Eclipse and Mythic Ascension, Part I

And today it’s a question from Alzrius – although only part one, because this is going to be a LONG one. 

You’ve converted a number of Pathfinder classes to Eclipse, but I wanted to ask how you’d convert over Paizo’s latest big power-up for PCs: Mythic Adventures.

I tried taking a stab at this myself, but I suspect that this is a bit more than I can chew, at least until I’m able to get further experience with using Eclipse. I did get some basics down, however.

The Designing Encounterssection mentions (under the “Adjusting CR and Level” sub-header) that a character with 20 class levels and 10 mythic tiers (the maximum number allowable) is essentially a 25th-level character.

From that, I figured that a mythic character has a +5 ECL template, and so has a total of 191 CP to build it with. Throw in a mythic flaw (as a disadvantage that’s part of the template) and that rises to a total of 194 CP.

The base mythic abilities are easy enough to make…for the most part. Most of the mythic abilities revolve around spending a use of “mythic power” for various effects, the most basic of which is to improve die rolls; that sounds like Action Hero, with other abilities specialized to require an action point. There’s also a lot of Improved Self-Development (+10 total!).

The mythic feats granted by the template were a little more difficult to convert, simply because 1) there are so many of them, and 2) I wasn’t sure about building just those feats in Eclipse without also including the “normal” feat abilities, since they build on those.

Mythic Paths was where things went off the rail for me. Mostly because there were so many abilities across six different paths, and because having each path have twelve (!) different path abilities – in addition to the base mythic abilities – really pushed the cost. (I eventually figured the entire template was specialized, since gaining all of these requires satisfying a grand total of 29 mythic trials…not to mention how the template is gained in the first place).

Mythic spells and magic items aren’t part of the character, and so don’t need to be dealt with…I think. I’m slightly uncertain because some still require an expenditure of “mythic power” – presumably that’s no different than an expensive material component.

Finally, since these are meant to be broken up into ten “tiers,” I wasn’t sure how to do that, short of breaking up the entire template into ten packages of 19- or 20-CP bundles to dole out over time.

Presuming that’s not too tall of a request…how would you make “Mythic Eclipse”?


I’ve got to admit it; I find this one more than a bit strange.

Basically, under Pathfinder’s “Mythic” rules… your character is exposed to some weird source of power, and infused with some of that power. As your character performs mighty deeds, he or she gains even greater powers. Soon lesser individuals can barely touch your character, and have little chance to oppose him or her.

This sounds a great deal like normal play to me.

After all, “exposed to some weird source of power” often happens as part of a characters basic origin story – and if it doesn’t happen then, player characters quite routinely expose themselves to alien energies, wade through dragon’s blood or other weirdness, visit exotic planes of existence, pick up malfunctioning artifacts, work for crazy divine patrons, channel entities from beyond the comprehensible cosmos, and, if all else fails, get involved with their own insane magical experiments.

They “perform mighty deeds and gain power from them”. Yes. Yes, they do. Story / quest / goal / whatever awards have been around since the early days of first edition. You completed a mission of some sort, you built up your reputation and legend, you gathered mundane rewards – and you also went up in level, gaining mighty powers.

And it’s pretty well acknowledged that, all else being equal, low-level characters have little chance against higher level ones.

Really, the “Mythic” rules represent a jump back to first edition.

In first edition, most people could not gain levels. Player characters and special NPC’s were unique because they could. By third edition EVERYONE got levels, and PC’s only real claim to being special was that they were apparently lucky bastards who found more gear than most of the other people. .

Under the “Mythic” rules, most people cannot gain Mythic Tiers; Player characters and special NPC’s are unique because they can.

In first edition quite a lot of your character advancement was awarded for accomplishing goals of some sort. By the time third edition came along, that sort of award was pretty rare. It was hard to calculate or award “treasure” – and keep wealth-by-level straight – for goals.

Under the “Mythic” rules a fair chunk of your character advancement is awarded for accomplishing goals of some sort.

“Mythic” does split from first edition in putting story awards on their own track – but that’s not particularly new either; quite a lot of early games put experience points into separate tracks depending on how you earned them. Thus games like Ysgarth and World Tree had different categories of abilities that advanced with XP from using those abilities.

While I’ll look at other ways of building mythic abilities next, the simplest, quickest, and most flexible option for mythic-style Eclipse only requires one power:

Immunity/having only one experience point chart; Very Common, Major, Legendary, 60 CP Base, Specialized for Increased Effect (gets only one additional chart, abilities purchased on the secondary chart do not have to pay attention to the restrictions of the Adventurer Template) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost/the secondary “tier” chart only gets special goal-awards rather than splitting XP awards evenly with the primary chart, only goes to level ten, does not provide hit dice or skill points, and is normally capped at (Level/2) +1. Net Cost: (40 CP).

And that pretty much does it. With that extra allotment of character points you’re free to buy all kinds of specialized enhancing abilities. If you want to copy the original style, you can go ahead and throw in “Corrupted/Does not work against opponents who also possess this “mythic immunity” on a lot of defenses and special powers.

As usual for similar items, levels from the secondary progression do not stack with levels from the primary one. Thus being Level Thirteen/Tier Seven does NOT let you buy abilities as if you were a 20’th level character; it lets you have a complimentary set of level seven abilities to go with your level thirteen abilities – rather like a Gestalt character, although players are likely to buy truly complimentary talents rather than just getting a second set.

Now that is pretty cheap. It’s not hard to come up with 40 CP, and if you put it into a template you get a mere +1 ECL unless you put some more stuff into it.

Now talking your game master into letting you take an Immunity to a pretty fundamental aspect of d20’s rules is quite another matter. Such Immunities carry a rider about “if the Game Master opts to allow it” for exactly this reason; allowing someone to take an Immunity to having to gain experience points to go up in level, or to the normal progression of time, or to limits on actions in a round, or some such, can easily wreck the game. It’s a bit like playing Chess and ruling that pieces can’t be taken; there are some rules that the game simply does not work without.

On the other hand, ruling that Knights can also move and capture like pawns (and will now be known as “Templars”) will leave the game quite playable.

Will this particular Immunity break the game? It’s blatantly asking for an ECL adjustment, but if all the player characters are using it… well, the levels and abilities of NPC’s are pretty much arbitrary anyway. I think I’d prefer to just note that most NPC’s are fairly low level and stay that way, and thus the PC’s are special right out of the box – but this route will achieve much the same result.

Next time around I’ll look at the basics of building to match the “mythic” rules.

Locations – the Tumbledowns

"View in Wall Street from Corner of Broad...

Now roll it back another few centuries…

The area just within the city wall – the Great Wall Road – is kept clear of buildings. In times of siege, or when the monsters of the wild lands press close, that broad space is used to muster and drill troops, to rush supplies and reserves to wherever they are needed, to hold the livestock that will be butchered to help feed the city, to stockpile supplies, to rally the militia, and to watch for signs of sappers. It’s where the priests set up to bless the walls and heal the defenders, where sentinels watch for infiltrators, and where – on rare occasions when dark powers are abroad – the mages and priests work to reinforce the wards and protect the entire city. Buildings too near the the wall would interfere with all of this, and would be a hindrance and fire hazard in times of war – easy to ignite from the outside, and thus a peril to the wall and it’s defenders. There are an assortment of wells near the wall and pools by the buildings within, which serve to supply water and firebreaks for fighting fires, to add a margin of safety against incendiary missiles, and to farm fish – in addition to being decorative and providing relatively safe places for children to splash about.

The Town Wall has proved it’s worth many times. It helps to keep monsters, and bandits, and hordes of orcs, and similar hazards at bay, serves as an anchor for the cities wards, and provides sheltered yet elevated posts for sentinels. The Wall Road, (or Wall Street), is an important part of the Town Wall. It’s maintenance is a military matter; you can’t build there.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t hold fairs and markets and put up tents. You can even put up rather long-term tents arranged in sprawling communities. You just have to be ready to fold them up and get out of the way when one of the periodic drills is held. Those sprawling communities of tents are home to many of the cities poor – and when they’re knocked down, or a fire breaks out, or there’s a sudden monster attack, or any of a dozen other disasters happen, they are swept away – only to rise again as soon as it’s relatively safe.

These are the Tumbledowns – a bustling circular market/slum/tent carnival filled with colorful tents (the merchants pay apprentice mages a few coins to pass through the area and cast coloring cantrips on the drabber ones; it helps keep the customers enthused), outdoor games, very junior craftsmen and merchants manning their booths, the cheapest of mystical services, prostitutes, and even more dubious services, stray children, salesmen hawking their wares, the farmers markets (patronized by the poor seeking the cheapest of overage foodstuffs and by the servants of the rich, seeking the freshest), lines of washing, pushcart-vendors, day-laborers looking for work, and the most petty of petty thieves. The occasional larger events, such as traveling entertainers, gypsy caravans, visiting religious preachers, magical duels, and so on, may either clear a space or – for a modest payment to the city and as long as they are strictly temporary – briefly use one of the practice grounds the city keeps clear to train the militia in. Inevitably, the area is hazy with dust and smoke when it isn’t muddy.

Evading pursuit is easy enough in the Tumbledowns – but evading notice and recognition is very hard indeed; few keep as sharp an eye on their possessions and possible threats to them as those who have very little. It’s always easy to wave over an urchin child and give him or her (it’s often hard to tell the difference) a half-copper to guard your wares, run errands, keep an eye on someone, get a recitation of all the local rumors and news, carry your packages, or locate the less legal (and more mobile) services. Working for farmers at the markets is especially popular with the kids; the farmers often pay with a really good country meal – plentiful, and sometimes with a bit of actual meat in it – instead of with hard-to-come-by coin.

While the troops stationed along the wall will intervene in major disturbances, really petty thievery and cheating – a bit of short measure, a thumb on the scales, or shortchanging some rich adventurer – is rife in the Tumbledowns. Still, anything much more than that attracts too much notice eventually, usually resulting in a few more gruesome executions, public punishments, or slave-sales beside the western gate.

The Tumbledowns do NOT host the great fairs – the major mercantile gatherings which bring in so much of the towns money in fees and taxes (and thus are tightly controlled, regulated, and taxed). Most of those are held in the fields beyond the gates, although the most expensive goods and biggest deals are often handled in small private meetings in the more expensive inns without anything so crass as actual goods or money ever putting in an appearance.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXLVI – Foundations

on a bronze french cannon, the relief of coat ...

Are you SURE that’s a bracer?

In Skoll, Aikiko was laughing too hard to stand. She’d finally thought to ask Skoll – and the lever that Larquen Quen, the Mask of Winters, had used to bring the Unconquered Sun out of Yu-Shan and into Skoll’s reach… had been a millennia-old promise to drop by a birthday party. And he’d managed to turn that minor promise into… freedom from the Neverborn for a birthday present! It was going to be hard to top that!

In Aden, Charles was considering… Perhaps it was “alas, poor Unconquered Sun! He just had to clear a few billion more levels! He couldn’t let that game beat him by not finishing it in one go, for he was the embodiment of perfection and excellence!” Was the way that people got stuck in the World of Warcraft a reflection of the Games of Divinity? Or was it Papers and Paychecks?

After all… the games were played by the Primordials, each of whom had their own specialties and didn’t even think about other things – which alone said that the interface adapted to suit the player, and that it the game targeted his or her weaknesses to remain challenging. So the Maidens kept getting peeks into “Samsara” (probably through the link to the loom), the Unconquered Sun felt that he couldn’t stop without letting it beat him, and Luna perhaps felt that it would show her even more of the possibilities of creation. Gods did tend to be a bit… focused… and if it played to their purposes… that might explain their effects on those with less multifunctional minds than the Incarnae as well. A direct interface with their full consciousness and complete fulfillment of their purposes would be an incredible ecstasy, and the mere draw of it would have a tremendous effect on them. On more-or-less normal people… Well, a quick look at the games hadn’t had any effect on HIM, but that might be Dudael – on the other hand… he’d had to block it out for Six Ebb, Ten Peach, and Nuahathia – but not for Sorina Chisaru and Mr Montague; they’d gotten better as soon as they’d gotten their eyes off the Games.

That… would kind of fit! Mortals simply had too many motivations and functional limitations for the full effect to hit them, mid-level gods were the most vulnerable – and recordings of their experiences with the games would be filled with THEIR sensations – the Incarnae could handle it to some degree… and the Primordials found it wonderful fun, but not all-consuming – as did their Higher Souls, since they were part of something greater, but the interface could only adapt to what was actually present. Some gods – the ones with drives that couldn’t be fulfilled by the games (such as “Fix the Universe”) might not even find them especially attractive.

The actual play of the game – at least as long as it was complicated and could go on for a very long time – might not even be relevant if the interface that was that important. It might not even be something that could be described within the universe; after all, the games predated shaped reality…

Not too important really! It would be nice to get the Incarnae unaddicted, but wasn’t like it was hurting them any as far as he could tell. They were the greatest gods, made by the direct efforts of multiple Primordials each – and the more powerful gods were better able to resist. It was hard to get into the Jade Pleasure Dome to fix things anyway and there were far more urgent projects addressing far more urgent needs than the Incarnae amusing themselves. Gaia had done a good job; the universe had been looking after itself tolerably well for some time! Enormous amounts of totally empty space made a pretty good defense – not to mention leaving the outside relatively small and arranging to put Lunars and friendly Raksha hordes all over it! And with the Lunars very well-acquainted with using Wyld pockets for interstellar travel… they could hop from the core of Creation to the Empirical Galaxy with ease as needed.

After all, there were an awful lot of permanently shaped Raksha these days. The Hannya and Shapeless might still make pests of themselves, but the space-distortion tended to ensure that there were swarms of defenders for every intruder. It wasn’t like Creation was especially unique; there were seven hundred extra exaltations around to prove that it wasn’t! Even if the other creations were alternate timelines, or existed in other dimensions… you could still get there by traveling the wyld. It was a churning sea of possibility and chaos after all.

He was still considering that when he was informed that the Masons wanted to open a branch office in Aden.

Well, that had been weeks ago – shortly before leaving for the edge of the universe. He’d dropped by to take the Mason’s some presents! A production run of Sigils Of The Dawning Age and a few Rods of Construction. After all… I wouldn’t be fair to give the government scientists magic and not give some to the people who had been earnestly studying it.

They’d recognized him – he had been pretty generous the first time – and they’d passed him on to the Grand Master fairly promptly.

(Charles) “Hello sir!”

(Grand Master) “Hello – Charles, was it? What brings you back here? And still without your guardian?”

(Charles) “Well, things have gone very well, and your tools were very helpful in getting things started, so I wanted to bring you some bonuses! You’re likely to be needing some of them soon what with all those advertisements!”

The Grand Master checked the privacy wards.

(Grand Master) “The divinations on the ads themselves indicated they were real – some sort of geomantic working, I’d say. But to do it all at once like that… would you know anything about that other than what’s in the advertisements? You seem well-connected for your age.”

(Charles) “Well, a fair amount… what did you need to know?”

(Grand Master) “We’re interested in some of the worlds on the other side. Some of us have heard that magical development on the other side is greater than on Earth. I’m not so sure about that myself, but if we’re going to send people across, I’d rather not be completely blind. I’d like to avoid reenacting Aliens or Predator, at least. So, if you’d heard the same rumors, I was wondering if you knew any particularly good worlds.”

(Charles) “Well, they’re basically uninhabited except for a few advance parties and some entities who’ll be acting as guides and pathfinders. Most of them do have facilities built around service-mansions though, so that they’ll be ready for people to arrive.”

(Grand Master) “What about the environment… and have you visited these worlds personally?”

(Charles) “The galaxies were selected so as to have no other sapient races, and – in most cases – no other advanced life forms. There shouldn’t be any major problems there! The environments are modeled on Earths before it got messed up, so there won’t be any problems there either. Overall, it should be pretty easy – roughly like opening up of the some of the uninhabited islands around the earth during the age of sail; some limitations on local transport, but overall straightforward enough!”

(Grand Master) “Well, whoever this is has planned things out… I’d almost say for centuries.”

OK… if the boy wasn’t an Exalt or major God, he certainly had some contacts – although he couldn’t make out ANYTHING about the aspect. He was almost too innocent to be an Exalt though…

(Charles) “Anyway, since magic will be getting a lot more important and common soon, it seemed only fair to bring you some more – and a lot of construction will be needed anyway! I thought that these (as Charles pulled out a box containing one production run of three hundred Sigils of the Dawning Age) and a few (as he pulled out four) of the rods from earlier might be useful!”

(Grand Master, after a brief analysis…) “These are… pretty good. Considerably more powerful than the usual enlightenment-devices! How’d you get so many in one place? The enlightened try to keep those under control!”

(Charles) “Well, it’s one batch really!”

(Grand Master) “Mind if I ask where you got them? We normally only see a dozen at a time at most – and even that’s pretty rare.”

He stuck with “cheery” at the moment! There was no point being too forceful when you’re getting free stuff!)

(Charles) “Well… I picked them up in Aden, and came down through Yu-Shan!”

(Grand Master) “I know a little about Yu-Shan – mostly that it’s Heaven, you can go to a party there once a year if you’re lucky or crazy, and it’s normally NOT a good idea to try to get in – but I don’t believe you’ve told me about Aden.”

(Charles) “Another pocket-dimension realm!”

(Grand Master) “Ah… not where you’re from, is it?”

The boy… did have a rather interesting Essence signature! Including a rather frustrating aspect that he couldn’t quite identify! The fact that he seemed to act like a cheerful good fairy didn’t truly rule out most things, but it certainly made them seem unlikely! Some questions about “Aden” were definitely in order!

(Charles) “Well sort of!”

Hm! Either a dodge or a “this is too complicated to explain”. The boy was so blatantly bad at lying that normally he would have suspected a front – but why would a manipulator drop by their lodge with massive gifts of magical power? The order was skilled, but the Masons were not one of the great powers of the universe!

(Grand Master) “Is Aden more open than Yu-Shan?”

(Charles) “Well, generally! Why? Did you want to visit?”

(Grand Master) “I was curious, yes – if only to check out the geomantic network. Earth’s pretty well-claimed, and I hear that Yu-Shan is too!”

That gave them both some information… It was a solid chunk of evidence for “too complicated to explain” for the Grand Master, and it told Charles that – while the Masons had apparently managed to retain more information than most Exalts had any more – they didn’t have much recent information on Yu-Shan.

(Charles) “ Well, if you want… do you have a few minutes?”

(Grand Master) “I have about fifteen until my next meeting.”

(Charles) “Mind if I use the closet door? It’s easiest to have a frame to work with!”

(Grand Master) “Nothing nasty’s going to chance coming through, is it?”

