The Viewpoints of Sapient Devices

And for today it’s another question…

So something I have always done in games where I was DMing was to houserule that sights like Dark Vision, Psicrystal Sighted, Sentient Magic Items, all work like regular sight, they have a first range in which for most practical thought they need no light source. They then have another from the first range to 2x range that is “concealment” just like bright vs shadowy illumination works for normal and low light vision.

I am curious as to your thoughts on that houserule and on how you handle the oddity of a type of “vision” having a set range where it suddenly stops being able to see anything, but an inch closer can see normally.

I would also be curious how you interpret the Sighted ability of psicrystals in general, given they seem to be a bit confusing at least to my read (a sense of hearing with a static range for one?).

-Westb3

A simulationist question! Welcome, most welcome! They’re getting kind of rare these days…

And you’re quite right. The rules, as written in pretty much every edition are very awkward and even self-contradictory in spots. For example, in 3.5 a Psicrystal has the “sighted” ability. According to the wording of that ability…

Sighted (Ex): Although it has no physical sensory organs, a psicrystal can telepathically sense its environment as well as a creature with normal vision and hearing. Darkness (even supernatural darkness) is irrelevant, as are areas of supernatural silence, though a psicrystal still can’t discern invisible or ethereal beings. A psicrystal’s sighted range is 40 feet.

So… it’s as well as a creature with normal senses, but has a sharp cutoff – which is certainly a lot less effective than normal senses. On the other hand, if it’s in a zone of silence – cutting off all incoming sound – it can still hear sounds that occur outside the Silenced area but within it’s range, which is a lot more effective than normal hearing. Could it “hear” someone trying to speak inside a Silenced area? If it’s picking up a telepathic impression, rather an actual sound, why not? At least it would explain why a sound coming from outside it’s range is impossible for it to detect no matter how loud it is. On the other hand, if it’s picking up a telepathic impression, why can it “see” OR “hear” things that are mindless or otherwise immune to mental powers? Does it only detect things that should be radiating light in range, but not actually sense light – thus being unable to detect light coming in from out of it’s mental range?

Now from a Gamist prospective this is just fine; your crystal can’t carry a torch, but you can still send it out to scout for you. If you set it on guard while you sleep, it has a pretty good chance of picking up things that come within 40′. HOW it works is quite irrelevant; you have what you need to run the basic game smoothly. Unfortunately – as shown in the article on Infravision versus Darkvision – the Gamist approach runs into a problem as soon as someone starts experimenting and asking questions. You wind up either trying to figure out how it does work – and getting lost in a maze of house rules – or falling back on non-explanations like “it has the ability to pick up information being generated within a radius of thus-and-such”. Presumably it radiates some sort of detection field which isn’t a “supernatural ability” because this is d20 and rather a lot of things which are clearly magically based (such as bearing the child of a mass of fire) aren’t considered supernatural abilities. This has it’s own implications – similar to those in the Illusions-Undead-and-Lifesense article – but works well enough. You have to be careful not to trip yourself up though, since this no longer bears any real similarity to the actual real-world senses of sight and hearing.

Unfortunately, these problems go right back to the original game, when the rules on senses (along, of course, with the rules on many many other things) were virtually nonexistent. A few things had odd senses noted or could see in the dark, otherwise you needed torches or lanterns or some such. Questions like “how can a skeleton see without eyes?” were never even considered; all that was important was that they came and attacked you.

Later versions of the rules built on those underlying assumptions, with the most formal statement being something to the effect that “everything is presumed to work like it does for a normal person unless there’s a specific note saying otherwise” – which amounts to “just wing it based on your personal experiences”.

Overall, your house rule – which basically sounds to me like “these items have relatively poor but conventional senses, and if you’re awake you’ll probably get more yourself anyway” – seems like an excellent compromise, trading a bit of extra range for something much more easily understood than the original rules.

Now as for how it works in my games… for the most part it doesn’t come up. Worries about visual ranges and such tend to matter most in tactical combat situations and dungeon-crawling, and most of my d20 games tend to be heavy on investigation, figuring out what’s going on, politics, negotiation, and manipulation. Combat does happen – but it commonly focuses on “who has done better at arranging to have overwhelming force” and “mobility” rather than “balanced encounters”. Just as importantly… On Shandar intelligent items tend to go mad and most characters use glowstone alchemy rather than magic items. The Cemar and Atheria games don’t have conventional magic items – and the Federation-Apocalypse characters usually rely on Smartclothes and companions since magical items rarely work outside their worlds of origin. The d6 Star Wars game used Droids instead of sapient magic items, and the Verdan game used mad science under the Baba Yaga rules set. Finally, the Exalted game… honestly, the Exalted rules are so fouled up that we mostly run that by ear anyway.

Now, I don’t know if that will help, but I hope that it will at least inspire some ideas.

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Aurora Ward Index III

Session Logs:

  • Session I: Team formation, the arrival of Ahmik, a Cultist, a Powerstone, and introducing the Imaginal Wars.
  • Session II: Settling into the Silverhold, the arrival of Syphon, Training Exercises, Demonic Attacks, and a Flower Exhibition.
  • Session III: Imp Amulets, the departure of Syphon and the arrival of Mini-Max, the Book of Niberius, and Invocation Magic.
  • Session IV: Captain Thunder, Candyland, The Auction, Night Templar gets Possessed, Demon Summonings, and Sapphire Star.
  • Session V: The Mandate and the Wyrm Crown, the Night Auction, encounters with Plunder, Fear, Destruction, and Wraith Sword.
  • Session VI: Fear, Destruction, and Vengeance. Entering and Leaving the Realm of Opposites. Considering the Archmage and Chi’an Lung.
  • Session VII: The Wrath of the Wendigo, the Transformation of Antiquity.
  • Session VIII: Visiting Children, Niberius and Godzilla, Weaponizing Love, and the Demon Amulets.
  • Session IX: Investigating the Demon Amulets, Landscaping with Belial, Demonic Ensoulment Rituals,
  • Session X: Disabling the Rite, Boreas, Belial, and Mini-Max. Blood and Souls, the Counterspell, seeking the Archmage.
  • Session XI: Through the Chinese Hells, the Pool of Life, the Archmage Besieged.
  • Session XII: Relief Forces, the Dragons of the East,
  • Session XIII: Entrapment, Meeting the Archmage, Encountering the Orb.
  • Session XIV: A dinner, some history, the Orb – and into the Heart of Darkness.
  • Session XV: Departing the Archmage, a curious device indeed, Ameobro and the Animal Spirits, the Gates of Faerie.
  • Session XVI: Encounters with the Fey, Encountering Malwyn, Illusions and Reality, rescuing Samuel.
  • Session XVII: Ceara and Samuel, Malwyn shows his ire, investigating disappearances, magical contractors, the dangerous room, bumping heads with Belial.
  • Session XVIII: A dealing with demons, the Wendigo Camp, Bearageddon, a dealing with the dead, news of the assault.
  • Session XIX: Battle at the Silverhold, the Black Summons and the Light of Luathon, Driving with the Dead.
  • Session XX: Discussions with the Wind, Captain Massacre Attacks, Ameobrat fails to evade the Sniper, Dimensional Incursions, the Crimes of Captain Mayhem, Night Templar versus the Dark Knight and his Imps, Funniest Home Videos.
  • Session XXI: Tracing Malwyn, Murders in the Darkness, Discussions with the Seelie and Unseelie Fey, Encounters with the Orthallen.
  • Session XXII: Near Space Defense, Battles with Malwyn and the Battered Women, Belial’s Press Conference, Tracing NSD.
  • Session XXIII: My Evil Twin Skippy lives in My Evil Mirror House, the river rising, battles with the alternates, the escape of the Dark Knight and Munchkin, false equipment.
  • Session XXIV: Zantu Deliberations, visiting Saturn, the Archives of the Arith Vaya, the Glacial Guardian, into the frozen depths, debating with Darvian.
  • Session XXV: Explaining Ameobro, introducing the Dragon Circle, Runestones, Survivalism and the Codex Naberius, Voso, the Demon Thief of Magical Children.
  • Session XXVI: Bargains with Belial, Demonic Web Pages, Orabus the Equine Prince, Battling Voso, buying Demonic Children, Secrets of the Arith Vaya.
  • Session XXVII: Dealing with Demonic Children, Night Templar and the Angels of Wrath, Red Soulstone and Space Marines
  • Session XXVIII: The Press Conference, Malphas and Mayhem.
  • Session XXIX: The History of Mars, the Skorel and the Arith Vaya, interviewing Doctor Promethean, the Ghosts of Mars, True Necromancers.
  • Session XXX: The Shrine of Rathma, Bobby the White Necromancer, speculations on canned meat, Doctor Promethean again, Saurians for Mars.
  • Session XXXI: Feeding Ghosts, Piper and the Bombardment Epoch, descending the Axis Mundi, observing the destruction of Mars.
  • Session XXXII: Return from History, retrieving a Helmstone.
  • Session XXXIII: Spider Ships, Psychic Experiments, and Martian Possessions.
  • Session XXXIV: Issues on Earth – mercenaries, robotic law enforcement, and pegasus interviews. Megachurches, soulstone, the Indestructible Man, and Demonic Pants. Future Lawbots, investigating disappearances, and childish invocations.
  • Session XXXV: Murders of days long past, Haywire and the Future, Illiri, Mana Drains, Elder Spells, and Realtors, and the Pit of the Kyinn.
  • Session XXXVI: Johannus-not-a-ghost, Investigating the Kyinn.
  • Session XXXVII: Setting up the Space Marines and the Horsemen to collide.
  • Session XXXVIII: The Horsemen and the Space Marines.
  • Session XXXIX: Planning for Zantu, Ormarr the Obtuse, Colonel Ashford and his Psychic Sidekicks, the Galactic Bus, Ancient Air Defense.
  • Session XL: Into the Ancient Base on Zantu.
  • Session XLI: Ancient Chaos, Battle in the Control Chamber, Planetary Cataclysm and Reconstruction.
  • Session XLII: Samhain’s Self-Arrest, Search and Rescue, Trial of the Century, Ormarr on FTL, Invocations at Ceara’s School, Night Templar’s Child Endangerment Case, on the news with Belial, Armageddon shorts out, Voso lord of Spam.
  • Session XLIII: Demonic Danger Rooms, decontaminating Armageddon, Deplatypusing Captain  Mayhem, The Transtemporal Villain Swarm.
  • Session XLIV: The Goetic Council, Ambassadorial Portfolios, Armageddons Unholy Pants, and Vapula the Irritant.
  • Session VL: Voyage to Tibet, Niberios and North Korea, Battle at the Archmage’s, Arcane Considerations, and Signing Off on Time Travel.
  • Session VLI: A conference on restraints, summoning the Doctor, Go-fers and Grabboids, Antione and Illari, Gastion Emerys, Timewalker, and the oncoming horde.
  • Session VLII: Tracing Illari, Considering Syphon and Mini-Max, molten miniatures, collecting the Sniper.
  • Session VLIII: Ordering Weapons, a dealing with Dragons, Potions of Drunkenness, and the Bane Mummies explained.
  • Session IL: Researching the Racemind, The Nordic Realms.
  • Session L: Into the Nordic Realms, Modgud and the river Gjoll, Heimdall and Bifrost, the Wolves and the Gods, Loki, Jormungand, and Hela. Samhain contemplates moving out.
  • Session LI: The Fury at the Norsemen, disruptions on Zantu, ambassadors to the Pirate and Pony realms, Armageddon accidentally marries Prince Blueblood, Ameobro acquires some Changelings.
  • Session LII: Antione and the Kyinn, Surveillance Efforts, Pegasus and Perseus II, Amazon’s, Athena, and Icos. Introducing the Titanosaurs.
  • Session LIII: The Hydrasaur. Battle at Thunder Bay, Illari’s Projects.
  • Session LIV: Investigating the Genetics Lab, tracing the Titanosaurs.
  • Session LV: Ferret War Dance and the Ferret King, Battling the Titanosaurs.
  • Session LVI: Arach the Black, Forgemage, the Minotaur, the Zantu Survey.
  • Session LVII: Illari and the fight at the club.
  • Session LVIII: Titanosaurs Worldwide, the Battle of New York Harbor.
  • Session LIX: Interlude; Ceara summons the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
  • Session LX: Concluding the Battle of New York Harbor.
    • It’s worth noting that these logs are 1) summarized in places (especially conversations) and 2) from a particular characters viewpoint; they don’t tend to get into much detail on what the other characters are up to.

