Eclipse – Servant of a Fallen God

El Shaitan

A being of mystery am I, a thing of spells and patches…

This request was for a Pathfinder / Dragonstar planetouched (earth ancestry) youngster who has been drafted into the space marines and who has accidentally summoned and bound himself to a Shaitan – a djinn/demon who was once a near demigodling, but who has been near-forgotten for centuries, and so has little power left (something which once more having a follower may start to fix). The Shaitan grants him what power she can in exchange for his soul, his service, and his deeds to restore her – and, in the meantime, she can manifest near him to help promote her own goals.

OK then… one Eclipse Build, starting off with the…

Pathfinder Package Deal: (Discussed more fully HERE)

  • +2 to an Attribute, Corrupted/the attribute is fixed by race (8 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted/only works as long as the user sticks to a particular archetype and relatively narrow plan of development chosen at level one at each level, points may only be spent on skills and additional hit points (2 CP).
  • Immunity/not being allowed to buy up their (normally maximized) level one hit die later on. Uncommon/Minor/Major (3 CP).
  • Action Hero (Crafting), Specialized and Corrupted/the user still has to spend the time, and money, and may ONLY create items by spending action points (2 CP).
  • Pathfinder provides a +3 bonus to “Trained In-Class Skills”. This is an option attached to the skills system, not part of a character build – “Characters get a +3 bonus on skills that fit their character concept”. The awkwardness in Eclipse comes in deciding which skills qualify as “In-Class”. The simplest option is simply to let the character consider Craft, Profession, and their selection of a dozen other skills “in-class”. No cost.
    • Selected Class Skills: Bluff (Cha), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Dex), Disguise (Cha), Knowledge/The Planes (Int), Perception (Wis), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Spellcraft (Int), Stealth (Dex), and Use Magic Device (Cha).
  • Package Disadvantage: Accursed (must use the Pathfinder versions of spells even where those have been downgraded, may not take “overpowered” feats, -3 CP).

Next up, it’s a unique Racial Template. Those are always potentially cheesy, but practically everyone in the intended game is going to be fairly unique anyway.

Racial Template/Earth-Themed Native Outsider (30 CP/+0 ECL):

  • Pathfinder Package Attribute Bonus goes to Constitution.
  • 60′ Darkvision (Occult Sense, 6 CP).
  • Proficiency with all Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP)
  • One Bonus Feat, Corrupted/must be earth-magic related (4 CP).
  • The original Attribute Shift (-2 to one attribute to add +2 to another) is replaced by a simple +2 to an attribute, since the game is using the half-price attributes rule – so +2 Wisdom (6 CP).
  • Immunity/Acid; takes five less (0 minimum) damage from acid (Common, Major, Trivial, 3 CP).
  • Inherent Spell, Corrupted/Earth-related effects only (4 CP). This is commonly taken as two L1 effects 2/Day each, but a level two effect twice per day is equally common.
  • Bonus Language (Terran) (1 CP).
  • Racial Disadvantage: Obvious elemental hybrid traits, subject to prejudice and discrimination (-3 CP).

For his Racial Choices I’ll put in…

  • Fast Learner, Specialized for Double Effect in (Earth-Related) Magic Levels, (+2 CP/ level).
  • Inherent Spells: Two first level effects usable twice per day each; Earthward I (Cast as an immediate action, blocks 1d8+Level/Max Five points of damage from an incoming attack or effect) and Iron Master (turns a bit of iron into an iron or steel implement weighing up to ten pounds for ten minutes per level).

That’s a fairly powerful race – but not overly so. It should do nicely.

Basic Attributes: Str 12, Dex 12, Con 12 (14), Int 14, Wis 12 (14), Cha 16 (3.5 32-point buy).

Available Character Points: 72 (L2 Base) +6 (Disadvantages: Outcast/obvious planetouched who has bound his soul to an outsider, Untrustworthy) +4 (Duties as a Space Marine) +6 (level one bonus Feat) = 88 CP (and 10 SP from Intelligence).

Basic Purchases (45 CP):

  • Warcraft (BAB): +1 (6 CP).
  • Hit Points / Dice: 2d8 (8, 6, for 8 CP) +4 (2 x Con Mod) = 18 HP
  • Proficient with: All Simple and Martial Weapons (Free) and Light Armor with the Smooth modifier (6 CP).
  • Armor Class 10 (Base) +1 (Dex) +6 (Armor/Combat Fatigues) +1 (Defender) = 18
  • Initiative +1 (Dex)
  • Movement: 30′
  • Save Bonuses:
    • Fortitude: +2 (6 CP) +2 (Con) = +4
    • Reflex: +2 (6 CP) +1 (Dex) = +3
    • Will: +2 (6 CP) +2 (Wis) = +4
  • Skill Points: 7 (Purchased, 7 CP) + 10 (Int Mod x 5) +4 (Fast Learner) = 21

Special Abilities (43 CP):

  • Two levels of Clerical Package Deal Spellcasting, Specialized/spells are randomly determined at the start of each day, Caster Level may not be expanded to cover other progressions. (2 CP after eight CP from racial Fast Learner effect is included). Domains: Earth and Fire. Choice of Spell Conversion to either Healing or Harming. Restrictions: Conduct (appease his Shaitan), Restrained (no wide-area destruction).
  • Two Sorcerer Magic Levels, Restrictions of Conduct (appease Kalki) and Studies (limited spell selection). Specialized/The spells are provided by his Shaitan; using them requires that she be present and approve of their use (which she is reluctant to do unless he is in immediate peril, since her power is limited now), the caster levels cannot be expanded to cover other progressions (16 CP).
  • Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect (only works for the user’s limited list of level zero spells), Corrupted/must be free to gesture and speak (4 CP). This provides Pathfinder-style unlimited use of his level zero spells.
    • He can cast 4L0 and 3L1 Cleric Spells (and his L1 domain spell) and 6L0 and 5L1 Sorcerer Spells. He will “know” five L0 and two L1 Sorcerer Spells.
  • Fortune (takes no effect on a successful reflex saves) (6 CP)
  • Defender (+level/5, rounded down AC bonus. Minimum of +1. (6 CP)
  • Companion (Mystic Companion, CR 2 creature base) with +2 ECL Template and Transform (Specialized for Increased Effect: the user cannot take the Companions form and the Companion can only take a version of the user’s form that matches the companions sex – but the companion enjoys a +2 bonus on each attribute when taking the user’s form). Specialized/the Companion is not loyal to the user as companions usually are, and has no obligation to help the user physically or socially; the user will just have to stay in the good graces of this fairly-independent NPC (9 CP). This will represent our manifested entity, who usually appears a lot like him – rather than as the churning elemental power she is in reality.

Hm… What to use for a base, what to use… In this case, I think I’ll use a 3.5 Azer – rendered a bit more generic.

Generic CR2 Medium Elemental Being: 2d8 HP, Speed 30′, AC +6 Natural, BAB +2, Proficient with Simple and Martial Weapons and Light and Medium Armor, Darkvision 60′, All Saves +3, Str 13, Dex 13, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 9, Does +1 point of Elemental Damage with their Attacks, Energy Infusion of Choice, Spell Resistance II, and one Bonus Feat. 16 + (Int Mod x2) Skill Points.

As a Mystic Companion add: Improved Fortune (Evasion), use their “master’s” base saves with their attribute bonuses where they’re better than their own, add (Master’s Level/2, rounded down) d8 HD, Natural Armor, and BAB, a +1 bonus to Str or Con for every 5 levels or part thereof which their master possesses, and +3 CP to spend for every level their master has. They’d normally get a base Int of at least 8, but they’re doing better than that already.

So our faded Shaitan’s current base is 3d8 HP, Speed 30′, AC +7 Natural, BAB +3, Proficient with Simple and Martial Weapons and Light and Medium Armor, Darkvision 60′, All Saves +3, Str 15, Dex 15, Con 16, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 11, Does +1 point of Elemental (Lightning) Damage with her attacks, Energy Infusion/Air (no damage from Lightning, double from Acid), Spell Resistance II (13), 16 + (Int Mod x2) Skill Points, Improved Evasion, all Saves +3 base, and Two Bonus Feats. Arguably, she too should get the Pathfinder Package Deal, and so get +2 to an Attribute – but I’ve no idea what would be suitable and I’m not going to work out her skill points; that’s too campaign sensitive; let the GM do it to suit how he or she envisions the relationship.

For that +2 ECL Template I’ll add in…

  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Hit Dice (Increase all hit dice to d10’s, 6 CP).
  • Energy Infusion (Fire) (immune to Fire, double damage from Cold. (6 CP)
  • Universal Damage Reduction 5/- (12 CP).
  • Unique Returning (18 CP). As a godling, Kalki is pretty much unkillable save by another god.
  • Immunity/Dimensional Barriers (Very Common, Severe, Major, 18 CP): Kalki can move between the dimensions – although this may take her some time; being able to breach the dimensional boundaries doesn’t mean that it may not be a fairly long trip. This is how she gets back when banished or something.
  • Mystic Link with the Communications and Identity Modifiers (12 CP).
  • Witchcraft III: Our Shaitan is ineligible for Pacts – but she does have two bonus feats, and has spent one on +3d6 Power (Giving her a total of 30) and Summoning. This is pathetic given her once-divine status, but it’s all the power she can channel into the world without a priest of hers to open the way for it.

That’s 90 CP – under the 95 CP allowance for a +2 ECL template.

Overall this fellow has good spellcasting – even if the randomness drastically limits his clerical powers – and a formidable companion. Of course, he is at that companions beck and call if he wants to use his powers – which is a perfect plot hook for the game master. 

Relics and Rituals – do-it-yourself Charms and Talismans V

The Mystic

The Talismans Are Out There!

Well, I’m approaching the end here – but who knows? By the time I get there there may be even more suggestions.

Nether Shroud: As Hide From Undead, but instead of being invisible the character is treated as a zombie of their race. If the user is killed while the shroud is active there is a chance they may [DMO] animate themselves as a free willed undead. -Brett

“Hide From Undead” is a rather powerful first level spell (arguably overpowered) – but it usually affects multiple characters, while Charms and Talismans generally do not. Just as importantly, it offers a saving throw – which will need to be defined here. Ergo, this will just need a bit of tweaking.

(Tweaked) Nether Shroud (Talisman): When wrapped around the user, this decrepit negative-energy infused winding-cloth makes the user seem to be a zombie to any and all senses, although intelligent creatures can make a DC 15 will save will penetrate the disguise. Sadly, any creature will automatically do so if the user acts in a way that a zombie cannot. If the user dies while so disguised there is a 25% chance that the corpse will rise after three days as a GM-chosen type of minor undead under the game masters control. An undead creature wearing a Nether Shroud will recover 1d4 hit points per day. Nether Shrouds are widely considered Black Magic since using negative energy is always an evil act – but they don’t draw power from harming others, so that technically isn’t accurate.

(Suggested) Veil of Life (Talisman): When wrapped around the user this splendid silk cloak’s aura of positive energy makes a corpse or intelligent undead creature with a mostly-intact body appear to be alive (if, perhaps, somewhat unwell) to any and all senses. Intelligent creatures get a DC 15 will save to penetrate the disguise. If the user employs an active negative-energy fueled power while wearing the Veil – including the negative-energy based attacks typical of the undead – it’s effects will be negated until it is re-attuned. If a living creature wears a Veil of Life while resting it will recover an extra 1d4 hit points per day. If a Veil of Life (attuned by someone else) is wrapped around a corpse, it will not rise as an undead until the Veil is removed.

Aegis of the Meek: Gives the user a level of Adept casting at caster level equal to their HD and 1 Positive Level. The actual form of this talisman is a shield and/or weapon, or less often helm. The character only gets these benefits when they are clearly using them in defense of a just cause or people. -Brett

Editorial-0 read this as granting adept spellcasting at a level equal to the user’s current level, but I think that this is intended to give the user one level of Adept Spellcasting (three level zero and one level one spells per day, plus bonus spells for wisdom) with access to the standard Adept spell list (0 Level: create water, cure minor wounds, detect magic, ghost sound, guidance, light, mending, purify food and drink, read magic, touch of fatigue. 1st Level: bless, burning hands, cause fear, command, comprehend languages, cure light wounds, detect chaos, detect evil, detect good, detect law, endure elements, obscuring mist, protection from chaos, protection from evil, protection from good, protection from law, sleep) and a caster level equal to the user’s level – plus, of course, one positive level.

Now, there is a Black Magic Talisman, the Spirit of the Unborn (created by a double murder and containing an infant’s enslaved soul) which grants a level in any one magical progression – but that level comes at the price of nightmares, likely madness, and inevitable corruption and even it doesn’t boost the user’s effective caster level by more than +1. Equally problematically, Adepts prepare spells, which means that we’d have to interpret “clearly using them in defense of a just cause or people” pretty generously to make it work. After all… isn’t going out to wipe out monsters, take their stuff, and become more powerful a very effective way of defending the local villagers? Ergo, I think that this needs a little subdividing.

(Replacement) Zealot’s Guidon (Natural Magic Talisman): Martyr’s Blades are not the only Talismans that can be empowered by the touch of those who fall in the service of a cause. While any item can become a Zealot’s Guidon, all are touched by the passion and devotion that drove the original bearer – and all serve to inspire others when they make that cause their own. When the bearer of a Zealot’s Guidon is directly and immediately serving the cause it embodies, they gain one positive level just as if a Mystic Artist was using Greatness on them – although how the bonus character points are spent is set by the nature of the Talisman. Such causes range from the noble (“defend the helpless!”) through the utterly insane (“smash the dams and let the waters run free!”) – but they are invariably relatively narrow. Like all natural magic Charms and Talismans, Zealot’s Guidons cannot be intentionally built; they only come into existence spontaneously.

In many ways a Zealot’s Guidon could be considered a zero-point spontaneously-created relic using a version of Mystic Artist with enough limitations (takes up a Talisman slot, only affects the bearer, only allows the use of “Greatness”, does not provide the usual temporary hit points, only works when in immediate pursuit of the specified goal) to Corrupt and double-Specialize it – thus covering Increased Effect (self-activating without expending a “use”) and still reducing the base cost down to 2 points (or (2/6) points as a relic).

Relics with greater costs, while far more powerful than Talismans, may spontaneously come into being the same way. A similar full-power relic might be a symbol meant for display, and might grant Mystic Artist, a +12 bonus in whatever skill is involved (usually Oratory), and the Echoes modifier – all Specialized and Corrupted for reduced cost (only works in pursuit of a specific cause, only works on those who agree with the principles of the cause in question, beneficial Inspiration and Synergy abilities only (synergy only up to the Harmonize ability), Echoes must be used immediately after the initial effect). With a total cost of eight points after those modifiers, this version would be a one-point relic, allowing its bearer to inspire others with considerable effect while in pursuit of a particular goal.

(Replacement) Spirit Crest (Charm): This intricately-inscribed medallion is a channel for the magical powers of minor, local, spirits (elementals, fey, ancestor spirits, etc). If the user spends an hour or two contemplating the mandala, he or she may be offered a task by the local spirits. If he or she undertakes that task in good faith, he or she will be granted an Occult Talent (a minor variant; the spells are chosen each day by the spirits rather than being fixed) for the duration and for a few days afterwards as long as he or she remains within the area. The Talismanic variant is capable of channeling enough power for the user to obtain an Improved Occult Talent (operating the same way), but the pacts involved – however temporary – are generally far more awkward. In either case, the spells provided will be related to the nature of the spirits granting them; pacting with the ancestor spirits of a village is very different from pacting with the spirits of a particular river. In either case, a Spirit Crest can only support a link to a single group of spirits, and thus a single pact, at a time.

This is a relatively “cheap” way for someone to attain the heady power of actual spells – but it’s also very, VERY, limited. If you really want to use spells, there are much more effective ways (that also allow for advancement) to go about it.

Transmogrant Serum: Gives the user a +2 save bonus on the immunities a construct normally has, DR 2/-, +3 Armor -1 ACP. This talisman permanently occupies this slot, causes the user to have half natural healing and benefits from Cure, though they also get half benefit from Repair spells as well now. This is an obvious effect once ingested and commonly causes social problems as the user now has profound problems relating to normal life (-3 on social skills). If the user’s standard of living drops below the ability to keep a talisman they loose all benefits but keep all disadvantage, until they can maintain a talisman again. -Brett

I’d guess that this is inspired by the Ashnod’s Transmogrant card from Magic: The Gathering, and partially transforms the user into a construct – but what really matters is that this is really far, FAR, too complicated for a Talisman. After all, a Talisman can be made in one week by anyone who can make a DC 20 Spellcraft check – so a small child with Spellcraft +1 (perhaps thanks to an interest in a relative’s magic) may get lucky and make one in Arts and Crafts. A good first level Talismonger (+4 Skill, +2 Int, +3 Speciality, +6 from Skill Emphasis, Focus, and Mastery at a cost of 5 SP and 12 CP) can reliably turn out two Talismans per week by “Taking 10″ on the checks. (With an Industrious Tool our Talismonger can turn out one Charm or Talisman per day of work – although it’s unlikely that he or she will have that many orders).

Charms and Talismans are simple tools; just using this posts examples so far… we have a piece of cloth imbued with a little negative energy, a piece of cloth imbued with a little positive energy, an item that carries a psychic impression of it’s last owners obsession, and a meditative focus that lets you entrance yourself enough to contact some local spirits. A few of the Charms and Talismans in The Practical Enchanter – such as the Filing Cabinet – show a certain amount of “intelligence”, but it’s always very, VERY, limited – no more than a partial imprint of the user’s or maker’s mind. Asking a Talisman to physically rebuild your body is a bit like asking a village blacksmith to build you a cybrenetic arm with a concealed laser cannon. Without a preset pattern to draw upon – such as a Shifter’s Cloak (itself damaging, dangerous, and limited use) or the prosthetics discussed earlier – this is very likely to go horribly wrong indeed. This kind of transformation calls for either a major spell, a fairly modest ritual, or just spending some of your character points…

What you’d be wanting to pick up is a +2 on saves against things affecting your mind (3 CP), +2 on saves against things that affect your body processes (+2) (3 CP), and a +2 on saves against things that directly affect your life force (3 CP), as well as DR2/- (3 CP), and probably Defender, Specialized for Double Effect/provides an armor bonus and so does not stack with armor (6 CP). That’s 18 CP – but the entire package is limited; the user becomes a hybrid construct / whatever they were originally and so is vulnerable to things that affect either, the user gains only half the benefits of healing and repair effects (including natural healing), suffers a -3 penalty on all social skills due to alienation, and is a blatantly obvious unnatural amalgam who is likely to be seen as a monster. I think it’s fair enough to count that as Specialized and Corrupted, bringing the cost down to 6 CP – the price of a standard Feat. There is a red flag there; Defender is Specialized for both Double Effect AND for Half Cost, but it’s saving all of 2 CP and seems reasonable enough.

Given that the ritual won’t be that big a deal (and certainly a lot less trouble than researching a spell to do it), if someone wants this package they might as well go ahead and buy it and figure that they sought out a ritualist during downtime.

If you want to get some of the effect through Charms and Talismans… small amounts of damage reduction are available through Wardstones, as are second-chance saving throws. Save Bonuses are rare in Charms and Talismans; about the only one normally available (discounting the GM-special Ray of Hope) is the Mother’s Tears amulet; +3 once per day. For armor there’s Shimmer Mail.

Clay Statue: As a minute long ritual the user may project a Level 2 Psychic Construct. It remains until dismissed, if destroyed the construct may not be used until the following day. The construct always has the menu selections of Semi Sentient and DR 5/Magic. The statuet and construct always appear to be golem shaped clay humanoids that look like the attuned user. While able to labor in a manner as an Unseen Servant the construct may also defend itself and anyone or anything the user indicates, the golem is however unable to initiate any offensive action against a nonaggresive creature. -Brett

Unfortunately, a fairly potent, active, and short-term level one effect is rather powerful for a Talisman to sustain – much less a level two effect. Still, the “noncombative” restriction is good enough to reduce things a bit. Ergo:

(Tweaked) Ushabti (Talisman): These small figurines are inscribed with the owners name and were classically intended to become real servants in the afterworld, capable of standing in for the owner when he or she was called on to labor for the gods… Talismanic versions can serve in the material world as well – sustaining a level-one Astral Construct with the Semi-sentient modifier. A Ushabti can thus perform a variety of simple labors, although it is restricted to medium range, may never attack (at best they can get in an attacker’s way), cannot attempt tasks with a DC higher than 10, and cannot use trained-only skills. Ushabti astral constructs always resemble a small, translucent, version of their owner. If destroyed, they will re-manifest at sunset seven days later.

If you’re using the Wealth Templates from The Practical Enchanter Ushabti are almost never important; if someone can afford a Talisman under that system they can afford employees too. If you’re using the Shaping-based version of Charms and Talismans, then Ushabti can have a very big impact indeed; anyone who learns to use Charms and Talismans can, if they wish, suddenly become five to seven times as productive. An Industrious Tool and a couple of Ushabti (working at simple tasks around the clock) can handle that – and the population can go from 80-90% hard-working farmers to 10-20% more leisurely farmers. Throw in a wife with an Ushabti of her own, perhaps an Ironcloth Loom, and a few household charms… and your setting has the equivalent of an industrial revolution and jumps from “Medieval” to “Victorian”.

Creations of Shadow – Do-it-yourself Charms and Talismans IV

Amulet depicting Abyzou whipped by Arlaph

Yes, but around here they really work…

And to continue with this series we have some more of Brett’s creations:

Onemind Amulet: Gives communication with other talismans that have been tuned to the same band and in a 1 mile range. Tuning is a thought activation free action. -Brett

This… simply isn’t going to work as a Talisman unless you’ve already got multi-band walkie-talkies or something similar to use as a base and simply want to enhance them. Talismans just do not have this kind of power; they’re more two-tin-cans-with-a-string level. To make something like this work I’m going to have to go with a Relic.