(Charles) “Definitely not!”

(Grand Master, erecting a few hurried wards just in case) “All right, then.”

Charles cheerily opened up his usual primary gate, ushering the Grand Master through to the usual a mountainside overlooking the singing forest, with the sea of chaos lapping at the docks of an elven treehouse town, and all the rest. Since there was a limited alert on… a couple of Baalgrogs were playing exceptionally gloomy chess, and a contingent of elves were having an illusion-casting competition, nearby.

(Grand Master) “This is pretty big for a pocket… I ran into one in the mountains once, but it was a lot smaller than this!” (Nodding to the Baalgrogs) “Locals?”

(Charles) “They do security!”

The Grand Master had a few essence-sensing effects available. Once he got over his shock at the seething geomantic energies he checked the Baalgrogs (it wasn’t too unusual for Raksha to take on pop culture characteristics, but generally not quite like that!) and the Elves – only to find them (at Essence 7) to be some of the most potent beings that he’d ever encountered! Raksha didn’t normally run that powerful! And certainly not in GROUPS! Hardly anything did!

And the boy… was still just as hard to read, but was at least as powerful, and his aura… faded seamlessly into the incredible geomantic background.

(Elf) “Hello Charles! Another guest? Will he be needing a place to stay, or is this just a visit?”

(Grand Master) “I’m just visiting; I’ve got a meeting with someone in about five minutes. You know this young man? What does he do around here?”

Charles rather abruptly realized that he hadn’t told ANYONE to conceal that information.

(Elf, with some startlement) “Well… sustains existence? He is this realm after all!”

(Grand Master) “WHAT?” (In a bit of denial) “But… he’s just a boy!”

(Charles) “Aw! Everybody fusses if you tell them that!”

(Grand Master) “What are you!?”

(Charles) “I don’t think we have a formal name yet! A lot of people think I’m a primordial though!”

(Grand Master) “Gah!”

Interesting! The Masons had access to a LOT of very old information! Had they really managed to maintain one of the second or third age thaumaturgical schools?

(Grand Master) “The Primordial of Generosity, I assume?”

(Charles) “I like to fix things! And people need more room, and there are a LOT of other things to fix too!”

(Grand Master) “So… am I right when I guess that gate project is your doing?”

(Charles) “Well, yes!… It’s not a problem is it?”

(Grand Master) “Err… it’s causing a stir with some Terrestrial factions. They’ve tried to remove the ads from the papers, but somebody keeps putting them back up!”

(Charles) “Well, they’d have a hard time anyway… it is a global campaign after all! And people might as well be ready!”

(Grand Master) “Well… we can’t stay on one world forever, even if the Sahara seems to be moistening and pollution is unaccountably decreasing.”

He looked at Charles meaningfully.

(Charles) “Needed fixing!”

(Grand Master) “How are you intending to handle the gates? Did you put any near Savannah?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Three relatively nearby, 162 across North America! 864 across Earth!”

(Grand Master, boggling at the raw power that implied…) “And you’re opening these all at once? How?”

(Charles) “Gate-manses, and access-restriction manses on the Earthly ends. Fortunately, with more power flowing into the dragon lines, there are plenty of suitable places to put them now!”

(Grand Master) “And you can build that many Manses all that once?”

(Charles) “I made Djinn to do that! I have enough to do with Yu-Shan and Earth!”

Djinn? Like the creatures of legend? The ones that… built instant magical palaces… How old was the boy?

(Grand Master) “Ah… I might have to talk to one or two of those. So what else are you doing with the geomancy… err, if you don’t mind telling? I’ll come back after my next meeting if it’s long.”

(Charles) “Uhm… That WOULD be kind of long… I could leave you an aide with library access though!”

(Grand Master) “All right… If it’s not obvious, sure.”

(Charles) “Hey Jasfari! Would you like to help out the Grand Master here for a bit? “

(Jasfari, a Coatl) “Certainly Charles! Hello there… Grand Master is a bit awkward; what do you like to go by?”

(Grand Master) “Albert Jameson!”

(Jasfari) “Then I’ll help you out for awhile Mr Jameson! Charles does lack a sense of proportion about some things.”

(Albert) “I’m seeing that…”

After all… even at a quick glance, this serpentine “assistant” seemed to be… well, not as powerful as the other spirits, but still more powerful (Essence 5) than any human! And was apparently linked to still greater sources of power!

He slipped Jafari into his jacket pocket.

(Charles) “Hmph! everyone thinks I need babysitters! (grumble-grumble-grumble…)

The Grand Master didn’t think that was such a bad idea! It was pretty obvious that the boy was… likely to give stuff to anyone who asked nicely!

While it wasn’t quite so obvious that the box full of amulets he’d been handed provided far more than just Enlightenment (as if that wasn’t enough) the things… pretty much explained themselves, and all the basics of Thaumaturgy, and started providing some minor protections, pretty much as soon as you touched them! And there were multiple layers of them, neatly packed – apparently about three hundred. That represented a tremendous amount of power right there… All in one batch? If he could persuade the child to use even a tiny fraction of those resources on the Freemason’s behalf… He’d have to review what he could get out of “library access” after his meeting… he still had to go, even if it was with a lot more reluctance than when he started with Charles today. Mason’s didn’t exactly recruit, but if the boy could be persuaded to ask to join… he’d do whatever it took to get him in! The boy would be a credit to virtually any organization.

Locations – Temin’s Bed’n’Pottage

In his Father’s day Temin’s was an excellent inn, widely noted for it’s fine food, comfortable rooms, and well-stocked cellar. Running an inn is pretty much all that Temin has ever done, but growing up around so many loutish, drunken, customers may help explain why he’s never actually liked people very much.

On the other hand, Temin has never encountered a coin that he couldn’t become close personal friends with at a moments notice. Lacking the talent (and desire) to actually run a good inn (or for much of anything else), Temin has settled for running one of the cheapest and most crowded establishments in the city – turning a profit almost entirely on the economies of scale. His taxes would be higher, but – while putting Temin out of business might be a fine service to humanity – he does fill a need of sorts.

These days Temin’s Bed’n’Pottage is a rattling, broken-down, multistory firetrap consisting of an old inn, a dilapidated warehouse, am old stable, and a row of mildewed and collapsing tenements, all tied together by crudely pegged-together bridges, knocked-out walls (sometimes turned into bridges), and a tangle of stairwells, passages, and ladders. Most of the larger rooms are, of course, subdivided into a cramped warren with the cheapest of rush-matting “walls” (through which people who try to lean on them regularly fall). Some customers say there’s a hole in one of the basement rooms where – if you pull away the rotting wooden cover – you will find a pit that drops straight down to the very pits of hell, which is where Temin gets the fire for his stove, since he’s too cheap to burn wood or coal. Most of the other customers say that if there was such a hole, Temin would have run the demons and monsters out long since and would currently be renting out rooms in hell since they couldn’t possibly be any less comfortable than the ones he rents out now!

When it comes to the meals, Temin’s mostly serves “pottage’n’trenchers”. If you have to ask what’s in the pottage, you aren’t hungry enough – but it’s mostly turnips (or whatever vegetable is cheapest this month), peas, butcher’s leavings and overage meat, occasional stray animals, and the cheapest fish from the sea, thickened with the same flour that Temin uses to bake the trencher bread – the cheapest to be found. In general, that’s the stuff that’s sold to the cities poorest – the leavings swept up at the end of the day from the milling room floor; husks, sawdust, spilled grains, the flour-dust from whatever was being ground that day, and assorted bugs and rat hairs.

Temin’s does offer several “security features” of sorts; the groaning, creaking, floors, rustling canvas sheets that serve as the doors to most of the rooms, and horrible tangle of busy unlit near-crawlways make it easy to hide and virtually impossible to sneak up on anyone. If your room doesn’t have a back door, a simple well-placed kick will usually produce one. Attempts to search the place are more likely to stir up a plague or poisonous insect than anything that’s been hidden – and Temin himself is notorious for paying close attention to money and none at all to his customers, making asking him or his staff nosy questions an exercise in futility. Drunken brawls aren’t a big feature either; Temin’s “beer” is too weak to get anyone drunk and brawls burn precious energy that’s better spent on survival. Petty theft is rife of course, but Temin’s is a reasonably effective safehouse if you need one.

Despite whispered rumors of gladiatorial pits in the basement, and assorted unsavory dealings, the most Temin ever provides is quiet little rooms with multiple back exits in which you can conduct whatever dealings take your fancy. That sort of thing is none of his business, although having the occasional body hauled away is.

If you want to go shopping, or sell something, Temin is more than willing to rent nooks and small sets of slightly larger and more comfortable rooms for the day, week, month, or year, so that his residents can run small businesses and exchange “their” (or more often someone else’s) goods – which leads to fixed locations for the kind of businesses that usually operate in alleyways out of the inside of an overcoat. In practice, Temin has managed to cram half the cities slums into a single noxious block.

Gods forbid that the place should ever catch fire though; the death toll would almost certainly be horrendous – and attempting to escape a maze of passages with flame bursting unexpectedly through the floor, collapsing areas, choking smoke, and people screaming, would be almost as bad as an adventurer’s raid on hell itself.

Still, if you’re desperate enough to stay at Temin’s, a half-copper will buy a slab of trencher bread loaded with pottage and a mug of water flavored with the cheapest beer. It isn’t good – or even common – food, but it has a fair amount of calories and even a little nutritional value from all the cheap vegetables. It’s a solid meal for a worker (albeit not enough for a full day of labor) or enough for a hungry child to get through the day. Another half-copper will buy a tolerably warm spot in the main room for a night or a (colder and more cramped, if more private and “secure”) little box of a room for the same period.

A silver will get you both for a week, along with a ragged blanket and breakfast – a small mug of “beer” and a thick slice of bread with something fatty (they call it butter, but it’s usually mostly lard or drippings) smeared on it for breakfast.

If you want someplace to stay out of sight, and where pretty much anything you d

Ox tongue, wild boar sausage and pottage

Not nearly this good

o will be carefully ignored, Temin’s Bed’n’Pottage may fit the bill. If you need minor items under the table, or connections to petty thieves and the rumormill, you can find them here. If you’re not quite dead broke, Temin’s will get you through a cold winter’s night. If you’re a health inspector… well, all your troubles will be over after your head explodes.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice – the Cosmic Knights

The Cosmic Knights are far less powerful than Skoll and Hati. After all, their artifact suits and empowering manses – however indestructible – aren’t pinnacles of Deathlord craftsmanship. Still, they WERE patterned after Skoll and Hati by Gaia – who basically just held up an essence-mirror and projected versions of the surviving bits of creation out into chaos. That was a very Primordial thing to do, but “fine control” was not a big concern at that point. Defenders of the new structure, on the other hand…

There were many other experiments of hers out there too, although the cosmic knights did turn out really well.

Cosmic Knight Armor (Artifact-*****, only usable by Essence-3 mortals or Godbloods with at least some knowledge of Thaumaturgy).

While Cosmic Knight Armor also includes, and relies on, three Manses (****. ***, and ***), players do not get to design those manses; they’re isolated on distant worlds and are devoted to empowering the armor and to hiding and maintaining themselves – while the Cosmic Knights are extremely conspicuous, cannot remove their armor (as they no longer actually have bodies), tend to find trouble everywhere they go, and are easily recognized throughout most of the universe – leaving possible opponents quite familiar with their basic capabilities. These problems suffice to pay for the necessary manses.

Cosmic Knights always start as Essence-3 Mortal (or Godblooded) Thaumaturgists with a virtue total of 14+. On merging with the Cosmic Knight armor they are essentially transmformed into Gods inhabiting that armor, gaining:

+2 Effective Essence (+1 from the Armor – transforming an Essence-3 Mortal into an Essence-4 God – and +1 from one of the linked Manses). Unfortunately, they generally cannot buy it up any further – and are permanently trapped in the armor barring intervention by some far greater power.

As an Essence-5 God, the new Cosmic Knight gains:

  • +24 Spirit Charms. Additional charms may be purchased with experience – but at mortal costs.
  • +1 to each Virtue.
  • +20 Ability Dots, Maximum 7.
  • +30 Attribute dots (Strength and Stamina; Minimum 10, Maximum 15, Appearance Maximum 5, other attributes Maximum 10)
  • +2 Will (10 Max).
  • +10 Bonus Points (+1 to an Attribute or +1 Charm costs 4, +2 to an Ability, Virtue, or Willpower costs 2, and +1 to a Background or picking up two specialty dice costs 1).
  • A Base Essence Pool of Essence x 10 + Willpower x 5. They gain a bonus of +20 motes per hour to their respiration.
  • +10B/+10L Inherent Soak (on top of their Stamina-Based Soak).
  • Base Health Levels of 4x -0, 10x -1, 10x -2, 4x -4, and 4x Incapacitated.

Yes, being promoted to Godhood is pretty nice for a mortal. 

  • Cosmic Knight Armor provides +25B/25L/25A inherent soak and has a hardness of 12. It perfectly caps damage from any attack or flurry at two health levels. In addition, any Crippling, Desecration, Shaping, Sickness, or Poison effect which an attack or flurry would normally inflict may be converted to the loss of two motes – even if it would normally take effect more than once due to a flurry or involves more than one of those keywords. Finally, three times per scene, the wearer may perfectly resist any one attack in it’s entirety – including any additional special effects that it would normally have. The armor itself is indestructible, but many of it’s functions (such as the built-in artifacts and ability to transform new wearers) will shut down if it’s supporting manses are destroyed.
  • The wearer regenerates one level of bashing damage every minute, one level of lethal damage every thirty minutes, and one level of aggravated damage every two hours and gets +8 automatic successes against diseases or poisons if he or she is out of motes to counter them with. Donning Cosmic Knight Armor adds about two centuries to the wearer’s lifespan, but does not extend it indefinitely.
  • The wearer need not eat, drink, breathe, or sleep, and may survive in any natural environment. In space they may communicate, use their senses, and use their ranged weapon at appropriate ranges. (Yes, this means that they can speak and hear in a vacuum. This is Exalted and these are interstellar heroes, were you really expecting them to pay much attention to physics?)
  • Cosmic Knight Armor includes the equivalent of double-speed Wings of the Raptor, a Translight Space Drive (rated at three if a roll is required), the equivalent of three dots worth of Artifact Melee Weapons, the equivalent of three dots of Artifact Ranged Weapons, and three Hearthstones (two x *** and one ****). All of these are built into the armor and require no committed motes, although the Hearthstones enhance mote recovery normally. One of the Rating-*** Stones is always a Stellar Navigator’s Stone (the user never gets lost and can see in the dark – including the dark nebulae of their dust-shrouded home galaxies).

While the weapons and hearthstones are, of course, fixed for each suit, if someone makes a Cosmic Knight character they are free to make their own selections. There are, after all, rather a lot of them.

When a Cosmic Knight dies their armor will vanish in a great burst of light and essence, only to reappear in its crypt in its manse complex to await a new claimant. Since some of those crypt complexes are quite famous in their home galaxies, and there are usually would-be claimants waiting.

Can you build a Cosmic Knight character?

To qualify you’ll need to take a mortal and buy Essence 3 (20 Bonus Points), a total of 14 Virtues 14 (5 Bonus Points, given that virtues have been errated to 1 bonus point per dot) and then buy an Artifact-***** (the allowable three dots from a mortal’s five-dot background allotment and 4 Bonus Points). That’s 29 Bonus Points.

Barring errata and house rules, mortals get 21 bonus points and may normally have up to 10 points of flaws – so yes, you can build a Cosmic knight (although you won’t have much in the way of other bonuses). You might even have an initial advantage over a new Exalt, although that will tend to fade fast.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CVL – Swimming in Light

And to continue with Aikiko in the wider universe…

Aikiko considered… assorted bits of interstellar behemoths would obviously be useful in drive-artificing; they would normally travel in strange and bizarre ways. So… she had a project!

Would it be possible to communicate or negotiate with some of them? After all… it was likely that they’d never even notice contributing a bit to an artifact, they didn’t seem to be fighting each other, and they’d presumably been stuck in this pocket long enough to REALLY want to get out. Was there enough intelligence there to work with?

(Aikiko) “So… what’s with the central gate? Where do the things that get “taken” wind up?

Considering the Primordials involved, it might well be Beyond! But it was still good to ask.

(Older Gray) “It apparently – at least usually – goes to Malfeas. We suspect that Isidoros and Oramus have been collecting their own ingredients for something since the reshaping gave them a chance to set up their reflections of Isidoros / collection points across the cosmos. From what we have… it was impossible for any aspect of Oramus to remain free – so of course some did. It was to be expected that he would have a perfect defense against total confinement. After all, if he could exist before existence… then remaining free despite imprisonment is a small feat.

(Aikiko, slowly) “Thus, at the center of this sargasso… there is an aspect of Isidoros, and one that is even stronger than usual, that acts as a massive one-way gate to Malfeas.”

(Older Gray) “Indeed. We have been… VERY reluctant to take that route out.

Aikiko found it hard to blame them for that. After all, they worshiped one of the Yozis’ prime betrayers.

Still… “Cosmic Knights”. She hadn’t been expecting THAT one! It made sense in it’s own weird way, just like most of the cosmos did – but so often things made sense in ways that made your brain hurt! If the Mask of Winters ever found out… it would be nice to see his face! Surely he had not expected that particular ancient project to spawn a thousand new near-exalted heroes!

And that was a bit of an inspiration. She’d been focusing mostly on getting OUT of Skoll. If she really could gain full control of him… he’d be a MAJOR edge! Just the life support and superstrength alone, not to mention the armor and the artifact-emulation. Few Exalts, even among the elders, could boast the extent of THAT emulation.

It wasn’t long after that that she had Skoll cloaked and the Mental Invisibility Technique running – which should, hopefully, avoid attracting the notice of Isidoros – and was off to have a look at some Behemoths. Surely at their scale she could pretend to be unimportant and harmless!

Skoll was quite amenable at the moment; the only apparent route to capturing the Sun or finding the Mask of Winters seemed to be to help the Jadefolk build an artifact. That was not within his areas of competence, so directions were needed – and Aikiko was piloting right now.

