Champions – Planetman and Starman

Starman” and “Planetman” date back quite a while (to Champions II in fact) – and are exactly as labeled; They’re a star and a planet built as Hero System characters, using some really cheesy limitations to keep the point totals down to something reasonable. On the other hand, most of those points go into making these characters literal, permanent, astronomical objects the size of the earth and the sun, the star radiating vast amounts of energy and the planet hosting a biosphere – and, in both cases, being very hard to destroy.

Planetman is a standard earthlike world, with a breathable atmosphere, active plate tectonics, and various biological species, It possesses a modest power pool which can be used to add new species to the environment, deflect small meteorites, transfer specimens of endangered species to new habitats, grant visions, and otherwise gently meddle (a planet has to have a hobby, right?). It can also create four low-powered (but still more than human) thematic avatars to intervene on various situations. Adding or subtracting a few points from the Growth ability will easily create anything up to superjovian worlds or down to small – and for some reason habitable – asteroids. Still, Planetman is usually mostly content to drift along in orbit contemplating it’s various lifeforms and occasionally saying “Hi!” to other astronomical objects via telepathy.

Starman is a very similar build, but focuses on radiating immense amounts of energy; minor adjustments to the Stellar Fire power will cover everything from brown dwarves on up through red giants (most stars spend some of their experience points on getting ever-brighter; it just seems to be something they do). Going nova or supernova is a little more complicated however, but since it generally signifies the death of a star, details on the build really don’t matter much. Similar tweaks to the Growth ability will cover a wide range of stellar masses. Just like Planetman, Starman can manifest four “superheroic” avatars of intermediate power levels to use to make contact with the inhabitants of any planets it happens to be providing heat and light for. Like planets, stars are generally quite content to float along quietly, contemplating the wonders of fusing atoms together, for a few eons – but a few do take it into their core to meddle once in a while.

Conscious stars and planets are currently something of a rarity, but will become more prevalent billions of years in the future since they are capable of maintaining themselves for considerably longer periods than simple astronomical objects can. While proper maintenance by the Arith Vaya and Celestial Dragons can greatly extend the lifespans of non-sapient planets and stars as well, there are never enough of either to do ALL the maintenance that the universe could use.



Value Characteristic Points
10/390 STR 0
5 DEX -15
25 CON 30
1/77 BODY -18
18 INT 8
20 EGO 20
25 PRE 15
10 COM 0
2 PD 0
5 ED 0
2 SPD 5
7 REC 0
50 END 0
4/80 STUN -15
Total 30


Points Powers END
45 Geosphere. Growth-76 (×72057594037927936000000 mass, ×42275935.1 height); Mass: 5,908,722,711,110,090,800,000,000 kg/12,999,189,964,442,200,000,000,000 lbs; Height: -33,686,893 cm/-13,262,556.30″; Extra STR: 380; Knockback Reduction: -76; Extra BODY: 76; Extra STUN: 76; DCV Penalty: -51; PER Penalty: +51; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Always On: -½; Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; Generic Limitation (Has massive gravatic side effects): -2; Extra Time: 1 season, -5; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Generic Limitation (User becomes almost perfectly spherical, with no major limbs): -2; Independent (Earth and stone can be taken away): -2; OIF (Geology): -½; Visible (Grotesquely so): -¼ 0
5 Elemental Control: Planetary Powers (22-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; OIF (Geology): -½; Linked (To Geosphere): -½; Always On: -½; Visible (Absurdly so): -¼
a-8 Atmosphere
(1) Doesn’t Eat, Excrete or Sleep
(1) Immune to Aging
(1) Immune to Disease
(13) Combined Powers Slot; Area Effect (Radius): 4000″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4000, +3; Generic Limitation (Effect fades slowly with altitude): -½; Side Effects (Weather): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Immunities are subject to upper limits): -¼; Always On: -½
(7) Need Not Breathe; Area Effect (Radius): 4000″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4000, +3; Generic Limitation (Effect fades slowly with altitude): -½; Side Effects (Weather): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Immunities are subject to upper limits): -¼; Always On: -½
(2) Life Support: Intense Heat/Cold; Area Effect (Radius): 1″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4000, +3; Generic Limitation (Effect fades slowly with altitude): -½; Side Effects (Weather): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Immunities are subject to upper limits): -¼; Always On: -½
(2) Life Support: High Radiation; Area Effect (Radius): 1″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4000, +3; Generic Limitation (Effect fades slowly with altitude): -½; Side Effects (Weather): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Immunities are subject to upper limits): -¼; Always On: -½
(2) Life Support: High Pressure/Vacuum; Area Effect (Radius): 1″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4000, +3; Generic Limitation (Effect fades slowly with altitude): -½; Side Effects (Weather): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Immunities are subject to upper limits): -¼; Always On: -½
b-27 Rocky Exterior / Armor (40 PD/40 ED); Hardened: ×1, ¼
c-5 Really, Really, Large / Power Defense (35 pts); Hardened: ×1, ¼
d-11 Thinking Big / Mental Defense (64 pts); Add to Total; Hardened: ×1, ¼
e-5 Eyes Everywhere / Flash Defense (Sight, 35 pts); Hardened: ×1, ¼
f-21 Looking at the Neighbors / Telescopic “Vision” (Sight, +80 to PER)
g-8 A Really Big Guy / Damage Reduction (Physical, 75% Resistant)
h-8 A Really Big Guy / Damage Reduction (Energy, 75% Resistant)
i-5 Watching The Universe / 360-Degree Sensing (All); Transdimensional (All “nearby” dimensions): Group of Dimensions, +¾
j-12 8d6 Strength of the Earth / Aid Endurance (Fade/turn, Max. 48); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power, +0; Charges: 250, +1 0
k-46 Create Avatars / Duplication (4 250-point forms); Extra Time: 1 season, -5; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Generic Limitation (All forms must be related to some sort of theme): -½; Champions Advantage (“Duplicates” are independently constructed. (The rules are messed up enough that I don’t know if this is required, but just in case).): +½.

Possible avatar “themes” include the “four elements” (Arising from appropriate areas), aspects of nature (EG – Beneficent/Wild/Mysterious/Oceanic or Mother Nature/ Curennos/Moon Goddess/Poseidon), entities that “embody” the four seasons, Warrior/Healer/Mystic/Crafter, and so on. While avatars may be entirely independent creations of the planet, some worlds opt to manifest this ability by “bestowing” the avatar’s power on local lifeforms…

82 Variable Cosmic Power Pool (60-pt Pool); Control Cost: 30; No Skill Required for Change: +1; Change Powers as 0 Phase Action: +1; Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; OIF (Geology): -½; Linked (To Geosphere): -½
3 Mental Awareness
291 Total Powers  


Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
2 Knowledge: Biosphere 11-
2 Knowledge; Astronomy 11-
4 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  


125+ Disadvantages
15 Distinctive Features (Continents); Concealability: Not Concealable, 15; Reaction: Noticed and Recognizable, +0
10 Accidental Change (Major climactic and ecological shifts, per epoch) (11-)
20 Dependent NPC: Assorted Species (Normal, 14-); Skills: Normal, +0
20 Dependent NPC: Assorted Species (Normal, 14-); Skills: Normal, +0
10 Dependent NPC: Assorted Species (Normal, 8-); Skills: Normal, +0
20 Hunted: Minions of the Elder Ones (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
10 Watched: Assorted galactic empires, would-be colonizers, and other aliens (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
20 Gigantic Ball of Rock and Metal (All the Time, Greatly)
15 Plate Tectonics (All the Time, Slightly)
15 No Fine Manipulations (All the Time, Slightly)
20 Does not usually deal with mortals directly (Very Common, Strong)
15 Dislikes Pollution (Very Common, Moderate)
10 Public Identity
200 Total Disadvantages


COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
30 + 295 = 325 325 = 200 + 125


OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
2 2 / 0 7 64 42/40 45/40 6, 12

Height: 50/2113796755cm (1’8″/69350287’3″), Weight: 82/0kg (180 lbs/0.00 lbs), Age: 4½, Race: Planet



Value Characteristic Points
10/480 STR 0
5 DEX -15
30 CON 40
1/95 BODY -18
18 INT 8
20 EGO 20
30 PRE 20
10 COM 0
2 PD 0
6 ED 0
2 SPD 5
8 REC 0
60 END 0
6/100 STUN -15
Total 45


Points Powers END
80 5d6 Stellar Fire / Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 4595; Damage Shield: +½; No Normal Defense (That does Body. Versus Radiation/Heat/Vacuum and Breathing Life Support, great thicknesses of ice and rock, or not being stupid enough to dive into a star.): +2; Always On: -½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Extra Time: 1 season, -5; Generic Limitation (Prohibits the use of any equipment): -1½; Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; Generic Limitation (Quasi-Explosive; the damage falls off according to the square-cube law (and gets worse “inside”)): -2; Generic Limitation (Eventually burns out and kills the “user”.): -1; Generic Limitation (Incredibly Visible; Detectable without a roll at ranges of thousands of light years.): -1; Area Effect (Radius): 8192000000″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×256000000, +7; Personal Immunity: +¼; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
3 Elemental Control / Stellar Powers (22-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; Linked (With Stellar Fire): -½; Generic Limitation (Huge gravitational side effects): -2; Generic Limitation (User becomes almost perfectly spherical, with no major limbs): -2
a-62 Growth-94 (×18889465931478581000000000000 mass, ×2705659852.4000001 height); Mass: 1,548,936,206,381,243,600,000,000,000,000 kg/3,407,659,654,038,736,000,000,000,000,000 lbs; Height: 0 cm/0″; Extra STR: 470; Knockback Reduction: -94; Extra BODY: 94; Extra STUN: 94; DCV Penalty: -63; PER Penalty: +63; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Extra Time: 1 season, -5; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; OAF (Vast amounts of hot gas): -1; Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; Linked (With Stellar Fire): -½ 0
b-22 Photosphere / Armor (50 PD/50 ED); Hardened: ×1, ¼
c-3 Eternal Fires / Power Defense (35 pts); Hardened: ×1, ¼
d-7 Cosmic Sentience / Mental Defense (64 pts); Add to Total; Hardened: ×1
e-3 Sunspot Eyes / Flash Defense (Sight, 35 pts); Hardened: ×1, ¼
f-13 Envisioning The Cosmic All / Telescopic “Vision” (Sight, +80 to PER)
g-5 I Laugh At Your Puny Comets / Damage Reduction (Physical, 75% Resistant)
h-5 Nearby Nova? Is That All? / Damage Reduction (Energy, 75% Resistant)
i-3 Watching The Universe / 360-Degree Sensing (All); Transdimensional (All “nearby” dimensions): Group of Dimensions, +¾
j-10 10d6 Fusion Flash / Aid Endurance (Fade/turn, Max. 60); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power, +0; Charges: 250, +1 0
k-9 The Main Sequence / Regeneration, Broad-Spectrum (1 BODY/Turn); Regenerate: From Death, +20; Champions Advantage (Affects all damaged attributes and abilities): +2
l-3 I Am An Environment / Life Support (total); Difficult to Dispel: ×4, +½
m-41 Create Avatars / Duplication (4 300-point forms); Extra Time: 1 season, -5; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Generic Limitation (All forms must be related to some sort of theme): -½; Champions Advantage (“Duplicates” are independently constructed. (The rules are messed up enough that I don’t know if this is required, but just in case).): +½

Possible avatar “themes” include astronomical objects, four states of matter, types of energy, and so on. While solar avatars are normally entirely independent creations of the star in question, some stars opt to manifest this ability by “bestowing” the avatar’s power on creatures that  (somehow!) draw their notice.

