Verdan Arcanis – Technology and Magic I

Steam Engine 1

Yes, it's this sort of thing...

The presence of magic has had two effects on the development of science and technology.

  • It makes it MUCH easier to test things and to sort out what’s going on on an immediate, local, level. You want to look at something very small? A simple charm will do it. Rough spots in a prototype, minor repairs, and the need for precision craftsmanship can all be easily glossed over with simple spells.
  • It also means that a lot of talent is diverted into magic – and magical talents are both inherently limited and die with their user. An engineer who uses a small spell to get past a small hurdle in his design may produce a device that works beautifully, but which will be almost impossible to duplicate without equal magical talents and a through understanding of how it’s supposed to work. A “mad scientist”, who builds devices to help channel and amplify magic, may well create “technologies” that no one else can duplicate and few can use.

Pulled by those two opposing tendencies, the technological development of Verdan has followed the same general course as Earths – but with rather a lot of minor differences.

Naturally enough, the place to start off a look at technology is almost always with power sources.

While wind, water, and muscle power fulfill their ancient roles, the driving force behind the industrial revolution on Verdan is steam, just as it was on Earth. The Steam Engine is the true technological marvel of Verdan; a well-designed steam engine has few moving parts, will function at high efficiency on fuels ranging from wood and coal to paraffin and oil (or, for that matter, on geothermal heat, nuclear energy, or solar power), and requires no wiring or electricity. Thanks to the steam reservoir of the boiler, it provides near-constant power throughout each cycle, rather than the series of explosive kicks provided by an internal combustion engine. Its internal systems are not subjected to those kicks, to superheating, or to corrosive combustion products – and so tend to require far less maintenance than an internal combustion engine.

This, of course, is why virtually all commercial power plants use steam engines (usually the Steam Turbine variant) even today.

There’s always a price of course. Maintaining clean, efficient, combustion requires a reasonably large firebox – and maintaining pressure requires a sizeable boiler and a sizeable tank of water. A heat-sink and condenser system – to avoid having to keep adding water – bulks things up even more. Unlike an internal combustion engine, it takes time to build pressure and start a steam engine. Also unlike an internal combustion engine, the boiler and piping needs to he able to withstand high pressure as well as the engine block.

Steam Engines are powerful, efficient, and versatile. They are also large, heavy, and slow to start. There are a few experimental steam cars and steam tractors are available for larger farms – but personal transport (barring the tinkerings of mad scientists and magicians) is still mostly limited to horses and carriages. For all the wonders of the industrial age, the burden of supporting civilization continues to rest on the hardworking shoulders of the humble plowbeasts of rural farmers, and likely will for many years to come.

In many cities steam also provides supplies of running water and pressurized air – used to run a wide variety of small-scale mechanical devices, to speed message-tubes from place to place, to feed small high-temperature furnaces, and for many other purposes. Unfortunately while such a system is remarkably safe and convenient in many ways, it’s difficult to scale up and provides fairly limited amounts of power. Still, if you need more power than that, that’s what Steam Engines are for.

Electricity is known and many of it’s basic properties are understood – but it’s primarily the domain of tinkerers, inventors, and mystics who claim that it’s somehow related to Lux. While there are crude generators and electrical motors of various kinds available, at least as many experimenters rely on various types of batteries. The wildest tinkerers rely on “Lightning Bottles” – basically Leyden Jars constructed of Lux-charged alchemical materials and augmented with a few minor spells so as to be quite literally capable of storing lightning bolts – which is, of course, the only way to really get them fully charged; current generators would take weeks to produce that kind of power and are quite incapable of reaching such voltages. Occasional inventors try to combine Lightning Bottles with various forms of electrical propulsion to create personal vehicles – although such attempts to “ride the lightning” are often incredibly dangerous to operate. Most cities ban such things within their limits; when some foolish tinkerer crashes their new electric “motorcycle” with it’s dual-lightning-bottle power supply into a building at a hundred and fifty miles per hour the casualties are rarely limited to the inventor.

For references sake, a fully-charged Lightning Bottle contains about as much energy as two gallons of gasoline or roughly 100 kilograms of TNT – although it can generally be used in a considerably more efficient manner. Lightning Bottles make relatively poor warheads; while they can blow up a laboratory quite effectively, detonating one expends most of their energy as light, melting of their structure, a modest electromagnetic pulse (which will probably pass undetected), and heating of the surrounding area. As far as powering electrical equipment goes, a Lightning Bottle is about equivalent to a full tank of gas in your car.

The most practical use of electricity (unless you count the speculative “cures” offered by the purveyors of electrical shock treatments and “animal magnetism”) so far is the telegraph – which is in fairly widespread use. There is, however, little call for major generators and electrification projects; light spells are one of the simplest and easiest of all magics, and are used in almost every home and business.

Chemical explosives – most often in the form of gunpowder, dynamite, or nitroglycerin – are in widespread use. With applications in mining, construction, demolitions, road-cutting, and war (among many others), the availability of standardized, reliable, explosives have revolutionized a hundred fields, ranging from archeology to warfare. They make it possible to move vast quantities of stone, to clear away rubble, to open routes to hidden locations – and, of course, to either shoot individuals or to blow people up in large groups. In many ways, explosives are steams compliment; like steam, they place enormous concentrations of force and energy in the hands of their users, like steam they allow works to be accomplished in moments that would take months of hard labor otherwise – and, like steam, they can be exceedingly dangerous to work with.

While trains, barges, rivergoing steamships, shallow-draft coasters (designed to run up on the beach at any sign of trouble), balloons, and horse-drawn wagons provide most of the commercial transport, the Zeppelin is now the go-to vehicle for long-range exploration. Top-end Zeppelins are tremendously expensive due to the use of alchemically-crafted structural materials to cut down on weight – but zeppelins can cross the seas with reasonable safety, travel at fair speeds, don’t rely entirely on magic to stay on course, and have an excellent range. Thanks to the use of steam engines, and consequent ability to burn anything from alcohol to wood, when they’re out of fuel they can restock almost anywhere except over water, ice, or barren deserts – in which case there is always magic to fall back on. The cargo capacity may be limited, but that’s a small thing when the alternative is often being unable to reach your destination at all – or in many MANY times the time. With their development, the race to explore – and claim, and exploit – the world beyond

Armored trains, on the other hand, have proven relatively ineffectual in military affairs; it’s just too easy to tear up the tracks. This has led to attempts to provide armored trains with various forms of treads or recirculating tracks – most of which have turned out to be depressingly easy to jam/so heavy that they bog down/nigh-impossible to turn. The success of such efforts has been relatively limited so far, save for one or two unusual engagements along the border of Germany and France.

Verdan Arcanis – Historical Development

Russia-229

Yes, these ARE obsolete

Mankind’s early Eurasian history on Verdan resembles events on Earth relatively closely up until around the Age of Discovery. Yes, Verdan has some magic, and even relatively minor magic has an impact – but where fewer children died of minor illnesses, contraceptive charms meant fewer were born. Where genuinely functioning curses were hurled at rulers, capable court magicians countered them. People sometimes escaped tidal waves thanks to timely magical warnings, but sometimes perished in fires resulting from mistaken sorceries. Life was a little easier and more comfortable – but the broad course of history barely changed (even if events which were mythical on Earth were often quite literal on Verdan) despite the thousand of details which did.

Yes, that’s pretty weird, even if it is a common conceit of alternate histories and historical fantasies. While it’s true enough that a few small changes to history might have little effect on the overall outcome, you can never know when one small change might build and build, echoing down the chains of causality. With tens of thousands of such changes, some guiding force must be influencing the course of evolution and history to keep things even vaguely on track.

The players may or may not find out what that is eventually, but it is currently centered on a particular site near the Mediterranean – and is the reason why the Mediterranean Sea is relatively safe to sail upon compared to the rest of the worlds seas and oceans.

On Earth, as their resources, technologies, and organizational systems improved, the peoples of Europe began the Age of Discovery – using the seas as highways of exploration. While earlier migrations and voyages had been made, taking human colonists to distant islands such as Tahiti or making contact with far-flung lands like the expeditions of Admiral Zheng He, such things had never become routine – and so their impact at “home” was generally limited to the exchange of a few ideas here and there. Before the industrial revolution exploratory cultures generally did not have the resources or sufficient advantages to impose their will across any great oceanic distance. Even the ruthless military organization of Imperial Rome much preferred to stick with land routes when it could.

Building upon a foundation of industrial production, military might, and social organization that considerably outstripped the institutions of the rest of the world, and driven by a search for trade routes and new markets, the Age of Discovery changed that; European explorers circumnavigated the world, charted it’s major landmasses, and dominated vast areas. Colonial Empires poured wealth back into Europe, and trade burgeoned.

On Verdan venturing more than a few miles beyond the coast places a vessel in terrible peril. While inland seas are usually survivable, only madmen, visionaries, and stormlost mariners brave the open seas beyond the continental shelves. Such individuals occasionally return with tales of fantastic creatures and lands, but the vast majority simply vanish without a trace. Enormous stretches of Verdan – including much of the Americas, New Zealand, Greenland, Iceland, most oceanic islands and island chains, and possibly Australia – remain untouched and unexplored to this day. While Verdan’s “Age of Exploration” was, and is, driven by the same basic factors until very recently it was primarily land-based, and focused on the interiors and more distant reaches of Africa and Asia.

Interestingly enough, from an earthly point of view, the lands, creatures, and cultures become increasingly exotic as one moves further and further away from the Mediterranean basin.

Currently the great European powers mostly believe themselves inherently superior to the rest of the world (adhering to the General Characteristics of Victorian Settings). They include…

England: While the English Channel and much of the North Sea is relatively safe as far as the seas of Verdan go, that’s a lot less safe than it might be. With naval power more or less out of the question, England has developed a long tradition of aerial travel.

OK, admittedly that’s mostly the use of hot-air balloons and minor spells to push them the way you want to go – but English balloonists established a close relationship with the peoples of Ireland, and kept up a regular trade with France and Spain. With relatively little need for defense spending, England has built up it’s industries quite impressively.

With the recent development of powered lighter-than-air craft, and improvements in lightweight structural elements, lifting gases, and other technologies, England has become the worlds first air power – and has used that advantage, and it’s industrial might, to support and help expand troubled regimes in Africa (most notably in Egypt and southwards), China, India, and even Japan – rapidly converting Egypt and India into client-states, China into an ally, and opening limited relationships with the isolationist isles of Japan. Even now, the Queen’s aerial fleet is ranging further and further afield, and may soon circumnavigate the globe.

The Germanic Empire: Under the rule of the Kaiser, the Germanic Empire is a heavily militaristic state – ruthless and pragmatic and with formidable industries (even if they ARE a bit heavily focused on weapons). Until relatively recently it’s energies were absorbed by internal troubles, but over the last twenty years it has come to see the rapid worldwide expansion of the other major European powers as a serious military menace – and has embarked on both a campaign of sabotaging it’s rivals projects and expanding itself, both into Asia (which has brought it into conflict with Russia and it’s Bogatars) and into the middle east. The Kaiser is now hurriedly attempting to adopt – and, if possible, improve on – England’s aerial technologies.

Imperial France under the Napoleonic Line is theoretically a constitutional republic, but that is more fiction than fact since the Napoleons essentially dominate the government, regardless of legal theories. France has currently extended it’s influence over Spain (effectively a client-state) and around much of the Mediterranean, linking it’s colonies with both ocean travel via the (relatively safe) Mediterranean and via aerial transport. While it is, as yet, no match for England’s aerial fleets, it is rapidly developing the necessary techniques and retains a great deal of political influence across Europe.

Russia under the Tsar is entangled with territorial disputes and border conflicts with the Germanic Empire, but – being well behind on the industrial and organizational fronts – has definitely been coming off second-best. Still, Russia has plenty of unexplored territory to fall back on – and has a good deal of influence in the far east. Russia is attempting to import modern technologies, but – at least for the moment – is mostly relying on it’s Bogatars for defense.

The Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary is mostly focused on internal politics and on its delicate balance of power with the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire is trying to pull itself out of past centuries by it’s bootstraps – attempting to modernize it’s society, legal system, production base, military, and pretty much everything else within a few short decades. If it’s heroic effort succeeds it may once again become a major power – regaining the prominence that it held for centuries. If it fails, it may be time for the Ottoman Empire to finally fade into history.

Sweden (which currently controls Norway as well) is currently undergoing a religious revival of sorts, rumored to be fueled by some contact with the legendary realm of Hyperborea.

In any case, the recent discovery of the New World – and all it’s reported wonders – has opened an entirely new front in the European colonial competition.

Verdan Arcanis – Basic Magic

English: Helm of Awe (ægishjálmr) - magical sy...

Very symbolic, but perhaps a simpler name could still convey your meaning?

With the Star Wars game winding down thanks to some exceptionally clever maneuvering by the players, it’s time to start setting up the next one – and, thanks to a series of player votes, it’s going to be the Baba Yaga system with a quasi-victorian setting with some magic where much of the world is still unexplored. There shall be lost worlds, mysterious cities in the depths of Africa, and strange creatures in abundance.

Ergo, welcome to Verden Arcanis

Lux – the stuff of magic – is one of the major differences between Verden and Earth, so we’re going to take a look at how it works in the setting. This is rather more detail than the characters will really know – but it’s fundamental to such a lot of the other differences in the setting that not letting the players have a bit of extra information would require tremendous amounts of work elsewhere.

The energy of magic and the mind – commonly known as Lux – is born in the fires of the sun, deep within the core, where the other elements of life also come into being. Unlike the physical elements (most of which will be forever trapped within the core) subtle Lux is an energy field that associates with matter, rather than a form of matter – and can jump from particle to particle, diffusing outwards from the core to charge the corona and the solar wind. Thin as that is, the magical potential of each particle in the sun and corona has built until the immense flow of Lux from the fusion reactions of the solar core is in radiative equilibrium – washing out across the solar system, accumulating in the mass of the planets, and building terrible potentials at the heliopause or during solar flares.

Lux in high concentrations twists and warps the environment somewhat – distorting the interactions between the particles of matter that host it and which make it up that environment – but the vast majority of its potential can only be tapped by a living being with the proper mental channels to handle it (perhaps the mind or soul is an aspect of Lux). Thus, over the primordial eons, Lux built up in the whirl of dust and gas that would become the planets, and anointed the substance of forming worlds – a primal legacy of power, both awaiting and encouraging the rise of life.

Fully-sapient, self-aware life forms can form esoteric mental channels, and vary them – the fundamental basis of the study of magic. Unfortunately, this means that some effects are only available to those who subscribe to particular beliefs, are psychologically disturbed, or otherwise depart from mental stability. Bizarre cults, madmen with powerful supernatural talents, and similar aberrants provide a never-ending source of problems for the authorities – leading to numerous attempts to restrict the study of magic to the “right kind of people”.

This rarely works, but does mean that members of the “upper crust” often possess enough arcane skill to partially justify the notion that they are set apart from ordinary folk.

Unfortunately, that also means that the magic of sapient beings is weaker (if far, FAR, more versatile) than that of highly-developed nonsapients with deeply-ingrained, and highly specific, mental channels. Thus certain higher animals (often referred to as “Cryptids”, in part because of their cryptic nature and in part due to their preferences for isolated and underground areas where there is less human competition for Lux) possess powerful, individual, talents and can be extremely dangerous. Perhaps fortunately, most animals are simply stronger, healthier, and more talented at survival than creatures with no access to magic – which is to say, anything with too small a brain.

Perhaps equally unfortunately, the flow of Lux through matter is slow. Despite the steady influx of lux-charged particles from space and occasional vulcanism bringing up undepleted Lux-charged material from the planets depths, the distribution of magical power across Verden is spotty at best. Over much of the ancient continental surfaces (and for a considerable distance down), the level of available Lux is relatively low. Slightly higher potentials occur on mountaintops (where the atmosphere shields less against the particle-stream from space), near streams which are concentrating sediments from such heights, in dense materials (which naturally – and as a function of their atomic masses – concentrate what magical potential is available), and in very deep and unexplored caves.

The continental Lux-depletion does not apply to the relatively new-from-the-mantle material of the sea floors; the oceans beyond the continental shelves – and especially the oceanic ridges and subduction zones – are places of wild magic and the monstrous creatures that thrive in such an environment. The oceans are terrible barriers to the spread of land-based life, and even creatures of the air cross the seas only with great caution. Thus the continents beyond Eurasia and Africa are often the homes of exotic creatures indeed – and much of the globe has never been reached by men.

The constant influx of Lux-charged particles channeled to the poles by the magnetosphere produces similar dangers – as well as most peculiar weather – there as well. Occasional eras of terrible monsters appear in the geological record where major volcanic flows covered massive areas of land; unfortunately, the geological and paleontological sciences are not yet advanced enough for humans to know this. Unsurprisingly, volcanic islands are often terribly high magical zones – and are also usually places of legend, as human colonies and visitors have an extremely difficult time surviving there.

More localized magical resources do exist; smaller volcanoes may raise magic levels in the vicinity, meteors may contain impressive amounts of magical energy (and have often been forged into talismans – although these have a regrettable tendency to “betray their owners” when their power, at last, runs out), and certain crystals and other materials seem to retain it better – and can be used to store magical power. Such finds are extremely valuable, as most accessible deposits in Eurasia have long since been depleted.

A few – even rarer – exotic metals and materials seem to actually generate Lux; even when drained and shielded from further influx they gradually rebuild their Lux potential – but the process is generally too slow to be of much use. Some magicians have reported some success in experimenting with spells designed to accelerate the process (somehow) – but such magicians tend to die of mysterious illnesses, or occasionally in equally-mysterious fires, or from spells gone mysteriously awry. It’s not generally a popular field of research.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session XXXIX – Gates of the Third Circle

Lokis Gezücht. Loki's brood; Hel, Fenrir and J...

Are you QUITE sure you know what you're doing here?

Hala’s little reverie hadn’t taken up much time – although she would like to know what caste her bondmate was… After twenty thousand years there was no easy way to find out much about who’d had your exaltation in the first age – or who your bondmate was. Lytek was about the only reliable source, and he usually refused to discuss the matter…

Clearly the child was a skilled craftsman, so Twilight was the obvious choice, but those Wyld connections kind of implied an Eclipse who just happened to be more artificer than diplomat – and the Solar Exalted were supposed to be impossibly good at almost anything.

Charles’s mind, as it turned out, was still on sandwiches. He really was a child.

(Charles) “Well, there are much worse things that someone could be stealing than sandwiches!”

(Hala) “Thing is, I’m not sure it WAS a small god. The Essence signature was weird.”

There was only so much Essence she could use through the falcon though; she hadn’t been able to get too much.

(Charles) “Hm… Well, whatever-it-was will probably turn up again soon! Maybe it was some sort of Yu-Shan raccoon!”

Raccoons were cute! Maybe he could make some with magic powers!

(Hala) “What crazy idea just entered your head now?… Never mind, I’m not sure I want to know.”

Dinner proceeded normally, albeit with some odd looks Charles’s way. Apparently having kids at the adult table was not normal for Righteous Hala.

Well, if she needed an excuse she could always ask him to make an artifact… Charles kind of wondered exactly what and how she knew, but Lunars often knew weird stuff!

(Hala) “Hm… do you have any particularly interesting items that you haven’t absorbed.

(Charles) “Uhm… Any particular field?”

(Hala) “Well… moonsilver, sensory artifacts, stuff that helps with Manses. I do temporary ones when I’m not stuck up here.”

(Charles) “Hm… There’s a moonsilver gizmo around somewhere that I picked up in a junk shop, but what it does is so buried that I haven’t had time to decipher it… Manse boosters usually need to be attuned to particular manses… Is it in the borderlands or near chaos pockets? There are some good tricks you can play there!

(Hala) “Mostly. I’ll pay well… though from what I heard, you don’t want too much of that.”

(Charles) “Hmm… There’s the Necklace of Dreams! Or I could make you a set of graces if you don’t have any already!”

Hala passed on the Graces. She was a bit more leery of the Raksha than Charles – as most people were; he’d been more or less under diplomatic immunity, and immune to most of their powers, in any case, as long as he could remember. She was not – and for all the benefits of Graces, would rather not leave the Raksha that opening. The Necklace of Dreams was more interesting though; it lasted longer than her charm, and didn’t require that she stay in the demesne – even if it did mean giving up a lot of control.

A Necklace of Dreams is Raksha magic – each of it’s dozen or so lovely gems holds a fantasy (whether of a mighty army, an enchanted palace, a welcoming inn, or a dark and trackless forest) waiting to be released in a Wyld Zone. While such fantasies will fade away at Calibration even if they should somehow pass unchallenged until then, few tired travelers feel much of an impulse to banish a convenient inn even if they do doubt it’s reality. A normal Necklace of Dreams is just a thaumaturgical talisman – although you do need the help of a Raksha to make them.

In this case, thanks to Charles and his Mardi Gras manse’s quasi-Raksha (normal Raksha are explicitly prohibited from making manses) the gems of this necklace contain fantasies of manses with the “Immutable” power – which shields them from further shaping, including the imposition of Creation’s rules by the expenditure of a point of willpower. If you release such a fantasy on top of an existing demesne of level 2+ it will manifest a manse – which then becomes immutably “real”, at least until the next Calibration, or until the minor maintenance requirement associated with the Immutable function is not met, or until something happens to the demesne or structure, whichever comes first. Unfortunately, such a manse usually included a variety of more-or-less random features (The game master spends one-half the remaining creation points). Necklaces like this are probably Artifact * or **; even if they are strictly temporary, and limited to working in wyld zones, this can still be extremely handy.

Hmm… That was DEFINITELY an interesting notion! She’d never really considered the possibilities of combining Raksha reality-shaping with some other method of stabilizing the results… Wait; if you shaped a demesne too, you could use that to power a manse which kept it stable, which…

Charles had tried that one; it didn’t work – or at least it took more than a fantasy to create usable dragon lines. For that you had to shape the wyld instead of just throwing a fantasy over it.

All you needed to do was break the link with Calibration – which should be quite doable with either a zone of influence to keep the disruptions of Calibration from affecting the dragon lines sustaining the manse – or to build it with wyld revocation devoted to the purpose – and you could make semi-permanent stable areas, capable of existing within the Wyld for as long as their guardians and maintainers could keep them going.

Wait, that sounded a great deal like Creation itself!

Still, if Charles really could provide artifacts that could produce temporary Manses like that, HER friends at least were going to find him invaluable!

