Do-It-Yourself Charms and Talismans

Basil and Lord Henry survey the portrait of Dorian

Yeah. Watch out for these things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally…

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

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

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

Eclipse – Cinematic Combat at the Narrative Convenience Store

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

Couldn’t we just fight our way through instead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The major variants on Narrative Manipulation include:

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

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

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

Exalted – The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice; Primordial Astrology

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

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

The Colleges:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weaving Destinies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice – Exalted, the Modern Underworld

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

Yes, the Underworld is larger too…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Game Concept: Feedback Requested

And a guest post from Editorial-0…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excalibur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXXVI – Ragnarok and Roll

  • Charles I of England

    Can’t ANYONE find the RIGHT Charles?

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

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

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

Later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Aikiko) “DUDE! Awesome!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Aikiko) “Gah!!!”

And she explained.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Aikiko) “Even YOU can’t see it?”

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

It clicked for Aikiko.

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

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

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

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

(Aikiko) “I hope not!”

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

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

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

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

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

(Aikiko) “OK, thanks!”

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

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

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

TARGET ACQUIRED!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Aikiko) “What kind of adjustments?”

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

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

(Aikiko) “Where are these shunts?”

(Skoll) “Information classified.”

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

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

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

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

Had the Deathlord been intending to CURE them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Charles, making it available) “Sure!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Aikiko) “Yep!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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