Eclipse Monster Characters – Level By Level

Ancient Armored Dune Dweller on Patrol

Ancient Armored Dune Dweller on Patrol (Photo credit: bob in swamp)

The question this time is how to use Eclipse to build a high-ECL creature starting at level one – something like the way that “Savage Species” did it.

That’s actually pretty easy; just look at what they get – and break it up into template levels. Taking a Template Level in lieu of a normal one gets you 32 CP instead of 24 – but it doesn’t provide a free d4 hit die or intelligence-based bonus skill points – and a +0 ECL race can have up to 31 CP worth of abilities. That also conveniently eliminates all of the “Savage Species” style guesswork while still letting you freely personalize things.

For an example, lets take the basic Minotaur. A Minotaur gets…

  • A +4 racial bonus to Search, Spot, and Listen. That’s 6 CP in Skill Points and Adept (6 CP).
  • A +5 Natural Armor Bonus. That’s 30 CP in Defender, selecting Natural Armor.
  • Attribute Shift: -2 Cha and +2 Dex. That’s 6 CP.
  • Double Damage, AKA “Powerful Charge”, 6 CP.
  • Growth, for 48 CP (given how many bonuses Growth provides, it’s pretty expensive).
  • Immunity to Mazes and getting lost. That’s Common, Minor, Major, for 6 CP.
  • Immunity to being caught flat-footed – also Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP.
  • Natural Weapons capable of doing 1d8 damage. That’s 9 CP
  • Occult Sense/Darkvision. That’s 6 CP.
  • Proficiency with the Greataxe and all simple weapons. That’s proficiency with All Simple Weapons and One Martial Weapon, 6 CP.
  • Tracking. That’s 3 CP.

Overall, that’s a total of 138 CP. Fortunately for the character-point budget, the entire template is Corrupted: Minotaurs are obvious monsters, have rather limited social skills, do not gain additional natural armor with levels, suffer a -4 Intelligence modifier, and need to have most equipment especially made. That brings their costs down to 92 CP – a +2 ECL species.

For a “young” +1 ECL minotaur, you only get 95 (63 after Corruption) CP worth of those abilities. That means dropping at least 43 (29 after Corruption) CP worth of abilities. A youthful minotaur might have only +1 Natural Armor (saving 24 CP), 1d4 Natural Weapons (Saving 6 CP), won’t yet have Powerful Charge (saving 6 CP), won’t have Immunity to being caught Flat-Footed (saving 6 CP again; I guess they get more paranoid and wary as they group up), and only gets +2 to Search, Spot, and Listen (Saving 3 CP). That’s a total of 45 (30 after Corruption) CP saved – bringing them down to 93 (62 after Corruption) CP – just under the 63 CP +1 ECL allowance. Next time they take a template level, all of that will go back in.

A very young +0 ECL Minotaur also drops the Growth, saveing 48 (32) CP – one template levels worth of points. That means a +0 ECL Minotaur Child only gets

  • A +2 racial bonus to Search, Spot, and Listen. That’s 3 CP in Skill Points and Adept (6 CP).
  • A +1 Natural Armor Bonus. That’s 6 CP in Defender, selecting Natural Armor.
  • Attribute Shift: -2 Cha and +2 Dex. That’s 6 CP.
  • Immunity to Mazes and getting lost. That’s Common, Minor, Major, for 6 CP.
  • Natural Weapons capable of doing 1d4 damage. That’s 3 CP
  • Occult Sense/Darkvision. That’s 6 CP.
  • Proficiency with the Greataxe and all simple weapons. That’s proficiency with All Simple Weapons and One Martial Weapon, 6 CP.
  • Tracking. That’s 3 CP.

That’s 45 CP – or 30 CP after the Corruption, just a point under the 31 CP limit for a +0 ECL race.

Thus, to play a Minotaur at first level, you can either take a +1 ECL adolescent Minotaur at level zero or a +0 ECL (precocious) child Minotaur at level one. To finish growing up you’ll want to add two template levels as you go along. Exactly when doesn’t matter – but I’d expect it to be within the first few years of adventuring.

Exalted – Body And Spirit Symphony Style (Terrestrial Martial Art)

English: Steven Ho executing a Jump Spin Hook ...

Yeah. This stuff again.

Breathe.

Breathe deep, draw the air to your center, and hold.

Reach beyond mere physical air. Feel the subtle breath of the spirit, the flow of vital energy, of the very essence, as it flows through the twelve channels. Focus on your abdomen, upon the reservoirs of spiritual power, and exhale the air alone. Feel that power – your Qi – build and strengthen. Feel the wings of the butterfly tremble within the chrysalis of your soul.

That delicate yet unfathomable strength is at the core of the higher arts.

Careful balance. Smooth and flowing kata, ever more irresistible. The subtle art of breath control. Balance and harmony. The regulation of inner energy. With these tools the martial artist may transform himself.

And in Exalted, where all things are forged of magical Essence, and even mortals may direct it through skill and ritual, this is just a trifle more literal.

In Exalted, Mutations can represent a lot of things. Sure, they can make you “too wyld to live in Creation” – but mutations bestowed by demesnes (and presumably by manses since they work the same way) and inheritance are specifically exempt (see Oadanel’s Codex under demesnes and the rules for created races). Evidently mutations acquired under the rules of Creation don’t count as “wyld” mutations – just as “mutations”.

Mutations can represent the results of thaumaturgy, or even of mere hard training. Yes, with work and determination you can drink those lousy protein shakes, train four hours every day, put a hundred pounds of muscle on that scrawny little body, and – eventually – develop the equivalent of the “Large” mutation.

Ergo, this particular art focuses on ritualistic, thaumaturgic, techniques for tapping into and channeling the energies of manses and demesnes. At least to start, it does not require an awakened essence pool.

For good or ill, Gods, Exalts and other natural essence users cannot be mutated by simple exposure to the energies of Creation – and so cannot use this style, leaving it the exclusive province of mortals. If someone who has it Exalts, they may replace this style – and the mutations it provides – with another martial art they are otherwise qualified for.

 

Harmonious Essence Balance: Cost: 3w; Mins: Martial Arts 2, Essence 1; Type: Simple, Keywords: Shaping, Duration: Special, Prerequisite Charms: None. Does not require awakened essence.

  • The user may rechannel and rebalance the essence flows of the body. Given a week in which to work he or she may remove up to three points worth of personal mutations or one point worth of someone else’s mutations – although this requires the “targets” active cooperation. If the mutations were purchased with XP or bonus points, those points are refunded.

Inward Dance Of The Dragons: Cost: —; Mins: Martial Arts 3, Essence 1; Type: Permanent, Keywords: None, Duration: Permanent, Prerequisite Charms: Harmonious Essence Balance, Does not require awakened essence.

  • The user may attune to manses and demesnes and their energies to mutate himself or herself. The experience points spent on this charm, and on any later charms on this style, may also be used to purchase mutations at the usual rate of 2 XP per point of mutation – provided that the user gains access to a demesne or manse rated at at least half the point cost of the desired mutation to tap into.
  • This is useful – but it actually isn’t that hard to get mutations if you want them. The most efficient way I can come up with is a little further down – and it’s far more efficient than this.

The Runic Path: Cost: —; Mins: Martial Arts 3, Essence 2; Type: Permanent, Keywords: None, Duration: Permanent, Prerequisite Charms: Inward Dance Of The Dragons, Does not require awakened essence.

  • The user may render up to (Willpower) points of his or her personal mutations nonphysical – and thus selectively remove any aspects of them that displease him or her. This charm may be purchased again at Essence 3 to cover an additional (Integrity) points of mutations.

Spirit Hardens Flesh: Cost 3M or 1W, Mins: Martial Arts 4, Essence 3; Type: Reflexive Keywords: None, Duration: Scene, Prerequisite Charms: The Runic Path, Does not require awakened essence.

  • The user may draw on the strength and durability of a Manse to which he or she is attuned, giving him or herself protection equivalent to a suit of attuned artifact armor (of an exact type selected when this charm is acquired) of a level equal to the (level of the manse – 1). If the manse is indestructible the rating is equal to the level of the manse. If it normally provides other protective benefits to it’s occupants, those apply to the user as long as the “armor” is sustained.
  • Now you just need to find an Exalt with a high-powered manse who will allow a mortal to fiddle around with the place… There are easier ways to get armor than that.

Withered Moon Heart: Cost: 1W OR 3M; Mins: Martial Arts 3, Essence 2; Type: Supplemental, Keywords: None, Duration: Permanent, Prerequisite Charms: Harmonious Essence Balance, Does not require awakened essence.

  • The user may augment an unarmed attack with a burst of mutagenic energy drawn from a manse or demesne to which he or she is currently attuned – inflicting up to (Highest Demesne or Manse Rank) points of negative mutations. If the user is attuned to at least three Demesnes or Manses add +1 point worth of negative mutations.
  • This can be really annoying – but it is sort of a long-term thing. Unfortunately, tricks like Order Affirming Blow will NOT remove such mutations; they have nothing to do with the Wyld and are not shaping effects, any more than a broken leg is.

Blood Of The Wyld: Cost: 2W OR 6M OR 1W 3M, Mins: Martial Arts 3, Essence 3; Type: Simple, Keywords: None, Duration: One Scene, Prerequisite Charms: Withered Moon Heart, Does not require awakened essence.

  • If the user can find a Freehold to draw upon, he or she may tap into it’s energies to manifest a Behemoth rated at (Freehold Rating -1) around himself or herself. He or she cannot be harmed until the Behemoth is disposed of. This charm can be purchased again at Martial Arts 5 to increase the Behemoth Rating to (Freehold Rating).
  • This is a very powerful effect for a mortal. Of course, it requires that said mortal find a Raksha freehold, reach it’s master, and then talk him or her into allowing a mortal to draw on the energies of his or her freehold. If a mortal can pull that off, or get some Exalt to arrange it for him, he or she has earned their flashy goody…

The Dragons Fire: Cost: 2W OR 6M OR 1W 3M, ins: Martial Arts 3, Essence 2; Type: Simple, Keywords: None, Duration: Scene, Prerequisite Charms: Inward Dance Of The Dragons, DOES require awakened essence.

  • The user may take on up to (rank of highest attuned manse or demesne +1) points of mutations for the scene. Unlike it’s prerequisites, this charm requires awakened essence; you simply cannot tap into such energies swiftly enough by thaumaturgic means.

Mortal characters in Exalted can, in fact, start off with access to any mutations they want.

  • Every year a non-essence user spends in a demesne – up to a number of years equal to the level of the demesne – inflicts one point worth of negative mutations and grants two points worth of positive mutations.
  • Some positive mutations have equal-and-opposite negative mutations, which cancel out.
  • Characters who pay for something get to pick it’s properties.
  • A demesne-2 costs one background or bonus point.

So: buy a selection of demesnes-2, make sure that their negative mutations are cancelled out by positive mutations, and you’ll wind up with a net balance of two positive mutation points per background point spent on them.

Now, to get really efficient…

  • The Mutagenic Manse Power states that “Carefully tailored Essence flows slowly warp flesh and brain and bone, inducing a specific set of mutations like those brought about by an uncapped demesne (Oadenol’s Codex, p. 50).”
  • So; buy a Rating-3 Manse with Hearthstone 0 (+3), Maintenance 4 (+4), Fragility 1 (+2), and Habitability 3 (+3). That provides 18 Creation Points. Spend them buying Zone of Influence (3), Password Controls (1), Bound Servant Force (to do the maintenance and provide some useful servants or services, 3), Magical Conveniences (1), and ten instances of Mutagenic (10).
  • Now, each incidence of Mutagenic in a Rank-3 Manse can bestow three points of negative mutations and six points of positive mutations. Trading those off leaves you with thirty points of positive mutations for every mortal in the manses zone of influence, gained at a rate of ten points per year.

That’s not bad for three background points. Even better, the place is pretty useless to anyone but mortals; the hearthstone is useless, you can’t get inside to boost your essence regeneration, and it’s mutagenic power (presumably) doesn’t affect essence-users. The only thing it’s good for is to provide mutation-boosts for mortals – which is exactly what any mortal owner wants. In fact, if you don’t want to bother tailoring the mutation-packages, you can skip the password controls and the magical conveniences and get thirty-six points of mutations out of your three background points.

That’s terrible cheese of course, but if you’re going to be a mortal in an Exalted game, you need all the cheese you can get. You are, after all, being a humble little mouse in the great house of the Primordials and Exalted.

More Eclipse Builds by Christopher West

ID: DMST8807422 Released to Public Service Dep...

Characters Of The Eclipse

Christopher West has continued to put up Eclipse character designs over on his RPG Blog. Given that every Eclipse character is unique, and that everyone using the system comes up with their own ideas on what to build and how to build it, here are some new links to his builds – and a link to the last list of links.

So, with no further ado, here we have…

The Squirely Squire –  Here we have a classic young squire – a student who specializes (at least for the moment) in working as a part of a combat team, rather than as a solo warrior.

The Summoner Controller – A summoner who can seize control of other people’s summoned monsters, rather than taking the usual course of augmenting his own.

The Specialist Sniper –  RPG’s tend to be designed to make life difficult for snipers: yes they’re cool – but they’re only at their best in specialized situations and the players tend to really hate it when a sniper blows away a few of the more vulnerable PC’s at the start of a battle. Fortunately, in Eclipse, the easiest way to build a “sniper” is to simply make a more effective ranged combatant – and that’s no worse than any other specialist.

Hunter of Magus  Basically a witch-hunter who gains power from resisting spells.

The Apprentice – A spellcaster with a wide range of tricks – and the ability to cast spells spontaneously from his or her spellbook.

Spell Touched Mind –  A spellcaster with random access to magic, rather than control.

A Perfect Thief – Here we have an actual fantasy thief – someone who specializes in getting in, stealing stuff, and getting away again and uses enough magic of their own to counter magical defenses and help with emergency escapes.

An Eclipse Review: A quick review of Eclipse here. OK, it’s not a character build – but there’s no reason to get out of order with the Eclipse topics on the blog.

Saboteur – Destructor –  Here we have a blaster / trapsetter who is very good at blowing things up – starting with inanimate objects. Of course, such things are often in the way.

Desert Dancer Elementalist –  A character who persuades the elemental forces of the world to produce effects using the Rune Magic system. A nice idea and an excellent bit of background here.

The Fallen Mage –  A once-powerful spellcaster who has lost much of his or her power.

Dead Sight – A sort of a medium, who gains strength when creatures die nearby. I haven’t read the story it’s based on, but the build works just fine.

Spy vs Spy –  A fairly straightforward deep-cover secret agent.

Infernal Seduction – A demonic seducer in service to his/her/its demonic masters.

Fearmonger – A specialist in raw, primal, terror.

Skyborne Archer – Another semi-sniper build, favoring shooting from somewhere well out of reach.

Mage – Assassin – A spellcaster who specializes in getting in, eliminating a target, and getting out.

The Dabbler – A youngster with partially-controlled spontaneous magic. I really like this one; the untrained wannabe with more power than is at all good for him (or her) makes such a wonderful plot hook…

The Sneak Thief – A character who can use his or her skills very swiftly indeed. An interesting idea, but perhaps a bit over-specialized.

The Draining Wilder – A psionic expert who goes berserk when out of power. An entertaining surprise for people who think that running the psion out of power points is the optimal strategy.

Kinetic Mage Apprentice – A specialist in telekinetic powers.

Dark Priest of Misty Dawn – A warrior-priest who drains the souls of those he kills.

Eclipse d20 – Occult Talent Builds

The Occult Review

Who says it’s a myth?

Today we have a query from Brett about the details – and possible expansions of – the Occult Talent ability from Eclipse. As so often happens, that answer got far too long for a comment – so here it is as a small article.

Are the spells that go with those (Occult Talent) slots dedicated or do they work like Cleric casting pulling from the whole list, or some studies version, if they are dedicated as the description suggests what would be an appropriate CP cost to give them some flexibility for selecting or changing those spells? What would a psionic version be like, slots or point based? Are there any obvious expansions for it that have been done, I am familiar with the limitation of requiring it to have props to simulate some gadgets but am curious to know if there are more.

-Brett.

At the six-point level the slots are dedicated and fixed. For an example, this character (scroll down to the Full Build section) has a short selection of “Blademaster’s Tricks”.

Occult Talent/”Blademaster’s Tricks”. 1/Day Each: Fast Draw (a sword on your person appears in your hand just when you want it; this is not even an action), Blade Call (your blade leaps into your hand from up to thirty feet away as a free action), The Wind Blade (spend a move action to make any item serve as a normal sword for one minute), Mend Blade (fixes a sword as per a mending spell as a free action), and Sudden Strike (make a single attack at your full BAB as a swift action) (Corrupted/Not while wearing armor or while carrying medium or heavy encumberance, 4* CP). Suggested Upgrades include adding Conceal Blade (L0), Adamant Strike (L1), and Personal Haste (L1).

Similarly, with one of the technologically-oriented builds…

The Intuitive Expert just has a feel for gadgets, and can often get things to work when there’s no reasonable way that he or she could do so. Occult Sense/intuitively understands the general principles and operation of any device (6 CP) and Occult Talent (4 L0 effects – Instant Start, Guess Password/Encryption Key (+6 Insight Bonus to check), Jury-Rig (works for a little while), Produce Tool (produces any one minor pocket tool for a few minutes) – and one L1 effect; Moment of Insight (provides a +20 bonus on any one skill check) – once per day each, 6 CP).

Those also demonstrate one of the major strengths of the Occult Talent and Inherent Spell abilities; the spells used don’t have to exist already, or be researched, as long as the game master agrees that they’re reasonable – making such abilities an easy way to represent unique talents or moves.

With the “Improved” upgrade your “known spells” list will include five level zero and three level one effects – and you have a similar number of slots to cast them with, rather than each only being usable once per day.

Converting to a psionic version is covered on page 12 of Eclipse – and could be slot or power based. When it comes to Power, a basic occult talent provides 4xL0 and 1xL1 effects, totaling 3 spell levels – which converts (multiply by 1.8) to 5 Power. If you’re using 3.0 psionic powers, it would grant access to four L0 powers and one L1 power. If you’re using 3.5 psionic powers, L0 powers do not exist – so trade them in the four of them for two more L1 powers, for a total of three. The “Improved” version provides 5.5 spell levels, and so would convert to ten power to use those abilities with.

It’s also perfectly possible to call your power “spell points” and take normal spells – gaining flexibility at the cost of a slight hit on the total number of spells you’ll be able to cast each day. You can directly expand the list of spells or powers available by buying Occult Talent again, or by buying particular spell formula (page 11, bottom right hand column).

Since Occult Talent is basically a very small, short, spell progression there’s nothing inherently wrong with trading out it’s implicit limitations for some of the other ones under “Magic Levels”. Thus, given the permission of the GM, you could trade the small list of inherent spells for a spellbook (an expensive indulgence when you’re never going to have all that many spells), or even trade out the “studies” limitation for “conduct” and get a complete divine spell list to prepare spells from.

That sort of trade is fairly common among priestly acolytes and similar characters – people who aren’t dedicated enough to buy a clerical spell progression, but who are capable of very minor priestly magic. Specialize it for double effect by requiring time and prayer and occasional services to get those spells back and label it “Lay Priest” (6 CP).

Occult Talent is also sometimes used to represent bits of magic that go with skills in a magical world. Take it Specialized in powers related to a particular skill and Corrupted to require a skill roll for a mere 2 CP, and you’ll have some smithing tricks, or climbing tricks, or rope magic tricks, or whatever.

An article on Elven Variants showed the breakdown for Specialization and Corruption of Occult Talents to produce very minor effects – usually single spells once per day. The actual results look like this:

  • Buy a single Cantrip or Orison usable Once Per Day (Caster Level = Hit Dice): 1 CP.
  • Buy a single First-Level Spell usable Once Per Day (Caster Level = Hit Dice, 1 Minimum): 2 CP.
  • Buy a single Second-Level Spell usable Once Per Day (Caster Level = Hit Dice, 3 Minimum): 4 CP.

An Occult Talent can also be used to get a few more spell formula to start off with, as the Mystic Adept build does;

Improved Occult Talent, Specialized/the spells gained must be powered from the user’s existing power reserves and are cast at his or her base caster level, rather than using his or her hit dice as a caster level (6 CP). That gets our Mystic Adept a selection of five Cantrips or Orisons and three first level spells to use since otherwise he or she would be starting with only one spell.

The HuSung Birthright Package from the Atheria Campaign uses Improved Occult Talent to provide spell slots for Theurgy – a simple method of giving a dabbler a few spell slots and a wide variety of small spells to cast without having to worry about caster levels.

Improved Occult Talent: 5x L0 and 3xL1 spell slots. Specialized: no inherent spells, only usable for theurgy, Corrupted, Elemental Magic only (4 CP)

Going beyond Improved Occult Talent is most easily done by buying Generic Spell Levels (under Mana), Rite of Chi, and other enhancements. While it is possible to Specialize and Corrupt Occult Talents in various ways for increased effect, or to buy several of them, you’re never going to get beyond third level effects (at the most) doing it that way. If a character really wants to put that much effort into magic, they’re probably better off with a full spell progression, or rune magic and lots of mana, or one of the other major magical options.

Of course, if a setting doesn’t allow more powerful options… Well, an Occult Talent Specialized and Corrupted to allow a third level effect may represent the legendary peak of magical power.

Hopefully that both answers your questions and gives you some additional ideas…

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XCIII – Dreams Of The Elders

English: Peanut butter cookie with a chocolate...

Sweet Dreams!

At Dudael Catherine was looking a bit concerned about something.