The Fusion Shark was a mere thirty-two miles long, but it was glowing in x-ray frequencies. The Nebular Man-o-War was mostly immaterial, but it was at least light-months across, and it’s force tendrils extended for even further. The Neutron ammonite was only ten miles across, but was EXTREMELY solid. There was a cloud of Transmutation Mites, a Photonic Storm, and some sort of magnetic field entity that was REALLY hard to make out…

The Mountain Folk (Space Folk? Searchers?) needed… a fusion-ignition node from the Fusion Sharks stomach. It looked like the thing was… basically a living fusion rocket; it was mostly made of fields of force, it’s stomach was a fusion reactor, it propelled itself by tapping a stream of plasma off it’s stomach, and it consumed comets and such for fuel. The “Gill” structures were magnetic-seperation systems that channeled other materials to appropriate organs. Given that it lived in space, it simple radiated waste energies and stray photons from the fusion reactions. It wasn’t a Death Star, but it could project lasers through it’s “teeth” powerful enough to chop comets – up to twenty miles or so across – into chunks for easy ingestion. That was certainly enough to obliterate cities, and maybe enough to take out continents! A beam that cold cut through thirty miles of rock and ice… could easily cut through a planet’s crust.

Evidently the Behemoths got remade to suit their new environment during the reshaping. A head-on attack would not be the best approach, even with Skoll! Sneaking up might get her to it without problems – but getting that node would mean either killing it or passing through the stomach. Even with the Skoll and a Behemoth Cloak… too much of that probably wouldn’t be survivable without soak-based perfect defenses. Dodging wasn’t going to help much here; she’d be pretty much swimming in the stuff! But fighting it… it was capable of surviving it’s own energies indefinitely – which mean that it was probably largely indestructible.

Well, if there were any EASY options, the Mountain Folk would have come up with something long ago.

The things stomach actually ran around the 150L level; it was running a higher-efficiency reaction than the core of a giant star. While it couldn’t maintain it for long, it could pulse the temperature up to about 200L – the total-conversion level – for brief periods to meet greater energy demands.

The rest of the list wasn’t too easy either… They also needed a Quagma Tendril from the Neutron Ammonite, and a bit of the spacemap in the mind of the Nebular Man-of-War. They… intended to use the Quagma Tendril – which was pretty close to being solidified wyld energy – and the ignition node to control it’s breakdown so as to change the structure of reality around their city. They’d use the spacemap concept to keep track of the changes. If they could work that trick… they could jump outside the universe entirely, and thus bypass any barrier – including the black holes around this place.

Well, that would be handy!

Hrm… She’d still be taking damage – but between Skoll and the Behemoth cloak it wouldn’t be very fast. Checking with the the Mountain Folk… they were willing to lend her some fully-charged healing chalices, and some lesser healing items if she thought that that would let her survive (she WAS a Solar; they were known for surviving practically anything – and while she wasn’t entirely sure, she wasn’t admitting that to THEM). She couldn’t get through to Aden at the moment – even if she WAS still partially there (Drat Oramus anyway. How could she still be THERE and still functioning there and yet be unable to get through? Would the aides in Aden be able to funnel through some healing if she started showing signs of injury THERE? Or would she show signs of injury at all?)

Well, her own aides had some healing thaumaturgy – as limited as that was – and there were some mutations she could take on that would help. Between Adenic Thaumaturgy and the cloak and her Ox-Body techniques she could take quite a bit of damage. If she could accelerate her swimming/flying enough… it might work. She could just dive in with the food and head for the stomach. She might even gain a little time just by hiding in a thick enough layer of ice, and the Durability of Oak Meditation would help for awhile…

So… Twelve to fifteen minutes. Maybe up to twenty with a little luck and some wards and a layer of ice and such. Her personal motes would probably be better spent on speed charms and thaumaturgy than on defense, and she could get some more speed-boosting artifacts set up from Skoll…

By the Incarnae… this just might work!

The ice exploded into vapor as it passed through the laser-tooth bursts – but the outer layer of wards deflected that nicely, leaving her hurtling down a glowing tunnel towards a truly massive magnetic field. Other lasers and energy beams were playing over her… It was obviously very rare for a chunk of solid matter to get this far!

Oddly enough… they seemed to be… analytical? Interesting! She attempted to spoof them – pretending to be a big hunk of soulsteel!

Skoll was abruptly wrenched to one side – and was funneled down a side-passage at high acceleration. He was headed towards an organ that… the Mountain Folk had completely failed to identify from the outside. It looked like… reflective energy fields, a LOT of essence, judging from the effects powering up – it “digested” artifacts that could be broken down, and ejected any truly indestructible stuff.

Botheration! That wasn’t what she needed at all! And nothing to hang onto; it was all made of fields of force… Time to power up!

Aikiko – and Skoll – abruptly blazed with sunlight, as Aikiko activated her athletics charms and began kicking off the walls to head back towards the stomach. Fortunately, few things actively resisted once past the teeth…

Huh. She was intentionally diving into a superheated, high-pressure, fusion plasma hotter than the core of the sun. Somehow that didn’t sound like a very sensible thing to do…

Weeeeelllll… that was where the thing she needed was, so while it still wasn’t sensible, she still needed to go there.

As she passed through the essence-containment, the pressure shot up to to a couple of million tons per square inch, the temperature went up to 100,000,000 degrees or so, and radiation levels went WAY above “lethal in fractions of a second”. The outer levels of wards were peeling away, as were the ablative layers. The essence-flux was boiling as matter, energy, and essence blurred.

Time to pick up the pace!

Scanning for the nearest ignition node with her investigation excellency… it looked like the nearest one was about two miles away; they were apparently clustered around the intake area to start the incoming gases fusing…

The area started to glow glow radiantly, and warm. As the brilliance increased, the Coatl set up wards. Since they – unlike Aikiko – had no direct link to the outside, mere wards could protect them for some time – but not forever.

(Skoll) “External environment exceeds filtering capacity. Dimensional interface will heat until pilot or system limits are reached and escape protocol must be engaged. Time estimate… eighteen minutes, sixteen seconds.

The ignition node… was about twenty feet tall, and looked fairly fragile, although it obviously wasn’t. At peak, spheres of iridescent energy formed and shot off into the incoming plasma – blazing like minature stars as the plasma was drawn into them and the fusion-cascade begins. As an active part of a living creature it couldn’t be truly indestructible – but it was certainly incredibly tough. Fortunately… as long as most of the damage was only to the support structure and energy-feeds, the Mountain Folk wouldn’t have much trouble fixing it…

Combining Skoll’s massive strength, Sledgehammer Fist Punch, Upgraded Smashfists (that also halved the soak of inanimate targets), and a few more enhancements actually got Aikiko up to the point where she was inflicting damage on the support structure of the Ignition Node despite it’s ability to withstand essence-effects and the constant damage of the stomach for lengthy periods.

It took… rather too long to cut it free – although it was easy enough to store thereafter. Another one budded from the wall moments later… Evidently the conditions of the stomach eventually wore them out.

At the rate this was going she had less than ten minutes of survival time left, and the constant low-level essence radiation burn was REALLY getting annoying. She needed to get out, FAST.

The exits… were primarily the drive-torch; which was about four miles away across the center, about ten along the walls. There are some secondary plasma taps for other purposes though – presumably going to organs that needed superheated plasma or fresh fusion plasma.

She had Skoll shift his artifact array from smashing to facilitating rapid travel and headed for the drive-torch. With any luck, it would be fast enough – perhaps even fast enough to let her time her exit for when it wasn’t using full thrust…

She still had more than a minute left as she approached the torch-feed. The creature was only thrusting casually at the moment – mostly just chasing bits of water ice in nearby orbits. It probably didn’t like being trapped of course, but it probably wasn’t suffering much. Of course… the primary walls were VERY close to being indestructible – and might indeed be so while actively supported. The exit area… was a hundred feet across, and was filled with iron atom nuclei moving at cosmic-ray speeds – so close to light speed that their mass was increased by a notable factor. The pressure inside Skoll was rapidly increasing, as the pressure outside exceeded normal methods of calculation.

This was going to hurt.

As the Fusion Shark shifted orbit, the floor vanishes to vent a stream of iron nuclei moving at almost light speed – and Aikiko and Skoll were swept along for the ride – at tens of thousands of gravities of acceleration. Thank the Incarnae – no, thank Charles – that the Behemoth cloak could limit any source of damage and that the Coatl had their own defenses.

Aikiko went hurtling into space at near the speed of light, out of healing supplies, seriously injured, and heading for the shell of black holes which bordered the place.

Still not ideal.

(Aikiko) “How long to bring down the velocity with a flight system?”

(Skoll) “About thirteen weeks at five gravities”.

THAT wasn’t going to work. Could the Mountain Folk pick her up? Steer towards an asteroid or something? The impact would be nasty, but the fast-healing mutations would patch her up in time… Well, she could boost her acceleration with Travel Thaumaturgy, telekinesis would add more acceleration without injuring anyone, and she might be able to do something with warding…

Ward against gravity? It WAS a black hole up ahead.

That took some tinkering to avoid going near the speed of light the other way – but reducing the efficiency of the Ward got it down to something manageable eventually – and once her speed was something reasonable, the Jadeborn could pick her up. They did want to know what kind of Thaumaturgy that was… normally you couldn’t ward against gravity!

(Aikiko) “My friend set it up – the one who’s good with Artifacts and Manses!”

(Mountain Folk) “It’s an impressive trick! Even more than it would have been in Old Creation, where the best you could have done would be zero gravity.”

(Aikiko) “It saved my life!”

(Mountain Folk) “Well, it’s an impressive resource, even if it doesn’t do anything else… with an appropriate ward, you could move a planet!”

(Aikiko) “I think he’s done that…”

The Mountain Folk felt that they’d definitely missed some developments out there in the greater universe. Being trapped here… was a serious problem! That’s why they ALL needed to get out! They were pretty grateful though. They hadn’t managed to figure out a way to get one of those Fusion Nodes, and they’d been working on it for decades.

(Aikiko) “I’m just glad I got it out… I’m not sure even I could survive another trip in there.”

Perhaps fortunately, the Fusion Shark would never notice. After all, on it’s scale… those nodes were smaller than an eyelash, and were constantly being destroyed and replaced anyway.

Meanwhile… Charles’s new priesthood had concluded that he was the most HYPERACTIVE deity in known history; he intervened at an incredible rate if there was some actual emergency…

Charles, of course, was betting that a several-thousand year old Deathlord had LOTS of other enemies, and quite a few other projects – and probably preferred to plan well ahead (or he very likely wouldn’t have lasted this long) – which meant that it might be months, or maybe even some years, before he launched any personal assaults – and to his mind… that was practically forever, even if the Deathlord considered it the blink of an eye.

Which gave him time to build more manses and send bodyguards to all vulnerable positions and Tenders/Overseers in Yu-Shan – no matter how much consternation that would cause the Occupation/Bureaucracy. He had a writ for it!

Ahlat was taking an interest as well; he’d gotten such GOOD mileage out of “promise them stuff later”, Monotheism, and “Prophecy” routines that it was more than a bit disconcerting to see someone bringing forth waters in the desert, a child leading the way into new worlds, an entity that seemed almost all-benevolent answering prayers en mass, the Raksha being tamed to live with mortals…

When had there EVER been anyone who was willing to say “It’s a GOOD promise! I don’t care who made it, I’m keeping it!” Was he planning to fulfill the entire earthly paradise routine? That could really foul up his operations! On the other hand, if the boy – or whatever he was – could be convinced to SUPPORT his operations… it might make him almost invincible!

The amount of Sidereal and Lunar interference that he was having to chop through was almost absurd though! Was the child some manipulation of theirs?

Beasts of Atheria Part III – Reaching Razorbacks and the Vanishing Hyrax

Snowi, a young wild boar (Sus scrofa) in the W...

And what do YOU want?

Beasts born in Atheria, like Humans born there, gain a Birthright – abilities derived from the magic of the domain in which they’re born. Thus, here are another couple of inhabitants of Dernmarik – the realm of dimensional magic.

Pigs are adaptable sociable omnivores, scavengers, and predators, capable of surviving in a wide variety of environments. They’re quite intelligent, and normally weigh about as much as a human does (and are just as prone to extremes of size). While pigs are widely domesticated, the domestic pig is a mere subspecies of the wild boar – and will quickly interbreed and revert to type if given the opportunity. In either case, they’re quite dangerous (especially in injured or threatened) – even without a magical Atherian Birthright.

There are some realms of Atheria where attempting to keep pigs is, at best… ill-advised.

Sometimes it’s lethal.

Dernmarkian Reaching Razorback (Wild Boar, 18 CP).

Reaching Razorbacks are one of the subtypes that no one sane attempts to keep; while they aren’t inherently hostile, they can kill a human (or especially a tasty-looking child) very casually – employing the same dimensional manipulations that they use to pull fruit out of trees and defend themselves from predators. As a side-effect, they can somewhat manipulate their other dimensional relationships – granting them the ability to modify their size, a trick that they use to fit through small places or to increase their ability in battle.

Reaching Razorbacks tend to escape confinement with ease – enlarging themselves to dig holes and push down fences and gates, shrinking to fit through small holes, and easily reaching fastenings that would be out of reach of any normal animal. Worse, they can attack at range, and several times before they’re reached if they don’t like whatever’s approaching – and will do so as a group. They’re best dealt with using ranged weapons or magic, although they’re tough enough to make even that difficult.

Reaching Razorbback Birthright (18 CP):

  • Innate Enchantment (All effects either Spell Level Zero or Spell Level One, Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated, Personal Only, for a 700 or 1400 GP effective value). Enlarge Self, Reduce Self, Immortal Vigor I (Adds +12 + [2 x Con Mod] hit points), and Resistance (L0, +1 to saving throws) (6 CP).
  • Lunge (+5′ effective reach), Specialized/only with jaws (3 CP).
  • Bonus Uses/+2 Attacks of Opportunity per Round (3 CP).
  • Martial Art/Razorfang Style (Str): Power II (Raises primary attack to 1d12), Toughness 1 (gains DR 1/-), and Reach (for a total reach of 15′) (6 CP).

Vanishing Hyrax:


More tricks than you can shake a boulder at.

A Dernmarikian Vanishing Hyrax (use the base attributes for a Monkey) is a mildly unusual creature, and is probably an import that established itself since it really doesn’t seem to fit into the local ecology. A climbing vegetarian creature, it might be described as a monkey-like rabbit – but is more closely related to the Elephant than to most other creatures. The Dernmarik variant is a very clever animal – in fact, borderline sapient – and is capable of drawing trivial magical effects from other dimensions to suit itself. While it’s still too small to have a very powerful birthright, it’s clever enough to use what power it can handle quite effectively – and possesses considerably more versatile abilities than most animals.

A Vanishing Hyrax makes an excellent companion or familiar for almost any character, and can be quite friendly. Of course, a Vanishing Hyrax will also steal bits of your meals, siphon your soup, pester for attention, magically pinch children who annoy it, ride on your shoulder when it suits it and keep wandering from pocket to pocket otherwise, and poke it’s nose into things…

Vanishing Hyrax Birthright (12 CP):

  • Self-Development: +2 Int (Only +1 in settings that are not using the half-price attributes rule – still enough to make it sapient, 6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (all effects Spell Level One, Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated, for an effective value of 2000 GP/Spell Level). Conjurer’s Tricks (Reduced to L1 throughthe Blood of the Dragon by the sacrifice of a point of dexterity, 2000 GP), Mage Armor (which it can share with a friend, 2000 GP), and Create Water (1000 GP), for a total cost of (6 CP).

Common “tricks” taught to Vanishing Hyrax companions include…

  • Arm – put a weapon or other item in your hand when you hold out your hand in a particular way; a Vanishing Hyrax is capable of keeping track of three different items and their respective request-gestures.
  • Attack – actually harass an indicated target with small magics.
  • Cleanse – keeping itself, it’s user, and the immediate area neat and clean.
  • Come – when called.
  • Conceal Item – magicly shuttle an indicated item around your body so that it’s never where anyone else is looking at the moment.
  • Fetch – generally within short range, and by magic. She tends to keep the item conveniently levitated if you don’t take it.
  • Heel – a variant in that it will mostly ride on your shoulder and/or hide in a pocket.
  • Hinder – use it’s magic to inflict small penalties on an indicated target.
  • Ignite – heating liquids or setting small fires as indicated.
  • Perform – doing various minor magic tricks.
  • Tend – use it’s powers to try to stabilize someone who’s dying; it will do this for it’s owner without a command.
  • Ward – using it’s tricks to keep itself and it’s companion comfortable, warm in chill conditions, cool in hot ones, keeping off rain, chasing away bugs, and so on. This neatly compensates for the fact that Hyrax have rather poor temperature-regulation systems.

A Vanishing Hyrax can learn quite a few tricks if it wants to; it is, after all, sapient – if pretty dim. In many ways, they act like very small children.

Skills of the Eclipse IV – Foresight, Governance, Command, Ninjaneering, Dream-Binding, and Secrets

Here we have a few more of the Occult (in the literal sense of being “hidden”) Skills that have come up in our Eclipse games at one time or another. This isn’t an exhaustive listing of course. After all, from the viewpoint of Eclipse, every skill known to the multiverse is freely available – starting with the skills which are possible (however wildly exotic or unlikely they are) – ranging on through the skills which have little or no application in a given setting (yes, you CAN take “Flint Knapping”, but this is a game about computer hacking!), skills which will not work in the setting (yes, you CAN take the “Timewalking” skill, but it only works in the “Timewalkers” universe!), and skills from alien universes which human minds simply cannot comprehend (no, there’s no use asking me what those are; they don’t make any sense to me either).

You can still buy those skills (well, maybe not the ones that humans can’t conceive of; I don’t know how you’d write them down on your character sheet), but it’s kind of silly.

Practical Occult Skills are pretty much limited to the things that will work sensibly in a given setting, but which normal people just don’t learn to do. Thus this series has already covered Legendarium, Gadgetry, and Glowstone Alchemy in Part I, Dwarven Rune Mastery, Subsumption, and Identities in Part II, and Faith, Gathering, and Accounting in Part III. This time it’s Foresight, Governance, and Command, as well as Ninjaneering, Dream-Binding, and Secrets.