Speaking of which… she asked to see the construct he’d used to fool the Sidereals. It had to be an impressive one, their distraction by infighting, politics, and lack of sleep aside.

Well, since she seemed to know about it, Charles thought that he might as well show her! The privacy wards were quite adequate…

Aden currently included about two hundred and fifty thousand people, a hundred thousand square miles, a similar number of manse-guardians and servitors, nearly four hundred and fifty manses, and the twenty-four “third circle souls”. It was saturated in healing and thaumaturgy-supporting energies, and was spectacularly beautiful, full of “natural” wonders and marvelous creatures.

By Luna herself… It was no wonder that the child had fooled the Sidereals! The place… blazed with youth and health and good intentions… and power. She sat down – only to realize that the place was so hospitable that it had hastily created a chair, a table with drinks, and a small pavilion to accommodate her sudden desire to sit down.

Impressive and unnerving! If this was what a Solar who had been Exalted for only a few years could do, she could not imagine the unknown wonders of the First Age!

(Hala) “So how long did this take to build?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Lets see… It takes an hour or so per each block of territory, and another hour or so for each manse… and a little planning time… It’s taken most of my spare time for the last five months now! But now the manse-guardians can handle a lot of little stuff for me!.. Oh! Sometimes I got sleepy while I was working and things got a little silly! That’s why the Baalgrogs!

(Hala, with more than a bit of startlement; the child had been shaping reality while half-asleep?) “That explains THAT, then. At least they’ve found a useful niche… Any other unintended arrivals in here I need to know about?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Probably! I haven’t really gotten a good accounting… About a quarter of a million people have moved in though! That’s actually turned out to be pretty helpful! A fair number of them have been saying “thank you” a lot – they seem to think I’m a patron god or something – and that provides some ambrosia to work with for making more things!”

(Hala) “Okay, you’re going to have to explain that one… though ambrosia’s never a bad thing.”

(Charles) “Well, some of the newer manses, like the two from the other day, are still generating their creatures, and some I haven’t seen yet since I’ve been busy since I built them, so there probably are more oddities there. The people were from villages and things that were going to be blown up and such.”

(Hala) “Nice of you. That would definitely make most mortals think you were a god. I take it you’re letting them go about their business here?”

(Charles) “Pretty much! The manse-guardians are mostly handling the organization, and there’s lots of room and supplies!”

(Hala) “They look like they should be able to handle most things, then, even if there are a few troublemakers.”

(Charles) “Well, if there’s any serious problem I can always re-edit the landscape!”

Hala wondered briefly… wasn’t that kind of stunt usually restricted to elders? On the other hand, he WAS a Solar, and looking at the place…

(Hala) “That’s helpful… and looking at your Essence flows, I think you can do that or similar tricks from pretty much anywhere.”

(Charles) “Well… It is all me really! I don’t really know if anyone in the first age tried this sort of thing… or was really capable of it. They seemed to be much more externally-focused, and much older, and I’m pretty sure that Lytek and Devon were doing some extensive meddling with things when it came to me! I don’t think the first age Solars ever tried rebuilding their own souls to make them bigger and happier and more welcoming!”

(Hala) “That IS pretty niche… so, what do you know about this Devon?”

(Charles) “Uhm… He made an artifact-tome that automatically recorded his life. Usually at about a fifty pages of details per day – and then he went and lived for better than thirty thousand years! I know enough to say that I know very little of all that stuff! Because a few hundred pages of that are quite enough to drive me up a wall! And there are nearly five hundred milllion of them…”

Damn. She’d been hoping that Charles’s memories would be better than hers. Still, a detailed biography of…

(Hala) “What, you found something that important and you didn’t… oh, wait, kid. I understand, but I’d still skim it . . . or at least speed read. I think thaumaturges can do that.”

(Charles) “I was hoping maybe I could make a “summarize” spell or something sometime!”

(Hala) “Well, tell me if you do. We seem to be equally in the dark about him.”

Charles was actually somewhat afraid to pry into Devon’s seemingly-endless chapters… Just how much of his life had Devon set up in advance? A thirty-thousand-year-old Solar Exalt Arch-sorcerer… There might not be much of his life that WAS his own. If he didn’t have much of any free will, he’d at least prefer to preserve the illusion!

Also, of course, because exploring the lifetime of his Exaltations prior bearer – beyond the mystery of why he had inherited no memories of Devon at all – hadn’t been much of a priority in the limited game time available. Secondarily, because the game master has not yet revealed what kind of role Devon was taking in the campaign.

Hala was considerably more eager. All she really knew was the name, that they had a platonic relationship… and that her incarnation at the time found him simultaneously frustrating and fascinating. On the other hand… if the boy was serious about five hundred MILLION pages… How many mind-manipulating effects might be hidden in that mass? Even if it was just the skillful writing of an Exalt that old the psychological impact might be considerable… and the kid was… pretty nervous about it.

Well, frustrating as that WAS, it was also pretty understandable! She might as well change the subject!

(Hala) “So, tell me more about your other abilities. You probably do more than make things and use thaumaturgy.”

OK, Exalted-tier thaumaturgy was pretty versatile – but surely he’d studied something else? Even if he HAD obviously been pretty focused on “build”…

(Charles) “Other than thaumaturgy? I mostly do manses and artifacts and sorcery – and lots of hearthstones. Oh! And running a religion that helps the people in it, and a few other bits and pieces.

(Hala) “That’s… very useful. No wonder the Sidereals were fooled.”

What, no combat? Surely the boy had to know a LITTLE! Sure, he had plenty of passive defenses – some remarkably good ones it seemed – but Exalted combatants had their ways of getting past those! Owning a huge pile of hearthstones and artifacts was indeed very useful – but you still needed SOME combat skills!

(Hala) “Are you sure you don’t need more combat training, though? I’m happy to teach when I can spare the time.”

(Charles) “I put in a little – although more wouldn’t hurt of course. Last time was awful!”

(Hala) “I think I can handle that. I won’t go any easier on you than your teachers, though!”

(Charles) “OK! I’ve got more Crystal Arenas if you’d like some though!”

(Hala) “Huh, so that was you. I shouldn’t be too surprised, but thanks. They’ll be useful for special scenarios.”

(Charles) “OK!”

Charles was actually pretty relieved; she hadn’t asked WHAT was horrible about last time. They’d DIED. Why couldn’t it have been like the fight in the water manse?

Hala, of course, was assuming that he was talking about his dislike of his last combat course, not a fight with three Abyssal Exalts… She, of course, considered having to kill regrettable but sometimes inevitable.

(Hala) “I’m sensing all kinds of Essence around here, by the way – including Nocturnal, and that’s pretty hard to get a hold of! I assume the weird type is whatever you’re using to trick the Sidereals?”

(Charles) “I made a new kind to power better thaumaturgy and manses and things!”

(Hala, laughing) “Can you get that outside of here? I’d like to see if I could emulate that one!”

(Charles) “I can set up a link!”

(Hala) “Is that traceable back here?”

(Charles) “Only if they can pretty much tie you down and study you!”

(Hala) “I just thought I should ask. I’m eager to see what I can do with this – I assume “Adenic”? – essence-aspect. And while we’re on Manses . . . how did you get Nocturnal Essence in here? That’s pretty obscure.”

(Charles) “Uhm… I tried creating a demesne and a manse to focus it to see what it was like! I studied it for a bit, then let it revert to Sidereal – but it looks like it’s out again now! It must have been hiding! It must be able to change types back and forth when no one is watching! That’s pretty cool!”

(Hala) “My friends and I are curious about them. There’s some similarities to us… but the Sidereals have been keeping a fairly tight lid on information involving them. If you could get me in touch with the one at your factory-cathedral, I’d appreciate it.”

(Charles) “Well, that’s easy!”

Huh… WAY obliging. Jose was a much harder sell when she was talking to him. That was going to get the kid in MASSIVE trouble someday, she just knew it! You couldn’t oblige EVERYONE!

She had to admit that all the mythological and fantasy creatures running about were amusing, if a bit frivolous. Still, a hundred or so rank-five manses gave him quite a selection of Hearthstones to choose from.

(Hala) “Could I meet one of your “Third Circle” stand-ins? Or haven’t you got any yet? You’re going to need some if you want to keep up the front!”

Charles called in Mishinago the Philosophical Storm, Master of Alchemy – a pleasant young man with spectacles, and tea… (Even if he did occasionally take the form of a colossal alchemical serpent).

Mishinago the Philosophical Storm:

  • Essence 10, Willpower 10, about 220 motes (base), ~70 Divine Charms, Resources N/A.
  • May selectively provide protection from environmental effects to those within 250 feet.
  • May selectively grant temporary access to +1 Essence and +3 Charms similarly – although this does not stack directly with similar powers.
  • May provide supplies and equipment instantly as purchasable by his N/A resources for up to 2500 people at a cost of four motes.
  • May use Occult in place of all crafting skills.
  • Before Charms roll 30d for all tasks, 34d for mental tasks, 38d+up to 33 autosuccesses for Occult and 39 for Alchemy – easily enough to perform transmutation on a global scale.

(Mishinago, bowing elegantly with 22 successes on performance) “And good evening madam! I was informed that you wished to meet one or more of us?”

(Hala, returning the bow) “Good evening to you as well. I was curious about how Charles was arranging things around here. This is nothing like the world bodies I’ve seen before.”

(Mishinago) “Well, I suspect that most of those are rather badly messed up!”

(Hala) “Like you wouldn’t believe… Anyway, I get the feeling you’re skilled at helping people out.”

(Mishinago) “Well yes indeed! Vast destruction and such is within my power of course – but I much prefer to work in other fashions!”

(Hala) “Sounds about right… if you would indulge me, mighty one, could you demonstrate?”

(Mishinago) “What would you care for? Perhaps give a barren rocky planet a breathable atmosphere and fertile soil? Thats one of Charles’s pet projects!”

Even his souls were that obliging? Well, it was HIS soul hierarchy… though his dedication to adding life to Creation was admirable. And the sheer power he was willing to throw around… the elders were not nearly that cavalier.

(Hala) “Nothing that big. In a couple of days, I’m returning to the borders of the universe. There’s some communities over there I need to make a trading post for. Think you could make some supplies for that?”

(Mishinago) “Most certainly! What sort of things would you like?”

(Hala) “I can build the Manse for that on my own. How about goods? Building materials, tools, cold iron, and seeds are always handy!”

Mishinago called on another specialist for seeds – but that took mere moments.

Hala was definitely impressed. If she didn’t know better, she’d say that was a true Third Circle. Considering things, it might well be…

(Hala) “How’d you make him? I’m pretty sure the lower souls are Manse servitors and guardians, but he seems like something special.”

(Charles, wondering if he should keep that secret) “Well… There are nine fifth-rank artifacts, and ten fourth, and seven major manses, and four other guardians, and some other things helping him!”

What, he was funneling a geomantic network and enough artifacts to equip a dozen Exalts into an individual being? Still, at least the boy had SOME caution about revealing his secrets. Considering the amount of sheer raw power involved, that was a very good thing to be a bit circumspect about! It still said that his resources were quite impressive – and fully explained the shortage of sleep. No wonder he was up all the time, he had to make the stuff to keep up his cover… and help people.

(Hala) “Thanks for your time, Lord Mishinago. The people of Satries Prime are going to appreciate this stuff.”

(Mishinago) “Oh, you are quite welcome! Since Charles wishes to oblige you, so do we all! If they should need anything else, there are our various powers and a dozen factory-cathedrals scattered around to call on!”

What a dozen? Were there that many still functioning in the rest of creation put together? Maybe the boy wasn’t being entirely unreasonable in trying to fix everything he saw.

She opted to return to the dinner party. She needed time to think about all this. Her guests were probably beginning to wonder what was going on anyhow. How could the boy POSSIBLY have so much power – and still be so naive?

Could he Sidereals possibly be RIGHT? She was going to have to try to get an appointment with Lytek.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session XXXVIII – Out of the Umbra

English: Niitaka Shrine(The shrine located on ...

Bigger on the inside is it? Well, it would HAVE to be wouldn't it?

Sadly, despite Mr Montagues calling them in, the Nocturnals hadn’t been able to help out with the analysis much; there was just no way of knowing what WAS “normal” for a young primordial! Nobody even knew how they came into being outside of “they appeared in the Wyld”. Still, Jose had been quite relieved when Mr Montague called for some help with the analysis, rather than for help with surviving…

He’d have ordered an assault if he had to – or if Montague hadn’t come back out (albeit not without asking whether he’d be along in a few minutes first, and not without regrets in any case) – but he was certainly glad that he hadn’t had to try it. A new aftershock war in the middle of Yu-Shan might not have gone at all well! It had taken most of the Celestial Exalts in existence to deal with one well-prepared primordial last time, and, while Charles might be a pacifist, everything they had on him implied that he was ANYTHING but unprepared!

And most of the other Celestials were gone, many of the Sidereals were unavailable, and the boy probably had plenty of allies of his own! With the gods still subject to the primordial geas such a conflict could easily have torn Yu-Shan to shreds…

He thanked the Maidens that the child’s world-body appeared to be utterly benign, and free of Yozi taint, and that he hadn’t had to order an attack.

Now, of course, he’d have to find some way to get an analyst into “Aden” and survey the place… It was still all too possible that the “child” was up to something underhanded! And there would have to be monitoring… As if anyone had ANY time to spare for that!

Oh by the Maidens… Monitoring one Jouten just wasn’t going to be enough! Monitoring a Primordial called for monitoring dozens of souls, in a wide variety of locations! Some things could be trusted to mortal and semi-mortal followers and children – even if they WERE terribly easy to avoid – but they’d all be lucky to get any sleep at all!

Oh DAMN IT TO OBLIVION! The boy was…. a top member of the school evasion club too!

“Prepared” was NOT the word… Could a Primordial possibly have an aspect in Contingency Plans? An overview was probably going to be the best that they could do… How many third-circle souls did the boy have anyway? Presuming that he’d finished creating them? That MIGHT give them some indication of his power level if they could find out – and a potential target if they HAD to go after him.

Gaia, Autochthon, and all the Incarnae… They’d faced better than thirty of these things during the primordial war? How in creation had they won? Just how much had they lost?

Charles, meanwhile, was very pleased… His third-circle “souls” were working out quite well! Sure, they’d be foci of study once people started really investigating, but they were GREAT in their fields of thaumaturgy! And, while thaumaturgy might not be the biggest power in creation (at least not unless you boosted it beyond all reason, in which case it was like anything else boosted beyond all reason) it generally didn’t damage the universe! He had enough things to fix already!

With as much geomantic power as his “souls” could back it with, they could perform thaumaturgy on a planetary scale. That meant he could do terraforming of barren worlds! And, even at that level, thaumaturgy was unlikely to show up in the loom! That way it wouldn’t bother ANYBODY!

Adding more people was just a tiny bit more trouble – but as long as you weren’t interfering with established destinies, there were more people around all the time. They just got added in! And that meant that no one would mind it if he made more room for people…

Hm… If you named places that were reasonable matches, and then opened the portals, could you put the territorial gods back to work too? Ooh, wait! The Stargate project would be good for the Sidereals and exploring the larger universe, but all he needed for prayer and paperwork and such to flow into Yu-Shan (and put some gods back to work) would be some manses on each new planet with continuously active gates there! After all, that was how stuff got from Earth to Yu-Shan… He could even use weaker gates, since if you set them up to transmit essence patterns only you’d have to be dematerialized to use them… And he could repopulate those planets with many extinct species, so that – when he hooked them up with gates that the interstellar dragon lines could use them as shortcuts – those worlds would feed into Yu-Shan and put various gods back to work like Three Toes had been put back to work when his portfolio was restored!

Now, if he set up some colonies… How much infrastructure? An awful lot of people seemed to find the slightly-pastoral or woodlands lifestyle pretty attractive… Hm. A few service-healing-and-utility manses around should cover a lot of what was needed, and a little basic thaumaturgy training and his artifact-granting charm would cover a lot more. It would probably be best to see how well that worked out before he did too much intrusive meddling!

And if the “frontier”, “backwoods”, and “small town” lifestyles didn’t work out for people he could always intervene some more! He had a LOT of intervention available after all!

As other Sidereals found out about what was going on they would, naturally enough, develop their own ideas about that to do about it… A few, of course, would feel that they had a weapon of mass destruction wandering through the streets of Yu-Shan, but quite a few others would want to try to influence his development…

The falcon returned a couple of days later, to once again be welcome – and to find snacks and such waiting (even if it didn’t say who got all the sandwiches).

It ate – but it also had something tied around it’s neck… When it realized that Charles wanted to look, it actually held up the item. It seemed to be a small bag… full of shavings of cold iron? That was odd! Was it worried about the fey? And did it want him to have it or was it for it’s own protection?

The falcon was holding the bag open and looking at him – and didn’t seem to be bothered by him being nearby with it open either. Charles picked up a filing, held it up, and pointed to himself questioningly; he could have used telepathy, but that seemed so unsporting!

The falcon did absolutely nothing to stop him when he took a filing – and moved closer to him when he pointed to himself. It definitely seemed to want him to have or carry some iron filings… Well, he didn’t really think it was necessary, but he was willing to be obliging!

(Charles) “Uhm… for protection against the fey? I don’t really need any I think – I already have some very strong protections – but OK!”

He tucked some away. He had no great objection to carrying some iron filings; you never knew when you might need to track down an alien corpse with a massive magnetic field! And there were several other uses!

Hm… He’d bet on another messenger from the Silver Faction or a group of Lunars showing up soon!

A messenger with an aerial rickshaw driver turned up at the base of the mountain a few hours later. If this kept up he’d have to install an escalator – or possibly a ski lift. He popped down to see what was up!

(Charles) “Hello?”

(Messenger) “Ah, Charles Dexter Ward? I have a message from a Righteous Hala for you.”

Righteous Hala? Oh yes! The Lunar lady he’d told about Deva Cutter!

The messenger handed over a warded scroll – which informed Charles that Righteous Hala would like Charles to visit her at her Celestial residence sometime, when he could manage it.

Well that was easy! He was having trouble with the elsewhere fishing net anyway! He’d go and visit! He sent her a message that he would be along that evening…

It was odd though… The invitation was simple and civil – but the impression he was getting from the calligraphy was less comfortable… It seemed like the message she would RATHER be sending was something along the lines of being hit with a hammerspace mallet… That and “What in OBLIVION do you think’ you’re DOING!?! In the secret Name of Ligier which destroys cities do you have any idea of how much attention THIS “secret identity” will attract? It’s like pretending not to be a pickpocket by dressing up as Jack the Ripper!”

A civil invitation to somebody’s residence should not have those connotations!

A Hammerspace Mallet is Raksha Artifact-0 – a trivial aspect of dream, the equivalent of a minor thaumaturgic talisman. When invoked into reality it produces the impression that some offending individual has been smacked with a big hammer and briefly flattened, complete with little birds (or some similar manifestation) circling their head. This costs one mote, unless the user is genuinely upset with the “target”, in which case it’s free. If the user wishes, he or she may roll Manipulation to see just how annoying the “target” finds the impression. In any case, there’s no actual attack roll, or defense possible, because there’s no actual effect.

Righteous Hala’s residence was across the city, in the Lunargent Ecological Protectorate. It was an exquisite compound with plenty of hunting room… And he could see what appeared to be dinosaurs running around in one of the preserves. That was neat! Those were hard to find!

He was conducted to the central building – a tall wooden tower. There was a modest crowd there to see him, including several children and falcon-humanoid hybrids. But the most distinguished one was the Middle Eastern woman, well over six feet tall, and heavily muscled.

Ooh, Beastmen! Those were rare – at least around Earth and Yu-Shan – these days too! He’d have to send some presents!

(Charles) “Allo!”

(Righteous Hala) “Ah, Charles. I see you received my message… and that Azure Glider reached your Manse with no trouble. Come in, I’ve prepared refreshments.”

(Charles, over whom refreshments had power…) “OK!”

Hala… was surprised by the sheer amount of naivete, above and beyond what she wanted to discuss with him. Had the child no sense of caution at ALL?

Inside, the tower was open; living space seemed to be on balconies and various birds of prey were everywhere. There was a massive feast set up in the middle of the central chamber, featuring a staggering varieties of meats, stews, fruits, and vegetables – nearly all of it natural, rather than made from Quintessence or Ambrosia. A good deal of it was extraterrestrial.

Hala set up the children at their table, and served them appropriate meals. Charles, on the other hand, was set up at the grown-up tables, where a falconman servant placed a lavish plate of meat in front of him. It was exquisitely cooked, with a wide variety of spices…

Charles, of course (and to the despair of his servants) was much more used to hamburgers and peanut butter sandwiches, and had a rather young palate for the spices… There was only so much that events could compensate for. He wound up quietly transmuting himself a little ketchup… That got him raised eyebrows all the way around – and Hala looked a little confused.

Still, the section of the table where he and Hala are sitting was throughly privacy warded.

(Charles) “Can I help you with something?”

(Hala) “You don’t have any idea what’s going on, do you?

(Charles, somewhat puzzledly) “Uhm… Dinner party?”

Hala slapped her forehead. She had to be as tough as she was strong, judging from the force there.)

(Hala) “I meant with the Sidereals investigating you. It’s not every day they pop in on young children.”

(Charles) “They’re just all worried cause I puzzle them! I should’ve put better shields up, but I fell asleep while one was visiting! And she peeked – which was totally NOT FAIR – and they got all bothered!”

(Hala) “And why is that? You’re working more hours than there are in a day. You didn’t think one would notice eventually? They SPECIALIZE in being snoops! Though I’ve got to say, that was an inspired bit of trickery there.”

Aw! He didn’t trick people! He just let them trick themselves… Of course, that was the best way – especially against entities as arrogant as Sidereals.

(Charles) “Well, they were already worried about Lytek, and the gizmos the kids at school got, and a lot of other things…”

(Hala) “They should be. You’re going to grow into power they can’t even touch. So… what do you plan to do with it? I’ve got a good idea, but I figured I should ask you personally.”

(Charles) “Lots of things need fixing! There are all those out-of-work gods, and the dragon lines are a mess, and there are damaged manses, and… (the list went on for a bit).

Hala listened with some incredulity… Did the boy actually think he could fix the universe? There didn’t seem to be any limit on his good intentions! Even for a child answering a what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up query that was a bit over the top!

(Hala) “I see. I’d heard you already started with a couple of the gods. That stuff was going to be easier when they didn’t think you were a Primordial. But that’s what happens when you let them in your house, isn’t it?”