(Charles) “Is something wrong?”

(Catherine, whispering) “Uh… Does anything feel… fluid around here to you?”

Charles had to pause for a moment – but nothing felt any more liquid than usual…

(Charles) “Huh! Does it? That might be the Veilward working; a Nocturnal might well feel that!”

(Catherine) “Huh! I don’t think you told me about that; some kind of hiding measure?”

(Charles) “It scatters attempts to probe, assault, or otherwise penetrate Dudael against the will of the hearthstone bearer across dimensions – usually leading to one where it’s vacant and deserted!”

Catherine looked thoughtful for a bit… That might be something to experiment with if Charles would allow it. She couldn’t do anything with the actual geomancy of course, but a Charm…

(Catherine) “Maybe I could do something with that eventually. Nothing permanent, but if there was a possibility of experimentation…”

(Charles) “I suppose we could look into it! It might work for you!”

(Catherine) “I’d appreciate it! Anything to keep me busy during these off periods.”

(Charles) “Certainly! And there are lots of other projects if you’re REALLY bored!

(Catherine, happily taking a copy of the list) “I’ll have to look into that sometime!… Uhm… How does the Veilward work anyway? Outside of the basic effect, of course!”

Well, there was no one better around to explain the working of a geomantically powered artifact than Charles – and in a manse he was attuned to yet – but it was primordial workmanship and he pretty much went past what she understood of the discipline in the first few sentences.

(Catherine, sighing) “OK, you lost me at the geomancy, but it’s a REALLY powerful artifact mounted in this place? Checking the structure sometime will be worth a try!”

(Charles) “Oh certainly!”

The rest of the shift proceeded normally, with minor artifacts being made for the stockpiles. At the moment it was Worksuits (very light armor with lots of practical utility functions and some environmental support; Charles figured that he might need some for the colonies!), Light Plasguns (adjustable flame projectors, useful for everything from lighting cigarettes to heating forges, welding, metal-cutting, lighting, cooking, beacons – and even very short range combat), Universal Tools, and Personal Navigation Devices.

Catherine very much approved! All too often the gods forgot about utilitarian devices… it was nice having a boss who understood!

That actually left Charles with a little free time before bed… He was almost ready to start in with the usual planning until he dropped – but the Coatl and Inukami were pleasantly surprised when he thought about the overstressed Sidereals and actually went to bed at a reasonable hour for once…

The pastry ship sailed, kicking up a bow wave of chocolate liqueur that was ridden by the gingerbread dolphins while – off to the sides – the nougat volcanoes hurled hot lava cakes high into the sky and the tantalizing scent of more substantial lands of food wafted gently over the horizon… “Land Ho” shouted the cotton-candy teddy as Peanut Butter Mountain (with it’s occasional chocolate rocks) loomed up. Charles rode the ski-lift to the top (inventing some non-sticky peanut butter skis to come down with along the way) and watched the jelly whales swimming through the peanut butter, spouting their various flavors to form shimmering pools of jelly beneath the bread-and-cookie trees!

Huh! He didn’t usually get this kind of dream unless he went to bed really REALLY hungry! Still, it was quite fun dodging the trees, the topping-screes, and the gumdrop boulders!

Wait! He was pretty sure that HE wasn’t this hungry – so that meant that someone was sharing his dream and that “hunger” either figured pretty largely in their lives or… HAD figured largely!

Charles started looking around for Orchid.

After dodging a particularly violent spout of jelly from a whale, he spotted Orchid in a sugar rock alcove. She was waving – so he skied on over!

(Charles) “Allo!”

(Orchid) “Ah, Aden! (Gratefully) Thank you so much for all you’ve done for me. My boss has finally decided to talk to you. He’s farther in. Before that, though… (She looked mildly uncomfortable) Thing is, he wants a sample of your Essence.”

(Charles) “all the kinds or just my personal type?”

(Orchid) “Every bit. He wants to make sure you’re actually a Mighty One, and he’s been at this A LOT longer than me.”

Charles was interested in the results of that analysis as well; he wasn’t at all sure any longer.

(Orchid) “Here’s the other thing… our default method for this hurts. It can hurt a lot. So if you could come up with another way… I mean, you helped me a lot! I don’t want to hurt you and I don’t think the boss does either.”

Gothmug twitched in Aden! It wasn’t like he hadn’t set a few Balgrogs to monitoring Charle’s dreams – at least since he’d invited a deiphage to meet him there! Still, at least the boy was making up an Essence Sampler rather than inviting a Deiphage to feed on him! It was all from his personal geomancy, so there was no reason why he couldn’t just bottle some…

It was a lot of bottles – but Orchid had patience. Between how helpful Charles had been and his “diplomatic immunity” she REALLY didn’t want to hurt him…

(Orchid) “Okay, take those in. He said this was going to be between him and you.”

Charles cheerfully did so… further into the alcove the rock candy remained, but took on a pale, bluish radiance, awfully similar to the lower levels of Yu-Shan’s underground. There was still some sticky peanut butter though… Well there was nothing wrong with that!

The path ended in a room with nothing in it but an adamant sphere, hooked to the rock candy through adamant tubing. The Old Realm characters for “10” were engraved upon it. Inside the sphere was some sort of black fluid – and inside that floated a vague humanoid shape.

(Charles, as cheerily as always) “Allo!”

(Voice from the sphere.) “You must be Aden Shining Dream… odd, you don’t look drained. Did you two find another way?”

(Charles) “I bottled up essence from various points… There’s lots anyway!”

(Voice) “Could you slip it into the tube labeled ‘Analysis?'”

Charles did so – and continued dropping in bottles for some time, given that there were samples of Elemental, Autochtohonian (a full set), Underworld, Primal (in several types), Wyld, Shinamaic (a full set), Lunar, Solar, Sidereal, Abyssal, Divine, Raksha, Nocturnal, and rather a lot of Adenic essence in there!

The liquid inside the sphere glowed and bubbled wildly for several minutes – and it’s level decreased slightly. The occupant sat silently for a few moments – and then turned towards Charles.

(Voice) “Fascinating… you’re attuned to so many Manses and artifacts that not even I can analyze them all. I can say one thing for certain, however; you are not a Mighty One – Yet.”

(Charles) “Aw! I was kind of hoping that you would know!”

(Voice) “I said yet. I… I never thought I would encounter an embryonic one. You just lack the fetich and the forging of your spirit to a single guiding principle. There’s also a hidden area I can’t quite parse. What is that?”

(Charles) “Maybe the nocturnal segments? They like to hide!”

(Voice) “Nocturnal… I have never heard of it. Odd, I’ve eaten all sorts of things!”

(Charles) “They’re new too!”

(Voice) “Oh! How dreadfully rude of me! I am Ten Peach, junior Overseer of the Eastern Petal! I… I haven’t offended you, have I?”

(Charles) “No! Why would I be offended?”

(Ten Peach) “It’s just that Mighty Ones can be eccentric – and, while I saw none of the destructive eccentricities in you, I might have missed something. Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable? I wasn’t sure what you wanted, so I went with a default merger of our two dreamspaces.”

(Charles) “It’s fine! Dreams are kind of random anyway usually!”

That seemed to produce some mild confusion – but Ten Peach got over it.

(Ten Peach) “Please, tell me more about this procedure you’ve done for Orchid.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well, that was simple! I set her up with a sort of limited multipresence, so that she’s present “in” several manses at the same time at all times. I have plenty of manses anyway!”

(Ten Peach) “Enough to supply all of us, if what she said was true… Perhaps even my colleagues and superiors.”

(Charles) “Well, if there aren’t enough already, there’s plenty of room for more manses!”

(Ten Peach) “I must feel this for myself. Would you care to give me a link?”

(Charles) “OK!” (And the shining blue-gold orb – the setup that would provide a link to three planetary manses primarily designed for city-support – came out again).

(Ten Peach) “Oh dear. One moment, please, Nascent One…”

The sphere started draining. Oddly enough though, it wasn’t draining through the pipes; it seemed to be draining into whoever was inside – much like a sponge absorbed water. After all the liquid drainsed Charles could see the occupant more clearly: a hairless humanoid made of faintly luminous adamant, with eyes of orichalcum and claws of obsidian. He was clearly male and wore white ambrosial clothing – trousers and a tunic with the number “10″ on it. Part of the sphere disappeared and he gingerly climbed out.

(Ten Peach) “I apologize. I’m so used to being hooked up that I forget I can leave in my dreams.”

(Charles) “Hm. Does the symbolism really matter when we’re in a shared dream? It must be pretty deeply habitual there…”

Ten Peach examined the sphere, but – unlike Orchid – he was noticeably sniffing and tasting… Then he went in; Gothmug is watching him right away – and reported an Essence level of around eight (and that Ten Peach was absolutely befuddled by the concept of outdoors). Nevertheless, he went through the attunement ritual. Then, of course, he was back in the rock candy cave…

(Charles) “How’s that?”

(Ten Peach, with some shock) “The Essence … this will speed up our timetable drastically.”

(Charles) “Oh! You might know… If I bump Yu-Shans power inputs back to or above Age-Of-Glory levels what will happen?”

It took a few minutes for Ten Peach to respond; he appeared to be savoring the taste of the incoming Essence. Nonetheless, he did answer eventually.

(Ten Peach) “Oh dear… that depends. Which portion of the circuits will you be enhancing? The pure, or the compromised? Ouch … my Destiny Sponsorship. But that was a question that had to be answered.”

(Charles) “Oh, I was going to link the place up to another 96 planets by adding a couple of additional gates next to the existing ones around the edge!”

(Ten Peach, puzzledly) “What’s a planet? I remember SOMETHING about that from long ago. I do apologize, it’s fuzzy.”

(Charles) “Ah, I should have expected that!” (He pulled up a map of old creation and ran it through an animated display of the reshaping, showed how old creation (mostly the blessed isle and the deep earth pole) became the earth, and then showed the expansion – and then a view of other planets, suns, and galaxies.

(Charles) “Creation is MUCH larger than it used to be! And a lot of the original gates are all messed up…”

(Ten Peach) “That explains many things – why the blasted lions closed some gates, among them. Would it be all right if I shared this information with my colleagues?”

(Charles) “Oh sure! I’ll package up a presentation!… Here! It’s a dream-artifact, so it will manifest in reality when you want it!”

(Ten Peach, bowing at the waist) “Thank you, Nascent One.”

He took the minor dream artifact, after – again – sniffing it.

(Ten Peach) “As for your additional gates, if you do it that way… it would deal with the reduced input somewhat. Depending on where you put them, the coverage of pure or compromised areas would increase by half a percentage point. With the power you are capable of, you might manage a full percentage point.”

(Charles) “Well, you were already set up for some expansion anyway!”

(Ten Peach) “Quite so. I hope to see the percentages at maximum in a few millennia.”

(Charles) “Reverting it back to how it was before the Incarnae moved in?”

(Ten Peach, with some mild displeasure when Charles mentioned the Incarnae) “Well, yes… as it was.”

(Charles) “I don’t suppose you’ll want to tell me what it did then? There are some things I wouldn’t want to start just yet!”

(Ten Peach) “No one has asked me since the Occupation! First of all, what have you been told about that period?” (And suddenly, modest ambrosial chairs appeared; Charles recognized the style from Ninety-Six Lotus’s bunker.

Charles gladly provided the five versions of what was going on then, and how the Incarane moved in that he’d heard already…

(Ten Peach) “I see. Well, Orchid did mention that you controlled Dudael… one of the few approved structures in here at the time… What you were told about our ultimate superior, the White Ram was true; a small army of Solars and Lunars (the resentment was palpable) killed him. The first we heard of it was when there was panic at the Jade Pleasure Dome. But that’s not what you were really asking about, was it? I believe you were asking which quarters we had an interest in.” (He looked haunted for a moment.) “And I would rather not discuss that time.”

(Charles) “Well no! I think that Yu-Shan had some definite purposes at the beginning; but I coudn’t stay long enough at the testing period to see what. Since powering up will mean restoring the manses so that their remains don’t blow up, I’d be restoring those and then upping the power levels – and I was wondering what it might start doing; it would be very awkward if it tried to restore the original design of creation or something! Or if it woke up and started flexing with no warning or some such!”

(Ten Peach) “I assume you were planning to reconstruct every Manse in Yu-Shan then? Nearly all of them are unapproved; they have no effect on Creation’s geomancy whatsoever. But there are a few you would want to avoid giving powers that affect Creation. (he smiled) Now, waking up… that is what we need to achieve 100% purity for.”

(Charles) “Well, I’d be restoring their original functions anyway…

(Ten Peach) “Most of those Manses were temporary works, bought into existence by me, my colleagues, and our Operators. They were needed to stabilize the structure. Once it was up and her Essence was flowing back and forth, we could take them down. I believe several Mighty Ones then constructed their prototype demesnes on those sites.”

Ten Peach was relaxing somewhat. It had been a long time since he’d spoken to ANYONE who wasn’t one of his subordinates.

(Charles) “So, some of the original manses were the channels that allowed Gaia to infuse herself into creation?”

(Ten Peach) “I saw her merge with Yu-Shan, her elemental power in full flow. Some of the Operators failed to listen to me and couldn’t survive the raw Essence. I had to lecture them and review proper conduct afterwards. But it was magnificent as her power flooded downward. What does it look like, living in a world in so much flux? Ah, I got poetic there. Yes, there were five of those temporary Manses. The Emerald Mother attuned to them, and she never regained those motes. As far as I know, they would still be in Creation.”

Hm! So the original Creation-shaping and Channeling manses had allowed Gaia to infuse herself into creation – and then had been taken down. The current manses – both damaged and functioning – were pretty much irrelevant.

Charles gladly shared some experiences of what Creation was like – and the fact that it needed renewing as well, and what was being done about that.

(Ten Peach) “That… would help with the imbalances up here, to be certain… I cannot believe that it has gotten so big! The blasted raksha must have had her in a corner for her to attempt the process alone.”

(Charles) “I think it went a bit out of control!”

(Ten Peach) “Yes, because she had none of her siblings to assist! They made existence together – and with them imprisoned in Lord Theion…”

(Charles) “Well, that needs fixing too!”

(Ten Peach) “Please, tell them we need help! We’re well on our way to recovery, but with the lions buzzing about above, we Tenders are vastly outnumbered. There’s only so much we can do with all that clutter, too!”

(Charles) “Oh, with your Destiny Sponsorship out of action would you like a Behemoth Cloak too? I can stash one somewhere for you to pick up if you’d like!”

(Ten Peach) “Thank you, Nascent One, but my Operator’s vestments will suffice. But if you would assist a disgraced Tender with a problem?”

(Charles) “What’s needed?”

(Ten Peach sighed) “Nine Grape, the senior Overseer of this Petal and my partner, has been uncommunicative for the past year. We were speaking monthly before that. I’ve sent members of my Operator team in to ask why, but her team has been turning them away. All signs indicate that she is alive. I want to know if she’s planning something stupid; she has been impatient with our progress for the past millennium or so. I believe you have met Ninety-Six Lotus? He is one of her Operators. I hate to ask such a small thing of you, but you are a Nascent One, and she might listen.”

(Charles) “Why not? She might be the one who wanted that artifact then…”

(Ten Peach) “Artifact? What artifact?”

Charles cheerily provided the specifications.

(Ten Peach) “Oh dear! What is she thinking? That will have the lions on her for certain! And she is supposed to notify me of such modifications, even if they would be beneficial!”

(Charles) “Well, I shall drop in to see her!”

(Ten Peach) “Please, Nascent One! If we lost an Overseer…” (He looked frightened.)

The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice – The Modern Gates, Part V

Rio Jaguarão

Why can’t they all be like this?

And now, finally, we have the modern Yu-Shan gates of the South…

49) Atop Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this gate has developed the possibly-unfortunate side effect of rendering any creature that passes through it solidly material for several days – which has led to a number of unfortunate incidents of incautious gods falling into the sea. Since somehow becoming immaterial is a necessary part of entering Yu-Shan, this means that anyone who enters Creation via this gate cannot be recalled for several days – an effect which has made vacationing in Rio a tremendously popular choice among the Sidereals, who know that if they opt to vacation, or hold a conference, in Rio, it will be days before they can be recalled and re-assigned – no matter how big someone thinks the emergency is. Thus Rio has become one of the central hubs for Sidereal activity on Earth.

50) Located in Mali, in the western fringes of the Sahara Desert, this gate lies locked behind a defense mechanism run amuck – an ever-shifting maze of dreams, who’s mysteries include both it’s indestructible physical structure and a bizarre mixture of tales and plotlines – both of which must be negotiated to pass through. While many ill-prepared individuals have lost their ways within the maze they may or may not survive as anything beyond maddened monstrosities.

As usual, the Gate is an indestructible manse – in this case with modifiers such as Puzzle Manse, Wyld Revocation (as usual for the Gates Independent of External Geomancy and giving illusions partial reality), and a somewhat crazed AI to control things). Remember “There is research to be done. On the people who are still alive.” (Portal).

51) Deep in a cavern beneath South Africa, this sapient soulsteel gate is embedded in a mighty mass of nigh-indestructible diamond – which constantly grows, and sheds shards. Even the small ones are stones of high quality, the larger ones are fabulous jewels in their own right – and many are thaumaturgic talismans, whether beneficial or accursed. They are also monitoring devices and bait. The gate scatters them about the great diamond fields of Africa – and waits for mortals to claim them. When a mortal dies in possession of such a stone, his or her soul is drawn within it, and transferred to the original mass – to become a perpetual source of power for the ancient entities imprisoned within the soulsteel of the gate. Perhaps not even they know what the end result will be, but with enough power and time there is very little that cannot be done.

52) In the wilds of Madagascar, in a tangled and near-impassible tangle of ravines, the top of a massive carving thrusts from the ground, – so damaged and obscured by vines and plants as to be almost undetectable among the surrounding mountains. Sadly, the gate on it’s forehead in has been sealed since long before the Reshaping – in fact, since before the Usurption, when certain Sidereals discovered – to their horror – that a clever and paranoid Twilight had quite intentionally placed his geomantic superweapon in position to funnel the geomantic energy of the entire south into an elemental attack that would pass through the gate to devastate the center of Yu-Shan, destroy other gates, disrupt the Loom, and cause geomantic upheavals that might tear apart Yu-Shan itself. He might even have arranged so as to be able to do so by remote control. Today, with it’s base now sitting deep within the planetary crust, that weapon remains as potent as ever – and likely to trigger incredible destruction if any attempt is made to destroy it – and so this particular gateway remains SHUT under a high-priority seal from the Maidens themselves.

53) Deep in the ocean east of Africa this gate emerges in an ancient solar manse, in what was once the palace of the Perfect of Paragon – and, just perhaps, still is. The gate was sealed from the Creation end shortly before the march of the Wyld reached the area – a capability that no one had been aware that the Perfect possessed – and later investigation simply revealed that the entire area had apparently been replaced with a bland sea-bottom and that there was no sign of the gate at all.

A few savant-gods have speculated that the Perfect had somehow obtained a stored “Pressed Beyond The Veil Of Time” spell and is now – somehow – trapped elsewhere by the presence of the ocean where his realm would be returning to. There really isn’t any evidence for this though. There also isn’t any evidence for the idea that the area was wiped out by wyld and restored on some distant world, or that the Solar Manse that contained the gate is still supporting the Perfect and some of his citizens and is simply concealing itself, or any of a dozen other speculations. It’s possible that – unless the gate reopens – no one will ever know.

54) In the Arabian Desert, often hidden by blowing sands, are a scattering of towers of glass – once known as Chiascuro, now best known as Iram of the Pillars or “The Nameless City”. Here, under the supervision of a maddened Grandmother Bright, various demons crawl from a Host-Binding Circle in Power Failure – some competing to become one of the 1001 residents that Grandmother Bright permits to remain within her sand-buried city and others crawling forth into the desert to spawn legends of terrible jinn. The gate is generally kept sealed; few of the Celestial Lions wish to risk attempting to negotiate with an insane goddess and her horde of demonic minions. Occasional mortals DO attempt such negotiation, seeking to use the power of the demon horde for their own purposes. This rarely ends well – at least for the mortal.

55) This gate lies in Jerusalem, beneath the Dome of the Rock. Once almost exclusively used by Ahlat, god of War and Cattle, to visit his priests and accept their offerings of goods and sweet incense and cattle, it now lies beneath one of the most fought-over holy cities of the world where conflicting followers of the unnamed LORD and Allah have – for centuries – fought over the site and have offered up incense and cattle and goods…

Well – like it or not – taking Exalted’s Creation as the prehistory of Modern Earth says that pretty much all current religions are fundamentally wrong. If, of course, this is what’s going on… Ahlat would currently be receiving the prayers of Christianity, Judaism, AND Islam – and have more worshipers than the Unconquered Sun ever did. Of course he’d also have an administrative nightmare, be pretending to have far more power and influence than he actually would (even with that inflated position), and be violating many celestial laws. On the other hand he’d be funding most of the Celestial Bureaucracy out of his own pocket – which would let him get away with quite a lot. It’s hard to say “No!” to the man who’s funding everything!

56) Beneath the antarctic ice, there is a desert sky… With creation collapsing around them and the Wyld pouring in, the creation-adapted lion-fey of the south had little choice save to join the defense. Sadly, their power was nowhere near sufficient; the best that they could do was to gather together scattered isles of order – modest areas protected by various gods, immutable manses, and occasional reality engines – and wrap their freeholds around them, a modest archipelago of order wrapped in a borderland lagoons. For the moment, at least, the Wyld waves swept past – and then broke upon the erupting order of the Reshaping.