Foresight (Intelligence, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) is mostly used by characters who are far smarter and more prepared than their player – whether they’re being run by a player or by the game master. Sadly, no one can foresee or plan for everything – so each time you use Foresight during a session, it’s effective bonus value drops by one or more points. It refreshes on a per-session basis. Fortunately, your Foresight must be practical; you can’t call on your Secret Goon Squad if you haven’t been anywhere where you could possibly obtain one in months. Still, the possible applications are legion. For some examples, consider…

  • Arrangements Have Been Made: Someone has rented a room and established a (thin) cover for you in advance, a message will be sent if you do NOT stop it – whether calling for help or to carry any information you could have provided an hour ago (1), You have a safehouse, or basic escape arrangements, ready to go (2), You have a detailed alibi ready, know of a supply cache in the area, or a high-speed escape vehicle ready to go (4).
  • Fortunately, I Came Prepared: Deciding what spell you prepared in a slot at the time of casting or producing some minor item of gear (1), having purchased a convenient limited-use item before coming (2),
  • I Know Your Secret: You know some Minor (1), Notable (2), or Major (4) secret or suitable bit of blackmail material. This is not always a good idea to haul out, but can be very handy.
  • I’m Calling In A Favor: You gain support from a Minor (1), Notable (2), or Major (4) figure – perhaps borrowing a vehicle, getting backing for your petition at court, or getting someone out of jail.
  • My Reputation Is Impeccable: Evidence or Witnesses will appear on cue to support whatever tale you’re telling. Minor items, such as some simple forged papers or a character witness, cost (1), Notable items, such as an incriminating letter costs (2), and Major items, such as backing for whatever wild tale you’re telling, solid pieces of “evidence”, or grandiose forgeries, cost (4).
  • My Secret Goon Squad: You have a helpful bodyguard (1), a small group of fighters (2), or a full squad of skilled fighters, possibly with heavy weapons (4) to back you up in the immediate vicinity – even if they don’t work directly for you.
  • Someone In The Area: you know someone in the area who can provide rare and expensive items of some sort (1), who will provide minor illegal or unethical services for a price (2), who can accomplish some small task almost untraceably – including things like taking a shot at someone (4).

While Foresight is always subject to game master review – if you’re in a secret underground ruin surrounded by the undead you’re unlikely to know anyone in the immediate vicinity who’s selling holy water – it can make high-level wizards and similar characters a great deal more powerful. Now that may be fair enough – if someone has a character with Intelligence 28, he or she will probably be capable of outplanning any normal person as readily as a normal person can outplan a gerbil – but it may be a problem in your games.

Foresight in obviously closely related to the d20 Political Positions rules – specifically the Preparations section. Similar skills are obviously possible; Governance would allow the user to buy Holding Assets for any settlement that he or she was personally running while Command would cover Army Enhancements. Such skills provide an easy way to personalize – and upgrade – holdings while remaining portable; if your expert commander takes up residence in another land, he or she will soon be able to train new troops to his or her standards.

Ninjaneering (Intelligence, No Unskilled Use, Restricted, normally requires access to Reality Editing) is the fine art of having prepared the area in advance even if you’ve never been there before. While this always requires a roll, the more tricks you try to pull, the tougher they’ll get; Ninjaneering is subject to a cumulative -2 “fatigue” penalty for each roll past the first on any given day.

  • DC 10: Having an area filled with caltrops, tripwires, or similar annoyances, finding a convenient rope to swing on.
  • DC 15: Having a convenient secret panel, springboard to power a mighty leap, or mundane weapon lying about.
  • DC 20: Placing a pit trap, having a stack of mattresses handy to cushion the fall when you dive out a window, getting out a major weapon you hid in the area “earlier”.
  • DC 30: Introducing a major obstacle, such as a portcullis, or a secret route to get around such an obstacle or escape through.
  • DC 40: Turning the area into a speciality arena, such as a bridge over a chasm full of flames, by having the floor drop away.
  • DC 50: Rebuilding a just-destroyed structure by revealing that the destroyed one was a fake, revealing that you have a truckload of explosives nearby.

Ninjaneering basically makes the user the star of his or her own action movie – and, at the high end, is capable of some pretty ridiculous things. Of course, by the time characters are capable of making rolls at DC 40+, they’re usually capable of doing a LOT of ridiculous things.

Finally we have a couple of skills that have been addressed before…

Dream-Binding (Charisma, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) was originally discussed under an article on Equipment. It allows the user to draw objects from dreams into reality. To do so, the user must get a full nights rest and forfeit the natural healing and attribute recovery that would normally result, whereupon he or she will awaken with his or her allotment of items. The maximum value of any item depends on the number of skill levels allotted to it according to the formula for skill-enhancement items (Bonus x Bonus x 100 GP), although no more than one-third of the total available skill levels may be allotted to any one item. Dream-binding cannot create items with charges (although uses-per-day limitations are fine), or skill-boosting items. Consumable goods will vanish once the skill points are re-allotted, so the creation of food and water is ill-advised. Finally, of course, the game master must approve of the list of items to be created.

Secrets (Intelligence, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) originally appeared in the Ancient One Template. Each skill point invested in the “Secrets” skill brings extraordinary knowledge – the names of a dozen powerful fey, the routes through the crypts beneath the sacred mountains, how to open the seven gates of the netherworld, or the summoning chant of the three winds. The game master may let a character roll against his or her Secrets skill to see if they know some bit of lost information – or simply give the user additional secrets/plot hooks when it’s convenient.

Shadow Walk is covered in Eclipse itself on page 39 as an example of an occult skill, so there’s no need to reprint it here.

There are plenty of other Occult Skills out there – but most special abilities can be built with the various powers in Eclipse without having to define new skills. That’s why an awful lot of these examples are from specific settings. If something isn’t a major factor in a setting, it’s usually best covered as a special ability. If it does, and it works more or less like a skill – than adding a skill to the setting, and an Occult Skill to the system in general, may work best.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXLIV – The Cosmic Knights

Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butt...

The Food of the Primordials!

The engineer almost gave Charles a really odd look – but recalled himself in time. Didn’t the child-deity realize just how big a privilege it was to have an engine made by a god? Much less to get to watch it’s creation? And the SPEED… It should have taken YEARS to upgrade the engine that way! Only a truly mighty god, even using the divine authority charms, could do such a thing!

(Charles, noting the thought, explained) “I think it’s more important to look after it like it was an engine!”

Meanwhile, the meeting with the United Heaven and Worlds party was underway – at least by comlink, since Charles had things to do… On the other end there was a being of pure light, with a man who appeared to be made of road map lines, and a comparatively normal-looking bear person. The meeting opened with prayer, which Charles probably should have expected. Did they like peanut butter?

(Charles) “Hello!”

(“Road Map Man”, A.K.A. Lanlon of Many Routes) “Hello, Aden Shining Dream! Welcome to Tarvial!”

(Charles) “Well, thank you! Would you like some peanut butter?”

He sent some their way, in a variety of forms – peanut butter cups, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and peanut butter cookies, all of truly exceptional craftsmanship. Why not?

(“Light Being”, A.K.A. Bright-Shaped Riselda) “Peanut butter? Well, Lanlon and I arranged this meeting when it became apparent you had entered Tarvialan space.”

(Charles) “So what do you need?”

They put the peanut butter aside for later.

(Lanlon) “Well, your cult recently reached enough members to receive a seat in the House of Gods.” (Motioning to the bear) “Hysalka here is a geologist, and one of your more devoted worshippers. She wants your personal blessing before she runs for the seat.”

They sent Charles a local Wyld zone map and a shiny construct of solid light to reciprocate (they were fairly incredible goodies).

(Charles, a bit blankly) “My personal blessing?”

He did a bit of divination about whether or not Hysalka was a nice person… It looked like she was nice enough, but mildly corrupt as politicians went. It looked like… a part of the reason why the gods of Tarvial were so active in the parliament was that like the Bureaucracy focused on earth and thus didn’t notice and there weren’t really enough unoccupied Sidereals to stop them. They could also run God-Bloods in these positions. Hysalka… believed in what Charles seemed to promote (manses, artifacts, and fixing things), although she was far from a saint – and she would very much like to get his personal blessing and be the one who spoke for him on Tarvail.

(Malinda, privately) “Are you sure that you want your interests represented by someone who knows all the lovely lobbying and parliamentary tricks that make sausage making an analogy for politics?”

(Charles, privately) “Well, that is sort of how politics works! But do I really HAVE a message? Other than “Be Nice” and “Fix Things?””

(Malinda, privately) “Well, she DOES have skill at Manse-building; it’s often considered a related field due to the elemental connections. Are you going to do the Autochthon meeting the first Jadeborn thing and tell her “I dunno, build Manses?”?”

Charles considered what to give her… Did she have an active essence pool? Not to the full extent of the awakening mutations – it was only partial – but it was certainly enough for some thaumaturgy.

Huh… A Sigil of the Dawning Age was USEFUL, but not really an ongoing blessing…

Oh wait! All he had to do was upgrade with a few special functions!

The basic Sigil Of The Dawning Age (Artifact **) could be upgraded to a Draupnir, the Sigil of Plenty fairly readily, just by adding…

Power 4:

  • The Runic Forge: The item may use Thaumatrugic Enchantment instead of Crafting for basic Artifact Creation rolls (Class-B).
  • Informed Knowledge: The Sigil is is programmed with it’s own design and that of it’s components, and so needs no skills to work on making full or partial (Sigil of the Dawning Age) copies of itself (Class-A).
  • Thaumaturgic Science Effect/Enchantment (15 Successes): Makes full or partial duplicates of itself (Class-B).
  • Thaumaturgic Science Effect/Alchemy (10 Successes): Makes the rare woods and powdered gemstones needed to duplicate itself in full or in part (Class-A).
  • Charm: The Laborer’s Word: The user may accomplish two hours worth of work at a cost of two motes (Class-A). This power is also available to the user.
  • Self-powering; The Sigil may employ the Laborer’s Word once every ten minutes without cost – but only to work on creating full or partial copies of itself (Class-A).

Normally the Draupnir version of the Sigil accomplishes a months worth of artificing in a day – meaning that it will take it nine days to make a basic Sigil of the Dawning Age (accumulating 30 successes at DC4) and eighteen days (accumulating 60 successes at DC 5) to make a duplicate of itself. If the user opts to allow it to draw on his or her essence recovery, this time may be cut down proportionately (for calculation purposes, the Sigil gets the equivalent of twelve motes an hour normally – so an individual with a base recovery of 4/hour can cut things down to six or twelve days and still have a few motes left to use themselves. Individuals with Hearthstones and other sources of motes may accelerate things a great deal more).

The basic design of a Sigil of the Dawning Age is still…

Power 5:

  • 2x Class-C Powers:
    • Self-Powered. The amulets have no attunement cost
    • +6 Occult.
  • 2x Class-B Powers:
    • Bestows Awakened Essence.
    • Reduces the cost of thaumaturgy; normal operations cost 2 motes, really minor stuff only costs one mote, and trivial stuff – such as levitating pencils, lighting cigarettes, and weaving handfuls of light – can be performed at no cost.
  • 4x Class-A Powers:
    • Can maintain any two thaumaturgical effects with durations. If dispelled, the effects can be restored reflexively by paying their costs again.
    • Can be attuned to produce the effects of any one Major Talisman (one of the ones with “triple effect”), or of one Lesser (one of the ones with “double effect) and one Minor (one of the ones with the basic effect) Talismans, or of three Minor Talismans. Changing the attunement requires three Enchantment successes, rolling once per hour. They default to “walkaway” effects unless otherwise attuned.
    • Store ten motes, which can only be used to power thaumaturgy.
    • The user may spend a mote to roll (Wit + Occ) as a reflex action. 1/3/5 successes adds +1/2/3 dice to any action which is not being enhanced by some other supernatural effect.

Artifact Design: Power 5, Usefulness 4, Plot Impact 1, Script Immunity 1, Components -1 (calls for assorted purchases of rare woods, powdered gemstones, etc), Troublesome -2 (only works for those without access to charm lists of their own – pretty much normal humans). Net Total = 8, 8/4 = Rating-**

The Draupnir version adds Power 4 again – since Power can be added twice – taking the total up to 12, 12/4 = Rating-***. Fortunately, the self-powering function still more than suffices.

While even the basic sigils are designed to be fairly easy to analyze, and bestow enough power to – given time, resources, and some personal skill – replicate themselves, the upgraded version can be expected to become a normal part of life, as new sigils accumulate on the chain…

(Charles) “A blessing? Well, OK!”

And created a set of Sigils of Plenty and sent her a couple…

Hysalkas eyes widened -but the rest of her reaction was polished and gracious.

(Hysalka) “Thank you and praise your name, Aden.”

(Charles) “Oh you’re welcome!”

Malinda sighed. Oh dear. Now the child had come up with a way to AUTOMATE turning societies upside down… An eighteen-day doubling time? There could be a million of the things inside of a year! A few years down the line… it was entirely possible that everyone in Tarvail would have at least one.

And now he was busily shipping off some of the extra ones he’d made to his scientist-friends on Earth… Well, at least that disruption might be lost in everything else which was coming up!

The gods said goodbye, as did Hyselka.


Elsewhere in the cosmos, Aikiko had emerged from the Memory of Oblivion – perhaps not surprisingly, to a sort of graveyard. Around her, for uncounted millions of miles, were drifting ships, asteroids, and even occasional truly enormous creatures – things thousands of miles long in some cases. The skies beyond… were filled with accretion disks, a blaze of nebular energies.

Huh. Well, that wasn’t as surprising as it might be considering where she just came from! It didn’t seem to be a Shadowland though, even though there was a terrible blackness at the center – but it was very hard to make out. No accretion disk there however. Perhaps that was the Mouth of the Memory into living space?

(Skoll) “Scanning… Chaos Pocket. Multiple Isadorean Reflections. No External Access; Area Shielded. Scans blocked, communications blocked, access routes blocked. Location file not found.”

Huh… Aikiko was VERY tempted to have a closer look! After all, forbidden places often had some kind of secret or treasure inside!

(Skoll) “Detecting… active thaumaturgy, pattern charms, geomancy, quasi-primordial behemoths, essence drives, primordial charms of Isadoros and Oramus, other traces too faint to identify.”

The two most reality warping ones. Even Aikiko had more sense than to meddle with that… She tried to let Charles know – and found that, while information and power was coming IN quite well, sending any back, even being in two places at once, was perfectly blocked! Somebody who knew all about being in more than one place at a time without being in multiple pieces was involved – and THEY seemed to understand it a LOT better than Charles.

Isidoros and Oramus were probably the best Primordials for doing that… But who set this up? The Mountain Folk? Those WERE Pattern Charms after all… But what would they be doing out here, other than the Great Search she’d heard about on Coruscant?

Unsurprisingly, Skoll… didn’t know.

Well, she couldn’t exactly expect intuitive insights from him. She might as well explore!

Even with flight artifacts and Adenic Travel Thaumaturgy that took some time. The place was BIG. Light years across at least.

Skoll DID express an interest in that though; she’d now used Adenic Thaumaturgy a couple of times – and, while it did not seem to be directly boosted by charms, it was far more powerful than any normal thaumaturgy. Have there been advancements while he awaited enough energy to repair himself? How was it done?

Hoo boy. Well, she could delay him for some time – but probably not forever!

(Aikiko) “Yeah, I think so… I’m not entirely sure how it’s done; though I think Manses have something to do with it.”

(Skoll) “Noted.”

So… a goal was definitely in order! The blackness in the center? One of the thousand-mile long Behemoths? One of the wrecked ships? One of the asteroids? A particular kind of power signature?

Ah! The most notable pattern Charm signature. The Mountain Folk were nothing if not well organized, and could doubtless answer a few questions for her!

It was a pretty fair distance – but she had time, transport artifacts, and plenty of Adenic travel thaumaturgy. The source seemed to be… a truly colossal saucer-ship, under very minimal power in what is more or less a long-term parking orbit around the center of the system. A fair amount of salvage work on wrecked ships was going on near it; there were lights and many smaller ships moving around. Judging by the nearly-gutted nearest wrecks the operation had probably been going on for some time.

Aikiko wasn’t having Skoll do any cloaking – so there was some notice of her approach – a rather small ship approaching then – although they seemed rather startled to find that it was a suit of armor with that kind of power signature, and not a fairly major ship.

(Aikiko) “Hi! I’m kinda stuck in here!”

(They reply was in Old Realm – and showed an image of a fairly classic Earthborn or “Gray”) “A pretty standard complaint around here I fear… Are you by yourself?”

(Aikiko, also in Old Realm) “Yes! I was talking about the armor, but I guess you guys haven’t had much luck escaping this place?”

(The “Gray”) “Unfortunately not! So far as we are aware, no one has escaped – although some have been taken. Still, that may change; we are working on it!”

(Aikiko) “What do you mean, taken?”

(The “Gray”) The gate at the center takes the incautious occasionally!

(Aikiko) “And I guess you don’t know where it leads.”

(The “Gray”) “Well… I don’t. The command crew might!”

(Aikiko) “Hummm… if there’s any way I can help you out, think they’d help me get out of this armor? It’s pretty sweet, but I don’t want to be stuck in it all the time! And I’ve got a movie to shoot in a few weeks!”

(Skoll) “Then we share a goal! We must swiftly escape this place, find the Mask of Winters, and – if he so commands – capture the Sun to take your place!”

(Aikiko) “Sigh… that second and third part is more YOUR goal. But yeah, we definitely need to get out of here.”

(Skoll) “You wish to be released – and a replacement would be best! The most appropriate replacement is the Sun, as was always intended!”

Argh! The Celestial Lions probably wouldn’t be able to handle him! The near-total invulnerability and massive arsenal alone would make that awkward – and without a pilot, there was nothing to prevent Skoll from just… ignoring everyone and firing the implosion bows until everyone gave up and let him through! She couldn’t let him get to Yu-Shan, even if he WAS surprisingly reasonable for a Deathlords Incarnae-capturing Death Machine… Perhaps he could be convinced to forget the sun entirely and simply see if the Mask of Winters had any new directives? Of course, first they’d have to FIND him – and that would be risky for her! After all, Skoll would presumably obey him… Ejection and likely a hard sell toward Abyssal Exaltation? Still, Abyssals were a bit weaker these days! He might just try to recruit her! After all… blowing her up had very little point; it would just deprive her Exaltation of a few years of experience. Doing otherwise might at least leave her owing him a big favor!

With the Jadeborn ship… while someone was willing to come meet her; they appeared to be reluctant to simply let an unknown entity with such power aboard – which was pretty understandable.

(An older, and more experienced, “Gray”) “My greetings to you… Are you perhaps one of the Cosmic Knights of which I have heard? You seem to fit the description fairly well!”

Well, THAT was unexpected!

(Aikiko) “Cosmic… Knights? Never heard of them! I found this guy on Earth!”

(Older Gray) “Earth? Ah, “Dirt”. Not very helpful I’m afraid! At least half the inhabited planets in the universe seem to be named something that translates to “Earth”.”

(Aikiko) “THE Earth. The Elemental Pole.”

(Older Gray) “What, the ACTUAL central physical manifestation of the elemental pole? How unusual! I thought that the Cosmic Knights only appeared in the three Kaldarius Galaxies! – at least within the area of the Search.”

(Aikiko) “That’s right! I’ve never been to those places. Honestly… this is the first time I’ve been off planet!”

(Older Gray) “Huh! Were you even aware of what that armor would do when you touched it? Still, it is impressive! People who can manage to activate such a suit are very VERY rare!”

(Aikiko) “Unfortunately, no!”