82 Variable Cosmic Power Pool (60-pt Pool); Control Cost: 30; No Skill Required for Change: +1; Change Powers as 0 Phase Action: +1; Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; OIF (Corona): -½; Linked (To Stellar Fire): -½
3 Mental Awareness
5 Solar Flares / Extra Limbs (40); Number: 40
359 Total Powers  


Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
2 Knowledge: Astronomy 11-
2 Knowledge: Stellar Physics 11-
2 Knowledge: Galactic History 11-
6 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  


125+ Disadvantages
20 Distinctive Features: Star; Concealability: Not Concealable, 15; Reaction: Always noticed & major reaction, +5
20 Phys. Lim: Immense Superheated Ball of Plasma (All the Time, Greatly)
10 Phys. Lim: Does not understand chemically-based creatures very well. (Frequently, Slightly)
20 Psychological Limitation: Placid. Stars are normally quite content to just sit there and blaze away happily for a few eons. (Very Common, Strong)
20 Psychological Limitation: Feels responsible for providing heat and light for any planets that happen to be in the area. (Very Common, Strong)
5 Psychological Limitation: Likes the Celestial Dragons (Uncommon, Moderate)
5 Psychological Limitation: Dislikes the “Lords of Darkness”/”Great Old Ones”/”Elder Ones” (Uncommon, Moderate)
10 Public Identity
15 Reputation (14-)
10 Dependent NPC: Planets (Slightly Less Powerful, 11-); Skills: Normal, +0
135 Total Disadvantages


COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base Exp.
45 + 365 = 410 410 = 135 + 125 + 150


OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
2 2 / 0 7 64 52/50 56/50 6, 12

Weight: 82/1548936206381243600000000000000kg (180 lbs/3,407,659,654,038,736,000,000,000,000,000 lbs), Race: Star

Amusingly enough, Planetman and Starman are at least as playable as a lot of the actual player characters I’ve seen. They may be almost impossible to get rid of, but you can lose them by simply going inside, they’re very slow, and the actual powers that they can manifest are simply not that impressive – at least not once you realize that they can only exert their strength via an earthquake or some such.

Guns versus Equestria

And next up we have a VERY silly question – but one that’s really all too common in one version or another. In this case it’s…

What if someone brought an equestrian dragon to Earth? It has to be very light to fly with those not-so-large wings, so it can’t be very dense or all that tough. Wouldn’t pretty much any kind of modern military weapon take it out instantly barring nonsense about super-tough polymers in their tissues or something? Even if their scales can take it due to some woo-hoo, the transmitted shock from a missile or tank gun should turn their internal organs into mush.

And I’ll answer it because “What if (fantasy/scifi monster of choice) was confronted by the modern military” is a popular question – and the answers are almost always subject to the same logic errors.

At it’s most basic, this question has a major underlying assumption – namely that earthly physics has something to do with fantasy creatures in general and Equestrian dragons in particular.

It doesn’t – and unless you go to a lot of trouble to come up some sort of compromise reality that adapts everyone who enters it to itself (in which case what various creatures can or cannot do, and how effective modern weaponry is, is entirely up to the rules you come up with and means nothing at all in any discussion) it won’t. Now if you just decide that cartoon dragons (or other critters) function according to their own rules, while the modern military operates according to the rules of conventional physics, then you can compare a few things.

Equestria does (very loosely) adhere to some rules about leverage and motion, since otherwise it would look really weird to the viewers. Ergo, it’s fair to guess that – since Spike is a dragon and Spike can hold quite a stack of packages out in front of himself – that he’s heavy enough not to tip over easily, giving Dragons a roughly normal-to-somewhat-high (possibly from eating rock?) tissue density.

Still, Equestria’s dragon’s don’t pay attention to conservation of mass-energy; they can gain or lose a great deal of mass simply because they got greedy or become distracted from being greedy. They can bite chunks out of rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and other gemstones, chew them up, and swallow them, without shattering the stone or injuring their tongues, palates, or throats. They have water-based tissues and relatively thin scales, but they can digest gems and bathe in magma without getting hot – violating basic thermodynamic principles. They breathe magic fire, or near-limitless amounts of smoke, with no apparent source for it. They (like pretty much every other flying creature in Equestria; just take a look at Bulk Biceps) pay no attention whatsoever to aerodynamics, lift, or weight-to-wingspan ratios. Any notions of “required wing area” are utterly irrelevant, as are ideas about how tough they are. After all, ponies say that Dragons are “almost indestructible”.

But just what does that mean?

  • Twilight Sparkle easily survived having a flower pot, a big anvil, a loaded hay cart, and a piano dropped on her head; she suffered rather minor injuries that vanished a little later from the incident (rather than winding up dead several times over like a human probably would). Yet she’s of the most physically vulnerable pony subrace, and is an unathletic bookworm with no combat training or physical conditioning.
  • Rainbow Dash survived performing a sonic rainboom directly through Applejack’s barn and into the ground. It’s hard to say exactly how fast she was traveling, but the writers and animators were fairly clearly trying to show her breaching the sound barrier and then achieving at least a two- to three-fold jump in speed – making it a minimum of roughly 2000 MPH. She hit the ground hard enough to throw up a mushroom cloud, produce the the sound of a massive explosion, and scatter debris to a depth of several feet over a radius of several hundred yards. What’s more, she can carry multiple ponies and execute sharp turns while traveling at such speeds. Evidently she can ignore inconvenient things like “inertia”, “conservation of momentum”, and “equal and opposite reaction”. She can generate lightning and create tornadoes.

And THESE are the creatures who describe Dragons as being “almost indestructible” and try to avoid confronting them at all costs.

Creatures from Equestria – like most cartoon and more than a few fantasy critters – get to opt out of physics in favor of plot, drama, and rule-of-funny. If you dropped a strategic nuclear weapon on one the result is going to be the same as it is in pretty much any other cartoon – a long shot of a great big explosion, widespread destruction of buildings and inanimate objects, and the creature at the center of the crater, blackened with soot, possibly furless if it had fur to start with, looking stunned, and blinking it’s (undamaged) eyes amusingly. In a scene or two it will be just fine again.

On the other hand, cartoon critters can still have trouble with a cloud of bees or shutting a door on one of their appendages. A sword fight may well work; it has plot, good visuals, and a good dramatic build up. A long range missile or a bomb however… will never work. They’re far too impersonal. Fortunately for the modern military, cartoon critters are often pretty ineffectual at attacking too – and can often be stopped by pies, policemen with whistles, or trash can lids – but barring such exploits, they will have quite a substantial advantage over conventional military forces.

Like it or not… reality is full of constraints. What makes things fantastic and wonderful is being free of those constraints. The more free of restraints a creature is – the less that is impossible for it – the closer it comes to omnipotent godhood.

Cartoons are a LOT less restrained than the real-world military. The only real chance of victory over such a foe is to find something that restrains THEM to exploit. Sure, “cannot ever catch the Roadrunner” isn’t likely to be THAT useful in a military sense – but “always waits for the dramatic speech to finish” may well allow a few thespians to hold off an entire cartoon army by simply continuing to talk as they relieve each other.

And that is why the answer to “X versus Y”, when X and Y come from different, and incompatible, settings pretty much always comes down to “what assumptions are we throwing in to allow this interaction?”. Are we doing Galactus versus Sheriff Andy Taylor from Mayberry?

  • Well, Galactus has vast cosmic powers, while Andy Taylor is a small town policeman who relies on being understanding and reasonable. If they meet in the Marvel Universe, Galactus wins – barring some absurd exploit during assistant editors week anyway. But those are generally out of continuity, and don’t count.
  • On the other hand, the only way that Galactus can exist in Mayberry is as one of Opie’s bad dreams – in which case Andy wins through some heartwarming father-and-son bonding moment and Galactus will be relegated to the trash can with the other upsetting comic books. The rules of Mayberry are the rules of a family sitcom.

It all depends on what assumptions you make. Once you start changing the rules that characters operate under, and putting vaguely-defined abilities against each other with no way of knowing how they’re going to interact, it’s come down to your personal opinion anyway. And it will remain your personal opinion, whether you get really elaborate and use a system like Eclipse or Gurps or the Hero System to build “faithful reproductions” of the characters to pit against each other or whether you just pick a winner.

D20, Divinities, and why Nuking Makes Me Thor

Today we have a question…

How much damage does a d20 nuke do? Will it kill a d20 god?

Now nuclear weapons really are pretty impressive. They’re by far the most powerful weapons yet developed by human beings. Of course, d20 characters… are really not very human. The basic problem here is that, all intuition to the contrary, “damage” in d20 is not linear.

Lets take a standard d20 heavy mace: sized for a 5’6 human being. It does 1d8 damage and weighs 8 pounds. Well and good.

Now lets make it a colossal mace, for a (minimal) colossal creature twelve times that size – 66 feet tall. That’s twelve times as big in each dimension, giving it a weight of 13,824 pounds – and it has to be swung around at twelve times the speed of the basic mace, since it gets swung around in the same way and hits at the same frequency while having twelve times as far to travel.

Kinetic energy is what does the damage when a mace hits – it gets expended crushing flesh and bone, tearing tissues, and otherwise doing unpleasant work on the victim – and our colossal mace carries (12 x 12 x 12) times the mass x (12 x 12, velocity squared) times as much energy as the basic one. All of that energy can get expended on some poor character when it comes down on his head, since being hit will not move a d20 character an inch. So… our Colossal Mace can deliver 248,832 times as much kinetic energy to the target as a normal mace.


That makes some sense; If I get several tons of steel moving at high speed coming down on ME, I must either get out of the way or be turned into a puddle of goo.

Yet the rules tell us that our colossal mace only does 6d6 damage. An average of (21 / 4.5) = 4.67 times as much as a normal one. That’s a damage adder of (+3.5). Still ouch, but certainly not nearly two hundred and fifty thousand times as much ouch. It’s not even enough damage to bother most mid-level characters all that much.

Like it or not, neither hit points nor damage are linear things in d20. They’re logarithmic.

So we’ll be generous on behalf of damage and take the simple calculation; each factor-of-ten increase in the delivered energy equates to a +1 damage multiplier. That would give our colossal mace a damage rating of 6d8+2, but that’s close enough to what the rules give to pass.

According to the d20 (Modern) rules, a standard, roughly half-pound, stick of dynamite does 2d6 damage. Dynamite is actually about 25% more powerful than TNT, but – in d20 terms – this makes very little difference. For our purposes, we can treat them as being pretty much equivalent.

There are special rules in the d20 modern SRD for small bundles of dynamite – giving it a maximum damage of 10d6 and a maximum radius of 20 feet (exactly like a standard fireball) no matter how much dynamite you use, but we’re interested in very large quantities, so we can just extrapolate this calculation instead.

  • One ton of dynamite (4000 times as much, for a +3.6 damage multiplier, rounded to +4) will thus cause 10d6 damage – albeit in a considerable radius.
  • One kiloton of dynamite (4,000,000 times as much, for a +6.6 Damage Multiplier, which I will gratuitously not round off so as to get an easy result. gets us 15d6 damage – albeit with effects spread out over a VERY wide radius.
  • One megaton of dynamite (4,000,000,000 times as much) will, of course, get us up to a +9.6 damage multiplier – and either 20d6 (for easy steps) or 21d6 (for more accuracy) damage – and an immense area of effect.
  • The Tsar Bomba – we’ll be generous and call it an even sixty megatons – gets a multiplier of +11.3 – giving us a figure of 25d6 damage – equivalent to the direct damage that can be caused by a ninth level spell, albeit over a far larger area. Yes, that’s a coincidence – but it’s an interesting one isn’t it?

We can get pretty much the same results by applying the weapon damage chart to small/medium/large/etc explosions – which makes some sense; these are just bigger weapons after all.

