uhm… I was sick when I was six or so, and it has healing functions, and I bonded it while I was sick. So he let me have it! I think he was kind of surprised; he’d just put me to bed in it because it would help – or at least he thought it might… This manse is awkward to get to normally anyway!”

(Catherine) “You’re full of surprises. I figured you were a prodigy, but not like THIS. And your Gramps must be powerful or well-connected to own such a place.”

Actually Catherine had looked into the new boss a bit – most of the employees at Dudael had – but she kind of wanted to see what he’d say anyway.

(Charles) “Uhm… He mostly gets called Richof Haldane – but I’m not quite sure what he does! He never says! I think he doesn’t want me involved until I’m older! And I get along really well with manses!”

(Catherine) “Wha… HIM?” (That removed all pretenses.) “I mean, I heard rumors, but-“

She was visibly flummoxed.

(Charles) “Do you know what he does?”

(Catherine) “No. I just know he’s been in Yu Shan for at least two full Sidereal lifetimes. Nobody knows what he does. At least nobody on my level.”

(Charles) “Darn! But that’s a long time! Back to the end of the second Age I think! Well, there are lots of ways to do that, but it would give him some seniority anyway!”

(Catherine) “You’re telling me. Seemed like a decent enough guy the one time I saw him, but the looks the gods gave him… never seen them so humble. I can’t believe you’re his grandson! Sure there shouldn’t be a lot of greats on that?”

(Charles) “Oh well! Maybe a Jutun or something! It would be just like him not to tell me I think!”

(Catherine) “But if he’s one of those, he shouldn’t even be here. Ah well! Not my place to investigate.”

(Charles) “Why not? Gaia has some around!”

(Catherine) “Yeah, but she sided with the Incarnae, didn’t she? Unless there’s something going on here…”

(Charles) “Well, so did Autochthon, and there were a fair number who left before the war and so were neutral. And a new one might arrive!”

(Catherine) “Who knows what goes on that high up in the Bureaucracy?”

(Charles) “It’s still a pretty big assumption though! There are other possibilities too, starting with someone using an immortality stone! That’s lots of time to acquire backing and influence!”

(Catherine) “Yeah… he could be anything. I just know that the gods really stay out of his way and that he’s lived a long time.”

(Charles) “Oh well! Would you like to set up a refuge or private place somewhere?”

(Catherine) “What, for me? It’d be nice, and I have a feeling resources aren’t a worry for you. How about somewhere that has winters? You don’t get that in Yu Shan without magic.”

(Charles) “On earth then? I’m not too sure of the climate in most of the other places!”

(Catherine) “That’d be fine. How about this Alaska place? I hear sometimes day is night there.”

(Charles) “I’ve got northern Canada! That’s pretty close!”

(Catherine) “Good enough then. Thanks. Never hurts to have a safe house.”

(Charles) “Would you like an actual house? That location is pretty deep in the wilderness!”

(Catherine) “That’d be good, yes. Sure it won’t be too much trouble for you, though? I’m willing to help out.”

(Charles) “Oh not a problem!”

He drew on Dudael and assembled a nice little camouflaged lodge in the Great Canadian Northwest, with a selection of thaumaturgic wards and such.

(Catherine) “One thing though, it might need a garage.”

Charles cheerily added a batcave.

Jose and his familiar would appreciate that when she invited them over – although Charles had no idea that THAT was why she’d asked. Still, he didn’t mind adding a few things a bit! And obtaining title should be easy enough; most of the area was cold scrawny pine barrens headed for the arctic circle – and not worth buying even cheap.

Catherine was impressed… The kid must have a REALLY powerful divine parent! He was definitely something more than the usual god-blood! And – quite amazingly – not spoiled. She could have gotten a much worse boss!

Still, on watching carefully… It was all devices and thaumaturgy – remote access to Dudael, a boosted hearthstone, and… thaumaturgy. Amazingly GOOD thaumaturgy, backed by incredible geomancy, but still… thaumaturgy. Whoever or whatever the kid’s grandfather was, he treated the children well and trained them well – and somehow kept them reasonably human. She’d seen a lot of gods who had problems with that in her pre-Exalted lifetime. This was… a nice kid who cheerily used his pile of artifacts – and blew at least part of his cover – to go and rescue relative strangers.

Hoenheim had been something of a shock too. That gate was NOT on the map of Heaven’s gates she memorized in school! And the OTHER gate-destinations… Malfeas, the Deep Wyld, GNOSIS (?!?), and even the Underworld…

(Charles, noting her curiosity) “Was there something else?”

(Catherine) “Uh… yes. I’m going to come right out and say it. You know that the Sidereals would be very interested in this Manse if they knew it existed, right? You seem like a pretty bright kid.”