(Replacement): Palm of Shadow (One-Point Relic): This simple amulet allows it’s user to set up mental links with up to five other characters, allowing easy communications as long as they’re within a mile of his or her location. That’s Mystic Link x5, with the Communications and Transferable modifiers (24 CP), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: those linked can only locate each other or communicate while they’re within one mile, each linked individual must carry an especially-prepared mystical amulet (a Finger of Shadow, 25 GP), such “Fingers” can be used to eavesdrop on the parties communications if captured, communications can be overheard by other telepaths. Net cost; 8 CP or 1 CP as a Relic.

Collar (of) Idiocy: Gives Stupor effect rendering the collared creature docile and compliant but in effect in a walking sleep and unable to think. -Brett

It’s a bit hard to say what the limits are here – but an awful lot of mindless creatures manage to fight without thinking. I suspect that the intent is just to let you tow a creature around without having to carry it, rather than a version of Dominate Monster where the target creature becomes rather stupid. That – at least within limits – can be managed.

(Replacement) Puppeteer’s Gauntlet (Talisman): The slender slivers of bone mounted upon the fingers of this black glove serve as conduits for the user’s life force. The user may touch an unconscious body, corpse, or properly articulated construct (such as a suit of plate armor), channel some of his or her own hit points into it (1 for Tiny, 1d4 for Small, 2d4 for Medium, and 3d4 for Large; these hit points cannot be regained until the user ends the effect), and operate it like a puppet at ranges of up to thirty feet. Up to (Wis Mod, 1 Minimum) such puppets can be operated each round a free action, twice that as a move action, three times that as a full action, and four times that as a full-round action (if there’s ever someone tough enough to do that and with some reason to want to). Such puppets are far too clumsy to operate to fight effectively, but they can be directed to shamble about, carry packages, or put on clumsy shows. While animating corpses this way is not technically black magic (just distasteful), sharing your life with the dead can have very odd effects; if the spirit is still linked with it’s body it may start to influence the user – and, if not, you can expect nausea, nightmares about being trapped in a dead and decaying body, and strange illnesses if you overdo it. If you must walk a companions corpse out of some horrible situation, it’s best to animate his or her armor instead of the actual body.

(Suggested) Puppeteer’s Ring (Charm): This bone ring allows the user to animate Fine or Tiny constructs. The user must touch the constructs to be affected and voluntarily take one point of nonlethal damage per three Fine or one Tiny construct. The effect lasts until the user recovers the nonlethal damage, whether naturally or through special abilities, or a construct gets more than twenty feet away from the wearer. The effect is roughly equivalent to that produced by a skilled puppeteer, but a bit smoother – providing a +3 bonus on any relevant perform checks.

(Replacement) Choke Chain (Charm): When fastened onto an unconscious creature, this chain can inflict up to 1d6 points of nonlethal damage per minute, bypassing up to three points of damage reduction – and will do so to keep the victim from waking up.

Or you could just sit next to them with a sap, and give them another shot every time they start to wake up – but a Choke Chain is less annoying and time-consuming.

Lens Vision: Magnification and Low Light Vision. -Brett

Magnification is easy; a perfectly mundane magnifying glass will do it nicely – and low-light vision simply lets you see “twice as far as normal in dim light” (that must be impressive when a creature with low-light vision is out stargazing). Lenses were expensive and hard to come by in many areas historically, simply because good clear glass was very hard to get and lenses were a very low-demand article – which meant that lensgrinders were rare, and charged high. In a d20 game with magic, there’s really no reason to presume that lenses are particularly expensive (or that a telescope costs a fortune).

(Replacement) Anoptic Spectacles (Talisman): These lensless spectacles employ a subtle bit of magic to modify the optical properties of the air in front of the user’s eyes – providing up to 10x magnification (whether as magnifying lenses or as binoculars), providing basic protection from bright lights (sunlight, etc), allowing the wearer to alter the color balance of what he or she sees (tinting everything rose is strictly optional), or even compressing the visual field to improve peripheral vision (and degrade the normalvisual field; oh well). The user gains a +3 on relevant checks, including searching for fine details, trying to make things out at a distance, seeing in dim light, and on saves versus light-based effects.

(Replacement) Morphic Crystal (Talisman): This mass of optical-quality crystal can alter it’s form and color, in whole or in part, as it’s user wills. If you happen to need a fine telescope, a set of replacement glasses, binoculars, a microscope, a fiber-optic probe, or – for that matter – a glass dagger, a wine decanter, or a complicated bit of glasswork for your latest experiment in alchemy, than a chunk of Morphic Crystal will handle the job for you. Simple Charms can handle those functions as well – but each Charm can only handle a single application.

Bone Masks: A mask in the shape of a skull and a linked collar. The wearer of the mask gains enhanced health at the expense of the collared individual (who must be willing to accept wearing the collar). The wearer halts their aging, the bondmate ages at ten times the normal rate. The wearer doubles their natural healing, the bondmate only heals 1HP each day of bedrest and a single point of attribute damage to the most damaged score. The wearer of the mask take only 3/4ths damage from effects, the bondmate takes the full damage, bypassing any defenses or resistances. This rapidly causes the bearer of the mask to kill their bondmate if care is not taken to allow them to recover or a new bondmate linked. -Brett

Ah, old memories… my classic version of this was a necromantic ritual for first edition (Black Pentagram, in this list); you drew your mystical circle, bound the spirit of your sacrifice to it – and that unfortunate spirit took damage and other ill-effects for you until it was annihilated. That turned out to be problematic; it did give big bad guys a big buffer – helping prevent anticlimactic boss battles – but it also meant that the good guys could not score a clean victory without finding and releasing the victim first. An even more vicious version (using your own children or pregnancy for a power source) shows up in other systems, and there’s even a Talisman that works something like this already – the Spirit Cloak.

Of course, players being players… as soon as someone got a hold of the effect, there were all kinds of experiments – using a giant dinosaur with henchmen assigned to healing it to get a near-limitless supply of hit points, using rapidly-regenerating creatures, using things with immunities to many forms of damage, trying to use multiple bonds… it can get rather ugly. That’s why the Sacrificial Transference spell that went into Eclipse in the high-level spells section is a sixteenth level effect; it keeps it vanishingly rare.

Of course, with this particular version:

  • As characters go up in level it becomes harder and harder to find a donor who’s contribution will mean much of anything in terms of hit points – or who will survive more than one or two attacks. In terms of survival, there are probably more useful Talismans, such as a Helm of War.
  • Doubled natural healing is a bit odd since d20 healing is level-dependent; thus a low-level donor may well wind up “transferring” more healing than he or she actually gets. Still, the vast majority of characters using this sort of thing are likely to be NPC’s – and the details of NPC’s out-of-combat healing effects usually don’t matter anyway.
  • Transferring the damage from “effects” apparently covers attribute drain and damage, which is handy – but 25% off is rarely going to accomplish all that much.
  • It’s the blocking of aging that’s the handy part. With that, as soon as you have some fanatical followers who are willing to die for you – or at least willing to wear the collar and age for you a bit before passing it on – you can pretty much live forever. That can be distinctly awkward for most settings.

Still, if you want to use such an effect….

(Tweaked) Bone Mask (Black Magic Talisman): This mask is made from the bones of a child slain by torture – and is linked with a collar made from the fingerbones of one of the parents who offered up their life to save that child (and was, of course, betrayed). If a truly willing (prisoners, blackmail victims, people under charm spells, and such will not work) intelligent being wears the collar and allows it to occupy a Talisman slot, the masks wearer may opt to suffer only 50% of the effects of any damage he or she suffers (including the subtle damages of aging), rounded up. The collar-wearer suffers the full effects of such assaults whenever this option is exercised, bypassing any saves, resistances, and special defenses which would normally apply. Many users do not realize that anyone touching the collar is effectively touching them as well – and can let others bypass their defenses in the same way as the collar bypasses those of it’s wearer. Like it or not, an item forged in treachery cannot be prevented from betraying.

The Bone Mask goes well beyond the base power level of a Talisman – or even of two. Of course, like other devices of Black Magic, most of it’s power comes from the infliction of harm on others. I don’t think I’d actually want to add it to one of my games though; there’s certainly a place for such effects in at least some fantasy settings – but I think it works better as some sort of mighty dark ritual.

Generational Blessings – Do-it-yourself Charms and Talismans III

Today it’s an optional world law and some more homebrew Charms…

Generational Blessings World Law:

The Eldest is always special. He or she is a living piece of history, a link to the ancestors, and a bridge to the wonders of the past. Their wisdom is deep. If this rule is in play in a setting, a dying Elder may assign his or her Charm and Talisman slots to others as specific Charm and Talisman effects – permanently blessing them. A given character can only be blessed with one Charm and one Talisman effect in this fashion, but such blessings may be handed on to future generations.

Thus Samiel, a dying elder with three Charm and two Talisman slots of his own, may elect to…

  • Bless his eldest grandson, a knight in the service of the local lord, with a Helm of War Talisman effect.
  • Bless his daughter, a weaver, with an Ironcloth Loom Talisman effect.
  • Bless his younger grandson, a caravan master, with an All-Weather Cloak Charm effect.
  • Bless his eldest granddaughter, who has small children of her own, with a Sweatstone Charm effect. For good measure he blesses her husband, a smith, with an Industrious Tool Charm effect.
  • Samiel also has two Generational Blessings of his own to pass on – a Spell Catalyst Talisman effect (Lesser Unicorns Horn, 3/Day reduces Cure Moderate Wounds to a first level spell) and a Sunstone Charm effect. He passes both of those on to his eldest great-grandson, a youthful – but somewhat adventurous – cleric who will probably find them far more useful than he did.

If you feel a need to keep this sort of thing under control – which isn’t too necessary, Charms and Talismans are pretty much self-limiting anyway – simply note that not EVERY elder gets to pass on anything beyond his or her own Generational Blessings (if any). If you don’t note that… well, most kids are likely to wind up with an inherent Charm and/or Talisman.

Hand Spinnerets: Gives webbing uses as Chitine race from Underdark and the web strand cantrip. -Brett

The Chitine ability to use webbing provides them with raw materials for making Chitine Web Armor, Traps, and Houses. It’s not listed in their racial traits, so it likely doesn’t have more direct uses. They have Craft (Trapmaking) as a racial skill, so webbing doesn’t bypass the skill requirements for traps – and there’s no note about it bypassing the usual costs. Similarly, there’s no note about it bypassing skills requirements or costs for making houses. That’s actually quite reasonable; it costs spiders lots of energy to make webs, and bees lots of energy to make wax, so that cost probably re-appears as a need for huge amounts of food.

The note on Chitine Web Armor states that “Any Chitine can equip himself with chitine web armor at no cost and maintain it indefinitely”. Whether or not this can be done for other people is not specified, although it seems likely – but Chitine Web Armor is basically leather armor with a +1 on the AC and a -1 Armor Check. Not too impressive. (Personally, if someone wanted that… I’d call it “reinforced leather” at about 15 GP instead of 10 GP).

Personal-only is pretty reasonable, but being able to provide armor for entire groups is a bit much for a Charm or Talisman. For that you want something like the Ironcloth Loom Talisman – which produces cloth that can provide a +1 AC bonus.

I’m not sure which version of “web strand” is being referred to – but the usual seems to run something like “shoots a strand of webbing up to 60′ as a ranged touch attack. The strand can be retracted, and can exert a force of up to five pounds before pulling loose”. Presuming that that’s pretty much what you had in mind…

(Replacement) Silken Favor (Charm): These simple cloth tokens grant their bearer’s clothing the properties of light armor (+3 Armor Bonus, +6 Max Dex Bonus, -1 Armor Check Penalty, 10% Arcane Spell Failure, no effect on movement). If the user wears actual armor, he or she may increase it’s maximum dexterity bonus by one and reduce it’s armor check penalty by one. A Silken Favor given to another character will remain active for up to twenty-one days, but counts against the givers charm slots until then.

So when the fair maiden hangs her handkerchief on you, it may actually mean something…

(Replacement) Spider Glove (Charm): This silk glove has a spider-in-its-web pattern woven into the cloth. It’s user may “fire” a sticky strand of webbing up to 60′ as a ranged touch attack up to once per round. The strand can be retracted, and can exert a force of up to five pounds before pulling loose.

Phantom Hands: Allows the user to use a hand range telekinetic field, requires not using hands. -Brett

This one is kind of ill-defined; how strong is the telekinetic field? Can it manipulate objects or just move them? Does it require concentration? Does it require line-of-sight, or can you “reach out and touch” the insides of things or something behind you? At it’s most basic… a charm that lets you use a version of “Mage Hand” on things within arms reach is pretty reasonable. Replacing the user’s hands is considerably harder – thus the classic Arms of the Naga, at 56,000 GP. The Practical Enchanter offers the Amulet of Hands for a mere 4000 GP – but it suffers from some serious limitations. Ergo…

(Replacement) Eye of the Mountebank (Charm): This amulet allows the user to employ a Mage Hand effect with a moments concentration – but the target must already be within arms reach. While this is occasionally useful (for example, fishing a visible item out of a drain through a grate), it also provides a +4 bonus on stage magic sleight-of-hand tricks.

(Replacement) Prosthetic (Charm or Talisman): These Charms and Talismans are individual replacements for various body parts – or supplements for failing ones. Regardless of their actual construction, they’re functionally identical to the part they’re replacing. Replacing or supplementing a limb (or any other simple structural or muscular body system, such as a hip or the heart) requires a charm, but replacing more complex organs requires a Talisman. Interestingly, such items can be further enchanted – or have items put inside them – without altering their function.

Honestly, this rarely matters in d20 – but if you want to note that the old man with the failing heart relies on a Charm to strengthen it, or that the chief of the thieves guild has a prosthetic hand (perhaps with a pop-out blade), or that the old woman with a bad hip has a charm that lets her walk normally, or even if some character wants to have one eye replaced with a functional prosthetic with a secret compartment or some such, well here you are. Allowing characters to add extra body parts is trickier – but as long as they’re basically cosmetic, a charm can certainly make you look weird. If you really must pin on a tail that you can lash back and forth, or a crest on your bald head, or some such, that works. Talismans can provide several such features – such as a costume that provides a full-body cat-person look – but adding new body parts that actually do something is generally beyond the magic of Charms and Talismans.

Imperial Seal and Ledger: Magically notarizes a document and files a copy in the matched ledger. Makes it incredibly difficult to forge alterations onto the document (@-15) and also gives a notice in the ledger if the agreement is broken. -Brett

Making a document hard to alter is relatively simple; the Greater Seal spell in The Practical Enchanter does that – but being a sixth level spell it does a lot of other things too. The simple “this document falls to dust if anyone tries to tamper with it” effect is probably only level two or so by itself, so a mere penalty is probably only level one. Unfortunately, such an effect isn’t all that useful; after all, if a given document is difficult to alter but otherwise mundane, you can simply put it to one side and forge the entire thing. (That’s one reason why the Greater Seal spell includes several other effects; that way you need some fairly formidable magic to make an entire false document). A charmed seal can quite reasonably accomplish that though.

Simply making a copy is an established level zero effect – and uses an existing Charm; Copy Paper.

It’s the “gives a notice if the agreement is broken” part that’s problematic. Even disregarding things like “letter or spirit”, delays, and similar problems of interpretation (likely requiring some sort of legalistic intelligence), how does it know? Even if the contract is magical (opening up the possibility of dispelling and antimagic) is the book monitoring it at nigh-unlimited ranges? Can you use it for legalistic divination? “I agree to not be gravely wounded”?. “I agree to remain in this dimension”?, “I agree to notify you within five minutes if I’m in serious trouble and need help”?. You could even go for “I agree to give you a gold piece as soon as Dark Lord Ralthen is ready to strike” and NOT give the person a gold piece. Contract not broken? The Dark Lord is not yet ready to strike. When it breaks, he is. Admittedly, that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek and quite blatantly abusive – but as written its perfectly valid.

(Replacement) Seal Ring (Charm): when used on a document, this seal produces an extremely detailed personalized seal, and fills the document with intricate colored patterns. Documents so sealed are difficult to forge or modify; a would-be forger suffers a -10 penalty when attempting to do so.

Mule Cords: Gives the user an enhanced Strength for encumbrance purposes, Str score is doubled with a minimum of 20. -Brett

This is another item with the “no upper limit problem”. Take a fighter with Str 22; he or she can carry 346 pounds as a medium load. This “charm” would jump that up to 7456 pounds – nearly four tons. That’s a bit much to ask of a Charm or Talisman. On the other hand, the classical rule for a proper pack read something like “reduce the total encumbrance of items in a proper pack by 50%, up to a maximum of -10 pounds”. Third edition dropped considerations of bulk and weight distribution in favor of a simple weight total (which certainly has it’s points) – but Charms and Talismans give us an easy route to bring that sort of thing back.

(Replacement) Traveling Pack (Charm): This well-designed pack or bag is nicely waterproof, comfortable to wear or carry, goes stylishly with any outfit, and has negligible weight. It reduces the effective encumbrance of whatever is packed inside by up to twenty pounds, albeit not below zero. Talismanic versions can either reduce effective encumbrance by up to forty pounds or add a convenient sorting effect, ensuring that anything the user wants to get out of the pack will be right on top – reducing getting something out to a move action. Of course settings using Charms and Talismans usually have far fewer items that you’re in a rush to get out when seconds count anyway.

(Replacement) Weight Belt (Charm): This broad leather belt increases the user’s strength by a +2 enhancement bonus for the purposes of calculating encumbrance only. Talismanic versions provide a +4 enhancement bonus.

This is still a bit dubious; attribute boosters start drifting back towards the “must have” item category instead of staying in the “interesting stuff” category – and, more importantly, are boring – but encumbrance is a relatively rare problem in most games.

Catfall Boots: Land on feet after fall and take 1 damage per 10′ fall, and DR3/- for falling only. -Brett

This is far superior to the Boots of Safe Landing in the SRD (1000 GP, land on your feet and reduce falling damage by 2d6 once per day), and is slightly better than Pathfinder’s Boots of the Cat (always land on your feet, take minimum possible falling damage, also 1000 GP). While there are plenty of ways to get Feather Fall on the cheap, a Charm or Talisman that can routinely reduce the damage a character takes by fifty or more points is rather over the top. I’m tempted to create a Paraglider Talisman, but a really effective one takes us into “YOU MUST TAKE THIS” territory again; even limited flight is just too useful.

(Replacement) Roofer’s Boots (Charm): If the wearer of these boots falls 10′ or more (so yes, they can still be tripped) he or she will always land on his or her feet, negating the first die of falling damage and converting the next two to nonlethal damage.

(Suggested) Water Shoes (Talisman): These shoes spread the wearer’s weight out over a three-foot radius; this allows easy movement over snow and mud, walking on thin ice, and even brief dashes over water – although this is equivalent to sprinting uphill as the wearer is actively supporting himself by shoving an area of water downwards with each step.

(Suggested) Windspider Pouch (Talisman): This modest pouch can hold up to fifty pounds of silk (whether in the form of a tent, an elaborate pavilion, a net, a parachute, or – for that matter – a paraglider) and can deploy or repack it at a moments notice. Unfortunately, it does not reduce the weight or cost of such an item – merely it’s bulk when carried and the time required to set it up or pack it away again. If used as an attack – such as dropping a net over someone – the target must be within fifteen feet and gets a DC 12 reflex check to avoid the “attack”.

Warrior’s Spirit: Gives seasoned status making a L0 character into a L1 character. Mostly meant as an NPC charm, frequently is the end product of whatever is the local coming of age ceremony and helps ‘push’ an adolescent or youth L0, into their adult L1 self. This boost is eventually no longer needed as the character naturally grows into their adult (L1) self at which point it provides 1d6 CP in a culturally appropriate boon. -Brett

Going from level zero to level one seems more like a job for natural growth, ritual magic, or the transforming power of “experience points” than a Charm or Talisman – and abilities that bestow extra character points tend to be very high level. Restricting the effect to level zero kids does make things a great deal easier though…

(Replacement) Whisper of the Elders (Charm, Eclipse-Specific): It is the duty of the old to pass on the wisdom of their years to the young. When attuned by an Old or Venerable character and given to a L(-1) or L0 character it provides +1 “virtual” level – although the character points and skill points for that level must be spent on things that the sponsoring character has. If the charm is retained until the user gains L0 and/or L1 naturally, the user will gain a +3 CP “Unique Training” bonus at each of the two levels. Almost uniquely the death of the “sponsor” does not cause these charms to de-attune.

And if the game master wishes to hand out an extra bonus feat at first level, this will account for it nicely.

Next time on this topic, on to the homebrew Talismans.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXXVIII – The Burning Earth

Charles… hadn’t really wanted to open the “Underworld” can of worms personally as of yet. He had enough things on his lists to fix already!

Skoll, however, was unburdened by thoughts of what they were getting into – and was consulting with Aikiko.

(Skoll) “Manse-Designate “Hoenheim” still functions? No gates are on file at this location. Upgraded? This gate… corresponds to the portals presented in entertainment production “Stargate: SG-1”. It is therefore most likely a recent addition. Designate “Charles” possesses some extremely exotic abilities, yet seems merely god-blooded – despite an essence level higher than any god-blood can endure. Probable perfect concealment ability. Probable human origin indicates Exalt. Terrestrials incapable of designing gate-mechanisms. Sidereal Exaltations primarily accounted for. Lunar Exaltation does not match apparent abilities. Probable Solar Exalt.”

(Aikiko, who was somewhat impressed) “You’re GOOD.”

(Skoll) “Warning; Child Lunar and Solar Celestial Exalts often exhibit severely atypical powers and can be very unpredictable. Often extremely focused.”

(Aikiko) “Yep, you have him pegged! Now, what is he focused on?”

She leaned back to take a toke, which she definitely needed at the moment! Even for her, going to the underworld was a bit unnerving even for brave people.