(Charles) “Well, I needed them to help with some parts of fixing things anyway – and them watching won’t stop the fixing anyway now. And I doubt they have any actual plans for this sort of thing, so it will take them a long time to sort it out. Sidereals are GOOD at endless debate.”

(Hala) “They’re also good at sucking other people into it. What happens when they learn the truth? Granted, the Gold will be on your side, but they’ll want to… channel your abilities to their goals. Same for the Silver, though they’ll give you a LOT more leeway.”

(Charles) “By that time… who knows? It might be true!”

Well, it might be true now! Who knew? The lady did obviously know that he was a Solar Exalt though! Well, Lunars apparently knew those things sometimes…

(Hala, shrugging) “Maybe. I just know the Bronzers will try something, crippled as they are. Good move on befriending a couple of them, by the way. That MIGHT save your butt.”

(Charles) “They needed help more!”

(Hala) “You really are naive, aren’t you?”

It didn’t seem to anger her too much, though.

(Charles) I suppose! But being nice has to start somewhere!

(Hala) “Incarnae know Heaven could use more of it. Don’t forget to watch yourself though. I’d hate to see another small god steal your sandwiches because you didn’t have wards up.”

In all her seven hundred years Hala had NEVER felt such an immediate response to someone as she had when Charles had turned up in her office to talk about a yozi-touched weapon. She’d… felt exasperated and affectionate even before he’d opened his mouth.

Over twenty thousand years, and – in most cases – a dozen or so incarnations the Lunars had almost forgotten the Lunar-Solar bond. While Devon had been active over that period, he had hidden himself so well that Hala’s Exaltation had not encountered its bondmate in thousands of years.

It had taken her quite a bit of research – asking older Lunars about it, reading through ancient archives in Yu-Shan, and pulling in a few favors to get one of the No Moons to do a couple of demon-summonings – to sort out what was likely going on.

It was still hard to believe. The Solar Exalted were returning after twenty thousand years of absence? This polite, unassuming, boy was one of them? AND her bondmate? And seemed to be… utterly naive and unaware.

And now THIS. She apparently had a natural mystic bond with a child who thought that pretending to be a PRIMORDIAL was a good way to avoid attention?! What horrible thing had she DONE to deserve that!?!? OK, so they wouldn’t suspect him of being a Solar – but “Primordial” was one of the few things that would draw even more attention than a Solar!

To be fair, it looked more like he was trying to keep the Sidereals too busy debating to interfere much – which was a SLIGHTLY better plan (evidently even HE was not THAT naive) – but why a PRIMORDIAL?! As a way of building up power and resources while avoiding direct confrontations the colossal bluff seemed to be working tolerably well – but what would happen if and when someone DID try to confront him? They’d bring an army and overwhelming force!

Variant Eclipse Shapeshifting – The War Forms

Viktor Vasnetsov. Alenushka.1881 Oil on canvas...

Not so helpless as she appears

The query here is how to build a shapeshifter who more closely resembles the version found in the Player’s Handbook II – or, for that matter, Pathfinder and several other sources.

The basic version of Eclipse shapeshifting involves a serious transformation into another form – taking on both it’s abilities and limitations. Turn into a fish, and you’ll be able to “breathe” water. Turn into one with the ability to detect electrical fields nearby and you’ll get a whole new sense. On the downside, you won’t be able to breathe air, your eyesight will be drastically restricted, and you’ll suffer from many other limitations. After all, you’re a fish.

In a way, that’s what shapeshifting is all about – and it’s why a character can usually only do it a limited number of times per day. This kind of shapeshifting is a pretty serious change, and may well be a substantial strain and take a while to get used to.

Of course, that can involve a lot of complications for the game master and a major rewrite of the character sheet for each new form. If a game – and the applications for shapeshifting – revolves more around combat than around breathing underwater, or turning into a bloodhound to sort out who was at a party by the traces of their scents, or becoming an earth elemental so that you can ignore the terrible thirst and heat of the blazing desert, or turning into an arctic mouse so that your meager handful of grain will keep you fed for a month while you await rescue, or becoming a cobra to provide a sample of its venom for your alchemist to work with, or gaining the swimming abilities of an otter, then this kind of shapeshifting may not be for you. You don’t need a lot of detailed statistics to use shapeshifting as tool – but most games do need them for combat.

This takes us to a more game and combat-oriented style of shapeshifting – one that focuses on providing a specified series of bonuses rather than on “truly” turning into another creature.

This is the route that Pathfinder, the Player’s Handbook II, and a variety of other sources take. Personally I find it a bit jarring that – in such games – you can turn into a fish and still drown, or into an earth elemental that has no stomach and still need to eat, but to a certain extent that IS just me. Why SHOULDN’T shapeshifting just be a set of modifiers? It’s not like there are any actual magical shapeshifters available to compare “real” shapeshifting techniques with.

Ergo, here’s one way to build a shapeshifter like this in Eclipse. This character:

  • Can shapeshift all he, she, or it wants to.
  • Simply gains bonuses which are added to his or her base abilities, rather than modifying them.
  • Has a limited selection of actual bonus packages to pick from, regardless of what the form they’ve chosen at the moment looks like. Thus, if they take the “big predator” package, it doesn’t matter if they look like a tiger, a wolf, a carnivorous ape, or a dinosaur; they’re all going to be using the same package of abilities.
  • Cannot cast spells, speak, activate magic items, or use gear (it all vanishes and only comes back after the shapeshifter resumes his or her normal form) while in “animal form”. Ergo, any abilities purchased this way are at least Specialized – involving as they do a transformation with all those problems built in. That will reduce the costs of the entire package.

This, of course, is specifically designed to eliminate several headaches – the character sheet rewrite problem, the problem of shapeshifters combing through sourcebooks to find creatures with unbalanced abilities to turn into, and to eliminate the “Wild Spell” loophole that let a druid take a powerful form and still be a full spellcaster – and use gear that some associate helped him or her don after shapeshifting.

Eclipse handles the last two in other ways, but the first is a problem with any true shapeshift – and thus the way to eliminate it in Eclipse is to use something other than shapeshifting to simulate what you actually want. In this case we’re mostly going to go with Innate Enchantment and some Immunity.

Innate Enchantment; Specialized for Double Effect, Corrupted for reduced cost/only available in specific combinations for various forms. In general each ability is Spell Level One (the special abilities of animals generally equate to fairly low-level magic), Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated (x2000 GP) x .7 (personal-only where applicable).

  • Barkskin/+2 Natural Armor (1400 GP).
  • Bonus Strike (The user gets one extra attack at his or her full BAB, 1400 GP).
  • Breath of Air (User need not breathe for three minutes, as a continuous enchantment he or she need not breathe at all, 1400 GP).
  • Enhance Attribute/+2 Str (1400 GP).
  • Flesh Ward (DR 5/Slashing, 1400 GP).
  • Grant Simple Physical Feat/Cleave (1400 GP).
  • Grant Simple Physical Feat/Improved Critical (Natural Weapons) (1400 GP).
  • Grant Simple Physical Feat/Improved Overrun (1400 GP).
  • Grant Simple Physical Feat/Flyby Attack (1400 GP).
  • Grant Simple Physical Feat/Mobility (1400 GP).
  • Grant Simple Physical Feat/Great Cleave (1400 GP).
  • Growth (The user goes up one size category, 1400 GP).
  • Lesser Shield (Only a +2 Shield Bonus but usable on others, 1400 GP. Technically what we want is natural armor – but since our shapeshifter is specifically prevented from using shields, this has the same effect – and will accommodate massive armor class bonuses for high levels).
  • Mage Armor (+4 Armor Bonus, 1400 GP. Technically what we want is natural armor – but since our shapeshifter is specifically prevented from wearing armor, this has the same effect but will accommodate massive armor bonuses for high level forms.
  • Magic Fang (Natural Weapons become +1, 1400 GP).
  • Natural Weapons (1d8, Crit 20/x2, may make a full attack using two limbs at full BAB, 1400 GP)
  • Quickness (+10 Movement, 1400 GP).
  • Resistance (+2 Resistance Bonus to Saves, 1400 GP).

That’s a 25,200 GP effective value – for a total cost of 17 CP after the Corruption.

Now, this is an obvious supernatural ability – but we don’t want it to be readily dispelled. Ergo, Immunity/Dispelling, Specialized and Corrupted/only to protect innate enchantments, only those used to simulate the shapeshifting ability (Common, Minor, Major, 2 CP after Corruption and Specialization).

We don’t want this to cost XP either – it is emulating a class feature after all – and so we’ll want Immunity to the XP cost of buying Innate Enchantments, only for first level effects at caster level one (Uncommon, Minor, Minor, 1 CP).

Now, we will need a few other things for some forms:

  • Celerity/New Movement Mode/20′ Flight, Corrupted/requires physical wings, room to spread them out, and so on (4 CP).
  • Immunity/Extra Damage from Critical Hits (Common, Major, Major – protecting against the first thirty points of critical hit damage, 4 CP after the overall specialization)

That neatly covers the usual list of combat enhancements at a total cost of 28 CP. Of course, the original package is designed both to replace the Druid’s shapechanging ability and animal companion and to be slightly more attractive (while still being more manageable) than those two abilities. As it happens, Druids normally spend 21 CP on Shapeshifting and 6 CP on their Animal companion – for a total of 27 CP. Not quite a perfect match, but plus or minus one point is pretty trivial.

This being Eclipse, of course, we don’t have to stop there. This is a good package for land-based combat, but what if you want to shapeshift to be stealthy? Or to function underwater? Or to track someone by scent? None of those abilities are a part of the standard package.

Fortunately, all you’ll have to do is to replace a few of those innate enchantments or spend a few more points buying a some more; for a mere 6 CP – one Feat – you can add six new “1400 GP” functions to your forms. Don’t forget that you can double their effects if necessary to match up with the kind of creature you want.

You want to be able to turn into alert critters with sharper-than-human senses? Add a few of the following innate enchantments.

  • Advanced Hearing: The user can hear extremely high and low frequency sounds, and can target unseen creatures within thirty feet without penalty with a successful listen check. (The doubled-up version eliminates the check or functions as sonar).
  • Low-Light Vision.
  • Scent.
  • Skill Mastery / +3 Competence Bonus to all Wisdom-Based Skills.
  • Tracking Mastery: Gain a +5 enhancement bonus to Survival/Tracking checks and an immediate reroll if a Survival/Tracking check fails.
  • Underwater Sight: You can see normally underwater.

You want to be smaller, sneakier, and quicker? Add…

  • Camouflage: Gain a +10 Circumstance Bonus to Hide Checks.
  • Catsfoot: You may move silently with a +5 bonus while moving at normal speed.
  • Reduce Person (1400 GP). You may become one size category smaller.
  • Skill Mastery / Gain a +3 Competence Bonus to all Dexterity-Based Skills.
  • Vital Strike: Add +2d6 Sneak Attack
  • Weapon Mastery / Gain +3 BAB with Natural Weapons.

You want to be tough as nails?

  • Endure Elements: Become immune to ordinary weather effects.
  • Glimpse of Rage: Gain a +10 Morale bonus on Intimidation checks.
  • Immortal Vigor I: Gain +(12 + 2 x Con Mod) HP.
  • Relieve Poison: Gain a +4 Enhancement Bonus on Saves versus Poison and a -2 on the damage resulting from failed saves (From the Hedge Magic spell list on this site).
  • Relieve Illness: Gain a +4 Enhancement Bonus on Saves versus Disease and a -2 on the damage resulting from failed saves (From the Hedge Magic spell list on this site).
  • Wrath: Gain a +2 Morale Bonus to Str and Con, +1 Moral Bonus on Will Saves, and a -2 to your AC while active.

If you want to communicate with animals, or lead a pack, or some such, you’ll just have to buy those abilities separately; they aren’t really a part of a physical shapechange.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXVII – Investigating Charles Mansen

English: Gateposts of Kualii, 2859 Manoa Road,...

So where's the aura of soul-killing terror?

Over the next several weeks there was much frantic Sidereal scrambling to fit surveillance on Charles in between their usual duties – and immense amounts of frustration with the results of that surveillance.

It was embarrassing enough that the blasted schoolmaster seemed to have some charms that let him know when ANYONE was up to ANYTHING in his school as a perfect effect – sure, they could have overridden him, or done lots of other things – but each and every one of them would have been hideously embarrassing! “Yes, we ARE multi-century old Exalts, masters of sorcery, and martial arts, and charms, and terrible astrological powers, and we ARE sneaking around a children’s school in secret and lurking in the bushes and spying on the students, but we’re doing it for… for… for reasons which we do not care to explain!… NO! We are NOT paying special attention to gym class! How DARE you even… OH DAMN IT TO THE YOZI’S!!!”.

Oh YES. THAT would be a WONDERFUL rumor to have circulating around the Celestial City!

Worse, the blasted man had been quite unreasonably difficult to evade and he’d gotten the staff and some concerned parents involved! And they’d had to listen to several grade-school music classes! It had been quite horrible! Anselem Voice-of-Harmony, their Chosen of Serenity, was STILL talking about children’s music classes being an overlooked plot of the Yozi’s to torment all creation and about petitioning the Maidens for a charm of selective perfect deafness to aid in the defense!

The youngsters were surprisingly competent actually – but the expectations of thousand-year-old Sidereal Exalts could be unreasonably high.

Perhaps worst of all, the infuriating child didn’t seem to DO anything of any serious interest whatsoever! Sure, he handed out rather a lot of minor artifacts (even for someone who ran a factory-cathedral and who was supposed to have found an immense treasure-horde) and he was endlessly polite and helpful and used lots of thaumaturgy – but you had to dig past several layers of thaumaturgy and minor artifacts just to see that he had more essence than he should!

He disappeared into Dudael a lot, and emerged late, and sometimes couldn’t be located inside – but the blasted place had powerful privacy wards and those mysterious archives… It had been easy enough to discover that the place was operating at or above it’s full capacity – but that didn’t really tell them anything except that the boy was really good with manses, which they’d known quite well already.

It wasn’t even easy to tell if he was in or out of fate! He seemed to act as if Creation had a revolving door that he liked to spin as quickly as possible!

But WHY would a Primordial – one of the Elder Titans – be a thaumaturgic prodigy but be doing poorly in music class? Or be slowly improving (but still pathetic) in weapons class? Or behave so MUCH like a fairly ordinary child? Shouldn’t a Titan have some motives beyond random whimsies and trying to help everyone who asked them for something? And where in Oblivion were those little essence flares off him going?

Was it some incredibly deep and complex plot – or could it really be complete artlessness? Or could it possibly be both?

Charles did indeed have a deep plot! If you brought enough niceness and honesty into reality, sooner or later they would come to dominate and everything would be much nicer!

Still, while he was a terrible liar and rather poor at opposing direct questions, he was certainly willing to misdirect by VERY selective truth-telling – which led to LOTS of investigation. They might get fed up and ask eventually, but – with any luck – by then they’d have so many incorrect assumptions buried in their thinking that they would just lead themselves further astray…

More temperate Sidereals might have wanted to gather more evidence before they swallowed it… Sadly for them, that particular Virtue restricted lying – and so most Sidereals weren’t big on Temperance. Besides – “self-doubt” often went right out the window when someone Exalted, and that was ESPECIALLY true of Sidereal Exaltations.

Even Charles had very little self-doubt; he just preferred to help more quietly – and would very much like to keep doing so without too much interference.

Back on Earth, Charles’s thaumaturgical students were beginning to find Charles’s automatic answers to proper appeals extremely handy… even more so than the Coatl companions he’d lent them. When they had a good reason – an extreme personal emergency, or something that would help other people – they could ask Charles to intervene with HIS thaumaturgical powers even when he was nowhere near them. That wasn’t quite “miracles on demand” – but when a bus went off the side of a bridge, and drifted down to land safely instead of hitting and detonating, it was quite close enough.

OK, there were only about twenty of them – almost all in Atlanta – but they were gradually spreading out. High school students did…

That soon drew some attention too – but it was just… thaumaturgy. Thaumaturgy of quite extraordinary power, true, but the Loom was capable of compensating for thaumaturgy. It wasn’t anywhere near as disruptive as charms or sorcery.

Eventually – after half a month of ineffectual surveillance – they decided to bite the bullet and send someone in to talk…

It was Mr Montague who – metaphorically at least – drew the short straw. He was the youngest, and it WAS his theory….

(Elder Sidereal) “You were right! You handle it kid!”

(Mr. Montague) “Hey! No Fair! What in creation am I supposed to say to a Primordial?!?!”

(Another Elder) “How should we know? You’re the one who had him in your kitchen being fed cookies by your wife!”

(Mr Montague) “Oh… !@#$%! That’s right!”

(Elder) “Just treat him like a normal person… who can potentially grow to gigantic size and kill us all. Have fun!”

(Third Elder) “Oh stop that you two… (to Mr Montague) We’ll be nearby to back you up if you need it – but compared to us you’re relatively non-threatening, and he HAS spoken to you before – and, for that matter, has stopped by to bring you magical presents on his own initiative. You’ve been watching him too; do you really think that you’ll be in any serious danger? We’d just like the initial approach to be by someone he’s already acquainted with – and you already have a reason to go and see him; you’ve done it before. If you need to stall the boy… well, try asking “Is there anything you’d like to tell me about manses?”; judging from his behavior so far, that should keep him occupied for hours on end.”

Drat it! That was perfectly reasonable!

Well, at least the boy seemed to be an extremely benign… whatever he was.

Mr Montague made his approach while Charles was at home at the Orrery. It was moderately remote and VERY isolated. There was no need to unnecessarily panic the boy’s schoolmates – or even to suggest to them that Charles was being investigated. Besides… hadn’t the place been sealed?

Well, that probably wouldn’t have been a problem for a thaumaturge of Charles’s skill even if he’d been entirely mortal. The place had just been a mildly embarrassing failure with a location so bad that it wasn’t worth keeping open. It wasn’t as if it was especially dangerous – and no one had bothered to try to find the long-lost hearthstone.

How had he gotten that back anyway?

Ah, obvious enough! With his talents with manses, he’d probably just disrupted the essence flows in the hearthstone chamber enough to shatter the stone – wherever it had been – repaired the disruption, and let the manse create a new one.

Mr Montague dropped by a few days later after checking out some of the better-concealed protective devices in the armory – including a rather neat and remarkably subtle protective sash that the Celestial Lions had asked be examined. It might as well get a bit of field testing!

The first bit of testing was to see what had been done to THIS manse – and that was once again impressive… The place was… performing well above it’s rating, and was now part of a manse network, and providing comfortable life support, and had several other functions, and was… cloaked so that you couldn’t tell ANY of that from more than twenty or thirty feet away! The incoming power was… going into various effects that enhanced thaumaturgy.

None of that matched up with the records of course. How in creation was the boy making that happen? This wasn’t a primordial manse! It was an old Sidereal design, and shouldn’t have much in the way of latent abilities to bring out! Much less something like this… None of that should be POSSIBLE without an upgrade of the Demesne and a complete redesign!

The network was… peculiar too. There were links to Dudael – but most of the other links went… Elsewhere. It was understandable that he’d boost his workplace. But what were those Elsewhere Manses for? And how did he build Elsewhere in the first place!? A smokescreen for the manses real locations perhaps?

Huh… he’d just have to ask.

Charles was busily trying to figure out what the readings from his prototype elsewhere-fishing net meant (he’d decided not to test it inside himself!), sending out the research assistants to check for more endangered villages and such, and fishing through a pile of books he’d checked out of one of Yu-Shan’s more cooperative libraries when the servants informed him that there was another Sidereal at the door.

Charles sent them to invite him up!

When Mr. Montague arrived the boy was messing about with a couple of dozen books floating in the air opened to various pages, a chalkboard, a computer, and a lot of weird colored lights flickering in the air in complicated patterns while eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

(Charles, poking puzzledly at a series of purple flickers) “Hello!”

(Mr. Montague) “Hello Charles! Er… I couldn’t help noticing on the way in… you’ve got this place on a network, but most of the links seem to go through elsewhere? Why is that?”

(Charles, with some surprise) “Well, Yu-Shan is a sanctum suspended in Elsewhere! So links to anywhere else have to go through Elsewhere – even to get to Earth – and pretty much all the places for manses in Yu-Shan already have occupied manses in them!”

(Mr Montague) “Yeah… that’s what I’d like to ask you about. Where are they going?”

(Charles) “Well… some to Earth, some to some chaos zones – which aren’t quite earth really – and some to other pocket realms! (Distractedly) there’s a lot of stuff no one else is using in Elsewhere… Speaking of which, what does the purple radiance here mean? I THINK it means that whatever is entangled in the Elsewhere Net is anchored somewhere outside our universe! I need to set the exclusion parameters a bit more narrowly… As an N-dimensional plenum, Elsewhere seems to be common to multiple universes, even it it’s somewhat restrained near established metric frameworks!”

Wait, what was the child meddling with now? That sounded like… He’d actually managed to construct something that probed into Elsewhere… Well, never mind!

(Mr Montague) “Neat! I’ll look at it later… See, I’m here on business. The servants told me another Sidereal visited you recently, and that you fainted in front of her. She was worried that you were sick, so she checked out your Essence flows… and the results were WEIRD. Did you know you’ve got a mixture of nearly every untainted type of Essence, and at least one unknown type, in you?”

(Charles, with some indignation) “I was just sleepy! No fair peeking! But I have lots of artifacts and hearthstones and manses and things…”

Mr. Montague was now somewhat on the lookout for that style of non-answer.

(Mr Montague) “Okay, chew on this bit. Did you also know you’re partially Elsewhere, and have your own geomancy? People, even God-Blooded, just don’t have that. And your Essence leaves your body and goes… places you’re not.’

(Charles) “Oh that… But I LIKE geomancy! Why shouldn’t I have some of my own if I want? And the Essence-packets are just going to help people! It was much easier to put a lot of that on automatic; that way it still helps whether I’m paying attention or not! Besides… Adenic Essence likes to go help people…”

(Mr. Montague) “Helping people’s fine, but you’re doing it in some bizarre… wait, that was YOU?”

(Charles) “What was?”

(Mr. Montague) “From what you said, you needed to put helping people on automatic, and it works whether you were paying attention or not. That suggests you’ve become a god… one who’s free of that restriction on their actions. THEN you mention Adenic Essence, which suggests that you know what that unusual Essence in you is. I never heard of Adenic Essence before. And what else would you need to automate helping people like that for but rescuing entire villages of them at once? It’s probably a stretch, but you KNOW your Essence is weird, and it matches up with your behavior.”