The Reshaping… encapsulated roughly a thousand freehold waypoints and a random sampling of immutable bits of the threshold territories within a single mighty freehold – occupying a fold in space and a modest area beneath the newly-forming ice of antarctica. Here are an assortment of tiny city-states, wyld lands, and other bits of the Original Creation, rather like the largest sampler box of chocolates in the cosmos.

And there aren’t any labels.

Nevertheless, here, beneath a blazing desert sun shining beneath the ice of the south pole, the Raksha have maintained the old market around the Yu-Shan gate – making small quantities of a myriad otherwise lost goods and services available to the elite of Yu-Shan – for a hefty price. The Raksha take care to look human, or to bring some human fronts along – while the Gods take care to overlook the presence of the Raksha. It’s not like they could readily return to the Wyld now, even if distance was not an obstacle.

57) In Mexico City, within the depths of Glass Reach, in a chamber warded against detection and filled with gold, surrounded by ancient solar tombs and their ghostly occupants, a gate stands – awaiting once more the sacrifices of the Dragon Kings or their successors. Around Glass Reach stand seven more ancient manses – a geomantic engine of vast power (and possibly of Primordial design). Over it, humans – in their blindness – have built an enormous, thriving, city – and often delve into the depths of the earth. All too soon perhaps modern foundations will meet ancient stone – and who knows what will be unleashed?

58) Not even Gaia is perfect. This gate opens up somewhere in deep interstellar space, where reality is thin – and has been, like so many of the other gates, sealed by the Celestial Lions. Most of them don’t want to talk about it – although speculation centers on creatures of the Deep Earth who were reshaped to suit their new intergalactic homes during the Reshaping.

59) On Prince Patrick Island, in Northern Canada, Jakatam Shining-Hammer continues to ply his ancient trade – forging wonders in volcanic fires. His manse – The Citadel Of Generative Flames – provides him with privacy and captures the heat of the volcanic rift to warm the area nearby. Here, supported by that hidden island of warmth in the midst of the glacier, a lost colony of seafarers has gathered, providing Jakatam with a modest cult, assistants and – when criminals are available – sacrifices to use in his forging. Few of the occupants of Yu-Shan realize that Jakatam still survives, much less that he is busier than ever – and none save the most trusted have been allowed to see past the manses illusions.

60) Hidden in the core of an asteroid there lies a city of the first age – still supported by it’s imperishable manses and machines, and still well-populated. Unfortunately, the massive deposits of Firedust beneath the city have been infused with wyld energies and transmuted into radioactive ores, leaking their mutagenic radiation across the ages. The strangely-warped denizens of the city have had nowhere to go for millennia – and know all too well that the cities systems will support a limited number of people. Their accommodation to that fact has been… brutal. Those who exceed the permissible lifespan are slain – and the children are pitted against various beasts, shapings, hazards, and each other in a variety of competitions. The strongest survivors get to live, and to continue to await the days when The Shining Ones (as they refer to the Celestial Exalts) will return to lead them. The luckiest wind up being purchased by gods or other inhabitants of Yu-Shan. The rest… are disposed of variously.

Occasional groups from Yu-Shan hire (or purchase) guards and soldiers here. While that might be seen as unscrupulous, each such event means one more child that gets to live…

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XCII – Correspondence School

Three rubber ducks in foam bath

The Terrible Minions of Pure Frothing Delight, God of Bubble Baths!

Back in Yu-Shan, Charles was trying to talk his teachers into giving him several months worth of assignments in advance… They’d have been a bit reluctant anyway – that was a long gap! – but the rumors that were now floating around school were MOST disquieting. There were whispers that the boy was – amongst other things – an Exalt, a Primordial in disguise, the God of School Boards (going incognito) a raksha seeking godhood, and still stranger. Some of them had even noted his tendency to simply hand out artifacts after multiple incidents with armor…

Charles had made a note of some of the rumors! You never knew when someone would have a really good idea! Not the “God of School Boards” one though. That was just silly! Raksha becoming gods was mildly awkward, but possible – and it matched up with some of the rumors about fey artifact sources.

Still, he’d quit attempting to hide that he made artifacts very quickly indeed – and the instructors did know that he was running a factory-cathedral, and that using it off the clock was a perk of the job – but he was just too fast for that to account for!

Thus, some polite queries into how he did it so quickly were in order – along with the general discussion on why he needed his assignments so far ahead.

(Charles) “I learned some charms for making things faster and made lots of tools! And the factory-cathedral helps too!”

(Barzan, God of Bronze Amphoras, Metal Shop) “What kind of tools?”

(Charles) “Wonderworker’s Mantles, Runescribers, some Specialty Manses with Artificer Guardian Forces, and that sort of thing! I had some to start, and that made it easy to make more!”

He was making Manses on his own? Well, his grandfather did have an awful lot of resources – but that was still awfully precocious for a boy his age! And from the way he was talking, he saw manses as… just another tool.

(Sephara, Goddess of Teak Furniture Engraving) “How many Manses?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Lots! Does it matter?”

Evasion… either he really did build those Manses, and wanted to keep it quiet, or he was fibbing – and it would be hard for anyone to be more honest or blatantly poor at lying. They’d have to talk to Headmaster Jun about it! Charles had shown nothing but good intentions so far – and he might need some watching to ensure that he as not being exploited.

(Barzan) “Could you tell us about some of those manses?”

Charles could hardly resist talking about manses! He explained some designs for making manses that made workers and other things and how they help make more manses and manse seeds, and so on… Manses were fun!

The instructors were more than a little appalled… They could see some of the potential problems and negative implications of such activities much better than the child evidently could! Presumably his Grandfather knew – but Richof was noted for his absences! The boy could certainly do with some more supervision, as hard to harm as his combat instructors said he was!

(Barzan) “Er… What kind of security precautions are you taking? If someone was to seize control of some of the facilities you’re creating…”

(Charles) “Well, there are plenty of guardians, and the locations are pretty secure!”

(Sephara) “DOES your Grandfather know you’re doing all this?”

(Charles) “I showed him around, although (disappointedly) he didn’t have time to see everything…”

Oh dear! They were probably going to ask directly!

Come to think of it though… relatively shortly he was planning to hold a major ritual with Gaia and add gates all around Yu-Shan. Strict secrecy would soon be a moot point anyway – and it wasn’t like several major groups weren’t already poking around. Would it really matter?

(Sephara) “Charles, where on Earth are these Manses? Unused demesnes that you can build on without anyone noticing are hard to find!”

Yep! That was the direct question all right…

(Charles) “Uhrm… Well…”

He gave up and opened the door to the annex to frame the portal; the direct inquiries were just going to keep on coming…

(Charles) “I put them in here!”

(Barzan) “I’m pretty sure that door didn’t lead THERE last time. What is that, Charles?”

(Charles) “I made space to keep everything handy!”

Charles cheerily ushered them through.

Made space? Well… Charles didn’t have a vicious bone in his body; the combat instructors said as much – so they stepped through. The doorway, of course, led to the usual entry point – in the mountains overlooking the singing forest, and the orchestral birds, with the sea of chaos nearby, pastoral villages, crystal towers, and the various creatures.

(Sephara) “You… built all THIS?”

(Charles) “Why not? It was fun!”

The door-guards – a Balgrog with a policeman’s cap and the a Noldor (currently playing chess while watching the gate) watched curiously.

(Noldor) “More guests Charles? We have some brochures now!”

(Charles) “You need lots of internal geomancy to support your own manses! And more room for the people, and the Guardians and Sentinels and Citizens!”

(Barzan) “Er… and just how did you develop internal geomancy?”

(Charles) “It sort of comes by itself once you get your world-body organized!”

“World-body organized?” But that would mean the boy was aspiring to Primordialhood! Or had been one all along! That would explain the odd disinclination to attack him… not that they would.

(Barzan) “A… world-body. How long have you had a world-body?”

Both of them started looking at the brochures – which, of course, explained many of the attractions of Aden.

Charles wasn’t entirely sure that childhood dreams and imaginings weren’t the start of a world-body anyway… Raksha could go into dreams, so they were places of a sort, and there were ways to make them permanent, and they could be shared with others, and massed dreams were places of their own… He was fairly sure that – given more power – EVERY human could make a world-body – and some of his charm research tended to confirm that.

(Charles) “Hm… It sort of starts imaginary, and you can gradually develop the ability to make it real!”

(Sephara) “I see… but this seems more than just a boy’s fancy.”

If those brochures were accurate… the place was immense, well-organized, industrialized, and currently supporting several million inhabitants! With the potential for billions!

(Charles) “Well here’s the map! (He pulled up a projection) Would you like to talk to one of the Guardians?”

(Sephara, after a few moments consideration of the scale) “It’s really this big?”

(Barzan) “Yeah, I’d like to talk to a Guardian!”

(Charles) “Hmm.. (and a quick message) Chaffari? Got a minute?”

Chaffari, as the Far-Traveler, simply popped up…

(Chaffari) “Hello Charles! World #48 is tied into the network now… Ah, I see you have guests! Pleased to meet you both!”

(Barzan) “Err… hello there. I’m Barzan, God of Metalworking (actually it was just Forging Bronze Amphoras, but he was a bit touchy about their unpopularity) and this is Sephara, Goddess of Teak Furniture Engraving. It’s good to meet you too.”

(Sephara) “World #48?”

(Chaffri) “I’ve been working on the transportation network; each of the planets needs a set of gates back to earth, a few to other planets on the network, and one to Yu-Shan! Once the network is activated, it will make traveling about a great deal easier! And it’s well worth it! Some of them have some absolutely SPECTACULAR scenery!”

(Barzan) “Wait… you’re building gates to Yu-Shan?”

(Sephara) “He said an entire network. Charles, what is going on here!?”

(Chaffri) “Of course! Otherwise the new domains won’t be available, and we won’t be able to get everyone back to work!”

Barzan and Sephara looked at each other in astonishment.

(Chaffri) “You do realize that the deiphages now outnumber the rest of you by nearly three to one? That’s quite a potential problem!”

(Charles) “I think some of that was being kept quiet to avoid panic Chaffri!”

(Sephara) “But I live in a perfectly good neighborhood, miles from any abandoned district!”

Meanwhile, both Barzan and Sephara had taken a look at Chaffri with their essence-senses – and been more than a little appalled. Chaffri… was a major power! And apparently… worked for Charles. Either the boy was fabulously powerful – or was just as fabulously reckless – or both! Besides… either creating or summoning an entity with essence that high normally required the intervention of some pretty primal powers!

(Barzan) “I dunno. Mine’s not that great; we have to settle for thaumaturgy.”

(Sephara) “So… who else knows about this, Charles?”

(Charles, sighing) “All of “civilized” Yu-Shan… is less than 40% of the surface area of the city – and a lot less of the underlevels. And the abandoned districts are steadily growing. As for who knows about it… quite a lot of people are suppressing large parts of the information… Some of the Celestial Lions know, and… Oh! You mean about Aden here!… Well, the Sidereals have been poking around for a while now – and some Lunars – and a few of the Terrestrials got involved what with the reforestation and antipollution programs on Earth, and a few ghosts are staying, and rather a lot of human refugees, and some thaumaturgists, and an alchemical and some raksha visited, and there are still a dozen or so first circle demons in the video game arcades…

(Barzan) “Wait, you have DEMONS in here? That’s very dangerous for a boy of your age to be fooling with, you know!”

(Sephara) “Not as much as the structure of Yu-Shan, though I’m sure he’s been thinking about this for a while.”

(Charles) “Only about a dozen, and only first circles! They helped a bit with a project or two early on, and they like the video games! And Gaia said she’d help with the gate-installation and general repairs! That’s good because a LOT of things need fixing!”

(Sephara) “Gaia…”

(Barzan) “I see! You’ve gotten in contact with the one remaining Primordial somehow.”

His grandfather WAS high ranking. Some favor?

(Charles) “Well, I wanted to know if it would be all right to use some of her unused planets!”

(Sephara) “You… really planned this out, didn’t you?”

That… made some of the strangeness surrounding the boy a bit more understandable (at least in their eyes). Was Gaia – or perhaps the Incarnae or the Elder Sidereals – working on creating an entity to help fix Creation? Or was he really a Primordial who was undercover as a student? That made very little sense… but so much of what the Primordials had done and how they’d done it had never seemed to make sense to anyone else; it had just generally worked!

(Charles) “There are lots of things to fix!”

(Sephara) “Well, thank you for being honest, Charles. Now Barzan and I have lesson planning to do… so we need to go. All right?”

(Charles, cheerfully reopening the door) “OK!”

(Barzan) “I’m good for today. Why don’t you go on, and I’ll follow later?”

Sephara left – and went straight to Jun. If Charles was going to be enacting a project of that scope and consequence – even if it succeeded and went as planned – Jun needed to know so that they could move the school or otherwise deal with the heat!

(Jun) “You seem quite agitated! Is something wrong?”

(Sephara) “Err… Headmaster, Charles is planning a massive project.”

She filled him in.

(Jun) “Hrm! He is a most methodical child… Anything he does that has to do with artificing, or geomancy, or magic has always been essentially flawless – and I’ve never been entirely sure that the points where something looks odd aren’t simply were I just don’t understand some of the reasoning. If he IS a primordial – or quasi-primordial – I suppose that would explain why!

(Sephara) “What shall we do, sir? Primordials are not supposed to be in Yu-Shan – but he has done nothing to harm the city! I’m not sure he’s even capable of it unless someone manipulates him.”

(Jun) “Well, Gaia is still resident – and I doubt he’s a Yozi in disguise… (Jun checked with the history instructor) he doesn’t match with any of them anyway… I don’t think there are any official rules on brand new Primordials appearing (he checked with the law instructor). There isn’t even any precedent… From what you say the Sidereals know – which would explain why they were sneaking around the place a few months back, and transferred a bunch of students in – and what would we do? Send a note to the Incarnae about a student project? That may be a bit tongue in cheek – but he hasn’t done anything except be endlessly nice to everyone he encounters. And it’s been pretty obvious that he’s enhanced every other student here entirely for free!”

(Sephara) “Then.. . good. I was worried that there WAS some precedent-and it would be a shame to lose such a good student.”

(Jun) “I shall send a sealed inquiry to the Incarnae; by the time such a thing from a school for god-bloods gets through, he will doubtless have long since graduated! Also, if he wants his assignments in advance for a few months, I see no reason not to let him have them. At worst, he’ll be ahead a bit.”

(Sephara) “Thank you, sir.”

That was a weird sort of compromise – but it did get them off the hook!

(Jun) “You’re quite welcome!)

Meanwhile, in Aden…

(Barzan) “Hey, Charles, you’re pretty good at thaumaturgy. How are you at removing traces of Essence?”

(Charles) “I can do that pretty well; does something need cleansing or something?”

(Barzan) “See, here’s the thing… I’m curious about those demons at that arcade, but I want to cover my tracks just in case someone looks at my Essence. I’m not expecting to TOUCH the things, but just in case.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well that’s easy!”

After all, they were just minor first circles, and had been resident playing first-person shooters for quite some time now. Hm… He never had asked them to do anything but a little toe-smashing and leg-breaking during that mess with the Morgans, and that was only a diversion that he fixed up on the way out.

Erymanthoi had changed since the second age (Infernal meddling was suspected) – becoming more “mafia thugs” than “crazy demons” – although they were still quite happy to feed off of any handy conflict, or blood when they could get it.

Barzan cheerily accepted a series of wards to keep their Essence from getting on him, and approached with a wary, but curious, air…

The demons too were wary, but curious.

(Demon) “Hey! My game! Get your own machine! Unless you wanna play a duo; it’s free tokens!”

(Barzan) “Really now?” (He wasn’t expecting such politeness! He, after all, thought of Malfeas as a hellhole. It was of course – but it was a hellhole that DID have a society, and established etiquette. ) “Then I accept!”

After all, he was a big strong god and didn’t want the big strong demon to think that he was stronger than him!

There was much electronic beeping – but the demon had more practice with video games, and won in the end.

(Demon) “Good reflexes, but you need more practice!”

(Barzan) “Forgive me, I haven’t had much experience with these electronic devices. I take it Charles has bound you to his service?”

(Demon) “Oh, that wore off long ago! But the drinks are great, the games are great, the tokens are free, and nobody bothers us! No Silent Wind, no Shadow of The Void, no Clashing Layers, no Burning Green Sun, no Crystal Eyes spying on you… All he ever asked for was for us to stamp on a few feet as a distraction once! Kind of sad really! A bunch of high-powered types trying to kill him, and what does he do? Has us step on the toes of the guards and break legs on the ones that wouldn’t discourage while he wandered in to complain about it…”

Unbound? Yet they weren’t harming anybody! The boy really WAS trying to please everyone! Why would they rampage? They had everything they needed here, more or less!

(Demon, with some annoyance) “And then healed up everybody on the way out! How can you get any respect that way? It won’t even IMPRESS anyone! “Dozens getting shoes with arch supports and extra toe space because they have sore feet!” just doesn’t have the impact of “Thousands Slain!”

Well, all right, evidently they had harmed SOME people, but it was only because Charles had told them to, and even then it was only in the pettiest of ways!

(Barzan, who did know a little about erymanthoi’s standard methods) “No sucking of marrow?”

(Demon) “Bah! Not even SYMBOLICALLY unless you count embarrassment! Turns their own defenses back on them, casually strolls in, captures the enemy commanders, takes them on a small, pleasant, tour of Yu-Shan and out to lunch, returns them, fixes everything that got broken on the way out, and THEN sends them some better weapons as presents because they seem to like them! Bad as a mother teaching a first brood of demonlings!”

Meanwhile, the Hobbit in charge of the arcade was announcing that a Doom tournament was being set up on the big screen TVs downstairs. The Erymanthoi headed on down; they’d always liked that game; the depictions of demons were quite entertaining in their inaccuracy…

Barzan had to bow out – but he thanked the demon for talking to him. His curiosity about demons and Malfeas – an eccentricity resulting from some domain power loss – was slaked for the time being.

He also thanked Charles.

(Charles) “Oh you’re welcome! Is there anything else you need?”

(Barzan) “No – we should probably get back to work. I still have a period of metal shop to teach!”

They headed back. Charles had to get to music class!

After over a year, the instructor had discovered an appropriate instrument for everyone – even if it was a tambourine or hand drum for the worst cases, at least until they improved. Charles was far from the worst however – and she had settled on one of the more intricate sets of multiple pipes with stops and adjustments; most students would have had to learn to maintain those – but Charles, of course, simply made his own perfect set and added enough self-maintenance charms to class it as a (very) minor artifact.

The fact that that let his “Artifacts” speciality apply was lagniappe. He’d have been perfectly willing to make a more powerful set, but performance-boosting artifacts wouldn’t be fair; he was supposed to be using his own skills! Minor self-repair and perfect quality were, however, pretty much expected in Yu-Shan…

The day’s selection of practice music was simple enough to grasp, but complex enough to be a decent challenge… Charles selected Irish Ballads again – and did quite well, setting the instructor nodding approvingly; her suspicions that Charles needed a mechanical instrument had been proving quite correct. At this rate, he might not be a professional musician, but he’d manage – and would be ready in case his grandfather wanted prayers.

Otherwise music class progressed normally – and was the last class of the day before Charles had to head for Dudael – although even there work was a bit light, since Charles had completed his official load – or at least MUCH more of it than anyone had actually expected – in incredibly little time. Simply getting authorization to start placing additional orders would take many more months – and be even more difficult than usual, since it had become apparent that such orders – even for truly potent items! – were actually likely to be promptly filled, greatly increasing the competition for slots.

Charles saw that as a VERY good thing! He needed to make sure that everything would run smoothly in his absence.

Pure Frothing Delight, god of Bubble Baths was delighted with his new boat! The mass of bubbles and joy immediately took the boat to the Division of Heaven to get it registered. In a few more months, he might be able to sail it!

Exalted – Mortal Martial Arts

For today, it’s the start of something for Vaalantine, who’d like some martial arts suited to a mortal character.

Of course, Exalted has long ago reached the point where there are so many charms, and such a large percentage of broken ones – even only counting the official stuff – that it’s commonly easier, quicker, and often better balanced (as nonsensical as that is in Exalted) to simply stick to the core book for your Exalt type and make up custom stuff for your character. Ergo…

The Mortal Martial Arts are largely ignored in Exalted; the difference between a mortal master and a guy with some good attribute scores and a weeks training is… +4d, and maybe a speciality die or two, or even taking that “signature style” booster or some “mortal charms” if the GM will allow it.

Now +4d (or even a few more dice) is generally enough to tip a mortal fight most effectively (barring some really lucky and unlucky rolls) – but it really isn’t very interesting in mortal games and it’s kind of unsatisfying as the difference between (martial arts legend of choice) and (guy with good reflexes).

Of course, an awful lot of real martial arts training involves endurance training, drilling moves until they become reflexive, learning to effectively use your physical abilities (and learning their limits), breath control, and a lot of other stuff that (in Exalted terms) is kind of dull, even if it is important in a fight.

That’s something of a pity; after all, all the super-kung-fu action of Exalted is based on entirely mortal martial arts fantasies, every action in Exalted takes place in a world of magic – and it’s entirely likely that there are some Terrestrial Martial Arts styles out there that were entirely designed for mortals using thaumaturgy-level effects. Ergo, here we have…

(Mortal Martial Art) Mastery

martial arts

Of course it hurts! Isn’t that the point?