Now we’re certainly justified in adding some special effects – perhaps a fortitude save to resist radiation sickness (not that d20 characters have anything equating to “genes” to be damaged since they can have kids with ghosts and creatures who don’t even have material bodies), another to evade blindness (not that sight in d20 necessarily has anything to do with having eyes), yet another to avoid deafness, a knockdown/back effect, and more. We could add a reflex save (to represent being behind cover, which will help considerably) and double the base damage to compensate (although this raises the possibility of characters saving for no damage) – but we’ve got a good lower bound for the use of nuclear weapons in d20.

And, in general… nuclear weapons will not kill a standard d20 god, or most high-level characters, even barring the use of evasive spells, immunities, and other special defenses.

Of course, what we’ve really demonstrated that the d20 mechanics are not that consistent, reliable, or rational – and get worse as you start getting away from the baseline medieval muscle powered weaponry it was designed to work with. After all, the d20 mechanics describe a world where characters can wade through lava up to their armpits and take a mere 2d6 damage – which remains the same as long as at least one finger is sticking out. Now, if you want a plot device, you can go ahead and give your weaponry completely arbitrary effects. If you want something that’s more or less playable, there’s a rather long list of absurdly overpowered weaponry over here – most of which does fit these calculations fairly well.

Gaming Harry Potters World, Part II

In which we discuss common spells and the nine problematic spells – Avada Kedavra, Expecto Patronum, the Fidelius Charm, the Fiendfyre Curse, the Imperius Curse, Portus, Taboo, Draconifors, and the Hour-Reversal Charm.

Next up, we have the magic of Harry Potter – and here again we have a bit of information from the author to clear things up. While it’s blatantly obvious that most of the magic in Harry Potter is purely mechanical – you might as well be pushing buttons on your remote control to activate pre-defined programs – the three “Unforgivable Curses” and the Horcruxes have muddled discussions with moral dimensions for years.

So what makes the three “unforgivable curses” so special? According to the author…

The Avada Kedavra, Imperius, and Cruciatus Curses were made illegal by the Ministry of Magic in 1717 and classified as Unforgivables at that time via legislation, “with the strictest penalties attached to their use.” (Tales of Beedle the Bard – Page 142 – Collector Edition)

OK, that’s sensible enough. Even if the Cruciatus Curse calls for active malevolence on the part of the caster to work properly, these are just spells. Their “unforgivable” status is the result of a legal definition, not of any particular moral force.

The creation of Horcruxes demands the murder of a victim and intentionally damaging your own soul. Presuming that the soul is regarded as something inherently precious and never to be violated and that murder is generally regarded as wrong, there doesn’t need to be any actual inherent evil in the magic itself. People generally agree that using a knife to save someone who’s entangled in something underwater is good, while using that same knife to skin a screaming child alive is bad, without arguing that the actual knife has to be inherently good or evil The same seems likely to go for magical energy.

So what are the actual rules for (human) magic in the Potterverse?

  • Per the author, it calls for a wand or some magically-similar focus. You can do poorly-controlled, weak, and semi-random tricks without a wand, but you need a wand to do really good magic.
  • There really isn’t any limit on how much you can use. New schoolkids can practice charms for hours without a problem. There isn’t any “running out of magic” in the Potterverse, although the sheer physical strain of a long battle or repeating a spell over and over again may get to you.
  • There aren’t any otherworldly powers involved. There are no demons, elementals, angels, or gods to summon. There are ghosts and poltergeists and various magical animals – but all of them seem to be a part of this world, even if souls go on beyond it. Similarly, we never see anything being summoned except for normal animals.
  • Most potterverse spells are fairly low-powered, at least in terms of d20 games or the Hero System or similar role-playing games. They’re reasonably versatile – but no one is summoning armies, creating new kinds of life, teleporting to other planets (or even all that far normally), or similar stunts.

What we actually see in the books, games, and author notes, are spells that provide…

  1. Biomanipulations. This group of spells can repair or regrow bones, change moods, heal small injuries, wake up unconscious people, possibly make someone expel their entrails (there is a possibility that this is a medical spell that treats poisons and/or intestinal blockages rather than an attack; the information on it is ambiguous), grow hair or fur, cause terrible pain, make someone’s body explosive, remove minor, magically-induced, ailments, and inflict various injuries with no apparent source.
  2. Conjurations. These spells produce things from nothing. As weapons they can produce sprays or bolts of water, fire, ice, wind, and so on, entangle people in ropes or nets, create slashing blades or barriers of force, and generate modest explosions. Less directly, it can produce normal animals (swarms of bugs, dozens of birds, and large snakes), create splints and bandages, planks, bunches of flowers, pumpkins, really good glue, light and darkness, smokescreens, blindfolds, room-sized weather effects, and drink refills. Interestingly, both amplifying and dispelling magic fall into this group of spells. So do spells that make (worthless) copies of items. In general, all conjurations are very temporary; conjuring money or food is basically ineffectual – and money is quite illegal to boot.
  3. Divinations. These spells obtain information – detecting intruders or nearby humans, revealing the last spells a wand was used to cast, revealing an items exotic or magical properties, detecting magical disguises, locating true north, and identifying creatures. Annoyingly enough (if quite conveniently for mystery stories), any divination beyond the simplest and most immediate seems to become increasingly unreliable. Thus probing minds rarely works very well at all while things like prophecies, auguries, astrology, and clairvoyance are erratic to the point of near-uselessness.
  4. Enhancements. These spells boost the natural properties of things – providing enhanced senses, making objects tougher or near-unbreakable, adding strength or endurance, enhancing the user’s grip, making doors capable of stopping all eavesdropping, creating “magical” swords, making a promise unbreakable, and even letting a container (or room) hold far more than it should. As a rule, enhancements applied to living creatures are strictly temporary, while those applied to objects can last for weeks, months, or even many years.
  5. Illusions. While these spells don’t require a lot of power, most of them appear to be highly complex – perhaps because making something “look right” requires immense amounts of fine detail and it’s almost impossible to envision something that well in the time it takes to recite a few words. On the other hand, Potterverse Illusions seem to affect inanimate objects just fine; evidently they manipulate actual light and sound. Thus you don’t see multiple-image spells (despite how useful they’d be when the death-curses are flying), you see vague translucent images, amplifying and muffling sound, fireworks, people writing “flaming letters” in the air, changing the color of objects, and inducing vague daydreams. On the upper end of illusions you get reasonably effective invisibility and (for the clever) keeping burglar alarms from going off.
  6. Inflictions. These spells disrupt the operation of the victims body and mind, causing all sorts of problems – uncontrollable babbling, rapidly growing teeth, pain, boils, hair falling out, knees working backwards, paraplegia, muteness, full paralysis, confusion, loss of memory, rashes, stings, stunning, nausea, dancing, laughing, being unable to speak of specific topics, deafness, inducing hostility, uncontrollable sneezing, and incredible ticklishness. In general, these are quite temporary although – due to the constantly-rewritten nature of memory – disruptions there can indefinitely bury or even replace memories.
  7. Telekinesis. While these spells lose effectiveness as the targets get bigger, more “alive”, or more magical, they are still quite general and useful. You see them moving objects around and even bringing them from or carrying them to specified places, pushing people and objects violently away or pulling them to the caster, making people drop things, pulling down moveable stairs and barriers, holding a bubble of air to breathe, slowing things down, packing luggage, flying (usually using a focus), ripping out chunks of things, putting up tents, tripping people, opening pits, and dangling people in the air (or countering that).
  8. Teleportation. These spells work best with small objects and relatively short distances – but the limits seem to be easily boosted with boosting items, prepared locations, and other aides. These spells are often used to clean things, remove trash, summon items, escape problems, switch two objects locations, serve food, and – with one or more boosting effects – for intermediate range travel. Oddly enough, House Elves seem to be a lot better at this than magic-users.
  9. Transformations. There are a lot of these spells, but they seem to tend to be both highly specific and quite temporary save when they’re repairing things or making simple physical changes. Many or most of them are simple convenience effects. Thus we see spells being used to repair objects, turn them back to normal after they’re transformed, open doors sealed by normal locks, make fires burn cold, “weld” things together, warm and dry things, animate statues or suits of armor (although this may involve prior enchantments), change something’s color, lock doors (and seal them against magical opening), turn into specific animals, get rid of footprints (and presumably other traces), make objects (or their insides) larger or smaller, cause an unfortunate individuals nasal mucus to harass them, break holds and bindings, put out fires, force Boggarts into silly forms, turn staircases into ramps or slides, turn water into rum, grow plants quickly, turn small items into rabbits, and link objects together so that they can be used to communicate.
  10. Wards. These spells are basically defensive barriers, possibly with alarms attached. They can sound alarms when someone enters an area, help keep an area safe (the exact effect is never defined), keep kids out of areas with a magical barrier, prevent teleportation (and presumably other types of magic) in an area, provide rather limited protection from magic for a person or small area, reflect minor spells, make minor magical attacks on those who attempt to pass them (as usual, these are very effective against nameless background characters, but rarely do much to named characters), subtly steer muggles away from magical places, and prevent cheating on exams (fair enough in a school, if of limited usefulness otherwise).

For the most part… these spells have (in d20 terms) effects of up to level two, occasionally level three. In difficult fields the effects are mostly level one, sometimes up to level two. The Potterverse, like many other fantastic realms, has ubiquitous magic – but not magic that warps the world to the point of unrecognizability.

That leaves just nine spells on the “problematic” list.

Avada Kedavra: This magical attack cannot be blocked by any magic save for self-sacrifice or hosting a secondary life force, although interposing a physical barrier, or dodging, or hitting it with another spell before it hits to throw off the targeting, or magically-assisted dodging (using some spell that moves you out of the way of incoming attacks or to precognitively alert you or some such) all apparently work. In addition, having a Horcrux, or a phoenix’s self-resurrection ability, will let you recover. Also, of course, we’re told…

Avada Kedavra’s a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it – you could all get your wands out and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I’d get so much as a nosebleed.

-Barty Crouch Junior (when disguised as Alastor Moody).

Although what, exactly, that MEANS is open for debate. There are several mentions of some magic-users being “more powerful” than others – but it’s never really clear whether that means that they know more spells, use them more quickly, are more clever about using them, are better able to break through resistance, have more innate magical knacks, have better fine control, boost the potency of their spells somehow, can have more spells going at once, or some combination of those and other possible ways of measuring “power”. For all I know they’re talking about reputation or political influence or something and that somehow affects their magic. How would that work you ask? How should I know? It’s MAGIC.

Of course this particular quote also directly contradicts the “no one has ever survived it” bit, since otherwise how could anyone know that it took “a powerful bit of magic” to make it work? The only way to know that is for people to cast it and have it NOT work.

Personally I suspect that – given that physical barriers work – really thick armor or scales or a thick layer of mud or really dense hair might also work, as – presumably – will being a vampire, ghost, or other only quasi-living creature, or being highly resistant to magic like dragons or dementors (after all… if the spell worked against such creatures, would they be so feared? There are penalties for using the unforgivable curses against people, monsters aren’t really mentioned – and if they were, there are exceptions for Auror’s using them against Death Eaters, so why not for against monsters?)

Still, barring all of THAT… it if connects it causes instant death! That’s pretty powerful!

Or is it? The Potterverse runs on realistic injuries – and there don’t seem to be any healing spells that work quickly enough to deal with damaged aortas, bullets through the brain, arrows or crossbow bolts through the heart, decapitation, massive hydrostatic shock, having your chest blown out by a sniper rifle, sufficiently large explosions, cut throats, or being incinerated, brained, cut in half, or smashed by a couple of tons of falling rock. All of those, and lots of other injuries, are pretty much instant death – or a few moments of unconsciousness followed by death.