(Charles) “But they would have died! And it wasn’t supposed to make any serious disturbances…”

(Mr. Montague) “Wasn’t anything serious at all. A lot of the Violet Bier’s people just figured things went normally… but one of the elders spotted the subtle differences. It was much the same result, though, so almost nobody was worried. What happened to them, anyway?”

He was rather glad that no one had to die this time… Destiny planning was destiny planning, and hard decisions had to be made, but at least those people likely didn’t have to suffer the consequences.

(Charles) “I set them up in a pocket-realm; there’s plenty of room and stuff there!”

(Mr. Montague) “Huh.”

That kind of made it hard to stay calm… Tens of thousands of rescues, pulling people entirely out of creation wholesale… That would require some serious power! He’d almost think the kid was a powerful Exalt, but the mix of Essence his senior colleague found went against that theory…

(Mr. Montague) “You’ll have to show me and some of the other Sidereals that place sometime! But… yeah, your Essence is weird. You know you’re not a mortal or God-Blooded I’d say.”

(Charles) “Well… I was kind of supposed to be keeping some things a secret… (Still, he did kind of want an opinion; was he genuinely becoming a Primordial?). I suppose (obviously torn) that it might not hurt to look…”

Mr Montague was momentarily boggled… Could the boy actually be UNSURE? Still… He knew what he’d come to get.

(Mr. Montague) “Kid… Look… we’re concerned. We’d like to know just what you are.”

Charles really wasn’t entirely sure. He HAD gotten a solar exaltation, but Lytek had been meddling with it for some reason, and he certainly wasn’t doing what Solars usually did, and he wasn’t particularly sure of his parentage, and he really thought that he might have wandered a bit outside the usual categories what with building his own world-body.

(Charles) “Uhrm… Don’t know! Does it matter?… I could ask the Raksha! They might remember more that far back – but they lie a lot…”

(Mr. Montague) “No! You stay away from-” (he was much more virulent than Rosa on that matter.) “Sorry. Yeah, it does matter. I’ll come clean with you… from what I’ve told you about your Essence, what do you sound like? You’re good with this magic stuff, so I think you’d have some idea.”

(Charles, doubtfully) “Primordial would kind of fit, but they – pretty much by definition – are really ancient, so that doesn’t work!”

(Mr. Montague) “Yeah. That does damage that theory.” (He seemed somewhat disappointed.) “Well, how did you learn to channel Essence? Most kids who aren’t God-Blooded can’t do that. It’s supposed to take years of meditation. Or were you born with it?”

(Charles) “Earliest I remember is six or so!”

(Mr. Montague) “Could you channel Essence then?”

(Charles) “Yes…. Or at least I could see the spirits and attune manses and things.”

(Mr. Montague) “Huh… I’ll have to ask your grandfather about that, if I can even get a meeting.”

It… sounded like the boy might have been born with the ability. Huh. That STILL wouldn’t explain why a Primordial would take the form of a small child and do these things. They’d normally go for more impressive forms, or at least remember that they were Primordials. Could the boy actually be a young Primordial? WERE there young Primordials? He’d to have to meet with Richof if he wanted to untangle the kid’s early life!

(Charles) “Anyway… I only made the Adenic Essence type recently; it works much better for some kinds of things!”

(Mr. Montague) “Wait, you MADE a new Essence type? You don’t know what you are, and you can do that…”

(Charles) “Why not? There’s a point at which it sort of comes naturally.”

(Mr. Montague) “Oh, no problem, whatever you are.”

He’d sort of been expecting to have to ask for some analytical backup, although he’d rather hoped to avoid it – but he hadn’t expected to feel sorry for the kid. The boys foggy memories – a very human feature – were making it that much harder on them both and the boy really seemed to not know who or what he was. That was existential uncertainty on a level that even Exalts generally didn’t have to deal with.

(Mr. Montague) “Can you tell me about it? First, though, I need to send a message.”

This was probably it… Charles quietly got his multiple-image charm set up – seeming to shimmer for a moment. If the Sidereals were going to do something completely irrational, he might need to have it ready – and there was more than enough power floating around him and the manse to cover up that modest essence-pulse.

(Charles) “Well… when you’re running internal geomancy, eventually your own personal energy-flows get strong enough to resolve into a new essence type specific to you! It isn’t very complicated! You just have to guide things a bit!”

Mr Montague sent his message by writing it, then burning it.

(Mr. Montague) “I see. So, you said it’s for helping people. What else does it do?”

(Charles) “Oh, it makes better manses and it helps with thaumaturgy mostly! It might do other things later, but I haven’t had long to experiment with it!”

(Mr. Montague) “Hey, a lot of people would like that.”

He did seem interested, if only to bide the time while his request got answered.

(Mr. Montague) “Is Adenic just a cool name you made up for it, or is it related to the source?”

(Charles) “Well… from Aden.”

(Mr. Montague) “What’s Aden?”

(Charles, with some enthusiasm) “It’s where I sent everybody! Internal geomancy calls for a lot of extra room!”

It was sounding more and more like the child really WAS a Primordial… but Montague wanted to be absolutely sure before he made his final decision. The elders would make his VERY long life hell if he jumped to conclusions!

(Mr. Montague) “What’s the geomancy in?”

(Charles) “Oh well, let me see… Ah! Over this way!”

He took Mr. Montague down the stairs, and into a broom closet, then into a cave, then out on to a mountainside near a small waterfall. They were on one of Aden’s higher mountains, overlooking a spectacularly beautiful section of wilderness, with brightly-glowing luminescent birds – with colors that pulsed in time with their coordinated songs – illuminating it’s ravines and grottos. There was a small branch of the sea of chaos lapping against a section of rugged cliffs, and a small town made mostly of crystal and trees.

The locals were Noldor and Hobbits, although there were some human guests – and the entire area was saturated with life-sustaining and healing energies as well as… magic that would cheerily provide many services.

(Charles) “Here we are!”

(Mr. Montague) “Just an hour or two in here… I’ve got results coming.”

Mr. Montague found that very relaxing! And he could use it right now… There were mountain ranges. And enough negative curvature to let him see that this “pocket world” was no simple divine sanctum dug into Elsewhere… There were tens of thousands of square miles here, at the very least.

A genuine world-body. And an incredibly beautiful and welcoming one. That… didn’t leave HIM with a lot of doubts.

(Mr. Montague) “Uh… I was expecting something smaller. Wow.”

(Charles) “Well, geomancy takes a lot of room!”

(Mr. Montague) “Yeah… so everybody who disappeared is in here?”

(Charles) “Well… some people may have disappeared on their own.”

(Mr. Montague) “What do you mean?”

(Charles) “Well, people do! They find old hideaways, or wyld pockets, or artifacts and such and disappear on their own sometimes. I’m quite sure that EVERYONE who has disappeared isn’t in here! There’s only… 252,814 in here now!”

Huh! The rescue crews had been busy over the past three months! He hadn’t been supervising much past the initial trial-and-error stages, and it looked like… they’d been using wyld gates to do the rescuing! That was a GREAT way to do it! There had even been a few births – and they’d made sure that all of those had been at manses that were linked to fate enough to ensure proper ensoulment…

That meant that he could focus on the Stargate project!

Of course, that left a lot of small wars going on with almost no civilian casualties at all – which was not making the Crimson Panoply of Victory happy, but then it covered STARTING fated conflicts, not the casualties. It was weird, but it was also a bit out of its jurisdiction.

(Charles) “Everybody is much happier here!”

It was about then that someone – a Tolkien-styled “Elf” – on a rather beautiful (but quite normal) horse came to greet them… An essence-seven spirit being according to his artifact-enhanced senses. That would make it… high second circle if it WAS a Deva or Demon!

(Elf) “Hello Charles! I see you’ve brought another guest!”

(Mr. Montague) “Hi. I’m not sticking around too long. Just surveying the place… How long have you known the kid?”

(Elf) “Hm… Hard to answer! It’s not like we’re entirely separate! It’s about six months since he decided to aspect this region!”

(Mr Montague) “Huh. And before then?”

(Elf) “Before then… I was more of an unconscious potential I’d say! Then he aspected the area, and created manses to focus his personal geomancy, and then that resulted in actualizing us!”

Huh… That wasn’t exactly how he’d understood Primordial Souls to work – but Charles did love manses, and there was hardly anything more fundamental to a Primordial than doing things in their own bizarre fashions.

It was too bad he hadn’t learned a few Occult excellencies! He’d focused on crafting… Still, it wasn’t like anyone really KNEW all that much about the detailed internal structure of the Yozis, much less Primordials. A child-primordial who was still creating his internal hierarchy?

Mr Montague actually managed seven successes without an excellency – and there was some knowledge about Primordial soul-structures out there. The elf certainly did seem like a second circle deva… And given what evidence he had, there wasn’t anything that seemed to fit Charles better than a newborn Primordial still forming.

He didn’t seem to be inside of fate either, which cut off his usual communications though – and also fit. Primordials were always Outside of Fate – even if there were some curious traces…

That was a curious point… Charles was currently Outside of Fate; he possessed a Hearthstone that let him take on that quality – and had been spending a lot of time in Hoenheim and in the deep wyld questing for the artifacts he was using to make his third-circle “souls”. Since Charles was Outside of Fate, so – for the moment – was Aden, and time spent there reinforced that position. If and when Charles was bound by fate once more, Aden would be too – and time spent there would no longer help keep him out of fate.

(Mr. Montague, to the Elf) “Would you mind if I scanned your Essence structure? It’s for the survey.”

(Elf) “Not at all!”

The entity certainly LOOKED like a second-circle entity – and an Elf, not a Raksha.

(Mr Montague) “So… Charles is a friendly little kid who likes to build things and help people. A lot. Is that a good basic description of him?”

(Elf) “I’d say so.”

(Mr Montague, sighing) “And he has built a private universe full of pop-culture entities with vast power.” (Which, at the least, implied an awareness of Creation better than the standard Primordial’s – but then Charles went to Creation a lot. Even if he hadn’t, Creation’s media was a popular import.) “Do you think he’ll keep that up as he matures?”

(Elf) “Well, I believe he watches a LOT of movies… He has, after all, made a rather extensive media library available throughout Aden! He does tend to run himself ragged trying to fix everything in sight – and I suspect that it will take a very long time for Charles to truly mature.”

Oh dear. A primordial world-body with cable TV.

Mr Montague spoke to a few other inhabitants as well…

The human didn’t really understand much of what was going on – but was certainly most appreciative that the spirit of this world had let them take refuge in it.

The Hobbit wasn’t too worried about much beyond brewing, baking, and otherwise running his inn. Pretty archetypal behavior; definitely First Circle. The Elf’s observations on Charles running himself ragged agrees with those findings – and Mr. Montague could readily sympathize with that problem.

Charles himself was happy to talk about his movie collection, and books, and RPG’s…

Just as a note, the World of Darkness has been published in the setting, as well as the very earliest version of Exalted – the one in which the Solars were NPC monsters and the Terrestrials were the base player characters… A bronze Faction Chosen of Journeys had put it out… It hadn’t been anything personal against solars though; he’d thought that they’d disappeared for good – and it was at least as sensible as MOST sidereal plans!

At least one game master had Exalted as a Twilight yelling “THIS IS A LIE!!!” (“Chill dude… it’s just a game”). Attempting to edit and rewrite an EARLY White Wolf game system was, after all, certainly a heroic task of legendary proportions!

When they re-emerged from the broom closet there were several Sidereals and gods around the place… Omniscor, God of Surveillance Cameras, had managed to locate the door in the closet – although, while he wasn’t about to admit it, neither he nor the Sidereals had been able to open it… He looked like a cross between a surveillance camera and a statue.

(Omniscor) “Ah ha! I found your hidden portal!”

He wasn’t about to admit he couldn’t think of a way to open it; breaking and entering was not his domain.

(Charles) “That’s good! I fairly often lose them cause they move around a lot! Could I put you on retainer?”

It looked like he’d blinked his single lens-eye there.

(Omniscor) “One moment, child. I see Montague is safe. What was in there?”

Montague told him. The lens-eye blinked again.

(Charles) “It was in the back of the wardrobe once, but that was just silly!”

(Omniscor) “And not a trace of Yozi Essence?”

(Mr Montague) “No, not in the slightest. I wouldn’t suspect Charles of being linked to THOSE anyway. He found THAT weapon and gave it to us!”

(Omniscar) “You never do know.”

(Charles) “Hey! Who ate all the sandwiches? We weren’t gone THAT long!”

(Jose, Chosen of Journeys) “What sandwiches? The table was empty when Sailor and I got here.”

Maybe it had been the hawk? It was nowhere to be found at the moment… Still, flying off to perch nearby was a perfectly sensible thing to do in the face of a sidereal invasion. He’d try to find it later if it didn’t turn up again in a day or so!

He used his Dancing Dragon ring to make another pile of sandwiches!

(Charles) “Oh, did you guys need anything?”

(Jose) “Nothing right now, son. I can tell Sasa’s learned some interesting stuff. You ready to report back to the Bureau?”

(Montague) “Yeah, Mr. Cisneros. I don’t think it will answer everything, but it might help… But Charles, would you like to meet with me sometime in the next month or two? The message I got while you were looking for your bird said you needed to be physically present.”

(Charles) “Uhm… Physically present where?”

(Montague) “It depends on how my negotiations go. Definitely up here though. I’ll send a message when I know.”

(Charles) “OK!”

(Montague) “Thanks for your time, Charles.”

(Jose) “Yeah, you have no idea how important this is. I wish I could tell you.”

They departed aboard the alternate form of Jose’s familiar – a small but sleek spacecraft quiet enough to operate in the Celestial City without legal trouble.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXVI – Titanic Misperceptions

English: Garden Nasturtium, Indian Cress or Mo...

Flowers in Darkness

A couple of weeks after Mr. Clearwater and Cipher Child had visited Charles – and about the same amount of time before the Bureau of Heaven would be announcing the results (someone HAD to be expediting that) there was a knocking at Charles’s door…

(Charles) “Hello! Could you let yourself in and come upstairs? I can’t set this down at the moment!”

When Ms. Cress came in she found Charles involved with a complicated netlike piece full of crystals and wires made of magical materials, with a hearthstone socked in the center – into which Charles was carefully inserting a hearthstone while tweaking the connections to it.

(Ms. Cress) “Good evening, Charles. That looks… complicated. I’m afraid artifice isn’t my strong suit. What does that do?”

(Charles, cheerfully) “It’s sort of a fishing net! There’s all kinds of interesting stuff lost in Elsewhere – mostly from the Balorean Crusade I expect – and I wondered whether I could fish any of it out! There should be all KINDS of historical stuff in there! I’ll have to anchor it to a manse to get it enough power, the Hearthstone is just for the recall link… Oh! I’ve locked out living things for the moment, so as not to get the Eyeless Face or anything like that – although IT’S almost certainly too big for the net anyway!”

Ms. Cress regarded him with some bemusement and surprise there; it took a moment for her to remember THAT. The Eyeless Face was… well, it’s servant limbs were certainly known to the more skilled sorcerers and older Exalts, but the Face itself was considerably more obscure without Solars to invoke the portal.

(Ms. Cress) “That’s rather ambitious. Many Exalted artificers have tried to reach Elsewhere, and none have succeeded… I wouldn’t worry about the Eyeless Face too much; even if you manage to reach Elsewhere – and I don’t think I would put it past you! – it is far better bound than its limbs. Anyhow, I visited Maella. She had some presents for you.”

(Charles) “Ooh, Presents!”

It was a collection of manga. Not all of it to Charles’ tastes, but a good selection of genres.

(Charles) “Neat!”

He rummaged around for an amulet of knowing Japanese and looked really puzzledly at a card that fell out advertising quite… ANOTHER type of Manga.

(Charles) “Thank you! And Ms Maella!”

(Ms. Cress) “Oh, goodness…” The card disappeared quite quickly. “I’ve already spent half my sabbatical with her, and I should be sleeping, but there’s so much more to do. Do you have any celestial coffee? I’ll take the standard kind if you have it.”

A one-day sabbatical? That was no good!

(Charles) “I think there’s a little… I don’t drink it, but I get visitors who do! And… (he rummaged around and pulled out a little pyramid of multi-colored swirling spheres, with nothing apparently holding them together, and set them spinning) there! Now there’s more time to talk and I THINK you can nap and dream; it only rests your mind, not your real body, but you’re an Exalt, so that should help anyway!”

Ms Cress examined the artifact, and smiled – albeit with some startlement. A… Conversation Piece. Those were quite hard to get a hold of since you needed a cooperative Raksha to make them!

A Conversation Piece is a Raksha device of about rating **. It rather resembles a Crystal Arena in some ways, but it invokes a limited aspect of Shinamaic narrative time – a sort of shared dream, so you could do more talking and such in a very limited amount of time. It made for an odd sort of doubled consciousness, with the real world going on in very slow time by comparison. Social and mental charms and effects worked nicely in the rapid-narrative time, but physical was in real time. Basically it came down to “We can take some time out to talk without it really counting for much”.

(Ms. Cress) “That’s a rarity, I believe. One I’ve been meaning to acquire for some time. Where did you get it? I can think of at least five colleagues who could use them.”

(Charles) “Uhm… I know some Raksha who also like to make stuff, and we all always need ingredients! They rather like using Degaussed iron in some things; it anchors dreamstuff once you’ve got rid of the magnetic field that normally absorbs it. Very handy for some of their gizmo-making! They’d probably be willing to make a few more! Those aren’t too complicated I think.”

(Ms Cress) “That’s dangerous… do your guardians know of this? I would hate to see you a husk of a child.”

She seemed quite genuinely concerned, but then the Chosen of Serenity and Raksha often didn’t get along. They did use captured artifacts though.

(Charles, doubtfully) “Gramps never minded me playing with them… And I do have some good protections!”

(Ms. Cress) “Hmph. I hope they are VERY good protections. Mere cold iron isn’t enough. And you are having someone check them for oneiromancy, right?”

(Charles) “Oh yes!”

Oh, wait; she didn’t mean that they wanted to trade… But that stuff was still shaping really.

Wait… “playing with them”?! And his guardian didn’t mind and he’d survived? And… He didn’t seem to think of it as at all risky… In any other child she might have ascribed that to youthful stupidity, but from all she’d seen the child was… sensibly cautious, highly intelligent, and very well prepared indeed!

(Ms. Cress) “Charles… what protections ARE you using? Playing with Raksha is risky business indeed.”

(Charles) “Well… A manse actually. It provides protection from shaping, and raksha magic, and healing from most nasty effects just in case.”

(Ms. Cress, arching an eyebrow.) “Ah! No wonder you were treating it like a mundane playdate. That must be a wondrous Manse. Is it one of your grandfather’s?”

(Charles) “ It was! He let me have it quite awhile ago… I think it made him a lot less worried about me!”

(Ms. Cress) “I did some research on you after our first meeting. That’s how I learned who your guardian was. No wonder you were so fearless. I would still be quite careful around the Raksha! You never know what tricks they have up their sleeves, and considering what happened in the Amazon, who knows these days?”

(Charles) “That is a worry! And whatever Damion’s become, I think he still has that Hearthstone that teleports him to his manse here! I hope it’s well-guarded!”

(Ms. Cress, looking sad.) “I hope so as well. I’m too far from Seven Whispering Winds to send the Lions assistance, but they have millennia of experience in these matters. And thank you for the artifact, and the coffee. I’m afraid my manners suffer when I’m busy.”

(Charles) “You’re welcome!”

She had to wonder… what in creation had the gold stars been THINKING to give a Sidereal that young a stone that powerful?

(Ms. Cress) “But I must admit, I am curious about something else.”

Oops! Hadn’t entirely diverted her after all! Well, she had a reputation for being one of the more no-nonsense Sidereals in the Cerulean Lute of Harmony, though meeting Maella seemed to be eroding that a bit.

(Ms. Cress) “I’ve heard some odd rumors – namely that you were assisting an unemployed god in finding work. That’s rather commendable. Can you talk about that?”

(Charles) “I think so! Why not? I think that human activities have gotten a LOT more complicated, and that now a lot of jobs that used to be one-god things now call for two or three or a full staff – and that would get a LOT of unemployed gods back to work, and that would be a good thing! So I tried to get it started by helping out Gri Fel and Terapishim!”

(Ms. Cress, her eyes widening a bit) “Gri Fel… I remember an incident where a couple of the younger Sidereals turned him away from their territory. They didn’t know their pre-Reshaping history. Sri and Gus made sure that will never happen again. But that is beside the point. From what I’ve been hearing, his and Terapishim’s performance was strong. They said it was because of a simulated Manse grown from a seed. Do you know anything about that?”

Hm. Sri? Ah! The Bronze Faction’s other “official” Chosen of Secrets, concentrating on the martial arts.

(Charles) “Oh, I went in the simulation with them and used a Manse Seed. Those are really handy! I surveyed Arcosanti before suggesting that they apply for the position of course; no point in working unprepared!”

That was an awful lot of planning for a boy his age! And an incredibly valuable item to donate to a charitable effort! Why would he go to that much trouble and expense? For that matter… he’d just given her a minor, but quite useful, artifact… His resources had to be incredible, what with the factory cathedral’s treasure horde, and look at how generous he was being! Still, she had a very important question to ask – and was building towards it.

(Ms. Cress) “Handy doesn’t describe it. Those would be useful for many, many groups! That leads to another rumor I’d heard… apparently you can design Manses of the level seen in the simulation. I know it sounds strange, but I’m fairly certain I heard that correctly.”

(Charles) “I like manses! They can do all kinds of things if you make them properly!”

(Ms. Cress, looking straight at him gravely) “Oh yes. But can YOU make them that way?”

(Charles) “Only with help!”

Well, he did have to use artifacts and other manses!

(Charles) “But I have lots of that!”

Well, the child didn’t seem to be even trying to mislead her… Help or not though, that was still pretty impressive for a child! Having all the required skills at his age was no small feat! Even for a godblooded!

(Ms. Cress) “I’m curious as to who. Raksha don’t raise too much scrutiny as long as people are careful and don’t do… what Demien did.” (She sighed) “Is there anyone else you need to tell me about? You’ve been very helpful to me, and I suspect to someone else – or many someone else’s. I would hate to see you in trouble for childish impulsiveness. Heaven is not forgiving of that.”

She really did seem kind of worried.