  • Cost; –, Min; Ess 1, Martial Arts 3, Type: Supplemental, Keywords; None, Duration; Permanent, Prerequisite Charms: None. Does NOT require an essence pool.
  • The user has mastered a mortal martial art, such as Judo. He or she may designate five specific maneuvers for that art, such as “Flying Double Kick”, “Wrist Lock”, or “Dragon Sweeps Tail” (leg sweep). Each may be invoked once per game session to provide a +2d bonus to a relevant stunt, which may take the stunt bonus above 3d. A 3d+ stunt may explicitly blind or hold an opponent for a turn, stop an overwhelming attack, or provide any of the other usual scene-editing functions.
  • This charm may be taken again, representing a new martial art, at Martial Arts 4 and 5. Each time the user acquires a new set of daily maneuvers.
  • The powers of Exalts (And gods – but not raksha, ghosts, jadeborn, or dragon kings) surpass this “charm”. If a new Exalt possessed this charm, he may trade it in for a martial art charm he or she is otherwise qualified for.

(Mortal Martial Art) C’hi Focus

  • Cost; –, Min; Ess 2, Martial Arts 4, Type: Supplemental, Keywords; None, Duration; Permanent, Prerequisite Charms: (Mortal Martial Art) Mastery, Does NOT require an essence pool.
  • The user gains a virtual Essence Pool containing (Will + Martal Arts) “motes”. These can only be used to power thaumaturgy and martial arts effects. The pool is renewed on a daily basis provided that the user gets sufficient nourishment and rest and is currently healthy. They may also be renewed by motes from stunts enhanced by (Mortal Martial Art) Mastery, but cannot be renewed by other stunts or in other ways.
  • This charm may be taken again at Martial Arts 5, increasing the virtual pool by (Essence + Martial Arts).
  • The powers of Exalts (And gods – but not raksha, ghosts, jadeborn, or dragon kings) surpass this “charm”. If a new Exalt possessed this charm, he may trade it in for a martial art charm he or she is otherwise qualified for.

There; for the cost of five charms, you can now be a genuine mortal master. You’re still no match for an Exalt of course, but at least you’ll have some fairly effective tricks – and if the GM allows you to stunt “perfect” defenses (I would, at least at +3 or +4d) you can actually hold off an Exalt for a round or two if you have appropriate maneuvers – and if they aren’t highly-experienced or all that serious about it. One or two good blocks or evasions won’t last for long.

If you want to eliminate the restrictions on Exalts and Gods using these charms it’s unlikely to really break the game – there are plenty of martial arts that do that already – but it will provide them with some awfully-convenient combat recharge options.

If you want to throw in a few body-hardening exercises, or other boosts – buy a few “mutations” with special effects to suit. Have you developed callouses like iron on your hands, toughened yourself to withstand blows, and so one?

Invest a three bonus points in “Claws” (calloused, toughened, and well-exercised hands), “Fur/Scales” (callouses and conditioning and toughening exercises), and “Large” (incredibly buff due to intensive training). After all, it’s only Wyld Mutations – not “mutations” gained from training, birth, demesnes, or manses – that limit your ability to survive in creation and the special effects of any mutations you buy are pretty much up to you.

Next up… the Greater Thaumaturgial Martial Arts. “Terrestrial” styles designed for Mortals.

Exalted – The Barques Of A Million Years

English: The Universe within 100 million Light...

Yeah. Somewhere around here…

It is the greatest fleet of which there has ever been a record.

The mighty ships spin across millions of light years, sparks of light leaping between a myriad galaxies on a search-and-rescue operation which has been underway for thirty thousand years. The wheels of imperishable jade that encircle and bound them spin endlessly, pulling geomantic energies from the quantum chaos that underlies the structure of shaped space and time. Against the bitter cold, the fathomless darkness, and the utter void of the spaces between galaxies, the ships, and the life aboard them, and an ancient promise endures.

Your sleep shall not be endless. We are coming.

Many of the Jadeborn perished in the geomantic and geological convulsions of the Reshaping – but the Artisans had seen Creation shaken before, during the Balorean Crusade, and had had many centuries to prepare. This time, most of the deep cities – buttressed with jade fortified with the essence-energies of manses, and warded with every defense which the genius of the Artisans could devise across the centuries – held.

But this time the survivors faced a terrible obstacle to rebuilding. With the vast expansion of Creation – now a cosmos – the energies of the Elemental Pole of Earth had washed out to engulf a radius of some fifty million light years. Now the imperishable souls of the Jadeborn might reincarnate in masses of Jade anywhere within the hundreds of galaxies within that immense radius, beyond the reach of their brethren – and thus condemned to sleep in stone for all eternity.

It was years before the problem was understood – and work began. Locator-instruments were devised, and revealed that – while the Jadeborn had been scattered beyond imagining – there was a potential boon as well. History had repeated itself. Many millions of Raksha had been overrun by the sudden, vast, expansion – and had been encysted in stone to await rebirth as new Jadeborn.

It was years before the first, crude, artifact-ships of the great search lifted away from Earth, to seek out and bring renewal to those Jadeborn entrapped within the stones of the solar system.

Those Children of the Search improved their ships, and artifact-instrumentation, and built more – and set forth into the Milky Way. Their successors, long centuries later, constructed the first great Reiskaer – the flying Cities of Jade – and set forth into the galaxies of the Local Group, and then into the Virgo SuperCluster, beyond, seeking out strange new worlds – and drawing forth their kindred from them.

With the gradual emptying of the ancient cities of the Deep Earth, the Jadefolk carried the Earthfolk, and a scattering of others with them. Today, the Earthfolk – often now known as “the grays” – and the Jadefolk’s god-blooded offspring make up the great majority of the crewmembers – in all their trillions – of the Great Search and have colonized hundreds of worlds, establishing outposts across dozens of galaxies. While both the Earthfolk and the Jadebrood (as per Feybloods, but they respire normally in creation, use Jabeborn magics, and breed true) are far less prolific than pure mortals, despite the “new recruits” born of the reshaping, the number of Jadeborn is ultimately fixed – and the universe is vast.

Today the seekers beam newfound Jadeborn aboard directly out of the stone if possible, landing to retrieve them otherwise – although the mess with an attempted retrieval at Roswell has encourged the Searchers to avoid the Earth when they can; the resurgent Terrestrial Exalts can be quite troublesome…

The befuddled Terrestrials are still attempting to analyze the body to this day, and have not yet figured out that they’re actually reading back along his resonances with the Earth’s ironjade core, which is why they get so many WEIRD results. If only they knew that reviving him was as easy as finding someone with the right Pattern Charm…

The recent rediscovery of Autochthon has brought a new purpose to the Great Search. In their attempts to contact the Great Maker the Jadeborn have established a series of resupply and ship-building bases in the surface layers, with convenient access to both space and the interior – and have embarked on a project to re-awaken him. They do not have the the raw offensive power to take on the Apostates toe to toe – but they can help Autochthon’s Champions by making artifacts for them, by holding off the smaller monstrosities, and by helping them deal with blight zones – although the various inevitable factions disagree as to which goal is most vital and as to how to awaken Autochthon (although a fair number believe that it can be achieved if they can just locate the Eye of Autochthon).

The memories of the Jadefolk are very long however (they build external memories and call them “thought depositories” or “libraries”) – and many of the ship crews take it on themselves to isolate the Jadeborn from any Exalts who come calling lest they place demands on them – and tend to encourage the punch-the-celestials-in-the-nose mindset after all the abuse that their honored patrons took over the millennia beneath the Exalted thumb. Their individual power may be no match for an Elder Exalt – but The Great Search is still the largest and most powerful organization in the history of Creation.

For the Jadefolk, as it has ever been… there is work to be done.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XCI – The Pursuit Cantata, Crescendo

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla

Are you sure that this is just a movie?

Back in the Crater Lake Freehold Aikiko was torn… It wasn’t very nice to punch out little kids even if she COULD do it with no chance of actually injuring them – but she didn’t have much in the way of mental powers…

(Aikiko) “Hey, I need you to be quiet about being grabbed for a few hours! I’ll give you some candy!”

(Child) “But I might get in trouble!”

(Aikiko) “What, for having candy or being missing?”

(Child) “For being quiet! (With a bit of indignation) We can have candy!”

Aikiko sighed… this was where it would actually be GOOD to have some powers of unnatural mental influence. Still, the girl was just a little kid – and she might have enough Occult skill to hypnotize her for a bit.

The kid put up a surprising amount of resistance for a small child – probably that Awakened Essence – but was still overwhelmed in short order. By the time she’d wake up from her nap, Aikiko would be long gone…

There was no reason to be mean! She left her arranged comfortably and with some candy too as she vanished into the undergrowth, using the Behemoth Cloak to provide camouflage, and a bit of heightened sneaking, and throwing in her stealth charms – as limited as they were, they might be a lot of help!

Then she encountered an apparently-endless flood of small yappy dogs, sticking their noses everywhere and into everything and saying “Not here! Maybe here! Maybe Over Here! Lets all look!”

Uuugh. Yappy dogs were bad enough, but TALKING yappy dogs? Worse, visual camouflage wasn’t much help against scent… A leap up into the trees would at least break her trail – and her athletics charms made leaping from tree to tree a viable way to travel – but it was still going to slow her down.

Where were the stupid little things coming from!?

Oh good grief! The Raksha were undoubtedly just… whipping the things up as a stunt to help with the search! That meant… they were undoubtedly looking for anything taking to the skies, so she… had to stay within the canopy, avoid the ground search, avoid making too much noise moving through the treetops, and avoid getting above them while still traveling at a reasonably speed….

Even for her that wasn’t going to be easy!

It nearly turned into a disaster a couple of times – but she just barely managed. The yappy dogs failed, and morosely reported back to vanish into fantasy-land once more as, from the treetops, Aikiko saw… tens of thousands of yappy dogs, pouring back out of the hills around the central complex in a mighty fuzzy flood!

That was pretty neat, even if they were after her! She… could actually see the attraction of the Wyld there… The Raksha could be all kinds of fun!

Once you punched them and made them behave a bit of course!

As the yappy dogs vanished, a terrible flaming eye flared into existence on the top of a tower – and began peering about as dark horsemen rode out to patrol the borders… Hi Sauron impersonator!

Wait… were they… Gah! Just like Mechagodzilla! Whoever-it-was was drawing extra power from invoking popular images and cliches! But… didn’t you need a connection to both humanity and dream to do that directly?

Hm. The tower seemed to be part of a fairly straightforward Raksha palace really – pavilions and gardens and a few small towers overlaid with whatever fantasy was amusing today. At the moment it was tall white towers, soaring archways, and lots and LOTS of roses… straight out of “Sleeping Beauty”.

OK, that setup just SCREAMED “trap!”. Still, the fantasy didn’t seem all THAT strong. Two or three contributors most likely – just enough to be really annoying. Still, she wouldn’t want to take on all of them at once – and some of them might be Exalted. And she DID come here for information, not a rescue.

Gaaah! It could suck you in just by looking at it! She already knew where the Lunar was (and that he didn’t seem to need or want a rescue), and the three college girls seemed happy enough, and she was pretty sure that the other “victim” was a Cauldron-Born who’d set everything up, and everyone else here was either too mutated to take out without dying or a Raksha in the first place! Who would she be going in to “rescue”? Some Raksha playing the role of a “Handsome Prince”?

Something was REALLY funny about that eye though… Still, it didn’t seem to be the Eye of Balor; it was pretty obviously from the Lord of the Rings movies…

Aikiko’s valor had been strained enough with all this retreat-and-evasion – and kicked back with a vengeance,

She straightened up out of concealment, met the eye’s dread gaze full on, and tried to analyze it!

Uh-oh. Sidereal and Wyld Energies. Demien…

The eye flared with a terrible radiance, spotlighting her with a blaze of essence – and Mechagodzilla launched itself in her direction. Time to run, Valor or no Valor! Hopefully the ravine would give her some cover and advantage!

Aikiko’s anima banner flared as she poured power into her charms – and pulled on every speed- and endurance-enhancing mutation and boost that the Behemoth Cloak could provide. It felt kind of weird to retreat – but she had no desire to be captured!

Aikiko’s impressive speed, combined with a long head start, gave her a decent chance – but Mechagodzilla was faster and was closing with incredible speed, as if the distance was tiny!

Weird! Mechagodzilla hadn’t moved nearly that fast last time it was chasing her! And… the ravine seemed REALLY long…

Oh yeah! Raksha freehold!

Spending a willpower point popped THAT little fantasy and shortened the ravine right up – the exit was just up ahead – but Mechagodzilla was already almost ready to fire the Stasis-Beam / Ice-Cannon thing in a last-ditch attempt to stop her! And her without cover…

Wait!

As Mechagodzilla fired, Aikiko leapt, spun in the air, and struck the rocky side of the ravine with her full power (and her smashfists) about halfway up – shattering hundreds of tons of rock and throwing up thousands more, sending an explosive wave of rock and earth into the air to intercept the beam. For long moments the barrier held it’s cohesion, cocooned and supported by pillars and buttresses of frozen air. While the air was slowly freezing around her, the bitter cold was buffered by her Cloak – next time she saw Charles he was getting a hug for that! – and the exit was only seconds away!

Aikiko launched herself towards the gate as a laser-and-missile barrage blew her hasty barrier to roiling dust – and the terrible cold of the stasis beam licked around her heels, encasing her to her knees in icy crystal as she emerged onto the lower slopes of the actual mountain.

And a deep rumbling voice whispered something about “Bye-Bye small worshiper! Watch again soon!”.

Uh, ok there… Whew!

Hm. It looked like she was… coming out of a small cave in the rocks, down near the base of the mountain, overlooking some forest. Still in the park though… There were some particularly fine fields of berries and such scattered about – and scattering of amerindians looking at her.

Well, cheeriness seemed to work for Charles!

(Aikiko) “Hi!”

(Various Indians) “Uhm… Who are you? Why is the pathway full of ice all of a sudden? Are the lords angry?”

Huh… There was some apprehension and urgency to those last few questions.

(Aikiko) “Mechagodzilla and I were playing tag! Don’t worry, I’m it, and I just made it out, so I win!”

(Indians, VERY nervously) “But how will we get back in?”

(Aikiko) “Well, he’s not after you guys… but if you’re worried, I can camouflage you!”

Oh wait! Mutated! They had no reason to be afraid of Mechagodzilla, but with the passage full of ice… they’d only have a few hours to get back in before they died.

Uhm… Wait! She could use a bit of linking thaumaturgy and… send a prayer!

It was worth a shot – even if she did feel utterly silly praying to a Kaiju that had just tried to catch her… Even if it was definitely less than hostile. It evidently had enough secondary weapons to have blasted the entire area – but it, and it’s pilots, had stuck to attempts to capture…

Were the Cauldron-Born… still trying to recruit her?

Anyway!

(Aikiko) “Oh mighty Mechagodzilla, have mercy on those outside and unfreeze the ravine!”

Well the range was pretty close (and she spent a point of Willpower to channel her Compassion dice, since she WAS helping others).

After a moment there was the crimson glow of laser-cannon fire in the depths of the small cave – and the ice melted away in seconds.

The Indians enthusiastically thanked her and the Great Totem.

(Aikiko) “It’s no problem! Tell him I said hi!”

(Indians) “We shall do as you command!”

Aikiko looked at the little cave for a moment… Not so very long ago she would have laughed SO HARD at the notion that Mechagodzilla hung out in fairyland in Oregonk and you could get there through a hole in the rocks near Crater Lake…

Then she considered the fact that Demien and his Lunar Friend might show up at any time, and even if the Raksha weren’t normally good for much in creation, they – and Mechagodzilla! – certainly WERE, and continued her retreat into to real wilds as quickly as she could… Oh good GODS. She was probably going to be plagued by a Manse in the form of Mechagodzilla from now on!

Sadly, under the command of the Cauldron-Born… She’d have to find a way to free it from their control!

And she’d even taken a job with Toho Studios; the shadow of Godzilla would ever loom over that company…

Maybe literally.

Half a day later, nearly sixty miles away, and checked into a small-town motel for cash under an assumed name, Aikiko was writing up a report… Lytek had to know about this! Heck, once she had her thoughts written down and organized she’d pray to him! Goodness knew, he probably didn’t get many directed prayers!

Lytek was not pleased… Just as he had an entirely new set of Exaltations to deal with (and he was still considering the ramifications of THAT), and had finally gotten a hold of some Abyssal Exaltations to work on, someone was starting to steal what was left of the old set, and was gluing Raksha (?!?) onto them?

Yes, that would almost certainly go away after the bearer died – and if, by some chance, it didn’t, he could undoubtedly get it off – but the very IDEA… He remembered the bad old days, when Chaos was constantly threatening to wash over creation far too well! The Balorean Crusade had just been a high watermark, not some mighty effort! At least in his opinion, the universe could generally do without chaos!

Aikiko had to agree to some degree there! She too certainly hoped the Raksha influence would go away after the Cauldron-Born passed on!

Lytek had to agree with her on Mental Demesnes though! They WERE weird!

It did seem like something a Sidereal Cauldron-Born would come up with though.

Huh… Charles would probably be interested too – but she wasn’t at all sure that she should tell him! He’d probably start designing an improved Raksha-Exaltation interface or something… He was far too tolerant of Raksha! They were dangerous!

Or at least very disruptive at times.

Lytek was… rather more concerned with the huge coincidence of recruiting that Lunar Exalt… Most of those didn’t incarnate anywhere near Earth these days! How in all Creation had the Cauldron-Born found one FIRST? And in – of all places – a small town on Earth right near where they’d been constructing a superweapon?

Had the Cauldron-born REALLY found some way of influencing who would Exalt? He hadn’t taken that bit in Aikiko’s report too seriously at first – hundreds of people and Exalts had thought that they’d found a way to influence who Exalted, and they’d almost universally proved to be wrong (with a few the results had been ambiguous and quite a few had demonstrated that recruiting mortal heroes, training them, and then throwing them into terrible danger greatly improved the odds) – but the coincidence level… More likely it was just a method of finding them – and either the timerate was accelerated inside the freehold or the sequence of events was a bit confused. At this point there wasn’t enough evidence to say either way!

Demien could certainly still access the loom; that was a built-in part of the Sidereal Exaltation – even if he WAS spending most of his time outside of fate (were the Cauldron-Born inherently outside of fate? Who knew?).

Aikiko seemed to recall that Tierna had some affinity with it too! And she’d had a God-Form Taking Relic that might have allowed her to infiltrate!

COULD the Loom be fooled? Only the Maiden of Secrets was likely to know – and no one in the cosmos was less likely to say! But a fantasy could dictate the actions of a mortal who didn’t resist it… Could the Cauldron-Born really make the Loom – and possibly even an Exaltation – see some schlub as the greatest and most destined hero in millennia, wrap him up in fantasies of mighty deeds appropriate to some type of exalt, and just sit back to see what happened? Even if they could only slightly influence things… that would be an incredibly dangerous secret! Even the Incarnae could only slightly nudge things!

Dark Tales III – The Well

dramatic dream

Yes, that’s right; follow the path…

The farmers of the borderlands have little time for frivolity. While their lives may be rich with fulfillment, the beauties of the wilds, and the awesome all-pervading presence of their gods, wresting a living from the marginal lands calls for sturdy self-reliance and hard work in plenty.

Still, there is time in the evenings, when the children are gathered about the fire and the days work is done, for the telling of tales.

Come close now to the crackling flames. Let them hold the fathomless darkness of the wild lands at bay, and here – where the light carves out a tiny bubble of comfort – drink a cup of tea and hear a tale of what can come to pass when the darkness enters in.

Young Ellendine, like so many youngsters who approach adulthood, dreamed of grander things – of handsome princes, of wealth and servants, of the luxuries that passing bards described – all the fancies spun of words and mist and the play of shadows cast upon a childish mind. Wise enough she was to withstand the crude blandishments of neighbors sons, and the temptation to “seek her fortune” in the city – yet she saw nothing to fear in dreams, little understanding that a net woven of dreams was the simplest of all snares – and the most dreadful of poisons.

At first her dreams, and the claims that they were sent to her, rather than being mere fancies, were but an excuse to refuse the suitors who seriously sought her hand. After all, sturdy farmers who wished little more than to establish their own farms offered her no more than a cottage, their affections, and the prospect of children to grow old among.

In clinging to those dreams of glamor… she left the gates of her mind ajar, and SOMETHING entered in.

The well near the house went deep, tapping the flow of an underground stream – and from that opening to the underworld, something rose, taking it’s form from fevered dreams and luxurious fancies. Ellendine’s dreams  took form from the deep darkness that had never known light – and a nightmare of the lands below came to her wrapped in the fabric of her foolish hopes.

For three days in the dark of the moon that shadow walked, and passed within the walls as she, unknowingly, called to it and opened the way.

Her parents sheltered her when the results of her foolishness became apparent a few months later, in despite of her ravings about her dark prince. Many a young woman disgraced themselves so!

Better by far it would have been to drive her forth. When her time came upon her she bore the child her daemon lover had sired in blood and terror – a twisting, near-formless, monstrosity that used her hollowed-out body as a puppet and her mind as a mask – devouring her parents and siblings, body and soul, in a night of blood and agony – but not death, for death was denied to her and to her child’s victims.

A brother and a hireling, however, had been out tending the sheep – and escaped in part. While they lived to reach the neighbors, and to gasp out their tale of horror and the devouring darkness, their minds were broken – and their spirits were soon drawn back, leaving their soulless bodies to convulse and die…

When the worried neighbors came to investigate, eight fell to the horror and it’s victim-masks – but the house was set afire and the neighbors sealed the doors. If any of their friends yet lived within, burning to death could only be a mercy.