(Charles) “Well, most manses have a lot more potential than anyone gives them credit for! And the Sidereals are kind of argumentive anyway… But that is one of the reasons that I haven’t used this aspect much since I powered it up; it’s not just that it needs investigating first… The Sidereals should be able to figure out how to make their own if they want to anyway!

(Catherine) “Yeah. That’s smart of you. Thing is, Manses leading to places like Malfeas and the Underworld tend to unnerve them. They might want to confiscate it. You know, for ‘research.'” (The quotation marks were pretty clear in her tone.) Not that I’d tell. You’ve done too much for Maella for me to do that.”

(Charles) “Well, this one is pretty heavily warded, geomantically hidden, and outside of fate anyway – and the gates only exist in one mode anyway, and I could always drop the power inputs to make them merely a potential.”

(Catherine) “Whoa. Did you say outside of fate? Good thing you can hide the gates then. Those places are illegal.”

(Charles, cheerfully) “Only to build in places inside of fate… If it already exists, or you’re simply building in an area that already happens to be outside of fate, you’re within the rules – and Hoenheim is both!”

(Catherine) “Then where are we? Sorry if I’m getting in too deep, but you’ve got me curious.”

(Charles) “Oh, we’re in a wyld pocket left over from the second Balorian Crusade!”

(Catherine, whistling) “Your grandpa must think of everything, unless the place was already here.”

(Charles) “Oh, it’s from early in the first age I think!”

(Catherine) “That would explain a lot… Anyway, your secret’s safe with me. Not sure how well I can stand up if someone uses Charms on me, but anything else, I can stand.”

(Charles) “Well, I doubt that anyone would expect you to know such things anyway! And you have your own charms now!”

(Catherine) “Yeah… I can’t go into too much detail, but whoever made our Charms had funny ideas about how we should resist those things. Effective, but weird.”

(Charles) “Autochthon I think! Although, come to think of it, the Charms are probably heavily influenced by the secondary patterning!”

(Catherine) “I’m not so sure. But I might need to consult you on that some time. You okay with that?”

(Charles) “Sure! New stuff is always fun to look at!”

(Catherine) “Thanks. Anyway, shall we head back upstairs (Yu Shan)? We’ve got another day ahead of us, and you look like you could use some sleep.”

(Charles, who WAS starting to droop) “Uh-Huh!”

(Catherine) “Whoa! Don’t faint on me there!”

She did seem concerned.

(Charles, with some indignation) “It’s just yawning! It’s been a long day!”

(Catherine) “If you say so, you’re the boss.”

(Charles, absently) “Long day tomorrow too… I need to work on some manse construction techniques, so I need to find some unused demesnes and perhaps some damaged manses.”

(Catherine) “That, work, and school? That’s got to be wearing on you. Need me to pick up some more work at the cathedral?”

(Charles) “Maybe next! There’s a special project running…”

(Catherine) “Again, if you say so…”

OK, the kid HAD to have enhanced stamina there – but how many projects was he working on? Was he THAT obsessive about making things? That was really kind of worrisome! He seemed to be more-or-less taking responsibility for everything around him! He was way too young for that!

At least his manse-servants were waiting to take him to bed. They must be used to this… Hm… They looked like first-age magical creations. Was the manse still generating them? Was the kid Richof’s favored grandchild? He’d been given access to some incredible resources – not that he didn’t seem to be using them well, and earning the right to keep using them – but still…

A miracle that he was so nice and humble. She’d gotten where she was by being a nanny for Half-Caste and God-Blooded kids; she knew “spoiled” when she saw it – and she wasn’t seeing it.

Still, she’d have to keep an eye out for him… He might be TOO obliging. Freakishly so – and willing to deploy absurd amounts of power just to be nice to people. Did he even think about the implications of requests? Loom help them all if he ever ran into a subtle Abyssal. Or even an Infernal who was subtle. Or an Apostate alchemical. Or a mortal terrorist who had no qualms about nukes…

Well, maybe not the last one. She could just see him announcing gravely that “Weapons are BAD!”.

Maybe she should get that Chosen of Journeys who seemed to have a thing for her (why didn’t he just come out and say it? This was the modern era!) to watch him as well. At least no one else really seems to be exploiting all that power yet – and he did have some decent ethics. That was good! So many God-Blooded kids were treated more as pets or servants, and that really messed them up!

Still, she wasn’t going to sleep easily tonight.

Ah well. Tomorrow would be another day.

Exalted – Geomantic Engineering


Do you even know how to work this thing?!