(Charles) “Uhm… I was looking into using an adaption of the Manse Gateway effect for speeding up interstellar travel, but I need to compare it with some of the Sidereal travel charms; Could I maybe get a few hours with someone who knows them one of these days? Maybe in exchange for one of the Conversation Pieces? And.. Er… What ANYTHING else I need to tell you about? That could be a lot of things!”

That effect? He was meddling with VARIATIONS on manse effects at that power level?

(Ms. Cress) “Well, do you have any helpers that would bother the Bureaucracy? There are many entities hostile to us. While the Raksha are far away – and the ones in Wyld pockets are usually content not to interfere – there are closer threats.”

(Charles) “Hm. Manse guardians mostly… Some thaumaturges. Some Raksha… Some Gods… Some I’m not sure what are (that was Korbase mostly), Some Dragon Kings… Some Nocturnals help sometimes… Some Terrestrials and Masons… I haven’t been able to get a hold of the Jadeborn at the moment… And some scientists and medical people…”

Well, most of that was innocuous enough. Anyone employed in the Celestial Bureaucracy could get the help of Creation based thaumaturges, including Masons, easily enough. Terrestrials were trickier, but not by much. Gods were east as long as they were subordinates. Nocturnals… well, he had Catherine as a subordinate. She and Maella were old friends. Dragon Kings implied interstellar travel at the very least. But Jadeborn?

(Ms. Cress) “Charles… Jadeborn haven’t been seen in Creation since Autochthon left.”

(Charles) “Oh, they used to live under the Imperial Mountain; some of the cities are still there very deep down, but I think they’re warding things to look empty! Even if they WERE empty for awhile, I think deepspawn would move in – so they probably aren’t really empty. But if they’re not letting me look, they probably don’t want to be bothered. I was looking for another group, but they are kind of shy!”

He could look that far? That wasn’t out of the question for a thaumaturge, and certainly not for one of his apparent skill… but she was reserving judgement on the Autochthon theory, mostly because she didn’t want that apprentice Montague to be right!

(Ms. Cress) “Do you seriously think you can find them? They would be quite helpful.”

(Charles) “I can keep trying! I thought about trying to ask the Elders, but they can be pretty weird about things, and it’s usually best to just see what they do on their own first!”

Elders? Presumably the Sidereal Elders of course…

(Ms. Cress) “Living for over a thousand years will do that, I’m afraid. I am glad none of your other current helpers would raise alarms… though I am concerned that you say you don’t know what some of them are. Could you tell me about those?”

Wait. That startled look… He HADN’T been thinking about the Sidereal Elders at all – and, come to think of it, they probably wouldn’t fit in with “see what they do on their own first” anyway.

Charles was currently describing Korbase and a few other odd spirits.

(Ms. Cress) “Your nagaesque friend sounds like… I will admit that I don’t know what that is. But the odd spirits sound like obscure gods. Nothing harmful to Heaven, though I would like to investigate further… Now what did you mean by ‘Elders’?”

(Charles, blinking) “Hrm? Gaia and Autochthon mostly. They’re the only ones still hanging around really. But they mostly do their own thing!”

By the Incarnae… he really HAD meant the Primordials! Surely he couldn’t actually expect…

(Ms. Cress) “Of course. Have you ever spoken with them? I haven’t heard of anything less important than an outright Exalt talking with them… certainly not a mortal child.”

(Charles) “I don’t really know… Sometimes there are responses to things, but that could be subaspects, and I don’t want to just go and pester them directly.”

(Ms. Cress) “That’s prudent of you. (She rubbed her head; was it really within the Child’s abilities TO “go and pester them directly”?) Well, thank you for answering my questions. I’ve just been hearing the oddest things about you, and I wanted to ask the person who knew best.”

Everyone in the Celestial City had SOME secrets – but there hadn’t been much of any sign of stretching things there. There had been a few small cover-ups and hesitations of course. Mostly… Oh dear. Mostly with respect to the “I don’t really know” part about Gaia and Autochthon! She’d have dismissed that as being out of the question a few hours ago – but now…

Could Montague actually be RIGHT?

(Ms. Cress) “And thank you for the artifact. That definitely saved me some time. I might even be able to eat with Alvan and the children if I can get home fast enough.”

Aw! It sounded like that didn’t happen often at all! Par for the course for Sidereal families!

Charles WAS very tired…

(Charles) “Would you like a quick lift?”

(Falcon, bringing him a toothbrush) “Err… Charles, are you certain? You look like you need to go to bed.”

(Charles) “Hrm? Oh? Er, yeah… That might be a good idea! It is kind of late isn’t it?”

(Ms Cress) “It’s… I believe, 4 AM Eastern Fulgent Time. Do you stay up this late regularly?”

(Servant) “Much more than he should Mam! He’s been working much too hard for a boy his age these last few months!”

(Ms. Cress, eyes narrowing “How hard?

Changis debated for a moment – but speed doubling did count as far as he was concerned!

(Changis) “Er…. I think he’s been averaging about thirty-four hours a day. He keeps cheating on the time.”

(Charles, yawning) “Is not cheating! It’s just stretching it a little…”

(Ms. Cress, sternly) “You need to go to bed, Charles. A child SHOULD NOT be on a Sidereal schedule! Here… where does he usually sleep?”

(Changis) “Well… usually wherever he nods off. We make sure there are beds in each of his establishments. Right back here in this one…”

(Ms. Cress) “Thank you. I don’t want to overstep my boundaries more than I have… could you put him to bed? He’s a thaumaturge, I’m sure it won’t hurt him to not brush his teeth tonight.”

(Changis) “We usually do wind up putting him to bed!”

Hm… The servant was obviously a manse-guardian. Quite an impressive creature to have as a baby-sitter of sorts! Either his grandfather spoiled him or he had very deep secrets indeed.

Part of the reason she’d come was to check on what he was. If they WERE dealing with something out of the normal ken of Yu Shan (such as THAT was), she wanted to know… At a glance he’d looked like just a god-blooded – but the manse was humming with extra power, which made it hard to tell anything more, even with all the magical-sense equipment she’d checked out of he armories for this little mission!

Which was incredible in itself. Where did all that extra power come from?

Still, the child had nodded off (the player had decided to start the avalanche; being totally undercover had started to get old) – and that let her get close enough to cut through the essence-fog.

He still LOOKED god-blooded, but…

(Ms. Cress, in a shocked whisper) “Five Maidens! How on the Omphalos did he get so much Essence?!?! And what in all the Wyld are all those internal nexi?”

Artifacts perhaps? She focused the lens in further…

Essence seven at least, and perhaps more; there were some VERY odd things going on there… He seemed to be… only partially present? She was better than two hundred years old – an Exalt of the Revolutionary Generation – and she’d NEVER seen anything like it!

(Ms Cress, quietly, as the boy was sleeping soundly) “By the thousand unspeakable names…”

Even asleep there were constant essence-flares darting off to go and do things in various other locations. He was… somewhat shapeshifted? Thaumaturgy again of course… to… look OLDER than he naturally would? He only looked eleven or so when he was supposed to be thirteen! And that was ALREADY artificially aged?

The manse-guardian was trying to distract her – but they were hardly subtle. Besides… her senses were running in conversation-time, while the putting-to-bed was in physical time. For the moment she held the advantage.

And the servants were… preparing to tuck him in with a fuzzy teddy bear.

And that was… could that possibly be… Internal Geomancy? An insane mixture of all kinds of essence, with an… unknown… primordial?… essence signature woven through it all.

By the souls of Gaia… Was young Montague RIGHT?!?!

She was no green Sidereal, even if she was nowhere near the top. Should she discreetly tell Montague? High Lord Kristoff insisted that the Bronze Sidereals minimize nonmission contact with members of other factions to prevent leaks, but these are major findings – and could have a major impact on all creation! Did she have any RIGHT to hide something like that for mere faction-political ends? Most of the other Sidereals thought that Montague was crazy to suggest that a Primordial could have such an unimpressive jouten. Hrm. This was HARD. At least he didn’t seem to be a hostile Primordial.

She almost laughed despite it all as the image of Charles, the hostile primordial of cranky teddy bears who weren’t getting enough sleep flashed through her mind… Still, the bear was only a toy, and not even an animated one or minor artifact – even if it WAS ambrosial. She’d seen those before… She’d clawed her way up to Salary 4. It hadn’t been easy, especially for a professed member of the Bronze Faction, but it was oh so worth it.

(Ms Cress) “Well… I understand why you were protecting him now. I’m not sure what to do.”

Changis sighed. It was out of the bag now! Hopefully Charles was ready for it! At least the what-am-I game had brought him six months or so to prepare!

Drat it… She wasn’t going to get to eat with the children. Still… she’d have to call in an occult specialist for further analysis; it might as well be Alvan!

It was a bit of guesswork – but somehow she suspected that even if Charles woke up he wouldn’t make a fuss.

Besides… the boy seemed to be completely exhausted.

Alvan found… that any kind of detailed analysis was far beyond him. It was like trying to analyze the earth from the view through a peephole located over a single town. Still, he COULD tell that the boy had a tremendous number of internal manses and power nexi, including many artifacts and dozens of hearthstones.

He could also – after extensive study – determine that the major functions of the boys internal geomancy was… to heal all possible injuries, cure diseases, eliminate toxins, and keep residents there from aging. The primordial of… healing? Heaven knew, Creation needed a LOT of that.

Should she keep the boy’s secret? She could certainly see the temptation to just let him get on with it! The meddling of the Exalted in general, and the Sidereals in particular, had a very mixed track record…

But what if she was wrong? And – even if she was right – the boy was already running himself ragged trying to fix everything at once! Perhaps she should let a small group in on it? If he was benign they could run interference and organize his efforts a bit – and if he wasn’t, there would be a far better chance of surviving finding out.

High Lord Kristoff would have to be told at any rate. Charles might be able to help them more than anyone had thought.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXV – Fishing in the Land of the Lost

Part Seen - Part Imagined

Manifestations of the Loa

Charles was musing… When someone stored stuff elsewhere, and got killed, the stuff was usually lost forever. OK, sometimes a new incarnation – whether of soul or Exaltation – would manage to pull something out, but that was rare, and it wasn’t uncommon not to have a “next life” anyway.

Most of the stuff would be Raksha junk of course. The Raksha stowed all KINDS of stuff in Elsewhere – and HORDES of them had gotten zapped in creation (mostly during the Balorean crusade) with no reincarnation for them.

There really should be SOME way to fish it out!

Hm… He’d probably need to use a manse to get the necessary power and anchorage.

Changis – his assistant for the next few hours – could just see THAT one…

(Imagined-Charles) “Oh yes, I have this huge pile of random junk… Oh, hey! Here’s the Sword of Balor! Very historical! Neat! Hang that up somewhere in the museum! It will be educational!”

After all, Charles wouldn’t have any use for the thing. Tourists would be taking pictures of the Sword Grace of Sword Graces, and (having been wielded by an Ishvara) it would no doubt be very impressive indeed. – but there was no knowing what kind of effects having a thing like that around would have! It probably embodied a good chunk of Balor’s story!

Zap! “What happened?” “I was dusting, but now I am the new Attila the Hun!”

Maybe he should carefully try to suggest to the boss that he set up a storage facility for things like that somewhere OUTSIDE of his soul? Charles was just too impulsive about a lot of things! He just tended to assume that it would either be all right or that he could improvise some solution to any problem! Sure, it had worked so far, but then he also hadn’t attracted too much official scrutiny until recently… And he was so tired that he kept letting people see more than they should! Look at those two financial investigators! He’d let them see that he was obviously capable of designing high-order manses – AND had let them conclude that he had a supply of manse seeds! That could make all kinds of trouble for him later on! It might even cause a major stepup in the investigations – if only to find out just how a child learned that so fast and so early.

That would take them to Mrs Rosa Cress – and “he was already a skilled thaumaturge at five, and could attune and work with manses before he can really remember that far back”.

She’d probably been doing her own investigations already. That level of geomancy would sound a bit beyond even most adult thaumaturges – at the very least!

Hm… Was Charles LOOKING to get at least partially exposed? It would let him be a lot more honest, and work a lot more openly – and he might want to get things breaking his way by having things start to come out before any of the investigations could dig TOO deep.

Oh well! The boss was amazingly good at finding ways to turn anything that happened to his advantage somehow. It didn’t even seem to be any kind of magic… just a knack.

Mrs Cress actually had been investigating, albeit in her (strictly limited) spare time- and that had led to her going to her student, Mr. Montague, to find out about his meetings with the boy – and to Mr. Montague telling her that HE thought that Charles might be a Primordial, or at least a Primordial Half-Caste. It wasn’t just his talents, and the way that Dudael had responded to him, or even his resources! That “I’m not allowed to use the big forge yet!” comment had been so offhand and assured…

And not a week ago, the child had casually stopped by with some booster-artifacts for his own manse – six fourth-rank boosting devices individually and specifically designed to fit the manse and to boost it in the most convenient possible ways! Those hadn’t come from any primordial treasure-horde! His manse wasn’t that old – and the Primordials didn’t have much of a need for artifacts like that in any case! Even if the boy had had “special help” getting them made, he had to have analyzed the design of the manse during his brief visit – perhaps while eating cookies…

Yes, he’d asked if any more could be obtained – and had been told that making them required very special help, although “I might be able to get you a set…”. But so FAST. And with hints of all kinds of energies about them, including the wyld… Had the boy actually gone to Autochthon – or at least to some of Autochthon’s higher souls – to have them made? Was he using a gate and some lost art to pull them directly out of the Wyld?

He’d told his Sifu about that as soon as he could, only to find that she too was looking into the mysteries surrounding the child – and that he seemed to stand outside of fate and to vanish from creation every so often

The Silver Faction – and the lunar representatives – had been unhelpful, but it was obvious enough that they were taking an interest in the boy as well. The Bronze wanted the kids help – and even the Golds were taking an interest.

It was too bad that surveillance in Dudael was so difficult! The boy seemed to center an awful lot of his activities there! Very soon, they’d have to start sending in some non-employees to purify themselves and have a look around. That would make watching the boy a LOT easier!

Sadly, Charles had carefully left so many different (and probably incorrect, but fascinating) answers lying around that it was going to take quite some time to sort things out – unless someone made a breakthrough – or got a lot more methodical in their analysis than was at all usual. Even then there were so many unknowns that it would be a heck of a big guess!

By the time anyone was sure… he hoped to be indispensable to half the universe. Still, he DID want a little Sidereal assistance on his Stargate project. That was a mutual interest anyway! Many of the Siereals would like their interstellar missions to have a minimal time of less than ten days.

Charles, meanwhile, was expanding Aden again, completing his circle of third-circle soul impersonator manses, continuing to tinker with his elsewhere-fishing, and working on his assorted projects. He’d decided to wait for a Sidereal to ask to see him; that way he’d have a small distraction at the ready! Mrs Blossom had wanted to talk about the Nocturnals and Catherine anyway – and might well suspect that he had something to do with the one who’d vanished, turned up briefly with Catherine saying that she’d been rescued and was going into hiding, and then vanished again.

They would be coming, backlog or not. After all, the news that he’d designed high end Manses was out – albeit still not public. Setting up the simulation-Bazaar for Arcosanti had given that away; even if the plans were in the archives, they have to be customized to the site; manse seeds didn’t do that… Ergo, Charles was at least capable of designing fourth rank manses in relatively little time – and he was connected to Gri Fel, an old Bronze Faction ally.

Exalted – Aden Shining Dream, the Third Circle

English: Durris Manse

Look, I keep TELLING you, we're looking for the hellish inner landscape of a primordial demon! What do you mean "this is it"?!?!

Manse Servitors equate to first circle demons, and Manse Guardians to those of the second circle – but to impersonate a third-circle demon you need something more.

Fortunately, Charles has found a solution:

“Aden’s” “third circle souls” are, in fact, manses of awesome power – designed to generate a set of avatar’s with the power necessary to stand in for third-circle primordial souls. In fact, at the moment, they’re probably more powerful than Charles himself. He’s building twenty-four – one focused in each Thaumaturgic Art / Science, and capable of working effects equivalent to those of solar circle sorcery within those arts.

Charles is beginning to wonder though… He’s creating his world-body, and it’s manses and various inhabitants, from infinitesimal fragments of his own soul – and they really do seem a lot like first, second, and third circle “demons”. Is there really any fundamental difference between a subsidiary “soul” forged from a fragment of your own, and a primordial’s subsidiary soul? It’s not like anyone really knows how primordials OR their souls originally came into being anyway.

In any case, their basic design looks like this:

Available Construction Points: 10 (Rank-5 Base) + 4 (Maintenance from the Guardians) + 3 (uninhabitable) + 9 (Integrated Enhancement Artifacts) = 26. If and when he has a few experience points to spare he’ll be installing permanent upgrades via the Dragon Vortex. Sadly, until he gets a chance to finish up with that, they’ll just have to use points from Aden’s network of Geomantic Relays to power everything. That will limit them a bit since they also need those points to boost their thaumaturgic powers – but Charles does need some time to develop.

Basic Manse Powers:

  • Exotic Aspect/Aden (no cost since they’re built in Aden): Aden-aspected manses favor Magical Conveniences, Integrated Artifacts, Thaumaturgic Enhancements, Wyld Revocation, and Life-Sustaining functions.
  • Network Node (1): All of Aden’s “third circle souls” can instantly communicate and share information with each other.
  • Geomantic Nexus (1): As foci for geomantic energy, these manses can channel the power from geomantic relays into a variety of powers.
  • Immutable (2): The manses, and those within them, are impervious to unwanted shaping effects.
  • Unbindable (2): The manses, and those within them, are immune to Unnatural Mental Influence.
  • Guardian Force (4): Each manse has a guardian force of 650 second-circle demon equivalents. These are fairly high-end in that range however – with Essence 7, Virtues 5, 4, 3, 2 (assign as suits the type), Attributes totaling:49 (none above 12), 28 Spirit Charms, Willpower 10, and a base Essence Pool of 120. Health: -0, 7x-1, 6x -2, -4, Incapacitated, Abilities 35, Backgrounds 5, +6L/6B Inherent Soak – and six bonus points to spend. Their purpose, of course, is to aid, protect, and work for Charles.
  • Guardian Loa (three Guardians who are merged with the manse and need not buy physical attributes, 3) and have control of attunement to both the manse and its hearthstone (+1).
  • Staff Artifacts x4. For the sake of sanity, three levels of this power are ONLY for the Manse Loa (-3, for a total of 5): This provides the Manse Servants and Guardians with the benefits of ten dots of effectively-inherent artifacts rated at up to **** and the Loa with the benefits of forty.

All the manse guardians gain the benefits of a Behemoth Cloak, and four dots worth of artifacts appropriate to their type. That’s quite enough to make them pretty tough.

The Manse Loa gain – and share with their guardian hosts – +8 to each attribute, +8 to each ability other than Occult (which gets a +12), +4 Will, +2 Essence, the ability to store four Thaumaturgies, Four Terrestrial, and Four Celestial Spells, three spells that they can swap around given time to study, a -2 on the target numbers to use Twilight abilities, the ability to attack and parry with the Occult skill as if using a perfect weapon of choice, +6L/+6B Soak, and inherent computer services and internet access. Most will use a +3d thaumaturgic boost to whatever they do – and gain +7 to +27 automatic successes when casting spells or +13 to +33 when working in their chosen field.

Yes, this is absurd. Eight optimized four-dot artifacts designed to work as a set, powered and enhanced by a manse pumped up with nine five-dot artifacts and a bunch of geomantic relays, all applied to a high-end second circle demon equivalent, are going to be that way… In general, when working through one of the manse guardians, the Loa get +21 dice on anything they do and +(25 + Conviction) dice on Occult – putting them neatly in the third circle range even without charms or other boosts. Their abilities with Thaumaturgy/Sorcery will fall neatly into the upper end of the range for third-circle demons signature powers.

  • Thaumic Resonator (2) with the specific field (+1) and geomantic relay (+1) upgrades. This grants +4 bonus successes for Thaumaturgy or Spellcasting, +6 more in a particular art or science, and up to +20 more if enough geomantic relays are available to power them.
  • Thaumic Puissance (3). The residents thaumaturgy is unnaturally potent. It requires an opposed essence check to dispel it with countermagic, the caster gains +3d against Terrestrial Circle Countermagic (but suffers a 3d penalty against Solar Circle Countermagic) and residents will find that they can stack one thaumaturgic effect with charms, artifacts, and other sources of power. Their thaumaturgy is cast using the Advanced Thaumaturgy System, whether or not the character would normally have access to that system, and with a +(Conviction) die bonus.

When Charles is enhancing the manses and/or enough geomantic relay points are available, they also have…

  • The Loa may exert their own powers and those of the manse through the hearthstones (+1). Most of the Loa are somewhat selective in what powers they can extend through their hearthstones, but that’s not a big enough problem to get a price break.
  • Archives (2). Actually the manses each have extensive archives in them – but unless they’re powered up, they’re just rooms full of books, computer disks, RAID arrays, and other media. If they’re powered up, the archives become self-repairing.
  • Lesser Dance of the Dragon Lords (3): The Loa (and only the Loa) of each manse get +1 Essence and +3 Charms. This neatly brings their effective essence up to 10.
  • Extended Zone of Influence (4): Extends for one mile per point of the manse rating – or, when the Loa are working through the hearthstones, to cover a radius of up to 250 feet from the stone.
  • Invisible Theft (4): As disembodied consciousnesses, the manses Loa may freely sense thoughts within range.
  • Indestructible (5). When the manses are fully empowered, the currents of essence running through them shield the physical structure of the manses absolutely – leaving them vulnerable only to geomantic sabotage. Moreover, as powerful, sapient, essence-users who can tap into geomantic relays, the manses can usually handle their own geomantic repairs – and substitute power from the relays for any reduction in their demesne.
  • Unique Powers (5). Each manse has five points worth of powers unique to itself – abilities that make it distinct from the other manses. These will be listed with the listings for the individual Loa.

In the tradition of giving the Devas of a Primordial their own designation, Aden has twenty-four Guardians of the Third Circle (each of whom, thanks to the triple consciousness of the manses and the hundreds of available manse guardians/bodies associated with each, may appear in up to three places at a time), many thousands of Second Circle Sentinels, and a similar number of First Circle Citizens.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXIV – Fiduciary Divine

English: The Court of Chancery: This engraving...

But now with modern offices!