Most perished, their minds shattered, when a formless, betentacled, burning, thing crashed through a blazing wall and was momentarily outlined in flame as it wailed through the voices of it’s mother, relatives, and victims. Burning and assailed with scythes and pitchforks, it dragged itself to the well, and plunged into the icy depths…

Now the farm stands long-abandoned, the house a burned-out ruin – and the desolation spreads as, each month during the dark of the moon, the victims walk as masks for horror – and seek entry into other homes through the gates of foolish dreams!

And that, my dear niece, is why you should have listened to your parents – and settled for one of the young men that they picked out for you. For dreams can be an opening to nightmare, and I know the truth of this one… for I have been dead for twenty years.

You should not have opened the door.

And the old man’s body split apart as the thing inside emerged to feast once more.

Despite the occasional rumors of empty cottages, this particular tale remains popular with overworked farmer-parents who have forgotten what it was like at their kids age – and are pushing a bit… “Oh for the sake of the GODS! PICK ONE!”

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXX – Meanwhile, In The Forest

Meanwhile, back in Aden, Elzeard was stuffing a few things into his pockets – and putting up a disguise-spell. Charles had indeed risen to the challenge, dealt with a fair number of people in person, and set up a conference to address. It would be most unfair not to live up to his end of that tacit bargain!

And he wanted to anyway – despite the pesky people wanting to take over the waterworks. The Human Race definitely needed a good talking-to about managing the earth!

Most of the others were being quieter; Mishinago was removing pollution slowly and quietly (if sometimes on a very wide scale), Gothmug’s interests were all but completely in Aden, Chaffari was busy setting up the gates that would link Earth to the new worlds – but they were all inactive as of yet, and so on. There would be time for massive social interference after the basic physical environment was in proper order once again!.

Gothmug did insist on sending a security detachment with Elzeard though; after all, there was some pretty high-powered opposition out there – and he expected at least a probing attack with a few cheap-and-disposable pawns.

While Gothmug still (mournfully!) disapproved of the general lack of Baalgrogs in the area, providing Elzeard with a few Coatl in his pockets, some human-disguised Inukami aides, and a few Baalgrogs behind the scenes (and donning a disguise of his own so that he could join the audience) was SOMETHING.

Unfortunately, Baalgrogs weren’t nearly as impressively depressing when they had to be in disguise, though!

Elzeard showed up as a big and imposing – if somewhat elderly – fellow with a beard and a heavy cane (actually he’d loosely modeled the image on Edmund Gwenn in the original “Miracle on 34’th street” – even if he had made it considerably sterner) climbing out of the back seat of an equally-imposing fuel-efficient hybrid black car with a couple of aides along.

Unsurprisingly, the analysis-effects started immediately – showing some remarkably good wards with massive quantities of Wood essence beneath them – along with a solid dose of Adenic and Earth and Water essence – and traces of other energies.

Most of the observers soon decided that he had to be some rogue divinity – hiding from the Insidious wanting to mess with his plans, perhaps? – or a powerful elemental. Worth monitoring in either case, and probably worth making some deals with!

The universities lecture hall was packed, despite it being one of the largest ones available… It had, as requested, a projection screen – even if he was intending to simply create the images he needed on the lens of his projector. There were climatologists, biologists, botanists, hydrologists, ecologists, a scattering of graduate students in all these fields, representatives from the EPA, and even a handful of people with elemental Essence signatures – a Fire, two Water, and two Wood, to be precise. They were detection-warded, but Elzeard could penetrate that easily enough, out of specialty or not. He was – like all the other Guardians – absurdly good. He glanced over the audience, and let the supernatural members of it feel that he saw them. There was no point in some silly pretense of ignorance!

The audience waited eagerly for him to begin – and the ones with elemental signatures were being especially polite, even for this crowd. To them Elzeard’s essence-aura blazed like a miniature sun…

(Elzeard) “My greetings to all of you. I am Elzeard – something of a specialist in biological and ecological manipulations. It is my position that the current planetary trends towards deforestation and desertification must be stopped. To this end I have a number of projects underway. While I have made arrangements to ensure that the desert-dwelling species have sufficient refuges to ensure their comfortable survival, and have recorded their genetics in case of major disasters – as I have recorded the genetics of many other species – substantial areas of desert will soon be yielding to far richer and more diverse ecosystems.”

He followed with a short summary of the changes currently underway in the Sahara, the Middle East, and the Gobi – and with some detailed projections of their long-range effects – before calling for questions…

There were quite a few. How was the Sahara facility being powered without any apparent source? Why had he done this without consulting anyone? Where did he get the resources? What refuges does he have set up for the current local species? What was his next move going to be?

(Elzeard, sighing) “The Sahara facility derives it’s power from geological sources” (and that was quite true enough!). I did not opt to consult various groups because the areas where I placed my facilities were uninhabited wastelands who’s ownership is – at best – a formality and because decades of pointless debate seemed counterproductive.”

There was a certain awkwardness when Elzeard mentioned that he didn’t want decades of pointless debate, but then academics could be bad about that. There was much note taking and recording as well…

(Elzeard) “Now, as for the refuges…”

Elzeard cheerily put up a map showing the refuges and the eventual greatly-reduced but still present range of deserts.

“As you can see, the various desert species will still have a range of habitats, including a broader area which can serve as a genetic reservoir to maintain the original species and a selection of smaller, isolated, biomes where speciation may be expected to occur, further broadening the ecological diversity.

As for resources… given sufficient energy, a more advanced technology makes exponentially more resources available. My resources are by no means inexhaustible, but they are sufficient for the task at hand – a limited rejuvenation of Earth’s ecosphere.

As for my “next move”… most of the remaining deserts are smaller, less severe, and have inhabitants. Thus consulting the inhabitants of those areas is in order. Most of those contacted so far have, however, been eager to see more water and a greener landscape. There is some question of governmental legal entanglements, and of the environmental impact, possible failure modes, and potential side effects in some areas as well – but such complications can be dealt with, in part through conferences such as this one.”

That led the questions that half of those present had been looking for a good point to insert, in many variations…

How did the power supply WORK? Where did the energy come from? Was he willing to go into details? What little they could determine about its operation was quite incredible and the actual power source was proving impossible to trace.

A couple of the individuals showing elemental power signatures were smiling knowingly.

Elzeard was willing to explain – within limits. After all, he could quite truthfully state that HE had not invented to basic power system and that he was not currently at liberty to disclose the full details of it’s operation – although that might become appropriate eventually and it’s benefits were substantial, even for limited applications. He could (and did) explain some of it’s properties and reveal that it drew on geological forces for power and so was entirely non-polluting and almost – if not quite truly – perpetual. If properly designed it would run for many centuries with no or minimal maintenance. He could take on some students under certain conditions – primarily a serious non-disclosure agreement – but that would require individual interviews and discussion.

Out in the audience, several truth-sensing charms continued to reveal that Elzeard was indeed sticking with the truth – if sometimes extremely literally.

Meanwhile, Gothmug – who was in the audience as an exceptionally morose and broody climatologist who felt misunderstood because of his discipline’s controversies and who inflicted that opinion on all and sundry (and especially to one of the wood essence types – who was enduring it while focusing on Elzeard hard enough to have failed to realize what it was that was sitting next to her.) – was running some security sweeps… A conference like this would make a regrettably good target for a terrorist attack or the like even if there hadn’t been any major supernatural elements to it… Of course his wards and alarm-wards were subtle and powerful – but he, if anyone, knew that there were ways around THAT!

He soon concluded that the individual with Fire essence, and both of the ones with Wood essence, were almost certainly Terrestrial Exalts – and would probably want private interviews. Also, both his detections and Elzeards’ were showing a small group of warded people backstage – and Gothmug was sensing a rather nasty poison on one of them, as well as a selection of guns warded against various forms of mundane detection.

The wards covered visual detection, camera detection, magical detection, and audio detection. Evidently whoever was behind this attempt had not been expecting thaumaturgy on the Guardian’s scale; there were no alarms or magic-counters.

Gothmug quietly transmuted the venom into colored water, the explosives into sand, and any radioactive materials they might have (it was possible!) into inert lead. His skill in transmutation was nothing like Mishinago’s of course – but it was more than sufficient for that.

When Elzeard returned backstage there was a bit of a mess – and a group of four people being questioned by university security and local police.

(Elzeard) “Is there some problem?”

Hm. Perhaps fundamentalists who felt that he is messing with gods ordained state of the world?

(Security officer) “Protesters. I’m pretty sure they were going to squirt you with sand and colored water.”

(Policewoman) “But why would they use real guns? This doesn’t make any sense.”

Elzeard gave them a more detailed look… conservative clothes, pair of older individuals, a middle-aged man, and a young woman… all outwardly human. Lots of confusion. It looked like… the last thing they could remember was… going to church. Either a VERY good disguise or someone using UMI.

(Older Man) “Where are we? I’m confused.”

Hm. The middle-aged man had ted the car, and the next thing that they could remember, they were here, holding guns, and being subdued by security! The older woman was quite distraught, but was hiding it well.

(Elzeard) “Well no harm done! I suspect that they were simply confused somehow!”

(Policewoman) “I’d still like to take them in for questioning… this is weird.”

Elzeard tried a deep probe – right down to analyzing their genetics and blood lines (there were plenty of skin cells floating about). Should he just try to get them sent home?

Fairly average humans, very much of European descent, from the local region. Whoever had been using UMI on them was strongly connected to death Essence. It had been some hours, but the sensations still make Elzeard a bit queasy.

Gothmug was quite disgusted too, but for different reasons. “Dark” was fine, but not when it was that hostile to life!

Elzeard gave them some good long-term wards against that, a good luck effect, and tried to persuade the cops to let them go. Hopefully the good luck will help them avoid running into any more nasties!

They were only ordinary cops; they couldn’t stand up to Elzeard’s oratory.

As for private interviews… the Fire Aspect and Wood Aspects were first, then the two Water Awakened, and then the EPA. The EPA would have gone first, but when one of their people saw the Fire Aspect, he deferred.

(Elzeard) “And can I help you?”

(Shannon, the Fire Aspect – a man who would be imposing to a human) “Hello, Mr. Elzeard. You’ve made an impact in the Sahara-how are things upstairs?”

Ah! “Upstairs” with that emphasis… asking about Yu-Shan.

(Elzeard) “Improving somewhat! Repairs there are not my department, but they are underway!”

(Shannon) “Interesting. I must ask you more about that. And what of the rats (Sidereals) in the baseboard?”

(Elzeard, with some surprise) “Why would they be relevant? Their job is simply to fix causality errors.”

(Shannon) “My apologies, they are not giving you trouble?”

(Elzeard) “Not in the least!”

Shannon scratched his head and a faint radiance of heat shimmered as his brow furrowed.

(Shannon) “Please, tell me more about these repairs up there.”

(Elzeard) “That realm has been mostly detached from this one for some twenty thousand years, greadly limiting access, reducing the available resources, and leaving many jobs undone. That situation is being corrected.”

(Shannon) “Well, I knew about the detachment part. Do you have any idea who is to blame for that? And just who is doing the correcting?”

(Tamara, a Wood Aspect) “Oh, and Terrestrial or Celestial Bureaucracy? You forgot to ask, Shannon.”

(Shannon) “Right.”

Dropping out of being indirect were they?

(Elzeard) “The universe was nearly annihilated by the Wyld at that time. It was saved by being reshaped from a flat realm slightly bigger than Earth to it’s current scale of some ten to the hundreth-power light years. That has, unfortunately, left the old links more than a little strained. Only a few are even on earth now, and many are more or less unusable. Charles is taking responsibility for correcting those problems, amongst others. Fortunately, Gaia is assisting him to some degree.”

(Jasmine, the other Wood Aspect) “Charles… the boy you referred everyone to?”

(Tamara) “This is only getting more complicated!”

(Elzeard) “Yes. Charles really needs to deal with people more, instead of burying himself in making things and magic – and the universe often is very complicated.”

(Shannon) “How can we get in direct contact with this Charles? One of my mentors is acting very strange, and I think it’s his fault!”

(Elzeard) “Hm. Who would that be?”

(Shannon) “He’s the head of the Morgan Clan. About a week ago, he met with some of our superiors. They’re keeping mum, but my sources say there was some violence. AND I haven’t heard from Ethan since. His oldest son isn’t talking, his sister isn’t either, and no one’s heard from the bastard.”

(Jasmine) “That’s not a nice way to refer to Howard, you know.”

(Elzeard) “Hm. I shall have to advise him to check on them. It should be straightforward enough.”

Elzeard referred that the Charles. Peter, Howard, and Raymond had all been given access to Adenic Thaumaturgy – but Ethan had a healthy bit of paranoia from decades of being a house head – and had wanted to reserve judgement – although Charles had told him to just call if he was in trouble… Either he had managed and was taking time to cool off – Fire Aspects were not the most patient or controlled bunch – or something he wasn’t prepared for had happened. Behemoth Cloaks were good, but there were ways around almost anything.

(Shannon) “Thank you, Mr. Elzeard. As for the facility… no connection to Yu-Shan at all then? Just improving the Sahara? I just want to be clear on that.”

(Elzeard) “None at all! Yu-Shan is someone else’s problem!”

(Shannon) “And not mine, Tamara’s or Jasimine’s this time. My superiors will be surprised, but that is the way things are.”

That group departed…

The EPA was wondering if Elzeard had plans to do something similar in the Southwest. It would help a great deal with the water situation there.

(Elzeard) “There is an upcoming hearing on the topic already is there not? It is my intention, but since the area is inhabited, consultation is required.”

(EPA) “Yes indeed – but we would like some clarification on the methods used, since it IS a populated region. It’s obviously nonpolluting – but what about safety?

(Elzeard) “Ah. The system is perpetual – but there are some methods of geological sabotage which could cause a significant disturbance. For good or ill however, large quantities of explosives are quicker, simpler, and far harder to counter than such techniques. Studies can be made available.”

The EPA representatives would indeed like to see those studies. That information would also be useful for the hearing.

Elzeard cheerily provided some studies on the difficulties of geomantically destabilizing a manse, the consequences thereof, and how much easier it was to blow things up with bombs… Water-supplying manses didn’t need to be spectacularly powerful and essence vents were an easy way to prevent blowups; with them the place would simply drop quietly into power failure.

The EPA representatives actually got some of that. They’d called in supernatural specialists on this one. Accusations of quackery or not; the power source couldn’t be explained by science.

Conversions and Considerations: D20 to Hero System

English: A single d20 die - svg version

Peer into the Crystal, and see…

Here we have another question; this one from Jasper Merendino

I actually prefer Hero system to D20, But D20 has a really cool critter list. Trouble is, I have never found a good general system for converting D20 monsters into Hero system.

(I loath the way the D20 damage system makes characters nigh unkillable, but that same approach works just fine for large and/or supernatural combatants . . . = “monsters”, in any setting)

Do you know of any resources to do such conversions? I have looked around the web using three different search engines, and got nothing I can use. (Signal to noise ration is just terrible – what little I find is all for converting the other way)

This is actually pretty awkward; there are a few characters on the site who have both d20 Eclipse and Hero versions (for example, Yuki d20 and Yuki Hero), and there’s an examination of Eclipse in relationship to the Hero System over HERE – but converting d20 to Hero is fundamentally awkward. While most of the abilities translate easily enough as ideas, the games represent things in different ways; a creature with a very high d20 armor class MIGHT be best translated by giving it a very high DCV – but the way that Hero System combat works means that it might be better represented by Armor (absorbing damage rather than preventing hits). That’s why converting the stat block is not enough; you have to look at the description and convert things into something appropriate.

Far more importantly, d20 – at it’s most basic – expects characters to start out as just a bit above “average guy” and to – eventually – defeat cosmic horrors who were old when the universe was young. Thus, when going from Hero (or any other source) to d20 practically any kind of conversion will do; if you have a Hero System writeup for a “Predator” alien, or a “Ravenous Bugblatter Beast”, or whatever, it doesn’t matter if you translate 50 Str into 50 Str or a more reasonable 25, or translate a 10d6 Energy Blast into 10d6 or 3d6+1 damage. At some point in the characters careers your creation will probably be a usable opponent no matter what abilities and statistics you give it.

When you’re going the other way there’s a major problem. The Hero System isn’t really a single game even if you stick to one edition. It’s a substructure for erecting your own game and is – oddly enough – in many ways a LOT more genre-oriented. Building a character for Fantasy Hero (no multipowers or elemental controls, extremely limited special powers, characters may use equipment without paying for it) is not at all like building a Dark Champions character (all defenses require flaws, characters must remain vulnerable to street weapons, strict limits on many powers, mostly gadgets only), which – in turn – is nothing like building a Galactic Guardian. d20 does have something of that same quality of course – but it mostly depends on what sourcebooks you’re allowing; the core SRD material is generally supposed to be usable in almost every game. The fact that the sourcebooks you opt to allow may completely transform the game is stressed a lot less than the “d20” part.

A Fantasy Hero mage is never going to merge another dimension with his or transform a world. Neither will a pulp hero mystic. Captain Vengeance (a highly-experienced Dark Champions character) may be able to defeat twenty thugs, or four newbie villains – but he’s never going to face down an army, or go toe to toe with Superman or Doctor Strange. For an example, take Ilarion Drake or Xaliotl – young Hero Systems Celestial Dragons. Written as they are… They’d be nigh unstoppable juggernauts with godlike powers in Fantasy Hero. In Dark Champions they’d be major monstrosities that it would take a small army of heroes to stop. In Champions they’re fairly normal characters. In a Galactic Guardians setting they’d be child sidekicks or pets.

That means that converting a creature from d20 to Hero System is going to vary depending on what kind of Hero System game you’re converting it to – and it certainly doesn’t help that d20 has an unrestricted powers list, while the Hero System has a far more limited (and fixed) list.

Fundamentally, I suspect that the best that can be done here is to break things down into a few categories. Is the d20 creatures ability in a category – say “attack” – very low powered, low powered, about average, above average, or incredibly dangerous? Then look at the power structure for your Hero System game and make it so for your game.

I did have a “Marvel to Champions” conversion sheet I came up with around somewhere that converted the various power levels into active point levels. I’ll have to see if I can find it and put it up; it might help somewhat. Of course, the original FASERIP  Marvel Superheroes game is also something of a fossil…

The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice Session LXXXIX – Lost Horizons

Crater Lake National Park in Southern Oregon, ...

Well, Kaiju like nice landscapes too!

Hm. Mechagodzilla was back on post – presumably waiting for some information on where to look for her – so evidently she’d given it the slip for the moment.

So… A Cauldron-Born had come to Oregon, taken over a Freehold under Crater Lake (where the local Raksha were keeping a lost tribe of native americans), and built Mechagodzilla. He had then created a local identity and befriended a local football player.

The local football player had… killed an attacking grizzly bear with a stick while camping and – either then or a little later – had Exalted as Lunar.

The pair of them had then hung around a small town fraternity house partying until Mechagodzilla had attacked and captured them both. They had then… taken over the Freehold AND Mechagodzilla and put the Raksha to work repainting the scuff marks on Mechagodzilla while the new Lunar continued to do nothing but party…

OK; there were bits of that that made no sense; if the Cauldron-Born was ruling the Freehold, why would Mechagodzilla attack them both? Why would the Raksha then take them back home and let them escape and seize Mechagodzilla again? Why was the Lunar doing nothing but party? Sure, partying was fun, but Exaltations normally didn’t settle for people who didn’t want to do much; they were looking for great heroes with big dreams, great strength of will, and mighty destinies – the best candidates for that particular kind of exaltation in the universe!

Or at least within range. They HAD originally been designed to function in a much smaller universe… Could you MAKE someone a best candidate in whatever their search radius was? You could train them for it like the Terrestrials used to do (maybe still did?), but that was usually when they were kids. You could manipulate events and put them in positions where they could be heroic, and the Sidereals could probably give someone a mighty destiny… Wait; if Exaltations responded to destinies that meant that they did use the Loom, at least to some extent, in their search.

Actually, I suspect that some writer noted that Heroic Mortals got more bonus points than Solar Exalts – and yet Solar Exalts were generally Heroic Mortals to start with. Ergo they threw in a “Destiny” requirement that would go away on Exaltation to soak up the excess bonus points without thinking much about the implications – such as humans outside of fate not being able to Exalt. Then other writers established that humans who were outside of fate COULD Exalt, but that it was ever rarer than usual. Evidently Exaltations do tap into the Loom, and give some weight to recommendations from Lytek, and probably the sponsoring Incarnae – but they also have at least some independent sources of information. Like a College Admissions Board; they look at a lot of stuff, and the reasons for their ultimate decisions are often a mystery.

-Thoth

And at least one of the Cauldron-Born – Demien – was originally a Sidereal. Now with Raksha powers too… Were they shaping suitable circumstances through the Loom? Could he possibly be using Wyld Charms that interfaced with the Loom? Even if it was only setting up someone to be LIKELY to Exalt… they could be there first when they did, or they could at least… hang around and wait. A few months or years was nothing to an Exalt OR a Raksha!

That didn’t really explain the “kidnapping” – but that… could just be a bit of fakery. Some sort of mind game (possibly even on the Lunar’s side), or a test run, or an experiment, or perhaps simply keeping anyone else from finding “their” new Exalt, or maybe even just boredom… Once they had the young man thoroughly entangled in vices and pleasures… it might be quite awhile before a physically-oriented sort figured out that something was going on, and by then it could be far too late!

Presumably the other Sidereals could spot that sort of thing – but they got so little Loom time these days, and they wouldn’t necessarily know the significance. Even if they did, it might just be embarrassing enough for someone to cover up – or be bogged down in committee.