She explained just how it had happened.

(Older Gray) “Strange! That does not sound like a normal suit! Perhaps a variant? Or one that was malfunctioning?”

(Aikiko) “I think a Deathlord made him! He says his mission was to capture the Sun!”

(Older Gray) “A Deathlord? (There was a moments pause while he looked quite abstracted) Those are… rare and terrible beings! Why would one of THEM create something so like the Knights?”

(Aikiko) “I don’t know! Tell me more about them! And if you can find some way to get me out of this thing, I’m more than happy to help you escape! I’ve got a movie to film not that far from now!”

(Older Gray) “Well… The Kaldarius Galaxies are a trio of close galaxies with an unusually large quantity of interstellar dust and gas – dense enough to cloak the entire region in a relatively dark nebula. As such, exploration there is rather slow – and it tends to be guided by instruments capable of detecting Essence, rather than more physical quantities! Scattered across each of those galaxies were several hundred ancient complexes – groups of indestructible manses, each centered on a manse with s sealed crypt. When those were opened, suits such as the one you inhabit were found – but for centuries no one could activate them or tell much about them. Then a master thaumaturgist by the name of Ormalis touched one in studying it – and was drawn within, becoming a being of fabulous power and the first Cosmic Knight. Since then it has been shown that only a being with an active essence pool, an essence of at least three, and of great virtue and nobility, can activate a suit – and each is attuned to either men or women. If and when a Cosmic Knight is slain… the empty suit soon reappears in its crypt, to await another claimant.”

(Aikiko) “And… I’m a Solar Exalt. I never thought I was THAT noble – if Skoll is related to the Cosmic Knights in any way at all.”

(Older Gray) “Well… we never HAVE found any indication of who created the Cosmic Knights! They seem to have been there since the planets were created during the Reshaping. Our speculation was that… Oh dear.”

(Aikiko) “What?”

(Older Gray) “Well… so much of the Reshaping was patterned upon bits of the original creation. Thus you find many one-environment worlds, and galaxies full of ruined planet-cities, and so on. Do you know what YOUR armor was made for? If it set the pattern for the Cosmic Knights… they may be very like it in many ways!”

(Aikiko) “Like I said, I think it was to capture the Sun and use him for… something. It was made around the time of the Balorian Crusade… I think. My friend, who’s much better at history, says he dates to that time.”

(Older Gray, with another abstract look – just like the one when she said that she was a “Solar Exalt”) “The SUN? The most powerful and virtuous of gods… And the Cosmic Knights take into themselves the most powerful and virtous of mortals. What was your armor made to do?”

(Aikiko) “Charles and I had a theory. He thought that the Deathlord might have wanted to capture the Sun and use their combined power to fight off Balor and his armies. But Charles is like that! He’s FULL of theories!”

She explained what they’d come up with as the Mask of Winter’s plan… Capture the sun. Keep him from interfering with the advance of the Wyld and the Raksha until it reached the Tombs of the Neverborn. Once the Neverborn had returned to the wyld and reshaped themselves, use the Suns power to drive back the Raksha and re-establish the security of a (likely somewhat shrunken) creation – thus getting the Neverborn off his back while repaying his debt to them, providing him with an ultimate weapon, getting back at the sun for turning his back on his Exalted, thumbing his nose at the other Incaranae, Yu-Shan, and Malfeas by capturing the Sun, and claiming dominion over as much of creation as he cared to have.

After all, the Mountain Folk were in a pretty good position to verify that stuff!

(Older Gray) “So – regardless of his creators motives – the basic point was to swallow up the greatest and most noble of gods and use his power to protect and sustain Creation. And the Cosmic Knights… absorb the greatest and most noble of mortals and help them use their power – as augmented by the armor and manses – to protect and defend galaxies. Your “Deathlord” may have meant no good – but I suspect that he or she has done a great deal of good entirely by accident.”

Celestial Exaltations pretty much never happened in those galaxies (not that – given the scale of creation – they were at all common anywhere except the Earth) because the most heroic locals had already sought out Cosmic Knighthood, and their “real selves” were in isolated pocket dimensions, and unavailable for Exaltation. There were at least a thousand of them. They couldn’t match a solar exalt at the upper levels of essence – but how many Solar Exalts hit the upper levels of essence anyway? They tended to be too eager to push the boundaries of what was safe – and Aikiko was no exception; just look at what she did in Coruscant.

Gaia had tried quite a few experiments during the reshaping. It wasn’t like she was short of places to put them.

Skoll had no idea of what to do or say about THAT; having a small army of quasi-replicants of himself and Haiti running about was not something that was EVER covered in his programming…

(Older Gray) “Now… my apologies… but you said that you were a Solar Exalt. There have been few reports of THOSE for millenia – although the Banes show some similarities – and they were prone to… indiscretions. Combining their legendary powers with the power of what is apparently the primal cosmic knight armor… What is it you intend to do here?”

(Aikiko) “I came here fleeing Coruscant after some mistakes. I want to escape, just like you guys.”

There was another blank look – but this time it didn’t pass as quickly.

(Older Gray) “Coruscant? I’m sorry, but I can’t find any references… A planet I presume?”

(Aikiko) “It’s some planet in the Underworld. I met one of you guys there… he said he’d died during an expedition. It’s not how I expected the Underworld to look, though – bright as the sun and with a big city, too!”

(Older Gray) “Ah. Unfortunate that… we have few dealings with the Underworld; most of our crews live a very long time indeed. Still, we can send no queries outwards! If we could… perhaps the Great Search could rescue us from this trap.”

(Aikiko) “Are there… sleeping… others of your kind here? He did tell me about that.”

(Older Gray) “No, no… We arrived here by unlikely accident – a quiescent aspect of Isidoros lay in our path, and when we transitioned it under drive… we somehow wound up here. It has been many centuries now – although I hope that our long entrapment will soon reach it’s end!”

(Aikiko, her investigative excellency kicking over) “Let me guess . . . you’re trying to build a big warp drive to get out of here?”

(Older Gray) “That… would not suffice; passing through one of Isidoros’s reflections traveling faster than light brought us here – and trying to escape that way simply brings you back here. Our theoreticians say that we need an Elsewhere Drive, since not even the Once-Primordials can block the infinite dimensions of Elsewhere.”

(Aikiko) “What do you need for that? I’m no artificier, but I know a little about that!”

There was still a fair ingredients list – but they’d made a lot of progress. Fortunately they had been able to substitute for some things. The most awkward remaining items were some odd bits that they were scrounging for and some behemoth bits; those were around, were really hard to extract.

Of course, for a Solar “wearing” Skoll… they might be much more manageable!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXLIII – The Wyld Fringes

The Cybele asteroids are in the outer main bel...

Somethign about this seems almost familiar…

Kyeki-Hari, the Planetary Goddess of Kyeki II, was rather miffed with Charles’s presumption, even if he did save the place, it had been fine right where it was, Abyssal invaders or not! Now more than half the people on her planet were confused and upset, and they were all pestering her for answers! Why hadn’t Charles just run off the Abyssals if he wanted to intervene?

(Charles, reasonably) “Well, a Deathlord in charge might make a lot of trouble for you too! They’re not at ALL nice!”

Even an annoyed goddess could find little to say in the face of Charles’s casual assumption that moving the planet was a very minor thing, and far preferable to dealing with unpleasantness – such as an Abyssal takeover. It was almost impossible to out-understate THAT.

Thus Charles, the Tsunami, Kyeki II, its defenders, and its satellites, some spacecraft scooped out of troublesome situations along the way and assorted other objects continued heading for Tarvail – leaving behind the areas where the influence of the Elemental Pole of Earth held strong for the realms where the influence of the Wyld was ever more-widely felt.

The silly zones. In a cosmos with a radius of ten to the hundreth-power light years or so, some of those were very large indeed.

Planetary natural disasters were really quite rare. The local gods usually kept things far better organized than THAT – but there was a distress signal from one world… a planet of pink swirling puffy clouds and a definite wyld influence… The cute, chirpy little voice was pleading for help. An asteroid had struck the world; as far as anyone knew the sun had been completely blotted out and had remained so for three days now! He was calling for help from one of the poles!

And that definitely seemed to be true! The pink clouds were swirling over a large portion of the planetary surface – and over an enormous crater with a whole lot of rubble and fire, covering an even larger area, around it. The rest of the planet, however… was getting pretty cold!

Now that needed fixing!

Warming things up, removing the mess from the atmosphere, repairing the land area, restoring normal atmospheric circulation patterns… The thaumaturgic display wasn’t as spectacular as Sorcery, or as a Charm of similar magnitude would have been, or even as conspicuous as it would have been in the Underworld – but it was still locally detectable when you were operating on that kind of scale – and it brought in some rather desperate prayers, from some of the small settlements on the world. It looked like it had been colonized about twenty years before – but from the prayers the planetary god had not been heard from in some weeks.

Well, that was more fixing while Malinda checked on the Planetary God!

The trail started at the god’s sanctum – where he was last seated a few weeks ago. There were faint traces of the workings of Celestial Circle Sorcery there, mostly around the doorway. Then there was a faint silvery radiance, reminiscent of Lunar Essence, going outside one of the poles – and up into space. The trail ended at a Wyld zone fairly close to the planet’s orbit, on a lonely, if bright fuschia, asteroid.

Charles promptly had someone “open hailing frequencies!”

(Charles) “Is.something wrong? Is anyone there? Hello”?

There was an answer from the asteroid, over the comlinks – more cutesy voices.

(Multiple Cutsies) “Hello? Somebody at last! Who is it? Let me see!”

(Charles) “Er… What’s going on? There was a big asteroid strike over on the planet there.”

(Multiple Cutsies) “The Great Puffle should have stopped it! Do you know where he is? The last time we saw him, he was flying through this Wyld zone! Why hasn’t he come back?”

(Charles) “Well, something may have happened to him! I will have to take a look!”

How could he resist cute fuzzy things calling for assistance? He headed their way – and some of the asteroids showed some life-signs within…

(Cutsies) “Hello! Oh, you’re flying a tree!”

At that range the video links went into operation – and the locals were VERY fluffy, like sheep – but with big, soulful human eyes.

(Charles) “Well yes! I like trees! Who are you?”

(Cutsies) “I’m Jovy, and that’s Lumie, and she’s Rufy! We were hired to watch this Wyld zone!”

(Lumie) “And we saw the god and the space bird fly through there!”

(Charles) “Well, I was looking for the Great Puffle! And that was probably him… where did he go?”

(Jovy) “Not sure! The space bird said it was necessary for him to go through for now, but he would be back when the time was right.”

(Charles) “But… it’s a wyld zone! You could go anywhere!”

(Lumie) “I’ll check the sensor logs!”

She and Rufy did so.

What, they hadn’t yet?

(Rufy) “Umm.. that’s not good! The exit point is all the way in the Empirical Galaxy! Close to the Seven Rings of Hanzla Ai!”

(Charles) “That’s a long ways! I’ll try to call him!”

That was easy enough – and produced a rather fuzzy sensation running through his Essence, and some squeaking, like cloth being rubbed against a hard surface.

(Puffle) “I… I’m stuck! And all achy!”

(Charles) “Well, it’s an arcane link! I could try to pull you through!”

The Great Puffle tried to open up – but there was some interference from warding. Nothing that Charles couldn’t easily push past though – which produced a quite literal ball of pink fluff with eyes.

(Puffle) “Is my world hurt bad!?”

(Charles) “It had a nasty impact, and there was cloud cover and things… I’ve done some fixing!”

(Puffle) “I can take it from here! Stinky space bird, taking me away like that!”

(Charles) “Did it make you chase it?”

(Puffle, fussily) “Yes! It took my Woolstone! I need that to make sure the world works like I want it to! And I think it still has it, too!”

Woolstone? Ah! An artifact that… made things soft and fuzzy.

(Puffle) “It’s a big fuzzy stone I use to make sure everything on the world is nice and soft!”

Evidently a rather eccentric planetary god!

(Charles) “Oh well! I think I can find another one!”

He made one, and linked it to the Puffle, so that it couldn’t be taken away so readily.

Huh! An ENTIRE WORLD as fluffy as his Teddies! Charles could not resist setting up a few manses to help the Puffle look after the fluffy things!

(Puffle) “Wow! I’m going to make the Manses EVEN FLUFFIER now!…” (he started doing just that) “Uh… Why isn’t your ship all fluffy? Why aren’t YOU all fluffy? Do you need some help with that? EVERYTHING is better when it’s fluffy!”

(Charles) “Your planet is normally a very VERY safe place isn’t it?”

(Puffle) “I usually have the clouds go extra bouncy when asteroids and meteors come in!”

(Charles) “That’s a good idea!”

(Puffle) “The cloud people help out too sometimes!”

Charles checked… would the Teddies like to visit there sometimes? It looked like… yes, they would. Some of the ones with more initiative were already asking!

That was very good! And easy! He made sure that there was a gate, and someone on teddy-sitting duty, and that way if the fluffy world had any more problems he would find out straight away!

The Puffle would apparently appreciate the traffic. For some reason, the only trade he really got was from clothiers and interstellar field trips from wealthy Tarvialian private academies. Some more tourism would be nice!

Charles considered that for a long moment.

(Charles) “Er… do visitors automatically get fluffy?”

(Puffle, blankly) “But why would they not want to be soft and fluffy?”

(Charles) “Well, if they’re just tourists, they wouldn’t fit in any longer once they went home!”

(Puffle) “They can shave… for some reason…” (With great conviction) “I need to work on that!”

(Charles) “Well, that might be why not too many tourists! If they don’t want to be fluffy, they won’t come!”

The Puffle mulled that over for a few minutes.

(Puffle) “Ohh… but that’s a really big problem! I don’t think there’s a setting for that on the Woolstone!”

(Charles) “Hm… Well, I could add a delay on it!”

(Pufle) “Well, okay… that way if they want to be fuzzy, they can stay longer!”

Elsewhere there was some incredulity. The boy had actually delayed his urgent mission to drop by and help out a world of cute fluffy things. Could he actually be delayed and steered to EASILY? It was difficult to believe!

In fact, that was only half true… while all that had been going on Charles had been busily getting all the Overseers and Tenders linked up to manses that would help keep them from getting killed, setting up artifacts to take some of the support load off of them and let them get out of their pods, and assigning extra bodyguards of a variety of types to them… Hopefully running time faster in Aden would let him generate enough of them quickly enough to look after everyone! After all… at the moment, the quickest way to kill Yu-Shan would be a strike on the Tenders and Overseers!

He had also been busily talking a Sidereal or two into visiting Nine Grape. Ms Chisaru was willing – which was good, since she was one of the few who knew what was going on already, had a lot of experience, and was currently helping out!

There was no point in making a Synergistic Overmind to help you multitask and not using it!

Charles installed some controls on the new Woolstone and headed on to Tarvail! It wouldn’t be all that much longer now. Traffic near the Wyld zones was already picking up – until, a few hours after leaving the World of Fluff, space shimmered with rainbow lights as ships fluttered in and out of the scintillating prismatic borders.

(Charles, to the leaders of Kyeki II) “Where would you like me to drop you off? Close for Tarvail for mutual defense, just nearby for convenient trade, or well out so as not to be too weird?”

Not that word wouldn’t get around anyway.

(Kyeki-Hari) “We might as well be nearby… that way I can communicate with the United Heaven and Worlds Party better.”

Well, there were a variety of suitable systems available; Charles offered a selection – one that was mostly asteroid belt, which would be great for gathering volatiles, metals, and weird chaos stuff. There was another with a nice warm yellow sun and several gas giants with more volatiles and considerable scenic value (the astronomers on board insisted on taking a closer look). There was even a system with another habitable world on it, which might be good for expansion.

The goddess wanted the world with the yellow sun, while the planetary defense force wanted the asteroid belt system. Eventually the goddess won out. It was her planet, after all!

Charles added a few asteroid belts while the astronomers were taking a closer look at the gas giants – photographing the delightful rings of one world, which shimmered in the colors of the Maidens. Not too near where Puffle was stuck but Charles waved cheerily, just in case.

One of the astronomers looked a bit askance and said that he swore the yellow ring twinkled.

(Charles) It happens!

He set up a few more wards, and protective manses to handle communications, extra defense, and to anchor the wards (some basic privacy-protections to prevent them from being too-easily located and some defenses) and headed on out. Everything Malinda could project said that they should be all right for the time being at the very least!

It wasn’t much longer – after all, they were within the same galaxy now – before the Tsunami reached the most heavily trafficked system Charles had yet seen: there were both natural and artifical Wyld zones, constructed on planetary moons. The ring of one gas giant shimmered with them. And, visible through divination, was THE Tarvial, an extensive array of defensive satellites and space stations surrounding it. Cities surrounded its high mountains, delicately-preserved forests and plains. Its Wyld zones were… practically airports, from the looks of the scrying survey.

The Tsunami was hailed about the time she crossed the system’s outer belt.

(Charles) “Hello!”

(Lion beastwoman) “Hello… I was asked to hail a ship with your appearance. Is this the Tsunami?”

(Charles) “Yes! And I’m Charles! I was dropping by with some people and a ship of yours that was stranded!”

(Lion Beastwoman) “I’m Captain Miakis, Charles. There’s a lot of people who want to talk to you; could you dock your ship in mine?”

Her ship was a military cruiser, its Wyld drive shimmering and glowing with gossamer spurts.

(Charles) “Oh, well OK! I’ve still got a some time!”

The Tsunami docked herself; she didn’t tire, but it was nice to sit for a bit after a long trip!

It was mostly Tarvialan military personnel wanting to talk with Charles about his having moved Kyeki II; they were mostly pretty incredulous at the scale of the thaumaturgy. It wasn’t exactly subtle, and at least one patrol ship had seen it happening during its patrol.

(Charles) “Well it needed moving! I put it right over here (producing a map), so it’s handy!”

(Miakis, the Lion Beastwoman) “At least it wasn’t too strategically important… it startled the reinforcements coming in, though. Also startled the Abyssals, too.”

(Charles) Well, they weren’t being at all nice!

(Miakis, after a brief pause.) “Not nice? That’s one way of putting it. We’re probably going to have to update Parliament on the situation-and the cartographers, navigators, and other government agencies. They’ll want to talk to you too.”

(Charles) “Uhm… Could I maybe delegate? That sounds like it would take a lot of time!”

(Miakis) “Well… the United Heaven and Worlds Party REALLY wanted to talk to you in person, for some reason. You don’t seem like a political god, though, and gods can send representatives.”

