Life… isn’t fair.
A sizeable chunk of the population winds up holding the short end of the stick in early childhood, continue to hold it all their lives, and ultimately die with it jammed in some very uncomfortable place indeed.
The promise to make it fair lies at the base of many faiths. “It will be fair eventually; you just have to wait until after you die…”.
That’s a glittering, wonderful, promise – but a lot of people find that “after you die” part to be a bit of a crock, whether or not it’s true.
Idealistic (and exploitive) revolutionaries often promise to make it fair too – and you don’t have to wait until after you die. They say “Work with us, and it can be fair NOW!”
(Practical revolutionaries merely promise to make things a bit fairer, to oppose some specific abuse, or to go for some far more limited goal than “fairness”. THEY sometimes really do succeed, but they have a much harder time gathering recruits than the ones who promise some form of utopia).
Sometimes idealistic revolutionaries come into power. After all, the cry of “fairness” has a deep appeal to both youthful dreams and frustrated maturity. If conditions are bad enough, the status quo may be buried beneath a wave of revolutionary fervor.
Quite often such revolutionaries actually believe in what they have promised, and try to deliver “fairness” in accordance with whatever set of ideals they subscribe too.
This fails, as it must. Life is full of randomness, and it’s outcome can never be “fair”.
If it could, people, being human, would immediately start looking for advantages – preferably ones that could be passed on to their children. That’s a drive that’s built into every creature that cares for it’s young. MORE for Me and Mine, LESS for everyone else!
The revolutionaries who believe soon become frustrated. Either their ideals are unworkable – which is a hard thing to admit when you’ve fought a revolution to secure them – or someone is preventing them from being realized.
So they try to find out who’s betraying the revolution.
Is it dissidents from within? Reactionaries who don’t understand how important the revolution is and cling to old ways? Saboteurs from without?
No matter what they try to fix, or how paranoid they become, they fail to achieve Fairness.
A few may realize that they are pursuing the impossible, and abandon their ideals for a bitter retirement.
Most will try harder. Someone is ruining it for everyone! They MUST be found and stopped! By any means necessary!
With the phrase “by any means necessary!” the secret police rise, and the purges and persecutions begin. Competing groups, ideals, and faiths are outlawed. Covert campaigns are undertaken against neighbors – the presumed source of the presumptive sabotage.
It still doesn’t work – and admitting that NOW will mean now only admitting that their ideas are unworkable, but admitting that they’ve done unspeakable things in pursuit of unworkable ideas.
They already failed a lesser version of that test. A few, perhaps having grown older and wiser, may be able to admit that they have dreamed an impossible – if, perhaps, lovely – dream, and have failed. Their wonderful dream of fairness has become a thing of horror.
Most cannot resign themselves to failure. Evidently even minor uncontrolled factors can ruin their revolutionary dream!
Uncontrolled factors must be eliminated. Failure cannot be tolerated!
“For the greater good” they seek total control, so that they can eliminate the last opponents of, and barriers to, the revolution. They may still be idealistic – but they are also only human. Bitterness, frustration, the corruption of youthful ideals, and the lure of power and wealth, all take their toll.
Very, VERY, soon you have a classical totalitarian state – which may pay lip service to the original revolutionary ideals (after all, the slogans and rhetoric still appeal to the young and idealistic, and can still pacify the masses, and so still have their uses) – but which actually has nothing to do with them.
And, as the totalitarian state grows intolerable, and it’s leaders become more and more lost – whether to corruption, to madness, to a refusal to accept that their revolution is not working, or to simply losing touch with reality as underlings (in simple self-defense) tell them what they want to hear rather than what is actually going on – somewhere the cry is rising…
Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!
Once the Nephelim walked the land – mighty men, giants who wielded powers that none but gods should claim, some a match for a thousand normal men or more. They battened onto blood, slaying and growing fat and drunk with power. They lorded it over the world, seizing the wealth of the realm and of realms beyond, demanding obedience. They bound terrible forces to serve them, some in arcane devices, others walking free. Some called themselves heroes, others named themselves villains – but most knew them as… Adventurers.
Then the True Gods grew tired of their strutting arrogance, their demands, and their attempts to storm the gates of both heaven and hell. They heard to cries of the people for justice, and for fairness.
They spoke to Markai, a simple farmer. They showed him the way of the banefire.
When tools of magic, and creatures of power – including the bodies of the Nephelim themselves – were cast into the dark fires, that stolen power returned to it’s rightful place within the people of the land.