The basic Exalted rules for Geomancy can be found in Oadenol’s Codex. Sadly, they’re painful to read and don’t cover a fair number of things that our characters keep wanting to do. Ergo…

Geomantic Surveying is fairly simple; all you need is a thaumaturgic ritual to attune and extend your senses. The essence-flows of Creation are blazing rivers of power, strong enough to warp the landscape, spew spontaneous enchantments, empower mighty heroes, and mutate living creatures who linger too long upon their shores. They really aren’t that hard to find or map; all you’re really looking for is a look down from above. Just use the ritual of…

Thoughts Ride the Dragon Lines (1, Perception + Occult + Geomancy, d2 to get compass bearings to uncapped demesnes within [2 x Successes] miles, manses within [successes] miles, and potential demesnes within [Successes/3] miles. +2d to get the aspects of the manses, demesnes, and potential demesnes you detect, +2d to get a basic geomantic map of the area with those items marked within range, and +2d to get the ratings of the active manses and demesnes. Also to look for the points in a particular manse or demesne (d3) where geomantic sabotage may best be carried out. 5 minutes).

This basic geomantic ritual is used to locate major geomantic power nexi – or places that could become such. It will not, in general, penetrate the defenses of Hidden Manses or those built with concealment powers unless the user is very good indeed – and devotes extra successes to penetrating such defenses rather than to expanding the area covered. It also tends to be a lot more limited in peering into the depths of the earth; every hundred feet of depth counts as another mile of distance.

You can also attempt to use such a roll to figure out where a particular set of geomantic conditions might be found – but that’s the equivalent of a modern geologist trying to predict where oil might be found; you can make some good guesses, but sometimes you can’t find a good site – or what you want simply isn’t there no matter how good the site looks. In general, this has a difficulty set by the game master – normally at least (2 + twice the desired rating + GM modifiers for additional conditions). This will take at least a week if good records of an area are available to study, a month if records are sketchy and what you want is rare, and at least a year if you’re proceeding from pure theory and a general knowledge of creation.

The original white wolf version of a geomantic survey had a basic problem; rather than having the character survey an area and having the GM tell him or her what there was to be found in it, the character defined what he or she was looking for – and if he or she could roll enough dice, he or she was guaranteed to find what he or she wanted.

So if the character wanted “A rank-5 solar demesne somewhere in the two-acre fishpond in the private gardens of the Scarlet Empress in the Imperial Capital” he or she might be subject to a +10 difficulty for two +5 conditions (solar and in the fishpond) and require 10 successes to get a rank-5 demesne – but if he or she was good enough to handle the difficulty, and looked for long enough to build up the requisite number of successes, there it would be.

Even for Exalted, this makes no sense. There’s “saying yes” and then there’s “letting the player characters walk over the universe like a carpet”. Guess which one this is?

The fact that a five-minute thaumaturgic ritual in the same book would let anyone detect nearby manses and demesnes, while the system that Exalts were expected to use required a month even if you kept the difficulty low by just looking for “a demesne”, didn’t make a lot of sense either of course.

Geomantic Engineering:

Modifying a Demesne includes increasing or decreasing its rank (by one step at a time) and altering it’s aspect. The process involved moving earth and stone, building walls, sculpting the landscape, redirecting streams, planting trees, and performing rituals.

  • Requires: (Lore+Geomancy) and (Occult+Geomancy) totals of (demesne’s new rating + 3). It’s an extended (Intelligence + Occult + Geomancy Degree) check.
  • Period: Requires one ten year task per dot of the new rating. (Accelerated: Ten Years – One Year – One Season – One Month – One Week – One Day – One Hour – Scene – Round). Geomantic Sabotage requires a base time of only one week; it’s always easier to break things than it is to make them.
  • Difficulty: (New Level +2, additional + 1-3 if working against the local tendencies). Requires (New Rank x 10) total successes. A botch sets you back one year if working with an inactive demesne and triggers essence buildup in an active one. Sabotage is easier; it’s only d3 and requires only (5 + Rank x 5) accumulated successes to trigger essence buildup. Repairs work in exactly the same way.


  • Efficiency: Reduce the time interval by 1/2/3 steps at +10/25/50 difficulty.
  • Earth-Moving/Construction Crew/Charms/Artifacts: One step (Crew is usually Resources 3/4/5 monthly/seasonally/yearly). Two steps if you have suitable experts to direct your crew or with personal access to earth-moving charms and/or artifacts – but arranging for this is up to you.
  • Direct Essence-Flow Sensing/Manipulation: 1/2/3 steps for Minor/Major/Grandiose Charms and/or Artifacts.

In other words, if you’re stomping around with a garden hoe trying to engineer a demesne, it’s going to take you ten years per roll.

If you accept a +10 difficulty to look for shortcuts and subtle manipulations, bring in a crew of geomantic experts equipped with some equivalent of Singing Staves, and have a charm that allows you to directly sense and map geomantic essence flows, that reduces your time interval by four steps – from ten years per roll to one week per roll.

Roll Bonuses and Penalties:

  • Aid or Opposition from spirits: Up to +/-1 successes for aid from summoned spirits, 2 for local spirits, 3 for spirit courts, 4 for the elemental dragons, and 5 for Incarnae.
  • Massive, repeated, expenditures of aspected essence or large-scale infusions of appropriate magical materials: Up to +/-5 successes when altering a demesne’s aspect only.