Background Materials:

The Cast:

Hisui Tsume (Jade Claws), Level Eight Catman Mystic Samurai

This request was for a level eight character – a Cat-person using a version of Li Kao’s level four build.

That’s not quite as straightforward as it sounds. Li Kao is himself a conversion of a 3.0 build of Mystic II/Cleric I/Eastern Variant Paladin I, with a customized race to help him cram the abilities of three heavily frontloaded 3.0 classes into a very high efficiency level four Eclipse build. Given that his original campaign was long gone, he also didn’t have to deal with campaign restrictions or any other form of restraint on him pinching his character points until they screamed.

Given that this build is going to be for a player and a game master who are new to Eclipse, I’m going to unwind some of the more intricate bits along the way – as well as boosting things to suit a level eight character and adding some stuff. For a further complication, the player wants this character to be evil, and to deal with dark spirits for his power. Given that dark spirits are usually a bit more demanding than the spirits of light and nature, this will make the use of Li Kao’s shamanistic talents a bit more awkward as well. Secondarily, since they’ve asked to use a build that’s Charisma and Wisdom dependent and have specified a low Charisma and Wisdom. I’ll be swapping that over to Intelligence on the theory that the character uses careful pacts, rather than genially trading favors.

So race first:

+1 ECL Catfolk (3.5): Humanoid (Feline)

  • Attribute Modifiers: +4 Dexterity (24 CP), +2 Charisma (12 CP)
  • Celerity: +10′ running (6 CP)
  • Occult Sense/Low-Light Vision: See twice as far in dim light (6 CP)
  • Skill Bonuses: +2 Listen (2 CP) and +2 Move Silently (2 CP).
  • Natural Armor (or Dodge Bonus, depending on preference): +1 (Defender, Corrupted/Does not increase with character level, 4 CP).
  • Speaks “Feline” (1 CP).

At 57 CP Catfolk are a fairly well balanced, if not especially optimized, racial choice. I must say that they lack something in my mind though – and it isn’t having nine lives. I’ve kept a LOT of cats, and they have a habit of casually jumping up on top of windowsills, and bookshelves, and six-foot fences. Admittedly, a human-sized cat is going to be a lot more limited… but I’m the one writing this conversion, so I’m going to throw in

  • Adept for 6 CP (Listen, Jump, Move Silently, and Tumble) and thus convert the +2 to Listen and Move Silently into a +2 to all four of those skills.

That takes my Catfolk to 63 CP – the upper limit for a +1 ECL race – and gives them a modest ongoing edge; those four skills will be cheaper for them throughout their careers. It’s not a big change, but I like it better.

As for a build…

Base Attributes: Str 14, Dex 17, Con 13, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 8 (32 Point Buy). Modifiers +1 Dex (L4 bonus), +4 Dex and +2 Cha (Racial),

Final Attributes: Str 14, Dex 22 (24), Con 13, Int 14 (16), Wis 10, Cha 10.

Available Character Points: 192 (L7 Base) + 14 CP (Clerical Duties) +10 CP (Disadvantages: Compulsive/Code of Bushido, History, and Obligations/Sworn to service) +18 (L1, L3, and L6 Bonus Feats) = 234 CP

Basic Purchases (95 CP):

  • Warcraft: +3 BAB, additional +3 BAB/Specialized and Corrupted/Melee Only, Katana Only (additional +3 magical enhancement with Katanas) (24 CP).
  • Hit Dice: L1 d12 (8 CP), L2-7 d6 (12 CP) +7 (7 x Con Mod) +(12 + 2x Con Mod, Immortal Vigor) = 56 HP. DR 2/- while wielding a katana.
  • Saves: (All +1 (Unholy) +2 (Resistance) +1 (Morale) +1 (Competence) +3 (Int Mod) = +8)
    • Fortitude +3 (Purchased, 9 CP) +1 (Con) = +12
    • Reflex +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +7 (Dex) = +16
    • Will +3 (Purchased, 9 CP) +0 (Wis) = +11
  • Initiative: +6 (Dex) +4 (Improved Initiative, 6 CP) = +10
  • Armor Class 10 (Base) +7 (Dex) +4 (Shield) +1 (Natural) +2 (Deflection) = 24 (26 while wielding a katana).

Li Kao’s original build was proficient with light armor. This character, however, has a dexterity so high that he’ll generally find armor counterproductive. He’ll be much better off investing in Bracers of Armor or some similar item. Even at the moment +1 Bracers will be an improvement on any ordinary armor he could buy.

  • Proficiencies All Simple and Martial Weapons and Bastard Swords (Katanas) (12 CP).
  • Languages (3) Common, Draconic, and Infernal.
  • Move: 40
  • Skill Points: 21 (Intelligence) +14 (Fast Learner) +12 (12 CP) = 47

Communing With The Darkness / Dark Shamanism (39 CP)

  • Path of the Dragon/Shaping (Specialized: only as a prerequisite, 3 CP)
  • Path of the Dragon/Pulse and Heart of the Dragon, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (may shape effects of up to level three, 24 CP). Corrupted: The user must call on spirits for magic other than Spirit Sight and Spirit Contact effects. He or she may designate up to (Int Mod + Level/2, 12 maximum) specific entities or general types of spirits to call on for appropriate types of magic, but each type may only be called on for a total of (Level + Int Mod)/2 spell levels worth of magic before the user must rebuild his or her “pool” of “favors”. Specialized: The user may only renew such “pools” slowly. The user regains [Int Mod + Level/2] points per day through minor rituals honoring their spiritual patrons. They user may also regain [Int Mod] points by:
    • Fulfilling a special request from the Spirits. For example, a dark spirit might want a relationship disrupted, a demon might want a bit of sabotage, and a devil might want a few suggestions given out or a little help given to an unpleasant cause. The user may simply ask the GM each day about possible tasks; there will usually be two or three available, but there’s no guarantee that any of them will be even remotely practical.
    • Enacting a ritual in honor of some type of spirits. You might offer a demon a sacrifice, perform a blasphemous rite for a devil, create a graffiti mural for a spirit of mischief, or disrupt some civic affair for a malevolent spirit of nature. Especially significant ceremonies – human sacrifices, setting a town on fire, and similar major acts of malevolence – may be worth two or three times the usual reward.
    • Promising to undertake a later mission for the appropriate group of spirits. It’s wise to take a few rounds to find out what they’re going to want you to do, but sometimes people are just desperate.
    • Simply talking the spirits into it. This requires 1d4 hours of quiet meditation (or chanting, or dance, or whatever fits your style) and a DC 18 Diplomacy or Knowledge/Religion check and can only be done once per day.
  • In any case, the saving throw DC’s against such effects are based on the user’s Intelligence and they overcome magic resistance with a roll of (1d20 + caster level + Int Mod). Creating minor supplies costs 1 SL/2 GP and is permanent, and counterspells are always specifically tuned, requiring a spell of only (target spell level – 2).
  • Path of the Dragon/Blood of the Dragon (Specialized: only as a prerequisite, 3 CP) and Bones of the Dragon (Corrupted: personal-enhancement spells only, x1.5 effect [1.5 x Int Mod spells], Specialized/first level spells only, 3 CP). I don’t know what first level spells he’ll have available – it depends on what spirits he deals with – but the Cleric list should be available. I’d suggest Shield of Faith (Getting his AC up to 28)

The Path of the Dragon is always a bit iffy; it’s in Eclipse to cover building gods, superheroes, spellfire wielders, major dragons, cosmic entities, and similar characters. In this case… it’s being used to build a relatively cheap, but rather highly limited, system of gaining magical favors from various kinds of spirits – and to get to Bones of the Dragon, which is probably the most potent unlimited-use, controllable, ability in the book (Godfire is more potent at any given moment, but is very limited use, Divine Attribute offers no control, and Touch the Soul is even more limited-use than Godfire). Bones of the Dragon allows the user to sustain up to (Int Mod) spells with durations indefinitely. As a character gains access to higher-powered magics, and a higher Int score, that becomes an incredibly potent ability. In this case, however… the character has a rather limited selection of spells to work with, a relatively low Int modifier, and it’s been gratuitously limited to first level spells (allowing the character to buy off that limitation is probably not a good idea). It’s still a powerful ability – but it’s been coupled with a very limited magic system to keep it reasonable.

  • Privilege/Invocation of the Dark Gods (3 CP): This is a ritual invocation of the spirits of evil and darkness, asking them to turn their malice upon something. The scale of the rite depends on the scale of the curse; individuals only take a minute, a city might take three-days and many human sacrifices. Such a curse lasts for at least a year, and often permanently – but is too subtle for game mechanics. Fields yield less, fallen candles are more likely to start fires, children catch things just a little more easily, there are more accidents, there are more miscarriages, and the toast falls butter side down 10% more often than it should.
  • Reflex Action/Extra Actions with +2 Bonus Uses (5/Day): Specialized/Communing With The Darkness abilities only, Corrupted/Defensive and Skill-Enhancing effects only (3 CP).

Gifts of the Dark Gods (54 CP):

  • Three Levels of Clerical Package Deal Spellcasting (30 CP).

Unfortunately, since I’ve no information on what gods exist in the setting, I can’t say anything about what domains will be available. Equally unfortunately this demonstrates one of the basic problems with this build; there simply are not enough points to keep everything up to a really useful level. What we have here is a talented generalist – but his spirit magic is quite limited (if very versatile), his clerical powers are trivial, and his combat skills aren’t that good offensively. He’s strong on defense (armor class and saves), and can provide some support – but he is going to be increasingly overshadowed by more specialized characters very soon – unless there is enough time between adventures to keep his stockpile of favors topped up.

There’s a secondary problem here: with Wisdom 10, this can’t be used normally. Fortunately, Eclipse will allow you to base your spellcasting on some other attribute than the usual. Given that this is a rather scholarly character, I could make a case for Intelligence rather than Wisdom – and so shall it be.

  • Augmented Bonus: Adds his Intelligence Modifier to all Saves. Specialized: Only while he remains unswervingly dedicated to the service of his dark masters. Corrupted: will not work in medium or heavy armor (12 CP).