(Skoll) “Sensors indicate internal geomancy. Ship designate “Tsunami” displayed a similar power-signature. Probable geomantic and constructive focus. Warning: exponential growth potential.”

(Aikiko) “Seriously? Wow.”

(Skoll) “Query; Exalt Designate “Charles” time since Exaltation?”

(Aikiko) “Um… he Exalted when he was seven, I think.”

(Skoll) “Current capabilities?”

Aikiko was more than a little dubious about giving THAT kind of information away!

(Aikiko) “Why do you need to know?”

(Skoll) “Extrapolation required to answer current query “Seriously? Wow.””

(Aikiko) “Um… I know he’s attuned to a factory-cathedral, and to a lot more Manses than that – not all of which are part of his internal geomancy. He’s a master at thaumaturgy and artifice even by Exalt standards. I’m pretty sure he knows Emerald Sorcery – probably Sapphire too.”

(Skoll, after a bit more talking) “Summary: Five years ago he passed as a normal human. Four years ago he passed as a mortal thaumaturge. Three years ago he passed as a possible aspected individual (primary abilities of “Aspected” mortals uncertain). Two years ago he passed as a god-blooded. Last year he was suspected to be a Terrestrial Exalt – or just barely possibly a Lunar Exalt. This year he is widely believed to be a Primordial. Extrapolate… five years from now.”

Oh DEAR. She’d never thought about it THAT way!

(Aikiko) “Shinma?”

(Skoll) “Unknown. Pattern suggests possible networking with alternate-reality versions of himself.”

(Mar) “GAAAHH!”

At THAT rate… almost anything could be gunning for him!

(Skoll) “Possibly self-limiting when power sufficient to accomplish primary goals. Require… directives. Must locate designer, designate Mask of Winters.”

(Aikiko) “Well… I guess we’ll have to go to the Underworld for that.”

(Charles) “Well… I’ve got a few gates for that! I’ve never actually opened any of them though. I… suppose it’s time to try!”

And he powered up the gate…

Given that the gates creation had been essentially random, and that their exact destinations had never been determined, it was time for a few rolls! In this case…

D6: 1) Deep Labyrinth, 2) Shallow Labyrinth, 3) Coruscant, 4) Other Extraterrestrial World, 5) Terrestrial Afterlife, 6) Mouth of the Void)

D6) 1) Mythic Afterlife, 2) Bizarre Landscape, 3) Dark Routes, 4) Dark Citadel, 5) Oceanic, 6) Pre-First Age).

That turned out to be 3-3 – and that put her in just one unique place; the Black Hole of Coruscant – the Void where Oblivion used to be and the primary shortcut through nothingness for the Abyssal Exalts of the entire cosmos.

The gate opened into a terrible darkness, with hints of vast things moving in it very VERY fast. There was a wave of fear, and terrible pain, and utter disbelief and shock. Something… much stronger than ghosts, but somehow partial…

(Aikiko) It’s… the Neverborn, isn’t it?

She didn’t really want to look – but she did.

And something whispered…

(Whisper) “Please… let me out. Save me! What have I done? Why do you hurt me so?”

It sounded like… a woman’s voice – but incredibly deep, and made up of the sounds of shifting stone and volcanic noises.

(Aikiko) “That’s… not natural. Even most gods don’t sound like that – and few gods would be close enough to Oblivion to be tossed in there… It seems too… simple and coherent for one of the Neverborn though! They aren’t known for either… And aren’t they gone?”

Even using Skoll’s senses… she could not see the source – but the whispering voice continued to plead for help, for release, and for an end to the pain… And her Compassion was equal to her Valor.

(Aikiko) “Charles, do you hear that? Think there’s a way you could detect where that voice is coming from?”

Charles was already trying. He… could provide a guide-spell – but was terribly torn himself; that OBVIOUSLY needed fixing – but if he didn’t fix Yu-Shan soon, things would go even more wrong!

(Skoll) “No sound detected… Possible correlation, “Whispers of the Neverborn”. Possible Contradiction; your statements indicate clarity. Possible Resolution; Gate-Terminus within or near the Tombs of the Neverborn, and Whispers are thus resolved into the voices of individual Deva-Memories”.

(Aikiko) “Thanks, Charles. I’m… going in, at least to check on it. If I don’t make it out, tell my parents I’m sorry for being a headache, OK?”

As brave as Aikiko was… even she could see that this was pretty risky!

(Charles) “I will!”

As an Automaton, Skoll, of course, knew no fear…

(Aikiko) “Any idea of who it is?”

(Skoll) “What does it say and how? The Whispers of the Neverborn touch living minds, not entities of my type.”

(Aikiko) “It sounds like a really deep woman speaking like shifting stone and volcanoes, and she’s begging to be let out – and asks what she did to deserve this.”

(Skoll) “Elementary tactics; the Primordials with the most benign themes, and the least in the way of defenses, were slain first. In current parlance they were “Soft Targets”. The Whispers are the voices of their subsouls. From what you indicate (and Skoll drew on it’s own databases and on Aikiko’s investigative excellency) it is most probably Marharin Of The Deep Beauties, a Deva of Dhengu-Gata, She Who Enables And Brings Wealth, The Bringer Of Purpose To The Inanimate. From her blood shed during the war sprang veins of magical materials, from her bones jade, and from her flesh precious things. She was an early victim of the War, slain so that she might be mined for resources to make further weapons. From her death springs avarice and hoarding, the corruption of wealth and the corruption of the world needed to release that wealth. Each mine is a wound from which she cannot escape.”

Aikiko groaned… She’d heard of raiding the enemy supplies, but that was very… visceral. But then, if Charles wanted to learn how to heal Primordials, where better than to start with a Deva?

(Aikiko) “Well… let’s go in, Skoll!”

(Skoll) “Acknowledged!”

Skoll strode into the darkness as Charles hastily assembled and dispatched probes of his own.

Following the guiding spell, Skoll burned with Aikiko’s solar radiance against the darkness – but it did not illuminate far until they passed through a veil of sorts and into a burning world. A holocaust of red-hot ash was blowing by, a pyroclastic cloud burning out from… terrible volcanic wounds, where the weapons of the Exalted had set fire to the very interior of a primordial world-body. Before that elemental assault, the stone and metal of the Primordial’s internal geomancy was becoming magma, her bones and life erupting through her skin in burning agony. Here, there were more whispers. Many more. The Deva-spirits of the magical materials, the second circle spirits of gems, precious metals, and all the treasures of the inanimate natural world, all screaming.

And the voices of the ceaselessly tormented dead wormed their way into Aikiko’s head… but she had known that that, at least, was a risk of this.

The forest around her burned as the mountain screamed in agony – a cry that WAS the pyroclastic cloud, a wind that once brought wealth, now bringing death and destruction… Fortunately, a mere few thousand degrees and ash-flakes traveling fast enough to punch through battleship armor was well within Skoll’s tolerance.

In the distance, cities of impossible grandeur and beauty burned as well.

Aikiko wasn’t sure that even the Behemoth Cloak could handle this heat and ash…

She probed outwards with a Detection… were the cities Devas? No… The were merely memories of the works created during the age of glory by those who had once called upon Dhengu-Gata for the materials with which to build wonders… Had Autochthon called on her for the materials with which to create Exaltations, and seen her slain so as to ensure that no other crafter would ever duplicate his work?

There had to be a deva somewhere around here, or at least the remnants of it! The source of that pleading voice – unless that was the Neverborn herself.

And the guide-spell said… straight down the throat of that wildly-erupting volcano.

(Aikiko) “Oh, come on!… Well, here goes nothing!”

She activated Graceful Crane Stance, Lightning Speed, Monkey Leap Technique, and – to move along the sides – Spider Foot Style, and went in.

With Skoll’s direct sense-sharing she got a closeup of leaping down the throat of a wildly-erupting volcano – bouncing from flaming boulder to flaming boulder, passing through walls and curtains of flame, and wiping off coatings of molten metal and hardening rock. Around her the walls of the shaft bled the treasures of the deep earth – and elemental creatures fought frantically to staunch the wound, melting and sobbing as they worked. The pleading voice was coming from somewhere deep in the fiery pool of molten rock and metal at the center, where the shaft ballooned out into a mighty cavern, illuminated by glowing rock and constant jets and eruptions of flame.

Good gods…

Aikiko searched.

Burning in the center of the pool, entrapped in blocks of adamant which had melted and refrozen beneath the attack of the Exalted, there were the remains of a a huge, beautiful, woman – much of her flesh burned away, her eyes replaced by pools of molten starmetal, her skin burned away beneath a coating of orichalcum, and veins of molten moonsilver infiltrating her organs. She was… obviously dead, and still pled for mercy and for release, asking how her gifts were insufficient, what she could give in exchange for ending the pain – and yet there was still some beauty in her current form.

There were… gaps and cracks in the adamant however. It wasn’t as if it had been DESIGNED as a prison. Large enough for Skoll to squeeze into with a little work on bending the Orichalcum; it wasn’t attuned – and was only a memory to begin with. Once inside… she/he began using the second athletics excellency to help push some of it away.

Progress there was slow, but steady – and, oddly enough, it was eased because it was obvious that the woman was once larger and more substantial. Something had been altering the memory, slowly and patiently.

Could this be one of the Devas that those priests were trying to affect? With a bit of careful probing… it did feel like it. Something had drained away a good deal of the power. The memory was as bad as ever – but it really WAS shrinking.

It still took quite some time to get her free – but she couldn’t have faced not doing it.

(Skoll) “Where do you wish to take this memory-entity which was once Marharin Of The Deep Beauties? And what do you wish to do with it?”

(Aikiko) “Well, first… out of here!”

How would the Neverborn react to a part of its soul hierarchy being removed, even if it was with good intentions?

Since the central consciousness of the Neverborn had departed into the Wyld to recreate itself long ago, the answer to that turned out to be… not at all.

She rode the volcanic eruption out; the pyroclastic cloud was, after all, simply Marharin’s scream. Of course that still left her stuck in a burning world – and surrounded by continuing pleas. That… was going to be hard to turn away from!

(Skoll) “You are registering difficulties. You have emotional trauma?”

For a moment there – what with the sense-sharing and the link – she’d forgotten that she was in Skoll’s pocket-dimension instead of actually being within the perpetually-dying world-body of the Neverborn… That might be a good thing! Even an elder exalt might be mote-tapped by the unending, shifting, assaults of the place pretty quickly!

(Aikiko) “I… I want to get them all out of here! Sure, the Primordials might’ve done many things to cause the gods to hate them, but does ANYTHING justify THIS? Haven’t they suffered long enough?”

She couldn’t help the tears; so much suffering all around her! And so much to fix! Was this how Charles felt all the time?

(Skoll) “The primary consciousness is not present”.

So this was… secondary? Just what was left of a Neverborn who had departed with the Wyld tides? Hard to blame her! Wait! She still had links through Aden, so she could get some advice!

She called Charles first. If there was a current specialist in Primordials, Devas, and World-Bodies, he was it!

(Charles) “Urm… Doesn’t Skoll contain a pocket dimension that it can swallow spirits and things into? That might be pretty dangerous for you though!”

(Aikiko) “Yeah, which is why I didn’t want to use it… but I can’t stand it! Nothing justifies this…”

(Charles) “Well, I can throw more defenses on you! And you should be shielded against essence-based mental influences… nothing much to be done about simple persuasion though!

(Aikiko, as Charles cast things…) “Thanks.”

Aikiko… prevailed upon Skoll to pull aboard as many as she and he possibly could – which was most or all of them. Even if they WERE just memories… they were essence-memories like gods, and sapient enough to suffer and plead for relief.

Skoll was willing enough; one of it’s purposes was to release the Neverborn – and Aikiko’s request was arguably a part of that purpose.

Most of them were burning. Apparently “blast the geomancy into magma” had been the main mode of attack on Dhengu-Gata – and perhaps the other Primordials. Outside of their natural realm the wraith-Devas could not harm her physically – but bringing memories in with her meant experiencing them. Even weakened and second-hand… that was terrible indeed – but sharing a bit of genuine life with them allowed them to change a bit – soothing the burning with memories of water and joy and flowing more easily into their living counterparts bonded with the martial artists of the Besi Hantuperajin.

It was not easy – but they didn’t deserve to suffer like that. Nothing did. And, for good or ill, time didn’t really mean anything in the Void. After a timeless interval… that left Skoll standing – still glowing brilliantly – on a staircase, which curved gently through the darkness. Below… was a labyrinth, and some collossal tombs, where SOMETHING was going on – and high above there was a faint trace of light. Through the darkness… ships occasionally passed, both great and small, but almost all black, sometimes with a bit of crimson – save for one that went by, that was small and shockingly pink.

(Aikiko) “Huh… spaceships? Weird ones if so!”

(Skoll) “Location indeterminate. Query: Consciousness functional?”

(Aikiko) “Mine is… I’m not so sure about everyone else in here.”

Sadly, like called to like… the closest consciousness to one of Charles’s gates had been, of course, the remains of one of the most innocent, harmless, and helpful Primordials that had ever existed – and also, of course, one of the easiest to kill. Charles too would be in real trouble if he was up against a Primordial-hunting war party of Exalts – and while he WAS better prepared than some Primordials had been… he could not stand for long against a bunch of Exalts specialized in dismantling internal geomancy. It would be a fight – he did have an awful lot more Second Circle Devas than many would anticipate, his forces were well-equipped and protected, and he had some possible escapes planned – but the outcome would pretty much be a foregone conclusion.

Down at the tombs… some sort of large-scale project was underway. The urge to snoop was strong! And Skoll, of course, was equally interested… that information was one of the reasons why they’d come!

(Skoll) “Adjusting visual pickups.”

Huh! Fairly good magnification there! Must have built-in lenses. That was something! Not enough – it wasn’t exactly physical distance – but there was some sort of BIG project going on down there. There were… work camps?… outside of most of the tombs, and some sort of smelting operation, and things being built and taken inside.

Of course, being where she was… those weren’t exactly work camps, and the smelting was for souls. She’d have to investigate when she and Skoll weren’t glowing! Upwards it was! Sure, they’d be blatantly obvious, but jumping off the stairs was about the only other choice – and that would lead to her falling down the Memory of Oblivion, and who knew where they’d wind up? It could – rather literally – be anywhere at all…

Possibly including some alternate dimension where Oblivion still existed – another reason why there was still a reflection of it here. NOT a good prospect!

After a timeless interval of climbing – during which the glow faded – they eventually emerged in… glowing city.

(Aikiko) “Whaa?”

That was NOT what she’d expected in the Underworld!

(Aikiko) “Where’s the gloomy darkness?”

It was even… oddly familiar-looking in some ways!

(Aikiko) “Hey, wait a minute… this is Star Wars! But… it isn’t, is it? It looks like whats-that-place, but it isn’t.”

Huh… built on a deep foundation where nameless creatures crawled through the lightless depths…

(Skoll) “Accessing files… resemblances are statistically significant. The odds against this being coincidental are approximately 3720 to 1, based on current sampling”

(Aikiko) “Got a name?”

(Skoll) “Designate “Coruscant”. Stated to be “at the center of the galaxy”. Home to Countless Souls. Dominated by a Dark Emperor possessed of immense powers and a weapon that can destroy worlds”.

(Aikiko, slowly) “And… once known as Stygia…”

(Skoll) “Established: Humans are unconsciously aware of much more of the universe than is commonly believed.”

Well, there were probably worse places to be in the Underworld. That was something of a relief at the moment, even with all the memories of fiery death to keep her company in Skoll!

(Skoll) “Earth-Human literature and beliefs may be a better guide than expected. Secondary correspondences with “New Jerusalem”, China’s “Heavenly Realm”, and other belief sets. Possibly less-competent seers drawn from smaller populations before modern period. Possible Extrapolation; popularity of tale-sequence is tied to how closely a given version portrays what humans unconsciously know to be true.

(Aikiko) “So it’s Coruscant now… and something else a couple of centuries from now, maybe.”

(Skoll) “Also possible.”

(Aikiko) “Does anything around here look familiar to you, Skoll? I know it’s been a long time, and you might have never been to Stygia.”

(Skoll) “Limited information available. We have just emerged from the Pit of Oblivion. It seems to be less deadly in this era; possibly merely another reflection or memory. The Calendar of Setesh may now be represented by the local sun.”

Aikiko looked up – using anti-glare protections.

Skoll… continued using Aikiko’s input to update.

(Aikiko) “If the Calendar is the local sun like you’re thinking… it must be REALLY bright!”

(Skoll) “Entropic Flow has been greatly magnified in the larger universe.”

(Aikiko) “Considering how many black holes there are…”

(Skoll) “Order of magnitude calculations not available.”

Heh. Skoll wouldn’t be programmed for that, would he? Too old! And the modern internet data… was just not sufficient.

(Aikiko) “I’m not sure even Primordials can understand how big the universe is these days. Which reminds me; can you sense your master now?”

(Skoll) “There are too many powers here. Too many souls. Further investigation will be required. There is likely to be a good deal of information available in “Coruscant” though.

And the memories were being soothed, by visions of water and the burning being taken away – and by Aikiko’s knowledge that the draining away… was not into nothingness, to leave nothing of them at all, but to be reunited with their living selves, to grow and change.

Aikiko was glad that she was able to help, even if it did have side effects on her. Did no one think to do this during the First Age? Wait… the Primordial War veterans would have had a fit – and there had been the Aftershock Primordial’s attack. The bad blood must have been overwhelming even for the mortals. For beings that live for centuries, that was a long time to develop a grudge, and perhaps even worsen the torture.

Of course, according to the histories, a group of solars had descended to the tombs of the Neverborn – and had tortured them further to extract the secrets of Necromancy. The Exalts of the “golden age” were JERKS. She didn’t want to be like that!

Hmm… The giver of wealth had been easy to break into. She… hadn’t needed to be tortured any further; she had offered everything she could and pleaded for help. They had tried torture anyway, just to see if there was anything more.

Urghh… DAMN. Sure, there had been the Ebon Dragon and some SERIOUS assholes among the Primordials – but then most of THOSE had survived. The answer would have been to either remove the parts of them that made them dangerous to lesser beings, or make some other place where the prayer could still reach them, but the prayer sources would not be endangered…

Man, Charles was really rubbing off on her!

Although… the abrupt tour of the realm of utter horror had been a pretty big shock.

(Aikiko, sighing) “Let’s find a library, or a data terminal. Something we can get information from.”

Huh! Probably everyone would think that she was a Mandalorian bounty hunter! Skoll was certainly more armor-like than Droid-like.

Actually, “Droid” was generally the appearance taken on by people who died on really extreme life support – but that hardly mattered at the moment.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXXVII – The Outer Limits

The mask of indestructible ice, both refuge and embodiment, glinted with the timeless light of elder stars – torn from the sky by Ice-That-Grinds-The-Heavens in the long-forgotten youth of the world and taken into himself. Thus had he broken his destiny, and claimed a portion of the power of the heavens and fate for himself – forging a place for the Eternal Ice, and the timeless clarity of the winter night and it’s glimpses of hidden stars, that would endure as long as Creation.

It lent to thoughts a certain icy clarity – and the detachment of ages. Despite the brilliant glow of the simulated life of Coruscant, a cold anger pulsed, pulling hoarfrost and rime from the air to trace glittering tapestries across the walls. The ongoing blasphemy at the Tombs was unabated. Those concepts were not to be meddled with any longer! If the Exalted had wished to keep them they should not have murdered them… Now even he could not contemplate their true forms without risking losing portions of his mind in the holes that had been torn in Creation. To attempt such a piecemeal re-embodiment. How presumptuous and disgusting of them!

Yet dropping hints to the remaining Celestial Exalted had produced little in the way of results. They were too distracted by the current state of Creation to recognize an urgent problem… Would he have to take action himself?

In deep space, Charles, the Tsunami, and its passengers were well away from the solar system, and were passing near a mighty nebula; the display of gases and forming stars was magnificent!

It was not unappreciated. Charles had been was too distracted by Skoll – and Aikiko’s current predicament – to have made at all sure that all the astronomers he’d invited along for the first part of hist trip had actually gone back to Earth. In fact, most of them had been stalling – easy enough given how obliging Charles’s staff was. A trip to the literal far end of the cosmos? They wouldn’t miss that for ANYTHING!

The crew was keeping the astronomers well away from Skoll and Charles of course (a simple private section of the bridge did very nicely). After all, Charles was busy trying to persuade Skoll that things had changed a lot – and, after Aikiko had (more than happily) filled him in on what it had said about it’s mission – that it’s mission was more than a bit obsolete!

(Charles, to Aikiko) “Uhrm… that’s about half done isn’t it?”

(Aikiko) “Yeah, but he wants to make sure I’m telling the truth, and report back to the Mask of Winters!”

(Charles) “Glur? But… (thinking back) Err… the last anyone heard from the Mask of Winters was… I think… before the Reshaping, when the Wyld overran his holdings in reality and the underworld! He’s gonna be HARD to report back to!… Maybe I should ask Galileo to see if HE knows anything – but I’m not sure we’d really want to find him anyway!”

(Aikiko) “Well, it’s not going to let me out until it’s satisfied, so…”

(Charles) “That’s a problem! It… would be really hard to stop it, and if we did it might dump you in the deep wyld!

(Aikiko) “That’d be a pain…”

(Charles) “Well… you can probably come up with something given time of course. After all, it was designed to hold the Sun, not a young Solar who can develop new charms… Huh. Computer oriented charms didn’t even EXIST when it was built… That might take you months though! So… we need to FIND a Deathlord who vanished thirty thousand years ago, get to him or her, and then survive the experience… This is going to be tricky!”

(Aikiko) “You’re telling me. I don’t know that much about the Underworld, either.”

(Charles) “Um… I might be able to run a gate in to you – but that pocket realm was designed to contain the Sun and warded by a Deathlord. I’d want to study it first – and merely being in the underworld shouldn’t make any difference when I DO run a gate… Stand by for an emergency rescue if necessary and keep analyzing otherwise?”