Huh! An Investigation Excellency was fun, but you had to watch yourself or you’d wander off into speculation once you turned it on… “When you are being pursued by a gargantuan death machine” was really not the time though!

Did Charles have one, or was he just that way naturally? She could see HIM wandering off into speculation while actively being eaten…

Should she make an approach? It was entirely possible that the guy was ALREADY a Cauldron-Born – and all he’d have to do would be to hold her up until Mechagodzilla and the Raksha arrived; she was good, but fighting a Lunar, a Cauldron-Born, a swarm of Raksha, and Mechagodzilla seemed like a bit much to ask! Heck, with as many mutations as they’d apparently been granted, she couldn’t entirely discount the humans in here!

Wait… Could it have been that simple? “You got defeated, obviously you need some more power, here man! Try this! This is great!”. After all, they could presumably recruit other Exalts to be more Cauldron-born just by taking them to the Cauldron – or bringing the Cauldron to them… Maybe she could start on her crusade to punch the Wyld by punching that thing – presuming she could FIND the blasted thing!

Still, with any luck he’d only decided to become the Cauldron-Born’s lieutenant. The possible benefits were pretty blatantly obvious… Still, considering the amount of Wyld Energy he’d been showing… Rather more than just getting some graces would really account for!

She took a more detailed look. It shouldn’t be hard to get away with it; his current activities were keeping him pretty distracted.

A truly detailed analysis was beyond her – but he definitely had graces, almost certainly had a selection of Raksha Charms, had more motes than a new Lunar has any right to – and had rather a LOT of wyld energies in him. If not a Cauldron-Born she didn’t know what. That was pretty worrisome… and she’s deep in here, with no support, and Mechagodzilla likely still on alert for her! Worse, the didn’t know any way out but through the sky – and that was both pretty conspicuous and right in front of Mechagodzilla!

Well, there HAD to be some way in and out other than the lake. It wouldn’t be like Raksha not to have an escape route or two – and, as a bonus, they were probably too small for Mechagodzilla to get through!

She’d just have to look – which might take weeks – or take someone aside (although that would be pretty hard on her cover and disguise, such as it was. It would be weird to have someone who should already know asking about such things). Well, perhaps she could snatch and question someone.

A kid would be easiest… It wasn’t like she needed a lot of complicated details!

Need local information? To interrogate someone who won’t be missed for hours? Grab a kid! They’re conveniently to hand almost everywhere, easy to get answers out of, and easily disposed of! All your spying needs in one easy-to-grab package! Torture some kids to death today!

-A public disservice advertisement from your Local Deathlord.

The selection of kids around was actually fairly limited – but there was soon a muffled “eep!” sound as Aikiko reached out to cover a small girls mouth and drag her behind a building!

(Aikiko) “Don’t freak out! I just want to know if there’s anywhere you don’t go around here.”

(Small Girl) “Er… Lots of places! Other people’s houses, and the lordly pavilions, and the really rough hills, and (the list went on for awhile)… Why’d you grab me?”

(Aikiko) “Uhm… I’m trying to go out into the world outside! You haven’t heard any stories about it, have you?”

(Small Girl) “It’s a bad place! If you go out very long you’ll die! You don’t want to go THERE!”

(Aikiko) “And how do you know that?”

(Small Girl) “Mommy and daddy say so!”

(Aikiko) “And who told them that?”

(Small Girl) “Everybody knows that! You start getting sick after only a few hours!”

Huh! Wha… OH! That mutated were they? Aikiko took a careful look…

Longevity, regeneration, awakened essence, immunity to disease, resistant to poison, extra good-looking, beautiful voice, stamina based soak, essence sight, wyld tolerance – and the ability to reliably pass on all those attributes – among some other items, all inconspicuous and beneficial.

They were way too mutated to live in Creation for long, all right!

(Aikiko) “Well, I just want to take a peek…”

The girl did know some rough locations; she wasn’t supposed to go there though! Older people sometimes went out for a few hours, but never for long – everything they needed was in here anyway!

Kiko listened – and eventually found out that there were at least three three back doors; one through a cave, one that emerged in a ravine, and one that was supposed to be somewhere under the lords palaces.

Well… the Palace would be unexpected, and might well get her more information – but it would be very VERY risky, as well as right under Mechagodzilla’s nose! The ravine should be safe enough with her superlative athletic skills though… and, on this side, the path was in the hills, about a third of the way around the enclave. It should correspond to the foothills of the peak.

Well, she’d try to survey possible routes a bit and see which one to attempt!

Forging the Runesmith

English: Original caption: "Hands off! To...

Raise Dead? A good thing I upgraded!

Today we have a question from Alzrius regarding Lerandor’s Rule and the Runesmith Build.

  • According to Lerandor’s Rule, anything that can be done with magic can be done with basic spells; it simply takes at least two specialized spells of level “N” to duplicate the effect of a spell of level “N+1”.
  • The Runesmith takes advantage of Lerandor’s Rule to build up high-level effects out of low-level component spells – thus gaining access to magical effects of higher level than he or she could normally attain.

Looking this over, I’m slightly confused as to where some of the rules regarding runesmithing are coming from. While the total number of cantrips that can be used per day is a function of specializing Heart of the Dragon, that doesn’t seem to be the case for the rule that they can only hold (Int mod) pre-set spells (I’m also curious if that means pre-cast cantrips, or full spells formed from multiple cantrips).

More dramatic is the limitation that Spellcraft checks must be made to successfully runecast spells. This and the above limit on pre-set spells seem to be limitations that were made up whole-cloth. In and of itself, that’s not surprising for Eclipse – as it’s part-and-parcel of specializing and corrupting abilities – but those two limits specifically don’t seem to be part of any sort of cost-reduction or ability-enhancing uses of specialization or corruption.

-Alzrius

Since the answer is far too long and complex for a comment, here it is as an article…

In this case those two restrictions aren’t really a part of the build; they’re simply extrapolations of Lerandor’s Rule (under the far more general rule of “you’re only allowed so much cheese”).

Lets say you have an unlimited supply of make-up-your-own cantrips – and an equally unlimited supply of use-activated “add metamagic; give a cantrip up to a one hour delay with a simple trigger condition”.

That’s mildly expensive, but fairly readily doable.

OK: in an hour you could cast 600 cantrips – enough to build up to a level nine spell effect under the simplest interpretation of Lerandor’s rule.

Of course, this also implies that you’ve very very quickly – and CORRECTLY, or at least workably – broken down that ninth level effect into 512 precisely-ordered steps, spontaneously designed and built (“cast”) 512 little magical mechanisms designed to be chained together to produce the final effect in six seconds each, and cast all of them in sequence without making any error of any kind along the way.

That really does seem a bit much to assume – but two basic limits spring to mind;

  1. Considering that all your steps interact and feed into each other, there’s obviously some limit on how many steps / subspells you can keep in mind at a time. That’s pretty obviously a function of Intelligence in game terms – but (Int Mod) is too few; no one would bother with the technique if all it got you was access to spells one or two levels higher than usual at great expense and difficulty. There are plenty of other – and often better – ways to do that. Allowing (Intelligence) steps works considerably better; getting access to spells three (eight subspells) or four (sixteen subspells) levels early is a substantial boost – enough to be worth the character-point investment considering that this system allows access to any spell effect that the game master is willing to permit at a given spell level.
  2. It’s generally assumed in d20 that there aren’t any ordinary errors in spellcasting. No one ever makes the wrong gesture while casting a Fireball and has it go off right at his or her feet unless there’s some sort of external interference (armor penalties and interruptions requiring concentration checks come to mind) – and, even then, spells normally just fail. On the other hand, d20 spellcasters are normally only dealing with one spell at a time – not trying to juggle a dozen or more. Getting all the steps in order and right is going to be pretty tricky – probably calling for a rather difficult spellcraft check.

Neither of those problems really apply to characters who are actually researching specific spells to chain together; they have plenty of time to find and correct small problems and unforeseen interactions – but spontaneous spellcasters really should have some trouble.

As for the Runesmith’s specific problems…

  • The limitation on “hanging” spells is fairly straightforward; those aren’t prepared spells; they’re chains of small spells a lot like chains of dominos. Their initial key will probably be a gesture or word – each of which should be unique (to prevent accidentally triggering multiple chains at one time), associated with a particular spell, and something that you’re very sure will not be set off by accident. You also don’t want any identical segments in two different chains; that risks setting off the next spell in a differing sequence – guaranteed a spell misfire, since the preceding spells in that sequence will NOT have been properly triggered. They might even be set off by external activity which too closely resembles a trigger condition. Ergo the limitation to (Int Mod) preset chains. Of course, since a chain may well include sixteen lesser spells, the (Int + Con) cantrips per day limit usually takes precedence. Thus this will really only affect higher-level Runesmiths who have bought off large chunks of their limitations – in which case they can just buy Augmented Bonus or an Immunity to get around the limitation.
  • The Spellcraft check is there to represent problem #2. It’s actually fairly easy to get around; buy a specialty, augmented bonus, a specialized skill enhancement feat, or luck (for rerolls on the relevant check) and you’ll soon be able to succeed automatically on your checks.

Thus those limitations aren’t grounded in Specializing or Corrupting the abilities in question; they’re based on “how things work” – which is considerably harder to get around.

Exalted – Kaiju, Manses, And Building On A Cult

The manse construction rules tell us that “a mind is a space with its own mystical geomancy, each thought like a current of Essence.” (Invisible theft). They tell us that thoughts can be traded (The Silent Voice) and that minds can be melded (One Mind Within). Knowledge, emotions, and more may all be geomantically manifested. Raksha can walk within dreams, both individual and racial. The mind, too, is a pattern of order imposed upon underlying chaos, which wells forth in dreams, creativity, and flashes of inspiration. Thus in madness – which lets the powers of chaos flow freely – there is indeed power, which can renew those who succumb to it for a time.

The places of the mind are immaterial, but they are nonetheless places – albeit places with a geography defined by relationships rather than physical space. Through the mind of the race flow great social currents, ideas pouring from mind to mind and pulling entire societies in their wake.

A physical demesne is associated with a particular place. Attunement to them can be shared if the current “owners’ have no objection. A mental demesne… is more commonly known as a “cult”. They can also be shared, as witnessed by the Immaculate Faith – but only those entities who are currently-active foci of the faith gain it’s benefits. Those mortals lacking control of their own essence can be warped and changed by being the focus of a cult, or by spending too much time immersed in it’s essence. Megalomania, addictions, idiot savant talents, and many more mental mutations may all too readily result.

Once cults focused almost entirely on mighty entities and places of legend, manifesting as bonuses for their foci. Today, with modern distribution techniques and telecommunications, “cults” often focus on entities who are entirely fictional – leaving their mental demesnes, and their power, unfocused and unused.

Unless, of course, somebody can access those immaterial realms and demesnes, master the arts of weaving the stuff of dream, and build a manse or freehold within the realms of the mind which embodies that concept. Raksha have most of the powers required – but are specifically unable to build manses and tend to find that such freeholds impose the forms and narratives of the psychomantic demesne on them. Sure, they can hang out, and even build a freehold, in Gone With The Wind – but that particular plot and setting soon gets boring, and you can’t reshape it without cutting your freehold free from it’s own power source.

One other thing to remember. The aspects of mental demesnes can be quite weird. As an example, here we have…

Kaiju Aspects:

From the Wyld does all life begin.

Mankind knows this instinctively. Even in the modern age, lacking direct experience and knowledge of the Wyld, men look to the hidden and turbulent depths of the sea – seeing it as a place of mystery and power from which anything at all might arise. From the seas – whether of chaos or the mere water which stands in it’s stead in current thought – comes monsters and guardians, wealth and trade, blood and death. The seas give life, and the seas take it away.

That notion is old, and powerful – and some of it’s current expressions are the Kaiju Domains. The terrible, primordial, powers that rise from the sea. Sometimes to destroy, sometimes to stand against other dreadful powers, sometimes even to assist – but always perilous and uncontrollable.

Kaiju Aspected Manses: -1 on the cost of Essence Vents, Exotic Aspect, Living Manse, Mutagenic (affecting the manse only), Immutable, Wyld Revocation, and Integrated Essence Artillery. Access to the Wyld Kingdom.

The Wyld Kingdom (5, Requires Kaiju Domain): The manse may have up to (Rating) specific Wyld Revocation effects attached to it.

While this can be accomplished simply by using the Geomantic Nexus power to pour extra points into the manse and buying Wyld Revocation multiple times – or by buying “Wyld Revocation, each additional purchase of Wyld Revocation counts as (Manse Rating) purchases, or some such – this seems like a reasonable way to do it.

Mechagodzilla, Greater Kaiju Manse:

Manse Construction Points: 10 (Rank-***** Base) +1 (Can be driven off by the efforts of other Kaiju Manses or major military operations) +3 (Maintenance, normally handled by it’s Guardian Force), +3 (-3 Hearthstone levels) +9 (Integrated Enhancement Artifacts III, acquired by the Raksha Guardian Force via Wyld Questing) = 26.

If you don’t use the rule for manse-boosting artifacts you can achieve exactly the same effect by just adding a few more points from geomantic relays of course.

Exotic Aspect: Kaiju (Well, yes, 0).

Essence Vents (0): These are a necessity for Kaiju manses; when one turns up, there tends to be a sudden surge in belief – which may temporarily boost the effective cult rating. Without some way to discharge the extra power, a Kaiju could explode.

Living Manse (0): All Kaiju are, to some extent, living creatures – and so can have mutations. They are, however, still structures; they do not need to eat, drink, or breathe and are not vulnerable to effects that do not normally affect structures, such as poison, crippling, disease, and similar effects.

Mutagenic (0): All Kaiju are mutated – and usually very highly so. While this ability only works on the manse itself, Kaiju – like other creatures altered by demesnes and manses – can survive unhindered in Creation, no matter how severely mutated they become. (Oadenols Codex, Page 50).

Awakened Little God (1): As a Rank-5 Manse, Mechagodzilla has “Kiryu” – an Essence-4 god – for a manse-spirit. Kiryu, like many manse-spirits, pretty much sees the manse it’s embodied in as it’s “body”. Kiryu generally provides piloting assistance and secondary weapons control.

Kiryu: Essence 4, Will 9, 85 Motes, Soak 16B/11L/6A, Health 1x-0, 7x-1, 6x -2, -4. Str 10, Dex 10, Sta 10, Remaining stats all 4. Abilities: Athletics 5, Archery 5, Firearms 5, Integrity 5, Martial Arts 5, and Melee 5. Compassion 2, Temperance 2, Conviction 4, Valor 5. Charms 24 – and 15 bonus points to spend.

Kiryu is generally fairly friendly, and considers anyone who watches it’s movies to be a worshiper – but it DOES work for it’s pilots. Fortunately, it has ways to capture rather than kill.

Immutable (1): Mechagodzilla, and everyone within it, is immune to unwanted shaping effects – allowing it to ignore many attacks and to navigate the wyld without fear.

Network Node (1) and Geomantic Nexus (1): While the Great Kaiju rarely rely on external sources of power – why make yourself vulnerable when you have internal options? – it’s always handy to be able to use it.

Central Control (2): This isn’t actually a standard feature for Kaiju, but Mechagodzilla, of course, has several rooms full of very complex controls indeed.

Bound Guardian Force (4): Many Kaiju have associated creatures, even if they’re often purely internal. Mechagodzilla has an entire crew of 650-odd Noble Raksha – many of them with their own commoner entourages.

Indestructible (5): A Greater Kaiju may look like it’s taking damage, but it never really does. It can, however – as noted above – be temporarily driven off by another Greater Kaiju (or, preferably, by a team thereof) or by a sufficiently large and powerful army. They’ll just show up again later though, good as new.

The Wyld Kingdom (5):

  1. Bilocation: Kaiju are always present (And relatively stationary with respect to other ideas) in their dream-domain, but may manifest in the physical world and wander around there freely.
  2. The “inside” of each Kaiju acts as a Chancel, with a rating equal to the manses. The landscape is freely shapeable, which does not hinder the manse’s movements since the Chancels are considered to be in the stationary aspect. This allows Kaiju to have their own internal manse networks, to support immense “crews”, and for those “crews” to be pretty much unaffected by the material Kaiju-aspect of their manse being irradiated, blasted, tossed around or otherwise assaulted. At least one mystic has claimed that all of Creation and it’s associated “local” wyld is, in fact, within “The Great Turtle”, and that the Shinmai simply define it’s outer shell – but most of the rest of Creation are pretty sure that he’s wrong.
  3. The Sentai Syndrome; Kaiju function rather like Behemoths; they use the best powers and abilities of their crew (or awakened spirit) as a base, and the crew may use their charms through it or on it’s behalf.
  4. Wyld Radiance: Greater Kaiju “mutations” take effect while they’re being built. When stacking mutations they are considered to have essences of (Rating + 1).
  5. Greater Kaiju artifact weapons require no maintenance, may have unique “special effects”, have a minimum rate of 2, multiply their radius of effect or number of targets (all use the same attack check, a flurry is not required) by the number of levels of Gargantuan the Kaiju has and multiply their ranges similarly.

Integrated Essence Artillery and /or Utility Artifacts x2 (6).

  • Multiweapon Systems (Panoply Of Death ****): The user may count his “unarmed” attacks as being made with any desired artifact melee weapons rated at (**) or less. Most commonly Mechagodzilla counts it’s unarmed attacks as being made with Goremauls, Grimcleavers, or Khatars. As with the Manse’s other weapons, they affect an area or up to six targets at once with the same roll.
  • Missile Batteries (Storm Hammer *****): Thanks to the multiplier for size, this system can fire a spread of six missiles with a rate of two. Each missile in a set uses the same attack check, regardless of targeting. Sadly, thanks to their limited damage, these are more useful against swarms of lesser attackers or for indirect attacks than they are against other Kaiju.
  • Arm Lasers: (Short Powerbows, ** and **, raised to *** each by being self-loading and usable with only one arm): Thanks to Mechagodzilla’s enormous strength, these are major weapons.
  • Maser Cannon (Long “Powerbow”, +1 dot for radius energy, +1 dot for longer range and self-loading, *****). While this is technically only a little more potent than the Arm Lasers, it has a higher rate and will be given a priority on having a “gunner” with charms that can boost it further.

Other weapons can be activated when additional geomantic relay points are supplied.

  • The Absolute Zero Cannon (*****) enforces absolute order, and zero entropy, where it hits – an effect which is resistable, but which is enhanced by anti-shaping defenses, which are already enforcing stasis.
  • The Plasma Grenade (***** plus ***) is essentially a Heavy Implosion Bow with a linked artifact – an Accumulative Temporal Labyrinth – that allows multiple shots to be stacked across up to six rounds, then released with the final shot in the series to amplify it. This will generally destroy anything that doesn’t employ a perfect defense.
  • The Optic Cannons equate to Medium Implosion Bows (**** each).
  • A Cutting Beam equates to a Glorious Scythe (*****) with an Accumulative Temporal Labyrinth (***) as above.
  • The Shinamaic Lance (*****) amplifies and alters the effects of charms, causing them to function in alternative ways and against additional targets; in general, it can be used to remove, or to add, a single keyword – for example, causing something that is normally a shaping effect to operate under the laws of Creation, thus removing the Shaping keyword.
  • The Wyldstorm Cannon (*****) fires blasts which infuse an area with chaos – briefly turning it into a Deep Wyld area (although it will soon fade to a Middlemarch intensity).

Mutations:

  • Elemental Rejuvenation (Fire, 6)
  • Enhanced Sense x5 (+2 dice on all awareness checks, 5)
  • Essence Attack (6)
  • Gargantuan (variant; provides no bonus health levels; those are converted to base movement. +4 Str, +4 Sta, +10 movement per level, six levels, 36)
  • Gazelle’s Pace (+4 movement, 2)
  • Hyper-Awareness (+1 to detect ambushes, always considered wary, 1)
  • Night Eyes (can see normally in the dark, 1)
  • Supernatural Quickness (+6 movement, 6)
  • Tail (+2 Athletics, prehensile, 2)
  • Wings (Flight at x2 base speed, 6).

Mechagodzilla thus has a normal movement rate of (Dex + 70) – generally a minimum of 80 – and a flight speed of 160. That’s roughly 164 / 327 MPH. Movement boosting charms will affect this normally; Kiryu often uses Landscape Travel to quadruple it (achieving Mach II in flight).

Actually doing battle with a Kaiju Manse is a lengthy project. You can fight indirectly through psychomantic sabotage; all you need to do is to destroy or weaken the human race sufficiently or to institute a cultural countercurrent. Simple inattention won’t be enough though; a manse stabilizes it’s own demesne – so simply trying to make humanity forget it won’t work. You need to actively put out books, movies, and other productions that undermine it – and hope that it hasn’t become self-contained and independent of external psychomancy.

If it has gotten that far you’ll need to engage it in battle long enough to find a way into it’s internal realm, get in, defeat it’s crew and internal guardians, and either take it over or find it’s “vital organs” – the internal manses that add to it’s power and insulate it from external power losses – and destroy them and THEN get rid of it with psychomantic sabotage.

Yes, that’s kind of awkward. It’s often easier to just find a way to get it into a conversation and persuade it…

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXVIII – Pursuit Cantata, The First Movement

Nez Perce warrior on horse, 1910.

Mellowing Out With The Raksha

As Aikiko frantically accelerated towards the rugged, forested, mountains – Yu-Shan grant that it took that monstrosity a few moments to get up to speed! – she picked up an initial lead – and found her thoughts tumbling almost as madly.