So… can’t be blocked by magic and kills as effectively as an accurate .shot from a light handgun. Honestly… if you had a choice between “Fireball” and this, it would be a tough choice. There are things to be said on both sides. Potterverse magic-users don’t seem to have a lot of passive defenses – so if you can squeeze a trigger or blast the area (so they can’t just dodge) faster than they can cast something they’re in deep trouble anyway. Besides, couldn’t you put spells on your ammo to keep it from being blocked by magical defenses? Why not?

Expecto Patronum: This conjures an animal made of light that can drive back creatures of darkness and carry messages for you. That’s a weird dual function, but in D20 terms… When you cast it you can choose between Circle of Protection From Evil (with a short duration and a very conspicuous manifestation) and something akin to Whispering Wind. (Or, if the world had Archons or we rule that you’re manifesting a rough equivalent, this could be a specific Summon Lantern Archon spell, at about L2, trading more duration for some strict limitations on the actions it can take). Overall… this simply goes under Conjurations.

Fidelius Charm: This spell hides a particular piece of information within the recipients soul. No one else can obtain that information unless the secret-keeper gives it to them. If he or she does not share the information, it vanishes forever when they die. If the secret-keeper does share the information before dying, upon his or her death everyone it was passed to becomes a new secret keeper. This has been canonically used to hide the Potters residence from Voldemort and to hide one house in a set of row-houses in London.

Wait, what? The bit with hiding a house on a public street shows that information can be hidden this way, even from other magic-users, and even if the information was widely known, publicly visible, and not in the control of the caster at the time of casting.

Hey, Joey! Can you keep a secret? I’m going to hide the location of Lord Voldemort’s butt so that he can’t find it to wipe properly any longer!

So why didn’t Dumbledore hide the information on how to make a Horcrux long before Tom Riddle could ever get a hold of it if it was so nasty? Why not put Hogwarts out of business by hiding where it is so no one who’s outside can find it again? Why not hide Voldemort’s wand from him? Why not hide the Sorcerer’s Stone this way? Why not eliminate the Avada Kedavra spell by hiding IT? If you’re jealous of Harry Potter why not make sure that no one will ever recognize him again? Why not wreck the world by hiding the existence of FIRE? (What mysterious undetectable force is destroying our cities and forests? If only we could figure out what it is! And how were these engines and power systems supposed to work anyway? And how did people used to cook? All these things are lost secrets of the last week guys!).

This kind of thing WOULD explain villain incompetence, but it really goes too far. Voldemort isn’t LITERALLY unable to find his ass with both hands… I think.

Forget this one (unless you just decree that it was used to hide all the other really problematic spells and then itself). It has “Ill-thought out Author Plot Device” all over it. Stick with ordinary antidivination and concealment effects or, at most, allow such effects to be made semipermanent through the use of this spell. Allowing characters to simply wipe out inconvenient information will wipe out the game once the players get to thinking about it.

Spellweaver recommends that casting this spell requires that the information must be known only to the ones doing the casting. The spell then prevents said information from being acquired by magic, but not through mundane means. This won’t work like it does in the book, but nothing that makes any sense will.

Fiendfyre Curse: OK, this conjures up a nearly-inextinguishable mass of flame that can destroy mighty magical artifacts, burn almost anything, shape itself into creatures, and actively goes looking for targets to at least some extent. Judging from the ability to destroy magical artifacts, fire protection spells won’t do much good either. Perhaps you can get it off someone with one of the telekinetic effects?

OK, it’s hyped-up napalm – an ongoing fire spell – with a “spread itself” animation on it. It trades in a lot of control and pretty much all the safety precautions (thus giving it a major risk of killing or injuring the caster) in exchange for extra power – thus becoming a one-shot mass-kill effect that stupid teenagers can use. Hopefully even most of THEM will not be stupid enough to actually do so. Overall… this really isn’t all that useful to anyone. Suicidal moves may be potent, but it’s a bad idea to use them outside of really dire necessity.

Imperius Curse: This places the victim in a dreamlike state wherein he or she will obey the caster’s orders. The victim can still cast spells and function normally in almost all other ways – including putting the Imperius Curse on other people. It can be resisted by the strong-willed with practice with the extent of control and the specific duration being vaguely dependent on the will and “power” (whatever that means) of the caster. While it needs to be regularly renewed for long-term use, it leaves no detectable traces and you need only point your wand (or similar focus) and whisper the incantation under your breath…

Well HELLO to the magic-users date-rape spell of choice! Lets see now… “whenever you see another magic-user cast the Imperius Curse on them as sneakily as possible, If there’s more than one target available, choose at random. Then pass on these instructions”. That gives us global chaos in the magical world in less than thirty-five words – and may mean mass death in a couple of weeks depending on how many get stuck in loops doing nothing else but casting the curse at each other.

Honestly, putting any effect that can set up a self-perpetuating pyramid scheme with a few careless words into a setting is a bad idea – and even if someone was watching, and can prove that you used this spell… you can just claim that someone else used it on you. Worse, if “he or she said so!” is enough proof of it’s use… why aren’t people simply accusing their enemies of using it whether they did or not? And if it’s not… most cases can never be proven. Every available method of actually determining the truth has it’s counter-effect. With this spell… you can look at someone down the street and make them steal, embezzle, commit sabotage, play suicide bomber, or assassinate anyone you please. Essentially tracelessly, and with no real chance of being caught at it. After all, the magical government can’t manage to keep tabs on far, FAR, more flagrant lawbreakers.

So, to turn this into something that works for a game… if you want it to last for more than a few minutes, you must give the victim a talisman, which is magically linked to you. You can only bind a limited number of such talismans to you at any one time, and any talismans your victim’s bind count against your own total. Keep working on someone for a few days and you can brainwash them into your service quite effectively – but otherwise this is limited to suggestions, mild hypnosis effects, and the equivalent of d20’s “charm person”. That’s still quite troublesome, and lets a villain control a set of hapless minions, but it won’t wreck the world.

Portus: This turns an item into a teleportation talisman, allowing travel between a set of specified locations. It apparently goes off as soon as you try to move the item in question – thus acting as a sort of “secret door” between separated locations. At a guess, the caster has to work the spell at both ends of the prospective trip. How many times such an item can be used remains unknown, as do the upper limits of the distance traveled, the limits on weight or number of persons to be transported, and so on…

Personally, I would count this as an enchantment-boosted teleportation with a very limited number of uses and similar limitations – including what seems to be a fairly short range under normal circumstances.

Taboo: This lets you enchant a word or name so that you will instantly be aware of when and where it is spoken. Even better, when it’s spoken it will destroy any protective enchantments around the speaker – such as concealment effects or wards.

So… this spell can overcome thousands of other spells, including some that are supposed to be impenetrable, all at once, and with no ongoing attention from it’s caster. I’d guess that the user can cancel it – if only in case he or she gets interrupted or something and accidently says “What?” instead of an appropriate name or wants to get some sleep someday – but otherwise there seems to be no counterspell. Couldn’t you put it on “The” for an hour or so and take down almost every protective enchantment in the world?

On the law enforcement side… why not put it on the words for the three Unforgivable Curses? And perhaps on a few of the other spells, like the Dark Mark? Wouldn’t that be really, REALLY helpful? Why yes, yes it would!

OK, you’d be notified about people discussing them as well – but not only is that a subject of interest anyway, the Ministry of Magic demonstrated that they could detect the unshielded use of a charm to float a cake – and making the right words a Taboo will eliminate any protective spells, thus automatically making any use of the actual spells unshielded and detectable.

For that matter… put it on a few phrases like “Lord Voldemort” and “Malfoy” too. After all, wouldn’t it be kind of interesting to see if the names of several major suspected Death Eaters kept turning up together in places where they weren’t supposed to be? Sure, it might just be them being talked about… but it might be a meeting and with all the privacy spells down you can find out which it is easily enough. What if those names keep turning up in close association with the words for Unforgivable Curses? Or you find that someone is regularly using the Imperius Curse in a particular household or other location?

Wait… wouldn’t this leave quite a lot of Death Eaters without their excuses, reveal some notable impersonations, and otherwise wreck some major plot points? Why yes, yes it would!

That is the trouble with introducing major elements at the last moment.

Besides… to work as described this thing has to have a global area of effect, be capable of distinguishing between very similar sounding words (in every existing language) while still sorting out all the odd ways the people can pronounce things, is extremely difficult to detect while still being capable of overpowering an unlimited number of other spells, and can apparently still be defeated by handing out stupid nicknames… Shouldn’t there be a tradition of that if this spell exists anyway?

“So… how are we going to defeat Moldyfart?”

Given that this little monstrosity is far, FAR, more powerful than any other piece of magic mentioned in the entire saga – and there’s no practical way to weaken it while retaining what it’s supposed to do – I would drop this one entirely.

Between the videogames and other secondary sources, there are two more spells on this list – Draconifors (which turns the caster into a dragon) and the “Hour-Reversal Charm” which is used to make Time-Turners.

Unfortunately, I haven’t got enough information on Draconifors to really be sure – but I suspect that it’s like most of the other video-games “transformations” I’ve seen in that it basically lets you trade one strategy (casting spells and using a weapon) in favor of another (being really tough and using a natural weapons and fire breath) – both roughly equivalent (or you’d almost always want to use the transformation) but each better suited to particular challenges. This probably isn’t all that powerful – and is even less attractive in an RPG, which can be counted on to offer a much wider range of options than a video game anyway.

The “Hour Reversal Charm” is behind Time-Turners. It can let you travel up to five hours into the past – although what happens if you try to send someone who belongs in the time you are visiting five more hours back remains unknown. According to the author, trying to go further always results in weird disasters, such as numerous people vanishing because they were never born and, after that traveler into deep time returned… “the Tuesday following her reappearance lasted two and a half full days, whereas Thursday shot by in the space of four hours. The Ministry of Magic had a great deal of trouble in covering this up”.

I would think they would, since – if a single witch could damage the flow of time across the entire solar system (think about what would happen if earth’s time was out of sync with that of the sun or moon) – there’s no reason to think that it didn’t affect the entire universe.

Yet all the actual activity ever shown observes the Novikov Self-Consistency Principle. Evidently time travelers have a choice; they can travel up to five hours and be held to a self-consistent history (I.E. Their actions cannot actually change anything) or they can travel further and automatically eliminate themselves in some form of time-disaster.

In terms of what this actually accomplishes… this spell gives you three options.

  1. You may (accidentally or on purpose) commit a spectacular temporal suicide by going too far, by announcing that you are attempting to actually change the past, or because the spell is unstable and went wrong. If so, all you can do is hope that the game master will decide that the world is somehow improved by your horrible death.
  2. You may propose an explanation involving yourself time traveling for something weird that happened in the last five hours of game time. The game master may then tell you what actually happened when you attempted this. No, you do not get to play it out – that would not work with the self-consistency principle – but the game master might decide that you acquire something (information or an item that had vanished mysteriously) if your explanation is sufficiently clever. Of course, you might also die. That may not be LIKELY, but it is certainly possible.
  3. You may announce that you are going back to obtain something from the past five hours – information that was available but that you missed or something that might have vanished mysteriously – and ask the game master to narrate the result. No, you do not get to play it out and yes, once again, you might die.

What we wind up with is a spell that certainly implies vast power – but which doesn’t actually fulfill that promise. Instead, just as in the books… about all you can do with relative safety is squeeze a few extra hours of work or study into your day. It can still produce some excessively-potent results, but it doesn’t actually do the caster much good. I would still rule it out on the grounds that it requires too much power – but it probably won’t hurt your game much if you don’t; it’s just too dangerous to use for what you can actually accomplish with hit.

Gaming Harry Potters World, Part I

Quite a few people want to play games set in Harry Potters universe.

The trouble there is that the books really don’t provide all that much detail on anywhere but Hogwarts and on any events save those immediately surrounding Harry Potter. That’s more or less to be expected of course – but Harry Potter shuts down the only major villain who gets more than a brief mention, AND eliminates most of his henchmen, AND seems to get the government straightened out along he way. All is well. What does that leave for the player characters to do?