(Aikiko) “That works!”

(Charles) “OK then!”

Sadly, the first attempt was a disappointment; pointing out how much larger Creation was these days didn’t inspire Skoll to abandon it’s attempt to find the Mask of Winters; it just meant that it would have to allow more time to search it for his creator!”

Bother! Could they sneak up on Skoll and make it smarter? It would be unpleasant to damage it after all! It WAS a very impressive piece of work, even if it needed some substitutions when it came to the souldsteel bits. There were things about artificing that he could learn from it!

For all of Charles’s monomania and manses and tools… there were nuances of artifice that it would take exploring other areas to develop – plus, of course, there were resources and procedures available to the Deathlords that Charles simply would not use.

And it was hard not to wonder… What would happen if it DID swallow a Sun-Avatar? So far as he knew… the Incarnae neither developed not changed. If Skoll had indeed compensated for the Sun’s ability to remotely tap the Daystar – a resource that HE’D certainly never heard of before – did the Sun have any other tricks in reserve that would allow him to escape?

One thing was for sure, though: it was a bit hard to see through the dust of the nebula… The astronomers were quite excited, though! It was yet another formerly-inconceivable opportunity to see an interstellar feature up close!

Despite several further efforts, it seemed that there was on dissuading Skoll; it had concluded that it needed to check on the status of the Underworld, and the Underworld it was going to check. Fortunately, Charles had gates for that – and Aikiko was in favor of whatever would be easiest and fastest. Given that she wasn’t a part of Skoll’s main objective she was pretty sure that she could out-argue and out-logic it once she had time to develop the proper charms – but it would certainly be easier and safer if it let her out on it’s own before she had to go to all that effort.

Those weren’t gates that he was all that eager to unseal, but STILL. Getting Skoll somewhere else still seemed like a good idea! It would be much safer if Skoll was ELSEWHERE if he had to build another manse-gate to get to Aikiko!

Skoll departed as Aikiko continued to survey… Hm… Ah! It wasn’t a flaw that you could SEE – but if Skoll channeled it’s occupants powers through ITSELF it couldn’t possibly have perfect shielding against them! It had to be relying on individual effects – which was why the Sun had escaped by doing something it hadn’t known was possible – and HER charm array didn’t look a lot like the usual Solar charm array during first or second ages… It would still be a bother though – and Skoll was right about one thing; a look around the underworld might yield some very valuable information indeed.

By the time Charles got back to the bridge after Skoll’s departure, the Tsunami was picking a distress call; the language sounded vaguely like old Creation’s Forest-tongue! Fortunately, the “universal translator” was still available – and the Tsunami was already moving to answer the call anyway.

(Ship) “Star Trader Auric Wing requesting assistance… drives out of commission… low on fuel.”

Well, it could be Pirates (he had to admit that when Gothmug suggested it), but it sounded real enough to Charles!

A brief trip through the nebular fog led Charles and Tsunami to a small, cylindrical starship drifting in the nebula, amidst a collection of asteroids. An especially large one sat nearby.

Charles simply went for Telepathy. It was easier on the languages!

(Charles) “Allo! What’s wrong?”

(Ship) “We were flying from Tamarast to Vargid when we had a bit of a scrape. Do you have a tractor beam on that thing?”

(Charles) “Not exactly… One moment!” “Malinda? Where’s “Vargid?”

(Malinda) “A little place! Part of Tarvial, on the outer rim, but not quite on the frontier!”

(Charles, to the ship) “That’s rather a long ways! When were you expecting to get there?”

(Ship) “Not for another couple of weeks-the Wyld node’s still a few days out.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well, I was going direct – which might take a little longer – but how about I take your ship aboard? I can probably fix it along the way anyhow!”

(Ship) “Uhhh…” (There was some just-audible conferring) “Well, we don’t really have much of a choice! You do have some way of getting us on without servos, right? We’re in a real fix here!”

(Charles) “No problem!”

The Tsunami enlarged a cargo hold (and made the walls indestructible, just in case) while Charles used telekinesis to pull them aboard… they were glad that he had something that didn’t require them – or him – to physically cross the intervening space – and for good reason, too! The asteroids came hurtling towards them, and seemed to be shifting in pattern – including the larger one, bringing up the rear.

Huh! Silicon-metal lifeforms looking for something to eat? (He probed)… It seemed that way! They were extruding vaguely metallic limbs – four each, with spikes at the ends. Well… Charles put up a ward and tried to contact THEM.

The smaller ones halted at the ward – but the larger one had begun emitting an electricity draining field. That didn’t hinder Tsunami too much of course – but the contact attempt produced lots of static and strings of letters and numbers in Old Realm.

Breaking the scrambling and encryption wasn’t too difficult though.

(Asteroid) “Reengerization protocol broken. Request: Magical Materials, silicon, Air Essence.”

(Charles) “Oh! OK!”

He promptly sent a stock of stuff out and steered it over to them… As the miniaturized probes consumed the materials with their spikes and began returning to the larger asteroid.

(Charles) “Who are you by the way?”

(Asteroid) “Designation Caul Probe CN-89404-12. Reengerization stock confirmed… Processing… Processing…”

(Charles, to Malinda, Galileo, and the crew of the ship that he’d just rescued) “Anybody know what a “Caul Probe” is?”

Hm… It looked like the rescues included a golden-skinned, four-armed, four eyed man – like that Bronze Faction Chosen of Journeys he’d met before – a monkey man, a green skinned woman with leaves for hair, and a small bunny man. Normal atmosphere was just fine for them, and they weren’t notorious cannibals or anything pesky like that – so he invited them up and set up the translation effects.

Malinda’s divinations revealed that the “Caul Probe” was a living thing, although it was very unlikely that it had evolved naturally. It had been… genetically engineered outside of Fate – and has natural mechanisms that keep it out of Fate.

(Charles) “Feeling better? Anything else you need? Also… who are you and what are you probing for?”

(Caul Probe) “Designation Caul Probe CN-89404-12, assigned to monitor this region of space for fate anomalies.”

(Charles) “Oh! Do you work for the Sidereal Exalted in the Department of Fate?”

(Caul Probe) “Negative.”

(Charles) “Who then? Are you looking out for things that might cause problems for people locally?”

(Caul Probe) “Information classified, purpose affirmative.”

Charles scanned around. If the probe was monitoring for fate anamolies, the people who wanted that information couldn’t be all THAT far away! Ah! There were life signs in an asteroid nearby! Well-warded, but he could talk through that with a bit of effort!

(Charles) “Hello there!”

(Voice, with some startlement) “Hi there… bother. Sorry about this, but it’s been a while since the last shipment. Thanks.”

(Charles) “Oh you’re welcome! But why are you lurking out here? It’s kind of lonely!”

(Voice) “What can I say? The pay’s unbeatable and I get shore leave every season as long as I keep my mouths shut.”

Hm… It looked like a plant creature with multiple heads. There were three others in the control chamber, which was pretty definitely a Shogunate-style design for monitoring things.

Kind of odd to find creatures that alien so relatively close to Earth! Even in Tarvail most people were a lot closer to human… It they weren’t from the Empirical Galaxy proper, they were likely from farther out in Tarvial.

(Charles) “Huh! I didn’t think we were far enough out for people like you yet! We must be near a Wyld Zone!”

(Voice) “Well, that is how we got here… like I said, the pay can’t be beat! Recruiter said we were going to the borders of some place called Tarvial.”

(Charles) “Ah! You’re monitoring the wyld zone for disturbances because it’s the access-way to this part of the universe!”

(Voice) “Yep! This is a vital strategic point; we can’t let those Infernal or Abyssal thingies take it – or the Raksha for that matter.”

(Charles) “Well, any other help you need?”

(Voice) “Just keep quiet about us being here, okay? We’re supposed to keep this on the down low. Oh yeah, and maybe some fertilizer! That was supposed to come with the probes’ fuel!”

(Charles) “OK!”

He sent them plenty of supplies! Without fertilizer they might wilt!

(Voice) “Oh yeah… is your ship alive? That’s pretty rare!”

(Charles) “Oh yes!”

(Voice) “What’s it eat? I mean, we have sources; we could get you some deals on biomass.”

(Charles) “Essence mostly! And light! Most other stuff… we just transmute as needed!”

They’d definitely be reporting THAT one to the experts (along with every other reading they could get). That was vanishingly rare! And the ability produce quantities of magical materials as well as lesser substances was even rarer!

(Charles) “We’ll probably be arriving at Tarvail in a few weeks! I’m taking the scenic route so as to get a better survey!”

(Voice) “So where are you headed after that?”

(Charles) “Oh, I was headed to the Empyrical Galaxy; I just thought I’d go direct! Much more to see that way and I’ve got a few weeks!”

(Voice) “Uh, but that journey should take a lot longer than that.”

(Charles, blankly) “Why?”

(Other Voice) “He was going pretty fast there. That ship’s a marvel.”

(Voice) “And yeah, just flying direct like that . . . unless you’re some kind of Exalt or travel god, it’d take ages.”

(Charles) “Not to worry! My travel effects are very good.”

(Voice) “Must be, to go that fast… “

Definitely something to report! He might be able to help the bosses big time!

(Voice) “Mind if we put our bosses in contact with you? They’d be very interested in speeding up things!”

(Charles) “What now? Or after I get there?”

(Voice) “They’ll get in contact with you; they have their ways.”

(Charles) “OK! Anyway, if that’s everything…”

They waved the Tsunami off as it dropped back into a compromise metric again – and the Astronomers had questions, since Charles hadn’t sequestered the Tarvialans from them.The Tarvialans had never really seen unExalted humans before (it was kind of a novelty!) – and the astronomers’ questions were mostly about the stop and the new “altered humans.”

Well those were simple enough to answer!

And a short game this time. It happens…

A Spirit Wandering: Do-It-Yourself Charms and Talismans II

English: Caption reads "Papuan charm".

Well, I say I’m charming!

And here we have some more of Brett’s Charm and Talisman ideas – and how I’d tweak them to fit them into my games.

Watchful Eye: Records the visual information in the eye’s viewing angle, can view at a 10:1 time ratio at the cost of 2 Int damage. The eye keeps the normal senses it had in life making more exotic eyes more useful for this charm – Brett.

Well, this is basically a magical camcorder, presumably capable of storing – say – three days worth of material. Nothing wrong there, although it needs some limitations noted.

(Tweaked) Watchful Eye (Charm): This preserved eye sees as well as it did in life (including any special visual powers, making exotic eyes more effective), recording up to three days worth of observations for it’s owner to replay in a few moments the next time he/she touches it – albeit at the cost of one point of intelligence damage per day of impressions or part thereof. Sadly, the basic charm is a simple recorder; it cannot change focus or direct it’s attention, making the clear field of view rather limited. Talismanic Eyes remain “in touch” with their users at up to medium range. Within that range the user may access the eye’s current view without taking intelligence damage, change the focus, and direct it as if it was his or her own eye. If worn, such a talisman can easily compensate for blindness.

Forge’s Flame (Charm): A permanent heat source that can be used for forging etc. It’s essentially an altered version of more conventional and safe charms, but has a much hotter heat and allows for forging and other high temperature uses – Brett.

This is essentially a scaled-up version of the Firebox Charm – and a substantially more potent one; a fire hot enough for high-temperature work normally requires some sort of forced draft and considerably more fuel for it’s size. Ergo a very small-scale version sounds like a Charm, larger ones will be Talismans. For example…

(Replacement) Earthfire Stone (Charm): This bit of volcanic rock recalls the fires of its birth, and can call them forth once more when it’s user wills. Earthfire Stones are normally mounted on short metal rods to avoid scorching the user’s fingers; their flames are small (1d2 points of damage if used as a weapon), but are hot enough to weld metal, sear letters into wood, melt locks, and accomplish similar small tasks. Used as a light they’re equivalent to a candle, albeit an inextinguishable one; an Earthfire Stone will burn even underwater or in airless conditions.

(Replacement) Starfire Cauldron (Talisman): When first opened this covered kettle seems to be filled with darkness. If there is any light at all in the area it will soon fill with burning light, capable of heating metal or other materials dipped within it to their ideal working temperatures and offering a +3 bonus on relevant rolls. Contact with the burning light is equivalent to contact with magma, with an additional +2d6 damage against undead.

So yes, if you can shove that vampires head into your forge, he’s not going to be happy about it. Of course, few non-fire creatures are happy about being stuffed into any kind of forge.

Bonsai Gloves: Shapes a plant into a shape that the user defines, allows plants to grow items without being destroyed during harvesting. Frequently used by Elves to cause trees to use wood items without destroying trees – Brett.

Given that simply making plants grow into odd shapes takes too long to worry about, I’d say that this resembles the Glasscraft Gloves Talisman. While this doesn’t have supply heat to smelt sand, reshaping plants is tricker than shaping glass if you want them to live. Still, wood and plant fiber is easier to work with than glass – so making it a charm just means having to work slowly. Ergo…

(Tweaked) Bonsai Glove (Charm): The user may slowly remold unresisting living plants, shaping them into various forms. The area affected must be within two feet of the glove, the resulting form must be sustainable for the plant, and the process requires five minutes per cubic foot of material affected. Still, any necessary rolls receive a +4 bonus. If given a few hours the user may easily shift branches and stems to open paths through overgrown areas, shape roots into comfortable garden seats, make treehouses, and so on.

Dark Bauble: Gives an alchemical darkness radius of 20′ – Brett

Well, the “No Light” cantrip from the Book of Vile Darkness does make it darker in the area – and is a natural enough counterpart to “Light”. It’s a specific effect, and well within the general power level of a Charm.

(Replacement) Mists of Shadow (Charm): The subtle mist wafting from this small sachet dims common sources of light within a 20′ radius. While daylight or magical light overwhelms the effect, areas illuminated by torches, lanterns, fires, and similar light sources are reduced to a shadowy twilight, granting those in the area a 20% miss chance due to concealment. Creatures with Darkvision, or other relevant special senses, are not affected by the Mists of Shadow.

Presto Stick: Gives use of prestidigitation effects at will and/or with 1 min charge up greater prestidigitation effects. – Brett

While the vision of a crowd of street children ganging up to inflict massive penalties on the local evil overlord is amusing, this is sort of out of place for a Charm or Talisman. After all, they normally have quite specific effects – and the few that can directly affect other people (Sands of Time, Glittering Disk, Phylactery of Whispering Shadows, Ring of Mist) generally only build up enough power to do so a few times per day. The ones that have variable effects (notably Dust of Illusion, Fireworks Pouch, Diplomats Sash, and Ditty Bag) are all limited-use – and while their exact results are shaped by the user’s will, the first three are themed illusion generators while the Ditty Bag simply conjures the small, cheap, and unimportant item that you’re fishing around for. Charms and Talismans really are simple, crude, and only indirectly tied to their user’s mind.

That’s not to say that you can’t do it – but lacking the power and discipline of an actual spell, the effects are likely to be a little unreliable. In terms of the game, that’s probably a good thing; universal tools take a lot of the fun out of figuring out how to do things.

(Replacement) Tricksters Eye (Charm): Worn on the brow, this glittering gem serves as a psychic amplifier – bringing the user’s thoughts into manifestation. The user may perform (Int) minor tricks (at the level of Prestidigitation effects) per day, or expend three such tricks to use a Greater Prestidigitation effect. If it matters, the caster level is equal to the user’s level, saves are based the user’s Charisma, the effects are psychic rather than magic – and the user may explicitly use the list of “Prestidigitation” effects from Tome and Blood or from The Practical Enchanter when using Greater Prestidigitation effects. Unfortunately, the user’s random hopes, fears, and passing fancies are similarly amplified, creating up to three basic and one greater unwanted – or even “hostile” – spontaneous effects per day. It can be quite annoying to worry about whether or not you’ll be seen and suddenly have your dark cloak turn bright orange.

Vassal Stone: Gives a vessel for an allied spirit to inhabit and tie with upon death or after being summoned, this can vary in effect from being a repose effect if the stone (and thus spirit) is kept near the body, to being cheaper to resurrect by having the soul present and available, to being able to manifest as a spirit near the stone if supplied with some power/spell level/mana. This allows the user to maintain contact with willing spirits only. Added effects are sometimes used to give the inhabiting spirit a construct, animal or undead body, unseen servant etc. – Brett

This one gets into d20 metaphysics. Those are definitely open to debate however…

As a general rule, keeping the spirit near the body won’t keep if from decaying. After all, rot (usually called gangrene) can set in while someone’s still alive. For this, you might want a…

(Replacement) Hunter’s Cache (Charm): This simple oilcloth sheet greatly retards the decay of whatever is wrapped within it; vegetables, meats, and similar perishable materials wrapped in the sheet will remain entirely fresh for the first week, and age only one day per additional week that passes. Talismanic versions increase the time interval to months.

Unfortunately, the Monster Summoning spellstell us that a mere first level spell is capable of reaching into the outer planes, summoning a creature therefrom, binding it to obedience, and constructing a temporary body for it. Unless the game is using variant rules, keeping the spirit nearby probably won’t reduce the level of spell required to raise the dead very much.

An anchor for summoned – or dying – creatures is certainly possible though.

(Replacement) Spirit Anchor (Charm): A Spirit Anchor allows the user to extend the length of time that a nearby spirit may remain on the material plane. While the terrible pull of the outer planes will overwhelm the magic of a mere Charm in short order – in a mere three rounds in fact – a few clear seconds, free of pain and the limitations of a failing body, in which to say goodbye may be precious to a dying elder. For a summoner, a Spirit Anchor can sometimes make the difference – particularly if he or she is unable to hold spirits for very long as of yet. For any adventurer… allowing a comrades spirit to remain for a few rounds past the point where they would normally die may save their life. A Spirit Anchor may be activated without cost once per day; activating it again after that requires the expenditure of hit points – 1d4 for the second time within a day, 2d4 for the third, 3d4 for the fourth, and so on.

(Replacement) Spirit Voice (Talisman): This simple pendant must be attuned by someone on the Prime Material Plane – but thereafter it can serve as an anchor for a psychic link to a spirit on the outer planes. The link may be set up through a seance or similar ritual, but the spirit involved may refuse to accept the link or drop it at any time if they do accept it. Such a spirit may channel minor psychic powers over the link as usual, as well as “whispering” over it. It is wise to be very sure of a spirits motives before listening to it’s advice however.

Other abilities might be used to place an animated a body under the spirits control, to allow it to manifest directly, or to do a variety of other things – but, in general, such activities are beyond what can be done with Charms and Talismans; you’ll have to use actual spells, enchantments, and powers for that sort of thing.

At least in most of my games spirits quite often maintain links with the prime material for some time after physical death – commonly with their old bodies, place of death, place of birth, relatives, various personal items, whatever killed them, and to anything to which they were magically bonded. Most of them can’t actually do much of anything with such links however, otherwise you’d be tripping over a spirit every time you turned around. There are some, however, who have enough psychic / psionic talent to maintain some awareness of what’s going on around their link-foci and enough interest to actually do it. A few who can actually channel a bit of psychic power over those links – and in rare cases especially-dedicated types (often called “Saints”) are devoted enough to tap into the energies of the outer planes and channel those forces over their personal links to the prime material – allowing them to produce a variety of effects around their foci.

  • If they remain linked with their old body (easiest) we find spooky-feeling or haunted tombs and graves, illusory apparitions, telekinetically-animated bodies, and even classical medieval “relics” – where a “saint” (whether of good, evil, law, chaos, or whatever) channels power through bits and pieces of their old body.
  • If they remain linked with with people they have emotional bonds with (harder, but very common) then you get dream-visitations and – depending on how they feel about the person and the extent of their powers – either guardian spirits or malevolent spooks.
  • If they remain linked with personal items (uncommon, but some people do get very attached to things) then they can exert their psychic abilities through the item – and possibly guide it’s current user. This leads to things like haunted swords, where the spirit may guide your use of it if it likes you – or hinder it if it does not. Even weaker spirits are readily contacted via such links – often allowing even the most untalented mediums to succeed (or be possessed). It’s wise to make sure that any linked items that you happen to be carrying about are linked to spirits who like you.
  • If they remain linked with particular places (common enough, but rarely of any importance) powerful spirits may generate poltergeists, apparitions, and visions if the spirit is powerful enough for that. Otherwise sensitive people might sometimes get the feeling of a presence, or that they’re being watched, but it really won’t matter much.

Do-It-Yourself Charms and Talismans

Basil and Lord Henry survey the portrait of Dorian

Yeah. Watch out for these things.

Some time ago I was asked to take a look at some suggested Charms and Talismans to add to those in The Practical Enchanter. It’s taken some time to get to it, but here we go!

Charms and Talismans are the occult equivalents of basic hand tools – channels for ambient and personal magic just as hand tools are channels for the user’s skills and muscle power. When you compare them to full-fledged enchantments… you see the difference between a blacksmith’s hammer and an automatic hydraulic drop forge capable of exerting 425,000 pounds of pressure.

As tools, Charms and Talismans are not, in themselves, much more magical than any random rock. In fact, with a little work, the occasional random rock makes a perfectly functional charm (“Wellstone”). There aren’t any feat requirements for making them either – although the game master may require you to spend a few skill points on knowing the equivalent of a “book of formulas”. To quote the rules from The Practical Enchanter

Charms are straightforward: they’re made using the Spellcraft skill as a craft skill. The base cost is normally 100 silver pieces, the DC is 15, and there usually are no special requirements. A skillful charmsmith can turn one out in a few days if he or she knows the formula. Talismans are trickier: they require minor special materials, have a basic cost of 250 SP, a Craft DC of 20 (with a relevant craft skill) to make, and require a DC 20 rite to empower. Most talismongers will need a week or two to make one unless they subcontract the crafting part – which usually cuts it down to three days.