Even the Nephelim were vulnerable. They ate, and slept, and were distracted by their consorts, and grew both confused and aged. The whispers of the way spread amongst the ordinary people – and as the lesser Nephelim vanished, the people grew stronger, as the gods had meant them to be all along.
Eventually… the Nephelim were no more. The last fell, and peace, and prosperity, returned to the land. The greater wonders passed into memory, leaving only the lesser powers which mortals had been meant to wield, scattered evenly – fairly – amongst the folk.
But there were always those who sought the return of the Nephelim, or who – in terrible heresy – sought to become Nephelim themselves. Against them, Markai, and his sons after him, stand ever on guard.
And the rumors that they… hoard forbidden tools of magic for their own use, or secretly train as Nephelim, or that people vanish in the dead of night for ever more trivial reasons, and – perhaps most terribly – of the return of horrors long banished by the Nephelim (and now delighted to find the world near-defenseless against them), are surely no more than malicious rumors.
Still, however, with each talented youngster sacrificed to the banefire on suspicion of seeking to become a Nephelim, for each person that dies for want of the kind of magic that only the Nephelim could handle, for each civic enchantment that fails for want of the skill and power to maintain it, the whisper grows.
In the Banefire setting, the characters may be loyal guardians of the realm, using mortal skills and the limited powers granted by participation in the Banefire rituals to hunt down and destroy would-be Nephelim – and to defend the realm against all the other perils of a d20 universe without any adventurers to help them. Such individuals may gain levels, but it should be very slow – and each level will usually consist of a d6 Hit Die (2 CP), +1 BAB (6 CP), +1 to their total saves (3 CP), +1 (more or less mundane) Feat (6 CP), and +7 Skill Points (7 CP). Banefire Loyalists simply aren’t headed for superhuman power. They usually top out around level five.
Alternatively, they may be talented youngsters, with powers that have begun to go beyond the gifts of the Banefires – making them both likely candidates for the fires and perhaps the worlds only hope against the greater menaces to come…
Talented youngsters will gain levels somewhat more rapidly than loyalists, usually spending their points building up the foundation abilities they already possess to truly superhuman levels. Of course, given that such youths risk a horrible death in the Banefires every time they use or seek to develop their powers, they will doubtless need such abilities.
The People of the Banefire gain:
Proficiency with all Simple Weapons (3 CP), Shields (3 CP), and Light Armor (3 CP).
+2 BAB (12 CP).
+2 on any one Saving Throw (6 CP).
Adept (pays half cost for four skills of choice, 6 CP), with a +4 bonus on each of those skills (8 CP).
Inherent Spell, Corrupted for Increased Effect (L5 Greater Invocation, may produce any first level spell effect, +1-3 on save DC depending on the appropriateness of the invocation used) with +8 Bonus Uses, Corrupted for Increased Effect (+12 Bonus Uses), Specialized for Half Cost / user must gesture, and speak, and can be interrupted as if spellcasting, user may only produce a maximum of (Int/3) Arcane and (Wis/3) Divine spells per day and any extra uses are lost, user must preselect at least one-half of the effects to be produced (9 CP).
Innate Enchantment, all abilities unlimited use-activated, personal-only (x.7 cost) where applicable. 8000 GP base value (9 CP).
- +2 each to any three differing attributes (4200 GP).
- Immortal Vigor I (+2d6 – effectively 12 due to at-will use, +2x Con Mod HP, 1400 GP).
- Warding Rune (1 + Caster Level/3, +4 max, resistance bonus on saves, 1400 GP).
- Skill Mastery/+3 to a particular group of skills (1400 GP). Common groups include those linked to a particular attribute, stealth related skills, scholarly skills, priestly skills, travelers skills, and many other groups.
Immunity/Stacking limits when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (Common, Minor, Trivial – only covers L1 effects, 2 CP).
Immunity/the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial [only covers first level effects at caster level one], Specialized/only to cover initial racial abilities (1 CP).
At a net cost of 62 CP, the Banefire Template is at the upper edge of +1 ECL territory – and should provide a solid foundation for almost any kind of character. After all, it is an amalgamation and simplification of the usual “basic classes”.
The Banefire does have a point. While a few character backgrounds tell of hard struggles and training, rather more are filled with incredible strokes of good fortune, prophecies, miraculous interventions, incredible natural talents, inheritances, and other unearned goodies. It really isn’t fair for all those adventurers to get all the attention and all the free stuff.