While Charles was busily building more manses to impersonate (or perhaps become) his “third-circle souls”, working on the Stargate project, mapping the earth’s dragon lines, running rescue missions, and otherwise keeping busy, several investigations were gathering steam – with some of the investigators coming up with scenarios that even he hadn’t thought of yet. Similarly, some of the Sidereals of opposing factions were beginning to wonder what they’d do if their colleagues started cozying up to him – or started major, formal, faction-level investigations. There seemed to be some very useful resources there.

Naturally enough, one of the first investigations to get formal revolved less around Charles and the mysteries around him and more around money.

Isn’t that always the way of it?

Ixiah had informed Charles that the head of the Bronze Faction and at least one silver faction operative had been in the audience during the Arcosanti test – and were almost certainly aware that he possessed some quite potent artifacts indeed. Charles was mildly concerned about a possible investigation into his affairs – but, as usual, figured that there wasn’t much he could do about it without provoking more trouble, and so was ignoring it outside of updating his various smoke screens…

Besides, if the Sidereals hadn’t figured out that he possessed plenty of artifacts long ago they wouldn’t be Sidereals. It was surprising that any had had the time to attend though – and that they had been able to get tickets what with the amount of divine interest at work. Had they pulled favors or rank?

Still, the possibility of someone in the audience focusing on him was why he’d used the manse seed, and mostly worked while the focus was on Gri Fel and Terapishim, instead of just constructing the place directly. They would have seen the bit with the Fey though. Pesky audience… There had only been two competing teams for diversions too; after all, Arcosanti WAS a very small city at the moment!

Just as gods often found mortal attempts to awaken their Essence entertaining, the employed members of the Celestial Bureaucracy often found unemployed gods’ attempts to find purpose entertaining – or just informative. It was always wise to scout out potential allies and competition.

Charles would have considered it a rather sour pleasure, but then he was generous to a fault.

Hm, come to think of it, the competition apparently hadn’t tried anything underhanded either. OK, it would have been pretty hard to do that during the test with everyone in a separate arena, but there had surely been lots of bureaucratic chances before… Ah, of course; there probably had been such attempts – and they hadn’t told him; Gri Fel knew perfectly well that intrigue was not his speciality.

Ixiah had heard some grumbling about that as well. Ostensibly it was about Celestial tradition, but Heaven had had a long time to get cutthroat, and that in itself was an unofficial tradition at this point. And Gri Fel did look a bit tired.

Well, his new effective “cult” and salary should help with that!

The first formal investigation was a joint sidereal one – but it got pushed off onto subordinates while the elders handled bigger problems.

Those subordinates pushed it off on others until they were down to… a couple of youngsters in training.

He was having a sandwich while doodling more designs for things – magical umbrellas, weird manses, an elsewhere-sifting net – when someone came knocking at the door of the Orrery to see him.

(Charles) “Oh, hello!… Can I help you? I have more sandwiches!”

It was a rather pale man in a dark suit and a girl in her late teens – from the eyes, respectively, Endings and Secrets. They weren’t showing any clear factional identification, but then that stuff was rarely really discussed officially anyway.

(Man) “Ah, yes. Some reports had come in and we were wondering if you could answer some questions.”

(Charles) “Don’t know! It depends on what they are I suppose…”

(Girl) “Thanks for lunch! I’m Cipher Child, and he’s Clarence Clearwater. Do you know a Gri Fel or a Terapishim?”

Huh… He could place her! She was a native of Yu Shan and was physically the youngest currently incarnated Sidereal Exalt. She still had two years of actual time in the role on Salvatore Montague (the most newly incarnated Sidereal) though.

(Charles) “Yes! Nice fellows!”

(Clarence) “We were wondering if you knew anything about their current activities, other than their recent bid for employment.”

Well, he had appeared in the records as an assistant, of course.

(Charles) “Uhm… Mostly trying to get a job I think? Isn’t that one of the major preoccupations of most unemployed gods who haven’t gone mad or been killed?”

(Clarence) “Oh, most certainly. Every god needs a purpose for those reasons you mentioned. But we were curious because of some reports coming from the Office of Dispensations.”

(Charles) “I haven’t heard of that one! What’s it do?”

(Cipher) “It’s a subdepartment of a subdepartment of the Bureau of Heaven. It controls salaries, earmarks, and awards for Heavenly service, including the dole. Clarence and I were asked by it to check out some of Gri Fel and Terapishim’s finances. All the gods who apply for jobs get evaluated by it.”

(Charles) “Sounds busy!”

(Clarence) “Oh, yes. It’s one of the more productive parts of Heaven. Anyhow, as my younger colleague said, we were assigned to investigating that particular team’s finances. We’ve gotten some unusual information on them recently.”

(Charles) “Well, they were pretty broke until recently!”

(Clarence) “And that is actually what we wanted to ask you about. As far as our research has shown, few in Creation recall Gri Fel’s existence, and those who know of Terapishim worship him because of his wondrous, multi-forked beard. Yet very recently, they have been seen with restored ornamentation.”

(Charles) “Oh! That’s simple; I turned up a prototype in with some very old stuff! It seemed to work, so I set them up so they could buy a few things to suit the job they were applying for!”

He had too! The fact that he’d put it there didn’t make it less true that that was where he’d found it when he went looking a few minutes later!

(Cipher) “Neat! I mean, what kind of prototype?”

Interestingly, she seemed to know exactly what Charles meant by the “very old stuff.”

(Charles) “Uhm… One minute!”

Charles started cheerily rummaging in his pack – eventually leaning into it waist-deep, which looked quite ridiculous, as it wasn’t anywhere near large enough for that. He’d strewn a dozen weird items around the floor by the time he came up with the Ambrosial Chalice, which – instead of being mounted in magical material – was serving as the mount for a thin band of magical material itself. It shimmered like a black opal, and radiated an ever-shifting corona of magical power…

(Clarence) “Oh my.”

They both seemed to know what that was.

(Charles) “It seemed like it would be handy for them!”

(Cipher) “Was there any information on the Manse with the stone? It’ll take a while, but we might need to watch it.”

(Clarence) “True… it could help with certain relief efforts.”

(Charles) “Nothing with the stone… But there’s probably something in the archives!”

That was true! There were lots of things in the archives!

(Cipher) “Hmm . . . we’ll have to do some more investigating, and I think I need to do some more research. But there’s nothing illegal about this. It’s not like the Bureaucracy can stop Hearthstone attunement, and it’s not even part of the treasury anyway.”

Oddly enough, Charles got the feeling that, even if any of those three conditions were true, she wouldn’t have a problem with it.

To be fair, on a large scale, it wasn’t too important. It took one Rank-5 manse to support three Rank-3 cult effects – and after a few initial experiments long long ago it had been judged an inefficient use of geomancy; you could just have the construction crew worship the gods you wanted to help – which was generally enough to provide a rank-three cult for four or five gods – and build a manse that did something more useful.

(Clarence) “We’ll have to make sure they’re not skimming, of course. But that would be highly unlikely for an unemployed deity in the first place.”

(Cipher) “And at this point, it’s a formality anyway… but the forms need to be filled.”

Skimming? From what? Random fountains?

The two also had a few inquiries about the manse seed; they had some of the readings on the testing since they were investigating the before and after. That was of some interest to Cipher; it had been really neat how the place just grew!

Charles gladly explained many of the technical complexities of the manse seeds… She didn’t actually understand one word in three – but evidently Charles knew how they worked in detail. And yet, according to Clarence, such things had not been used since the Balorian Crusade – and then it had been by Lunars, not the Shogunate.

(Clarence) “Where did you get all this information? I believe you attend a school in the city, but I don’t recall that being on the curriculum.”

(Charles) “It’s in the Archives of Dudael – and there are some references in other libraries around the city!”

Cipher looked thoughtful… It would be a pain to get into the archives, but if a kid not that much younger than her could find such cool stuff, what could she dig up?

Clarence appeared to be more practical, although he was curious as well. After all, getting approval would certainly be a pain! Generous though he was, Charles would surely have to wait for authorization and they did have work – including this task – that neither of them could get out of.

They didn’t ask quite yet. They had more people to interview, although they took a statement and gave Charles their contact information.

Cipher wanted to want to talk about Manses a bit more – even if her time was limited. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) for her, Charles LOVED to talk about manses! (Which was blatantly obvious) – and Clarence was also interested in the occult, although in different areas. He dids have one last question for Charles, as Cipher boxed up the sandwiches…

(Clarence) “Did you know of anyone else who was supporting Gri Fel or Terapishim? Their support team was notably light.”

Charles considered that. There was the Drunken Shedu, and perhaps Kiko – but she was still being incognito at the moment. Of course, if Gri Fel got the position, that might well change. Besides… he wasn’t sure what, if anything, she’d been doing to provide support! Bodyguarding? She hadn’t participated in the actual testing anyway.

(Charles) “Uhrm… There was the Drunken Shedu, and I think a fair number of people would like to see the deadlock on Arcosanti, and on getting multiple gods on jobs that have gotten more complicated, broken – but they’d support the competitors as well as Gri Fel and Terapishim! And I was helping of course! Or do you mean in the test? I think that was just me, but I did bring a bunch of stuff that might have been useful!”

(Clarence) “Ah, yes, the test. The records did include those items… and they weren’t recorded as part of their previous panoplies, unemployed or not.”

Hm? Charles had been talking about the stuff in his pack… They’d meant the staff and rod! He cheerfully acknowledged finding those for them too.

(Clarence) “Well, thank you, Charles. Cipher and I must be going, but we will contact you if we have any more questions.”

(Charles) “OK! If I’m not in, the servants will take a message!”

(Cipher) “And thanks for lunch. You saved us a lot of time.”

(Charles) “You’re welcome!”

They departed by air, since Charles DID live in a bad neighborhood. Cipher had seemed like she wanted to stay a bit longer, but duty called.

They should have said! Hm… having more time for conversations in the same amount of external time… Charles added some notions to his doodles! Many people would appreciate that one!

“His” new falcon, sent by the Lunar Righteous Hala, watched with some interest. Charles made sure that it got a snack too!

It appreciated that – although, while it had come with a perch and some gloves, Charles hadn’t bothered with the gloves – and had gotten it whatever it seemed to want; it was a guest after all! And it wasn’t like it needed to be watched; after all it had arrived on its own!

It had sat on its perch and kept an eye on things throughout the interview – but now it was more relaxed.

Exalted – The Behemoth Cloak (Artifact ****)

OK, lets face it. The normal artifact armor in the basic Exalted book… sucks. The technomagic power armor is better, but quite a lot of players don’t want to be Iron Man or have to deal with the maintenance and repair of their armor even if they vary it’s looks. For them here’s a much more primal type of armor.

As the order of creation first rippled out into the pure chaos of the wyld, many creatures of chaos were entrapped by it. Some, sapient and bound up in their own narratives, crystalized, bound into changeless forms like tales preserved within the pages of a book; trapped seeds of consciousness tales that would, eventually become the Jadeborn. Others – things that spawned of chaos, existed for a time adapting to meet it’s changes, and then dissolved once more, with no narrative to lend them continuity, adapted as best they could.

Thus were spawned the Great Beasts – the first great Behemoths, singular creatures that were the bane of the first peoples of creation. Against them, in the Time of Glory, marched the legions of the Dragon Kings at their peak.

The Great Beasts were mostly slain, although a few were driven back beyond the borders of the world. Fragments of their chaotic essence were captured – undying flesh, adamant scales, and bones of jade – and were shaped into many wonders – the foundation of the crystal and vegetative technologies of the Dragon Kings. .

A Behemoth Cloak carries a shard of the essence of a Great Beast, and infuses its wearer with some small share of the powers of one of the ancient terrors. Their base form is that of a massive, fur cloak, suitable for your standard barbarian warlord – but the lingering echoes of the adaptive, shapeshifting, talents of the ancient Behemoths, allows the cloak, and it’s user, to take a variety of forms.

Physical Basis:

  • Armor Basis: Superheavy Plate Armor, +12L/+12B, Mobility -4, Fatigue 3.
  • Perfect: +13L/+13B, Mobility -2, Fatigue 2.
  • Orichalcum: +15L/+15B, Mobility -2, Fatigue 2., +1L/+1B Hardness

Class-A Artifact Powers

  • Adamantine Scales: The user’s effective Hardness rating equals one half the armors net soak, rounded up.
  • Endless Endurance x3: The cloak provides three levels of Ox-Body Technique.
  • Eyes of the Beast: The user gains Nightsight
  • Harmonic Essence: Any wearer who attunes the armor gains the magical material bonuses.
  • Heart of the Wyld: Self-Powered/reduces the attunement cost to one mote.
  • Hearthstone Sockets x2 (for a total of three).
  • Nose of the Beast: The user gains a sense of smell as keen as a wolfs.
  • Unbounded Rage: +1 Valor.
  • Warding. The armor can subtract three levels, to a minimum of zero, from the final damage the user takes from any effect up to three times per scene – albeit only once per effect. This will not, however, stack with similar defenses (Class-0 Fortune Effect).

Class-B Artifact Powers

  • Adaptive Flow: Any Crippling, Desecration, Shaping, Sickness, or Poison effect which an attack or flurry would normally inflict may be converted to the loss of two motes – even if it would normally take effect more than once due to a flurry or involves more than one of those keywords.
  • Breath of Peruza: The wearer is immune to general environmental damage, albeit not to directed effects. He or she can wade through lava, breathe underwater or in a vacuum, and otherwise endure extreme environmental conditions.
  • Cloak of the Wyld Lands. This ability allows the user to assume temporary mutations. That’s Thaumaturgic Lifeweaving: Six tick casting time (+2D), Duration of up (2x Essence) Days or until dismissed (+3D), Single Target (+0D), Induces Temporary Mutations (+5D), Personal-Only (-2D). As a Class-B effect, this gets 20 automatic successes, providing 12 Mutation Points at a cost of two motes. As with all thaumaturgy, it does not stack with similar effects (Class-B).
  • Creation’s Ward: Thaumaturgic Science Effect/Force Shield (+6L/+6B Soak, negates the first six dice of ping damage.
  • Flesh of Bronze: -2 to the Armor Mobility Penalty. If both the mobility and fatigue penalties are reduced to zero, the armor no longer counts as wearing armor for the purposes of charms and abilities that will not function if the user wears armor.
  • Form like Mist: The Behemoth Cloak can look like any kind of armor or clothing.
  • Lesser Invulnerability: +4L/+4B Soak
  • Skin of Iron: -2 to the Armor Fatigue Penalty. If both the mobility and fatigue penalties are reduced to zero, the armor no longer counts as wearing armor for the purposes of charms and abilities that will not function if the user wears armor.
  • Tides of Life: The wearer regenerates one level of bashing damage every third action.
  • Tireless Stride: The user gains double ground speed.
  • That provides an overall soak bonus of +25L/+25B without penalties and not counting as armor. Now that’s relatively useful for the price.

Artifact Design

  • Power 10 (10 x Class-B powers, 12 x Class-A powers), Usefulness 4 (extremely useful), Plot Impact 3 (major impact), and Script Immunity 1 = 18. The original versions were Troublesome (the user tended to absorb a few characteristics of the source Behemoth, -2). Charles’s versions usually just use exotic ingredients (-2). That gives a net artifact rating of 16/4 = 4.

Pen and Paradise Episode 2: Skyrim Continued

Pen and Paradise Episode 2:

Skyrim Continued

Allow me to explain a little more about what I have in mind for the thieving model. Right now, stealing is no challenge. Anything people don’t see this specific instant is up for grabs. You can steal battleaxes, statues, and full plate armor as long as everyone’s backs are turned.

Moving to a Suspicion model would help with this. In short, I have in mind that players should arouse suspicion rather than the binary get-caught-or-don’t model. Sure, if you’re seen taking something in broad daylight, the guards will shortly come for you. But just because you’re not spotted immediately doing something doesn’t mean you won’t be a suspect. Take something when you’re shopping, and the owner is likely to have the guards sent to ask very pointed questions.

The Suspicion model would be handled by three factors: being seen, the value of the item taken, and the starting location chosen. The last is the trickiest. You can just walk up and take things, but for real heists, you’d want to begin at a Thieving Point. This is just a waypoint which enables you to have an alibi. Then, you must make your way stealthily to your targe. Preferably you want to avoid being seen, but it’s better to walk slowly down the city streets like a normal person than sneak around the alleys but get caught. Once you arrive at your location, you must make sure noone sees you enter. Then you can grab stuff and make your way back the same way. As long as you don’t raise too much suspicion, you won’t be caught. Depending on what items you wear, you might have an advantage in avoiding suspicion.

The advantage of this mode is that it has enough challenge to make thieving fun again. It’s just too easy to nip in an nab somebody’s goodies otherwise. it will also force care in designing cities, since you’ll have to work on making dark alleys and places to dodge the guards. But it’d be a lot more fun.

Also, it allows you to separate thieving from the Thieves’ Guild. You’d be able to sell items, as long as they’re not too unusual. The Guild could then offer better rates, more contacts, tips on where to find goodies and ways of disposing loot much too hot for a normal merchant. Hilariously, both in Oblivion and Skyrim you really couldn’t steal anything for sale without joining the Guild, since you needed them to open up fences for you.

Exalted – Let’s Take This Elsewhere!

At least in our Exalted game the question of “How secure is Elsewhere” is coming up.

To answer that, the first place to look is in the basic book, where “Elsewhere” is introduced.

Charm Concept: Elsewhere

Elsewhere is a place where things exist but do not interact or decay. Things that characters store Elsewhere are “safe enough.” Though Charms could exist to steal things from Elsewhere (and Elsewhere could theoretically have strange monsters, Malfean taint, Wyld energy or some form of entropy), it is sufficiently secure that the First Age Lawgivers never developed a better storage space. Storytellers who want to treat Elsewhere as an actual place with actual events should carefully make sure that this approach does not devalue Elsewhere-using Charms.

Of course, much of that that gets contradicted later; living things seem to still have internal time if they’re Elsewhere (starting with the Yozis, and characters in some of the white wolf’s cartoons), various elsewhere spaces – even those created by different castings of the Invocation From the Mirror spell – can allow people to move about, think, and interact, stuff can easily get lost in Elsewhere, entire realms can drift off there, and gods routinely drill holes into Elsewhere to make private pocket realms – and could presumably find stuff there. Player-characters are never bound by what has been done before – and inventiveness is not confined to PC’s anyway; lots of canon NPC’s have come up with new stuff. As for devaluing charms… canon new charms in later books have “devalued” a LOT of older charms; if that’s what happens, you just have to start using other charms.

In fact, the basic book itself later tells us that Malfeas is located Elsewhere – and there are a LOT of ways to get to Malfeas, and ways for demons (in fact a different way for every major demon) to cross into creation for a bit.

Still, in the basic book, “Elsewhere” is essentially the good old AD&D Bag of Holding – a safe place to stash your stuff and still keep it ready to had while you wander around in normal clothes.

So what else do we know about “Elsewhere”?

The richest source of information is The Black and White Treatise.

  • It notes that spirit sanctums, are located Elsewhere, and that Yu-Shan is one big sanctum. (The Yu-Shan book tells us that the Celestial City was carved from Elsewhere while The Wyld tells us that spontaneous portals to Yu-Shan sometimes occur in the borderlands – ergo, the energies of the Wyld can be used to travel to places located in Elsewhere. Some further discussion of ways to get to Yu-Shan can be found HERE).
  • Insidious Tendrils of Hate tells us that spells and other effects can travel through Elsewhere – normally following arcane links, which thus must ALSO reach through Elsewhere.
  • Invocation From the Mirror tells us that people can exist, move around, and interact in Elsewhere-pockets, and that – once a link is established – mirrors can function as portals to at least one Elsewhere realm. Whether the spell uses a convenient existing pocket or creates and shares one is an open question.
  • Invoking the Eyeless Face establishes that it’s both possible to imprison things elsewhere and to pull things out of elsewhere that you aren’t attuned to and didn’t put there – an interesting possibility considering the number of artifacts (stored by people who then died) that are lost there.
  • Pressed Beyond the Veil of Time tells us that normally anything sent Elsewhere maintains at least one link with creation that can be used to reach or recall it – and also tells us that it is possible to reach areas lost in elsewhere that are no longer linked to creation, although such a venture is described as “an epic adventure all by itself”. Perhaps you have to go through the Wyld? I can’t think of many alternative routes save – possibly – creating a bridge through Oblivion (a stake through it’s heart!) and just finding a way to move through Elsewhere sounds like a rather boring trip. Besides, that fits in with the known fact that Wyld energies can open gates through Elsewhere.
  • Death Mask tells us that spirits can survive in Elsewhere – and continue to experience time of some sort, since they heal there. Perhaps, like mini-yozis, they carry their own internal time – and so will be stuck in a body (if they have a body) which isn’t experiencing any, and so will be totally paralyzed. That’s potentially pretty nasty.
  • Black Faith can explicitly transport it’s user to realms lost in Elsewhere, regardless of any defense.

Oadenol’s Codex has a few bits:

  • Ultra-Deadly Traps tells us that an elsewhere pocket being sustained by a manse is inescapable unless the manse sustains damage. Of course, this is also a brief subnote. I suspect that the intent is not to tell players that “Oops! You got trapped! You are now out of play indefinitely!” but to present them with a challenge – and thus such a trap is not truly inescapable except for NPC’s.
  • Manse Gates can go to quite unimaginable places, including several known to be Elsewhere (and some known to be mobile through both Elsewhere and other dimensions). That’s handy – and gives constructive characters a way to get into almost anywhere.

The Roll of Glorious Divinity tells us…

  • “A god’s sanctum is a creation of her own soul, a pocket bored through immaterial reality and into Elsewhere” and that immaterial spirit doors connect them to creation. It also tells us that the Deep Wyld or Total Chaos can “dissolve” a spirit door, and kill anyone inside – presumably by flooding the place with Wyld energies and absorbing it. Gods have the innate ability to carve space from Elsewhere, although Elementals explicitly do not.
  • It also tells us that “many powers aren’t designed to work between… “realms of existence.” – but that the Incarnae are not subject to this limitation (presumably that’s either an inherent function of having a very high essence or they have supplementary charms that bypass the limitation). By implication, you CAN design powers that work between such realms – but most people don’t bother.

From Wonders of the Lost Age

  • The Gates of Auspicious Passage travel through Elsewhere. It’s likely that most forms of “teleportation” do.
  • Cache Eggs tell us that – sometimes – an unattuned artifact retains enough connection to whoever stowed it there to be recalled from elsewhere by a new Exalt, but that this is very difficult. Presumably the timeless nature of elsewhere preserves the vestiges of the old link.