Thus, given that basic lack of power, Charms usually have level zero effects and are either constant or operate a few times per day. A few are “charged”, and can have up to fifty charges. Talismans can have effects of up to level one or even level two in rare cases – but those with active effects are often a strain to wield, often temporarily draining one of the user’s attributes (inflicting “ability damage”) to provide the power. They normally take several hours to attune, and so can’t be traded around quickly. In either case, their user’s can normally only power a few of them. Some worlds make Charms and Talismans available naturally, or through the use of the Practical Enchanters Wealth Templates. In others, you can buy the ability to use them at the cost of six character points (in Eclipse) or one Feat (in standard d20). That will buy you…

Talismanic Magic: Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for increased effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive and take some time to attune for use (6 CP).

The Practical Enchanter includes quite a list of Charms and Talismans – but here’s a list of homebrew suggestions from Brett. I suspect that I’ll be cutting a lot of them back a bit – but that happens a lot with suggestions.

Trail Boots: While using overland movement always treated for self as if having a Trail and drastically lowers the likelihood of encounters with animals etc. Favored by ranger and scout types, gives mobility bonus for those attuned to the ‘wilds’ – Brett.

Well, “Guide My Feet” – a zero-level spell that lets you move through “trackless” terrain as if you were on a trail for a bit seems pretty reasonable. Throwing in that it helps you avoid normal animals while engaged in long range travel shouldn’t really break anything, however convenient that spell would be for a party with unlimited use of it at low levels. As for the “Mobility Boost” – well, that could mean movement rate, but a movement-booster – even if it is wilderness only – starts getting into “must have” territory, which really isn’t what Charms and Talismans are all about. Still, the power level is relatively low and if you’re using Eclipse getting yourself a small movement bonus in a limited environment is going to be pretty cheap anyway.

(Revised) Trail Boots: The wearer moves through Trackless Terrain as if on a Trail. If he or she would normally have a random encounter with an animal while engaged in overland travel, he or she may make DC 15 Survival Check. On a success, he or she may opt to go around the animal instead. Talismanic versions might come in a variety of styles. Pick any one of:

  1. Talismanic Trail Boots provide an additional +5′ to movement while in the wilds. Simple, straightforward – and a very easy choice for any wilderness game.
  2. Talismanic Trail Boots allow the wearer to duck and weave through the obstructions of a natural wilderness environment; the user gains a +2 to his or her armor class to evade attacks of opportunity in such environments and is immune to the Entangle spell.
  3. Talismanic Trail Boots grant their user exceptionally sure footing, granting a +4 bonus to rolls made to maintain their balance, climb up rocks, and otherwise avoid slips and falls in such terrain.

Boots of the Canopy: Give roughly the benefits of the spell Branch to Branch from the Spell Compendium; +10′ run along tree branches +10 Climb on trees. They’re used by elven warriors to enhance their home field advantages – Brett.

Well, that’s very situational, which fits – but the power level really calls for a Talisman. Ergo;

(Revised) Boots of the Canopy (Talisman): These soft, gripping, boots grant a +10 bonus to the wearer’s attempts to climb trees, run along tree branches, and jump from branch to branch.

Living Phylactery: Preserves the body (to various degrees, usually cosmetic or aging only (but versions abound) in a manner similar to the portrait of Dorian Gray. This is the singular most common type of demonic or devilish ‘corrupting gift’ as it costs little effort and strongly encourages the lower pursuits that draw one to further corruption – Brett.

For comparison, a Grace of Miravor Charm prevents most illnesses including arthritis, incontinence, and the various infirmities of age – but not aging penalties. A minor variant that simply prevents the infirmities of age while providing the appearance of youth (but no actual extension of lifespan) is entirely reasonable – especially as a Black Magic Charm. A Wardstone Charm can easily eliminate aging penalties to attributes since the amount of wear and tear on the body in any given day is minuscule, but such stones are rare, simply because actually benefiting from one requires essentially giving up a charm slot perpetually – and other options tend to be far more attractive at any given time. Just as in reality, people know that self-discipline may pay health dividends later – but how many of them actually give up all those unhealthy foods now? Even the ones who intend to do it tend to say “well just one more won’t hurt…” – and the harm done by using a different Charm for a few days is even more subtle. Ergo, since a Black Magic Talisman is stronger than usual but always has some sort of price, this can become…

(Revised) Living Phylactery (Black Magic Talisman): While this seductive talisman comes in a variety of forms – dolls, portraits, statuettes, and even “autobiographies”, it always takes on the image of it’s owner. While it does not extend the user’s lifespan, it does prevent physical aging while it’s attuned – and provides DR 1/- versus physical damage. Unfortunately, like all Black Magic, such a talisman does exact it’s price. Such a talisman reflects the one point of damage it prevents from each physical injury, and if it is ever de-attuned or destroyed, will return that damage to the user all at once. More subtly, a Living Phylactery draws power from it’s owners youthful excesses; if the user reduces their sexual indulgences, use of drugs and intoxicants, and recruitment of others into such activities for long, the aches and pains of aging will return, as will the damage that has accumulated in the Phylactery. This does offer an escape – a few months of self-denial, pain, and catching up on your aging will bleed off the damage stored in a Phylactery and allow the user to de-attune it safely – but few of those who would attune a Living Phylactery in the first place are so inclined.

Silverskin Armor: A reserve of a psyoreactive liquid metal that replicates a small range of gear, usually leather armor, light shield and the adjustable choice of a dagger, whip or lasso (change as ‘drawing’ a weapon). Also provides a single THP and a ‘Field’ effect that prevents actual physical contact with a substance, usually to limit disease or poison exposure. The field is extant as long as the THP is present, if damaged lose the THP first as normal, at the start of the turn the THP returns, if that same THP is present at the next turn the field is reestablished. This was developed by the Synod as a means of limiting exposure to the glistening oil it also provides protection from more mundane poisons and diseases – Brett.

Now this one is a bit over the top. The Flux Iron Charm is essentially a reserve of metal that the user can mentally reform, but allowing it to emulate leather and rope as well as metal would definitely make it a Talisman. Throwing in the ability to become several items at once makes it even more powerful – and putting in a once-per-round temporary hit point and protection against poisons and diseases would make it even more powerful. I’m afraid that this will have to be split up;

The Bracers of Force Charm creates minor force fields – capable of withstanding one point of damage, and of warding off physical contact by rain and bugs and similar annoyances. A minor variant – perhaps the “Ward of Sekhmet” will do.

(Replacement) Ward of Sekhmet (Charm): This useful charm creates a low-grade force-aura around it’s user. The aura can absorb only one point of damage before collapsing, but will restore itself one round later. While the field cannot prevent the passage of gases or massive applications of liquids (such as corrosive breath weapons, being engulfed in slimes, and similar troubles), it can hold off rain, splashes of dangerous liquids, casual contact with slimes, toxins, infectious body fluids, and a variety of similar hazards.

(Replacement) Crafter’s Belt (Charm): This broad belt gives protection equivalent to heavy leather without it’s encumbrance. While this does provide the wearer with a +2 Armor Bonus, it also wards off thorns and itchy plant saps, splinters, sparks and embers, and similar annoyances, making such a belt a favored accouterment amongst farmers, gardeners, craftsman, and others. As a side-benefit the user may simply touch items to the belt and have them “stick” to it, as well-secured as if they had been hung on a loop or tucked into a pocket. A Crafter’s Belt will also obviate any need for suspenders, trusses, or weight belts*.

*Not that d20 characters ever actually need any of those. Of course, considering some of the outfits that players describe their characters as wearing, some sort of charm may be needed to hold them up and together.

And finally…

(Replacement) Assassin’s Bracer (Talisman): This light bracer unfolds into a light steel shield on command – and will reveal, on it’s back, holders for a variety of light weapons which the user may exchange as if simply drawing a weapon. Sadly, no individual weapon may weigh more than two pounds and it cannot hold more than ten pounds of weapons in total.

Diamond Kaleidoscope: Usually built more as a chandelier though many forms exist. Gives multiple ‘Mage Hand’ level servants that take simple instruction, usually used to staff a location in the manner of simple servants and go-fors. Such servants have a range of 300′ or the building, but in the later the boundaries of the building need to be marked by some inexpensive powders to attune the kaleidoscope. This provides the not uncommon situation of making actual servants expensive ostentatious luxuries and allows for many more creative uses – Brett.

Hmm… Well, this has much greater range than a normal Mage Hand spell, doesn’t require concentration, and can perform simple services on it’s own – basically an Unseen Servant effect. The Warding Cartouche Charm maintains a specialized Unseen Servant effect for the user – but only one (maintaining a limited version of a level one effect). This one pretty much comes down to “too big a scale even for a Talisman” – and there’s no easy way to break down the effects either. Now if you could hook some much more powerful source of magic into the effect, or amplify the magic, or handle the effect elsewhere…

(Replacement) Star Stone (Charm): This crystal feeds a tiny trickle of magic into something else (and glows with ever-shifting colors while it does so). They’re usually combined with Applied Spellcraft (Practical Enchanter, Page 120) Power Amplification (+1 or +2 to a Specific Spell) and Runic Formula effects to allow them to empower a level zero (amplification +1) or even first level (amplification +2) effect every 1d4 rounds. Sadly, unless the application also includes a Caster Level Increase, the effects are only “cast” at caster level one. Talismanic versions may convert the user’s personal energies into magic; the user may expend 2d4 hit points to produce a L0 burst of magic or 1d4 Constitution points (ability damage) to produce a L1 burst of magic.

There. With a Star Stone set into an appropriate Runic Diagram (1’st level spell formula (DC 10), Amplify Specific Spell +2 (DC 15), Combined DC 20. Setting this up in paint – probably on the ceiling to reduce the chance of damaging it – will require about fifteen days) you can readily spawn enough Unseen Servants to look after your entire mansion and any parties you may throw.

To be continued…

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition(RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.

Eclipse – Cinematic Combat at the Narrative Convenience Store

The advantage of taking a shortcut through a c...

Couldn’t we just fight our way through instead?

This particular question was about building a character who uses their personal traits to gain advantages when they’re describing how they carry out an action and can spend several rounds building up to some amazing feat by using some of their personal traits each round to set it up.

That’s a bit awkward actually. After all, if you really carry all the way through on that you’re pretty much replacing “roll and add your characters bonus” with another game engine entirely. There’s nothing wrong with that – and you could do it in Eclipse, either with an appropriate set of Immunities or by buying a lot of Luck and limiting it according to a narrow set of traits and by the cleverness of your narrative – but if you really want to use a different game system, it’s usually easiest to go ahead and do it.

The obvious way to do something like in Eclipse while keeping the basic d20 system is to buy Action Hero/Stunts (6 CP), Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/the user gets a limited set of personal traits which he or she may use to narrate the events that build up to his or her stunt, it takes 1d4 rounds to build up to a stunt, the stunt must simply augment an action the user is already capable of taking; it cannot allow the user to do something that does not fit their abilities.

If you’re going up in levels with the usual 13.5 encounters, you’ll be able to afford to use one of your stunts in every notable fight starting at level three (and in most of them before that). But what if you’re in a campaign that doesn’t go up in level much? Or perhaps not at all? Your Action Points will run out and you won’t be able to do cool stuff any more!

Well, you could just buy it again for a total of (12 CP) and double up your Action Point supply – but that won’t help with the static game. It also won’t help if you want minor stunts and bonuses to be a normal part of your play; If you want your “light feet” to give you a small advantage in a sword fight, at a formal dance, when crossing thin ice, and when trying to dodge a fireball, Action Hero/Stunts is not what you want; you want this stuff to come up all the time.

OK, I can build that. Buy Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/only to invoke various forms of the Narrative Manipulation spell (below), the traits which can be granted must be selected when this ability is purchased and are limited to four from each category (6 CP) and Improved Reflex Training/may reflexively invoke an appropriate Narrative Manipulation effects to assist other actions (12 CP).

OK, at 18 CP that’s moderately expensive – but you are buying small bonuses to a whole lot of rolls as well as the chance to pull off really cool moves with major bonuses every so often. It’s probably worth it, or at least it is if you’re good at describing things.

Narrative Manipulation (Various): Transmutation, Level: Bard 1, Components: V, S, Casting Time: Free Action (two per round maximum), Range: Touch, Target: One Willing Creature, Duration: One Minute.

Narrative Manipulation spells come in many variants, but all work in the same way; the target gains the ability to make use of an environmental feature, opponent weakness, or personal trait to gain an advantage before rolling for an action – although success depends on the attempt being sufficiently plausible, dramatic, and relevant. Each specific variant on this spell applies to a particular class of environmental features, opponent weakness, or personal trait, and may be used to seek an advantage a maximum of once every three rounds. No one individual may benefit from more than three Narrative Manipulation effects of each category at any one time or from more than three traits in any one round.

Mechanically, if the game master approves of the description (and repetitive descriptions are far less likely to be approved) the user gains either a +2 bonus on the action of a type dependent on the type of Narrative Manipulation spell used or one temporary character point. Regardless of how many spells or effects may be supplying them, a character may not accumulate more than twelve temporary character points at any one time at a maximum of three per round, and may expend them at any time to fuel a stunt. Unspent points vanish one minute after they’re acquired. Unfortunately, Narrative Manipulation only functions during dramatic sequences; you can’t meaningfully gain an advantage when you’re not being seriously challenged.

The stunt used may represent a dramatic recovery or it may augment an action that the user is already capable of; a Warrior might have gotten himself in position to strike at a vulnerable point and so inflict Double Damage versus his current target type, or the Master of Fire might scrape up the mystical energy for another Fireball – but the non-magical Warrior won’t be using Innate Spell to throw a Fireball, or the Master of Fire abruptly learn to smash mountains with his staff. Thus, the game master must approve of the stunt desired – although the player may propose other stunts in the place of rejected ones.

The major variants on Narrative Manipulation include:

  • Maneuvers – effects that allow the user to take advantage of the features of the scene to gain Circumstance bonuses. The major effects in this category include:
    • Characters: The user may exploit another characters presence or actions to gain an advantage. They might use an opening they create, hide behind them, or get a warning or advice from them.
    • Equipment: The user may employ some odd bit of personal gear to gain an advantage, perhaps using a smoke pellet, pulling out a secondary weapon for a surprise strike, or noting their freshly-sharpened blade.
    • Mobility: The user may describe how he or she is moving around the scene to gain an advantage – ducking around trees, circling an opponent, or performing acrobatic tricks. This does not actually change the user’s position; if he or she describes running up the dragon’s spine to strike at it’s neck, he or she will still wind up in a legally-reachable position at the end of his or her movement.
    • Scenery: The user may use furnishings, items, rocks, and other scene elements to gain an advantage – pulling down a tapestry on someone’s head, kicking a fallen urn under their feet, or swinging on a chandelier to gain a bonus on a Tumble check to cross an area safely.
    • Terrain: The user may take advantage of mud, dust, rocks, cliffs, vegetation, or other terrain features to gain an advantage, perhaps kicking sand into an opponents eyes, trying to trap them against a cliff, or getting their legs tangled in vines for a few instants.
  • Traits: The user gains a specific, limited, personal trait that they may sometimes use to obtain an advantage and a Luck Bonus. Unlike the other categories this is somewhat open-ended; the user might be “incredibly agile”, or “enduring”, be “easily misidentified”, have “sharp vision”, be a “clever planner”, be “vengeful”, or have any of many, many, other traits. The game master must approve of any given trait, and should make sure that they are relatively narrow.
  • Exploits take advantage of an opponents weaknesses – although you have to know about them to take advantage of them – to gain morale bonuses. The major effects in this category include:
    • Knowledge: The user may exploit an opponents ignorance of the situation or some fact, such as not knowing about the patch of vampire grass, or that their combat style is weak against sharp thrusts, or some similar item.
    • Physical: The user may exploit an opponents bad leg, loose armor straps, or other physical handicap to gain an advantage.
    • Psychological: The user may “push an opponents buttons”, use their fear of spiders, or exploit some other mental weakness to gain an advantage.
    • Sensory: The user may exploit an opponents bad eyes, limited view through the slit on a helm, use the noise of battle to drown out his approach, reflect light into the opponents eyes, or use some similar tactic to gain an advantage.
    • Social: The user may invoke authority, claim to have slept with an opponents husband or wife, or target insults against a known weakness. Angry and upset opponents make mistakes.

But wait! How is my character supposed to know about personal weaknesses? Well, scouting and research is probably the best way – but various skill checks may be able to turn up something on the spot. Sense Motive, Spot, Knowledge (whatever), and guesswork can all work. Is your opponent a snobbish noble? Taunts and insults may work wonders.

And now you too can think fast (trait), grab a handy chandelier and swing around (mobility or scenery) to attack your opponent’s blind side (sensory weakness) and gain a +6 to your attacks!

Exalted – The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice; Primordial Astrology

A horoscope calculated for January 1, 2000 at ...

With the restoration of the Mask, the Sidereals are once more properly visible to the Pattern Spiders – and thus once more fully a part of the great tapestry of creation, no longer protected (or victimized) by Arcane Fate. As a side benefit, with the Sidereals direct connection to the Loom and authority unobscured, a great many of the checks that the Pattern Spiders used to track and confirm Sidereal Astrology are no longer necessary – and the art has returned to it’s original power.

The Colleges:

A Sidereal may have ranks in in up to (Essence+2) colleges and may “spend” ranks to use a college’s Resplendencies (“endurance” equals ranks, paradox dice drain one rank per success). “Spent” Ranks are restored at the beginning of each month (or possibly by way of offerings and prayers to the Pattern Spiders). Characters with at least one innate rank in a college who routinely display at least three of its trappings gain one extra effective rank in that college. All colleges gain two additional Resplendencies:

Masque of Destiny, one Endurance, one Paradox Die per week. The user may gain a mundane identity (complete with acquaintances, paperwork, and so on) appropriate to the college and may manage all of that identities routine demands competently. The user gets +3 dice on rolls made to convince others of the validity of this identity. Those interacting with the user suffer a -3 internal penalty or -2 Defense Value (as appropriate) to disbelieve the identity. These effects fail against anyone else who is attuned to the same college.

Hand of Destiny, one Endurance per Bonus Die. The user may expend ranks in a College buying extra dice on an Astrology Success Check. A character needs to have at least one current rank in a college to produce astrological effects based on it, but need not buy extra dice with this resplendency to do so.

While Resplendencies still generally do not work against targets who are Outside of Fate or in areas where the Loom of Fate holds no sway, they are generally* NOT “Shaping Effects”; they function by manipulating how the strands of the Loom interact, and are entirely in accordance with the Laws of Creation. To a large extent, a college rank represents special attention from the Pattern Spiders of a particular constellation. While they may or may not be worth their experience point cost, it’s worth noting that the Pattern Spiders are perfectly capable of paying more attention to those they favor – potentially awarding college ranks beyond the user’s purchased ranks if the user pleases them, fixes causality problems smoothly, or simply offers up a lot of prayers and sacrifices. They are also capable of deciding to ignore the user – stripping away bonus ranks, or even reducing the user’s effective ranks below their base level for the duration of a story.

*Effects which target creatures that are Outside of Fate, such as the Arrows of Reason, ARE Shaping Effects, since they’re forcing Creation’s laws to apply to outsiders who have their own realities.

But what about Pattern Bite? How can I LIVE without an occasional bout of supernatural poison?

Well, OK; Optionally you CAN overspend ranks from your colleges. Each rank you don’t have, but spend anyway, gives you one point of Paradox. Otherwise this works normally.

With this revision Colleges are now considerably more useful; users don’t need to spend days creating a Resplendent Destiny – which counts against the number of astrological effects you can have on yourself at any one time – to power their effects.

Weaving Destinies:

Since the Pattern Spiders are now sure who everyone is, an astrologer can no longer simply spam destinies (unless the War Protocols are in effect – but Autochthon and the Maidens shut them down at the end of the Primordial War). Each astrologer is thus limited to a maximum of (Essence) destinies at any one time and no single individual may be affected by more than three destinies at a time. No prayer roll is necessary (or helpful); now that the Pattern Spiders can see who you are, a Sidereal Exaltations inherent link with the Loom of Fate suffices. Each active destiny an astrologer sustains will set a new essence-star – faint or brighter according to the user’s essence – burning in the heavens, allowing any other astrologer who can perceive the essence-stars of the Loom to attempt to read that influence.

An Active Astrology check requires three hours of effort. If a Sidereal is operating the Loom directly, he or she can use (Dexterity + Craft Fate). Those operating remotely may use either (Charisma + Performance) to persuade the Pattern Spiders to do most of the work or (Intelligence + Occult) to figure it out for themselves. Specialities, Excellencies, Will, and Channeled Virtues apply normally, but Stunting is ineffective; warping fate while trying impose structure on it does not work well. An astrologer may also obtain bonus dice by investing three days/seven days/months in planning and casting horoscopes for +1/+2/+3 dice or by getting the support of several/many/great numbers of relevant Gods and Exalts for +1/+2/+3 dice.

Success are spent buying the effect and the area/number of targets to be affected – although both are limited by the astrologers permanent essence. Effects cost a number of successes equal to the essence level at which they become available, the area to be affected costs one point less than that. Astrological effects continue as long as they are maintained. Unfortunately, the great Tapestry of Creation has an incredibly intricate web of connections – making it wise to reserve some successes to add a few details and guidelines as to how the desired effect comes about. In addition, directly affecting minor essence users costs +1 success, affecting major ones (Gods, Exalts, Etc) costs +2. Creatures which are resistant to Fate (Raksha) or bound to other loom-equivalents (the Calender of Setesh, Autochthon, Etc) cost +3 successes. Those which are entirely outside of fate cannot be directly affected at all.

It can take some time for a destiny to take full effect; if you wish to rush that, it’s best to include a few extra successes for that purpose. Attempting to directly and negatively affect an essence-user requires an essence-roll off, with the target winning ties. Most importantly, the effect of the Destiny the user creates must be related to the college used.