This illustrates why simply changing out “Good Guy” for “Evil Guy” doesn’t really work. Being a “Good Guy” includes a lot of obligations and a lot of limitations on what you can do. Being a bad guy… means that you can pretty much do as you please. That’s why this kind of reversal only works if the Dark Powers are active things that place a lot of demands on those they empower. Otherwise… this is not a limitation and you won’t be getting a price break for taking it.

  • Immunity to Dispelling effects (Uncommon/Minor/Major, Specialized: only to protect Personal Enhancements. 1 CP.
  • Innate Enchantment: (11 CP/10,000 GP base value). Specialized/Double Effect (20,000 GP): Only while he remains unswervingly dedicated to the service of his dark masters.
    • Aura of Darkness: +1 Unholy Bonus to Saves (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Detect Poison: DC 20 Wisdom or Alchemy (roll both) check to identify the exact type (restricted to touch range, 700 GP).
    • Detect Good, 60′ Cone (2000 GP).
    • Enhance Attribute / +2 Intelligence (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Fortune’s Favor: +2 Luck Bonus on Skill and Attribute Checks (Personal Only, 1400 GP)
    • Healing Belt (Item Duplicate) x2 (1500 GP).
    • Immortal Vigor I: + 12 + 2 x Con Mod HP (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Improved Resistance: +2 Resistance Bonus to all Saves (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Inspiring Word: +1 Morale Bonus to Damage, Saves, Checks, and Attacks (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Pearl of Power (Item Duplicate): May recall a L1 spell once per day (1000 GP).
    • Phylactery of Faithfulness (Item Duplicate): Is automatically aware of actions and items which might compromise his alignment (1000 GP).
    • Resist Energy, Lesser: Resistance 5 to all forms of energy (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Shield: +4 Shield Bonus to AC, Immunity to Magic Missiles (2000 GP).
    • Sidestep: +1 Competence Bonus to all Saves (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Weapon Mastery: +3 Competence Bonus to BAB with Katana (Personal Only, 700 GP).

The original build included a feat-granting spell that provided Combat Reflexes and one that gave his weapons a +2 Wraith Touch enchantment (albeit for a mere two rounds). The first one is probably much preferable in a form that isn’t so easily cancelled out at higher levels – and the second is superceded by later sources and a higher-level character will want a weapon boost with more potential. Ergo, the “Healing Belts” and an Intelligence boost have been substituted. Li Kao also has Immunity to Non-Magical Diseases – but this character really doesn’t need it; he has luck for saving throws instead, and so can easily throw off pretty much any disease.

Other Powers (46 CP):

  • Adept (Nen-ryu Martial Art, Knowledge/Religion, Knowledge/The Planes, and Diplomacy, 6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Double Effect (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training/Combat Reflexes Variant (6 CP).
  • Luck with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saves (4 CP).
  • Witchcraft III with Four Pacts (select these) (18 CP) and +3d6 Extra Power (6 CP).
    • Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will, Elfshot (Specialized/only inflicts wound-style penalties but may be used as a part of a successful melee attack), Glamour, Infliction (Specialized/only to add damage to melee attacks, may be used as a part of a successful attack, spend 1/2/3 power to add 3/5/7d4 damage), Witchfire (Specialized/only to give melee weapons the equivalent of the Flaming, Frost, or Shock properties, at a cost of one power per property per minute), The Hand of Shadows, and Shadowweave. Advanced Abilities: Nightforge, Tenebrium’s Coin, Leaping Fire, and Bones of Iron. Note that – using Nightforge – this character can simply materialize a katana when he needs one. Being disarmed is pretty much irrelevant for him – and will become even less relevant as soon as he can purchase Imbuement, to give his instantly-created katana instant magical powers.

Skills (47 SP):

  • Jump +10 (5 SP*) +2 (Str) +2 (Race) +4 (Speed) +2 (Syn) = +20
  • Knowledge/The Planes +10 (5 SP*) +3 (Int) = +13
  • Knowledge/Religion +10 (5 SP*) +3 (Int) = +13
  • Listen +10 (5 SP*) +0 (Wis) +2 (Race) = +12
  • Move Silently +10 (5 SP*) +7 (Dex) +2 (Race) = +19
  • Nen-ryu Martial Art +10 (5 SP*) +7 (Dex) = +17
  • Perform/Cultural Arts +3 (3 SP) +0 (Cha) = +1
  • Diplomacy +10 (5 SP*) +0 (Cha) = +10
  • Tumble +10 (5 SP*) +7 (Dex) +2 (Race) +2 (Syn) = +21

+3 Specialities: Knowledge/Religion/Own God (1 SP), Nen-ryu (Reach) (1 SP), Diplomacy/Spirits (1 SP), and Perform/Cultural Arts/Tea Ceremony (1 SP).

Nen-ryu Martial Art (Dex):

  • Requires: Weapon Focus/Katana or equivalent point buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 2, Defenses 2, Power 1, Toughness 2, and Synergy/Tumble
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Mind Like Moon, Reach, Quick Draw, and Blind Fight.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Ki Block, Light Foot, and Vanishing.
  • Known Techniques (10): Defenses 2, Toughness 2, Sybergy/Tumble, Mind Like Moon, Reach, and Quick Draw, Inner Strength and Ki Block.

Equipment will depend a lot on the setting, so I’m not including that – but Bracers of Armor +2 (4000 GP), an Amulet of Tears (2300 GP), and Boots of the Cat (1000 GP) are all probably going to be good investments. If available, a Ring of War +1 (makes any weapon you use +1. Bonuses and special functions may be added at twice the price of a similar weapon. Thus +1: 4000 GP, +2 (Or +1 Bane something or whatever) 16,000 GP, +3: 36,000 GP, etc) is a similarly good investment. A Scout’s Headband (3400 GP) is pretty handy too. That’s 14,700 GP – which should leave plenty to get other equipment with.

Later on, a set of +1 Brass Knuckles of Warning for his off hand will provide a +5 insight bonus to Initiative for a mere 8000 GP. When you can afford to go to 18,000 GP add Defending, just for another boost to AC. A Third Eye Freedom (2600 GP) and Anklet of Translocation (1400 GP) are both good for getting out of trouble.

Further development? This character will want to build up his shamanic magic, get Imbuement (for Katanas and for his Bracers of Armor) as soon as possible, and pick up Lunge to get his reach up to 10′ – allowing him to act as a one-man wall against an advancing enemy. If you want to be a bit gruesome, taking Grant of Aid with Bonus Uses (Specialized and Corrupted/only usable when you kill an opponent or score a critical hit against one) is cheap and nicely vampyric.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CCVI – Cadenza Allegro

Charles was almost out of time. Fortunately, he was also almost out of things to do. There were networks of well-guarded indestructible manses waiting to take over Yu-Shan’s control inputs to Creation, massive power reserves on tap, guards (second-circle equivalents; not enough to stop a top-end threat for long, but their perfect defenses should hold out more than long enough to sound the alarm and escape) assigned to every vital person and location that he could manage, a 500% overcoverage on his control artifacts, lots of geomantic backup and monitoring in place, quite a few unshaped roped into providing external security for Creation while his focus was elsewhere, crews of Raksha ready to help out, and more. Gaia had the Spike of Pole Unbinding, Yu-Shan’s Devas were ready to supervise through their remotes, the Tenders and Overseers had been briefed, the Celestial Lions were in position, King Ghidorah was attending along with many Third-Circle Demons, and every backup and precaution he could think of was in place.

It was time for the show to go on! Hopefully a lot of the major powers would attend peacefully, rather than opposing the project!

That could have been “more innocent bystanders to get caught up in things!”, but – fortunately – most of the most vulnerable weren’t important enough to get seats, and would have to watch remotely from Aden, which was much safer. There were still random carnival-goers of course, but some of them would have been around regardless.

There was, of course, muttering and some excitement when the Celestial Lions started clearing the central pavilion for a performance and it became apparent just how many sections of special seating were being set up – and just how exotic some of them were.

The discussion got louder as the performers began to arrive in all in all their eccentric glory – but the Celestial Lions were out in force, which was enough to send some of the more cautious carnival-goers looking for good vantage points a long ways away. If some little musical piece called for THAT kind of security something big was definitely up!

And then some even MORE eccentric entities arrived – the Deva’s of Yu-Shan using their remotes – and demonic cries of recognition joined the confusion of gods who both instinctively recognized and did not consciously know the Deva’s!

Except for the black hole in the shape of a kimono-clad sumotori, who just looked amused as he ate all the food.

Charles gave them a few moments to settle down since this WAS a performance! Quiet was expected, at least to start! And this sort of thing WAS why there were separate sections!

And as the drums and other percussion instruments of the first movement thundered, the energies of chaos flowed out across the Carnival of Meeting, the energies of oncoming transformation lending strength to magic, a sparkle of youth to the ancient streets of Yu-Shan, and a thousand transient touches of wonder drifted upon the very air.

And the gods wondered, as the beauty of the music spread, somehow infinite in potential and yet unfulfilled.

Far beyond the music’s normal range, something resonated, a subtle note in the darkness singing softly to itself. A tiny crack in an ancient ward, and a trickle of time flowing into timelessness… Within the Gallery of Captured Dreams minds stirred that had been sleeping since before the rise of Creation.

And the Adamant foundations of Yu-Shan trembled, as – in the wake of a massive stampede of panicked high-ranking gods fleeing the Jade Pleasure Dome – a massive, floating, cloud of elemental energies poured out of the southernmost entrance to of the Dome.

Charles sighed – having to multitask ALREADY. What a bother!

He threw up a series of wards around the performance area, and tried to clear a path for the elemental storm – and checked with the Celestial Lions on duty there to try to find out what was going on! Normally a bunch of high-ranking gods wouldn’t make such a commotion over anything even remotely reasonable…

Oh. There were hurricanes frantically howling at the edges, buffeting the infernos and oceans within while thorns, burrs, and massive stones of all varieties floated through the whole mass! And… those howling primordial energies made up draconian shapes floating around within the storm, only faintly visible even to magical senses.

The Elemental Dragons awakened or ascended? Gaia using the spike? Would they need a reserved section of seating?

The lions hadn’t been expecting this either, and since she was one of the Incarnae, they couldn’t exactly order her to cease and desist!

(Charles, via telepathic broadcast since voice was not likely to work through the hurricanes!) “Ah, hello there! Can I help you?”

All he got was a cacophony of crackles, howling wind, and raging water and sand. The mass was heading upward, toward the Pole of Adamant. It… wasn’t affecting the geomancy yet, but it felt like it was barely restrained. The raw power of most of Gaia’s physical Deva’s pouring towards a single, central, point where things were most closely tied together.

Probably to pour their power into the Spike… Charles had the guards herd people and gods out of the way and made a corridor! It was a good thing that his servitors were pretty affable and high-Essence… it made it a LOT easier to get the gods to listen!

Besides, it WAS the Carnival! As well as an elemental hurricane that no one sensible would stand in front of anyway… There was some fussing and bruised egos, but better that than being dissolved by some manifestation of Primordial power!

Charles damped the sound around the elemental manifestations, but he still had to turn up the volume a bit. Fortunately he was immune to laryngitis and it didn’t affect his supporting performers!

And the dreaming thunder of the wyld drums spread across the carnival as the brasses, and the second movement, came in.