We really need a little more detail on the world and some explanations. Fortunately, the author HAS provided a few very important background details to extrapolate from.

First, and by far the most importantly… we have an authors estimate for the total number of witches and wizards in Britain. It’s about 3000. Roughly one wizard for every 21,000 muggles.

That number tells us a LOT.

After all, we know that witches and wizards can live long healthy lives – far longer than muggles with the right magic (for easy calculation, lets call it a hundred years). The Weasleys show us that they can have large families – although we also see quite a few one-child families. Magic can quickly heal many conditions that muggle medicine cannot, it lets you escape most ordinary dangers with ease, it can help you obtain food, shelter, funds, transport, and many other basic necessities with little difficulty. It can even extend your life. Magic users pop up in the muggle population “fairly commonly”. Non-magic users (“Squibs”) rarely appear in magic-user families. Magic use is thus at least partially hereditary and certainly appears to be a hugely advantageous trait; magic-users can do almost everything a muggle can and more – even if magic use seems to interfere with electrical devices (which is a very modern problem and unlikely to prove overly hazardous to life and limb).

Yet magic-users are on the verge of extinction. Their numbers are so small that a single school – apparently taking in twenty to forty students a year – (thirty kids x seventeen years to adulthood = 510 or so students) can reasonably teach all the magic-user kids in Britain. Yet, as a percentage of the population, magic-users must have been far more numerous in the past. Hogwarts is supposed to be more than a thousand years old. If wizards and witches occurred at the same rate to muggles in 1000 AD then there would have been about a hundred and fifty of them in all Britain – and an average of one or two kids a year. Even with a seven year program and cutting down the lifespan (perhaps to 50 years?) to double the birth rate that’s not going to call for much of a school.

*It’s noted that a quarter of the stadium, numbering about 200, was supporting Slytherin at a Quidditch match – but this number may well include alumni and parents.

So we know that muggle populations have been soaring (up by a factor of twenty) while magic-using populations have been – at best – holding steady in raw numbers and rapidly declining as a percentage of the overall population. And that’s DESPITE muggles having magic-user children and thus making an ever-increasing contribution to the magic-user population. That alone neatly demonstrates that the magic-users have not been breeding successfully enough to maintain their own populations.

At least that neatly explains why so many of the “pureblood” houses are near-extinct and why even the “healthy” ones rarely seem to have more than a dozen members. It also neatly explains why so many important magics are more or less things of the past; it’s because a smaller and smaller population will toss up fewer and fewer major talents.

Given those numbers, being a magic-user in the modern world must actually be hugely disadvantageous in terms of survival or reproduction compared to being a muggle – and yet it doesn’t seem to be for older kids and adults. That leaves only one real possibility; an awful lot of magic-user infants and/or smaller children die of magical complications early on – whether that means accidents with their own magic, attracting magical menaces, or weird magical illnesses that older magic-users cannot cure.

Why does every magic user go to Diagon Alley to shop? It’s because, with a population that small, it’s likely to be the only real wizards market in the country – and even IT is centered on a goblin institution. That’s also why there’s only one magic-user hospital mentioned (and it seems to serve as a lunatic asylum too), why Hogsmeade is the ONLY all magic-user village in Britain, and why few other locations even get a mention. Why does the Knight Bus run all over the country? Perhaps because a single bus per shift is enough to handle the entire magic-using populations mass transit needs.

Why is the Ministry of Magic so… ineffectual and easily manipulated? Perhaps because most of those “employees” are constructs and because the pool of administrative talent it draws on is too shallow to have a wading section? When you’ve only got about 2500 adults – including the elderly and retired, the ill, the insane, and the ones in jail – to pick from you won’t have very many who can handle any particular specialized job. Especially with a Hogwarts education. The place teaches magic, not statistics, logistics, administration, engineering, or a lot in the way of practical management skills. Even if we throw in some speculative post-graduate courses this is a culture where the vast majority of the kids complete their educations at seventeen.

Why is the wizard government so stuck in the past, obsessed with precedent, and uninterested in current events? And why is it so large? After all, we’re told that the Wizengamot has “around fifty members” and there seem to be other bodies. That’s a LOT of government for a population that would barely make a small town even if most of them do nothing but talk.

Wait… “Nothing but talk” and “focused on the past”. Doesn’t this behavior sound familiar? Rather a lot like… one Professor Cuthbert Binns. And it’s not like the magical government had a lot to do in the first place, or that a population of 3000 is going to produce dozens of would-be bureaucrats clamoring to replace them. Quite a lot of politicians try to hang onto office until they die. Perhaps most of the magic-user government is made up of ghosts? It’s not like hanging onto their office at all costs is unfamiliar behavior for politicians and petty bureaucrats. Why should mere death stop them?

Why is magical Britain’s entire monetary system run by goblins? Perhaps because it’s actually the GOBLINS monetary system, and they’re simply allowing the wizards and witches to use it? They certainly don’t seem to give the witches and wizards any great level of respect. Importantly, the goblins also seem to be able to do currency exchanges – and they haven’t allowed their economy to be swamped by modern mining techniques or things like synthetic gemstones either through direct exchange or by some muggle-born wizard cleaning out Fort Knox or De Beers. It’s likely that the goblin cartel quietly provides magical security for the crown jewels of England and Fort Knox and similar hordes of the few things which both magic-users and muggles see as “treasure” all over the world in exchange for such considerations.

Why is a small clique of nasty wizards a threat to the entire country? After all… it’s clearly shown that even not-too-bright and generally ineffectual wizard kids can unleash virtually inextinguishable fires, death spells, and hideous curses. Why aren’t serious magic-user fights all essentially quick-draw contests decided by who shot first? Nobody can win those ALL the time – but if there ARE only a hundred or so combative magic-users in the country… twenty or thirty well-organized and trained ones are a pretty major threat.

Why aren’t ethical wizards out there curing diseases, solving problems, and otherwise helping out the muggle population? It’s because there aren’t enough of them to make any difference – and likely because most of the tiny magic-user population is too isolated from muggle society to have any idea what is going on. Why else have “muggle studies” instead of going out and looking around?

Why are the witches and wizards so reclusive and set on hiding from the muggles? It’s because the muggles could readily wipe them out if they were aware of them and got upset. Yes, magic is nifty – but when you’re outnumbered thousands to one, can’t maintain your own population without recruits from the “enemy” camp, and your enemy has nifty tricks too… you can’t afford to make yourself a target. Sure, Voldemort may have wanted to rule the muggle world too – but no one ever said that that was a PRACTICAL ambition. Maybe he was just upset and frustrated about that? Or maybe he just didn’t think it through. It would hardly be the only thing that he didn’t understand.

Why are witches and wizards so mired in the past in technological terms? It’s because they separate themselves from the general population and there aren’t enough of them to advance independently. You’ll note that wizard trading cards, and trains, and many other items are distorted copies of muggle innovations – probably brought in by muggle-born witches and wizards.

Why is Hogwarts basically a fortification anyway? And why does no one object to sending their kids to a boarding school for much of each year? A lot of parents like to see their kids more often than that! Is it because those rare magic-using kids who survive long enough to go to school are considered worth protecting in every way possible? Was Harry Potter fostered with muggles both to protect him from his enemies and to give him the best chance of making it to school age by suppressing his magic as much as possible?

Magical creatures – dragons, basilisks, phoenixes, giant spiders, and many more – are very hard to stop, even for Wizards. And they seem to have sustainable breeding populations – almost certainly outnumbering the magic-users, since they can’t adopt magically-active muggleborn children. With only a few thousand adult witches and wizards in Britain there aren’t enough witches and wizards to restrain them all, or to cover up something like a dragon attacking London – yet that kind of thing never seems to happen. In fact, dragons can be shipped to reservations and will stay there. Unicorns don’t wander off either. The Forbidden Forest is full of monsters, but they stay there instead of wandering off to terrorize the muggles.

So what confines them? No one seems to be actively doing it, so evidently there are some places where magical creatures can be put and where they will simply instinctively stay. Moreover, you don’t get muggles taking snapshots of them. Evidently the muggles know where to stay away from without being taught – in other words, by instinct. It looks like magical plants and creatures stay in magical areas unless forced to go elsewhere – while muggles stay out of magical areas unless forced into them.

And that’s how magic-users and magical creatures can stay out of the way. All they have to do is run off, confuse, divert, or kill the occasional really DETERMINED muggle, and they’re home free. They can be as lost as isolated as they wish (a small amount of high-level official contact – likely trading magical services for special considerations – is almost inevitable), even as the muggles utterly dominate the world.

That also tells us that once magic was far, FAR, more important, if only because it was far, far, more common in the population. Magic-users could deal with magical monsters, were the only effective sources of medicine, and were the only ones who could help in bad years. Any muggle child who showed signs of magical aptitude could expect to be sent to the magic-users for training.

But the world changed. The growth of technology made magic less of an advantage, provided a lot of the services that once only magic had been able to provide – and let the muggles take effective stands against both magical menaces and magic-users. From the timing… early firearms may have been the last straw for the age of magic. Now targets as much as resources, the magic-users fell back on the patches of enchanted land that the muggles instinctively shied away from, unknowingly purchasing safety for their adult population at the cost of exposing their magical children to far greater magical hazards and of abandoning many potential muggle-born recruits. The muggle population boomed, while the magic-user population… stayed static or declined, fell behind, and became almost irrelevant.

Today it’s become near-impossible to hide without the cooperation of the major governments. Sure, you might be able to throw up concealment spells to stop satellite surveillance – but would most magic-users even realize that it was necessary? Can you catch ALL the cell-phone videos before they get a million views on youtube?

Fortunately… that cooperation has been there for a long time. That was only “almost irrelevant”. When a muggle government or organization had a problem with a stray ghost, vampire, dementor, or similar horror, or needed something to keep a renegade magic-user from teleporting into their vault and making off with half their treasury, or some such… allowing small magical communities to do their own thing in exchange for occasional magical services looked like a pretty good deal.

And that’s how “3000″ gives us a world of small, hidden, villages who’s children are threatened by magical horrors, where secretive organizations and government agencies employ small cadres of magical agents in secret battles and missions, where a handful of heroes or villains can change the fate of the world, where it is near-useless to turn to the hidebound magical government or it’s ineffectual agencies (even if they aren’t part of the problem to start with), where wealth is gold, gems, and flickering electronic transactions, where wizard-gunslingers do battle with dark near-immortals (this isn’t a kids book; a few murders is a CHEAP price for coming back from death), where magic-user children who were never found and trained grow up to be poorly-controlled psychics and self-taught mystics, where occasional magical monsters sent into muggle areas must be caught and covered up, and where the occasional bit of magical espionage or theft leaves the common muggle authorities flummoxed and sends the handful of magic-users that deal with magical crimes in the muggle world running across the country.

OK, I think this world may have room for some player characters after all.

SCP You Are Not Cleared For That

The question was “what I thought about a game set in the SCP world“.

Honestly, the SCP world is more than a bit incoherent. That’s only to be expected; it’s a shared world and the setting is purposefully vague. There’s a mysterious Foundation with tremendous resources which is dedicated to Securing, Containing, and Protecting bizarre things that seem to violate the laws of nature. The Foundation is rather ruthless, has considerable resources, and acts to protect humanity from extinction – or possibly against the complete disruption of their world.

Beyond that… the stories and “item files” have a lot of similarities, but little actual consistency. The Foundation is sometimes helpless in the face of events leading inevitably to the destruction of the universe, sometimes it is firmly in control, sometimes its agents have superhuman powers, sometimes they’re virtually helpless. Sometimes anomalies are trivial and amusing and allowed to wander about, other times they are mysterious horrors. Often they are related to one or another religion.

