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.

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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.