Ess Area Effects
1 Individual  Background-1, Destiny-2, Annoyances, Expedite Likely Events,
Access Basic Public Information, cause minor annoyances and
delays. Spread Rumors, Obtain a Spot for a Meeting, meet an
ordinary person, identify trends, obtain general supplies, arrange trivial coincidences, arrange an apprenticeship.
2 Household  Background-2, Destiny-3, access/replace minor records, cause
notable inconveniences, inspire minor actions, set up trivial
threats, induce minor attitude shifts, obtain a spot for a regular
meeting, meet with a specialist, obtain specialist supplies, arrange minor coincidences, get help with a minor project, start a fire, turn loose a human, encourage a marriage, get minor legal problems quietly dropped, suppress minor news, have the authorities keep an eye on something, get warnings of upcoming events.Alternatively, modify rolls in a given “specialty” related to the
college used by +/-1 to the tn or +/-2 dice, alter a virtue by +/-1 when used for rolls within the specialty, or roll to regain will as if awakening once per day when you succeed in something related to the specialty. Such modifiers do not stack.
3 Hamlet Destiny-4, access/replace major records, inspire or expedite
notable actions, cause serious delays, set up minor threats, arrange a secure spot for a regular meeting, meet with an expert, trace someone’s connections or finances, obtain rare supplies, arrange minor events, orchestrate good or bad reviews, arrange notable coincidences, schedule a “must-attend” event, get help with a notable project, arrange for fog, arrange for children for a couple, manipulate organizational procedures, turn loose trivial magical creatures, arrange for a competent bodyguard for someone.
4 Village Background-3, Destiny-5, stall an activity entirely, set up notable threats, induce major attitudes, meet with a grand master, awakened thaumaturge, or similar, start a small heresy or investigation, acquire questionable materials, plant a body, get widely quoted, arrange really unlikely coincidences, have relatives drop by, arrange a serious storm, turn loose minor magical creatures, get someone kidnapped, make major legal problems vanish, suppress major news, frame someone for a serious crime, get reasonably detailed warnings of upcoming events.
5 Town Inspire major actions and protests, set up serious threats, access ancient lore, get an organization founded, arrange promotions of demotions, acquire illegal items, arrange for the target to be restrained or released, instigate a research project, arrange extremely unlikely events, get help with a major project, demolish something, get someone deported, hide who controls something, spread misinformation so that many believe it, bind souls into the loom.Alternatively, modify rolls in a given “specialty” related to
the college used by +/-2 to the tn or +/-4 dice, alter a virtue by +/-2 when used for rolls within the specialty, or roll to regain will as if awakening twice per day when you succeed in something related to the specialty. Such modifiers do not stack.
6 City Background-4, arrange a mortal’s death, induce deep beliefs, set up major threats, cause someone to receive special orders, get covert operations performed, arrange fabulously unlikely events, start serious investigations, make someone a top public enemy, get detailed prophecies of mundane events, access very secure facilities.
7 Province Cause major disruptions and fights, gain access to arcanely
secured locations, obtain or destroy very famous mundane things, obtain grossly illegal items, arrange incredibly unlikely events, gain blackmail material on pretty much anyone, get help with a grandiose project, arbitrarily manipulate legal proceedings, make complex falsehoods into stuff that “everyone knows”, set up major threats.
8 Country Background-5, induce fanaticism, acquire grossly illegal items,
arrange astoundingly unlikely coincidences, have major gods drop by to visit, arrange laws or precedents for your personal benefit, add or delete notable things from creation, arrange major natural disasters, increase or decrease the level of chaos in regions of Rakshastan.
9 Continent Cause grandiose disruptions or conflicts, obtain utterly forbidden items, arrange unbelievable coincidences (he was hit by a falling star!), bind things into Creation, erase all memory and traces of an event, set up grandiose threats (unbind the Kukla, etc).Alternatively, modify rolls in a given “specialty” related to the college used by +/-3 to the TN OR +/-6 dice, alter a virtue by +/-3 when used for rolls within the specialty, or roll to regain will as if awakening three times per day when you succeed in something related to the specialty  Such modifiers do not stack.
10 Global Background-N/A, arrange strings of unbelievable coincidences,
arrange to move things in and out of creation, destine someone to gain great supernatural power (could become a god, dragon,
greater manse guardian, or even an Exalt if they’re suitable).

Backgrounds may be either added or neutralized, sometimes with greater or lesser ease – although they cannot exceed rank five even with modifiers until the astrologer is at Essence 10 and they cannot be reduced or enhanced. Eligible backgrounds include Allies, Artifact (if providing Raksha artifacts use Raksha totals; those are easy), Backing, Command (-1 level of effect to provide, +1 to suppress), Connections, Cult (+1 level of effect to provide, -1 level of effect to suppress), Destiny (exceptionally easy, has it’s own entry on the chart above), Familiar (+2 levels to provide unless upgraded versions are used, cannot be suppressed), Followers, Henchmen, Manse (-2 levels to provide unless only granting access, cannot be suppressed), Library, Mentor (-2 levels of effect when providing Exalted or Celestial Mentors, only mortal mentors can be suppressed), Resources (-1 level of effect to provide, +1 level of effect to suppress), Spies, and Patron (-1 level of effect when providing Exalted or Celestial Patrons, only mortal patrons may be suppressed). Ineligible backgrounds include Abyssal Command, Acquaintances, Arsenal (this may be suppressed, but arranging artifacts is hard enough), Breeding, Celestial Manse, Charms, Class, Esoteric Knowledge, Face, Familiar (Demonic or Autochthonian), Family, Eidolon, Esoteric Knowledge, Hearts Blood, Infamy, Infernal Manse, Influence (this may be suppressed), Inheritance, Liege, Past Life, Salary, Savant, Sifu (this may be suppressed), Solar Bond (although an existing bond can be temporarily strengthened), Taboo, Tattoo Artifact, Underworld Manse (eligible if working with the Calender of Setesh), Unwoven Coadjutor, and Whispers.

If a non-sidereal happens to have some Pattern Spider Allies, then he or she can take ranks in the relevant college or colleges, and use “Sidereal” astrology within those limits – although their rolls are at difficulty three instead of difficulty 1.

Optionally, an astrologer may opt to give up a permanent point of essence to make his or her current astrological destinies equally permanent – although their effect and scale is reduced to a maximum of (Original Essence/2). If you’re a high-essence Sidereal, and you really wish to bless the household of your most direct descendants forever or some such, go right ahead. This sort of thing usually only happens when someone is getting ready to die, but so what?

What about Censure you say? Well, Censure comes up when your fiddling around with Fate really upsets other Sidereals or the Celestial Bureaucracies. It’s wise to check on who you may be upsetting before working any large-scale effects or meddling with important people.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice – Exalted, the Modern Underworld

English: Artist's conception of the spiral str...

Yes, the Underworld is larger too…

Creation lay in darkness. Drawn by an ancient promise, the Sun had passed within the walls of Nachdenken-DammerungReflection on Falling Shadows – and night had fallen. With his power thus contained, other forces had shifted… Without the Unconquered Sun to define him, the Ebon Dragon had fallen into impotence*, even as the Scarlet Empress had been drawn into Malfeas. For long centuries the powers of the Yozis had broken against Creation’s imperishable reef of oaths like ocean waves dashing themselves against a mountain – but now a way was open; the Exalted Ruler of Creation had come willing into their service and possession.

*Note that mentioning this anywhere where the Ebon Dragon can find out about it is likely to result in your misery becoming one of his personal projects. These days, just to keep the peace, Orabilis watches for this information too.

As Creation’s ancient barriers fell, the powers of the Wyld, the Unshaped and the Hannya, had flooded in, unhindered by the Radiance of the Sun (and little hindered by the efforts of Creation’s Raksha) – for they too had been invited. They crossed into the Shadowlands of Creation – and, in the endless night, erupted into the Underworld, where there was little resistance. Even as the tide of Chaos lapped against the shores of the Blessed Isle in Creation, it reached Stygia and the Tombs of the Neverborn in the Underworld – and set them free, to be reborn in the fashion of the Wyld.

And Gaia had invoked the Reshaping, even as the Unconquered Sun in glory had risen from Nachdenken-Dammerung – and been reflected across the newborn cosmos as uncounted stars, shining upon a myriad worlds. The people and realms who had been swallowed up by chaos were drawn from the Wyld to become alien races and worlds as the remains of the Blessed Isle became the Earth. The surviving Fey – isolated from the Wyld by distances too great to comprehend and having already thrown their lot in with Creation – settled in isolated pockets of wyld energies and hidden wilderness. The Sidereal’s grasp on Earth was broken; the few survivors focused on maintaining the Loom of Fate and trying to rebuild their strength – attempting to locate and train the resurgent essences of their fallen comrades. The essence-stars of the Loom diverged from the actual, physical, stars. The few surviving Lunars – many stranded in the pocket-worlds left in the wake of the Great Shaping – were scattered so widely that it would require eons to gather once more. The Dragonblooded who survived were few, and widely separated. The carefully-arranged marriages and conserved bloodlines of power were no more – and so the Dragon-Blooded faded. Every so often the blood would flare up, and a mighty champion or two would arise – but they had little impact.

Oddly enough, while the Jade Prison fell at roughly the same point as the canon storyline, the number of Exaltations taken to become Abyssals and Infernals was considerably greater – closer to 150 Abyssals and 100 Infernals. Even more troublingly, the remaining Solar Exaltations did not start finding new hosts until relatively recently. Without many direct links to Earth however… most of the efforts of the new Abyssals and Infernals were scattered across distant galaxies.

In the Underworld, Stygia – and a few other locations, protected by immutability, powerful entities, or random quirks of the Wyld – endured, as did the empty tombs of the Neverborn, some portions of the Labyrinth, and the Void, the Memory of Oblivion. Creation once more cast its shadows into the darkness – but they were weak and feeble things, like shadows of the First Age had been, and were infused with the stuff of dream.

Today a myriad shadowy worlds orbit gently in the near-infinite darkness – many of them hosting few spirits and with little to disturb their peace. With the departure of the Neverborn, the Closing of Oblivion, and no access to the remains of the Labyrinth to gather the non-spiritual components of soulsteel, many of the Dark Worlds have never seen an Exalt or any major power – and remain little more than a quiet codicil to life, places where the spirits of the dead may linger until they make peace with themselves and slip gently into Lethe. With life scattered so thinly across the Cosmos… most galaxies host only a single Underworld-planet, orbiting gently around death-radiance of the underworld aspect of their central black holes. A ghost might try to cross the mighty voids between the shadow-worlds – but it would require centuries, they’d be leaving their Fetters unprotected, and they’d be risking encountering a Deathlord or Abyssal Raider. They are quite good at finding unprotected spirits within the void – and no spirit wants to fall into their hands.

Earth’s Underworld, however, is different… It’s no accident that many of the surviving bits of the Old Underworld – its center of power – were on it’s equivalent of The Blessed Isle; the power of the Elemental Pole of Earth brought stability and it was the last area where the onrushing tides of chaos reached. Even more importantly… they did not stay for long.

The remains of the Labyrinth, the Tombs of the Neverborn, Stygia, the Calender of Setesh, the Well of the Void… can all be found there, in cosmic terms a tiny spiritual step from Earth, even if it’s “physical” location is near the center of the Milky Way and the paths to it are wildly fanciful thanks to the influence of the Wyld.

The various routes from the Cosmos to the Underworld often correspond to the underworld myths of various local cultures. Whether they inspired those myths, or whether their wyld-infused essence has been shaped by them, may never be known.

Here too most of the few surviving original Deathlords – gathered around their source of Soulsteel and the remnants of past ages – endure and plot. While a few bits of the original Underworld – most notably the Well of Udr* – were somehow anchored to the Earth and remain within the solar system, Stygia still controls vast reserves of ancient artifacts and prehuman souls and (like the Earth) is far, FAR, more important than it’s mere “size” compared to the cosmos would dictate – even if most of the NEW Deathlords and younger Abyssals have no idea of that. The Silver Prince’s desire to claim the Earth is not as silly as most of the younger Abyssals assume; he is sitting on a treasure-trove and knows it.

*The Dowager of the Irreverent Vulgate long ago passed through the Well of Udr, and may yet be scheming wherever she wound up.

He’s also behind a current project centered on the Tombs of the Neverborn. A tomb showing the shape of a damaged part of the cosmos… is an Underworld-style conceptual domain of great power – and the framework for an Underworld-Kaiju Manse built Frankenstein-style of soulsteel and powerful ghosts that can bestow a variety of charms and abilities.

All of those Toho films about Alien Kaiju coming to take the earth and destroy all humanity – many starting from a “planet in close orbit about a black hole” – may indicate that the people of earth sense (somehow) that something is coming. Perhaps some day the Neverborn Kaiju Manses will erupt from the underworld to try to exterminate earthly life and use the leverage of controlling the elemental pole of earth and being at the true center of the cosmos to transform the universe into something appropriate to them. That effort will, of course, be opposed by the Humans, by THEIR Kaiju, and by their inhumanely tough, fast, and acrobatic super-martial-artists with incredible powers… (and the Raksha will cheer them on). Godzilla Final Wars may be less “entertainment” than “prophecy”.

The other Deathlords and Abyssals may not approve; while they don’t remember much about the Neverborn, they likely won’t want new ones. Who wants to be a slave when you can be master of your own destiny?

The player-characters will likely be annoyed. Just how distracted are they that Kaiju keep sneaking up on them? Skoll will not approve either; he must swallow the sun and use his power to grow to giant size and battle the Underworld Kaiju! The Neverborn must NOT be recreated!

The Silver Prince’s plans, however, have a major obstacle… With the Reshaping, Stygia has become a city-planet of the dead, the final refuge of the dead of fallen worlds, of those who die adrift in space, and of the massed souls of the Milky Way – (which is still far, FAR, more heavily populated than almost any other galaxy). There the dark Calender of Setesh controls the energies of the dying stars themselves and entropy and decadence run wild as at the very end of time.

Now that it burns with the final energies of fading stars, illuminated by the entropic radiance of dying stars falling eternally into the galactic black hole, Stygia is Stygian no longer, but bright with false life and coruscating with light – and thus bears a new name; Coruscant, which Lights the Darkness.

Here can be found its decadent nobility, shadowy understreets, and creepy mystics drawing on the energies of the Calender to create blazing weapons of celestial fire. Here too are rare attacks by secretive, ancient, ghosts with great powers – the “righteous dead”, who try to get the spirits to accept death and pass on through Lethe properly – instead of deluding themselves with the false life and gaity of the Light of Coruscant! They are loathed and hated, hunted down across the Galaxy – and yet, when the Deathlords come, they always wind up in the vanguard.

Coruscant is ruled by a triad – the Dual Monarchs and the Emperor, a figure who arose when the Tides of Chaos swept into Stygia – and held back the Tide as none other could, shaping the wyld energies to transform Stygia into a fair simulation of a living world defended by the Fires of Stars. A great master of Artifice, the Emperor also worked with the Dual Monarchs to adjust the great Calender of Setesh to maintain Coruscant – and so rose naturally enough to share the rulership of the world that he had just preserved. His identity of the Emperor remains a mystery however; across thirty thousand years he has never been seen without his mask of ice.

Yes, Coruscant has a council that supposedly advises the Triad – but now that there are tens of thousands of district representatives, each insisting on speaking on everything, it virtually never accomplishes anything. (Well, they DID once manage a ceremonial vote recognizing a debt of gratitude to the Emperor – but that was the first and last effective vote they took after the expansion). Currently the Council serves as a place to channel people that the Emperor or the Dual Monarchs want to reward, but not to place in positions where they can challenge them.

There is, of course, one gate, a dark mirror of the Axis Mundi. Oblivion proper is gone; after all it was merely an inverted reflection of the torment of the neverborn – trapped in moments of annihilation and unable to re-imagine themselves in the absence of the Wyld. Still, a certain… gap… in existence still remains – and the paths through it are perilous in the extreme, but can lead to many other shattered reflections of the void scattered across the worlds in the reshaping. There too, can be seen the momentary presence of starships leaping through the darkness driven by the dark charms of the Abyssal Exalts and their spawn. It should be no surprise that the Emperor and the Dual Monarchs carefully monitor and guard the Pit of the Void. It is, after all, a vital strategic point and a point from which he might meddle with – or launch his vast legions against – any portion of the Underworld as well as allowing him to meddle with the current travel charms of the Abyssal Exalts.

Oddly enough, the Emperor intervened in WWII against the Silver Prince; no one is entirely sure why. Perhaps it was to prevent him from completing the Underworld Kaiju, since he has anonymously passed on a tips about that project to a few Chosen of Endings, to Lunars who deal with the Underworld, and even to an Infernal or two (the Yozis’ Neverborn allies may not exist as they did any more, but they aren’t happy about their siblings’ remains being used in that manner).

Somewhere in the universe the First and Forsaken Lion is still hanging on to existence just to show these upstart Abyssals who are now calling themselves Deathlords who the real conqueror is. Other than that… Deathlordhood is an elder Abyssal’s game these days.

A Game Concept: Feedback Requested

And a guest post from Editorial-0…

I’ve been considering a game design that reversed the normal method of character design and though it would be interesting to raise the issue and see what people though about it.

In general, games feature two broad ideals around character creation. First, many older games used quickly-defined characters with few distinct differences. For example, think early Dungeons and Dragons, where one character of a given class was extremely similar to any other member of that class. One Fighter was the same as any other, with the only mechanical differences being racial or attribute bonuses. Even those were often minor or irrelevant. The upside, of course, was that character creation was simple and you had a very clear role.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have character-focused games which offer a heap of customization. Think Shadowrun, where you could easily have an entire party with the same basic concept, but with every character having distinctly different attributes, cyberware or spells, skillsets, contacts, advantages and disadvantages, and so on. In short, personalization was a key feature. The downside is that you have to make numerous, complex choices from the start. And from then on could be locked into a single effective path, or perhaps you needed many sourcebooks to do what you wanted.

A concept I’ve been kicking around is to invert the pattern. In short, you’d pick a basic archetype at character creation – maybe not even that. Over time, you could buy more powers and special abilities and so forth. Further, as your character advanced you had the option of taking disadvantages. These naturally netted you extra points for cool stuff you wanted, but required increasing high levels of play to develop. Hence if you wanted to become a super-skilled combatant with the preternatural ability to dodge attacks, you had to save points or wait until a nasty flaw came available. Perhaps that Vow of Meditation was just what you needed. Villains, naturally, got access to very effective flaws, such as “Kills Own Minions For Fun” or “Takes Heroes Alive So They Can Be Placed in Deathtraps”.

Of course, the more flaws you take, the more vulnerable you become. People who know your weaknesses can and will exploit them. Hence characters who don’t take flaws, or take few of them, can act more freely. In either case, my preference would be to have moderately low soft caps on mechanical bonuses. In this case, most characters could be expected to reach the same significant milestones of health, damage-dealing, and so forth in a reasonably similar point in their careers. The reason is straightforward: huge gaps in power do make life hard for many GM’s and particularly inexperienced ones. Plus, it’s hard to argue that a moderate increase in flexibility is worth losing superhuman toughness or amazing magical power or whatever.

Overall, my preference would also be for a kind of system which allowed lots of specialized, custom attacks and powers, but which didn’t limit themes, effects, or tie layers to pre-generated combinations of abilities. Hence the emphasis would be on pushing players to build a combination of varied tools for different situations.

In this, I’d say it comes out looking a bit like Champions at the high end, but with a flavor more like Star Wars or Exalted, where the high-powered characters often have lots of penalties and restrictions that weaken them in ways for less powerful (but far freer) player characters to exploit. Every ability has strengths and weaknesses and the customizations on top of them (perhaps limited to a selection by your personal theme or whatever) defines what makes them *yours*.

In any case, I’m curious what people might think of the idea. Feel free to post responses or counter-suggestions, or tell me I’m an idiot.

Skills of the Eclipse – Legendarium, Gadgetry, and Glowstone Alchemy

Excalibur

Not exactly the kind of legend I had in mind, but OK!

Occult Skills aren’t necessarily magical; they’re simply “hidden” – in that they don’t appear on the skill list for a given setting and aren’t normally available in it. That doesn’t mean that a character can’t have most of them – this IS Eclipse after all – it just means that they have to pay a few extra character points for the privilege. Some of the Occult Skills that have turned up so far in our games include…

Legendarium (Charisma, No Unskilled Use, Restricted, Base Skill Only*).

You may tap into the power of myths and legends through items and places tied to their prior embodiments or you may seek to build your own legend. This works like a magical item with a value of up to (Base Legendarium Skill) squared x 300 GP. Unfortunately, the powers of such an item must fit into the legend in question (Excalibur may bring victory in battle, and grant powers of rulership – but it doesn’t cure plagues or let you breathe underwater), they are needlessly conspicuous and easily identified, they are sought (by would-be users for items, by rivals or enemies otherwise), and the powers must be activated by deeds and quests appropriate to the legend being tapped – and such deeds and quests inevitably get tougher and tougher as you go.

  • If you are using an item, each +3 skill points or equivalent requires a new deed to activate. Thus a simple masterwork blade might become +1 when wielded in battle in defense of the innocent at Legendarium 3 (Up to 2700 GP value) and increase to +2 at Legendarium 5 – but activating the next set of powers (the rank 6-8 range) will require another deed, and a greater one. If you discard, pass on, or lost the item, you may apply your Legendarium skill elsewhere – but you’ll need new deeds to reactivate it. If your item is destroyed, it can always be recreated or reforged or some such – although this will require some trouble and an extra deed.
  • If you are being hailed as the reincarnation, heir, or return of some legendary figure, you can split up the power between multiple items and/or personal powers – but they all have to relate to the legend and personal powers must be slot-free. Worse, a deed is required every +2 skill points. The only way to “discard” this application (and free up your Legendarium to use elsewhere), is to retire from the role appropriately – sailing away into the unknown with a promise to return someday, dying heroically, or otherwise bringing the legend to an appropriate conclusion.
  • If you are building your own legend you’ll have a lot more input on the powers you can gain – after all, your theme is up to you – but you will require a new deed with every skill point – and discarding your own legend is close to impossible; you’d probably have to move to a different dimension, use epic magic to make everyone forget you, or raise up a replacement to step into your tale in your place. Like it or not, creating your own private mythology from scratch is quite a project.