(Charles) “Well, I could just do remote conferences. Would that do? And is there anything else? I was just in the area, so I helped out a bit in passing””

(Miakis) “I guess it’d have to work. It’s not like half the planetary gods can leave their home worlds, anyway. I’m pretty sure the United Heaven and Worlds Party would want a personal meeting some time, though. As for anything else… Do you mind checking out our Wyld drive? I’ve heard that artifice is a part of your domain, and if you visited the engineer, he’d be grateful.”

Charles cheerily had one of his aspects in Aden call the United Heaven and Worlds party while he went to have a look.

The engineering compartment was incredibly cramped – but several of the personnel seemed to recognize him, including the head engineer, who had hands where his feet should be and wanted to shake lower hands – which seemed reasonable enough!

(Charles, shaking hands) “So what do you need?”

(Engineer) “Well… can I call you Charles? I was wondering if you could fine-tune the Wyld drive. It’s one of the newer models, and it runs heavy on the gossamer sometimes.”

(Charles) “Oh! OK!”

Hmm…. A minor artifact (**) that protected the ship it was when going through Wyld zones and ensured that the journey always took a much shorter amount of time than it would take to cross the same space normally. Pretty much a weaker form of the Lunar interstellar Charm tree. Well, upgrading it a bit (to ****) would only take a few minutes and would make it nicely self-contained and much more efficient!

There was some awe and quiet whispering as the engineers observed the process.

(Charles) “There you go!”

(Engineer) “Thanks, Charles! I’ll treat it like my firstborn son!”

(Charles, brushing away a momentary vision of the engineer putting the drive in a crib and feeding it soft foods) “Not a worry! It was an easy fix!”

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXLII – Aikiko and Skoll versus the Minions of the Reborn Neverborn

Over with Charles’s projects… the twenty-six sapient deepspawn races had eventually moved to their new worlds – while the fifty-odd nonsapient species had mostly proven easy enough to chase through. A lot of the things only real fault had been not getting along with the Dragon Kings, Alaun, Lintha, and other species, so there was no reason not to let them have a few Hubble Volumes of their own.

There were spirits still hanging about for some of the extinct races too, so making some baby bodies to get their reincarnation cycles started again went on the list. No reason why they couldn’t each have a few Hubble Volumes too!

Meanwhile, in the Underworld…

Aikiko hesitated – and requested a review of what systems were available. Skoll obliged – although he DID redact some information on how she might escape…

Skoll, Swallower of Suns (Artifact-NA, Twenty-odd Artifact-V’s, 5x Manse-V’s):

Skoll is actually fairly closely related to a Kaiju Manse; he’s just sustained by geomantic relays and artifacts rather than being attached to a mental domain. In general, he can be treated as a Construct, and is immune to Compulsion, Cripping, Desecration, Emotion, Fate, Illusion, Knockback, Poison, Servitude, Shaping, Sickness, Social, Training, and Unnatural Mental Influence effects. He is inherently Outside of Fate, but can be bound into fate like a third-circle demon.

Attributes: Str 20, Dex 10, Sta —, Chr 4, Man 4, App 6, Per 15, Int 10, Wit 10. Essence 5, 40 Motes. Skoll currently recovers one mote per minute, but this will increase to 2 per minute if his power-source manses are rebuilt. The same applies to his operator as a bonus. He does not have Will; he simply has purpose.

Basic Systems: Essence-Sight (Sorcerer’s Sight), Detect / Evaluate Armor, Detect / Evaluate Weapons, Full-Spectrum Sight, Magnification (x1 to x50), Sound Amplification and Filtering, Network Access-III, Computer Emulation-III, System Security-IV. May provide sensory information, tactical evaluations, and system briefings to his operator/prisoner on a reflexive basis.

Skills are as per the operator, or default to +3.

Skoll is Indestructible from the outside; His “Pilot”, however, can be affected by essence feedback; attacks with a final damage score of more than twenty dice will get one die of damage through to the pilot per ten dice or part thereof beyond that and will get special effects tied to the attack through as well. Armor and defenses will affect this normally, but cannot reduce the total below one die unless a perfect defense is used – although any perfect defense will do.

The pocket-dimension interior is, however, designed to sustain the pilot indefinitely; he or she gains triple his or her normal health levels and may pay one mote to negate any special effect attached to an attack or charm or two to negate any number of special effects attached to a charm, combo, or flurry. It will provide food, drink, waste disposal, comfortable quarters, and various facilities up to the scale of a moderate palace. The pilot may use his or her own abilities through Skoll without difficulty, although Skoll can tap them too if necessary. In addition, the Pilot is in faster time than the outside world, and may reduce multi-action penalties by three dice (a benefit that also applies to Skoll when he’s operating independently). Skoll can let his Operator/Pilot in and out – or even exchange places with him or her to operate a bit like summonable armor – but leaving without Skoll’s consent will require special measures, such as successfully hacking Skoll, overloading him internally, threading your own gate through his defenses, walking into a chancel and destroying it so as to be dumped into deep chaos, or some similar exploit. Becoming immaterial is definitely useless though; Skoll WAS meant to contain a god.

Skoll may be damaged from the inside if someone inside deploys the Godspear or some similar “infinite damage” weapon – although he states that an internal upgrade has removed this vulnerability (at least in the specific case of the Godspear). If he IS damaged, however, he can drain motes and vitality from humans and solars in a wide radius to repair himself – given time. (Since this is a plot-device power, the exact rate is whatever suits the game master. It’s slow anyway).

Available Built-In Charms. There is no special cost to combo these.

  • Dimensional Enclosure Prana (5 M): Extends Skoll’s internal pocket dimension around a section of space up to one hundred feet across without directly affecting it – an effect related to a Manse Gate. Since this doesn’t actually target anything within that space and operates under Creation’s laws, the only real “defenses” are multi-presence, reflexively leaving the area, being able to stabilize spatial metrics in a larger area, not being there in the first place, and similar effects. This may not be a good idea if fighting something powerful, since it will wind up inside Skoll’s pocket dimension with the pilot.
  • Mountain-Leaping Stride (3 M): Take a step of from 10 to 100 miles at 1000 MPH. From the borders of the Wyld Skold can use this to copy the effects of the Mirror-Shattering Method, but this will not work without access to the Wyld. If combined with a reflexive dodge effect this upgrades it to a perfect dodge – but will generally take the user out of combat.
  • Perfect Martial Block (A.K.A. Masterful Gibberish Avoidance) (2 M): Perfectly blocks any martial-arts based effect other than physical injury.
  • Impervious Geomantic Cloak (6 M/Scene): Upgrades the effects of concealment artifacts and abilities to Perfection, provided that the user remains still. Otherwise it simply increases the difficulty of spotting the user by +6.
  • Inevitable Translocation Meander (6 M): Skoll vanishes from existence, and reappears five days later in the Deep Wyld. In the meantime, as far as Creation is concerned, he doesn’t exist. Not that anyone inside may make an opposed essence check to remain behind when this charm is activated if they so desire.
  • Innate Cryptographic Networking (3 M/Scene): Skoll can access I AM, or any lesser computer network, within a ten mile range, access publicly available information, and gains +(Essence) bonus successes on searches and hacking attempts.
  • Sun-Stealing Prana (3 M/Scene): Skoll knows where the Unconquered Sun can be found, and gains +10 uncapped dice on any pool related to directly opposing, tracing, or capturing him.

Skolls built-in weapons and artifacts are powered by his linked manses, and include:

  • Primary Weapons: Oblivion Lance and Godspear. Unfortunately, without Oblivion to power the Oblivion Lance, or the Unconquered Sun to power the Godspear, neither is available.
  • Secondary Weapons: Twin Heavy Implosion Bows, Daiklaive of Conquest.
  • Tertiary Weapons: Essence Disruption Pulse (as per Terrestrial Countermagic, essence rolloff to temporarily deattune artifacts rated *** or less and disrupt charms of essence-3 or below), Concussion Blasts (16b, 1-6 yard radius), Blackout Bombs (no normal light our sound in 100-yard radius for ten minutes), Sensory Scrambler (large area effect, scrambles information before it gets to characters so that they can’t resist), Nausea Cannon (large area again, essence rolloff to incapacitate), Transmutor Cannon (affects a shapable area fitting within a 180′ foot radius but only covers more or less normal materials, and not living things. You can, however, turn the ground to quicksand, air to steel, or create a flash flood), and Whirlwind Blade (16L, affecting all desired targets within 12 yards).

Reconfigurable Systems: May manifest any one Weapon-IV, or two Weapon-III’s, or up to four Weapon-II’s. May manifest any two Utility Artifact-IV’s, or four III’s, or eight of up to II. Skoll is, however, limited to artifact designs that are in his design library.


She’d had some idea of what kind of artifact she was occupying, but that was… Most of that had to be in the internal pocket dimension somehow! It couldn’t POSSIBLY fit into a suit of armor! And it was all powered by manses, rather than by her personal essence…

It was awfully tempting to just use some of those weapons on the task force guys, but it wasn’t really their fault! They were just having to defend their home against some armed weirdo running around and doing weird things. Even if she could win… did she really want to kill that many people? Even if they were already wraiths?

Oh dear! And was his counterpart up and wandering around trying to catch Luna?

Huh… Why hadn’t Luna been to the Deathlords little “party”? Oh, she probably just hadn’t felt obligated. Luna was like that.

Oh well! If she had to stand and fight – or cut a path through – at least there were nonlethal options! (That was kind of strange really. “Nonlethal” didn’t usually go with “Deathlord”. Was it just that the Mask of Winters had wanted to have options to keep what was left of creation after his plot intact?).

Considering the structure of most warstriders… she fired the sensory scrambler towards the biggest collection of them (Neat! That would be really hard to defend against!) and followed up with a blast from the Transmutor Cannon into the sky – unleashing a flood of… blood. Ghosts liked blood! That might distract them!

A flood of blood – roughly a hundred and fifty million gallons of it – swept down the streets, toppled a few small buildings, washed most of the infantry away (including a few into the Pit of the Void – although they WERE ghosts, and would come out SOMEWHERE all right), toppled the warstriders, swept a few of them away… and gummed up EVERYTHING. Fortunately, Aikiko was an initiate of Adenic Thaumaturgy, and Skoll was protected by it as long as she was – and so he didn’t get dirty.

Well, except for all the buildings getting knocked down, and ghosts possibly getting REALLY lost in the Void and passing on to Lethe… (at least it WAS only the Void, and not Oblivion any longer) that was… pretty effective and relatively non-lethal! That was probably also why the military didn’t want people like her running this kind of equipment though… She’d have to spend some time later reviewing what some of this stuff really did!

Meanwhile, she took advantage of the distraction to escape back into the Well of the Void, and headed for the Labyrinth.

When the Mask of Winters saw the recordings of that little fight (much later; it was a fairly minor incident and a low priority after all) there was a classic spit-take… He’d thought that the Unconquered Sun had taken out Skoll, Haiti, and that entire manse, even if the mere delay had let a fair chunk of the plan work! And – by the Thousand Unspeakable Names – who was piloting the thing? Had the AI systems been damaged enough for someone to take full command? Skoll could make some pest quite powerful if they had even partial control!

It was hard to say just how far “down” it was to the Labyrinth – but time was as subjective as space in the pit, so it didn’t much matter. With cloaking running it should be possible to get fairly close; after all, probing the Void was pretty much equivalent to randomly probing at the entire universe. There wasn’t much chance of being spotted.

The construction project at the Tombs of the Neverborn… was still underway. There were multiple abyssals, and quite a lot of ghosts and underworld horrors, and a small soulsteel foundry (even if it was really hard to get ghosts who could be made into high-quality soulsteel any longer), and the scene was a massive industrial project from hell. They were most DEFINITELY building something in the empty tomb, using bone, and soulsteel, and labyrinth-iron, and enslaved ghosts, and artifacts… Whatever-it-was seemed to be being molded into the weird shape of the huge inside of the tomb.

Armoring it up on the inside? Why would they do that? Were they building a cast of a Neverborn for some reason? Made of screaming souls, and voidstone, and soulsteel, and behemoth bones, and other arcana of death?

Freaky… not quite as freaky as actually going into a Neverborn though.

She started checking… what was this one’s theme?

Once Abhorrence-of-Life was a primordial power of adaption and symbiosis, capable of absorbing other creatures into itself and into it’s own soul-heirarchy if they were powerful enough. As a Neverborn it shattered adaptive relationships, turned harmless bacteria into horrific plagues, caused plants and venomous animals to produce yozi venom, stripped life from the land with demon-locust swarms, and harvested the souls of the dying to wield as swarms of weapons against the world. It had been a blight on all creation, turning the harmony of nature into a struggle to the death – and the world into utter desolation. It had been a most famous Neverborn indeed; it’s whispers once caused many to hurl themselves into oblivion, just to make them stop. Their lingering echoes alone made being crammed into it’s tomb – or working there – into time in hell. In many ways… it was the incarnation of self-loathing.

Aikiko shivered. That was… creepy, and horrible, and sad. There had to be some way to listen in and see what this was for… she slipped out of the Void one of the quieter tombs and swapped out the flight systems for some surveillance gear… The Bureau of Destiny might be interested in these findings – and she could easily record and transfer to a secure server in Aden.

Annoyingly, they didn’t discuss the purpose a lot – but she wasn’t in any rush either once she (well, Skoll) was standing still again and the cloaking was perfect again. It… looked like they were building a set of “Neverborn Constructs” in the images of the horrors of old – things intended to gather the fading echoes and memories of the original Neverborn, to bring back their powers (and the charms they could offer), and – as an improvement on the originals – to rise from their tombs to walk the worlds of Creation as primal powers had not done since the Primordial War. To draw on the power of the damage the original deaths of the Neverborn had done to Creation and to amplify and return that power, gradually turning Creation into a dark realm where the powers of the underworld would reign supreme.

That was NOT good! Revival, recreation, underworld-kaiju-manse-construct… every one of those options was downright horrible!

Skoll… agreed. The Neverborn were supposed to be released, so that the Mask of Winters could rule without the problems they created! Not recreated! This needed to be stopped! Still, even with HIS weapons and defenses, Aikiko was a rather young Solar – and a direct attack in the face of a dozen or so experienced Abyssal Exalts in the Underworld was unlikely to go well.

Aikiko… had to agree there.

The Abyssals… were mostly supervising, directing creatures of the Labyrinth on the actual construction. Some were apparently already drawing certain powers and charms from the project – beginning to test the Crippling and Draining (and self-renewing) powers of the Perfected Principle of Consumption, the blighting powers of Abhorrence of Life, the ability to awaken hatred in the hearts of little gods and turn attacks against their originators of the Father of Murder, the Mind-feeding of He Who Holds In Thrall, the Negations of the Speaker of the Final Silence, and the Duplicating Mirror-Charms of the Queen of Suicides, who turns opponents against themselves.

As long as Aikiko simply observed and panned around, perfect cloaking was secure against everything except being randomly walked into, especially when she was in a construct that didn’t breathe, eat, have to move, or do anything else that might give her away – which let her film quite a lot! Still, the projects might well be nearing completion – and those charmsets seemed to be incredibly dangerous – and several had functions and modes (keywords) that hadn’t ever been seen in creation…

There had to be some way to sabotage this disaster!

Besides… just watching was getting boring! It looked like the security on the work camps was pretty lax though; most of the wraith-slaves were pretty well cowed anyway, and who’d want to bother messing around there?

Wait… was there a way to store lots of wraiths available? She could import them to that manse in Aden…

Ah! Skoll could – in theory – hold hundreds, albeit in storage instead of in active (and contributing) mode. It would take up a good chunk of his utility-artifact capacity though.

Still… rescuing the slaves was well worth doing, and it might stop the soulsteel production and delay the project nicely. The guard-patrols would be easy enough to evade – they were just first-circle equivalent manse-emanations (even if they were rather horrible ones) – but the various alarm-spells, wards and so on were more of a problem; first circle necromancy.

Hm. She probably wouldn’t have long after she started – but Adenic Thaumaturgy could break Shadowlands necromancy like a normal celestial-level dispel… She tried to discreetly break down the warding spells and alarms on one of the buildings where they were keeping ghosts…

Skoll gave her control.

Behind the cloaking, Skoll raised his arms in a pleading gesture – not to the darkness of the Labyrinth below and the Void above, but to the Sun, not present but not forgotten. He then joined his hands together and pounded the ward – just shy of where the effect would start, but fast enough to ripple the air.

Sadly for Skoll, who was hoping that this represented an attempt to reach out of the underworld and across Elsewhere to grab the sun out of Yu-Shan, Aikiko wasn’t up to solar-circle level wyld stunting – and wasn’t actually trying that anyway. She WAS channeling her Compassion though – and the roll was excellent and the Abyssals hadn’t really invested all that much effort or power into things. Why bother? The slaves were pretty cowed.

The green-gold radiance of Adenic Thaumaturgy blazed around Skoll, lighting up the profound darkness of the Labyrinth as if the Sun had indeed risen to drive back the dark as crackling bursts of essence from the wards arced and grounded themselves into the Labyrinth. From three of the tombs came an unearthly, and utterly horrible, howling filled with ancient pain that cut through the dimensions of reality itself to resound across many worlds. Even within Skoll, that… hurt. Not that it was an injury, but that it was yet another echo of ancient pain shared.

But the ward shattered, and Skoll busily shunted dozens – hundreds! – of ghosts into storage – emptying most of the camp, while Aikiko dealt with…

  • An Invocation of Evisceration – a horrible burst of necromantic magic designed to kill her, strip the soul from her body, turn it inside-out, and drain her essence back into the user, slammed into Skoll – not damaging Aikiko at all beyond the slight expenditure of essence to block the feedback of the effect.
  • The Mountain-Shattering Wind Kata hammered against Skoll in a double strike that she could actually feel (90L, two strikes, took off Aikiko’s first -0 health level).
  • The Soul-Binding Chains of the Void Serpent Style passed through Skoll – who lacked a soul to bind – harmlessly, and the trickle of shaping feedback that reached Aikiko shattered harmlessly against her Behemoth Cloak.
  • An Abyssal Juggernaut – the spirit of a long-fallen army given form once more through some necromantic spell or charm – rose, towering a more than a hundred feet into the dark sky of the underworld as it attempted to smash her (or, more likely, pin her down) beneath one of it’s huge taloned feet. If she EVER made it out of Skoll in one piece, she would never forget THIS mess!

That was a problem! She couldn’t afford to be pinned down… Ghost Body Technique? No, that wouldn’t work in the Underworld; it was already a realm of spirits! Still… Lightning Speed should be enough to get her out of the area; it wasn’t THAT huge.

It was.