Really, the only game setting thought that came to me was “Call of Cthulhu” with a lot of “silly” mixed in with the eldritch horror and some organized backing for the investigators. The various anomalies break rules at random anyway, so you don’t need any rules for them – and so pretty much any modern-setting, low-to-mid power role-playing game will do. Just pick one that fits the style you want and start sending the characters in with insufficient information and semi-random equipment.

What ACTUALLY came to mind was this…

Item #: SCP-Variable

Object Class: Euclid

Special Containment Procedures: Warning. The “pathological science” file displayed below is an undeletable cognitohazard that appears at random during Foundation file searches. It is known to cause Foundation Agents to behave irrationally and may be able to induce anomalous abilities. 2.4% of those reading it have proved vulnerable, with the infection rate rising unpredictably to an apparent maximum of 4% with eight or more readings. If you have not intentionally accessed this file report an instance of this SCP and its apparent file address immediately. Unless you are already up to eight readings or are being actively monitored and have been explicitly directed to read some further portion of this file do not read beyond this point.

Description: This SCP is a simple textual document, normally seen as a computer file. It retains its effects when encountered in print or as an audio file or recording, but reports of spontaneous manifestations are almost exclusively computer files since [REDACTED]. Physical printouts or audio recordings should be placed in reinforced long-term storage envelopes, clearly labeled with the containment procedures and description, securely closed, and placed into the secure storage lockers for passive cognitohazard works. Then make sure that this is noted in the records. Instances appear to be stable once located, and are easily contained, but continue to appear in Foundation bases; this SCP is semi-contained at best.

Pathological Science is a memetic effect sometimes induced in individuals in the population by loop-structure errors made when utilizing class two or higher informational technology effects. Fortunately, this is very rare, keeping afflicted individuals rare in the general population. While the possibility of Pathological Science being contagious cannot be ruled out entirely, no cases of person-to-person transmission have ever been confirmed. Despite this, the condition is self-reinforcing when victims encounter each other, growing in strength and serving as a social bonding agent – resulting in its memetic classification. Once large groups of victims band together they become almost totally detached from reality, resulting in a wide variety of undesirable and psychopathic behaviors both within the group and directed at outsiders.

Victims display a near-complete inability to comprehend, perceive information about, or observe the effects of, informational science – the alteration of physical structures through the manipulation of the informational substructure that defines them. Limited exceptions exist in all observed cases; if external they will be regarded as “anomalies” to be acquired, feared, and concealed. Personal abilities will be regarded with great suspicion and may lead to victims who have retained or developed some informational manipulation techniques being classified by other victims as anomalies themselves. Groups of affected individuals will quickly arrive at a general consensus as to the nature of reality and as to what “anomalies” exist, but careful comparisons of their individual accounts will reveal that they will disagree on the nature, operation, history, and even on the number and identification of “anomalies” within the overall consensual worldview. Sadly, recognition of this fact by victims generally results in the development of further paranoid delusions along the lines of “most of the others don’t know what I know” rather than in recovery.

Victims will also commonly find Science – the systematic exploration of reality and development of theories to cover any and all observable occurrences – both vital and somehow threatened by events, items, and creatures which they do not currently understand (even if the modern informational theory that they ignore explains them throughly), rather than seeing such events, items, and creatures as opportunities to advance humanities understanding of the universe.

New victims are easily detected through their inability to perceive common uses of informationaly-based effects in society, such as bringing rain, removing crop pests, increasing yields, and similar results. Those infected will attribute the blatant operation of such techniques to the use of physical technologies such as “irrigation”, “pesticides”, and “fertilizers” – techniques which do exist, but which are generally more expensive than comparable informational techniques and which commonly have undesirable environmental side effects.

While victims do tend to endanger themselves with irrational actions or blind meddling with troublesome informational effects, it is possible to cure the Pathological Science memetic condition. The most effective known treatment calls for gradual, semi-random, exposure to the truth about the condition, allowing a gradual accumulation of doubts about the assumptions underlying the disorder. While many victims will never recover, the effort involved in inserting such reminders into their environment is very small (it can be handled by minor informational constructs which victims will refuse to consciously perceive), hence even the modest recovery rate is worth pursuing.

As an aid in understanding this material, it is recommended that readers occasionally reread this document, show it to friends, and discuss its contents with them. Such activities both help in treatment and can provide limited protection against developing the condition.

Foundation Addendum: Do NOT do this!

How does this file keep getting reinserted into our databases? It’s been deleted at least twenty times so far and it just reappears in the system each time and no one has been able to figure out how yet. -Dr. Corbell

This SCP is a confirmed cognitohazard in any case; a fair number of agents have deserted and / or vanished after encounters with it. Perhaps it has a secondary anomalous property of reappearing every time it’s deleted? -[REDACTED]

It’s now well established that deleting it doesn’t work. It just pops up again at random during searches. I’m going to slap a warning header on the file, leave it, and record the identities of agents who access it. If some disappear anyway, maybe we can find out where they’re going. If the file keeps popping up in new places anyway we can always go back to deleting it. -Prof. Dallyn

What if it’s true? -Agent R. Simpson

Agent R. Simpson was placed under observation, but vanished as of [REDACTED]. If any agent who vanished after reading this file is located, they should be captured and returned for psychological testing and interrogation as to their means of escape; it is possible that this file can induce anomalous abilities in exposed personnel. -Prof. Dallyn

Champions – The Zanti and their Elite Knight-Enforcers

Twenty-six thousand years ago the villagers of Zantu chose to escape the advancing Rho-Field by emigration. Unfortunately, they’d left it very late indeed. With most of the good locations already taken they gambled on a ritual to transport them to a new world among the stars.

As it happened, “New Zantu” was a mess. It had experienced geologically recent impact events, it had an axis of rotation nearly parallel to it’s orbital plane, it had ancient ruins which were (and are) actively hazardous to the human mind, it was nearly eight billion years old (and so short on mountains and geological activity), and it’s temperatures varied wildly even at the equator – albeit mostly between “cold” and “arctic”. Fortunately, given that the Earth had been in an Ice Age when the Zanti left, that last item was less of a shock than it might have been.

After twenty-six thousand years of isolation on a new planet with wildly different conditions and a modest starting population, the people of Zantu have – not surprisingly – become a new subtype of Humanity.

In sharp contrast to the usual rules for cold-weather adaption, modern Zanti are smaller and lighter than normal humans and substantially less robust. They aren’t even especially hairy. This is because they’ve abandoned warmbloodedness in favor of a variable body temperature that allows them to remain comfortable in temperatures of down to -40 degrees Celsius, although some functions (major growth, healing, and pregnancy) require being kept warm and they do have trouble with high temperatures.

Fairly obviously, turning their back on more than a hundred million years worth of metabolic evolution in favor of a completely new and extremely sophisticated system inside of a thousand years calls for something a bit beyond “mutation” or “adaption”. It called for the most powerful rituals that the early Zanti could manage, the death of most of the mages involved (and the loss of much of their lore), and usurping another source of power. The Zanti have poor psionic potential because most (normally about 75%) of what natural power they have is focused on keeping themselves unfrozen and functional rather than being available for use. They are susceptible to alcohol because it is – unlike many other intoxicants – a selective neural toxin, and thus indirectly disrupts their metabolism.

Lesser, and possibly natural, adaptions include a visual range extending into the ultraviolet due to changes in the protein structure of the lens of the eye, a very weak telepathic ability that makes it easy to communicate in difficult conditions by supplementing (rather than replacing) normal speech, and greater-than-average magical talent – a product of the struggle for survival, genetic drift, and an intentional breeding program.

With psychic abilities curtailed, Zantu’s limited resources (due to age and exploitation by at least one previous civilization), horrific experiences with the strange devices left by those previous utterly alien civilizations, and the sheer difficulties of their environment, Magic – the basis of their survival – became the basis for civilization on Zantu.

Eventually an individual now known as the Saint-King – apparently a natural immortal with far-greater than normal magical reserves – codified the magical arts on Zantu and brought unity to the squabbling factions, turning the energies of the Zanti to making as much of their world habitable as possible.

Fortunately the Saint-King was a fairly good man – and learned from his experiences and grew wise. Today, while most of his authority has been passed on to Zantu’s various knightly orders, democratic councils, priests, guilds, and others, he remains the titular head of the government and ruler of all Zantu – even if he very rarely does anything any longer. He seems to feel that the complexity of Zantu’s society has long since passed the era when it could be controlled by one man. For a human… that is very wise indeed.

Today, in an odd mirror of Earth, Zantu boasts an eerily similar civilization – perhaps expressing the natural cultural tendencies of human beings – save for it’s basis being personal magic, rather than technological infrastructure.

For an example of the Zanti, here we have an Elite Knight-Enforcer, including the Zanti Racial Package.

The Knight-Enforcer Guilds of Zantu are a curious cross between religious orders, mercenary companies, and emergency services. Their members usually see their duties as a calling – a vital service to the Saint-King and their world. As organizations, they compete for contracts to provide police and emergency services to various areas. As tradition, their Knight-Commanders form an advisory council for the government and organize responses to major threats and problems that cross territorial boundaries.

Recently that has come to include global defense – traditionally a preoccupation of a few theoreticians, but now apparently a practical concern.

Knight-Enforcers are pretty much the elite forces of Zantu. In comparison with Earths elite forces, they’re versatile, highly magical, skilled in search and rescue and police work – and are not especially combative or especially well armed. Zantu has never had conflicts on the scale of Earth’s recent wars, has had far less recent violence – and has never developed the weapons technology of Earth. When it comes to city services… the Knight-Enforcers are excellent. When it comes to blowing things up, Earth is way ahead.

Whether or not that is a good thing is hard to say.


Zantu Knight-Enforcer

Value Characteristic Points
8 STR -2
11 DEX 3
13 CON 6
8 BODY -4
8 INT -2
8 EGO -4
15 PRE 5
8 COM -1
3 PD 1
3 ED 0
3 SPD 9
5 REC 0
22 END -2
20 STUN 1
Total 10


Points Powers END
25 Homo Zanti Racial Power Package; As usual for a power package, this does not count against the 100-point limit for normal folk and includes twice as many disadvantage points as it does powers.
(1) Coolblooded / Immunity: Infrared Detection; Frequency: Rare
(1) Life Support: Intense Heat/Cold; Generic Limitation (Cold Only, only down to about -40 C/F): -1
(2) Ultraviolet Vision; Generic Limitation (The user is highly sensitive to bright light, and will require sunglasses at even moderate illumination levels.): -½; Always On: -½
(3) Magically Oriented: their limits on Personal Magic are ten points higher than normal, but their limits on psychic abilities are ten points lower than normal
(6) Detect Magic (+0 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory): +5; Generic Limitation (User must concentrate at 0 DCV to get details): -¼; Generic Limitation (Requires a magic theory check to get more than “trivial/minor/major/grandiose” magic): -¼; Generic Limitation (Can be temporarily shut down or “dazzled” by exposure to high-powered magic.): -¼; Generic Limitation (Often misses minor magic unless the user is intentionally searching for them): -¼; Always On: -½
(2) Immunity: Communications Difficulties with other Zanti whom are 1) within shouting distance, 2) are well known or within line of sight; Frequency: Fairly Common; Unlike humans, Zanti have little general psychic potential – but they all have just enough of a touch of telepathy to get through to each other at vocal ranges despite blizzards, howling winds, and similar obstacles.
(10) Multipower (30-pt reserve); Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Generic Limitation (Personal Magic Only): -½
50 Homo Zanti Disadvantages
(15) Susceptibility: Heat (1d6 STUN/Turn); Condition: Common, +10
(15) Susceptibility: Alcohol (1d6 STUN/Turn); Condition: Common, +10
(20) Vulnerability: Visual Flash Attacks (2× Effect); Attack: Common, +10
25 Master of the Illiriat Erdagone ; The Illiriat Erdagone or “Symbolism of Divine Law” claims to reduce all competing religions and magical systems down to a single set of symbols and laws which not only guide magic but also how people should live as well (magical scholars and theologians today dispute these assertions, but the philosophy is still a widespread influence on Zantu).