If you are using the Item or Reincarnation approach and you exceed the limits of the original tale, you may expand upon it, although this will – once again – require one deed per additional skill point. For good or ill, however, the tale is still something that your associated with rather than being entirely yours and can still be discarded as usual.

Legendarium basically allows a character to turn in skill points for extra magic – although the “Deeds” requirement keeps this nicely under control and, as a bonus, gives the character a series of special goals to accomplish. Secondarily, it allows an item to remain important throughout a character’s career – turning the sword of a heroic ancestor into something that a character can inherit when first starting out, spend years living up to, use as a primary weapon from level one to level whatever, and eventually make their own as their legend exceeds that of their famous ancestor.

It also, of course, replaces the entire “Weapons of Legacy” book, but that’s another matter. 

*“Base Skill” turns up in a number of magical skills one way or another; it simply refers to the characters permanent score – (Skill Ranks + Attribute Modifier + Effects of Permanently-Active Feats or Racial Abilities). Occult bonuses often simply do not work well with occult skills; they tend to interfere instead.

Gadgetry is a common skill in the dimension-hopping Federation-Apocalypse setting, where the laws of nature say that – in the ninety-five percent or more of the game that doesn’t take place in the Core Worlds – the characters beliefs and expectations shape reality. It represents the user’s ability to keep some personal items working that shouldn’t work in the current dimension. After all, it doesn’t matter if your gun is currently a magic wand, a microlaser, a mystic word of power as long as it’s game statistics are basically the same. In narrower settings, Gadgetry can also be used to represent a collection of minor items that the user may have along without explanation or expense (and possibly may not be considered an “Occult Skill” at all). In either case, in mechanical terms it’s simple;

Gadgetry (Charisma for Reality-Shifting version/Dexterity for Tinkerers, No Unskilled Use, Restricted). Characters using the Reality-Shifting version who actually possess Reality Editing get a +4 synergy bonus on their Gadgetry skill score. Tinkerers may gain synergy bonuses from up to two relevant craft, knowledge, or professional skills – such as chemistry, craft/alchemy, or engineering. Each point of the “Gadgetry” skill may be assigned to a particular item, with more powerful or complex devices requiring more points. The Reality-Shifting version of the skill will keep those devices operating normally despite changes in natural law. The Tinkerer version allows the user to simply carry such devices without worrying about where they come from, practicality, or the details of how they work. It can also be rolled when the user wishes to improvise some minor repair or wants to make a quick stab at using some device. Thus a Tinkerer with Gadgetry-9 might carry Smoke Pellets (1), a Sleeve-Mounted Grapnel Launcher and Rewinder (2), a Gas Mask (1), some Poison Cloud Grenades (3 – for the poison, the storage, and the release mechanism), and a Folding Sword (2, for sheer impracticality). A Reality Shifter with Gadgetry-9 might be carrying a Flaming Sword (whether that’s currently being a lightsaber, a magical mass of magma, or a crystal that focuses mental energy into a pyrokinetic blade, 1), an Adjustable Plasma Pistol (2), a Wand of Healing (with the same game statistics regardless of whether it’s currently a wand, a bag full of herbs, or a box of medical-nanite injectors, 2), a long-term Light (whether it’s currently an inextinguishable torch, a fusion-cell powered flashlight, or a perpetual glowstick, 1), and a set of futuristic Smartclothes (providing a wide variety of useful functions, whether as a magical amulet, smartfiber cloth, or a covering of metamorphic psychic metal, 3).

You can boost Gadgetry in all the usual ways, but short-term boosts aren’t especially helpful most of the time. Long term boosts are useful to Tinkerers, but are less useful to Reality Shifters, who must usually allot part of the boosters effect to maintaining the booster.

Glowstone Alchemy is the art of working with (and surviving working with) Glowstone – an immensely powerful and toxic mineral normally found only in a particular campaign setting. Glowstone Alchemy is a fairly common skill there – but it’s an Occult Skill in most other places, where Glowstone is vanishingly rare or must be (somehow) artificially produced. There are articles up on the Basics of Glowstone Alchemy (including glowstone tolerance and poisoning) and on Glowstone Items. Buy it as Craft (Glowstone) – but it cannot be used unskilled, just as Craft/Nuclear Devices cannot be used unskilled.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXXVI – Ragnarok and Roll

  • Charles I of England

    Can’t ANYONE find the RIGHT Charles?

    For Skoll, the Vitality of Mortals had Sufficed – Eventually.

  • Timeless Metal Stretched Ancient Limbs, Rising from a Tomb of Dust and Shadows.
  • Time Had Passed. From the Decay… Thousands of Years.
  • The Sky… Held Vast Depths.
  • Creation Had Grown.
  • No Matter. The Purpose Remained Unfulfilled.
  • Orientation… Primary Networks… Not Found. Secondary Networks… Not Found.
  • Scanning…
  • Primitive Network Located… Access Decrypted… Accessing… System Very Limited… Alert! Target Available in “Empirical Galaxy”… Astronomy Files… Loading… Distance Estimates… Maximum Range… Mountain-leaping Method… Inadequate… Inadequate…
  • Intergalactic Transport Options… Known Transport Artifacts… Inadequate… Gates… Limited… Raksha Wyld Gates… Possible… Searching Alternatives… Email?… Elementary Communications Protocol… Intergalactic Survey Trip?… Invitation… Accessing… Overwrite… Requesting Pickup for Trip… Coordinates… Accessed, Transmitted…
  • Awaiting Pickup!

In Tarvail, an Avatar of the Unconquered Sun – generated by what attention he was willing to spare from the Games – was running off some bothersome Raksha. It was, after all, his ancient duty.

Later…

Aikiko’s attempt to track those strange footprints went well for a few miles… and then stopped at a hilltop, where something had landed and then taken off again. Ugh! And her without any serious super-tracking charms! The thaumaturgy she’d been using simply as not up to helping track things through the air…

Still, it could enhance her essence sight enough to look for subtle traces.

As it turned out, they were not so subtle. The Automaton was generating quite a LOT of raw power – and whatever had picked it up had been powerful too! A high-essence living construct – some sort of ship – with… Adenic Essence.

Oh dear! That pretty much said “something Charles made” in big neon letters. As obliging as Charles’s creations were… had it simply thumbed a ride? Time to call and ask!

(Aikiko) “Hey Charles! I need to know… have you made any living ships lately, or dispatched any to Earth?”

(Charles, on a connection that sounded a little distorted somehow) “Oh hello Aikiko! This is cool!”

He started sending her… closeup images of blazing nebulae, and galaxies, and so on – some with photoshopped images of giant cosmic cats playing with them.

(Aikiko) “DUDE! Awesome!”

She promptly uploaded some of those to the Internet just to watch the ensuing debates over Photoshopping!

(Aikiko) “Hey, Charles, did you send any of those living starship thingies you have flying around to Earth recently-like?”

(Charles) “Not since a few days ago! I took along some scientists to let them look at stuff!”

(Aikiko) “Nothing other than that, though?”

(Charles) “Sorry about the distortion there… Well, I sent some invitations for them to come on the trip!”

(Aikiko,) “Did you send any to Kyrgyzstan?”

(Charles) “Uhrm… (Checked) Yeah! An elderly english astronomer responded to his invitation with a request to be picked up there!”

(Aikiko) “Gah!!!”

And she explained.

(Charles, checking) “Oh dear! And… he never did show up… I thought that he just stopped to have a drink or something!”

(Aikiko) “Do you have a name or anything? I’ll divine for him!”

If he wasn’t a ghost or zombie right now, he was in big big trouble anyway…

Well maybe not! He was… having dinner at a pub in England.

Later on he would be mad as hell that someone swiped his invitation though!

(Charles) “Oh! Well THAT’S good… so who was it that got picked up? You said it was some sort of elder automaton or something?

(Aikiko) “Yeah! Some Deathlord built it to trick the Unconquered Sun!”

(Charles) “Oh dear! And now it’s aboard… Of course it would have perfect stealth…”

(Aikiko) “Even YOU can’t see it?”

(Charles) “Well… Stealth counts as a defense against detection, and Creation was constructed with quite a lot of safety features! That’s why Creation’s rules say that defense takes priority. Until it runs out of power and drops it… only physical detection and whatever flaw the system has will work! I can run a lot of scans and hope that one of them IS it’s weakness, but that’s scan-and-hope… Why would it want to come on this trip though?”

It clicked for Aikiko.

(Aikiko) “Charles… the Sun might be in Creation!”

(Charles) “Oh cool! I was worried that most of them NEVER came out any more! Oh wait! If he’s in the Empyrical Galaxy… it’s not actually very large! That would mean that the automaton might be able to catch up to him though… Still, he could handle an automation couldn’t he?”

(Aikiko) “Well, he melted it the first time… but from my investigations, it felt pretty close.”

(Charles) “Huh! And if it knows that… Could it be adaptive or something? It might just be very determined though, constructs often are!”

(Aikiko) “I hope not!”

(Charles) “Well, I’m running scans… but the only other thing I could do to find it… would be to stop and wait for it to come out, and I don’t want to bet that I have more time available than a construct that’s more than thirty thousand years old does!”

(Aikiko) “I’ve got an idea! What if I pretended to be the Sun and came up there?”

(Charles) “Urk… But you might get hurt! From what you said… it nearly managed the trick the last time around!”

(Aikiko) “We can’t let it get to him, can we? And if it’s lasted for thirty-thousand years, I’m pretty sure a bit of space travel at the speeds you’re probably going at won’t be much rougher on it than that!”

(Charles) “Well… I could gate you through! That would get rid of the distortion too… There are some annoying relativistic effects leaking through the interface there!”

(Aikiko) “OK, thanks!”

Charles did so – and Aikiko made the best illusion of the Sun that she could and headed on through. There was more than enough about him on Yu-Shans network and in its art to give her something to work with. Her Coatl helped.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Adenic Thaumaturgy had not existed at the time Skoll was built and it wasn’t prepared for it. Almost surely unfortunately, it had been standing on the bridge – and had heard all but the first few phrases of Charles’s side of the conversation. After a VERY poor deduction roll… it concluded that the boy might well be talking with the Sun himself! Who else would have that information?

And then the “Unconquered Sun” had stepped through onto the ship’s bridge!

TARGET ACQUIRED!

The initial blasts, impressive as they were… were intended simply to divert attention from the dimensional butterfly net, as Skoll generated a pocket-dimension designed to absorb solar essence and feed it to him around the entire area. It was a variation on the manse-gate technique, and operated entirely under creations laws… Had the Sun actually FORGOTTEN?

Charles and the Tsunami fought frantically for control, bending occult forces with unseemly haste. The bridge of a ship that was already phased between Creation’s dual metrics was NOT the best place to open a pocket-dimension portal-trap!

Aikiko easily evaded the massive barrage of blasts – but her perfect dodge didn’t keep the area around her from being disconnected from the rest of reality and reconnected to a pocket realm. That… wasn’t affecting HER in the slightest.

Blast it! Was that what the Sun had responded so badly to? Things that blotted out the entire universe except for the bit right around her – or as good as! – were WAY above her grade! Unless she or the Coatl could Thaumaturgy her way out somehow… And that left poor Charles face-to-face with a cosmic war machine.

And if something happened to HIM… they’d ALL be stranded between galaxies with the Earth trillions of light years away!

(Skoll) “Not Sun! Solar… Youthful… Underpowered! Secondary Entities… Amalgams… Minor…

(Coatl) “Er… we can send messages out, but we can’t make gates anyway…

`Charles, meanwhile, had a Sun-Swallowing Automaton on his bridge… It was a good thing that he didn’t register as a Solar! The supremacy of defense cut – or perhaps failed to cut – both ways.

(Aikiko) “Hey, Charles, I found out how it trapped the Sun – and I’m kind of stuck.”

Oh, if only she could supernova like the Sun had! That must have been enough to overload it’s absorption – even if the Automaton HAD almost contained it!

(Charles) “Erg… it’s on my bridge too… Now I know how Captain Kirk kept feeling!”

(Skoll) “You… Captain? I am now in command. New Mission; locate and contain Sun-Avatar!”

(Aikiko) “Uh… I wouldn’t provoke Charles if I were you! If he thinks you’re a threat to life, the consequences won’t be very pleasant for you!”

She started probing for weaknesses… According to Charles EVERYTHING had it’s flaw if you could only find it… Damn this thing was polished though!

(Skoll) “Pleasant? Sun must be contained, then channeled!”

(Aikiko, with some surprise – the thing was willing to talk? To her even after it had captured her?) “How?”

(Skoll) “Chaos must reach deep into the universes foundations! This is necessary!”

(Charles) “Urm… Does that actually involve any change in course? Any direction we go is towards that area after all…”

(Skoll) “Course acceptable. Minimize sightseeing! Accelerate!”

(Aikiko, privately) “Wait a minute… Charles, are you going to LET it reach the Sun?”

(Charles, privately) “Well, it will take a month to get there even at maximum speed… so there’s no need to fight QUITE yet! And you’re inside, and so you might get hurt…. Besides; Gothmug says the thing is indestructible from the outside! That will make for awkward fighting!”

It was going to be a PAIN waiting that long! Oh well. At least she had entertainment supplies.

Oh, wait; he probably just meant that an hour or two of discussion and analysis first might help.

(Aikiko) “Can you at least let me out, since I’m not your target?”

(Skoll) “Tapping Occupant Linguistics And Preferences… Your power is quite minimal for a solar but is still potentially useful! Adjusting internal environment!”

The rather bland containment area… opened up to form a rather pleasant small palace, complete with gardens, a skate park, a swimming pool, supplies of food and drink, and various other facilities.

(Coatl) “Well… I’ve got to admit, for a prison… this is pretty obliging!

(Aikiko) “Uh… so, just how were you going to use the Sun to channel Chaos?”

(Skoll) “He must be prevented from interfering with the spread of chaos into the necrotic regions. Once those are transformed, his power must be used to re-establish order. He is over-virtuous, and will not consent to the destruction of ninety to ninety-five percent of the then-cosmos or to all but an infinitesimal percentage now. He… must be harnessed.”

(Aikiko) “Yeah, but being over-virtuous is kind of what he does. Even if you did manage to capture him for good, he’d resist that plan with every mote of his being.”

(Skoll) “In containment, where his power may be absorbed and channeled, that will not matter. Adjustments have been made. Overload-shunts are now in place. The universe will be transformed.”

(Aikiko) “What kind of adjustments?”

(Skoll, after a pause) “Overload Shunts to handle Solar Nova Flare and Daystar links.”

Well, so much for the idea of flaring her anima at the moment!

(Aikiko) “Where are these shunts?”

(Skoll) “Information classified.”

Ah, of course. Well, it had been worth a try! Was he linked to one of these “shunts”, or were they some sort of device? Probably something internal; it WAS an automaton… even if it’s goals sounded rather… odd! That Deathlord must have been up to something STRANGE. What would a Deathlord need a Raksha invasion for? Even if he or she had obviously planned to backstab the Raksha later too? One of the ones who wanted to rule?

But how would the destruction of most of the universe help rule it?

Wanting to leave just the Shadowlands? Or rebuild it as ALL Shadowlands? But then why spread Chaos into the Necrotic Regions at all? To harness Necrotic Wyld Magic? Had he wanted to infect and destroy the Wyld? But it was infinite, even if the Underworld was generally poison to the Raksha…

Wait. Chaos HAD gotten into the Underworld, and had reached… the tombs of the Neverborn. And they’d… recreated themselves in the Wyld, and departed.

Had the Deathlord been intending to CURE them?

Suddenly Aikiko felt a little dizzy. That would… get the Neverborn off his back and fulfill his duty to them, eliminate his enemies in Creation, reshape the Underworld under his command, steal the power of the Sun, imprison the Sun (who had turned his back on him), backstab those annoying Raksha, wreck Fate and show up the Sidereals, wreck creation and show up the Lunars, put most of Yu-Shan out of work, and thumb his nose at the Maidens, all at once. What would he have done next? A Deathlord with the power of the Sun and no ties to the Neverborn could become any number of things. Would he have taken Yu-Shan next, since the gods would likely be in disarray? Used the Golem as a physical body to pool his power with the Sun’s? Something she couldn’t even imagine? “Go ahead! Keep all your virtues umblemished; I’m the one using your power against your will and I will use it efficiently!”

That might actually resolve some issues. After all, the Sun couldn’t help it that his powers were keyed to maintaining his virtues.

Still… THAT was a PLOT. Megalomaniacal, grandiose, and utterly brilliant – it even avoided that “resonance” stuff – and he had nearly pulled it off! If his golem had only managed to contain the Godspear, it would have been virtually perfect! If he or she was still around… she might actually have to talk to him or her! He might know a way of punching the Wyld… or consider that incredibly stupid, but have some way to adapt his methods to punching it.

A clever artificer given to schemes. He (might as well think of “him” as “he” for the moment) might well still be around; after all, he was obviously prepared for the Wyld to engulf the Neverborn – unlike most of the other Deathlords.

(Aikiko) “So, who made you? They’re clever, at least!”

(Skoll) “Creator identified himself as “The Mask of Winters”.

Huh… hadn’t he been pretty scary and YOUNG for a Deathlord? Could she really discuss things with him? Well, she’d have to think about it, at least! On the other hand… at least half it’s purpose was now redundant. Would pointing that out do any good?

(Aikiko) “Look, just to let you know… the Wyld tides have already come in! Hey, Charles! Can I show it that ‘Power of 10’ video?”

(Charles, making it available) “Sure!”

(Skoll, after absorbing the data) “This does not determine the status of the Neverborn; merely that the universe has expanded substantially!”

(Aikiko) “Oh, they’re dead too! Uh… Charles, do we have any evidence of that?”

She normally wouldn’t ask if he had it – but that wasn’t the kind of lore he’d seem likely to spend a lot of time on.

(Charles) “Uhm…. Well, it’s in the histories… I’ve never actually been to look! Wait, don’t your martial arts folk know? I have a gate to the underworld!”

Well, there had to be one wandering around somewhere! She got into touch. It took a couple of days – but there was no tremendous rush outside of the irritation!

The priests were willing to come and talk for a bit.

(Skoll) “So the neverborn have recreated themselves and their prior souls are being recreated through humanity. That is… strange. This must be confirmed. Priority change; I will allow sensory and power access. I will require a gate to such of the Underworld as remains. Presence or absence of the Neverborn will be observed.”

Aikiko… abruptly seemed to be standing on Charles’s bridge again – “seemed” being the operative word.

(Skoll) “We must now proceed to the underworld!”

(Aikiko) “I guess we can open a gate for you…”

(Skoll) “My functions are not optimized for use in the Underworld; I shall protect you while you employ your abilities to investigate. This will also be of use to you; analysis suggests that confirming the status of the Neverborn is probably of interest to you as well.”

(Aikiko) “Yep!”

(Charles, privately) “Uh, Aikiko… do you want to trust this thing that far? I haven’t been to the underworld, but the books say that it isn’t very nice!”

(Aikiko, privately) “Good point! I wouldn’t be able to regenerate my Essence there as a living creature.”

(Aikiko) “I won’t be able to regenerate my Essence there, you know… you could wear me down, do all sorts of bad things to me once I am, and drag me off to your master to have HIM do all sorts of bad things to me!”

Although the thought of being turned to a Abyssal did make her wonder what her title would be… it certainly wasn’t worth risking finding out though!

(Aikiko) “Are you sure you can’t just look on your own?”

(Skoll) “My options for dealing with Wraiths are limited. You need not be concerned; the pocket dimension you currently occupy will sustain your needs – and I detect that you posses uninterruptible external links to fuel your abilities in any case. If a solar capture turns out to be unnecessary… I will have no further reason to keep you. New mission priorities will be in order.”

That wasn’t entirely ‘s reassuring, knowing that Solar capture might still be on the table… or so that statement seemed to suggest. Still, it WAS an automaton. If it’s mission was over… it was off to find a new mission or fall back on some secondary directive.”

Why wouldn’t it be able to deal with Wraiths though? They were as solid as anything else in the Underworld. Maybe it couldn’t deal with Arcanoi effectively? No anti-wraith weapons and some inhibitions?

Oh! Deathlords were basically Wraiths. Powerful ones, but Wraiths nonetheless. Of course a Deathlord wouldn’t give something anti-wraith stuff. It was self-preservation.

Aikiko had some reservations – what if some necromancer happened by and started messing around with Charles’ gate? Still… it WAS a decent chance explore the underworld and to do it with some boosts (in a weird fashion).

The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CXXXV – Looming Shadows

English: NRC Image of Modern Steam Driven Turb...

I don’t care WHAT the instruments say! IT CANNOT POSSIBLY BE DOING THAT! 

Across the world, electrical plant engineers were finding that the average demand on their generating systems had abruptly dropped to almost nothing; all they had to do was cope with the short-term variations. Whatever was supplying the bulk of the power evidently only adjusted to the load slowly – but the power from that mysterious source (if there WAS a source!) seemed to simply… appear… in the generating systems from nowhere at all, in blatant, impossible, violation of well-established physical laws. Where was the energy COMING from?!?!

While the distribution grids, and a certain amount of fuel, were still needed, the ripple effects of not-quite-free power soon hit other industries. While many flourished with the drastic drop in operating costs, producers of coal, oil, natural gas, and other fuels suddenly found the demand dropping drastically, leading many miners and engineers to speculate on finding some other field to get into (or perhaps some other place; if one impossibility was happening around the world… maybe those impossible “advertisements” had something to them).