Across Yu-Shan, ancient primordial demesnes, long dormant and decayed, flared into sudden life – and crackling spikes of essence began to build in the structures of manses long broken and buried. Once begun… the Music Of Creation, and the revival of Yu-Shan would precede to completion – or to catastrophe.

And the Drum Fey exalted in joy – even as reports began to flood in from the outskirts of Heaven of several massive entities appearing close to the Cornucopia of All’s subterranean Manse and its aboveground patch of fertile soil! The lions and guarding Devas reported most unwholesome energies!

Drat! Charles started to deploy some of his reserves… mostly on containment; attacking warded areas was a LOT more bother, so that should slow them up! It wouldn’t stop a geomantic attack – but that was usually one of the slower methods anyway. Unfortunately, he had only one Kaiju to deploy personally…

That… was holding things up, but one – a slow-moving snake of soulsteel, white Jade, and other, stranger, alloys, had begun burrowing into the adamant and emitting large amounts of death-energy! The local anti-underworld alert systems were going haywire!

Oh well! If the Kaiju were coming… that was a pain, but he had to stick with the sequence to make this work. All he could do was deploy distractions and delays!

And across the city… wards and defenses flared, as the divine legions fought a delaying action against the attacking Kaiju, hurling crackling bolts of essence, hurling missiles, and erecting barriers.

It didn’t have much effect, but the warding spells took the brunt of the counterattacks. They were still causing damage just moving around, but that was what happened when Kaiju payed your city a visit!

Charles… focused on reinforcing the wards and the structure of Yu-Shan itself. The would hold up the advance, provide cover for the defenders, reduce the damage to the city, and keep casualties to a minimum, as he had promised to attempt!

At least it was the Empty Quarters – and the Celestial Lions, Tenders, and Overseers were using their own methods of reinforcing things. Yu-Shan’s Deva’s were helping with that! It was a good thing that he’d given them multiple remotes to work though – and that their power was waxing as Yu-Shan stirred in her slumber!

And bursts of essence sparkled across the city like a myriad stars, as resident gods raised their own wards and defenses. Those were far less effective than the efforts of the Celestial Lions and Charles’s agents – but there were millions of them. It would not suffice, but it bought more precious time.

And the Third Movement began. The music of Creation built upon the infinite resources of the Wyld and the order-bringing Primordial Paean. Even within the Carnival Grounds… there was shouting from several angry and dismayed mortals – a good deal of “Where am I?!” In multiple languages, some not of Earth! More subtly – and more importantly – a number of Soulsteel and Starmetal artifacts shimmered gently, no longer creations of anguish, but merely of aspected essence.

Across Yu-Shan, echoes drifted upon the winds. Vagrant bits of themes in a sprinkling of ethereal notes, bearing one of the most elusive and powerful of thoughts – a new beginning, and new hope. The long despair and decay felt a trace of a new dawn upon the wind.

At Seven Whispering Winds there was a massive burst of energy as a dozen Kaiju made a fade-in appearance, towering over the ancient manse. Godzilla, Rhodan, Gamera, Anguirus, Mothra, King Caesar, Gigan, Kumonja, Biolanthe, Ultraman, Megalon, and Destroyah bestrode the canals of Yu-Shan – joining their scouts King Ghidorah, King Kong (the bioelectric version, who had gone up the Jade Pleasure Dome and was absorbing the energies of it’s defensive systems to redirect into blasts across the city), and MechaGodzilla. Behind them… an army of (mostly) Native-American styled Fey arrived to handle backup and crowd control.

Sure, they seemed to have arrived to defend Yu-Shan, and to make Creation more friendly to Fey – but just try telling the gods of the empty regions that!

(MechaGodzilla) “Bye bye everybody! I have to go defend the city! You humans have fun at the Carnival!”

MechaGodzilla left his hat behind as he grew to full size and headed off to join the defense – leaving a not-insignificant portion of the Carnival-goers wondering what had been put into their drinks!

And the fury of the Neverborn-Kaiju surpassed itself, as all too many of those Dream-Kaiju – empowered by their Exalted pilots, Raksha crews, and some of the mystic “Martial Artists” of the Besi Hentuperajin – turned their own, original, ancient powers against them (even if it was only the lesser ones!) How DARED these creatures of mere humanity use the powers they had lost in the Primordial War?

And – for the sake of Heaven and the salvation of Creation- rage, confusion, and chaos reigned supreme as Dream-Kaiju, with greater numbers, and the powers of their far more varied crews, warred against Neverborn-Kaiju wielding Ghostly Arcanoi and the terrible, high-essence, charms and sorceries of their ancient Abyssal pilots.

Night spread across the city as the lead in the Games of Divinity fell to the Lady of Journeys – who had slightly fewer powers of use in such a battle. Darkness, however, did not fall; the light of the constant barrage of blazing blue energy bolts, waves, and explosions as Kingukongu (King Kong or “Guko” for short) channeled the blasts of the defense systems of the Jade Pleasure Dome around his feet against the Neverborn-Kaiju burned with a supernal radiance.

Charles sent Mothra Leo to try and keep the Kaiju Battles to the open areas… OK, it was mostly more wards and containment, but the crew was pretty good at such things – and Leo gave them a good vantage point to work from! Hopefully his wings (and near-infinite use of the Raksha Perfect Dodge) would be fast enough to evade the Neverborn Kaiju strikes.

Fortunately, the Cauldron-Born appreciated drama, and sent their version of his mother Mothra to aid Leo!

And the fourth movement began, introducing strings and keyboard – and a considerable shock for the Humans (and anyone else who actually aged) who was attending the Carnival. As some of the mortals attending looked a little healthier (and younger), the jade bud in front of Charles grew into a flower… As the movement continued, it bore fruit – a lovely Celestial Pear.

Unfortunately, there was a commotion outside the pavilion… A Neverborn Kaiju had arrived via teleportation.

Grievous Shadow, the Dreamstrider Cloaked in Nightmare, embodied distraction and madness, the mind at war with itself, and the unformed terrors spawned from the damage to reality. It’s form was in constant flux – but it was forged of soulsteel, and black jade, and the deathly essence of the Neverborn. A hydra-like thing of many heads (their exact number forever uncountable) it struck along the myriad paths of thoughts and realities rejected. Once Mabhaddoth, Architect Of Locks, He Who Sealed, now a thing of Summoning Shadows and the Darkness that Devoured. Around it madness held illimitable dominion over the gods…

It shimmered momentarily as it’s soulsteel parts smoked in the music of the third movement – but it’s power relied but little on torment, and the departure of souls into Lethe meant little to it, especially when it’s mere presence unlocked a thousand routes long sealed for both the living and the dead. What mattered it that mere sanity could endure so few of those beckoning paths?

The Lions and Tenders were evading being pulled in – if only just – but for the moment a single figure confronted the immense Kaiju, locked in a battle of wills… Zanjaras, the Violet Bier of Sorrows himself, was staring it down – swathed in his bandages and glowing with a pale, colorless aura as he guided the spirits of the dead to Lethe. Even he was having trouble resisting Grievous Shadow’s aura, but he would not let the spirits suffer!

But his power was fading moment by moment though, as the last of the spirits poured through him and Grievous Shadow adjusted to their absence!

And, in the midst of the raging powerstorm crackling through the streets of Yu-shan, the fifth movement began – and Charles employed his Earthmaster’s Stone to help him replace most of the first KiloMote that he’d need to supply to Yu-Shan with Geomantic Relay Points. Since that also activated the Music of Creation’s carrier function, he threw in a repulsive blast attuned to the Neverborn Kaiju to try and drive them back a bit.

And the radiance within the pavilion cast shadows across Yu-Shan as a tidal wave of green and gold essence poured out, bringing the canals and dragon lines of the city to sparkling life – and fueling answering sparks of black and crimson as the deep energies of the city answered. Notes rose from the rushing waters and the incandescent earth as the Music of Creation swept outwards.

Charles channeled his (effective 22, which – thanks to the Honorable Diamond Gem – everyone touched by the music could feel) compassion into his desire to heal as ninety-six gates to ninety-six new worlds erupted around the edges of the dome and the portals to the stargate manses opened up at the central pavilion.

And the Neverborn Kaiju were driven several steps back – in part due to the repulsion he’d thrown in, but mostly in shock as the torment of their Soulsteel components was relieved – and the Guards, Gods, Celestial Lions, Tenders, and Overseers opposing them found strength in the music.

As the pillar of green-gold light fountained up to the apex of the sky dome and washed out across the city, it carried Charles’s Solar Sorcery spells with it – of primordial and general healing, of geomantic repair, and of renewal. A myriad voices responded, as the awakened little gods sang as well – and the beauty of the music passed through the Gates. In return… the power of renewed domains flowed into Yu-Shan, a sudden strength flowing into the domainless gods.

Gates were opening across the Earth as well – and from them too the music poured as the Earth sang. Ancient and long-forgotten gates too allowed the music to pass, although wyld zones did not. On distant worlds, and in strange realms, the music rang.

And ancient hatreds responded. There would be no peace, no healing, and no hope if they could prevent it. Creation was flawed beyond redemption, the sins of Gods, Mortals, and Exalted could not be forgiven. No kindly power could be permitted to interfere with Creations inevitable – if long-drawn – end!

Still, even as ancient enemies flooded into Yu-Shan, and the Neverborn Kaiju lumbered forward as reinforcements diverted the attention of their opponents… powerful voices joined the song – echoing from the central Manse of Project Stamewald, from Seven Whispering Winds, from the Embassy to the Dead, beneath which Zanjaras slept, from the Sorrowhands themselves, and from his School (of all places) in Yu-Shan alone. Stanewald and School were supporting Charles directly. The others, on the other hand…

  • The Embassy of the Dead was attempting to allow ghosts to manifest during the daytime, with increased cost to Arcanoi and no use of hostile effects.
  • Seven Whispering Winds was attempting to increase the level of Wyld energies throughout all regions of Creation by one level for purposes of counting as the Wyld, making the bare minimum a tainted land.
  • The Sorrowhands were attempting to boost the original geomancy on the City Level to 75%,, and were being supported by the other seventy-eight extant Tenders. (Why would they want THAT? They were getting their own level at 100% anyway!)
  • And across the many worlds the music reached… many minor voices were attempting their own geomantic manipulations.

Charles sighed… he really should have known better than to even hope for unity. Still… he had spent a LOT of time setting this up and accumulating ways to boost his control.

Charles had, in fact, managed to lower his target number to two, had – between boosted skill, boosted attributes, excellencies, and other boosts, managed to stack up nearly sixty dice on his Occult check, and was throwing in twenty-two more from Compassion. It came out to 82 successes (considered “perfect”), with the +10 boost to opposing difficulties for being in the lead. Perfect effects could influence things locally – but no one else within the Music’s reach had prepared for it nearly so thoroughly.

Even working together, the opposing groups couldn’t overpower him. It was enough for them to get some localized effects though, as the two melodies clashed! Charles focused on compensating for any variances from the plan that couldn’t be accommodated.

And the flow of geomantic power continued pouring out across the city as the Celestial Pear in front of Charles cracked open. Inside… was a young girl, no older than six, but massive enough that she had to crouch. She was wearing nothing but a simple robe and looked unremarkable at first… Until you realized that she was made of cloth of a massively high – almost immeasurable – thread count. The Essence signature matched Yu- Shan’s of course – which might be most unfortunate, as Grievous Shadow had merely been briefly stunned, but was once more advancing!