That THING was real – and solid enough to completely shrug off her strike. A Raksha form? Surely not! It had defeated two Celestial Exalts in combat! A Behemoth? But what Behemoth was… friendly, independently intelligent, and (again) capable of defeating multiple exalts? A god? It had been aware that she’d been watching movies about it, but what god could take such a form? A Warstrider? But it was better than ten times the size – and a couple of thousand times the mass – of any Warstrider even the first age had ever constructed! Who could possibly afford THAT?!? And the ESSENCE flowing through it! The only place she’d seen essence depths like that was…

As the scaffolding fell away, and Mechagodzilla took it’s first, thunderous, steps in pursuit – quite carefully avoiding stepping on any people or buildings – realization burst like a star blazing into life. By Oblivion… She was being pursued by a Warstrider-MANSE. Someone had SOMEHOW created a structure to focus the energies of what was more or less a cult! No wonder it wasn’t falling through the ground! It was probably half built of dreams!

Who was – or had been – going around creating these weird Manses?! Somebody with Raksha powers – to use dream-domains as if they were solid – and the ability to build exotic manses. Charles had displayed some of those abilities, but he wasn’t the type to kidnap people!

Could it be somebody seeking extortion or ransom? One target had had ties to Yu-Shan somehow… or was it just the usual “something convoluted is going on”?

Then there was no energy to spare to focus on anything but escape… Mechagodzilla had taken a bit of time to get out of the scaffolding, and was still being careful to avoid stepping on people, but even moving carefully it was… fearsomely fast. Just the length of those strides…

Aikiko swooped into an… Amerindian settlement. Given that Mechagodzilla was apparently trying to avoid injuring the locals, it would have a hell of a time finding her in a maze of trees and homes! That would buy her a few minutes to think in!

Raksha were known for their stories… ugh, was somebody capturing young Exalts for THAT? Now… the amerindian types seemed to be living in longhouses, and following the classical lifestyle – hunting, gathering, and light agriculture. Humans, although it was fairly obvious that a high percentage had awakened essence and not a few showed traces of fey ancestry. Obviously enough some lost group – perhaps intentionally so.

Nez Perce actually, although Aikiko didn’t know enough history to recognize that.

Wait; she’d almost forgotten… she was under Crater Lake! None of this landscape could be entirely real! That meant she was in a Freehold! And with only her Behemoth Cloak for a shaping defense… Hopefully she could get out before she wound up mutating… Who ran into the Wyld these days? And had someone successfully taken over from the Raksha, or had Mechagodzilla simply been instructed to say so? It was hard to be sure of anything at all in a freehold!

Still… who might have successfully taken over? Considering Mechagodzilla mentioned “his old bosses”, and that the evidence pointed to Salin being an Abyssal, perhaps a Deathlord? Didn’t shadowlands and Wyld zones sometimes intersect in old Creation? But then why would it be so cheery in this Freehold? And why would there be a bunch of Amerindians in it?

Wait. She’d been thinking Abyssal, but the evidence for that was… the records that didn’t match up (in state fine, out of state no matches and a SSN for a kid who died fifteen years earlier), his apparent relatives appeared brainwashed and didn’t remember details about him… OH HELL. This was HIS freehold! Glamour could also do that! Raksha had charms that just… fit them into a small community – but the illusion wouldn’t fool someone who had a high essence and decent investigation skills and who was really poking about – just like her. THAT was why he’d been doing this in a small college town, and not some major city! Well, perhaps that and the geographic proximity…

Why snatch a Lunar? And if there was something to this “new boss” business, who was it – or they? Mentorship, companionship, a desire for his own pet chimera, an urge to test the Lunar’s prowess, somebody had snagged his Heart Grace? That just made MORE possibilities!

Gah! This was far worse than she’d imagined, even without a giant mecha-manse! She could probably fly out, but the people here were in danger of being soul-eaten, or worse! And the rest of the world was in danger of being attacked by Raksha piloting a giant, nigh-indestructible robot with powerful weapons!

Why was it being so careful of the locals though?

Still, much as she hated to admit it, even she he might have to retreat from this one. She hadn’t exactly spent massively on hitting it with everything she had – but she would still have pulverized a human and done some real damage to a tank – and she’d only scuffed the paint. Manses were pretty durable anyway, and this one was probably worse, and she’d never seen one that walked around before! Most of the (very rare!) Mobile manses were limited to a small radius.

Of course this one… was built to embody a mental demesne. She’d never known that those existed before! Of course… perhaps they DIDN’T before modern telecommunications… Hey, that would also explain the comparatively sudden appearance of Illusion as a Manse Aspect!

Still, as galling as it was, and despite her attempts to avoid thinking about it… she still needed to escape or at least to find a way to evade it! And it was going to be pretty hard to evade a crew of Raksha in a freehold. She could doubtless kill some – but killing helpless slaves of whoever actually ran the place was pretty much out of the question as far as SHE was concerned!

And the damned thing was carefully scanning through the village. Still, she had perhaps another minute or two… The place was at least ninety miles across, which was a lot to hide in a cave in a mountain! Very mountainous, very natural, lots of trees, valleys, waterfalls, natural beauty, and productive forests.

She made a break for the ravines of the forested mountains. Mechagodzilla wouldn’t fit in there, and she’d be hell to find or pull out! Lightning speed and Graceful Crane Stance (and other charms), along with her behemoth cloak and some movement-enhancing mutations – such as the wings she was still sporting – should give her SOME chance at keeping ahead in this terrain…

The local humans were no threat of course. They couldn’t possibly slow her down!

Until, of course, while glancing briefly back over her shoulder to see what Mechagodzilla was up to she botched her Per+Awa check and ran straight into a young woman – knocking the poor woman head over heels and giving her a very messily broken arm.

(Aikiko) “Oops! Didn’t see you there!”

(Woman) “Oww!”

Well Damn! It was just a little further to the forest – but Mechagodzilla was very carefully stepping over longhouses and was charging that ice-beam-thing to fire! She didn’t have time to treat the woman or work a healing spell and still escape – so she took the poor mortal along!

Scooping the woman up and carrying her along was easy enough – but it slowed her up and produced a steady stream of complaints.

Aikiko hit the Second Athletics Excellency as hard as she could. Expensive – and it almost took her to the anima-flare level – just as her current speed took her under the edge of the forest canopy. With any luck her suddenly-further-enhanced speed would throw off any targeting predictions it was making!

She couldn’t keep that up – that was the entirety of her Personal pool and a small bit of Peripheral – but with any luck she wouldn’t have too!

As the Cold-Ray cannon fired a wave of icy stillness washed over the forest. A few trees – unable to take the strain – virtually exploded. Aikiko avoided the direct hit however. Still, for a moment, a chill washed over her – an attempt to enshroud her in a chrysalis of ice and throw her into suspended animation – but she shook it off. The woman she was carrying, however, was frozen solid, and would need some thawing!

Still, that did stop any bleeding or further damage.

Aikiko busily lost herself in a tangle of wooded ravines and boulders as Mechagodzilla took a careful look at it’s collection of frozen woodlands to see if she was in there…

The Graceful Crane Stance helped with the worst of that.

Huh… The place boasted… a wide variety of berries, fruit trees, nut trees, herbs, and other plants, deep shady woods, small caverns, hidden trails… It looks like the designer really liked “burgeoning nature”. It looked tasty indeed!

Of course it WAS a freehold; Kiko refrained from sampling things, no matter how tempting they looked.

It was easy enough to find a place to hide for a few hours – and a small fire hidden in the back of a small cave to thaw the woman out was also easy enough. The woman awoke as her broken arm was being bandaged, and gave Aikiko what would probably be a pretty serious piece of her mind if she had spoken the language.

(Aikiko) “Um, sorry. I don’t understand.”

(Woman, who had at least some English…) “Ow! Rude! What for run into me? HOURS to heal up it will be!”

(Aikiko) “Sorry! I was trying to get away from Mechagodzilla!”

(Woman, backing away a bit) “Why? You enemy?”

Wait a moment… HOURS to heal a broken arm? That sounded more than a bit odd!

(Aikiko) “Uh . . . I don’t think I’m an enemy. I came in here looking for some missing people from outside!”

(Woman) “Not many outsider here! Only few!”

(Aikiko) “Do you know where they are? There are people looking for them, and they’ll never think to look here.”

Hmm… The arm DID look better already… Fast healing like in Aden, maybe?

(Woman) “Playing in Village probably!”

(Aikiko) “Uhm… your arm really will be better before the day is out? How does that work?”

(Woman) “Gift of the Nuviskia! Granted everyone, long ago! When army men come!”

(Aikiko) “I see…”

Wait, ths woman had been around when the Army was entering the tribal lands? That HAD to be at least a hundred years ago!

(Aikiko) “What else can you tell me about the Nuviskia?”

What with the limited vocabulary that took awhile… It seemed that they were powerful magicians and could grant powers to people, they changed reality at whim, close contact with them often left a person dazed and confused for a day or so, but they were a lot of fun so most of the tribes-people didn’t mind, they liked to party a lot and were parents or grandparents of a lot of the younger tribe members. You could tell that they were magic, they showed all kinds of strange signs. Things had changed a bit some time back though; a more powerful one came, and easily defeated the current Nuviskia lord of the holding, and he and some other strange ones built the great Guardian-Totem!

(Aikiko) “Do you know anything about that one?”

(Woman) “Recently he brought friend!… He strange lore has, MUCH more powerful than the other Nuviskia, brings things from outside, and created the Great Totem in mere days. It seemed transparent at first, but soon firmed up!”

(Aikiko) “Incredible… and what about his friend?”

(Woman) “His friend? He arrived even more recently! He is quite passionate… Powerful, but much more physical than our current lord. He stays in the villages a lot, with the girls he came with and the ones he recruited here.”

Well, that certainly sounded like Raksha, but that was a foregone conclusion by this point. She wasn’t so sure about the friend…

(Aikiko) “Well, sorry to bump into you! Can you make it home on your own?”

(Woman, with some surprise) “Oh sure! Know all the paths”.

And – over the course of a few hours of conversation – her broken arm had indeed healed completely.

Aikiko let her go. There was no reason to keep her. Of course, once she was gone, she went looking for another hiding place – while trying to remember the woman’s exact skin tone and look. “Native American” was one thing, but there probably were differences. Of course, even at that she probably couldn’t hide for long in a freehold – but she could at least try to confuse the matter with a quick change of clothes (shifting the Behemoth Cloak to more-or-less local wear) and a bit of illusion.

Hm… It was a bit risky – but the best place to look for more information was probably back at the village…

Most of the place was near-pure native american – but there was some modern clothing hanging by a longhouse along with some native stuff. Nascar and frat shirts, blue jeans, and so on. Some of it matched up with the descriptions of missing people from the college – so she discreetly tried to take a look inside…

The place was incredibly comfortable for a longhouse, with a lot of “modern” conveniences – and was occupied by one quite recognizable football-player type and several young women, none of whom were wearing much.

Ah, her suspected Lunar! And quite… content and occupied. Not as sophisticated about it as the occupants of Yu-Shan perhaps, but obviously having fun. Still… he seemed… a bit… off-key compared to the few Lunars she’d encountered. Most of them were kind of grim survivors – very determined, and sort of willful. This guy… had apparently done nothing much for the last several months but indulge himself. That was kind of weird! Exalts… ALWAYS used their powers, and not just to have private parties! Should she ask? She’d be willing to bet that – if she acted like a possible concubine – he wouldn’t think twice about talking to her…

He seemed to be using minor reality-tweaking tricks of some sort. Most Lunar charms were bigger thngs than just tweaking the room, producing more beer, or getting young women into position… Either he was a very strange Lunar, or not one at all!

Essence sight showed… Lunar and Wyld Essence. He COULD have just have gotten some graces though – and he looked kind of normal for a Cauldron-Born, although that might just be shapeshifting or illusion. Besides! She KNEW all of those already! She’d been there!

By the Wyld… were they making more somehow? Snatching young Exalts to do it? But… in that case, where was the Eye of Balor? Did they need it any more, was it moveable, or had they just taken him to see it?

Well, actually, now that she was thinking about it… that wouldn’t actually have been hard – and that would explain the first takeover. And Mechagodzilla seemed like something Windhiam – as a techno-shaman – would shape… He had the mechanical and magical knowledge for it.

There was still something wrong though; a college football player was NOT the usual sort of host for a Lunar Exaltation! Could something have possibly gotten control of it and given it to him? HOW would that happen, though? Exaltations were supposed to be uncontrollable by anything short of a Primordial – and even then it was incomplete at best.

If that was happening… Exaltations in the control of people who are at best college age? That would lead to gargantuan trouble! Like… gargantuan Kaiju running about…

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXVII – The Azure Depths

Wizard Island - Crater Lake Oregon

Wizard Island – Crater Lake Oregon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What else is there to say?

It would take a day or so to get a flight back to Oregon… In the meantime Aikiko saw a few more of the usual attractions – and did some indirect investigation of Toho studios!

First up, the architect – who turned out to be one “Ariskari Mekan”, a noted Feng Shui expert. Supposedly an elderly mystic at the time, he was now supposedly well past a hundred and was rumored to be a taoist immortal. “He” (or a successor) still dropped by the studio on occasion to get a film made. He apparently brought his own – rather odd – scripts, although they almost always involved some weird martial arts.

Fortunately, with some digging, there were some bootlegged transcripts available online.

Hm… A futuristic sci-fi drama with some oddly political overtones that had been mostly distributed in Taiwan and India, a documentary on the Mystic Martial Arts of Tibet, and another on Creatures of the Vanishing Rain Forest featuring a brief martial arts battle with a vicious lizard-thing. There was even a privately-distributed one she could only get a few stills from. They showed some awfully high-end martial arts stances – apparently a training film.

She was fairly sure that Crane Turns Above The Storm and Haunting Shadow Stance were not a part of any normal martial art! Those were… Celestial, or possibly even higher! But wouldn’t the Sidereals come down hard on people trying to spread knowledge of their styles? Still, they so rarely had time to teach any longer, and the automated Lotus Sifus were reportedly murder to maintain or fix…

Was “Ariskari Mekan” trying to teach Celestial Martial Arts through Toho films? She’d have to remember that name! Sadly, as much as she would like to investigate him, she’d came to Japan looking for information on that incident in Oregon…

So… the older mechagodzilla was an alien weapon, built and run by remote control from a secret base under a mountain. The aliens looked human on the surface, but were stronger and faster than humans and were utterly strange underneath. They had taken refuge on earth from some alien disaster and wanted to own it. When they died they lost their human guises and then the bodies dissolved – sort of losing color than crumbling like plaster of paris.

That sounded weirdly familiar from something beyond movies somehow.

The newer one (well, one of them; some of the films were confusing) was human-built to fight other Kaiju – using the bones of the original Godzilla as a basis. It was basically haunted, was piloted by a crew of people (incredibly skilled and tough people, but still), often needed to recharge, was capable of short-duration flight – and could pull off fancy martial arts maneuvers. It was also the version with the super-freezing ray.

Well, that matched fairly well with what happened in Oregon – her possible Lunar apparently did engage in a fist fight with it – and got taken out by a super-freeze ray. Well, any young exalt was vulnerable! Even with “perfect” defenses, if you ran out of motes you were in trouble – and there were plenty of weird – and even mundane! – effects that basic defenses didn’t over. Parry a landside? Not harmed, but still buried! Even if the guy DID use a perfect defense, he’d be trapped in a crystal or something.

Hmm… It was possible this Mechagodzilla combined aspects of the two. If so, the base would be relatively nearby – and Oregon was pretty rugged… There’d been quite a few mountains not all that far from town… the presumed-lunar had been a climber… Maybe she should have looked at mountains before flying to Japan – but then she’d been wanting to see Japan anyway and it had worked out just fine! She’d just have to come back for the shoot! The casting, final scripting, and so on was expected to take another five weeks before things would really be getting started… That should be more than enough time!

OK… The biggest mountains in Oregon were the Cascade Range – but they covered most of the state. It was on the Ring of Fire and was quite geologically active. Oh of course; Japan. The base would be in a volcano; if you wanted to draw on the power of a media image and it’s cult, you’d haul in every cliche you possibly could… At least that would help narrow things dow!

So; what was the closest volcano to Roseburg Oregon?

It looked like… The Three Sisters, then the Newberry Caldera, and then Crater Lake.

Crater Lake was the most scenic by a good long ways. She went to have a look. It was neat, and who knew?

More boring travel time later, Crater Lake was indeed impressive! It was beautiful, and deserved to be a park, and it was rich with dragon lines, and… wait. Several of them flowed in and around the mountain. She’d have expected quite a demesne – but her best efforts at tracing them showed them diving down deep and… petering out. Weird! A beautiful place, rich in essence, and it had been left undisturbed until the government had put up a road so people could come and look at it? Hard to believe! As hard to believe as all that essence just “vanishing” into the deep earth… Somebody should have claimed the spot a long time ago. Perhaps a hidden manse like that one that Charles had “raided” in Atlanta?

The Park Rangers didn’t know anything about magic, even if they were chock full of facts about the lake and the local geology – and the swarming tourists were mostly seeing what they expected. From all appearances the area was so normal that it hurt! NO PLACE was that carefully ordinary unless someone was purposefully keeping it that way!

Well, swimming was allowed! And she was no ordinary human and the Behemoth Cloak could easily let her operate underwater!

The bottom was deep indeed – and there was a fairly subtle (and very complex) ward, over an area that shimmered to essence sight – and radiated siderally-aspected and wyld energies.

Sidereal AND Wyld? More weird stuff! And the ward was far too complex for her to decipher too! Still, at least part of it was quietly influencing scientists – and fish – into staying away from that part of the lake bottom though.

On the other hand, it apparently did nothing to stop pebbles since the one she tossed drifted gently down, tumbled through the ward, dropped through the bottom of the lake – and vanished. So at least part of it was covering up SOME sort of passageway! There was no point just hanging out around here! She swam deeper and tried to force her way through!

That was… unexpectedly easy; it was a keep-away, not a solid barrier – or at least not solid to anything but water. She passed through the bottom – and out into a rather large space. There was a massive scaffolding system, a gargantuan Mechagodzilla at least three hundred feet tall (that seemed to be watching her with some interest, amusement, or possibly bemusement), several impossibly good-looking people who were currently repainting superficial scuff marks on it, what seemed to be a quiet landscape of mountain valleys – and a three or four hundred foot fall that was just starting…

Oh Shit!

Aikiko rather frantically tried to use the Behemoth Cloak to grow wings – and managed it a mere instant before she would have hit, braking most of the impact before she lept up again.

Then Mechagodzilla turned it’s head to look at her…

(Aikiko) “Hi.”

The classic Godzilla-noise had odd metallic overtones and seemed almost comprehensible…

Unfortunately, Aikiko utterly botched her attempt to figure out what it was saying, managing to turn it’s greeting into “Must devour more exaltations and obtain infinite power!”. That was a lot to get out of one vocalization, but maybe it was “big body small words!”?

Of course, Aikiko had already half-meant to punch it – and was getting a little impatient to resolve things!

(Aikiko) “I won’t let you!”

She flew right up into its face, reared back, and kicked it in the nose! It wasn’t trying very hard to stop her – so hitting it was easy enough. It seemed to rely on it’s armor…

A less impulsive Exalt might have wondered why it wasn’t reacting – but fortunately, the Behemoth Cloak kept her from injuring her fist as she… slightly marred the paint and produced what she would swear was a slightly startled expression…

(Aikiko) “Yeah! You better stop eating Exalted!”

(MechaGodzilla, inquisitively) “Garraunk?”

Aikiko tried to make that out, since even she was not foolish enough to think that she had actually hurt it – and did much better this time.

(Mecha-Godzilla) “Is something wrong?”

(Aikiko) “So… I guess you’re not eating Exalted. What were you doing at Roseburg, then?

(Mecha-Godzilla) “HOONG OOGiiiaash” (“Catch little fellow for old bosses!”)

(Aikiko) “Old bosses? Were they big scary ghosts in lots of black? Or were they wearing a lot of moaning stuff with faces screaming?”

(Mechagodzilla) “Oh they’re doing the repainting!”

A hurried glance at the workers showed them to be… still mostly human looking and mostly still incredibly good looking – but with reddish skin, flame-colored or flaming hair, elaborate stylized Amerindian outfits, fanciful weapons, some with animalistic features, a few that seemed to just project emotions that she could feel by looking at them… Fey.

What in Oblivion was going on?

(Aikiko, oblivious to the activities below) “So… why did they send you to grab him?”

(Mechagodzilla) “I just work for my pilots unless Godzilla shows up to fight!… Hm! Boss says to grab you small worshiper!”

(Aikiko, power-diving to pick up speed and heading for the… longhouse?… villages and mountains beyond as quickly as possible) “Aw hell. Sorry, can’t allow that!”

The Oregon State version of the U.S. Quarter f...

Got change for a Kaiju?

Wait, “small worshiper”? Oh good grief! She had just watched all the Mechagodzilla movies! By Kaiju rules… that probably DID make her a worshiper! Arrgh!

Weird! Those mountains seemed to be getting closer a lot faster than was at all reasonable!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXVI – Toho’s Tokyo Towers

English: 1954 Japanese movie poster for 1954 J...

Who would have thought that these blasted things could hide so well?

Arranging a trip to Japan wasn’t too difficult – and she’d wanted to see the place anyway – but business first! At least she spoke Japanese and managed to scrape up the patience to make the trip without going stir crazy from all the sitting in planes…

Aikiko gritted her teeth and passed up the shrines, the temples, the museums, and the classical fortresses in favor of Toho Studios. A clipboard and Easily Overlooked Presence Method should work just fine.