Frantic research into confirmable cases of “energy from nowhere” did turn up one current, and well-documented, instance; a series of structures had recently appeared in the Sahara – and then in some of the other other desert areas. Those structures… offered all kinds of conveniences, and hummed with power, despite that power having no apparent source. They somehow supplied and purified vast quantities of water, despite there being no apparent method for them to do so. They were ALSO blatantly impossible. Much of that had been being dismissed as some sort of scheme, fraud, or misinterpretation of the data – but then one “Elzeard” had given a presentation, provided advance details on where additional structures would appear – and had NOT looked for money. “Elzeard” had referred questions about the power source and technology behind those structures to one “Charles Dexter Ward” – a youngster in the United States, operating near Atlanta, and one who had recently been involved in the reappearance of a long-extinct species in a “lab accident”. Even without the later, bizarre, reports of his involvement with the EPA and some astronomers, that alone said that the youngster was meddling with radically new technologies.

For those with the internet access and logical skills to see… it was definitely looking like a pattern! Serious queries (and not a few protesters) were soon heading his way.

Elsewhere there had been attempts to trace back who’d been placing those “planet-opening” ads; even if they were a gag someone was putting fabulous amounts of money behind them – and if they were serious, someone was putting fabulous amounts of SOMETHING behind them.

That had led to a lot of new accounts, mostly opened by direct delivery of precious metals and various commodities. Those accounts… were also pouring funding a variety of relief efforts, child education and welfare, and… producing pioneering supplies. Was all of that part of getting ready? It had certainly lent some credibility to the notion that the ads were for real.

Quite a lot of groups hadn’t been taking those advertisements at ALL seriously before. When they combined them with certain ongoing discussions between various astronomers… it made a rather distinct pattern – one that, once again, painted a bull’s-eye around Charles Dexter Ward.

Charles was simply nowhere near as good at hiding things as he thought he was; being up to a dozen projects at once did confuse the “what is he up to?” crowd very nicely, being as random as a pinball held off the “what will he do next” bunch readily enough, and his eccentric methods worked pretty well at confusing people about how he was doing things and what he was – but the public projects themselves weren’t protected by all his smokescreens – and he really didn’t have anything else. What good would they be? Once people started to ask the right questions he pretty much would not lie to them.

Meanwhile, Gothmug was considering… it was obvious enough that the Raksha around the fringes of the Solar System monitored the earth far more closely – and were trading a LOT more with their earthly relatives – than the earthly Raksha generally let on. That wasn’t unexpected given that Earth was one of the prime sources of human beings in the cosmos – but evidently the trans-plutonian Raksha didn’t think it was worthwhile to make even a token effort to hide it. That alone pretty much said that Earth was probably at the center of a web of wyld gates that might well reach all the way to the True Wyld itself… after all, hadn’t one of Charles’s Raksha friends said that he “hadn’t been out that far in quite a while”? That COULD have been the usual Raksha disregard for time and precision – but it might also mean that he simply hadn’t gone out that far for a decade or two.

If it wasn’t for the fact that most of the current Raksha had thrown their lot in with Creation, a new fey invasion might advance unexpectedly quickly! After all, the Raksha probably made sense out of Creations dual metrics rather more easily than most gods, humans, or Exalts did.

It was probably a good thing that wyld pockets tended to be outside of fate anyway, and so were essentially self-repairing when it came to fate errors. If the Sidereals had been messing with them… the universe might have come entirely unglued long ago. Still, as it was, their somewhat indeterminate locations and isolation from Fate certainly made them good hiding places.

Surely they manifested in Malfeas occasionally? Did the Yozi’s just remove them? That would be rather short-sighted of them of course – Wyld energies were good for so MANY things, and access to them might lead to a way to heal themselves or escape – but it might be one of the terms of their surrender. Removing themselves from the Wyld hadn’t really been one of their best ideas; it had left them vulnerable to many things! Had it originally been meant to be strictly temporary to avoid distractions while they worked? Thus the toxicity to the fey yet openness to the Wyld? That would make “house of the Primordials” a more literal description than most would suspect – merely a place to get in out of the wyld “weather” – and then the upstart kids took over and locked them in the basement because they wanted to steal the X-box? Was there anything deeper there than the universes first and biggest dysfunctional family?… It would be kind of angst-confirming if that had somehow become the pattern for all creation.

As an angsty goth Baalgrog… that was actually a rather pleasing idea in some ways! It would fully justify a dark, dismal, and depressing worldview! He could feel a REALLY gloomy poem coming on!

Out in deep space Charles continued being polite and friendly to the Raksha… After all, as long as they were abducting people who more-or-less WANTED to be abducted and either fixed them up with the healing mutations or put his collars on them it wasn’t like the Raksha couldn’t be INCREDIBLE fun with a very minimal effort – and by now they mostly seemed to have learned that being fun it was a MUCH lazier and easier way to keep their servant-snacks from running off than hunting them down all the time.

There were probably a few outliers (and more nearer the actual Wyld, thanks to Hannya influence) who thought that fear and exhaustion from the hunt were better – but (considering just how WEIRD some people seemed to be) they could probably find volunteers for THAT too, even if they probably wouldn’t feel that it was as good. Fortunately, the Raksha had heard enough about Charles to carefully sweep any such individuals under the rug. If Charles had found anything like THAT going on, he’d have wanted to do something. Predation would happen, but there was no need to be MEAN about it! Still… by cosmic standards, Charles hadn’t even moved yet.

The scientists were busy using the Tsunami’s instruments (of which it had a fascinating and wonderful variety) to have a close-up look at the Oort cloud, various comets, and other trans-plutonian objects.

Charles had finally managed to be in more than one place at the same time – although only one of them could be outside Aden (or in an attuned manse, or due to a quirk of the effect, aboard the Tsunami) at one time. Finding a way to make additional avatars where he didn’t have so much power over reality was still proving difficult. Perhaps Solar Circle Sorcery would help…

in Yu-Shan Charles was looking for Yu-Shan’s Devas. There wasn’t much in Dudael’s archives – but given Yu-Shan’s tendency towards geomancy and reality shaping perhaps they were some of the major ancient structures? Hidden in plain sight by simple dormancy? For that matter, could one be the Loom of Fate? After all, the Primordials had gotten along without Sidereals for eons – and there were only five Maidens; yet if the Loom of Fate had needed a maintenance staff during the Age of Glory, presumably the Primordials would have made one. Its structure was certainly weird enough to be more than a VERY important Artifact, and it did have wide ranging effects – which would certainly fit if Yu-Shan had been integral in the shaping of Creation. Had casualty errors been rare things until Yu-Shan got so sick? If they were a symptom of extreme illness that might mean that they’d been gradually getting more common… Perhaps the Sidereals kept some records on that sort of thing?

If not… any places in Yu-Shan that were persistently outside of fate would also be good places to look at! At the least that would indicate SOME kind of mischief – and this was getting to be a race of sorts! They mostly didn’t allow tours at the Loom of Fate though… Could he get the Pattern Spiders he knew to open a back door or set a small destiny? He’d wanted to see if the extra sidereal exaltations were causing problems (and look into the well of souls later) anyway…

It would be an exaggeration to say that the pattern spiders had any blatant emotions other than being overworked – and Charles’s contacts in the College of the Sorcerer had been working double-time lately! Not only had they had to help integrate the new Oracles into (this) Creation’s pattern – twenty new Chosen of Secrets were not easy to handle – they’d been having quite a bit of trouble with the Nocturnals who were already linked to this Creation’s Oracles. They were only supposed to be connected to one at a time, but now they were tied to two at once. It had been creating some issues with the Sidereals’ fates. Now, on the geomancy issue… they weren’t really geomancers themselves, but they HAD noticed some oddities with the Yu-Shan to Creation connections.

The main issue was that the Nocturnals’ strands kept moving and shifting when they weren’t looking. The Bureau of Destiny already had ways of marking threads of interest, but that didn’t really help much when some Nocturnal’s fate strand migrated from the Gull section to the Sword section without warning. They were really badly behaved!

Charles promptly offered to help. He couldn’t stop the Nocturnals strands from shifting of course – they WERE Exalts after all – but a supply of monitoring artifacts to track the threads and help with other tasks might well help the spiders out a lot!

Well, they could certainly use that – and they knew that Charles was good for it.

(Charles) “That’s urgent! You should have said!”

He promptly started churning the stuff out.

The Spiders had put in a supply order with the Bureaucracy. The Bureau normally got stuff to them, but this time they’d had to research the issue themselves – and the Nocturnals were causing a whole lot of crimps in the processes. As for connections to Creation… they’ve noticed a slight uptick in inward causality-flow since the Nocturnals had appeared. It seemed to be growing, too. That generally meant more coincidences and brushes of fate, bad and good alike, in Yu-Shan.

Hm… from what they had to say and his maps.. It looked like there were some places that were not being affected! The pinnacle of the Sky Dome, which covers the city/world-body, the Algedonic Palace, one of the few pieces of Primordial architecture left in the city, a spot deep beneath the Central Metropolitan Zone, a few miles east of the Jade Pleasure Dome, the Charnel Yards, the Primal Forge… Hrm! Yu-Shan herself provided Creation for Gaia to work in (at least in some ways). Had her Deva’s provided other facilities? Or had her “Devas” acted something like conceptual poles? Ambition/Growth, Pleasure/Reproduction, Creativity/Concentration, Fear/ Death, Intellect/Artifice? Gaia providing the physical structure of Creation and Yu-Shan creating the drives of it’s inhabitants – or perhaps the definition of life? That might explain the sterile rigidity of her original structure… The Definition was never the thing itself!

If he threw in the Loom of Fate… to reconcile each individuals narrative into the Tapestry of Existence? According to some the drive for sleep – to rest, to recreate the self to meet new challenges – was as fundamental as the desire to eat… There was the one he had no clues about – but it was near the central nexus of Yu-Shan.

On the other hand… all the geomantic essence of Yu-Shan was supposed to flow into the Central Reservoir – and Yu-Shan had stored the Games of Divinity there. Had she… Consumed them? And was the constant presence of the Incarnae a bit like an intestinal blockage in a human?

He’d have to check (after the pattern spiders were well supplied anyway) – but then theories always sounded good until they ran into more facts, and he had little to no information on the Devas of Yu-Shan or anything she had constructed before going to sleep.

It wasn’t long before Charles turned up at the Dome of the Perfect Lotus with some fairly hefty boxes. He might as well get inside the easy way!

(Lion, sizing him up as usual. You couldn’t be having some imposter sneaking in after all!) “Hello, Charles. Who’s that for?”

(Charles) “It’s for the Pattern Spiders! Two thousand thread-tracers, five hundred automatic detanglers, one thousand snag-scanners… (the list went on)”.

(Lion) “Oh? Well, that’s good… nice to see you making more donations to the Bureau. I’ll make sure they receive these after the usual security checks.”

(Charles) “Can we check with them directly? They said it was kind of urgent!”

The lion knew that security was strict of course – but he also knew that if the Pattern Spiders were placing direct priority orders for artifacts, something BIG was up.

(Lion) “Hrm… Well, let me check with them, okay?”

(Charles, cheerfully) “OK!”

(Lion, after getting permission from the Pattern Spiders – and checking the artifacts) “Okay! I’m going to be with you at all times, though… sorry, kid, it’s procedure.”

So it was into the weird, non-Euclidean space that was the interior of the Most Perfect Lotus of Heavenly Design – where Charles delivered his pile of stuff and turned on his various senses and had a good look about. If what he suspected was true, a massive, and very subtle, Unnatural Mental Influence effect had to be involved. It would probably be coming in through the fate-strands tied to the Exaltations – thus bypassing the relevant defenses just like Pattern Bite did!

And there was the that gibberish voice again! Just like it was back when he was making and analyzing that Nocturnal manse… Louder this time! As well as…. rather distracting and desperate-sounding.

Uhrm… but just HIS knowing shouldn’t hurt anything – as far as HE could see anyway. He asked the Pattern Spiders about the voice before trying to look deeper though!

They… weren’t aware of any voices; just the normal vibrations, echoes, and other sounds of the Loom’s functions. If it was a little girl, they suggested speaking with a Nocturnal.

That was no help! This voice was vaguely masculine!

Hm… he COULD simply answer – but analysis and translation effects seemed in order first!

It took a few minutes of deciphering, even with a synergistic overmind as a part of his own consciousness – but it was VERY garbled Old Realm, in the divine dialect.

(Voice) “No… not yet… not yet… must stay hidden.”

(Charles, answering on the same level) “Well, I wasn’t planning on TELLING anyone! Mostly I was just fixing Yu-Shan at the moment! She’s very sick!”

(Voice) “Must stay hidden… is prime directive.”

(Charles) “Until Yu-Shan wakes up?”

(Voice) “What is Yu-Shan? A Primordial? A city? A treasure? A trap? A prison? I can’t see… Must stay hidden…”

Huh… either there were cognitive limitations there or something had been hiding for a VERY long time!

Well, maybe it just wanted to produce that impression.

He had a look although avoiding being obvious about it…

It was indeed Unnatural Mental Influence and Shaping – the UMI to make the affected entities appear to be out of fate and Shaping on the Nocturnal strands to make them a LOT more mobile than most fate strands – even most Exalts. Whatever it was – and it was hiding desperately – was originating in the loom itself. The pattern stuck to its strands, and didn’t deviate from them… Even he couldn’t tell who was generating it – Nox, Deva, some consciousness of the loom itself – without active probes – and maybe not even then.

Still, that was definitely something to think about!

Eclipse: The Summoner and the Chimeric Master

apparitions and ghosts

Not Exactly

There are many who summon creatures from the Outer or Elemental Planes – but they are fools. Such beings are powerful, and have long memories, and do not appreciate being torn from their places, even in spirit, to dance to the whims of some mortal mage. Worse… each time you call on a creature, you give it’s home realm a bit more of a claim upon your soul. If you summon creatures of evil, it is an act of evil, and it binds you to the realms of evil – and the same for creatures of good, or law, or even of elemental energies. Why else do so many magical specialists at last become creatures of the planes?

There is a plane, however, from which one may draw what you will without commitment, a plane to which every sapient mind holds a natural gate, just waiting to be exploited… the realm of dreams. There, where every mind nightly weaves a realm of it’s own, in the thousand shattered mirror-shards and within the walls of the invisible labyrinth, one can find both allies and foes to call forth with no greater obligations.

A dream to some. A nightmare to others!

The request was to build a character like the Pathfinder Summoner. So OK… for the basic’s we’ll want: +15 BAB (90 CP), 20d8 HD (80 CP), +24 Saves (72 CP), 40 SP (40 CP), Proficient with Simple Weapons (3 CP) and Light Armor (3 CP) with the Smooth modifier (+3 CP). Why the character needs d8 hit dice when it’s a pet-based caster build is a bit of a mystery, but OK; Fast Learner Specialized in Hit Dice (6 CP) saves 40 CP off the Hit Die price – for a total base cost of 257 CP. If you want to use this build in a Pathfinder game instead of a 3.5 game you’ll also want a Pathfinder Race and Package Deal – but that doesn’t cost anything.

For the spellcasting we’ll want 20 levels of the Bardic Spellcasting Progression using Charisma-Based Spontaneous Arcane Casting, Corrupted for Increased Effect (+1 each to Spells Per Day and Spells Known over the base chart, spells thus become available one level early/A Chimeric Master has a very limited spell list to choose from. (160 CP). That takes us up to 417 CP.

Now for some special abilities…

  • To get unlimited use of his or her zero-level spells we’ll want: Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect (only works for the characters limited list of level zero Chimeric Master spells), Corrupted/must be free to gesture and speak (4 CP).
  • +4 to a Save, Specialized/only for the benefit of his or her Companion, which uses the Masters save bases with it’s own attributes (6 CP).
  • Spell Formula Knowledge: Summon Monster VII, VIII, and IX, Gate (4 CP). Unfortunately a Chimeric Master doesn’t have spell slots this high – but he or she can use relevant spell-trigger items.
  • Immunity/the barriers between Reality and Dream, (Common, Severe, Major), Specialized for reduced cost and corrupted for increased effect (using this ability is a swift action and the user may selectively leave items with his or her companion)/only to allow the user to take the Companions place in the realm of dreams or return therefrom, requires touching the Companion to depart the material plane and emerging next to it on the return, if the companion is slain on the Material Plane the user is forcibly returned to it’s position, taking 4d6 damage and being stunned for one round (6 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast x3, Specialized and Corrupted/may only be changed when the user increases in level, can only be spent on blatant physical mutations, using these makes the user obviously unnatural (18 CP).
  • Occult Skill/Dream-binding (3 CP). This wasn’t a part of the original idea, but there are a few points left over and it fits this variant.
  • To get some dedicated summoning powers we’ll want: Channeling (either Positive or Negative) with Cha Mod +7 Daily Uses, Specialized/Only for Conversion (7 CP) + Spell Conversion to a set of four L6 or below spells, Corrupted for Increased Effect (L9 or below)/All spells must be summoning-related, only one summoning may be active at a time, effects that do not involve the user’s Apparition of Dreams are limited by caster level as usual (12 CP), +4 Uses of Channeling, Specialized and Corrupted/only for summoning or exchanging places with the user’s Apparition of Dream (2 CP). The spells are:

Summon Apparition of Dream: The user may call forth his or her Companion (purchased below). It requires one minute to summon the Apparition from the realm of dreams, but only a standard action to call his or her Apparition to his or her side from anywhere within long range with the side effects of a Dimension Door spell.

Transposition of Dream: The user may trade places with his or her Apparition of Dream within long range. This requires a standard action and has the same side effects as a Dimension Door spell.

Summon Monster IX; While this version’s monsters remain for a maximum of one minute, it can also be used as Summon Monster I-VIII to suit the user’s level.

Gate: This is the standard effect, but is not usable until level seventeen. All components must be supplied.

Apparition of Dreams (Companion/Companion Creature Variant), Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect. An Apparition of Dreams is…

  • Quasi-Real; the Apparition is sustained by it’s master’s will. It can be Dismissed or Banished like an Outsider (returned to it’s summoner’s dreams) and will vanish if it’s master is unconscious, asleep, or dead. In either case it must then be resummoned. If it moves more than 100 feet from its summoner it’s current and maximum hit points are reduced by 50%. At mare than 1000 feet the totals are reduced by 75%, and at 10,000 or more it is immediately returned to the realm of dreams.
  • As an aspect of it’s Master, the Apparition shares his or her body slots – but not the effects of items. If there’s a conflict, the Apparitions conflicting item or items goes inactive.
  • An Apparition of Dreams It does not heal naturally. If recalled from death via it’s Returning ability, it starts at one-half it’s normal hit points when summoned the next day
  • An Apparition of Dreams cannot wear armor; it disrupts it’s connection to it’s Master.

So to build our Companion we want…

  • Companion (Companion Creature), Increased Effect/The Companion gains bonuses based on the (3 x its Masters Level/4) rounded off rather than on its (Masters Level/2) rounded down (6 CP).
  • As usual for a Mystic Companion, the basic creature is normally a creature of CR 2 or less. Even before any template modifications, however, the creature will always appear fantastical.
  • Transform, Increased Effect (while only the Master may transform, his or her items will remain functional (6 CP).
  • Template II (12 CP), Increased Effect/beyond the fixed items below, the contents of this template are pretty much up to the Player, with only modest Game Master input/veto power.

Apparition of Dream Template Abilities:

  • Returning (if “slain” reforms after it’s master gets a nights rest and dreams it back into existence, 6 CP) with Rewrite (Corrupted/only when master gains a level or enacts a mighty ritual, 3 CP).
  • Storage with Spell Storing, Specialized and Corrupted/only to release spells transferred to the companion over the Power Link, spells may be disrupted, identified, or blocked as if they were being cast on the companions end, the companion must take the same casting action as the actual caster 4 CP)
  • Presence/Mighty Guardian. The user may provide a +1 Circumstance bonus to the armor class and saving throws of allies within a 10′ radius. If the user has a mental link to an ally within that radius the bonus is a +2 for that specific individual, Specialized for Double Effect/the user must be able to move freely, must be aware of the individuals presence, and must be fully functional; if the user is stunned, asleep, helpless, grappled, stuck in the mud, entangled, etc, the effect fails (6 CP).
  • Mystic Link (3 CP), with Power Link (+3 CP), Identity Link (+3 CP),and Communications Link (+3 CP), all Corrupted for Increased Effect/The Master and the Apparition of Dreams are blatantly obviously bonded – with identical mystic symbols glowing on their skin or some such to easily identify them. As long as the user and/or companion can be seen, the linkage cannot be mistaken.
    • (Power Link): The Master and the Apparition share their languages and knowledge skills.
    • (Identity Link): The user and the Apparition may portion out damage between themselves, although neither may be reduced below the point of death in this way.
    • (Communications Link): Allows full sensory sharing.
  • Occult Sense/Darkvision (6 CP).
  • +4 on Will Saves against Enchantment spells and effects (6 CP).
  • Adept (Deception, Knowledge/The Planes, Perception, one skill of choice, 6 CP).
  • +2 Constitution (12 CP).

At a total of 61 CP, this leaves 98 CP available to buy unique abilities with. That’s quite a lot. Each Apparition of Dreams will be wildly individual.

The Apparition of Dream is an appallingly powerful companion – but really isn’t particularly worse than having a well-optimized cohort, and is more expensive. The fact that it can be extensively rebuilt between levels definitely complicates things though; if the characters are rising in level quickly enough it might be worth giving it some pretty specialized abilities for a bit.

And that pretty much completes the Chimeric Master. Actually playing one will involve a lot of additional decisions – what to buy how soon, what to buy in incremental steps rather than all at once, and what you’re going to put into your Companion’s design – but if you aren’t willing to make choices, Eclipse probably isn’t the game system for you in the first place.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition(RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.