The giant girl turned that way, with a disgusted expression.

Charles unleashed the first of his major reserves, as three rings of the twenty-four symbols of Thaumaturgy began to orbit him, intersecting, releasing spells as the runes crossed, a total of three hundred and sixty Celestial to Solar Circle spells poured fourth each turn – focusing on warding and protecting the city, rescuing those entrapped, and healing the injured.

Basically Charles was running Aden at three times the normal timerate and letting the twenty four (one of each) of his seventy-two Guardian manifestations assigned there start unleashing their magic through him – each using the bonus dice from the Geomantic Flux to multicast.

And the structure of reality itself shimmered and wavered before that much sorcerous essence. The radiating light shown through flesh and stone like glass – although the Light of Creation brought not the slightest dazzle or discomfort to any but the enemies of Creation.

Charles himself was focusing on guiding his healing effects to try and fix everything he could reach.

On Earth, before crowds, military observers, and various other groups… the Gate-Manses were manifesting, showing alien suns shining above new worlds, rich fields and forests, pristine seas and mountains, and glittering (if empty) cities in the distance. Busy quasi-canine entities were laying down railroad tracks, canals, and other transport connections, readying stockpiles of colonization supplies, and preparing to welcome new emigrants across trillions of light years.

And even as the gates opened… The Music of Creation granted health and (relative) youth to the people of the Earth. There would be far more shock and unrest than Charles had anticipated!

Within Yu-Shan, the Kaiju battle raged on outside the Carnival of Meeting, as Titans forged of Wyld and Neverborn energies clashed with claw, breath, and still more esoteric abilities. Smaller Kaiju were attempting to attack Charles’s warded sites, but the outpouring magic of the Sorcerers Shere was holding most of them back.

Toho was indeed getting VERY impressive footage – but reports, messages, and complaints were flooding even Charles’s multitasking in his Synergistic Overmind! Still… the geomantic split WAS progressing mostly as planned. But… the mere presence of the Neverborn Kaiju was warping things, especially that of the snakelike thing that was still burrowing it’s way through the adamant. A gate of obsidian and soulsteel was forming alongside the others.

With more than a few Third Circle demons present, including those of Oramus, a gate of ochre adamant was also forming.

Bother! The Neverborn aspect was forming! That would never do!

Charles deployed the extra control artifacts to try and block that, and let the Sorrowhands and Tenders know about it! They might be willing to give up to prevent THAT.

Ochre… a Yozi aspect? Presumably to a “what if” Yu-Shan was banished with the rest of the Yozi’s instead of being taken over” aspect?

(Arelis Sorrowhands) “Gah! We can’t have that… But I’m not willing to leave the Weavers in their current state.” (Consulting) “We’ll give in for ten Weavers, two of each caste, already motophagic preferred.”

(Charles) “I can try to persuade them, but I can’t force them! But a fair number have already joined up haven’t they? And shouldn’t they be fine on the pure Yu-Shan level?”

Charles asked Yu-Shan – since she was manifested and awake – to help out with the Sorrowhands! After all, now that she was awake he had the plans and could explain instantly – even if, at this point, major adjustments were going to be HARD.

(Arelis Sorrowhands) “We’ll need to expose them to areas of at least 75 percent purity to awaken their full potential… Which this level will not have. Please, Charles… They were meant as our aides. And at least half were fine with that!”

(Charles) “Well, that should work! You’d just need to overlay the 100% pure level with compatible levels, or even just temporarily isolate them to that one to trigger things!

(Yu-Shan, yawning) “Dolly, now isn’t the time! Let Charles work. We still need to find Ayuji!”

And the Ochre gate… did indeed seem to be shaping up into a Yozi aspect. That didn’t even make SENSE in this universe! Oramus was forcing an impossible identity between alternate universes there!

Charles checked with Nox on that one! Otherwise they might have two universe’s versions of Yu-Shan converging into one, which could do some really strange things!

(Nox) “Eh, Oramus does that, kid. Just be glad only Feng got out-or that you’re not in a universe where Xiang was the deva Yu-Shan gambled away. Three words: doors to everywhere. Now THAT’S a pain.”

(Charles) “Er… Yu-Shan? Do you WANT to amalgamated with a Yozi version of yourself! That might well limit you somewhat!”

(Yu-Shan) “yucky! Bad Feng! Toss you time!”

Well… that was at least DISTRACTING Feng! Charles let the Calibration Gate slam THAT particular door; defining what WAS and what WAS NOT Yu-Shan was a part of his function, so he ought to be able to!

Dumenza and the other gates had started flying around soon after he’d started, although they hadn’t taken humanoid form until now. He was marshaling all the gates – his remaining subselves – for this one!

Charles provided more backup – but even where that was POSSIBLE, even he only had so much backup to deploy!

That left the Pinnacle of the Sky Dome and the Lattice of Vapors to take on the Neverborn Kaiju reinforcements! Additionally, with the Yozi energies present, the gate linked to the biogenesis laboratory was humming most ominously…

Fortunately, the combative Third Circles – including Kochige, Daimyo of Absorption – had moved to assist their uncorrupted colleagues. Still, even Charles’s geomatic reserves could not support this load for much longer – and despite his best efforts, the empty quarters were taking a lot of damage!

And more reports were coming in, some from the Loom… which was unfurling. It’s myriad dimensional folds… were falling into three-dimensional space.

Charles asked I AM to pick up as much of the processing load as possibly – asking the students at the Citadel of Enlightenment to authorize the use of their accounts to acquire the rights to even more processing power, even if that WOULD reveal to them that they had accounts!

Along the way, he checked the sympathetic looms to see what was going on. It looked like… it was unraveling to a central point in the Loom Chamber. The pattern spiders were giving chase. Unfortunately, given that causality was only a suggestion in there, he would need all the processing power he could get to find out where… Still, from the sympathetic looms, it seemed that Ayuji, and Nox with her, were becoming free! With one problem… the sympathetic looms were showing abnormally high readings of Neverborn energies within the Loom.

Charles sent requests to the Sidereals and the available Lunars too. Creation would need to do most of it’s own causality-computing if Ayuji unbound from it… fortunately, that WAS one of the predicted possibilities. MORE Neverborn energies? That had to be an OLD Deathlord… almost certainly the Arbiter of Games End! After all, success here would permanently ruin most of his plans! But… he was down to his final reserves (well, not counting things like the Kickaha kids) – his third set of Deva-aspects…

He sent his Devas for Compulsion, Countermagic, Linking, Divination, Fortune, and Shadow-Weaving to try to keep the Neverborn energies away from Ayuji and support her. Compulsion to handle secondary forces, Countermagic to neutralize things, Linking to let I Am help more, Divination to locate subtle attacks (the Arbiter WAS a tricky one!), Fortune could works with Destiny and Ayuji’s powers to relive the strain on her, and Shadow-weaving to misdirect attacks to non-existent targets.Hopefully Nox would help with that; with a touch of his power redirecting attacks to empty universes should work just fine!

Chasing the threads on the Loom worked for a time, but they were all converging on a single spot in a dark, remote region of the Loom Chamber. There, they disappeared into nowhere – and his Deva’s followed them. Blast it! Even the immortality HE bestowed wasn’t PERFECT! They ought to have SOME caution!

Weirdly, there was no sign of Neverborn, Deathlords, or even undead in the Loom Chamber… But Malinda was detecting the use of Void Circle Necromancy targeting the Loom and was peering into the threads.

Huh… Reaching through the remnants of Oblivion were they? Well… he knew just where the Arbiters planet was within a very small margin, and it was easy enough to locate. It was also where the necromancy was coming from, much of it cast quite recently.

He had the Djinn set up a one-way manse gate there as a firing port for the Spear of Aden. No doubt the Arbiter would fall back before even an orbital bombardment could exhaust his magical and defensive reserves – but with any luck he could chase him away from his materials, workspace, and casting… Not that he liked shooting at people, but the Arbiter WAS trying to destroy the universe – and releasing the ghosts in his service into Lethe would be doing them a definite favor!

Charles hadn’t thought about the fact that the combination of the bombardment and the Music of Creation leaking through the gate would send pretty much ALL the ghosts to Lethe – but that was all to the good!

Well, not the bit that would let the Arbiter defend longer – but you couldn’t have EVERYTHING.

The bombardment did, indeed, devastate the place, but there was no sign of the Deathlord himself, or his three ring-bound gods leaving. On the other hand, the wan, pale ghosts were now on to their next incarnations!

And Malinda had discovered something that had her startled, as she examined the Loom…

(Malinda) “Dearie, this spot… It leads to another universe!”

Well, that was a convenient point for Nox to interrupt the assault… and interrupt it he did!

(Nox) “Hey, kid, me and the pattern spiders could use a little support in here! The fleet’s taking heavy damage!”

Charles sent them another six Devas… Botheration! This was VERY rapidly reaching the “out of resources” point! Darn it! He’d been hoping that he was playing in God Mode!

The trouble with the Kaiju assault was that they’re all indestructible barring geomantic sabotage – and for the ones at full power that would only work from the inside. At least for the minor ones though… their geomancy was basically the geomancy of wounds in the cosmos; healing spells might mess them up enough to make them retreat – so Charles tried that!

That confused them and messed them up, and FINALLY drove off the snake assault! Quite a few fell back – but Grievous Shadow was built from truly hard stuff even without the souls of the damned powering him! He had reached the pavilion and was trying to tear the roof off!

Ligier was most displeased – and advanced alongside Zanjaras to distract and maybe figure out a way to immobilize the thing. The friendly Kaiju, including MechaGodzilla, Mothra, and Mothra Leo, were moving to defend as well. Despite the clashing, yelling, and combustion going on outside, and despite being an Exalt… Charles was not directly participating and had more important things to do!

(Charles sighing) “Hrm… And what is it you need? I can’t promise to give it to you, but it’s worth asking!”

(Grievous Shadow) “Your death and that of Yu-Shan!”

(Ligier) “How banal. Couldn’t you be more imaginative with your threats?”

(Zanjaras) “I suppose it was made for one purpose.”

(Charles) “Oh. Well, that one is EASY! There are lots of places like that!”

It was his last resort… Hit it with a manse! He opened up a manse gate to send it to a universe that had dissolved back into the deep wyld and slam the door closed behind it!

Unfortunately it was resisting – until Sol Invictus took a moment from his Sumi-e painting contest with Saturn to combine his power with Ligier’s to send the monstrosity plummeting into a devastated dimension.

That should hold it for a while! Now Charles only had to contend with the remaining forces assaulting Ayuji and any consequences of this – for Nox had been rather sadistically diverting many of the underworld attackers to shards with a perfectly functioning Lethe!

Charles tried to save at least one sextet of Deva’s in reserve for any final emergency – and did some reconstruction spells – but sent another six to reinforce Ayuji. That turned out to be a wise choice, as the Arbiter of Games End and his flagship had made their appearance, advancing on Ayuji and Nox’s location! The pattern spiders were marshaling their fleet alongside his Devas to stop him!

Drat it! Last reserves it was! At least he didn’t have that much longer to go on this…

Unfortunately, the Arbiter was getting close to the monolith where Autochthon and Yu-Shan had stowed Ayuji so long ago! Perhaps ten minutes before the Arbiter’s ship got into teleport range!