  • The Unnatural Mental Influence of the Whispers of Despair tore at her mind, trying to break her will with nihilism and despair and the belief that only in death would there be peace – but simply drew defensive green sparks from the energies of her Adenic Thaumaturgy.
  • The Seven Arrows of Sinful Priesthood attempted to search out the secret darknesses of her soul and manifest them against her as they flashed through Skoll, traveling along the essence links to her regardless of distance and dimensions to turn her sins into personalized monsters – but within Skoll’s pocket-realm, and the essence-bracing of her Behemoth Cloak, blocking them required a mere trickle of Essence.
  • A Pyre-Flame Holocaust whirled around Skoll, attempting to drain any motes invested in him to de-attune him, to melt down anything meltable in or on him, and to roast his occupant alive – but it’s multi-thousand degree heat was simply making him glow white-hot. That wasn’t how Skoll worked.

There was some cursing all around – but that had been merely a quick opening volley, and the Abyssals had never expected any worthwhile opponent to go down to their first attacks, even if they had thrown in some fairly good ones. More importantly… whoever this might be, he or she had launched no worthwhile attacks of their own – and had not even destroyed the Juggernaut or banishes the Pyre-Flame Holocaust!

Aikiko made a break for it. Fighting from within Skoll was more advantageous than she had ever dreamed – but this many opponents would drain her resources eventually – and as soon as someone figured it out and found a way to get inside with her she’d be in serious trouble! Worse… they’d probably follow her to the ends of the Labyrinth to get those ghosts back! If she could get back onto the phantom stairs… heading back to Coruscant would be better than this, and maybe she could find the “place” (or perhaps attitude?) where Charles’s gate opened and get out!

A short-range teleport – she only needed a hundred feet or so – would get her past the Abyssal Juggernaut! Another Adenic spell should handle THAT.

Whirling Skoll’s arms to define the circle of the gate – and not bothering to hide Excellency use as a corona of gold, blue, and green light spun forth – Aikiko (with another huge success) used her Adenic Travel Thaumaturgy to spin open a gate across the few hundred feet she needed.

A necromantic counterspell forced her to strain against am abyssals corrosive essence, but she broke through the resistance (5 successes to 3) and reappeared on the stairway.

Sadly, that left her a prime target for another blizzard of horrific attacks – leaving her with some noticeable injuries and down quite a few more motes. The Abyssals… were learning fast. There wasn’t going to be time to climb the stairs.

Aikiko sighed – and leapt through the void into the near-infinite depths of the Cosmos with the Mountain-Leaping Stride. She had never thought that she’d ever WANT to go in there!

And Skoll was pleased! With his occupant undertaking a journey into the infinite at random… or at least with only Travel Thaumaturgy with which to influence her path – the Narrative Force would have free reign to select their destination. They would surely arrive SOMEWHERE of importance.

Edelbert, Level Zero Steed

It’s mildly unusual – but over the years quite a few players have designed characters who define their roles in the party purely in relationship to another character. Sometimes they’re companions or familiars gained through appropriate abilities – but sometimes they’re full-scale characters. A few of the player characters have included…

  • Fred” was a nigh-immortal little dragon-creature who served as a familiar for one mage after another down the centuries, accumulating magical lore and power from each master in turn until most of his erstwhile “masters” were quite unsure as to just who was the “familiar”.
  • Artermi, a werewolf-warrior, acted as a pet-bodyguard for his master and his master’s children during his masters attempt to found a dynasty and bring order out of the chaos of the Cataclysm.
  • Risanth was an up-and-coming greater demon player character, who split his time between trying to advance his position in the Tuat and being summoned by Harold – the party demonologist – to help the rest of the party deal with their enemies.
  • Hamdir was a formidable young werewolf who felt that it made life a LOT simpler to belong to Aldhere – a minor spellcaster and magical healer in a world where any kind of spellcasting or healing was very very rare – so as to have someone to explain him, pay the bills, and patch him up after fights.
  • Locadel the Indestructible was a nigh-invulnerable turtle with vast healing powers who bestowed a large portion of that invulnerability and healing on whoever he choose to accompany – and communicated through interpretive dance (at which he was sufficiently skilled to engage in philosophical debate).
  • Ralf, a Psychic Canine granted human intelligence through a magical accident.
  • Vena, the Archangel-Ferret, was a shapeshifting starship – most notable for launching barrages of planetkiller missiles into the Abyss.
  • Amilko Moonshadow, the Herald of Chaos and (eventually) an Epic Level Squirrel, started off by appointing himself as a familiar to the party mage, and accompanied the group thereafter.

There have been dragon-steeds, sapient horses, and more of course; those are just a few of the more recent or memorable ones.

The thing to remember about all of these is that the powers of a full-scale player character or follower tend to make for a pretty impressive sidekick. Thus, along those lines, here’s a (blatantly exploited) follower – Edelbert, a Level Zero Slave-Steed Follower from Atheria

Edelbert’s family was on the losing side of a feud while he was quite young – and so he was forfeited to the Sternwater family, slavebonded, his shapeshifting locked down to only two forms (horse and mouse), gelded, and given to Yolande – who was also fairly young at the time – as a pet and riding animal. At this point he doesn’t really remember a lot about being human and is quite used to being Yolande’s horse. After all… Yolande was the one who fed him when he was a toddler/colt (if she hadn’t… he’d have been left to starve and die; that too would have been a lesson for her), petted him when he was frightened, healed him when he was hurt, and taught him to be useful to her.

On her side, for good or ill… Yolande rarely thinks of Edelbert as anything but her horse – and Edelbert agrees.

Atherian Lunar Birthright Human (+0 ECL):

  • Basic Witchcraft I (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Witchcraft for +2 CP/Level from Level -2 (6 CP). (Currently +6 CP).
  • Bonus Feat: Growth and Shrinking for Shapeshifting (6 CP).
  • +3d6 (17!) Power (as Mana) with Unskilled Magic (Psychic) Effects (6 CP)
  • Shapeshift (6 CP).

The points from Fast Learner have been spent on Witchcraft II. This provides 15 Power (32 total) and access to The Hand of Shadows, Healing, and Hyloka – making him able to care for himself and a much better horse in general.

Mental Attributes: Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 12 (16)

As a Light Warhorse: Large, Str 16, Dex 13, Con 17, Speed 60′, Low-Light Vision, Scent, +4 Natural Armor, Natural Weapons (d4 hooves, d3 bite).

Available Character Points: 24 (L0 Base) + 10 (Accursed / limited to horse and mouse forms, Compulsive / slave-bindings, and Stigmata / gelded, -1 Morale Penalty on Saves) + 0 (Duties to Mistress) +0 (No Bonus Feats yet) = 34

Basic Abilities (13 CP):

  • Hit Dice: 7 (L0 3 HP Base +4 CP) +12 (Magic) +9 (Con Mod x 3) = 28 HP.
  • Skill Points: 3 (Purchased, 3 CP) + 3 (Int Mod x 3) + 4 (from “Unique Training” in being a horse, free) = 10
  • BAB: +1, Specialized in Natural Weapons (3 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +1 (3 CP) +3 (Con) +1 (Res) = +5
    • Reflex: +0 (0 CP) +2 (Dex) +1 (Res) = +3
    • Will: +0 (0 CP) +2 (Wis) +1 (Res) = +3
  • Proficiencies: None.
  • Initiative: +1 (Dex)
  • Move: 60′
  • Armor Class: 10 +1 (Dex) +4 (Ar) +4 (Sh) +4 (Nat) = 23.

Usual Attacks:

  • Hoof: +7 (+1 BAB +3 Str +2 MA +1 Mor), 1d8+4, Crit 20/x2, Combat Reflexes, 10′ Reach. Full Att: x2, Bite +2 for 1d6+3.

Wealth Level: Supported at Common (0 CP). As a pet, he gets decent care, enough food, a +4 bonus to Martial Art/Steed, and three Charms; equivalents of a Merchants Saddle (he’s a very easy ride, +3 to any required rolls – for a +10 total with his speciality and martial art), Mandarin’s Pin (he’s always clean, well-groomed, and looking good), and a Ditty Bag (usually used to produce nice, cheap, oats).

Other Abilities (21 CP):

  • Mystic Link with Yolande with the Communications and Identity Modifiers, Corrupted/the link is under Yolande’s control; after all, he belongs to HER – not the other way around. Moreover, he can only communicate things appropriate to a horse – and then only if she wants to know. After all, the link is to make him a good steed, not to distract Yolande from her concerns just because he’s got a sword in his gut or something (6 CP).
  • Opportunist/Edelbret may take a free “aid another” action each round as long as he’s working with a rider, Specialized/only with Yolande (3 CP).
  • More Witchcraft: Bones of Iron and Leaping Fire (12 CP).
  • The Mystic Link with Yolande grants Edelbret the benefits of her relevant Innate Enchantments – Immortal vigor I, Resist Elements, Sustenance, Void Sheathe (a place to store his saddle), Resistance, and Inspiring Word. Since she is now using Imperial Charms and Talismans, those with spell effects are relayed as well – her Charisma-Booster, Mage Armor, and Shield.


  • Tier One:
    • M. Art/Warsteed +11 (3 SP +3 Str +1 Mor +4 Wealth).
    • Spot +8 (2 SP+2 Wis +3 Com +1 Mor).
    • Tumble (Specialized in Evasion for Double Effect) +3 (+6) (1 SP +1 Dex +1 Mor).
  • Tier Two:
    • Balance +4 (2 (1) SP +1 Dex +1 Mor).
    • Perform (Tricks) +6 (2 (1) SP +3 Cha +1 Mor).
    • Ride/Speciality in aiding his rider (additional +6 for rider, 1 SP).
  • Tier Three:
    • Jump +19 (3 (1) SP +3 Str +12 Speed +1 Mor).

Martial Art/Warsteed (Str)

  • Requires: Being sapient and having hooves and four legs. The form works with the user’s hooves and teeth.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3, Defenses 3, Strike, Power 2, Synergy/+3 (4) to Riders Ride Checks, and Synergy/Tumble.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Breaking, Reach, Combat Reflexes, and Mighty Blow.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x2, Light Foot and Resist Pain.
  • Known Techniques (6): Attack 2, Power 2, Synergy/Riders Ride Checks, and Light Foot.

Edelbret is a remarkable steed – and will be more remarkable as Yolande takes Leadership and grants him a level or two. Even as-is he’s capable of far outperforming any real horse, of a certain amount of self-healing, of boosting his and Yolande’s speed in battle, and of various other useful feats. Of course, he’s also a prime example of just how much the various Birthrights distort the cultures of Atheria. Where but in the Isles of the Moon would this sort of relationship be considered absolutely normal? 

Skills of the Eclipse III – Faith, Gathering, and Accounting

Česky: Kněží obcházejí se schránou úmluvy Jeri...

When you ask for something big…

For today, it’s a few more of the Occult – or, less dramatically, Hidden – Skills that have come up in our Eclipse games. This time around it’s a few that are often more important as background elements than they are to PC’s, since they’re really quite specialized from an adventurers point of view.

Faith (Cha, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) is fairly straightforward; it’s basically the art of focused and directed prayer – asking a powerful extra-dimensional being to channel some of it’s power through to you in a realm where that kind of power doesn’t normally exist. After all, if you can do something through normal means (whatever “normal” means in the realm you’re in) than you don’t really need faith. When you do need faith it’s because you’re trying to be the channel for a miracle.

Unfortunately, channeling such unnatural energies is a massive strain; a character may channel up to (Con/3) spell levels worth of power before exhausting his or her ability to do so for the day. Exceeding that limit will burn out the ability to tap such power for a week/month/season/year for +1/2/3/4 spell levels. Even more unfortunately, the difficulty of such attempts is pretty high; you usually need a LOT of faith to have any real chance of getting a response, even if you have some helpful modifiers; the basic DC is at least (15 + Spell Level x 5) . Luckily, the possibilities for bonuses include Knowledge/Religion 5+; +2 Synergy, Minor / Major / Grand Ritual or Offering; +2/5/10, possession of a Major / Grand / Founding relic of the Faith; +5/10/15, and a potential +2 bonus (or unlimited penalty) for adhering really well (or badly) to the dictates of the entity being invoked. Sadly, assistance bonuses don’t generally help beyond a mere +2; miracles are pretty much an individual thing.

As a truly classical example, Joshua, a Con 15 fourth level (near superhuman!) character with a net faith of +18 (+7 SP +4 Cha +3 Skill Focus +2 Synergy from Knowledge / Religion and +2 for adhering to the dictates of the faith) wants to get a major miracle; a ninth level Earthquake effect to topple the walls of Jericho. Fortunately for him, if unluckily for Jericho, Joshua happens to be the leader of a nation and has access to many priests and a grand relic of his faith.

So Joshua, son of Nun, called the priests and said to them, “Take up the Ark of the Covenant, and let seven priests carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.” Then he said to the people, “Go forward, and march around the city, and let the armed men go on before the ark of the LORD.” And the armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the Ark, while they continued to blow the trumpets. But Joshua ordered that the people be silent until directed to shout. For seven days the Ark was carried about the city and the trumpets blown, then Joshua commanded the people to shout, the walls fell, the men of Israel took the city, and the city and all that was within it was offered to the Lord, either by the sword, by fire, or by being added to the treasury of the Lord*. The site was then cursed, that none should rebuild there.

*One man did try to keep some things, so he, his wives, sons, and daughters, his sheep and cattle, his tents, and everything that he owned, was burned to appease the wrath of the Lord.

That’s definitely a Grandiose ritual and offering, the Ark was a Founding Relic of the Faith, and the crew of priests was worth another +2 for assistance – giving Joshua a total of +50 to work with. Given that, “taking 10″ was more than enough to get him up to the +55 total required for a eighth level effect. Of course, at Con 15, that meant no more miracles for HIM for a season (or perhaps for a year if this called for a slightly-boosted ninth level version) – but Joshua apparently only got five miracles during his entire career, and at least three of the others were a lot smaller. Ergo, that’s not really a problem.

Most d20 games don’t call for Faith; in their settings supernatural powers are blatant, obvious, and routinely accessible. It plays an important role in the history of the Federation-Apocalypse setting, where it accounts for the occasional record of supernatural events prior to the Opening of the myriad dimensions of the Manifold, and a minor role in actual play (where it accounts for the occasional use of otherworldly powers by those who haven’t traveled the dimensions to establish more direct links to sources of such power) – but even there few actual player characters bother to put any points into it.

Why can you reach other dimensions with a mere skill? That’s because, in d20, a first-level spell can reach into another dimension, find a creature of some specific type, drag it’s spirit to the material plane, manifest a body for it, and bind it to obedience for a time – at the price of infusing the summoner with some of the unlimited energies of the dimension being called upon. That’s WHY summoning is so easy; each time the powers of a plane are drawn upon, it increases its power and influence in the campaign setting. That’s also why faith and simple prayers – made by entities who are linked to the planes addressed by the energies they’ve accepted being infused with – can reach across the dimensions. They’re just using a pre-existing link.

Gathering is pretty simple in theory; it allows the user to collect magical energy from the local environment and use it to power other magic. In practice, Gathering instantly opens up some very big complications.

  • What kind(s) of magical energy are in the local environment? Can you gather generic magical power, or do you have to gather specific types?
  • Can it be depleted? What happens if it IS? How fast does it renew?
  • Does this attract attention? Offend the local spirits? Create disturbances?
  • Can you use gathered power to boost spells beyond your normal limits, or just to substitute for part (or all?) of the power you’d normally have to expend in casting a spell?
  • Can you do something similar with psychic energies? If not, why not?
  • What kind of side effects does this have? After all, if there’s no price… why isn’t pretty much everyone doing it?

Gathering is thus pretty setting dependent… In general:

Gathering (Dex, No Unskilled Use, Armor Check Penalty, Restricted). The user may attempt to gather magical energy to use from the local environment. This requires one standard action (+5 for taking several minutes, +10 for an hour or more) at a base DC set by the level of the desired energy type in the local environment. For general comparison…

  • DC 10: The area is seething with power – enough to cause spontaneous magical accidents and transformations. Anyone with any training at all can tap it, those without training may not be able to avoid doing so by accident. Major magical nexi during great mystical conjunctions reach this level, as do great magical storms.
  • DC 15: The area is saturated with magic – enough to twist plants growing there, to mutate any non-magical animals born there, and to give items crafted there (as well as the earth and stone of the ground) magical properties. Magical nexi and the greatest ley lines may reach this level, as do powerful magical forges, the prisons of gods, and the crypts of the greatest artifacts.
  • DC 20: The area is very high magic. Most people learn to tap at least a bit of it as kids, and can be expected to use simple spells and rituals in place of technology to make their lives easier. Magical creatures and plants are quite normal, while magical crystals and ores are very common A typical level in most d20 worlds for great places of power, the homes of gods, and so on.
  • DC 25: Your typical “high magic” d20 setting, such as Eberron or Faerun. Spontaneous magic occurs, but is rare – and you have to work hard to find supplies of magical ores and such. Using any real magic requires some training, although hedge magic will be pretty common.
  • DC 30: Mid-level magic fantasy worlds; places of magic are rare and secret, magical creatures generally must be sought out, and magic items and hedge wizards are uncommon. Great mages and priests (as well as mighty heroes) are rare, and are almost always figures of great importance. Worlds like Greyhawk usually hit this level of magic.
  • DC 35: Low-magic realms, where even minor spellcasters require rare talents, magical entities tend to be unique and legendary, powerful spellcasters are world-shaking figures that only appear every few generations, and magical items are rare and fabulous, occupy this tier of difficulty.
  • DC 40: Magic is terribly subtle, or slowly fading into non-existence. Even the most powerful mages are rarely capable of anything beyond first level spells without going to great lengths to build up or amplify their power.

Success provides the equivalent of one point of Mana to power whatever spell the user casts in the next action. A (Success + 10) provides two, and (Success + 25) or more provides three. In most settings pulling raw power into yourself this way is dangerous; each time the user succeeds he or she must make a Fortitude save against a DC of (the number of points drawn so far today). Each failure results in 1d4 points of stress, If your stress level exceeds your constitution… then something permanent, nasty, progressively worse each time, and related to the type of energy you were drawing on will happen – although this does reset your stress to zero. Otherwise, stress goes away at a rate of 1d4 points per week. Knowledge/Arcana of 5+ provides a +2 bonus on Gathering, as does Concentration 5+.