It did, at least at first – but the studio turned out to be a fairly powerful manse! Rank-4, and with an exotic aspect oriented towards… illusions.

Whaa…?????

OK, the was appropriate for a film studio… But if this turned out to be a copyright dispute gone supernatural, she was going to be very VERY annoyed!

A period of quiet surveillance revealed that there were some dragonbloods around… Air and Water aspects mostly, the CEO, studio executives, directors, managers… only the most important officers of course, but still!

And they were currently… setting up for Samurai Destroyer XIV.

Ooh, a mecha movie! That would be all kinds of fun to watch being made – but it seemed all too likely that some of those those Terrestrials would know (and likely use, if only to watch for things going wrong on the set) Awareness Charms.

Still… from what she could see, it looked like… Palace of Unreality was being used for movie-making. That was… extravagant. On the other hand, it would explain why Godzilla had been so influential! They were using it to… create monsters, and scenery, and sets, and special effects, and even some entire sequences! There was also an instance of Wyld Revocation that allows basic martial arts training to be used for marvelous stunts, and some safety functions, and even a monor healing function for helping out the stuntmen. A lot of computer interfacing with the manse too. It looked like they even had a computer interface set up, so they could just feed in maps and background photos and storyboards and such…

Technology wasn’t her thing – but the primary access was probably in the central offices – just where the dragonblooded were concentrated. Blast! There had to be a whole clan in charge of this… Still, her curiosity was getting the better of her; she headed that way.

There were… a lot of actors, most of whom seemed to believe that advanced special effects technology was handling the odder bits, a screenwriters workshop (which apparently provided some substantial boosts to script-writing), and the central offices right up ahead. Some security… Seems to be basic manse-servants though. Some of the actors – the stars – seemed to fit into that category as well!

But didn’t manse-servants normally stick with the manse? What the heck was going on?

At which point a cheerful young man spotted her and promptly directed her into a line with some of the other aspiring young would-be actresses… they were “ready to start the readings”!

Director Isanawa himself would be reviewing the applicants!

(Aikiko) “Err… yes, sir.”

She bowed. Bowing etiquette was taking some time to get used to, but she was quite socially skilled and adaptable! It was easy enough to pretend to be a slightly nervous young woman here to play a part!

Very shortly she was handed a script and directed to a short series of lines for the part of a Young Female Werewolf Hunter! First a dramatic bit at the climax of a hunt, and then switching to a short interlude with friends.

Huh. That wasn’t entirely unlike what was actually going on… She wasn’t much of an actor, but the Manse seemed to facilitate rapid improvement there as well… the place was HANDY! And… she had to admit that it would be FUN to be in a Godzilla movie! Toho studios was one of the premier studios in the eastern hemisphere, they were hugely influential, their audience was vast, they turned out movies by the score, and they were pretty much rolling in loot…

Oh. Of course. They WOULD be wouldn’t they?

Kiko promptly took advantage of the manses powers to buy two dots of Perform on the cheap – and stunted her performance, throwing in her formidable martial arts skills, the acting boost from the Manse, and punctuating her lines as she was “pummeling the werewolf” with hammer punches and knee strikes – enunciating like a bold, rebellious spirit – before switching to trying to play what she’d picked up of the “demure Japanese schoolgirl” with the “friends”…

Sadly, she didn’t actually roll that well.

The effort was palpable, the actual result was a bit too nervous!

Well, it wasn’t like Kiko had acted before – except to talk herself out of trouble.

The director was good at spotting potential though – and offered her a smaller, non-starring, part. That had been a very good try even if the lack of acting experience had showed!

(Aikiko) “Thank you very much, sir! I won’t disappoint you!”

(Isanawa) “You’re quite welcome Ms Aikiko! You’ve come a long ways to try out!”

The role was a secondary hunter who got bitten in the first attempt on the main monster, and – sadly – had to be put down along with her new boss! Still, she did get some combat sequences, a few appearances standing over bodies and such, and a good death scene! It was not at all a bad start!

The salary was quite decent too – although to go for the higher, star-quality, salaries you had to sign an exclusive contract. Still, even a series of small-scale jobs was well worth considering! She DID need some mundane means of supporting herself in Creation – even if this WAS about as supernatural as studios got!

Toho had really come on the scene with their new studios in the very early 1960’s – and now was probably the biggest studio in the entire east. It turned out a LOT of movies, usually with quite good scripts and fabulously good effects. They did monster movies, supernatural thrillers, sci-fi, and historical stuff mostly… of course, that WAS playing to their advantages. At a guess, there’d been a Terrestrial takeover or the CEO had Exalted – and had gotten the new studios underway sometime in the 1950’s. Despite Charles, building a rank-**** manse was a bit of a project!

Aikiko had to admit that whoever had come up with this one had had a stroke of brilliance… The place let was a money machine on a massive scale and let you peddle whatever images and ideas you wanted to a global audience. It was a cultural shaping machine to be envied… The large number of studio guards might not be as unreasonable as it looked. Whichever Japanese clan controlled the place probably considered it a critical asset – and were probably very pleased that they didn’t just laugh off the original proposal. How ridiculous “Your studio is built on a place of supernatural power. Can we work with you to improve it?” must have sounded!

And now they could undercut virtually everyone… “We need a complete 1823 Kyoto Set…. done!”.

Unfortunately, as fascinating – potentially useful – as that was, there was no sign of Salin, or Darius, or even Mechagodzilla (at least if you didn’t count the poster-and-stills gallery). Toho seemed to be… opinion-molding, income-producing, and a cultural icon – but it didn’t seem to actually deploy Kaiju any more than it did armies of space marines or cyborg samurai. Ah well! It would still be pretty lucrative for her! She’d just have to remember to show up for filming.

Hmmm… Did the Dragon-blooded running the place realize just how much power built up in popular characters and genres? That was always more a divine thing than something for Dragon-Bloods to tap into though…

Drat it! Where to go from here? Could Mechagodzilla possibly be hanging out in space? How could she get there? And even if she COULD, space was HUGE! She couldn’t search that big an area on her own!

Perhaps she could get Toho studios would go after them for copyright infringement?

Nah, that was silly – but she did mention hearing something about the incident within Terrestrial earshot.

(Terrestrial) “Oh come my dear! It sounds like a prank to me – or perhaps a publicity stunt! Godzilla is a mere fantasy! Who could possibly produce such a thing for real? It does sound amusing though! Perhaps the work of one of those american “Fan Clubs”?

(Aikiko) “I guess so… but what happened to the kids who disappeared?”

(Terrestrial) “Camping in the woods perhaps? Or got themselves into trouble after their prank? America has much wilderness! And, sadly, many youngsters disappear…”

(Aikiko) “Yeah… would still be neat though.”

Hm… No obvious signs of lying – although it was pretty obvious that the bit about woods and trouble was a simple guess. This fellow, at least, didn’t know anything.

Ah well. She wouldn’t have thought that they’d risk their cash cow that way, but Terrestrials did talk with each other – even if it did look like the eastern dragon-blooded had gone in for the samurai-businessman model rather than the old warrior model. Well, there was something to be said for economics over punching! It was a lot easier to get comfortable with!

A few similar probes… got nothing much. Toho’s setup brought them money, and influence, and a certain amount of power – but for her particular search it was, at best, a sidequest.

Well, she was more than happy to have a minor part in one of their films! She’d always kind of wanted to be a movie star – and with her speed and combat skills, she might well get many parts!

So; into space? She didn’t want to be beholden to the Sidereals any more than she had too – but Charles would doubtless loan her a ship, and she was a pilot; all that time spent flying Gri-Fel around was going to pay off…

Wait a moment! She was being silly! Mechagodzilla always had a hidden base for repairs!

Cabal: Dreizehn

Dreizehn

(A Tribute to the character Nu-13; because Blazblue is just cool incarnate.)

Story: Dreizehn is the prototype android fashioned by the insane but brilliant Doctor Vitus, who lacks but one thing before finishing his greatest achievement: a living spirit. Until then, Dreizehn is but an empty husk awaiting life. The reason for this requirement is that Doctor Vitus isn’t a roboticist at all, but an enchanter, and master of golem-making. His latest creations may feature articulated joints, advanced composite flex-metals, and techno-fetish shockwave lances, but they remain magical creations, subject to magical restrictions.

This is, in fact, why he needs to steal a still-living soul: an already-dead one cannot tolerate the living-energy infusion needed to activate the golem. A different energy source might change that, but he intends to power Dreizehn with the concentrated blood of a living deity. (Don’t ask how he got it. It’s a long and truly despicable story.) The prototype is fully capable, but not specialized for a specific purpose. Dreizehn can’t pass for a normal human except at some distance and lacks the magical shapeshifting intended for the Assassin (Fierzehn) models, and isn’t as tough in physical combat as the planned Soldier (Funfzehn) models. However, the body has proven all the basic technologies and sorceries effective – if a sufficiently strong enough living soul can be found to inhabit it.

To that end, Dr. Vitus has begun scouring the region, searching for a suitable supoerherobut, not preferably not one with innate magical powers which could conflict with the enchantments lacing the robotic form. Tests with lesser souls, even wicked and obediant ones, proved that no common creature can give life to this lifeless husk. Of course, obtaining a soul isn’t easy, and superheroes or villains strong enough to inhabit Dreizehn, but weak enough to be caught and used in such a manner, aren’t easily found occurrence. Dr. Vitus suspects that Martyr, Golden Witch, and the Telestrema Spirit may be good candidates, but none are easily found, caught, or controlled.

Martyr is detailed elsewhere; the Cabal believes he would be a useful candidate, and likes the idea of turning their enemy into their slave. They do recognize he may be the hardest to control. Golden Witch is a long-retired superhero, with knowledge of many spells, but no innate powers. Unfortunately for the Cabal, they haven’t located her, and in any case anticipate a considerable battle. Fortunately, she would have few if any superheroic friends still living, and was not known to have allies among long-lived spirits, dragons, or other magical beings. The Telestrema Spirit is a rumored inhabitant of the coastal Northeast since at least the early days of European colonization. If it exists at all, it’s certainly powerful enough to inhabit the shell, but may have too much magical power to adapt to Dreizehn’s form.

The Cabal does not realize that building The Winds of Eternity into their tool means it will absent herself whenever called. They will not be happy, but there’s not much they can do about it once they reliaze what they’ve bought. Of course, a few more such creations would leave them with a rotating pool of powerful servants. And they’ll need them, because the resources already invested in this project are truly awesome, consisting of many fortunes. Dreizehn will become the spearhead of the Cabal’s will, enabling them to outright project power anywhere on Earth.

In combat, Dreizehn will immediately come out with full force, attempting to completely incapacitate the most dangerous enemy, or hang back and use abilities like invisibility and teleportation to get close. She’s not weak, but doesn’t have heavy armor. With a few more points, she would almost certainly pick up the standard Combat Dress to add to her survivability against the most dangerous superpowered combatants. Either way, she’s exceptionally potent and has disgustingly flexible abilities. With smart tactics and the constant use of magic, she’s theratening enough to take on an entire superheroic group herself.

Note that as curerntly designed, Dreizehn doesn’t have the capacity for emotional judgement. Dr. Vitus designed an entire mind, and did so with the intent of endering a pesky soul incaable of independent choice. Without an emotional state to ground her, Dreizehn is capable of causing any harm the Cabal commands, short of the restrictions it placed to counter possible rebellion. She does not, and cannot, value anyone or anything. She won’t engage in witty banter, and won’t hesitate to abuse any known weakness of the heroes with utter ruthlessness, but also without hatred. Mercy and malice alike simply have no meaning to her.

Weight: 52/13312kg (114 lbs/29,286 lbs), Sex: Female (Sort of), Race: N/A

Appearance: A thin, extremely pale teenage girl with white hair, tinted violet. Dr. Vitus’s technicians didn’t waste any time or effort on perfecting the semblance of life, and so numerous flaws prevent the golem from being taken for a living being (no reflexive blinking, impossible skin color, and a disturbingly blank facial expression among others). The physical look is actually based on the whim of Eraser (Neun), and caters to her tastes. At the moment, the lifeless husk wears a cloak with tassels marked with Buddhist symbols of reincarnation.

Value Characteristic Points
13/105 STR 3
20/24 DEX 30
13/19 CON 6
14/20 BODY 8
11/23 INT 1
10/16 EGO 0
5/17 PRE -5
10/34 COM 0
5/19 PD 0
3/17 ED 0
3/7 SPD 0
8/14 REC 0
26/50 END 0
38/50 STUN 4
Total 47
Points Powers END
10 Multipower: Mystic Energy Manipulation (20-pt reserve); Increased END: ×3, -1
u-1 Hand-to-Hand Attack (7d6, Total 28d6); Range: 0; Increased END: ×3, -1 6
u-15 6d6 Dispel Magic; Range: 270; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Extra Time Required: Each Time Used, 1; Increased END: ×3, -1; This is not the strongest Dispel, but likely to limit at least a few options of any magic-using target. 15
u-12 3d6 Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 225; No Knockback: -¼; Increased END: ×3, -1; Dreizehn can focus her mystical energies down into a razor-like shard of raw magic. 12
15 The Recursive Petals of the Divine Lotus (60-pt reserve); Multipower only usable for a preset, game-master determined list of effects (this limitation cannot be bought off later, -1), recognized by knowledgeable magi (-.25), will not work against certain targets (creatures which are linked to the power source involved may take an immunity to the spells effects, -.25), visible (reveal the user’s unique magical “signature”, can be detected in use by other mystics, -.25), -1.5 in variable limitations (usually taken as either a 14- activation check or as incantations and gestures plus the -1 individual slot limitations, -.75), requires a full phase (-.5).
u-1 1d6 Transform: Imposes any psychological modification (Major, Limited Class); Range: 0; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Penetrating: +½; Armor Piercing: 1, +½; Affects Desolidified: +½; Time Delay: +¼; No Range: -½; Only works on people who are physically restrained: -½; Cumulative: +½ 0
u-1 6d6 Mind Control; Communication: Verbal, +0; Area Effect (Cone): 6″ long, +1; Only to make people forget things: -1 6
u-1 6d6 Ego Attack; Based on Dex, standard range only, takes range penalties, and is visible.: -1 6
u-1 12d6 Mental Illusions; Only creates the illusion of being entrapped in whirling mists of ill-defined flowers (Ego+10, blind and deaf): -1 6
u-1 Invisibility (Normal Sight, Sight, Hearing, Mental, No Fringe); Only works on observers within 15″, does not work versus things without ego scores.: -½; Does not work against observers with ECV 9+ or Mental Defence 20+. : -½ 6
u-1 Instant Change; Clothes: Any Set, 10; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Uncontrolled: +½; Costs END (well, it would if it hadn’t been bought down to 0): -½; Creates illusory clothing and hairstyles only: -½
12 The Winds of Eternity (62-pt reserve); Multipower only usable for a preset, game-master determined list of effects (this limitation cannot be bought off later, -1), recognized by knowledgeable magi (-.25), will not work against certain targets (creatures which are linked to the power source involved may take an immunity to the spells effects, -.25), visible (reveal the user’s unique magical “signature”, can be detected in use by other mystics, -.25), -.5 in variable limitations (usually taken as either a 14- activation check or as incantations and gestures, -.25), side effects (watched by various cosmic beings, who may occasionally draft you for missions, -1), side effects cannot be avoided (-.5), user must have at least 60 points worth of other learned mystic powers (-.5).
u-1 25″ Teleportation (Long Range 25″); Increased Range: ×1, +0; Long Range: 25″; Long Range (miles): 0.03; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Fixed Locations: 0; Floating Locations: 0; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 2
u-1 Extra-Dimensional Movement; Dimensions: Any, +20; Usable By Others: Power Lost, +¼; Time Travel: None, +0; Mass Multiplier: ×4, +10; Carrying Mass: 200 6
u-1 10″ Teleportation (Long Range 10″); Increased Range: ×1, +0; Long Range: 10″; Long Range (miles): 0.01; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Fixed Locations: 0; Floating Locations: 0; Usable Against Others: ×1 mass, 1; Ranged: +½; Trigger: Changeable, +½ 2
u-1 Extra-Dimensional Movement; Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel (any GM-set temporal nexus point): Group of Dates, +30; Mass Multiplier: ×4, +10; Carrying Mass: 200 6
u-1 15″ Flight (NC: 480″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×32, +20; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Non-Combat (MPH): 1,250 1
u-1 Water Freedom
(7) Swimming (+20″, 22″, NC: 176″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×8, +10; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Non-Combat (MPH): 417 2
(2) Need Not Breathe
u-1 Desolidification; Immune to Mental Powers: +20 6
u-1 Faster-Than-Light Travel (32 LY/Year); Area Effect (Radius): 32″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×16, +1
16 Elemental Control: Golem of Quicksilver (20-pt reserve); Limited Power: Slightly, -¼; Limited: Quicksilver Golem Powers only (-1/4). The Quicksilver Golem is a creature of magical alteration and transmutation, with the power to live and heal rapidly, act with sudden and disturbing speed, or alter the substance of the body. In mysticism, mercury is a primordial element of change, the source of all metals.
a-20 Life Support (total); Difficult to Dispel: ×4, +½; Limited Power: Slightly, -¼
b-16 Density Increase-8 (×250 mass); Mass: 13,000 kg/28,600 lbs; Extra PD: +8; Extra ED: +8; Extra STR: +40; Knockback: -8″; Limited Power: Slightly, -¼ 4
c-16 END Reserve (300 END, 10 REC/turn); Limited Power: Slightly, -¼
d-20 Armor (15 PD/15 ED); Limited Power: Slightly, -¼
e-5 +40 STR; Doesn’t Affect Figured: -½; Increased END: ×5, -2; Limited Power: Slightly, -¼ 20
f-5 +4 SPD; Costs END: -½; Increased END: ×5, -2; Limited Power: Slightly, -¼
12 +12 CP to All Attributes Great Blessing; Modifications to Primary Attributes do not affect secondary attributes. Aid to Defenses has half effect per standard rules.
(12) 2d6 Aid (All attributes) (Fade/turn, Max. 12); Range: 0; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Always On: -½; Personal Only: -1; Increases maximums only, does not speed healing: -1; Difficult to Dispel: ×2, +¼; Aid to Defenses is halved per the standard rules. Aid to primary attributes does not affect secondary ones. 0
132 Aid Enhancements
(8) +6 BODY; Doesn’t Affect Figured: -½
(12) +24 COM
(8) +6 CON; Doesn’t Affect Figured: -½
(8) +4 DEX; Doesn’t Affect Figured: -½
(6) +6 ED
(12) +6 EGO
(12) +24 END
(12) +12 INT
(6) +6 PD
(12) +12 PRE
(12) +6 REC
(12) +12 STR 1
(12) +12 STUN
5 Basic Bulletproof Outfit: Armor (6 PD/3 ED); OIF: -½; Conventional Technology: -1
182 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
20 +4 level w/HTH Combat
20 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

100+ Disadvantages
10 Distinctive Features; Concealability: Easily, 5; Reaction: Always noticed & major reaction, +5
; Dreizehn did not receive the full cosmetic treatment that the proposed Assassin models will, and as such cannot pass for a normal human. Anyone seeing her except at a considerable distance would immediately know something wasn’t right. Only by avoiding any close inspection coudl she conceal herself.
20 Hunted: Dagger (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
; *Everybody’s* Hunted by Dagger. Or another reasonably similar organization depending on game world.
15 Always Obeys Orders of Superiors (Very Common, Moderate)
; By default, the Cabal is her superior. That may not hold, and even so, she must accept missions handed down by certain elder powers…
20 Code Against Killing (Common, Total)
; Never let it be said the Cabal is stupid. They intend to use the soul of a potential hero to inhabit Dreizehn, and considered *very* carefully what might happen if they did. With this rule in place, Dreizehn can’t try to kill them in return. She can’t kill their enemies either, but they assume they would have other minions to provide such a finishing blow.
10 Susceptibility: Dispel (1d6 STUN/Turn); Condition: Uncommon, +5
; Magical Construct + Dispel = Bad.
15 Hunted: The Cabal or a Hero Group (8-); Capabilities: As Powerful, 10; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
; Dreizehn is almost certain to attract the attention of at least one superhero group very quickly. She doesn’t have the emotional depth to act with subtlety, and in any event is a useful but disposable prototype, and will be treated as such by the Cabal. Should she be captured by heroes or otherwise turned, the Cabal will undoubtedly try to eliminate her.
10 Destitute
; As an emotionless creature, Dreizehn has a hard time understanding why humans use money at all, let alone why they value it.
20 Hunted: Magical Villains (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
; Dreizehn is likely to be hunted by magical villains, although the exact individuals can vary from game to game. She has immense potential power, and a revolutionary design as for magical creature. At a bare minimum, they’d want to drain the magical power from her corpse. (Wreckage. Whatever.)
15 Emotionless (All the Time, Slightly)
; Dreizehn does not have any emotional capacity. This causes immense trouble when trying to interpret the needs of living creatures, or determining how they would interpret events themselves. Aside which, she will be rather passive unless ordered to do something, since she has no real motivation, not even to avoid injury. While the emotionlessness itself is likely to remain, this disadvantage would probably be bought off early, as she learns how to interact with humans more effectively.
15 Watched: Elder Beings (14-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
; As a result of having the Winds of Eternity implanted, Dreizehn will definitely attract the attention of certain powerful beings. These are likely to make life difficult, but not actually attack directly.
150 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
47 + 202 = 249 250 = 150 + 100

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
8 8 5 0 40/21 35/18 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12