And at least an hour to go on the Music of Creation to nail down the details of Yu-Shan’s alternate layers. And his reserves were tapped out! Still, it was only one Deathlord at the moment… They were pretty nasty, but he was already up against eight devas and support.

And… he’d brought his own allies? Aaargh!

Charles reviewed frantically… He didn’t HAVE any more reserves except Kickaha kids and other non-combatants!

Wait.

He had Galileo ask the Solars and other Exalts at the Citadel of Enlightenment if they wanted to help stop a Deathlord who was attacking Yu-Shan and Creation!

They didn’t say “No” – and the Solar and Lunar who’d been trying to make Solar Bond mutual stepped up to the plate, backed by a contingent of the Gold Faction teachers. And they did have all the defenses and benefits that Charles had been handing around, which was good! They would need them badly as they assaulted the Arbiter and his allies!

They proved unable to take down the Arbiter and his allies – but they managed to sabotage his ship and force a retreat.

Even the Sorcerer’s Sphere was running down; having spent the equivalent of fifty kilomotes or so – drawn from several hundred Manses designed for sorcerous support – in the course of the operation…

Still, the Devas who had been were assisting Ayuji and Nox were now free (if low on motes), as the ancient monolith opened up and the pattern spiders danced in intricate patterns of celebration (well… maybe. They weren’t the most expressive creatures).There were once again reserves!

Even if they were on the verge of collapse.

Still… the heavily-outnumbered Neverborn Kaiju were being driven off (Details of Aikiko’s efforts will appear in a later log) – and some of the noncombatant reserves like those young Kickaha were moving in to serve as search-and-rescue, disaster relief, and emergency medical teams. There was a fair amount of call for it; more than a few free Celestial mortals lived in areas affected by the fighting and hadn’t cleared out in advance… not that Charles’s agents had been able to be clear about explaining why they should.

Darn it! He had been hoping to keep injuries down to an absolute minimum… There was guilt!

Not exactly overwhelming, but guilt anyway.

A little later Charles – clearly tired – finally let the music fade away – and there was much applause!

Checking the results… Well, even though the Sorrowhands backed down, there were some patches where both the Wyld and the underworld were a bit stronger. On the other hand, Yu-Shan hadn’t wound up linked to any unintended alternate versions of herself, and all of his planned layers were functional.. That was actually pretty good! He’d have to see how the outside universe had been affected later…

The entire city was somewhat in shock – which was only to be expected of course! Gaia had dissipated back into her usual self and had collapsed next to Yu-Shan. Luna had curled up next to her in cat form and was showing elaborate unconcern as only a kitty could…

Charles made sure that they had the equivalent of a blanket and some pillows and were not disturbed…

Hm… The Sun had lost his contest with Saturn,al though nothing had happened to him or to the universe. He had just completed his Sumi-e painting when an errant energy blast destroyed it. While the Incarnae’s reign over Heaven was probably finished in its prior form, they’d never done much anyway – so they might wind up even more in charge, at least of the city level.

In any case, the Most High didn’t seem put out by it.

The performers withdrew to Aden, as the Third Circles collected their snacks and carnival souvenirs and went home as the carnival closed down for the first time since… EVER. There were still two days of Calibration left, but after what had just happened, everyone was in shock!

Charles frowned! Aw! He’d become a party pooper!

As the crowd left, and the Incarnae retreated to the Jade Pleasure Dome with the exhausted Primoridals in tow, Saturn glanced back at Charles. She and her sisters felt… more complete and more concrete to him. It was nothing even HE could put his finger on… Just a weird gut feeling.

Well… this would be a major step towards their one universe of origin; this just pruned a LOT of major branches.

And Charles went to go rest. It would take weeks for his resources to rebuild to normal levels… And no doubt he’d have to field endless frantic phone calls.

That would turn out to include calls from countries that he knew existed, but had never really studied… And that was just the mundane ones. He hadn’t even THOUGHT about THOSE calls! It was very awkward! He would have thought that the advertising campaign – and the advisors and supply-depot operators – would have answered things! (They had, but it was just SO hard to believe!).

He delegated some telephone operators for repeated questions and such. That way even a lot of the noncombatants would get to participate.

And there were people wanting exclusive rights to a gate too. Charles wasn’t normally big on that – but if avoiding conflicts made it a lot more palatable.

In a little while there would be people fighting over them. Aargh! They were supposed to be for EVERYBODY!

(Siranaya) “Charles, what happened? You and Elzeard look pooped!”

(Charles) “Ah, I take it that you weren’t watching? Well, it was a major repair operation in Yu-Shan, and it took up a LOT of power and resources”.

(Siranaya) “no, I was too busy gardening for once! It’s cool not to kill plants when I touch them!”

(Charles) “Well I’m glad that’s working for you! And there was rather a lot of fuss in Yu-Shan; there were some attacks, and the carnival had some high-powered visitors this year!”

(Siranaya) “Oh no! I hope you were okay!”

(Charles) “I did all right, but it was very tiring!”

(Siranaya) “Did you win any prizes?”

(Charles) “Er… “Most Energetic Spellcaster”, “Most Dramatic Performance”, and the “Symphonic Music” award! As well as first place in audience participation!

Well, it HAD been a very lovely piece that would be remembered for centuries.

(Siranaya) “Cool!”

(Charles) “It was kind of neat! A lot of work though! I did promise to take a little time off afterwards!”

(Siranaya) “Let’s spend it together!”

(Charles) “Why not?”

Karthos the Dweomer Master

Today it’s another Eclipse d20 character request – an eighth level character with an exotic race (“Watcher”, a magically-created gargoyle-dwarf creature from “Races of Renown – Bastards”), described as a “Scholarly Dweomerist” (one of the example builds in the basic Eclipse book) – but what there is in the notes also lists a high base attack bonus and some psionic caster levels. Those may have been meant to power the Dweomer abilities though, so I’ll presume that – as long as the build can power it’s abilities – the exact power source doesn’t matter. Of course, the player has also chosen a skill-based caster and taken a race with an Int penalty, so I may be entirely wrong about what he wants.

That will happen sometimes when I’m forced to guess.

Racial Template: “Watcher” (Watchers are listed as Monstrous Humanoids, but their racial traits are not entirely consistent with that; I’ll stick with the listed traits).

  • Attribute Modifiers: +4 Con (Racial Self-Development, 24 CP), +2 Wis, -2 Int (Attribute Transfer, 6 CP).
  • Rocky Skin: Natural Armor (Improved Defender, 12 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Darkvision (6 CP).
  • Racial Skill bonus: +15 to Disguise, Specialized and Corrupted/only to appear to be a statue (5 CP)
  • Immunity/Natural Sleep (Common, Minor, Minor, 4 CP). They don’t need to sleep, although they will require four hours of meditation time to prepare spells, but are subject to magical sleep effects.
  • Immunity/Hunger and Thirst (Common, Major, Minor, 6 CP). They only require one-tenth the food and water needed by a normal dwarf.
  • Wings: Celerity with Additional Movement Mode, Specialized and Corrupted / only works if the user has room to spread his or her wings, does not allow flight; only useful to break falls (half damage), provide a +10 bonus to Jump, and to eliminate the distance limitations when jumping (6 CP).
  • Template Disadvantage: Aging, but Ageless: Watchers are described as having no maximum age, but also as growing slower and weaker and having their organs shrivel up and creaking when they move as they age. Given the rather self-contradictory nature of this “power”, and the general unimportance of aging in most campaigns… I’m just going to leave it as a sort of a curse for their unnatural existence. Accursed/Ages into a sort of living death instead of passing on normally (-3 CP).
  • Template Disadvantage: Accursed/base speed is 20′ instead of 30′ (-3 CP).
  • Template Disadvantage: Outcast. Watchers are the spirits of dwarves who died of old age before completing some mighty task, hung around as ghosts, and were then bonded with the undamaged body of a dead gargoyle. This is rare, and weird, and smacks of unholy powers, makes them a freak of nature, and gives them a semi-devilish appearance to boot.

With a net cost of 60 CP, the “Watcher” is approaching +2 ECL territory. In fact, if I hadn’t opted to list their weird aging as a curse and thrown in the “Outcast” disadvantage they’d be edging into the +2 ECL range, just as they were in the original sourcebook. Still, when most of your racial powers can easily be beaten out with a bit of Innate Enchantment or a few cheap spells, a +2 ECL modifier is probably not in order.

Karthos:the Dweomer Master

Racial Template: “Watcher” (60 CP / +1 ECL)

Attributes: Str 12, Dex 14, Con 18, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 16 (32 Point buy plus Racial, originally Str 12, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 16). Speaks Common and Dwarven. .

Available CP: 192 (L7 Base) +18 (L1, L3, L6 Bonus Feats) + 3 (Disadvantage; Back Story) +14 (Duties) = 227 CP.

Basic Purchases (109 CP)

  • Base Saves: Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +2 (21 CP)
  • 7d6 Hit Dice (14 CP).
  • Proficient with All Simple Weapons (3 CP) and Light, Medium, and Heavy Armor (15 CP).
  • Base Attack Bonus: +7 (42 CP).
  • Movement: 20′
  • Skill Points: 10 (Int) + 21 (Fast Learner, Dedicated to Dweomer) +14 (14 CP) = 45 SP.

Dweomer Master (88 CP):

  • 8 Caster Levels, Specialized in Dweomer (24 CP)
  • Dweomer (Select Field, 6 CP)
  • Adept x2 (Eight Dweomer Skills, 6 CP)
  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted for triple effect / only for skills, only for Dweomer skills (6 CP).
  • Mana, 6d6 (21 Points), Corrupted/only for use in Dweomer (24 CP)
  • Rite of Chi with +12 Bonus Uses, Corrupted/only for restoring Mana pool for Dweomer (16 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus/Adds (Cha Mod) to Dweomer Skills (which normally have no base attribute, 6 CP).

Other Abilities (18 CP):

  • Attribute Shift/Uses Cha Mod for Will Saves (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (6 CP).
    • “Guardian Spirit”. Item Duplicate – an Intelligent Healing Belt (750 GP), with Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10 (500 GP), Understands Common, Communicates by Empathy, has 30′ Senses (0 GP), and has it’s own Healing Belt (+750 GP). Casts Resurgence 3/Day (1200 GP). Ego 2.
    • Item Duplicate – an Amulet of Tears (2300 GP): 3 Charges/Day, spend 1/2/3 as Swift Action for +12/18/24 temporary hit points for ten minutes.

This leaves 12 CP to spend, and nothing too obvious to spend it on – especially since we have no way of knowing what field of Dweomer the player is interested in; a subtle telepath will have very different needs from a rampaging psychokinetic. Presumably the player intends to use magic to compensate for the lack of combat-related special talents; otherwise that high base attack bonus will be something of a waste.

Well, the best source of convenient tricks for martial characters is Witchcraft – and that will also cover the minor psychic abilities that got referenced in the original request.

  • Witchcraft II, with four Pacts (to be selected by the player, 12 CP). Witchcraft III (Provides 15 Power, access to seven basic witchcraft abilities, and a save DC of 13 + Cha Mod). (I suggest The Adamant Will, Glamour, The Hand of Shadows, Hyloka, The Inner Eye, Shadoweave, and Witchfire) and three advanced abilities. For a generic semi-warrior +3d6 Power, Nightforge, and Leaping Fire would probably be best.

