Apex – The Playable Races Part II; Ethereals, Titans, Priests and Titanspawn, Monsters, and Relics

The Ethereals – popularly, if possibly wrongly, classified as Australopithecus Astralus – apparently rose to full sapience on the minor continent of Mu (the remains are now known as New Zealand) roughly 1,100,000 years ago. Less than 150,000 years later Mu was obliterated in a catastrophe of unknown nature* – leaving behind only ghostly astral echoes of its people and lands to haunt thousands of square miles of unstable reality. Given that the nature and appearance of those traces seems to be highly observer-dependent, the Ethereals may remain something of a mystery for a long time to come.

*Despite it being popularly described as an “explosion”, whatever the Ethereal Catastrophe was it apparently obliterated most of a minor continent. While there were undoubtedly explosive elements, a simple explosion large enough to do so would have been at least as catastrophic as the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event – and would not have left the matter in the area infused with reality-altering astral forces (they must be anchored to the planetary crust somehow, since the area moves with the planet). More importantly, in the less than one million years since the Ethereal Catastrophe at least four species (even if two are presumed extinct and one nearly went extinct) have risen to full sapience – yet there is no apparent evidence of sapience during the previous three hundred million years. Evidently something changed – and the obvious dividing line was the Ethereal Catastrophe. Whether that disaster it was the result of an attempt to expand the borders of an overly-restrictive astral overlay (they never managed to expand much beyond Mu), an attempt by the Ethereals to transcend into some facsimile of immortal godhood or to merge astral and normal space into a more “obliging” configuration, or some sort of an experiment that went out of control, it seems likely that it changed the rules for sapience somehow. After all, the Hyperboreans achieved full sapience less than two hundred thousand years later – an eyeblink in evolutionary time.

(Minor) Titan Racial Package

The Titans are primarily astral entities, and are known to be simultaneously empowered, limited, shaped, and bound to the physical world by the stories, beliefs, and wills of the various material sapient races. As such, they commonly appear as “Gods”, “Nature Spirits”, and similar mythic entities. Their abilities are wide ranging, and they may possess both massive personal power and the ability to manipulate events on a wide scale – but Titans vary greatly in both their individual power level and in their individual themes.

Thanks to their astral nature and the resulting lack of physical traces, the earliest known evidence of the Titans existence comes from the quasi-mindful artifacts of the Hyperboreans – and at that point the two were already hostile. It is widely speculated that the Titans origins are tied to the Ethereals or the Ethereal Catastrophe – whether they are transformed (“ascended”?) Ethereals, creations of the Ethereals (perhaps their talents allowed them to create astral entities to focus their powers and carry out their wills?), simply survivors, ascended ideas given independence in the catastrophe, or accidental creations of the disaster depends on who is speculating today and how drunk they are.

Given the widespread worship of the Titans it’s very impolitic to point it out – but the Titans fought the Hyperboreans and apparently drove them to extinction, say very little about the fate of the Lemurians but certainly didn’t help them out, apparently encouraged or caused the geological disasters which nearly exterminated the Atlanteans, and have created a variety of monsters to plague the Afrikans species. It’s actually pretty difficult to avoid concluding that a lot of them are downright hostile towards sapient material life forms. Whether that is something innate, because they dislike being shaped and bound by a bunch of mortals, or because of any of a thousand other possible reasons, remains unknown.

  • Physical Limitation: Shaped By Belief. Titans may be powerful in their fields, but they are limited to a single, and invariably fairly straightforward, domain. A Spirit of Invention makes gadgets and – possibly – provides grants and teaches. Similarly, the spirit of Memorial Day is a formidable soldier, has lots of weapons, and can operate military vehicles – but that’s about it (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Mental Characteristic Maxima of 15 (-20 Points). People never really think that their “gods” are really much smarter, or more perceptive, or whatever, than they are – no matter what their theme is. The God of Knowledge may have a lot of knowledge skills, but he or she normally won’t actually be much smarter than the average person. If there’s any one thing that the Titans find annoying about their relationship with mortals… this may be it.
  • Psychological Limitation: Themed. Titans aren’t even CAPABLE of getting seriously off-theme. A war god won’t be negotiating, the healing goddess won’t be building gadgets, and the god of justice won’t be letting criminals go, no matter how necessary it may be (Common, Total, -20 Points).
  • Divine Immortality: Regenerate From Death (Requires one week, 12 Points) plus Life Support/Immune to Aging (3 Points). Titans are basically living ideas; their physical forms aren’t especially vital to them. Barring very special violence inflicted with astral weapons (or personal weaknesses) they are functionally immortal.
  • Domain: +15 points worth of abilities appropriate to their domain. Most will have a multipower with assorted special abilities in it. Larger-scale influence is usually best represented as a Fringe Benefit or Contact, since it tends to be both subtle and to have very little effect on actual play.
    • Half-Titans are all too common – but given the “shaped by belief and expectations” nature of the Titans, are generally simply members of the other parents species (always Afrikans or Atlantean as far as is known) with “Shaped by Belief” (basically limiting their special powers to a particular theme) replacing the usual racial power-type restriction.