  • Thus, in Shandar, characters could draw on the corrosively radioactive energies of Glowstone, the destructive negative energies of the Cinghalum, or the mystical life-forces of the lands around them, to fuel appropriate effects – all of which were easy (DC 15), but frequently disastrous. At the same time, gathering meant that NPC’s – equipped with slow (Specialized for Double Effect) versions of the skill could produce the occasional high-level healing, restoration, or resurrection effect that adventurers on Shandar so often needed without being of any actual use in combat or on an adventure – thus keeping the player characters in a vital role.
  • In the Twilight Isles characters could tap into the primal magics of Creation, Transformation, or Destruction as appropriate to the spell being cast at DC 20. Those were dangerous and twisting powers, but it was often well worthwhile for a higher level character to learn Gathering since any higher-level spell cast there required extra power anyway.
  • The Federation-Apocalypse setting made the checks easier in general (although it varied with the specific realm) and removed the saving-throw limitation; after all, when your rogue-types are hacking galactic battle fleets and hijacking robot armies… allowing a little – or even a LOT – of extra magic wasn’t really a big deal. The ability to warp reality a bit in your favor worked just as well with Gathering as it did with everything else.

In less magical worlds Gathering is rarely worth it unless you want to gather up the traces of a spell for analysis (or perhaps even to power it up again and throw it back), to collect magical essences for rituals, or to power circle magic – and there are other ways to purchase abilities like that if you want them.

In game terms Gathering is more than a bit problematic. Make it just a bit too effective and your casters will be spamming spells all day long. A little too ineffectual and nobody will bother to use it when they can just use the points to buy more magic directly. After all, if a character wants to make magic cheaper by giving it a longer casting time, they can just buy the Compact metamagic, take a longer casting time to make it cheaper, and say that it’s because they’re using that time to gather power without bothering to roll anything. Even more importantly, you’ve still got to answer all those questions about the consequences of using it.

Overall, a few player characters have used Gathering – mostly in Shandar, where the energy level is so high that dropping few skill points into Gathering gave them a worthwhile power reserve, even if they couldn’t use it very often – and in the Federation-Apocalypse setting, where the relaxed limits meant that they could power most of their non-combat magic via Gathering with little difficulty. For most settings though… no matter how sensible the idea sounds, actually stressing Gathering simply brings in too many complications to be worthwhile.

Finally, of course, this particular article would not be complete without a cross-reference to Battling Business World Accounting – an occult skill that allows a numerologist to manipulate many things in the service of the terrible Number Lords. This is a powerful ability, and one that it’s quite possible that a player character might want a minion to have but no sensible character would want it for themselves…

Skills of the Eclipse II – Dwarven Rune Mastery, Subsumption, and Identities.


So why can’t my 12’th century English Longbowman take “Tank Engineering”? 

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, even if they might not work properly under the local conditions – this IS Eclipse after all – it just means that they have to pay three extra character points for the privilege.

If you really want your medieval knight to have touched a mysterious crystal, and have been granted access to “Warp Drive Engineering”, then so be it. He’ll probably never have any use for it since he needs about a thousand years worth of supporting technology to work with – but those are his character points, and if he wants to spend a few on something irrelevant, so what?

Last time it was Legendarium, Gadgetry, and Glowstone Alchemy. This time around it’s a couple of skills that are only common in the Shandar setting and one that first appeared in the Manifold setting – although it’s had some details added on what a character from another setting might do with it.

Dwarven Rune Mastery (Intelligence, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) is fairly straightforward: the first skill point allows you to recognize runes and runic items, the second involves learning how to safely inscribe individual runes (an art in itself), and the third covers actually reading and combining them (which has it’s own complex magical rules). After that, Dwarven Rune Mastery gives you (skill level -3) effective levels in the Sorcerer spellcasting progression (or, if you want to, you can call it “Prophet” and take divine spells) – but only for the purpose of qualifying for taking magical item creation feats and for making magical items other than scrolls. It’s common among the Dwarves of Shandar, and restricted elsewhere.

In practice, Dwarven Rune Mastery was basically a reason for characters to be able to get the items they wanted/needed in the isolated dwarven fastnesses of Shandar without requiring either massive magical stockpiles or a bunch of high-level NPC spellcasters. While there might still be a number of higher-level NPC’s about such a fastness, they were likely to be warrior-experts with Dwarven Rune Mastery – being thus neither good enough at fighting to take the spotlight off the player-characters nor effective spellcasters. In addition, it meant that each of them would only be capable of a making a limited range of items – opening up the possibility of having to go out and find someone who was capable of making the desired item if such a character wasn’t available.

If the “Magic Mart” convention is in play for a default 3.5 game, then Dwarven Rune Mastery is redundant; characters will just purchase whatever they want anyway – and you might as well go with the Equipage-Purchasing route described for Verdigrised Forge, leaving magic item creation feats to those spellcasters who want to increase their gear allotment. If you want the older-style “Magic Items are rare, wonderful, and unique treasures” feel to things then you can simply limit item creation to the Create Artifact ability, and have them be so. If you want something in-between… well, Dwarven Rune Mastery can fill the gap for you.

Subsumption (Wisdom, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) is another skill from Shandar, in this case from the “Hin” – the settings primitive, cannibalistic, tribal, “halflings” (with their dinosaur-pets, propensity for using horrible poisons, and lethal traditions). The first skill point covered the magical concepts, the second covered the rites involved, and the third covered at least partially maintaining your sanity if and when you used them. Each skill point – and ritual – beyond that got you one bonus Feat/6 CP to spend.

Unfortunately, those feats/points could only be spent on abilities related to those of a freshly-slain creature that you ritually consumed a related chunk of. If you wanted psychic powers, well – then it was time to find a psychic creature and eat it’s brain. You wanted more than six character points worth? Find some more psychic creatures, since each victim could only empower a single ritualist, and you needed different creatures for different power-selections. Worse, along with the strengths of the victim you picked up echoes of it’s instincts, emotions, memories, and goals – giving the user an every-increasing (Number of Bonus Feats/2) penalty to Will saves against madness and confusion. Along with that you got dreams and nightmares that disrupted your sleep, a tendency to sleepwalk while taking the role of one of your victims, and so on. Binding other creatures souls to your own… was just not a healthy thing. If you got tired of a particular ability… it was possible to exorcize the spiritual power that you’d stolen and either leave those spirit-slots unused to reduce the penalties or invest in another Subsumption ability – but exorcism rituals were never easy and might involve a battle with some very angry spirits.

Yes, this let you turn bonus skill points that you didn’t want into character points at an excellent ratio – but it was rarely a particularly desirable process. A number of wild-man characters dabbled in Subsumption at one point or another, but most of the players found it a LOT simpler to simply use their skill points for skills and to buy their powers normally; if they wanted weird disadvantages attacked to them, that was easy enough anyway. Still, there’s always some maniac who would like to give it a try and it definitely had it’s own style about it.

The Identities skill is most common in the dimension-hopping Manifold setting, but might fit into some others. A spy, merchant, or similar character who regularly moves between countries or city-states might find a more mundane version useful, while settings featuring local sources of power might make a more comprehensive version available.

Identities (Charisma, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) lets you establish differing roles for yourself in differing places – whether by using magic or reality shifting to create or adopt a role that suits you or by more conventional means. Each rank of the Identities skill provides +8 character points worth of abilities – but each rank must be assigned to a specific place and the abilities that it provides can only be drawn on in that specific place. Characters with Perform / Acting at 5+ gain a +2 bonus on their Identities skill rank. Those with Reality Editing gain a +4 bonus on their Identities skill rank. If you upgrade your base abilities to include some of the features of a role, those points can be reassigned freely. The abilities built into an identity cannot be corrupted or specialized based on being limited to a particular place. A character may have only one established role at a time in any one place. While old roles can be traded out for new ones it takes at least one month of game time per level of the skill being reassigned. During that period the character must spend both time and effort establishing the new identity and stay out of the old one. Finally, of course, the game master must approve of all identities purchased.

  • In the Manifold, where everyone shapes reality to some degree, identities are wide open; they can change their “users” species, provide all sorts of odd powers, and – thanks to the existence of Phantasms and each dimensions tendency towards self-consistency – even do things without you when you happen to be in another dimension. That’s especially likely when you adopt an existing role, whether that’s Aragorn in Middle-Earth, Marco Polo in China, or Antonio the Merchant of Venice, but it can happen anytime, even if you’ve gone to the trouble of establishing a truly original personal role. Just as annoyingly, strong identities can influence you even when you’re not using them – both through recognition and through more mysterious means (such as being caught up in the plot of the realm). Normally you automatically get back an identity when you revisit the relevant world, but the role happens to be occupied at the moment you arrive you may wind up being shunted into a prequel, sequel, or closely-related role in some variant of the world you actually wanted.
    • A Reality-Shaping Identity may have up to (Cha Mod +1, 1 Minimum) skill ranks invested in it, and may provide almost any power or ability allowed in the local setting that is appropriate to the identity and which does not involve acquiring complex knowledge (such as item creation, demolitions, or other advanced studies) if enough points are available. It CAN (and probably WILL) include a family, a local history, and similar background items to fit smoothly into the setting. It can be quite disconcerting to arrive in a new dimension – and abruptly find yourself a widower with six beloved children to care for, haunting memories of years spent in the service of a local king, of your deceased wife, and of raising your children, and a diplomatic crisis to deal with.
  • Magically-empowered roles occur where city-states are focused on arcane nexi, or mysterious forces rule various sections of a setting in different ways, and characters can tap into those local powers – thus changing their abilities somewhat from place to place.
    • A Magically-Empowered Identity may have up to (Cha Mod, 1 Minimum) skill ranks invested in it and may include special powers, local contacts, personal wealth and privileges, and similar abilities. Such an identity normally can not change the user’s species of skills, can not provide complex knowledge, and is limited to talents appropriate to the power source being tapped. A well-established magically-empowered role might include a family or some such, but the background elements of magically-empowered roles are never retroactive; they must be built up from scratch. They must also allow for the user’s comings and goings. Still, this is much simpler than a Reality-Shaping Identity… “In this realm I am known as Tolwar, a wandering mercenary. Here I can draw on the deep fires of Mount Vesuvius to power my flame-lance and magma-blade, have connections with several of the local noble houses I have done special jobs for, and am entitled to free room and board thanks to my membership in the local mercenaries guild”.
  • Mundane Identities or “covers” may have up to (Cha Mod -1, 1 Minimum) skill ranks invested in them – and may provide paperwork legal privileges, local contacts, a place to stay, and even some funds – but cannot include powers, skills, special abilities, or anything that does not fit into the identity. This is the kind of thing that a Witness Protection Program might set up. As with magically-empowered roles, Mundane Identities are never retroactive, new ones must be built up from scratch, and they must allow for the user’s comings and goings.

Identities are useful in game where the characters are expected to take on a wide variety of roles (and can be VERY entertaining in a Manifold game, where characters will often find themselves acquiring an identity and a role in the local plot upon arrival in a new dimension, regardless of whether or not they wanted one). A high-charisma character can have fairly powerful local identities – but that extra power can be rendered quite useless the moment that the scene of the action shifts a bit. The most awkward part of Identities is that their balancing factor is being limited to a small part of the area that the campaign covers. Thus, in the multidimensional Manifold setting the “Star Wars Multiverse” is effectively a pretty small place; the characters visit once in awhile, but the vast majority of the action takes place in the dozens of other realms they frequent. In most games, particular cities are probably a more reasonable choice. 

Social Impacts – Races and Birthrights

Imperium Image

It really doesn’t matter if they LOOK alike…

Every conscious creature of Atheria gains a share in the magic of the land of it’s birth. While the potency of that gift varies with the intelligence and size of the creature, those gifts have a massive impact on both the creatures and the people of that world.

The mechanics of Human and Animal Birthrights have been dealt with elsewhere. Sapient beings such as humans are, however, unique in one way – and it’s a way that impacts every world where intelligent beings of wildly different natures roam and meet.

How do they feel about it?

To start with, Birthrights inspire some rather contradictory thoughts in most Atherians. For an example lets look at a couple of Birthrights in particular – the Order Birthright of the Imperium and the Elemental Birthright of HuSung.

People tend to take their own birthrights – and especially their passive aspects that are more or less “always on” – entirely for granted, and tend to see people with other birthrights as being a bit… defective, at best.

  • Thus the people of the Imperium take the fact that they have a pretty much universal knack for EVERYTHING (their permanent Inspiring Word effect), are twice as effective at helping out as anyone else (they all have the Aide ability), and tend to spontaneously organize themselves for tasks and have maintained a stable government and society for six thousand years (they are, after all, creatures of order)… as absolutely normal. It’s all the REST of the people of the world who are lazy, inattentive, unskilled, unhelpful, and in constant turmoil.
  • The people of HuSung are inherently resistant to elemental damage – and so they never get sunburned, do not suffer from winter’s cold, pick up hot coals to light things with, dabble their fingers in acid and boiling pots, and don’t even think of such things as being perilous. If a baby crawls into a fire and spills a boiling cauldron of soup on itself… that’s time for a scolding, not time for a funeral. The fact that foreign visitors to their realm don’t like their tea and soup boiling hot, get upset just because the house is being kept just above freezing, or think that there should be extra blankets or special clothing for winter is just weird – and goes to show just how those delicate foreigners have no tolerance for even tiny discomforts.

Most people find it fairly obvious that THEIR Birthright is the “best”, and feel that everyone else’s Birthright is quite inferior. .

  • In the Imperium, where everyone has an inherent ability to boost the effects of minor Charms and Talismans… the people know that their magical devices are the most powerful in the world and that almost any man can have a small suite of powerful, helpful, magical devices that they can – given a few hours – trade out as needed. Rent the proper Charms – and, if you have enough of a share in the powers of Order, Talismans – and you can accomplish almost any task with skill and speed. Thanks to that ability, the Imperium is a land of plenty, easily sustaining one of the largest population densities in the world – and so supporting a semi-modern lifestyle, with universities, organized coach services, regular presentations of plays and literature, and more. It’s pretty obvious that the people who cannot change out their abilities to meet their needs have most inferior Birthrights!
  • In HuSung, a quarryman may temporarily enchant his tools to easily cut through rock, do what would be two full days worth of backbreaking labor for most others in a half an hour or so, and then – out of suitable spells, and so knowing that there is little or no point in working more today – go back home for tea, some relaxation, and to play with the children for the rest of the day. If attacked, any farming village may defend itself with a barrage of elemental magic – and so there is little oppression. Those who are so unfortunate as to be born with other birthrights, and who thus must exhaust themselves in labor merely to survive… are fit for little more than slavery; it’s not as if even their full efforts are particularly worthwhile. Only the people of HuSung have been blessed by the powers of the Elemental Dragons, and only they have the time to cultivate the true arts of ceremony and civilized living.

And yet…

  • In the Imperium… a native might look at a visitor from HuSung and see that THEIR Birthright grants them powerful elemental magic – powers that would take great talent and decades of study for a native of the Imperium to achieve – and become jealous. That imperial onlooker will, of course, not see the steady toll that having such powers available to even the very young takes on the people of HuSung. There, far too many children… can be expected to die of miscast spells (whether their own or a playmates), of childish quarrels, or in the regular elemental disruptions. Storm, earthquake, fire, and flood… will regularly devastate areas. While the people will mostly endure thanks to their own elemental powers, HuSung is still a place of constant reconstruction.
  • In HuSung, a native of the realm might look at a visitor from the Imperium and see… that their Birthright seems to grant them near-universal skill, and an array of powerful, perpetually-active, magical devices with which to meet any challenge, and that their children virtually all seem to live – and to learn with amazing speed, thanks to still more of those incredible magical devices. Is that not a cause for a little jealousy? Of course, a native of HuSung will not see the social rigidity those powers foster, or how the stability and freedom from disaster of the Imperium comes at the cost of enslaving any child who is even slightly disruptive, or the fact that he or she has far more leisure time (if fewer amusements to spend it on) than most of those in the Imperium.

Atherians… thus tend to accept the more subtle aspects of their own Birthrights as normal, to see their own society (which is, naturally enough, adapted to exploit their particular Birthrights) as superior to others, and will tend to regard people with other Birthrights – who cannot function nearly so well in the society that THEY are used to – as generally inferior.

Still, while their OWN Birthright and realm are obviously the best, it’s hard to avoid being jealous of the obvious unearned gifts that other Birthrights grant.

A native of Dernarik (with a Birthright that allows them to mold minor features of the world to suit their needs) is, by the standards of the Imperium, sullen, incompetent, and obstructive (no “Inspiring Word” or “aide” effect) and by the standards of HuSung hopelessly spoiled – and yet THEY get to just FIND stuff that they need! They find routes that didn’t even EXIST before they went looking, and just keep FINDING metal deposits, and patches of rare herbs, and whatever else it is that they want! The Imperium has to WORK and TRADE for all that stuff! Damn those annoying, lazy Dernmarikers!

The Barbarians, with their animalistic enhancements, find it VERY hard to understand how everyone else can be so weak and slow or yet find it so easy to form complex societies – and tend to conclude that a culture organized beyond the clan level is a symptom of physical (and probably moral) weakness. Ourathan’s, with their shapeshifting and mental powers, tend to think that everyone else’s bodies and minds (as well as those of their own people who cannot defend themselves and lack protection) as clay for their sculpting – but fail to see just how warping that is to their society. Those with the Divination Birthright think that everyone else is so blind and foolish that they keep constantly missing the obvious, those with the Life Birthright can’t see how everyone else can possible be so FRAGILE – and those with the Light Birthright tend to avoid everyone else. After all, they must be complete idiots! How can they expect to try such obvious deceptions and to expect other people to participate in the idiocy?

It goes on and on. Like it or not, people getting a freebie – any freebie – that you don’t get tends to be seen as unfair. On the other hand, when you get something that other people don’t get… that tends to get taken for granted. Given the depths of the gulfs that a few changes in skin color and language have put between people in the real world, it’s hard to see how truly exotic races – creatures often more different from each other than a dog is different from a chimpanzee – can get along so well in so many settings. Many d20 worlds can chalk it up to the unnatural energies of the outer planes enforcing unnatural behavior patterns, but those with no such explanation… should probably think about it. There’s a reason why first edition AD&D included those charts on race relationships.

In any case, Birthrights are the foundation of reality on Atheria. They define it’s realms, it’s laws of nature, and it’s cultures. They define what it means to be “human” there, and greatly enhance their bearer’s ability to survive.

And that is the problem. Birthrights redefine humanity, changing people to fit into Atheria, rather than allowing them to grow and build to suit their own nature. For those who dare to give birth in other lands, they set a vast gulf between parents and offspring. In one way or another… the lands dispose of those children who do not fit into their patterns. Humanity has been permitted into the gardens of Atheria, but it will never be truly theirs.

Atheria is not a world for men, but merely a place of refuge.

It’s ways are old beyond measure, the presence of men yet young upon it.

It’s magic runs it’s own way, it’s depths beyond men’s mastery.

In each great domain one power holds sway, binding with each new life.

A Birthright that shapes the region, and the life within it, in it’s own image.