Skills (45 Points, see above):

  • Dweomer Field, Skills – all eight at (9 SP +3 (Cha) = +12) (32 SP due to Adept).
  • Speak Language: +1 (Infernal) (1 SP).
  • Spot +2 (SP) +0 (Wis) = +2
  • Listen +2 (SP) +0 (Wis) = +2
  • Concentration +2 (SP) +4 (Con) = +6
  • Knowledge/Psionic +2 (SP) +1 (Int) = +3
  • Knowledge/Nature +2 (SP) +1 (Int) = +3
  • Knowledge/Royalty +2 (SP) +1 (Int) = +3

Karthos is a reasonably effective spellcaster, capable of producing level one and two effects with a 90% success rate, three and four effects with a 65% chance of success, level five and six effects with a 40% chance of success, and level seven and eight effects with a 10% chance of success – although attempting a level seven or eight effect will cost almost half of his power reserves and has a fair chance of backlashing instead of simply failing. That’s impressive, but with only 21 mana available, he’ll be well advised to stick with carefully-tailored lower level spells. He’d be well advised to pump up his Dweomer skills at least until the level three and four effects become reliable (even a +2 Charisma booster will be well worthwhile for him, since it will improve those success rates by 5% each). Using Witchcraft he’s also a fairly effective fighter – albeit in brief bursts.

The Forge Of Souls – Time Travel In RPG’s

Time Travel is a complicated topic – but if you want to use it in a game, a lot of it’s “laws” are going to be set by the needs of the game, not by mere mathematics, physics, or logic. Still, you need at least some idea of what those rules are or your game will soon make no sense at all – and that’s not much fun, no matter how inherently awkward the topic is.

So how can you run time travel?

To start with we have two “degenerate” cases – where real mathematics and logic takes priority over allowing a freewheeling time travel game.

  • First up we have genuinely “realistic” time travel – which, regardless of the mechanism used for the actual travel, adheres to the self-consistency principle. All time travel involves stable casual loops. Anything you do was always a part of the timeline, you can’t actually change anything, and you can’t get off the train tracks – although you can discover alternative explanations for things that you hadn’t known about and solve various mysteries. Hopefully there will be plenty of such side-quests aboard the train available during your ride / tour because you aren’t going anywhere else.

This can be fun if you have cooperative players. The mission to get the secret formula from an agent on the Titanic before it sinks may even offer a few side-quests such as “save the historically unknown group of kids” and so on – but the game master has to be prepared to be pretty heavy handed about keeping history on track. The universe is much bigger than any player-character, and it hits harder. Keep trying to disrupt it, and you WILL be permanently stopped – very likely by being freakishly killed by some unlikely “accident”. And what’s happened stays happened – so the characters won’t be pulling much in the way of temporal shenanigans.*

Now if you don’t have cooperative players, or someone is waxing philosophical about “free will”, you may wind up having to hold a total party kill to get them to give up trying to change the past. Similarly, if you allow multiple visits to the same location in space and time, you may wind up with time-travelers tripping over each other as they accidentally arrange pretty much all of history.

  • Secondly, and generally unsuitably for most games, we have simple branching-timeline settings, derived from the many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory and / or the notion that “each incidence of time travel splits off a new timeline”. This makes some logical sense – but it will quickly (and irretrievably) scatter the characters across differing timelines, cheapens everything – “Oh stop crying! It’s not like we can’t pick up another Bob…” – and can leave everyone in the game wondering why anything they do matters. For every world you “fix”, you inevitably leave behind at least one that’s still broken – and since people across the universe are multiplying timelines, there are endless copies of you dealing, or failing to deal, with exactly the same dilemmas. This just isn’t a lot of fun.

Now, to move on to the “unrealistic” options…

  • Next up we have “Train Station” time travel – the sort of thing that was used in the early episodes of classic Doctor Who. This style of time travel takes the characters to an exotic locale (that they may or may not know something about) to explore or carry out some mission. If they disrupt the timeline in what OUGHT to be a noticeable fashion there will be a handwavium “explanation” about how they didn’t really or how their “interference” actually led to later events happening exactly as they were “supposed to”. Any time travel that occurs during the actual mission will almost certainly be under the control of a game-master character, who will usually double as the cryptic mentor who provides prophecies, missions, and explanations. In any case, after the “mission”, the characters get back aboard the train, leave most or all of the consequences of their actions behind them, visit another station, and get caught up in some mission there.

If you’re using this version of time travel the characters might as well be traveling to alien worlds by stargate or starship, or be “sliding” between alternate universes, or be visiting universes which are highly similar outside of being a bit older or younger, or be taking an ancient subway system between the long-ruined cities (and the bizarre post-apocalyptic cultures which have arisen around them) remaining after some terrible war, or whatever. The “Time Travel” here is just an excuse to go to weird places, with a modest bonus of being able to use “stop so-and-so from changing the timeline!” as a McGuffin to get the characters involved. Again, games like this can be a lot of fun – but they really might as well not involve time travel at all.

  • Finally, of course, we have the big (headache-inducing) one – games with full-blown, player-character-controlled, can-alter-the-past, paradox-causing Time Travel. Whether the characters want to fix something, claim some advantage, block someone else, or prevent something, they just might be able to change the past to do it. To quote Doctor Who…

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff.

It’s in these settings that you need to actually worry about the forces underlying causality and time travel. Here…

  • You CAN split the timeline, but it mostly only happens when the result would be “interesting”, tends to require major changes or interference at “critical points”, and it doesn’t seem to affect the rest of the cosmos beyond whatever solar system you’re operating in (leaving some VERY interesting questions about whether incoming visitors get a choice of worlds). This really makes no sense at all of course. Logically, if you can change the past at all, it should be frighteningly easy. Delay a man on his way home for a fraction of a second and you’ve just rerolled the dice on his future kids. What are the odds that the same sperm will be the one that makes it this time? And even if you can figure out what ten million things went wrong, how could you fix them?
  • Occasionally timelines will merge – either creating closed causal loops or simply leaving small contradictions behind (the tree is definitely gone, but some people say that it blew down in a storm, others say it went down in a weird explosion a week earlier). Really major mergers may leave all kinds of immigrants and artifacts from other timelines laying around with no rational origin in the “final” timeline.
  • Some split-off timelines are doomed and just sort of “taper out”… Oddly enough, they don’t really seem to come with aliens or much of the rest of the universe. Sure, there are stars – but unless the source of doom is an alien invasion, the doomed world won’t be seeing much in the way of visitors or assistance.
  • When you do manage to change the past, reality often gets back on track; someone steps in to replace Hitler and a very similar version of WWII happens anyway, leading to a pretty much identical outcome. When reality doesn’t get back on track… it turns out to be very hard to make a major change for the better (including repairing a foulup) stick, while changing things for the worse is all too easy. Similarly, you will often get visitors from really unlikely sounding terrible futures who want to change history, but you rarely get anyone from (likely far more populous and capable of time travel) nice futures.
  • Characters rarely (if ever for PC’s and important NPC’s) simply vanish when someone disrupts their history. They’ll usually know instantly – but if they don’t have some sort of “resistance to paradox” then it usually “takes a while” for such changes to “propagate” – giving the characters a chance to do something about it.
  • Characters traveling through time are strongly attracted to each other and to major events; if you go to see Dinosaurs, odds are that you will arrive just before or after that asteroid impact or some other notable event – and will likely run into some other time travelers.
  • Sometimes, for no apparent reason, time in an area will just keep looping until events there turn out “right” – however little sense that makes. Quite often, this seems to have something to do with love, which seems to be able to transcend space and time.
  • Your actual location in space has very little bearing on where you appear in the past or future after you move through time, but you can be sure that it will be an interesting place.
  • Something sometimes, but not always, enforces temporal equivalence, wherein if you spend a day in the past, one day passes in the present.
  • You can have “Time Storms”, “Fixed Points In Time” (events that cannot be undone), “Temporal Rifts / Gates” (holes through time that lock differing times together), “Anti-Paradox” or “Temporal Fixator” fields (that keep things from vanishing when their history is changed), Temporal Exclusion Principles (preventing repeated meddling, or too much meddling, or keeping people from meeting themselves – or providing quarrelsome evil temporal dopplegangers), “Temporal Rejection” (the timeline itself throws out people who annoy it), “Temporal Absorption” (people are gradually “fitted into” the current timeline and into their location in time, pick up and losing memories as they do so), “Time Reversals” (with very selective effects as to who and what is affected and to what extent), Age-Shifting (for no real reason), “Temporal Exemptions” for things and areas that exist “outside of time”, “Temporal Cloning” (wherein famous and recognizable individuals continue to be pretty much the same people in the same roles despite history being unrecognizable), and “Temporal Constants” (wherein particular people, items, relationships, or events show up even if they don’t really fit into a new timeline).
  • Sometimes you can’t take anything with you and sometimes you get mutually exclusive sets of grandchildren showing up to visit – and to lobby for which set of them will actually get to exist.

Yes, you can have ALL of this under a single set of rules that actually makes at least some sense – thanks to a version of the Strong Anthropic Principle.

Within the lower worlds, the realms of matter and energy and time, souls may dance through a myriad times and sequences, living through experiences both wonderful and terrible as chance and their own whims direct. But their true existence lies elsewhere, within the higher realms – which may have their own principles of Will, Change, Sequence, and Separation, but which are not bound by Life, Death, Space, and Time.

Every soul has a certain amount of control over Life, Death, Space, and Time even within the constraints of embodiment in a lower universe. On the personal level, souls may cling to life, hang about as ghosts after death, arrive in the nick of time far more often than is rationally likely, experience moments of deja vu, distort time in emergencies, experience precognitive flashes, see into the past, and more – drawing upon their true existence within the Forge of Souls.

Love can indeed transcend time, for a true bond between souls is a thing of the higher realms.

Despite this underlying democracy, some souls can do more than others, at least in some times and places. Such souls are resistant to death and paradox, find their lives filled with strange and exotic coincidences, experience many interesting things – and so fill the ranks of heroes and great villains, time travelers, and other adventurers.