It is theorized that a major driving force in the war between the Hyperboreans and the Titans was that the Hyperboreans wanted to “obtain the power of the gods” – who were effectively massive foci of pure mental energy – enough to fuel any kind of artifact that the Hyperboreans could possibly want.

Major Titans use the same basic package, but have a lot more points to play with. They aren’t playable characters simply because most of them are thousands of years old and you can’t afford to build one on a starting characters point allowance.

The Titanspawn and Priests are fundamentally much the same; they’re what happens when a Titan infuses a bit of its power into a material lifeform. Interestingly, this is hereditary if it’s done to non-sapients, but is not in sapient beings. Presumably their existing astral link interferes somehow.

  • A Priest simply replaces their racial power restriction with Physical Limitation: Patrons Powers Only. A priest may have take up to three domains as contacts – perhaps “Battle”, “Rage”, and “Storms” – and work magic within those domains and request large-scale, if relatively subtle, favors of them. On the downside, they must offer regular worship, sacrifices, and service to their patrons (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • A new Priest may convert any previously-existing racial magical abilities into magics that suit his or her domain, and may, optionally, gain ten extra points worth of such abilities. These probably come with 20 points worth of strings though.

Titanspawn vary wildly, from unique monsters to minor races. In general, an animal infused with a Titan’s power gains sapience, magical powers derived from the Titan who granted them their power and an extended lifespan.

  • Physical Limitation: A Titanspawn may use magic (or have special powers) drawn from up to three domains, at least two of which must fall within their species creators purview (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Psychological Limitation: Animal Instincts. Titanspawn are very strongly driven by the instincts of the original animal – and are further driven by mortal stereotypes of monsters and the role for which they were created (Very Common, Strong, -20 Points).
  • Distinctive Features: In general, not concealable and with a strong reaction. As a side effect, any character who recognizes their type is likely to know a good deal about their abilities (Always Notices and Major Reaction, Not Concealable, -20 Points).

Sample: Centaur Package

Centaurs were a joint project of Hera and Zeus, and are the results of infusing their powers into horses. They were apparently meant to be fast skirmishers (and occasional kidnappers) to harass Afrikans settlements and traveling groups. Thanks to their access to the Family domain they are one of the more prolific Titanspawn types, and have a number of actual tribes. Modern centaurs mostly exist on the fringes of society and are more or less at peace with the Afrikans-Atlantean alliance – if only because, at this point, they would be readily exterminated otherwise.

  • Elemental Control: Equine Powers. 5 Point Reserve, -.5 limitation: equine powers only.
    • Growth x 3, 0 End Cost, Always On, Physical (-.5) = 7 Points
    • Running +3″, Noncombat x4, Half End Cost, Four Legs; Not usable if ground obstructed (-.5) = 4 Points.
    • 4d6 Hand To Hand Attack (Hooves) = 5 Points.
    • +4 to All Perception Rolls = 5 Points.
    • Hardened Damage Resistance, 10 PD and 10 ED = 5 Points.
  • All Centaurs have an instinctive familiarity with the Survival skill = 1 Point.
  • Base Attributes: Str +3, Dex -2, Con +3, Ego -2 (0 Points).

Centaurs may select three domains from among Archery, Wind, Stars, Strength, Speed, Family, and Knowledge – an unusually wide array of choices for a Titanspawn (five options to choose from, or just having three fixed domains, is more typical).

Monsters are modified members of the basic sapient species – these days, they almost exclusively have an Afrikans base. The Atlantean (and the presumed Hyperborean and Lemurian) monsters are pretty much extinct – although there could always be a survivor hanging on somewhere even after hundreds of thousands of years. Magic is like that.

Werebeast (Afrikans Variant) Racial Package:

Werebeasts were meant to lurk within Afrikans tribes and disrupt the unity that was their major survival mechanism. Unfortunately for the Werebeasts, this turned out to be a poorly chosen tactic; the Afrikans tribes proved to be quite good at detecting the predators in their midst (So mortals weren’t pretty much indistinguishable after all! Who knew?) and rapidly pushed the uncooperative ones out into the wilderness – or at least to the fringes of society. Even worse in some ways, the same instability that let them shapeshift led to some Werebeasts adapting to function socially and to others becoming linked to animal types that were quite unsuitable to their intended role. Werecervines and Werebeavers simply were not very threatening compared to the original wereleopards, weretigers, werewolves, etcetera. (Modern tales of weredinosaurs have yet to be confirmed as anything more than an urban legend – thankfully).