That does open up an interesting can of worms though… Wouldn’t the soul also share a part of that old link? Does that mean that ANYONE with reincarnating soul and an active essence pool might be able to pull some weird artifact out of Elsewhere? Can ghosts do it? Why not? Might a lot of dead Solars have already reclaimed their artifacts?

From Yu-Shan we have that bit about the place being “carved from elsewhere”, but we are also informed that the Most Perfect Lotus of Heavenly Designs and the Loom of Fate create more space inside themselves than they take up by existing partially Elsewhere. Evidently extra space from Elsewhere can be overlapped into reality without much of a seam.

  • Also from the Yu-Shan book we have the “Gaol of Roaring Thunder” – a wave formation that rolls across the seas. “Inside, hidden Elsewhere, is a prison for beings too important to kill out of hand but too dangerous to ever allow free. Ancient ghosts, powerful Celestial criminals, renegade demons, and even the odd Exalted pet of a high-ranking Celestial god are locked in the orichalcum and soulsteel cells.” That doesn’t really say much new about Elsewhere, but it IS an interesting little pocket realm.

According to Graceful Wicked Masques Raksha store all KINDS of stuff elsewhere (they can access it without bothering with a charm in the Wyld) and have died by the millions in Creation. That could be all kinds of fun if you develop a way to access Elsewhere or to pull unattuned things out of it. A device or charm that can randomly pull out natural hazards, uncontrolled behemoths, Wyld mutants, and dangerous chaotic items is JUST what every campaign needs isn’t it? Especially if you can convince someone to actually PAY for the thing instead of just inflicting it on them.

According to the Abyssals book, and the Slave-Spawn Summons spell, things may be summoned through Elsewhere. Of course, the basic book told us that much… Most of the other official references I can find are redundant; they’re usually referring to simply storing stuff Elsewhere via various charms.

So: Elsewhere is timeless in itself, although spirits can easily bring some time of their own along. It has an apparently endless supply of dimensional folds and pockets. It may not be truly secure, but it’s not at all bad as long as you’re not using a segment that someone’s added a door to – and it’s not as if ANYWHERE in Exalted is really secure; it is, after all, a setting where any kind of barrier or secure location is usually either some major treasure, cosmic evil in a can, or both – and there will be someone trying to kick in the door soon enough.

If there isn’t an external link or door handy, Elsewhere is usually pretty secure – but hardly universally so. Like most things it can also be a handy source of plot hooks if you look at it carefully…

As far as Charles and Aden – his Elsewhere-based “inner world” – go, he has an additional problem; As the equivalent of a Chancel-7, Aden normally manifests seven secondary entrances at “random but sensible locations” within seven miles of Charles’s current location. When sealed, those doors conceal themselves with twenty automatic successes and require a difficulty 14 larceny (or another properly stunted skill) check to get through – but, in Exalted, and much less in a city full of gods like Yu-Shan, such difficulties – while formidable – are hardly insurmountable. Moreover, there are probably many other ways to sense them or to exploit that link. Charles could have written up his charms so as to avoid that complication – but complications are a large part of what makes the game fun, so he’s quite intentionally got a lot of complicating features in his charmset.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice – Higher Souls

English: The Manse at Advie

Yes, it's very nice - but we're looking for something a little more arcane...

Thanks to a helpful suggestion from Vaalintine (and the resulting in-character moment of inspiration), Charles has found a reasonable way to fake having some third-circle souls for Aden; he’s building some high-powered manses to take that role. That ties in with his geomantic focus, his associations with building things, his love of manses – and (thanks to his intended design) his obsession with thaumaturgy and sorcery (the distinction is not entirely clearcut in the Chronicles game).

That will require some designer powers to put into the manses though…

Fortunately, designer manse powers are explicitly allowed.

  • Integrated Enhancement Artifacts (-3): This is an inverse set of Integrated Utility Artifacts – a set of three self-powered artifacts with no attunement cost rated at the manse rating and designed to permanently merge with the manse and enhance it. Installing a set of Integrated Enhancement Artifacts provides a manse with three extra creation points to spend elsewhere. A manse * or ** can be enhanced in this way once, a manse *** or **** can be so enhanced twice – and manses rated ***** plus can be enhanced three times – although designing and building nine unique rating-***** artifacts to get an extra nine manse creation points is rarely all that worthwhile.

Unless, of course, you’re Charles – and are capable of getting a hold of unique rank-5 artifacts in very short order, and regard few prices as being too high to pay to improve a Manse. You can buy a manse like this as a starting character if you wish – just spend 1-3 more background points on it to represent improvements, just like buying the “hidden manse” merit. It usually isn’t worth it unless you’re playing a high-powered game though.

This can also be used to represent manses constructed with massive quantities of magical materials, or built around some natural magical wonder or some such. The complications of working such things into the delicate geomancy of a manse are generally equivalent to designing the relevant artifacts in any case.

There are a few other ways to boost a manse. The most classic is through using Inauspicious Citadel or Infernal Bastion – both of which are likely simply methods of tapping into an existing network of geomantic relays; the ones in the manses of a Primordials (or Neverborns or Yozi’s) world-body.

You can also use various charms, such as The Dragon Vortex. Those do tend to be pretty specialized though.

Finally, of course, you can run around fine-tuning the geomancy. This involves adding small sculptures of magical materials, setting up mirrors, adding small runes and symbols to the walls, and other tinkering – which can result in adding up to (Occult – Manse Rank) manse creation points which may be spent on essence-fueled powers, exactly as if you were adding points via geomantic relays. Unfortunately, such tinkering requires expensive components, is very fragile, and needs near-constant maintenance. Once again, it’s rarely worth the trouble.

Of course, on top of a few of the specialized powers that have turned up here before, Charles is going to need some new ones – such as;

Staff Artifacts (1-3, Aden Favored): These integrated artifacts benefit the Manse’s integral staff – whether Servants or Guardians, granting each of them the equivalent of (Manse Rating -2) (1), (Manse Rating) (2), or (2x Manse Rating) (3) “inherent” artifacts. Sadly, no single “artifact” included in this function may exceed rank four or the rating of the manse, whichever is less. This ability may, however, be taken more than once.

Guardian Loa (3, requires Guardian Force and Geomantic Nexus, Lunar Favored): Three members of the Manse’s Guardian Force are actually the disembodied consciousness of the manse; build them as second circle demons/spirits/gods with no need for physical attributes. They gain the benefit of any Integrated Utility Artifacts designed to provide personal enhancements and may remotely “possess” and act through other manse guardians. “Ridden” guardians gain +2 to each attribute (using the higher mental attribute as the base), the benefits of any Integrated Utility Artifacts (as above), count as being within the manse, share their mote and will pools and charms, and require only half the usual number of ticks to complete actions. Harming the manse, or those attuned to it, is an unacceptable order.

  • For (+1) any mental effect or UMI must successfully target both minds at once to work on a ridden guardian and all three manse minds must be targeted to successfully affect the manse.
  • For (+1) they can control the attunement of the manse and/or hearthstone, attuning to any willing target, un-attuning any target (willing or not), preventing attunement, or even recalling or detonating the hearthstone as desired. For an additional (+1) they may exert their powers through the hearthstone. Personal powers work normally (although anyone both attuned to and touching the hearthstone cannot use charms to defend themselves; they have already linked their essence directly to the stone. This also means that any destructible artifact may be destroyed if the heartstone is socketed in it) and extending the powers of the manse to the bearer (with a zone of influence this extends to anything up to a radius of ten feet per rank of the hearthstone, with an extended zone of influence it’s up to fifty feet per rank).

Thaumic Resonace (3, requires any other thaumaturgy-boosting power, Lunar, Solar, and Aden favored): A manse with this ability feeds extra motes into thaumaturgies and Sorceries cast within it, providing (manse rating-1) bonus successes.

  • For (+1) the manse can channel power from geomantic relays into sorcery and thaumaturgy – providing up to (4 x Manse Level) additional bonus successes at the cost of one energy point each.
  • For (+1) the manse can provide an additional (manse rating +1) successes in a specific thaumaturgical art or (for those using the first edition version) science.
  • For (+1) the manse may add a set of Greater Magical Conveniences related to Thaumaturgy or Sorcery.

These have been posted before – but may still be handy:

Thaumic Puissance (4, Lunar, Aden Favored): The residents thaumaturgy is unnaturally potent. It requires an opposed essence check to dispel it with countermagic, the caster gains +3d against Terrestrial Circle Countermagic (but suffers a 3d penalty against Solar Circle Countermagic) and residents will find that they can stack one thaumaturgic effect with charms, artifacts, and other sources of power. Their thaumaturgy is cast using the Advanced Thaumaturgy System, whether or not the character would normally have access to that system, and with a +(Conviction) die bonus.

Dance of the Dragon Lords (4, Solar Favored): The manse amplifies the essence of those within it, and makes it easier to channel – allowing them to access normally-unavailable abilities. The may affect everyone within the manse, those attuned to the manse, only the hearthstone bearer, or some other group if combined with control systems. The first incidence of this power provides those within the manse with a +1 to their effective essence and allows them to buy it up beyond their normal limits – although the extra essence, and any abilities dependent on it, only work within the manse. It also provides those within the manse the ability to use three additional charms – although the charms must be selected from among those to which the user normally has access (for Mortals, Martial Arts and Spirit Charms) and the user must fulfill all of the usual prerequisites – although charms bestowed by this power do count towards them. Unfortunately, this function is only partially cumulative; if you happen to (somehow) be exposed to it more than once, the second incidence only provides +3 charms, the third +2 charms, and the fourth and fifth +1 charm each – while further incidences provide no benefits at all. Once selected, the bonus charms are fixed until the user buys one of them “for real” – which frees up that slot for another charm.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 201c – From the Mouths of Babes

Felan, meanwhile, was busily angling for becoming a junior coalition member in charge of creches… After all, the others had placed a – quite astounding – level of trust in him. Having a group of hatchlings come to their dominant parent to say “We want to get rid of this kid! Give the dominant kid the authority to enslave another one of us – anyone he wants – and we’re sure that he’ll take care of the kid we dislike and leave us be!” was pretty unprecedented!

It was good that the other hatchlings trusted Felan – such solidarity actually made them useful, which gave them a bit of power and some defenses to fall back on.

Markov wasn’t entirely sure that the other hatchlings SHOULD trust Felan – or that they WOULD trust him if they weren’t being influenced by his artwork – but it was still encouraging somehow, even if it WAS pretty weird! Felan’s leadership was useful enough to them that it was… actually being accepted.

Still, he was still too young to be put in charge of anything beyond a single creche. Maybe in a few years.

Marty found it encouraging too. A bit of sibling rivalry was one thing; trying to eliminate each other was a bit much! Besides… it looked like the kids really WOULD accept Tokif if he decided to go back – he was useful, and nonthreatening, and had escaped (one way or another) before being caught and slave-processed – and he really ought to be with other dragons and siblings. He’d probably wind up subordinate – but a useful, protected, and non-enslaved subordinate, which wasn’t at all bad.

Positions like that had been pretty rare in the Dragon Empire before Kevin. Normally male dragons got quite absurdly driven when they hit adolescence (thus all those half-dragons) and so normally .1% or so survived to really dominate, finally settling down with harems of twenty or thirty, which was enough to sate most males – but they had no need for free subordinates in harems of that size.

There were roughly equal numbers of dominant females of course, but they usually only needed a few subordinate males (if they didn’t just pick local dominants to have affairs with) – not a harem full. Still, they were usually quieter than the dominant males…

Markov had reached a conclusion though… He’d need some local contacts to get set up most efficiently – and the only ones he had available on metallic worlds were Philsantias and Segev…

Segev might be only a hatchling, but he was far more in tune with local culture than Philsantias – and the kid deserved a break! It was hard enough being a hatchling without being a chromatic on a metallic world with an insane parent!

Segev had been using his witchcraft powers and new resources to quietly manipulate potential rivals in nearby creches into fighting each other – and had been buying up the losers. He’d need more guard slaves to help protect the harem he already had and it was best to get them while they were young and cheap! You had to plan ahead!

Markov was impressed when his Thrall-scouts spotted that; the kid was showing very good sense – and a fair grasp of strategy – for a hatchling!

Hm… Maybe he should steer Philsantias towards a more diverse set of concubines! Having almost all silvers and golds was high-status, but it left poor Segev as THE stand-out target! Of course, if Segev could, he’d make sure that all his siblings from now on were females or natural submissives – but even if he’d been able to arrange that, it would have put him on slave-processing rack the moment Philsantias found out… That “only 1% make it to adulthood at best” thing really did shape almost everything a hatchling did.

He’d cut a deal with Segev to do a little scouting, talk to other kids, and otherwise fill him in on local details. For payment… Hm… still a hatchling without too many hobbies… money, power, rivals on his processing rack, magic, lessons, protection/patronage. Oddly enough, at least per the Thralls, he wasn’t too big on more girls for later; with a hundred and fifteen already lined up he felt that he might not be able to keep up with all of them anyway.

For a moment, Marty was caught up in the dragon-tendencies… Tap into a bit of his wealth, buy up a bunch of the neighbors current creches, and present Segev with a couple of hundred rivals to enslave his way through? Bonus; it would annoy and embarrass Philsantias and show him that SOMEONE appreciated the kid!

Nah. Markov wouldn’t want to anger the only potential ally he had in the area on a hostile world yet…

Markov was considering giving the kid some spells… After all, his father really liked that stuff. Besides, if he gave the kid the right spells, other hatchlings won’t be able to counter them too easily.

Of course few of them wanted to challenge him any longer anyway. He’d won eight times or more. Still, it was always good to know a variety of spells. You never know when you need them. Of course the kid wasn’t really a spellcaster to start with; that was the problem to begin with; he relied on innate magic and powers.

Was that partly rebelliousness? Philsantias kept pushing studying magic of course, and magic certainly hadn’t worked for Varer…

The kid didn’t really know how to use wands either. Stuff to boost his innate powers then? Booster items were always useful though.

The contrariness was interesting though. Perhaps he could provide the kid with some secret training in breath weapon tricks? That would be fun! Those weren’t spells, but they could be quite surprising!

Hm… until the boy acquired a soul, it would be easy enough to provide him with some boosts (a Package Deal and some Unique Training) with a little reality editing…. That would be useful to him, and it was something that couldn’t really be taken away from him. He’d have to demonstrate a bit – but “I will boost your personal and magical power” was always a big plus.

(Segev) “Wow! Dad never offered me anything like THAT!”

(Markov) “That’s a shame. I guess he hasn’t been picking these things up like I have.”

The kids report was best on the neighbors naturally; he had the most contact with them. His general background was good though. He had obviously made a special effort to provide some information on how to get the parents of his rivals (and the ones who had offered to buy him; selling THEM out was absolutely fair!) to accept challenges; that way, even if he couldn’t be the one to collect them, their kids would still wind up becoming slaves or going up for sale cheap.

Markov appreciated that! He’d have to give the kid a fair share of the hatchlings – especially his young rivals – to enslave personally! Even if his part in the fights was indirect, he’d still successfully set them up! After all, it was extra information he was getting free where the kid had gone to extra effort; the basics were all good.

Markov made a note; he had to introduce the boy to Felan some time!

Felan, of course, thought that Segev should have more slaves! After all, he only owned about a hundred and fifty at the moment, and only thirty to forty were harem guards! That wasn’t nearly enough attendants to protect that big a harem!

Markov, also of course, could see his thought that HE was only allowed less then one-tenth that many! But if father agreed on Segev, maybe he’d come around for him!

That was still cute! That level of self-centeredness might be problematic later, but for now… Well, he was only eight. ME! ME! ME! was the natural state of smaller children.

Interestingly, Segev had begun deploying some remarkably sophisticated financial and purchasing tactics.

Some seemed rather familiar… Not so much to Markov but to Marty. Floating a rumor that dropped a stock price while selling short, putting the neighbors in a financial bind, a secondary offer to get them out of it with a few slave-purchases… The basic hit the stock-price, cut out a subdivision you want, make a good offer, and finish the exchange before your short-term manipulations become apparent. Basic Battling Business World and ancient Core wallstreet stuff. For the local kids he was running some gambling with well-disguised odds way in favor of the “house”.

That wasn’t bad for a kid. Nowhere near fair, of course, but that was how things ran around here.

Of course, that wasn’t normal draconic strategy either! They ran a lot more towards raw power. Was Philsantias unconsciously granting his kids weird powers too?

Ah! The boy had the want-to-work-for-Kevin package thanks to his link with Philsantias – which was allowing him to get endowments despite being a phantasm. He’d found the link to the Kadian computers, and was using them to acquire some money! He’d DEFINITELY be keeping in touch with Segev!

Federation-Apocalypse Session 201b – Draconic Circumstances

Markov was momentarily bemused when his coalition-allies asked about how he’d gotten his hatchlings so organized and useful. That was mostly Felan and his statues of course – and the fact that they had some extra powers that were useful in themselves – but that would call for rather more explanations than he wanted to give. Besides, Felan was very young as of yet; if he got put in charge of his allies creches he might get over-enthusiastic about eliminating potential rivals a bit too early and get into trouble…

He settled for promoting Aillil’s program and hoping that nobody asked about the more advanced abilities. Maybe he’d talk about Felan in a couple of years after the boy had had a chance to learn more patience!

Hm… eventually, of course, the kids would catch on to the fact that he was cheating by reading their motives with telepathy – but he had shipped his young witch off to Kadia and psionics were pretty rare amongst the metallics and chromatics!

For example, one of the girls was starting to panic; she’d lost several dominance-training fights in a row… That wasn’t too surprising really; her talents seemed to run towards social – and financial – manipulation rather than combat (that would make her a REALLY valuable manager some day!) But she was gradually becoming convinced that she’d be going up for sale soon if she didn’t run…

He’d never really realized before just how close to panic most hatchlings lived! He’d given the hatchlings some fairly heavy-duty promises and reassurances about not enslaving them for dominance-battle losses… It wasn’t like he couldn’t come up with some other excuse of course – but maybe probing their minds so much had been a mistake. It… would actually be hard to dispose of any of them now. No wonder telepathy was so widely disapproved of within the Empire! He should have known better!

He actually went to some effort to reassure the girl – and set up a buyback fund for if any of them DID run off and get captured. After all, their special talents DID make them pretty valuable even as slaves!

Meanwhile, the great powers of the Gold clan had been evaluating Philsantias’s reports – and a few additional sources of information. They needed a final conclusion; the Empire was not going to survive if the classical chromatics ruled for seven thousand years, treaty or no treaty!

The youngster… was a typical red when it came to his greed and to his dominance-behavior. His collection of slaves, trophies, and concubines was approaching – or perhaps, given the many names he was operating under, was already setting a new standard for – the legendary mark. His evil was far more questionable however; his processing machines could be set to cause very little pain during the enslavement process. Even the (normally-locked) advanced options didn’t cause much more pain than a classical binding ritual – and the slaves were pain-free, and happy, afterwards. His enslaved rivals didn’t even seem to wish that they’d won!

Enough pain to say “you REALLY don’t want this to happen” – and exceptional mercy after that. Under Ailill’s program… dragons would remain supreme, their competence level undiluted – and yet they would increase in number by a factor of ten or more, almost all hatchlings would get to live and be happy, and the dominance instincts of the winners would still be satisfied.

In most ways except the greed… Ailill was certainly an atypical red – and might well be merely pretending to be one (they weren’t quite sure how an imposter melded so seamlessly into existing families, but it had happened before), but however he was doing that, it went deeply enough to give him dragon instincts and let him father hundreds of hatchlings. If he had the power to back up his claim to be a dragon, that was good enough. The precedents were on his side…

And if he really HAD defeated more than thirty well-prepared challengers, including several older dragons, in simultaneous battle… That made him an atrocity of power.

Easily strong – and SANE – enough to hold the throne if he could be brought to it.

The silvers who had been plotting a direct rebellion – and who were now screaming in some of Ailill’s processing machines for the amusement of the Emperor or were in the imperial cells awaiting their turns to scream – had been foolish. The Treaty had to be upheld; it was the foundation of the Empire. But nowhere did it say that the Red holding the throne had to be a natural red, or evil, or a draconic elder – merely that he had to be accepted by the red clans. Humans and elves and such often got their realms to run with a youthful ruler; why couldn’t the Empire accomplish the same feat?

Markov, of course, was still scheming. His coalition now controlled most of the southern Srikanthi Mountains of Hiandor – and further challenges in the area were few and far between. If he wanted to keep expanding, he’d be running up against older and larger coalitions – and for that he’d want to have his own domains well settled first.

Besides… He needed to pick up more metallics. Some more of those as concubines would be nice. He’d have to open up some extrastellar operations beyond the local area for that though; Hiandor WAS a very chromatically-dominated world… Fortunately, there were plenty of metallic-dominate worlds only a few steps away on the Imperial gateway network!

You could go by ship of course, but they teleported too, so there wasn’t that much difference there! Except for planetary assaults, ships were gradually going obsolete as the gateway network expanded…

Hm… Technically it would be quite legal to establish a holding on a metallic world. The locals wouldn’t LIKE a chromatic coming in – although enough money could smooth over some of that – and he could just challenge someone who’d never heard of him and was too incautious to check to establish a base.

He’d be likely to draw further challenges, harassment, and social ostracism though. Still, since a chromatic seizing a bunch of metallic females was just helping to produce more metallics, there was likely to be less panic about it than there might be.

Well, that was about what he would have expected…

He set some of the Thralls to researching whether or not there were any particularly inattentive metallics – ones who foolishly accepted challenges without doing much checking – on the more convenient metallic worlds.

Marty was willing to help from the Kadia end there, even if he wasn’t too pleased with Markov’s enslavement of Tethen… That wasn’t at all what he’d promised the boy! Even if his current master was surprisingly kind to sibling-slaves (especially for a red), and (what with the conditioning, pleasure-stimulus, and neural wiring happy added to the Thrall-happy) he’d probably need addiction treatment later on, it still wasn’t what he’d advertised… He’d have to make it up to the boy later!

Still, when you were dealing with a Thrall, that sort of thing was easily correctable in Kadia and there was guaranteed to be plenty of “later”. It was really HARD to make an irretrievable blunders when it came to Thralls…

And much as he hated to say it – especially when it involved one of his kids – all his other kids who would have to be growing up in the Dragon Empire took priority; the Thrall-boy was safe. THEY weren’t – and he (or Markov) would need a much wider territorial base to undertake operations against the Emperor!