Regardless of such philosophical details, it’s still a system for swiftly constructing spells – even if it has some trouble with more metaphysical topics.

(10) Multipower (30-pt reserve); Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Generic Limitation (Personal Magic Only): -½; This is actually doubling up the reserve of the Racial Multipower – but since personal magic is still limited to thirty active points, this is the simplest way to add it in the character builder. This means that they can keep up two spells at once.
u-1 Shields of the Saints / Force Field (6 PD/6 ED); Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Hardened: ×1, ¼; Variable Special Effects (May be allotted as desired between PD, ED, FD, and MD when cast.): Certain Group, +¼; Active Points: 30; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Generic Limitation (Personal Magic Only): -½ 0
u-1 4d6 Hand of the Saint-King / Healing; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Generic Limitation (Personal Magic Only): -½ 0
u-1 +20 Aura of Authority / PRE; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Generic Limitation (Personal Magic Only): -½
u-1 Fist of Serenity / Hand-to-Hand Attack (5d6, Total 6d6); Range: 0; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Variable Special Effects: Any, +½; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Generic Limitation (Personal Magic Only): -½ 1
u-1 Grip of St. Telmerin / Telekinesis (STR 10); Range: 125; Manipulation: Fine, +10; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Generic Limitation (Personal Magic Only): -½ 2
u-1 4d6 Wrath of the Saints / Energy Blast; Range: 150; Versus: ED; Variable Special Effects: Any, +½; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Generic Limitation (Personal Magic Only): -½ 3
u-1 3d6 Chains of the Heavenly Guardians / Entangle (DEF 3); Range: 150; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Generic Limitation (Personal Magic Only): -½ 3
u-1 Aura Of The Lifegiver; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Generic Limitation (Personal Magic Only): -½
(7) Need Not Breathe; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Generic Limitation (Personal Magic Only): -½
(2) Life Support: Intense Heat/Cold; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Generic Limitation (Personal Magic Only): -½
!(3) 1d6 Aid to Racial Sorcery Multipower Slots. (Fade/hour, Max. 6); Range: 0; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Generic Limitation (The Illiriat Erdagone has it’s own syntax, structure, and limitations. It deals with the physical universe. It does NOT deal with mind magic, spiritual matters, time manipulation, or calling on other powers at all well (such spells never work properly) and it only works with personal energies.): -½; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼ 1
(4) Four One-Point Racial Sorcery Multipower Slots of Choice
6 2d6 60-Point Available Equipment Allowance Aid (Fade/week, Max. 60); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Extra Time: 1 hour, -2½; Only activates in armories, labs, or between outings: -1½; Personal Only: -1; Difficult to Dispel: ×2, +¼; Increased END: ×10, -4; Only to GM-specified items: -2; Actual point total of equipment available limited by GM decision.: -2; Must actually locate gear, availability is not automatic.: -2; This allows a character to haul along 60 CP worth of customized gear. 30
31 Total Powers  


Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
10 +2 level w/With Racial Sorcery Multipower
6 Any two of Bureaucratics, Concealment, Criminology, Forensics, Shadowing, Streetwise at 12-
3 Conversation 12-
3 Persuasion 12-
2 Systems Operation (Reliquaries); Generic Limitation (Reliquaries Only): -½ 11-
3 Scholar
1 Knowledge Skill of Choice 11-
1 Zantu Law 11-
1 Zantu Police Procedures 11-
1 Zantu Faith 11-
1 Magical Theory 11-
1 Zantu Reliquaries 11-
1 Dark Magic 11-
0 Money (Middle-Class)
0 Zantu (Native Accent); Literacy: Standard, 0
34 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  


Cost Equipment
12 Knight-Enforcer Uniform; Always On: -½; Focus: Obvious Inaccessible, -½; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Visible (Blatantly easily recognizable): -¼
(30) Armor (10 PD/10 ED)
(5) Flash Defense (Sight, 5 pts)
(5) Power Defense (5 pts)
6 Witness Gem; Always On: -½; Focus: Obvious Inaccessible, -½; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1
; Just as on Earth, Zantus police find communications, and audiovisual records of what they’ve found, very useful. Unlike earthly systems, a Zantu Witness Gem records the user’s actual sensory input – which has it’s points, but makes it nearly impossible to use image-enhancement, voiceprinting, and similar earthly techniques – or to focus in on things on the fringe of the user’s awareness.
(5) “Radio” (Maginet) Listen and Transmit
(10) Audiovisual Recording / Eidetic Memory
(3) Absolute Time Sense
12 Minor Equipment Multipower (30-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
u-1 Binoculars / Telescopic Sense (Sight, +10 to PER) ; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
u-1 1d6 Hibernation Drug / Transform (Induced Hibernation) (Minor, Single Object) 0; Range: 150; Cumulative: +½; Continuous: +1; Penetrating: +½; Charges: +3, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 lev; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
Zantu Law Enforcement has trouble disarming suspects. Ergo, anyone potentially troublesome tends to be doped instead.
u-1 Rescue Wrap: Force Field (3 PD/12 ED) 0; Charges: +3, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
u-1 Flaresticks: Change Environment / Illuminated (32″ rad.) 0; Effect: Fixed, +0; Charges: +3, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 lev; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
u-1 1d6 Adamant Blade / Killing Attack (HTH) (Total 1d6) 3; Range: 0; Penetrating: +½; Armor Piercing: 1, +½; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
u-1 Morphic Counteragent; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½

A Morphic Antidote is an alchemical concoction that acts as a true universal antidote – but only for one toxin at a time. You inject it into a victim, it automatically detects what is hurting them, and it turns into a counteragent for that toxin or disease.

(3) (Variable) Immunity; Frequency: Common; Usable By Others: Power Lost, +¼; Usable by Others Number: 32, +1¼; Variable Special Effects (Toxin Antidote): Certain Group, +¼; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
(9) Detect Toxins and Diseases (+6 to PER) ; Addition (Discriminatory): +5; Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Touch, +0; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
u-1 Barrier Disruptor / Tunneling (1″ through DEF 9) 1; Tunnels: Left Behind, +0; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
u-1 2d6 Pocket Toolkit / Aid to Relevant Skill (Fade/min., Max. 12) 0; Range: 0; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Reduced END: Zero, +1; Generic Limitation (Simply provides a +4 bonus on relevant skills): -½; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
u-1 1d6 Order-Restoring Wand / Transform (Cleans, puts things away, straightens up the area, and gets everyone neat and tidy) (Cosmetic, Limited Class) 0; Range: 150; Cumulative: +½; Area Effect (Radius): 16″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×8, +¾; Autofire: 25 shots, 1½; Reduced END: Zero, +1; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
u-1 6d6 Concussion Bolt Wand / Stun Only Energy Blast 3; Range: 150; Versus: PD; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
u-1 3d6 Flash Gem (Normal Sight) 0; Range: 150; Charges: +16, +0; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Variable Limitations (Various OAF): -1, -½
10 Police Cycle / Running (+5″, 11″, NC: 352″) 2; Non-Combat Multiplier: ×32, +20; Non-Combat (MPH): 179; Focus: Obvious Inaccessible, -½; Generic Limitation (Conventional Zantu Magitech Only): -1; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½
9 2d6 Cartridge System / Aid to Magic (Fade/turn, Max. 20) 0; Range: 0; Clips: 4; Charges: 8, +0; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Trigger (Added word in spellcasting): Set, +¼; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Active Points: 28; Generic Limitation (Only aids personal magic spells): -½; Generic Limitation (Clips are charged with the user’s personal magic; they are useless to anyone else and take a long time to recharge): -¼; Generic Limitation (Only works on the person who “charged” the system in the first place): -¼; Generic Limitation (Recharging Cartridges is a long and laborious process.): -¼; Generic Limitation (ALWAYS Autofires four “shots” per spell; each Cartridge can thus boost two spells, which must be cast within the same turn.): -¼; Focus (Discharge Unit and Cartridge Pouch): Obvious Inaccessible, -½; Visible (Extremely conspicuous magically): -¼
60 Total Equipment


50+ Disadvantages
10 Knight-Enforcer Code of Conduct (Uncommon, Strong)
10 Active Duty, Subject to Assignment and Guild Discipline (Common, Moderate); Situation: Common, +10; Intensity: Moderate, +0
5 Family and Social Committments (Uncommon, Moderate)
25 Total Disadvantages


COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
10 + 65 = 75 75 = 25 + 50


OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
4 4 3 0 13/10 13/10 4, 8, 12



The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CCIV – Wine, Cheese, and Yozi’s

Hopefully, now that the holiday insanity is over with, I can get back to updating here regularly…

The last few days had been filled with endless checklists, as Charles made sure that everything was ready, that backups were ready, that all important points were protected, and that all the normal people – like his parents, and the cheetah-kid messengers, and the girls, and the refugees were all in secure shelters. Even in Aden… some of those disruptors might figure out how to sabotage his geomancy. Hopefully he’d surrounded all the important points and people in Aden and Yu-Shan with enough protection

Geomantic Sabotage could really be trouble! His current limits were pretty high – but he’d never really been in a all-out fight and couldn’t claim to be good at it even when he wasn’t massively distracted and committing a huge chunk of his power. He’d just have to hope that he had enough reserves and powers that he’d never displayed to counter the stuff that he’d never seen.

Which, when you came down to it, was all sorts of things. Still… there wasn’t much for it but to assume that the number of creatures who wanted to hold the universe together would outnumber the ones who wanted it to come apart, at least locally!

That had been one of the “hidden” criteria on which third circles to invite after all, even if the main purpose was to make it clear that help for the Yozi’s was also on the schedule!

And then… buds suddenly rose from the ground at six locations in Yu-Shan, including within the pavilion! They were… made of adamant, with orichalcum and white jade grooves, and matched the local Essence patterns of their environments perfectly. The adamant portions glowed faintly from within.

Oh dear. A manifestation of Yu-Shan?

(Charles) “Uhrm… Hi?”

The bud didn’t respond to verbal communication, so Charles checked with the Lions and the Tenders. This seemed like it would be in their field!

(Arelis Sorrowhands) “Ha! It would seem the young mistress is freeing herself! THAT is what it looks like when the Celestial Plain grows her lesser jouten. From the ornate pattern… she’s growing her Third Circle self there.”

(Charles) “Hrum! Well… I’ll check to see if I’ll have to recalibrate anything… and assign some guards to them”

It wasn’t that the pattern itself had changed, just the strength of the geomantic energy flowing through it. It was going to bump up uncomfortably against the suppressive geomancy – but that was already going to be revamped and separated… so Yu-Shan would manifest on the tender/overseer/original version level. That ought to work out OK!

The least ornate three were scattered at the outskirts of the central quarter. A slightly more ornate one had appeared at the center of the Calibration Gate’s plaza; you could draw lines between the other gates inside and they’d meet right where that bud was. Another like it had sprouted near where the control Manse for Project Stanewald was.

A major geomantic control center at the boundaries of the geomantic conflict? Charles hoped that she wasn’t going to try to tinker too much! She was certainly entitled to, but there were problems with patient participation in delicate surgery when the patient was half comatose! There was a reason why surgeons didn’t let the patient take the knife and help out just as they were recovering from anethesia…

Charles checked with Cangha. This could get very awkward!

(Cangha) “Hello again, Aden! What a spectacular time this is!”

(Charles) “Yes indeed! Things are about to go! But… I was wondering what Yu-Shan was up to; if she starts trying to take control before she’s fully awake, things might go very wrong!”