Still, everyone gets at least one vote – and people do NOT like being erased from existence, and they don’t really like being split between timelines too much either. Neither do they like having to revise their pasts. Thus…

  • The timeline resists splitting unless the resulting secondary timeline will be different and interesting enough to bring in enough local “Votes” to sustain its existence – at least for a while – despite the inconvenience. This is usually only local (a single planet at most), leans towards “critical point” splits because people find them easier to keep straight, and runs towards exciting disaster realms because killing off most of the population that doesn’t want to be bothered reduces the “no” votes resulting from people having to split their existence and provides excitement for the ones who do try it out. Timelines can merge because the past does not HAVE to be consistent if the people involved don’t want it to be; people tend to remember things differently from each other anyway. Visitors can come from (or flee) doomed timeline offshoots easily enough though – no matter how unlikely their offshoot timeline is.
  • It’s hard to change the past in the face of all the people who are used to it the way it is – but it does get done at times and the changes that the majority tend to keep are usually the ones that either improve things or make them more dramatic and exciting. Thus the “true” timeline holds many incredible coincidences – and if you DO manage to push a large change through, it is almost always for the worst because the timeline is already at least somewhat optimized. Similarly, it’s hard to really improve the world with time travel; most of the “easy” fixes are already in place.
  • Important people tend to already be on the high-end of time control abilities – and so will often manage to keep many of the details of their personal stories intact even if you do manage to change their pasts. Similarly, changes ripple up the timeline as consensus on them grows – creating perceived time between changes in the past and them taking effect in the future.
  • Major events get a lot of attention, and thus are more “real” and “fixed” than less distinctive moments – and so tend to draw in time travelers, Time travelers are drawn to each other thanks to their shared intent.
  • “Groundhog Day” temporal loops are basically a symptom of a local group of souls who cannot quite agree on how they want things to go – and so keep revising a segment of time until they find it satisfactory. Similarly, major authorial arguments can result in time storms, very popular scenes act as “fixed points in time”, “edit wars” manifest as time storms, powerful individuals can protect themselves from paradox through machines, talismans, spells, or simple willpower, overly troublesome characters may be “written out” (and may wander off to join other Wikis, or raid this one), and so on. The universe really DOES tend to follow literary conventions because – at it’s most fundamental level – it’s a multi-author novel being “written” and “revised” by the largest possible committee.

This explanation will not make the physicists (if any) in your group happy – but it will let you have some notion of how your Timey-Wimey universe functions. It’s a Wiki. Most souls settle for reading it and never log on to change anything, others tweak details they find personally important, and a few will really dedicate themselves to improving the thing. Some will have special privileges as editors or administrators, some will insert entire pages that don’t seem to relate to much, or throw in alternate “what if” versions of things, and a few will involve themselves in edit wars or wind up being banned.

And enough small edits… will generally result in some decent articles / segments of history.

Eventually – at least in terms of the higher realms of the Forge of Souls – the narrative, it’s side-passages, and everything about it – will approach a final form as souls lose interest and wander off to other projects, leaving the final meddling to a few diehard souls who will acquire the various administrative positions by default (and sometimes these elder ones will start to harass other projects…).

*I must admit that causal loops can be a lot of fun for the game master. I have greatly enjoyed maneuvering the players in appropriate settings into looping their characters without noticing it. The moment when they realize that they just set up their own prior adventures, or arranged for each others pasts, or rescued and planted the ancestors of the group that was so inexplicably helpful later on, is always a lot of fun.

Of course for that to work properly you’ve got to have a very large, long-term, campaign (otherwise the players tend to catch on too fast), work on subtly steering the players (so that their actions will be at least vaguely compatible with later history), make a habit of tying loose facts back into the game (thus making it look like you brilliantly had it all plotted out in advance), and be good at narrating exactly why whatever results you get “inevitably” led to the history the players are used to (fortunately the players will usually start helping out with this once they catch on).

Thus for example, I once threw in a throwaway fact; a newly-encountered species of helpful insect-folk in a quasi-oriental realm sold the characters supplies to help out on a great quest – but let one character have a bunch of stuff free due to some “ancient debt”.

As it happened, that character was a semi-immortal professional familiar, who drew a lot of his power and skills from a symbiotic relationship with another character – but when something happened to that character, said familiar simply picked another companion, dropped the abilities associated with the prior companion and added some new ones.

Some time later the players opted to take a break from the main campaign. They’d been looking at the campaign history and wanted to play a few adventures set shortly after the great cataclysm thousands of years before – exploring the wilderness and building new civilizations rather than negotiating a world full of ancient ones.

Most of them made new characters of course, but Richard was quite content with the semi-regular rewrites of his professional familiar – and his character had the lifespan, so he simply played a younger version. with a note that – if he got killed – presumably someone would bring him back over the next few thousand years.

In the course of exploring a network of interstellar gates, the group stumbled across, and rescued from a most unsuitable planet, some stranded swarms of intelligent insects who could re-design their forms to meet their current challenges. After some consideration of their racial nature, they decided to plant them on the continent with proto-oriental cultures that seemed compatible.

I had quite a laugh before they caught on and started counting up the number of ways they’d looped themselves or arranged for their own adventures later.

In the Champions game, the Lords of Time are senior site administrators who got in on that aspect of things near the beginning – and anyone who finds themselves ABLE to engage in major time manipulations has been granted some authority to edit sections of the cosmos. Of course, given that they’re operating mostly outside of time, and are very very old and powerful indeed… the motives of the Lords of Time can be pretty weird. The Lords of Time enforce the self-consistency limitation on the Celestial Dragons simply because they’re one of the few universe-spanning races and many of their past regrets have had very deep effects indeed. Allowing them to rewrite THOSE… would change far, FAR, more than anyone is really comfortable with.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CCV – A Forest Interlude

Because some weeks you just don’t have time for anything major.

Charles had made it known to his schoolmates and the mortals he’d invited to Aden so that they wouldn’t be endangered during calibration that he would be doing something quite important, and that he shouldn’t be disturbed except for serious emergencies – but not EVERYONE had gotten the message.

Especially not a few young women who’d already taken advantage of the fuss leading up to Calibration to slip into Aden. After all… Charles was endlessly kind and friendly, incredibly wealthy and willing to support hangers-on, was more handsome and appealing than most major gods, would get them away from their (rather weird) divine parents – and he understood humans just fine while still being rather naive… It would be hard to find more desirable qualities in one entity than THAT!

As it happened, Siranaya had been looking a little harder than most. Charles showed the quality that she valued above any other in a potential boyfriend – being completely unaffected by her uncontrollable poisonous touch. That meant that she could FINALLY get hugged, and cuddled, and have a little fun experimenting with pollination…

The palace (with all the guest rooms) and Charles’s major residence had been disappointingly crowded – but a few careful comparisons had revealed that Charles… was routinely in several places at once. That was a very good trick! And it also meant that he was also likely to be found in some considerably quieter and more… private… places!

She’d set off to find one.

Charles did have a semi-private retreat deep in one of the wilderness areas. The Kickaha liked to meet him in a less formal place – and he liked to mess around with small projects there. It wasn’t hard to find if you asked the Kickaha, but was pretty well concealed otherwise. There were trees growing a wide variety of fruits, herbs, and medicines (all on the same tree of course), small tree cottages, a few friendly Kickaha hanging about, some ice-caves, and lantern-birds (friendly birds that liked to follow people around. They had luminescent flesh and brightly-colored feathers in various artistic patterns. When it was dark they glowed like mobile stained-glass lanterns and sang like gentle flutes…

And everything was immune to poison, because it WAS Aden.

Siranaya had found her way there easily enough; the Kickaha saw no reason not to lead another girl with rather… transparent… intentions to Charles’s bed. A little sex was an excellent way to deal with stress! Charles had MORE than enough stress at the moment! Maybe they should lead girls to several more of his avatars? Even if THIS one was somewhat diverted by the opportunity to pet things without gloves and protective gear…

The birds glowed happily at her, and eagerly pecked up grains and seeds.

Although Siranaya waved at Charles quite happily when he turned up.

Charles, who had been trying to give squirrels matched to the trees advanced instinctive medical skills so that they could hand out the right medicines to passers-by, happily waved back! This avatar might be running on a background process in his Synergistic Overmind, but that was no reason to be RUDE!

(Charles) “Hello Siranaya! I didn’t know that you were coming to visit!”

(Siranaya) “You’ve been really busy lately, so I thought I’d find an avatar or something here.”

Charles was somewhat impressed! Most people didn’t yet know that he was using multiple avatars! She’d been paying attention or doing some investigating on her own!

(Charles) “Well, things are pretty busy – but there’s a little time until they need my full attention yet!”

(Siranaya) “Phew. That’s good… um, is everything OK? You haven’t sent one to school lately.”

(Charles) “Oh… well, there’s a big and urgent project underway, so I took some time off. The teachers didn’t worry much; I’m way ahead on pretty much everything anyway.”

(Siranaya) “OK! I was just worried about you, not that I think you’d get sick.”

(Charles) “Well, thank you! It is all right, but it’s always nice to have someone check!”

(Siranaya) “Um… (Hm… Charles must REALLY be busy! He seemed even stiffer than usual!) hey, I’m starving! Whey don’t we get something to eat!”

(Charles) “Good idea! Lunch? I’ve got all kinds of fruits and nuts and things here! The trees are turning out really well!”

(Siranaya) “Yeah, I saw! And they don’t bubble and rot when I touch them, so I can pick some for you, too!”

(Charles) “Well, toxins don’t really work around here – but they generally aren’t needed here anyway!”

(Siranaya, smiling) “Let’s see…”

She made sure to hold Charles’s hand while the two of them picked some lunch – and while Charles had no objections he now had enough experience to guess on where this might be going. He cheerily carried her selections, quietly leaving her more or less in charge of what to pick. He knew what the male role in “shopping” was! All the guides he was referencing said so!

It turned out to be a diverse selection of nuts, fruits, and some of the earthier vegetables – which made quite a good lunch, with nothing much to clean up afterwards. A VERY tiny bit of magic was quite enough to handle THAT.

Siranaya didn’t try to feed him any of the food – she didn’t want to chance being TOO forward – but she did sit fairly close to him. Charles… had engaged analysis mode! He offered HER some nibbles (even if they did tend to come with all kinds of details on them) and occasionally made small contacts to help judge her behaviors…

She was very receptive to contact – almost desperate for it, although she was trying to hide that. Pretty obviously touch-starved… That was rather cruel!

He “mistakenly” sat down in contact after getting up a bit to reach a fruit on the far side of the table for her.

(Siranaya) “Oh! Oops. Ha ha!” (She put both arms around him!) “I’ve got you now… It’s not often I get to hold onto people without gloves! Let’s see how soft you are!”

(Charles, cuddling back since she was obviously desperate for it) “Well so you do! I’m no leprechaun, but did you have a wish?”

(Siranaya) “Stay the week? Something big is happening, and Mom was probably going to send me here anyway. Is that OK?”

(Charles) “Oh certainly! I was inviting lots of people to stay during the event anyway…”

She did seem to be looking for the straight line. Evidently she thought that he was pretty naive – and it had been a while since he’d been at school. Well, why not?

(Charles) “There’s only one bed in this cottage though! Would you prefer to be alone?”

(Siranaya, with a wink) “Oh no! You can stay here too, right?”

Well THAT was fairly direct. And… her clothing was… ambrosial and a bit more revealing than usual, although not totally immodest.

And she HAD just invited him to share the bed with her.

Oh well! It WAS a pleasant diversion and relaxation! Charles offered an arm, pulled the curtains to show her the bed – and let matters proceed. Reading all the signals was a good deal more complicated than finding a couple of naked girls in his bed offering themselves (that had been really simple!) – but it was fun, and the fact that she blatantly knew exactly what she’d come for, and was only steering him through the motions of her “seduction”, was quite helpful. She’d even made sure to bring (and use) a contraceptive talisman…

And there was plenty of cuddling for several days.

Siranaya’s mother was only very mildly annoyed; her daughter could have TOLD her that she was running off with a schoolmate! She’d been trying to arrange a marriage among the medical and biohazard gods, given that Siranaya’s poisonous touch made her an awkward bride for anyone else! The fact that Charles was more than willing to send her lots of presents, and to make sure that her flowers were widely distributed and protected, on top of the fact that it would be hard to find her daughter a more powerful or obliging husband even WITHOUT her condition – was quite sufficient.