Finally, we have the one item which only needs minor reworking:

Activating a potential, but unawakened demesne calls for another simple thaumaturgical ritual – Awaken the Coiling Dragon. This requires (Potential Demesnes Rating) Hours, a successful (Intelligence+Lore+Geomancy) check at a difficulty of (Potential Demesnes Rating), and either (Potential Demesnes Rating x 20 Motes) or the use of some similar power source (relayed power from manses, major artifacts, etc). A success activates the Demesne, a botch starts essence buildup. Multiple characters can contribute essence, but each rolls independently.

In theory it’s possible to drain a demesne or manse temporarily, or even to force one back into dormancy – but the process would require draining away tens of thousands of essence motes. In practice, it’s generally far easier to damp down and – if necessary – rebuild the demesne later than it is to find a way to drain it.

Sith Hierarchy – The Artificers

This is an unofficial, fan made map which repr...

I'm not complaining, but I'm fairly sure that you shouldn't need THIS kind of map to navigate your speeder bike!

Force sensitives can go over the edge in many, MANY, ways. When a mind taps into the raw power of the force, it reinforces the mental patterns associated with that use – burning them into the mind and making it easier and easier to draw on the force in pursuit of those patterns.

With caution, and a code, moderation in it’s use, and constant self-discipline, you can use the force and maintain your sanity. Sadly, few force-sensitives can manage that without training.

Without training you can fall to ambition and the will to power. You can fall to anger and the desire to destroy. You can fall to jealousy and envy. You can fall to greed or to the desire to manipulate. Such patterns are easy, unsubtle, and already inclined to the extreme – and such are the adepts of the Dark Side.

You can also fall to lust, to gluttony, or to pride. You can fall to seeking after fame. You can even fall to creativity, to love and compassion, or to the desire to discover new things…

Thus have Artificers fallen.

At its core, the madness of an Artificer is simply good old garden-variety obsession; the force feedback loop has simply carried their focus on their research to heights of insanity that no normal mind can reach. They’re the stereotypical mad scientists of the Galaxy.

How much of that is true madness and how much is just being absent minded and hyperfocused on the task at hand largely depends on the individual and on the extent to which the force has control of their behavior.

To understand an Artificer, one must understand his or her Project.

Thanks to their precognitive abilities, an Artificer’s project is always something POSSIBLE. That’s not the same as practical, affordable, or even sensible – but it’s vaguely possible, even if the odds are a few trillion to one.

Projects can range from the utterly mundane (catalog all possible uses for duct tape!) on through a complete analysis of hyperspace, fully automated manufacturing facilities, finding ways to transfer minds into immortal mechanical bodies, creating new weapons, building dyson spheres, or engineering the ultimate plague.

Some projects are quite innocent, or even helpful and useful.

Others not so much.

Still, regardless of how harmless a Project may appear to be at a glance, it is the singleminded obsession that makes Artificers dangerous. It doesn’t matter if some experiment is not a good idea – or if it might wreck a city, or unleash a galactic war, or blow up a city. All that matters is that it advance the research and leave the Artificer around to consider the results.

They’re impatient too, and inclined to throw things together with the force rather than tediously setting up a proper experiment. Trying out a new hyperdrive configuration is all well and good, but trying it in the middle of a crowded city may not be the best option.

Still, as far as Sith go, the Artificers are often tolerated, and sometimes even supported. Such dedicated researchers are not easy to find – and most of them just need someone to watch over them and make sure to remind them of the potential consequences of their actions before they try something. Indeed, with proper use of suggestions and steering a train of thought, an Artificer can often be persuaded to assist with any problem related to their Project.

Artificers tend to travel in groups. Not out of any sense of belonging, but because it means they can borrow spare parts and tools from each other. It is actually rare to see more than one cooperating on a single project though – unless the potential reward would apply to each of their personal Projects in turn. One can expect Artificers to be able to pull off weird stunts no one in their right mind would attempt and to have a gadget for every occassion (regardless of how relevant).

  • Thanks to their focus on mechanisms and devices, Artificers suffer a -3d penalty on their use of force Manipulation and Control unless their target is a machine or device of some type. They suffer a similar penalty on all normal “social” skill checks.
  • They may, however, distribute their Manipulation dice (and any relevant dark side dice or speciality dice) amongst the characteristics of any machine(s) they happen to be carrying, using, or operating up to a maximum of one-half that dice pool invested in any one function. Thus, if one happens to be piloting a Starship and had 8d to distribute, he or she might add +2d to the main weapon, +3d to the shields, and +3d to the speed.
  • Like most Sith, Artificers are always crazed obsessives, and will need to make will checks to pull themselves away from their studies to address other situations – or to resist appeals to their particular manias.