Hmm… There was a very strong correlation between REALLY reckless challenge-making and accepting and territories and individuals that… did not exist in the Kadia-based database copy of six months ago. There were others too – but newcomers intoxicated with their new ID’s seemed to tend to be pretty bad about it. Evidently the realm was becoming more popular. Was that a side effect of Kevin’s “get dragons souls” campaigns? He WAS advertising dragons, and the Dragon Empire, and opening gates there, and building up the realm by pouring power into it. Evidently it was working on more levels than one.

Marty wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about that, but it did mean more opportunities for Markov – as well as more people getting to… experience a good portion of a dragon-lifetime as slaves.

Still, he was beginning to wonder about young Feanor’s personal beliefs there… Perhaps it really WAS true that everyone would play pretty much every role eventually. He’d certainly played several, and some of those roles had… gone on without him, ready for someone ELSE to try out, when he’d left.

Could it be true that poor Kevin was going to be stuck for a very long time? He wouldn’t have credited that before realizing that the poor kid had no control at all. He’d always heard that it was hard to get out of the Darkness’s control once it had you – and that could well mean that the child had been stuck with the job of being the cosmic maintenance man, janitor, and escalator for the next couple of trillion years! Godhood was, indeed, a service industry – but that seemed like a bit much!

Thus Feanor was doing his best to be a good pet and diversion; he felt rather sorry for Kevin – which was a weird – and very perceptive – prospective coming from a kid who’d been turned into a pet dog. A Core education might just make new humans more alien to old humans than a lot of actual aliens probably were.

Eclipsing Wealth, Part II

For today, we have an Eclipse question….

The rules let me have the internal equivalent of pretty much any magic item, whether through Innate Enchantment, Inherent Spell, or Spirit Weapon… but the only mechanism I can find for specifying external enchantments is really clunky.

Equipage, with the Signature ability, lets you specify a an expensive load-out, which self- replenishes. I suppose if it doesn’t replenish, that’s a Specialize. But then its an overpowering amount of $$/gear (at least, at 1st level) for just 9 (or less!) points.

I think you would do better to just have a simple Wealth system. Either a continuous scale of points, or a simple doubling function.

———————————————————–Jasper Merendino

The trouble with Eclipse and genuinely external enchantments and equipment is that such things aren’t – pretty much by definition – a part of the character; they’re a function of what items are available in a given setting and how you get them. Thus the basic d20 rules already have an “expected wealth by level” table, treasure types listed for all the monsters, and assorted treasure tables – and that approach works just fine for a lot of games.

There are still several ways in Eclipse to build quasi-external gear packages without simply going shopping or rummaging through treasure hordes though.

  • The standard method of building such a package is quite literal – give your character some crafting skills and use Create Item or Spell Storing abilities to make your own gear. If you want to do it on the cheap, pick up Action Hero/Crafting or some of the advanced item creation abilities to cut down on the cost.
  • If you prefer strange quests and puzzles for your gear-making take Create Artifact instead. That will let you invest your time and effort to obtain unique marvels.

Both of those approaches are quite compatible with the usual d20 wealth-as-a-goal style of play; you’re just obtaining your magical goodies directly instead of obtaining money and then buying them.

  • If you want gear that’s useless to anyone else, and which you can readily replace given time, take Innate Enchantment, Siddhisyoga, Inherent Spell, or pretty much any other power and Corrupt it: you need an external focus – probably especially blessed, attuned to you by spending several days with it, personally assembled, anointed with your blood during a special ritual, or some such – to express that power. That approach will give you a collection of “magic items” that are specific to your character, are useless to anyone else, and can be replaced given a little time. As a side-benefit, it lets the game master blow up some of your gear without being considered a bastard.

This is good for superhero settings, where equipment tends to be an aspect of the character and wealth is just a special effect. If you want the minor – and generally irrelevant aspects of Wealth for your character, or want to be (almost as meaninglessly) broke, just take Privilege / Wealthy or the “Broke” disadvantage. For an example, we have Dr Wrath.

  • If you want to be able to make small quantities of useful-but-transient items for each adventure, the Maker of Potions, Talismans, and Scrolls package might be for you. That can be used to represent the gadgeteer-type characters who retreat to their labs to stock up on gadgets before each mission.

This can fit in with almost any character regardless of monetary resources; for the purposes of this power package an improvised workshop in a shed full of scavenged junk works just as well as a giant research complex with a staff of hundreds. That’s all just special effects.

  • If you’re really fond of a particular item you’ve found, you might want to use Mystic Link to bond it to yourself, or the Absorption option on Innate Enchantment. If a given world features special places of power this can also be used to set up links to them.

This is another one that doesn’t call for any particular level of wealth; it just requires that you gain access to the item or location for long enough to link to it.

  • A number of cyborgs on the site simply use an Immunity to having their gear being damaged or taken away to represent having it surgically installed. Thus taking their toys away will require more complex effects (such as amputation, surgery, or special disabling gear) to do so than simply grabbing or sundering the stuff. For an example, here’s Mr Jeremyn.

This tends to work best when a lot of the equipment is static. If you plan to be upgrading your armor regularly, having it surgically implanted, or magically melded with your skin, or existing as “charged psychic constructs” in your mind, or bio-engineered into your genes, or handled by nanites in your bloodstream, or whatever your particular excuse is, is awkward and cumbersome. If, on the other hand, your bulletproof vest is about as good as any armor available in the setting, having an implanted version makes a great deal more sense.

  • For mighty items that can be temporarily taken away but which somehow keep winding up back in the character’s hands, you can use a combination of Enthusiast and Create Relic. While this technically results in a relic that the owner can depower and/or make disappear while he or she spends a little time to make a new one, “just gets back to him or her” is a perfectly reasonable special effect. For really mighty items, with powers that only you can tap, combine this with a few personal powers corrupted to require the relic as a focus.

This works well for characters with unique foci; if one of their major distinctions is that they wield Durandel, or Mjolnir, or the great axe Bloody Executioner as a unique signature item, then taking this approach will keep those items firmly linked with the character; they’ll never be separated for long.

There are a fair number of characters on the site who take this approach to making some relics for themselves – although, while there are several who use standardized packages of relics, I can’t think of one at the moment who relies on a single mighty relic-focus. I may have to make one; they are very classic superheroes.

  • The Signature Gear option on the Equipage ability can get you a package of gear worth up to 12,000 GP – but it can’t include expendable magic items and only lasts for (12000 GP/the GP value of the package) minutes. That won’t cover a lot of permanent magic – and won’t last too long if you try. It is pretty handy for things like “Sir Ethilridge, a crusader against the humanoid hordes, had been captured by the bugbears and thrown into a cell. As they dragged him out to the arena of “justice”, he drew upon the grace of the gods, and manifested his armor, greatsword, and emblazoned shield – slaying many bugbears as he fought his way to the battlements and escaped by diving into the moat.”.

Fortunately for Sir Ethilridge, he had the Signature Gear option – including his Full Plate (1500 GP), Heavy Steel Shield (20 GP), Greatsword (50 GP), Composite Longbow (100 GP), and a few hundred GP worth of minor weapons and gear – rope, grappling hook, smaller weapons, and so on – for a total value of 2000 GP. That let him manifest the package for six minutes at a time, and (at level six) let him do so three times per day – enough time to make it to the battlements. That’s useful – but the same character point expenditure could have gotten him something like Fireball 1/Day and Dimension Door 1/Day, or any of many other abilities.

Even at low levels this hasn’t been an especially popular option; most characters seem to find better things to do with their points – and the ones who want to be able to summon backup gear usually buy some Conjuration Rune Magic or something a little more generally applicable. It is also a bit clunky because it conflicts with one of the basic assumptions in most d20 games – which is that no one has “signature gear” because a characters gear has to be constantly upgraded as his or her level increases.

Unlike some games, such as Shadowrun (where it’s never worthwhile unless you’re dead broke, desperate, and need a meal) or Champions (where money is almost meaningless, since everything of any importance MUST be purchased with points), Eclipse doesn’t really include a way to convert character points directly into cash – although it does include a number of ways to acquire an ongoing lifestyle (buy Privilege/Wealth, Mystic Artist / Fame and Wealth, or even Immunity/the costs associated with a particular lifestyle), or modest income (Harvest of Artifice and Transmutation from the Create Item list, Tenebrium’s Coin from the Witchcraft list, and others).

The problem with converting character points into cash in Eclipse – or any similar method of converting Feats or some other character resource into cash in d20 in general – is that, in basic d20, not only is cash one of the major game rewards, but it translates directly into power. Worse, it’s expected that characters will have massively-increasing amounts of it as they rise in level.

  • If a system provides a more-or-less set amount of cash per character point, it’s almost always going to be wrong. If it’s right at level one, it’s going to be virtually meaningless at level ten – and if it’s right at level ten, it will be overwhelming at level one and still virtually meaningless at level twenty.

That won’t work.

  • If it’s a simple, level-based, progressive system – where the return on character points depends on what level you are when you spend them – then anyone who spends some points on cash at low levels is going to see the value of that investment dwindle away in comparison – and since the general practice is to keep party levels together, there’s no compensating “interest”.

That won’t work either.

  • You could use a level-adjusted percentage system – so that each investment was presumed to keep the user (somehow) ahead of the usual wealth-by-level figures – but it will need to have a level-adjusted cost to keep the advantages of – say – 20% more gear balanced against the cost of – say – 5% less character points to spend elsewhere.

Of course, that relies on using the (or at least a) wealth-by-level chart or calculation to begin with. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but a lot of settings have very different underlying assumptions or monetary systems or no expected wealth levels at all, which can make this approach inappropriate in many games. Besides… if you want to do things this way, Action Hero/Crafting, Mystic Link/Runebinding, and the various item creation abilities have it covered; all of those let you turn some spare character points into extra gear, with higher levels allowing you more gear – which is where most of a typical d20 characters money goes anyway.

Alternatively, you can simply buy an Immunity to having to actually track your money and obtain your gear – leaving you free to simply designate an equipment package for this level (or, as a special effect, simply take powers like the Oath of Poverty). You can corrupt it so that any money you actually acquire can’t be used for more gear, or given to your friends – although you can give it to charity, hold wild parties, and so on – to avoid unbalancing the system. As you go up in levels, you’ll have to buy up the level of the immunity a bit, but that’s not TOO burdensome.

Wait, you want more gear? Buy Journeyman, or Privilege, and build your gear package as if you were a level or two higher up.

Now, if you want to break – or at least weaken – the link between wealth and personal power, you can use the Wealth Level Templates from The Practical Enchanter. Of course, those also assume that magic items come in the form of minor Charms and Talismans (common magic) and occasional unique wonders rather than in the usual d20 hierarchy of graduated devices suited to various levels.

If you want to drop that link entirely, and basically limit gear in some other fashion you can use something like the Federation-Apocalypse session does; treat “Wealth” as just a skill. Invest a few skill points; you’re well off. Get more skill bonuses, or invest more points, and you’re wealthy – which, as it does in Champions, works just fine as long as being wealthy is… fundamentally meaningless. (In the Federation-Apocalypse dimension-hopping game most gear won’t work outside of a small set of dimensions – different for each item. If you can’t power it yourself off of your modest power reserves it probably isn’t worth carrying – thus how much gear you can afford is usually irrelevant).

Now, who knows? Eventually some utterly brilliant wealth-scaling system may occur to me, and become an Eclipse supplement (presuming that I can’t leverage that brilliant insight into real-world wealth) – but up until now I haven’t been able to think of anything generic enough to work and detailed enough to be satisfactory beyond the basic Poor/Average/Well-off/Filthy Rich progression you get in Eclipse using the “broke” disadvantage, taking no modifier, and using privilege.

Legend of the Five Rings – Kasumi Neko, Cat Clan Samurai

English: Kyudo, Archery, Yumi, Bow. Main metho...

Yes, this is how...

The Cat Clan plays a very minor role in Rokugan; it’s tiny, obscure, has no major school of its own, and mostly operates under cover. Their general role is to appear as the mysterious shadowy figure who passes on some important information to the more active and combative types – such as most PC’s. They are, however, a favorite clan for one of our players (who, I suspect, has some anime prototype in mind) – so here’s another dual-knife-wielding slightly magical young woman of the cat clan – although this one is pursuing a seriously exotic archery school rather than the usual clan minor schools (found in the handouts or at the end of this character sheet.

Personally, Kasumi was a problem; talented enough for any five normal children, with more than a trace of magic, and a fascination with archery – and inclined to rely on those (admittedly remarkable) talents rather than on developing her skills properly. She wanted (and clearly needed) an Archery School – and the Cat Clan simply didn’t have one on tap.

Still, her father Togai Neko was owed a few favors from some VERY exotic folks… Gaijin contacts and schools were no longer quite so off-limits as they had been either – and it wasn’t as if the Cat Clan normally operated in full view in any case. When his daughter returned, she brought with her the basics of one of the powerful Yodatai Divine Bushi schools.

Currently Kasumi is out gaining some experience – attempting to expand trade, undercutting the Mantis, and supporting the Imperial families. She’s aware that the bow she made upon completing the basics of her training is hardly the best, but she’s still pleased to be able to say that it’s her own handiwork.

Obviously enough, this build relies very heavily indeed on special advantages – especially bonus dice. That’s less effective to start with, since advantages cost more than skills – but skills are easier to build up later.

Rings: Earth 2 (Stamina 2, Willpower 2), Water 2 (Strength 2, Perception 2), Fire 2 (Agility 2, Intelligence 2), Air 3 (Reflexes 4 (5), Awareness 3), Void 3.

Cat Clan Upbringing/+1 Reflexes

Disadvantages:

  • Bad luck with Wagers (Every Few Sessions, Great Aggravation, 3)
  • Owes occasional favors due to bad wagers (Every Few Sessions, Serious Trouble (4)
  • Likes to Gamble (Every other Session, Minor Difficulties, 3)

Well, that combination is pretty well guaranteed to get her into plenty of trouble.

Initial Experience Points: 60 (Base) + 10 (Disadvantages) = 70

  • 03) Access to an Exotic School
  • 15) School Package Deal / Hosfera Madrase (Old Yodatai Divine Bushi School)

Benefits: +1 Reflexes, Glory 2, Status 1, Wealth 1, Honor 3.0.

School Skills: Animal Handling, Athletics, Archery, Defense, Horsemanship, Hunting, Investigation, Meditation, Stealth, Swords, and two of choice (Etiquette and Courtier).

First Technique Summary: Add air ring to school skills, +1 attack with Bow, double effect of void spent to buy off damage, Get Hosfera as a patron spirit (Hosfera lets his devotees produce an average-quality bow and arrows whenever they need them and allows them to spend a void point to make one of the arrows they fire turn into an animal after it hits something. The user may then make an immediate target-15 meditation check to recover the void point. At the moment, Kasumi is limited to things like monkeys, bobcats, and wolves; this will improve with her void ring).

Second Technique Summary: The user may trade in one or more bow attacks during a round for +5 free raises per attack traded in on one of the remaining bow attacks and – when the character spends a void point on reducing damage – it will continue to reduce damage from each attack for a full minute.

  • 06) Additional Skills: Archery to 2 (2), Commerce (1), Deceit 1 (1), Knives 1 (1), and Lore/Underworld 1 (1).
  • 06) Bonus Dice/+1K0 and a free raise with all Low Skills.
  • 08) Bonus Dice/+1K0 and a free raise with all Weapons.
  • 06) Bonus Dice/+1K1 with Knives.
  • 06) Gift/+10 AC when being attacked while unarmored.
  • 09) Inherent Supernatural Powers/Three level one self-powered Inner Gifts.

Catfoot: Reduces damage from falls by ten points, the user places less stress on supports, such as thin ice or nightingale floors.

Sensitive: The user vaguely senses magical disturbances.

Suggestion: The user may make a thought occur to a nearby target – although this carries no more compulsion than a whisper in their ear.

  • 08) Natural Mastery: Magical Dabbler. May use first level air spells and starts off with the Sense, Commune, Summon, and Counterspell spells.
  • 03: Allies/Harumui Neko, Cat Clan Ancestor Spirit. Influence: 4 (provides 20 points worth of techniques), Devotion: Minor (0), Eccentricity: Ancestor Spirit (0), Inconvenience: Minor (asks for weekly prayers and small offerings, -1), for a net cost of (3). This is a modest slice of cheese of course – but a character who brings knives to a katana fight is going to need a bit of cheese to work well in the game.

Harumi Neko grants Immunity to Honor Losses due to using or raising Low Skills (5), and to the usual penalties for fighting with two knives (talent, 2), adds (2x Reflexes) to a limited set of skills from the Neko Schools when not wearing armor (Athletics, Courtier, Commerce, Deceit, Defense, Forgery, Hunting, Investigation, Knives, Lore/Underworld, Stealth, and Swords, 5), a +1 magical boost to any one trait (Reflexes, 3), and grants +10 AC when using two knives (5).

Heritage/Combating the Shadowlands: a century ago, Koin Neko – Kasumi’s Great-Great-Great grandfather – was tracing a smuggler who was importing Maho supplies and scrolls into the Empire. He’d traced the man to a small Crab Clan village near the Wall when his target caught on – and summoned a powerful oni and a few lesser creatures. Koin was a master archer, and eliminated the smuggler, and the great oni, before they could reach him – but the best he could do when the swarm of lesser oni closed in was to delay them while the villagers escaped. The local Crab Samurai did not reach the village in time to rescue Koin, but he’d left them with very little to do before he’d fallen. His descendants Gain +1 Rank of Archery, +10 on rolls to resist Fear effects from Shadowlands Creatures, and a free lunch whenever they stop by a certain Crab village.

Earned Experience: 30 Points

  • Boost Awareness and Void from 2 to 3 (24 Points).

-This takes her to Rank-2 and gets the second school technique.

  • Learned Spells: Elemental Weapon (1 Point) and Cloud of Mist (1 Point).
  • Skill Purchases: Knives to 2 (2 Points), Courtier to 2 (2).

Major Skills:

  • Animal Handling 1 (3K2+3)
  • Archery 3 (9K5+18) (Includes Free Raise Style Bonus). Usually 2K3 base damage.
  • Athletics 1 (Varies +13)
  • Commerce 1 (4K3+10)
  • Courtier 2 (5K3+13)
  • Deceit 1 (5K3+15)
  • Defense 1 (3K2+18)
  • Etiquette 1 (4K3+3)
  • Forgery 0 (3K2+15)
  • Horsemanship (3K2+3)
  • Hunting 1 (3K2+13)
  • Investigation 1 (3K2+13)
  • Knives 2 (6K3+15). Usually 3K1 damage, +1 free raise when used to disarm, two if used against a light or medium sword.
  • Lore/Shadowlands 0 (3K2+5)
  • Lore/Underworld 1 (4K2+15)
  • Meditation 1 (4K3+3)
  • Stealth 1 (4K2+18)
  • Swords 1 (4K2+18)

Armor Class: 25 Base, +10 when Unarmored, +10 when using two knives.

Initiative: 7K5

Equipment:

  • Basic Gear: sandals, samurai clothing, chopsticks, basic grooming supplies, coin purse, whetstone, bit of string or thread, tanto/knife, soap, washcloth.
  • Bushi Gear: Dai-sho (katana and wakizashi), bow, 100 arrows, two parrying daggers, two regular daggers, horse and tack.
  • Magical Gear: small scroll satchel, scrolls for all known spells, brushes, inks, and paper.
  • Cash: 11 Gold Koku.
  • Traveling Kit / 12 Items: Pillow Book (1), Hand Mirror (1), Set of Dice and a Dice Cup (1), Packet of Sweets (1), Personal Shrine and Incense (2), Small Statue (1), Decorative Fan (1), Small Tent (1), Messkit (1), Bedroll (1), and a Weeks Rations (1).

Pen n’ Paradise 1 – Skyrim

Pen n’ Paradise 1 – Skyrim

Welcome to the first episode of Pen n’ Paradise. Before we go any further, understand I’m not pleased with the audio quality and wish to pick up a new microphone. If anyone can reccomend a reliable model, feel free to do so in the comments.

This experimental series will look at Skyrim, Bethesda Softworks’ hit PC/Xbox/PS3 game. The first episode covers issues such as the basic setup of the game, how it succeeds in being a whole lotta fun, and some of the weaknesses in its design.

For reference to Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s analysis of gaming fun, see The Escapist, located at www.escapistmagazine.com. The specific article is here: Context, Challenge, and Gratification. This article goes a long way towards explaining why we like games, and why people tend to focus consistently on their favorite designers series.

Shamus Young is among my favorite bloggers for his devotion to deep and intelligent analysis. On his popular Twenty Sided blog, is right now developing a series on some of the story elements he finds most lackin in Skyrim, using the Thieves’ Guild questline as his example. The long series starts here, and is well worth a read: Thieves’ Guild Part 1. As of this moment, he’s up to five chapters, with absolutely oodles of analysis more focused than an audio series can dive into.

As my audio commentary suggests, a longer Thieves’ Guild quest chain could have smoothed over so many problems and had a greater impact. Karliah could have been mentioned early as a shadowy threat, steadily building in the background. You would have had much more contact with Mercer Frey, making the player more emotionally invested. Preferably, the actual story itself could have grown larger, and you might have had real choices to make – and without the “obvious villainy” label.

Shamus’s points hit the nail right on the head and explain the problems with Skyrim‘s context. As long as the game stays within its comfort zone, it can present a very good story. However, the characters simply can’t support the kind of elaborate tale they wanted to do – not in that few quests.

Many other problems stem from similar over-ambitious design elements. The AI simply can’t handle certain kinds of actions. It just doesn’t do “stealthy assassin” all that well. The artists simply couldn’t add enough animations for everything the storywriters wanted to include, so often complex events get handwaved away. BethSoft would have done better to limit the design to what was more feasible.

Never let it be said I make a criticism without a solution. One possibility would be to have stealthy characters simply show up, make an attack, and vanish. Treat them as a passive ability of the player. Instead of a berserk companion, perhaps hostile foes simply take a nasty wound now and then, and the stealthy ally simply vanishes back into the shadows. Or characters like Mercer Frey could be show up in some areas of the dungeon but not others, so he can charge in by surprise and eliminate the enemies from behind once you’ve grabbed their attention. This not only supports the character, but can tie in subtley with other themes. A callous mercenary might wait until you’re hurt and use dangerous area-of-effect attacks while a more heroic sort could appear and distract some foes in a pinch.

While that’s but a taste of the fun and the problems in Skyrim, it should give you a good taste of how it can be improved. Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of this audio series!