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.