(Cangha) “The progenitor wishes to investigate all the layers you are creating within her world-self. To fulfill this desire, she has decided to deploy all her jouten at once. They had to be reabsorbed into her greater self before she fell asleep. Thus . . . she’s regrowing them. But have no fears! Her contact with human wishes and desires means she won’t deliberately harm them!… I can’t promise that for the Shapeless as much. She gets rough when she’s playing with them.”

(Charles) “Oh well! I was mostly wondering if she’d be wanting to start tweaking things while I was working… She’s certainly entitled, but I didn’t think that it would really be a good idea.”

(Cangha) “Err . . . that’s VERY likely. I wouldn’t try to dissuade her, either. Remember, she’s deigning to let you alter her body.”

(Charles, sighing) “I was kind of hoping to hold down the number of active participants… oh well! At least she’ll be working towards a coherent goal, rather than disruption!”

(Cangha) “It should be interesting. She’ll want to get to shaping as soon as she’s awake-and probably on multiple layers.”

(Charles) “Well, I hope that she’ll study it a bit first!”

(Cangha) “I can’t guarantee that!”

(Charles) “I wouldn’t have thought you could… but the suggestion might get through. I know she’s going to be pretty impatient to get to doing things, but thinking first is almost always a good idea!”

Cangha agreed to try – and that was all that Charles could ask.

Meanwhile, a lot of the kids from school wanted to watch the concert – although most of them were sensible enough to not want to come physically! Well… setting up a remote panoramic experience for them and the girls and anyone in Aden who wanted to watch was simple enough. It didn’t even take much of a speciality manse! He made sure that there were invitations and guides and gates to get them there – although he also made sure to let them know that he was going to be involved with a major project, and that unless there was some really major problem that could not be solved with local assistance and resources, they should PLEASE not disturb him for a bit.

Huh! Quite a few of them seemed much more interested in getting into Aden, watching him, exploring the place a bit, and otherwise fooling around, than in the event! Sure, Aden had a lot of fun things to do, but the concert was going to be a once-off event! Why would they want to see anything else before it was over?

Oh yeah. They didn’t really know that.

Come to think of it, neither did he! He might have to do it again some time at that!

The shouting match at the Pavilion actually turned out to have nothing much to do with him! It was just an argument over who got to sit closest to the Sun and Saturn’s contest. This year, it was sumi-e painting, and it was taking place… right next door! Right next to the central point of a powerful ritual, with a Primordial growing a jouten there too. And the contest would be taking place… right at the climax of the music unless he intentionally tried to evade Saturn’s request…

Well, that could get a little odd! Still, nothing had come up to stop it – and the final moments of calibration were a time when energy naturally settled into it’s new patterns for the year – a very good time to finish the working.

With his preparations finally complete, Charles spent the last few hours greeting guests. Some of the ones who usually had a hard time getting invitations were showing up a bit early to have a look around the carnival before the main event!

First up among the important ones… There was a young man arriving in the pavilion, with auburn hair and fine, flawless robes of emerald sampling the wines of heaven – and there was much confusion, frantic messaging, and general upset! Why was Ligier the Green Sun walking around in the Carnival of Meeting? Even that did not normally have Yozi guests! Why were the Incarnae not doing anything about this? Why wasn’t he sampling MY wines?

Charles made sure that Ligier had an escort to keep people from annoying him, and that he was provided with a selection of celestial wines and went to welcome him to the concert!

Ligier… seemed to find him rather amusing – and was looking at Yu-Shan’s Jotun-bud with some satisfaction!

Charles didn’t mind the oldest powers in the universe finding him amusing – and got the sense that he might do a little more, if he didn’t have so many celestial lions watching! He didn’t seem dismayed by them, though.

Of course, he did have twice their Essence, and could crush them very easily. Still, as Charles usually tried to arrange… things were currently moving in a direction to his benefit, so there was no reason to! Or so Charles hoped!.

Orabilis arrived looking around with some disapproval. He too spotted the bud – although his facial expression was far more ambiguous. Was that some minor talent of his? He WAS a keeper of secrets, and would almost certainly be protected against simple expressions revealing his own thoughts…

Charles made sure that he too was considerately hosted!

Orabilis deigned to speak with him, while Ligier watched with much bemusement.

(Orabilis, in a voice of rustling pages forming the words of a tongue long extinct) “Charles Dexter Ward… You are very wise for your age, but much is still hidden beyond barriers that you have yet to breach. In that ignorance, can you accomplish what you have dared to try? That tale… is not yet written.”

(Charles, after an instant to get a translation program running) “Hello Sir! While what I know is very little compared to the End of All Wisdom, He who Sets Stars Against the Night, I make do with what I have – and I am glad that you could come!”

(Orabilis) “It is rare to be invited into Creation in such a way, and rarer still for scholars to be pleased with my visitations… In truth, I would have come for you sooner were it not for your ever-more unusual status.”

For knowing too many secrets? Oh, that had to be frustrating for poor Orabilis! Using the Privacy Manse meant that not even Orabilis could know if HE knew forbidden knowledge, and even if he did, he didn’t know it all the time… Not to mention that he might be sort of outside his authority and awkward to try to deal with anyway!

(Charles) “Well, I will have some work to do in Malfeas fairly shortly… almost everybody there needs help!”

(Orabilis) “Ah? Now how so?”

And Ligier became a little more alert.

(Charles) “Well… quite a lot of functions and freedoms were lost during the war, and many of the feedback loops governing the essence-flows in everyone were disrupted. Now, in some cases, that may have improved function – it can happen – but in a lot of cases things have gotten worse, and will need some fixing up! Leaving people hurt is not a good thing!”

(Orabilis) “I suppose that is one way of describing it.” (And now he was amused.) “Pray tell, how do you intend to do this?”

(Charles, happily) “I’ve been designing artifacts to make up for the damage and allow self-correction. Using artifacts is better because if the people using them don’t like the effects, they can just deattune them and turn them off!”

(Orabilis) “Huh. I see. That might or might not work. That would depend on whether or not you can learn certain things known only to the Yozis.”

(Charles) “You never know until you try! And it would be wrong not to try!”

(Orabilis) “I assume this would require you to enter the city and treat with the titans, yes?”

(Charles) “Uh-huh! That’s part of the work I’ll have to do there!”

(Orabilis) “I see. Well, it should be curious seeing how they react to someone of your unique nature coming into the city… or the desert, for that matter. The words from that should spawn several new libraries at the very least!”

(Charles, still happily) “More stuff to learn!”

Within the impenetrable privacy of his own mind Orabilis had to wonder… Was this child really that simple? He really seemed to think that he could simply… drop by and set to work fixing everything and anything! The child was well on the way to being a true Primordial – and perhaps even something beyond a natural Primordial – but there were older and far more experienced powers. The youngster had his elemental poles, his manse-emanations had become true devas, his mind was multiplex and nigh-unfathomable… but he had little to no idea of how crazy some of the Yozis were! While it would be nice to have his progenitor in solid form again, and the child likely DID have the power to fix things, would he be permitted to do so? As powerful as he had become… the massed strength of the Yozi’s could easily throw him out of Malpheas and bar the way to his return if he displeased them! Still, if he succeeded in healing Yu-Shan… who knew what that would lead to?

Over the next few hours, as more and more Third Circle guests arrived, the mood in the Carnival as a whole shifted from fear to curiosity. The Yozi’s didn’t seem to be attacking, despite the fact that they were at the center of Yu-Shan!

The Celestial Lions had to move gawkers along pretty regularly.

And then, there was shouting and the faint feeling of reality blurring a bit outside.

Oh dear. Had Oramus decided to attend in person? Charles had thought that he was going to settle for remote viewing… He went to check!

Outside the pavilion… there was a massively powerful being out there! It looked like a man made out of shimmering fractals, in a long white coat, with eyes like starry black voids. He was waving his four limbs around, looking very distraught. The air around him also shimmered with fractals, and those looked pretty maddening! Nearby gods were gibbering. Some had ducked and hidden their eyes as the Lions tried to hold him back!

Charles added a touch of memory-erasure where needed.

(Charles) “Hello there!”

(Being) “Where’s Ayuji!? I need to talk to Ayuji! “WHERE’S AYUJI?”

Time for a quiet area and a phone!

(Charles) “Is something wrong?”

His arms waved like springs cleaving dimensions as Charles maneuvered him into a quieter area. It was quite disconcerting even from his protected perspective, like one of those “Magic Eye” books when you got it right.

(Being) “Oramus sent me to find Ayuji! Where’s Ayuji?”

(Charles) “Well, she’s still manifesting as the Loom of Fate! But I’ve got a communications link right here…”

(Being, radiating – or extending – in strange fractal patterns that didn’t fit within reality) “I will bend reality to find Ayuji!”

Charles set up a direct link! It was much simpler than bending reality… besides, the structures around the Loom of Fate were visible from here anyway.

(Being) “Ayuji?! Where are you? What? Stuck? I’ll save you!”

Oh dear! Now he seemed to be intent on going straight to the Loom Chamber, and was looking out a window at it and starting to REALLY warp things!

CHARLES called Ayuji! With I AM helping and some extra manses – she surely had enough spare power to manifest or at least to use her new remote!

Ayuji sent her remote over right away. Oramus had to be worse off than she thought; that – as she informed Charles – was Feng, the Atelier of Realities Unshackled, and neither She nor Charles wanted him running around unsupervised. He broke the universe down into a selection of REALLY low-probability results and picked the one he wanted! A VERY frustrating sort to deal with if you were a part of Creation, since what he was doing operated both within it’s rules – the breakdown of future possibilities by negating Ayuji’s grasp on Creation – and without them! (Binding the results back together to avoid a localized Time of Cascading Years).

At least as far as what he did fit into words anyway.

(Ayuji) “Oh yes! A friend of Xiang’s! Very helpful for dealing with Shapeless!”

(Charles) “Well, Ayuji’s here, and doing fine… was there anything else you needed Mr Feng?”

(Feng) “I don’t want to go back in the wings! The wings are scary and I can’t find anything in there!”

(Charles) “Well, there’s no real reason to… would you like to spend a little time on a nice quiet private planet?”

(Feng) “I want to talk to Yu-Shan! Er… if she’ll let me.”

(Charles) “Perhaps in a couple of days when she’s awake? That’s hardly any time at all!”

(Feng) “Can I watch? I want to be in the pavilion with the others!”

Somehow, despite being with Feng in a private reality-fold…. Charles could see Ligier, behind Feng in the pavilion proper, making eye contact with him and slowly shaking his head.

(Charles) “Err… How about a private spot? That way you can do without all the concealment spells; they must pinch!”

(Feng) “Terribly!… Can I get sprinkle cupcakes there?”

(Charles) “Why not?”

(Feng) “Hurrah!”

Charles set it up for him and Ayuji’s remote; she was quite pleased to be outside and getting to watch “in person”, even if only in spiri – and it was nice to get a chance to talk ot Feng again. He was one of the few who really understood her work. Charles was simply pleased to be able to accommodate people!

For now anyway. Things would doubtless get more awkward if he did manage to start curing the Yozi’s; he was REALLY hoping that the “there are plenty of empty galaxies to play in!” thing worked out – because if it DIDN’T there was going to be an awful lot of damage if he couldn’t keep the peace! And he really couldn’t have that! Still, even getting them fixed up without letting them back into creation would be a BIG improvement! It would make Malfeas more pleasant at the very least, and make devas like that Feng and Ligier a lot more happy. And if it took a few millennia of study to improve on that…. well, no one had mentioned the quick approach of the end of time yet!

Charles was busy for some time – and was SO glad that he’d been selective about sending invitations to the saner third circles only even if a fair number of more difficult ones had shown up anyway.

Well, he’d TRIED to hold down on the unnecessary complications.