Modern Werebeasts tied to larger predators still lean towards their original terroristic purpose, although a few (for example, many werefoxes) do function socially – but when serial killers or multiple disappearances pop up the local Afrikans populace and authorities are quick to become suspicious that a werebeast is involved.

  • Physical Limitation: Shapeshifting and Life/Death Powers Only. Werebeasts have lost their connection to most of the Elemental Powers – and to Technology – in favor of the ability to enhance and transform their physical bodies. This was a better deal back before technology because so prevalent and so powerful, but can still be passed down to offspring. It tends to be a bit random however, and a Werebeast may unexpectedly appear in a family that merely has a werebeast as a distant ancestor (Frequently/Fully, -20 Points).
  • Normal Mental Characteristic Maxima (-10 Points).
  • Psychological Limitation: Animalistic Instincts. While these depend a good deal on the Werebeast’s animal affinity, they’re always troublesome – and may require checks to avoid reacting instinctively. They also mean that Werebeasts are never found in groups past the pride/pack/flock/whatever – and thus cannot develop any form of civilization (Common, Strong, -15 Points).
  • Physical Limitation: A Werebeast shows more and more signs of whatever his or her animal affinity is as he or she uses more of his or her special powers (Frequent, Slightly, -10 Points).
  • Accidental Change: Circumstances vary, but all Werebeasts show at least an 8- chance to change under some circumstances even if they aren’t using their special powers (-5 Points).
  • Elemental Control: Werebeast Powers (5-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (All powers involve some shapeshifting, and will give away the user’s nature. ): -½ (3 Points).
    • Regeneration (1 BODY/Turn) (3 Points). Many Werebeasts are more powerful than this – some can even rise from the dead unless slain by silver – but even at it’s base this is a major advantage.
    • Damage Resistance (10 PD/10 ED), Not versus silver weapons: -½ (2 Points).
    • +8 STR; Reduced END: Half, +¼ (3 Points)
    • +4 DEX; Doesn’t Affect Figured: -½ (Basically only for calculating OCV and DCV) (3 Points)
    • +5 CON; (3 Points).
    • Enhanced Perception (all) (+4 to PER) (5 Points).
    • 2d6 Aid to an Animal-Based Martial Art (Fade 1 Point/5 minutes, Max. 24); Personal Only -1/2, Increased Endurance x2 (4 Endurance) (8 Points). This ability allows a werebeast to draw on the instinctive combat skills of its animal aspect – picking up a “martial art” specific to its animal type given a few seconds to shift. At least for the predator affinities that often includes Killing Strike (4 Points), +2 DC (8 Points), +1 Level with Killing Strike (2 Points), Fast Strike (4 Points) and six points worth of maneuvers of choice. (Yes, Werebeasts generally take a several-second long transformation sequence to reach their full power).

This is actually a pretty cheesy elemental control – half the things in it really don’t belong in that structure – but “boosted hand to hand fighter” is rather less important than it used to be in the face of modern military technology.

Vampire (Afrikans Variant) Racial Package:

Like Werebeasts, Vampires are pretty classical; they are undead corpses which have returned to feast on the blood/flesh/life force/souls/whatever of the living. They are cold, ruthless, predatory, and quite uncooperative. A few old and powerful ones may control lesser vampires, but for the most part the natural size of a coven of vampires is one. As Afrikans “tribal” groups have grown to absurd size, vampires – with their tendency to fight with each other over territory and to haunt lonely wilds between cities – have become less generally menacing. Still, an elder vampire can perform feats of magic that few can match.

  • Physical Limitation: Sorcerous Powers Only. Vampires display a wide variety of mystical abilities, but all of them are active effects, drawing on energy stolen from others. While they are cut off from natural sources of power, vampires are thus capable of some unusually potent effects (Frequently/Fully, -20 Points).
  • Psychological Limitation: Deathly Predator. Vampires are severely anti-social, predatory, have an extremely hard time with social relationships, and tend to view everyone else as being beneath them – perhaps because it makes it easier to act as a ruthless predator. They generally do not tolerate rival vampires (Common, Strong, -15 Points).
  • Normal Mental Characteristic Maxima (-10 Points).
  • Physical Limitation: Undead. They do not heal naturally (they need to use a healing spell on themselves), cannot eat, and so on (Frequent, Slightly, -15 Points).
    • Many Vampires are vulnerable to Sunlight and Silver or to other classical problems, but they vary a great deal beyond the basics. Such vulnerabilities seem to be based on their own beliefs. They all have at least -20 points worth of such problems however – usually paying for a selection of multipower slots, invariably including the aforementioned healing spell.
  • Elemental Control: Basic Vampire Powers. 10 Point Reserve, all powers Visible and Well Known (-.5 total) (7 Points).
    • Sorcery Multipower Reserve: 20 points. This may be added to to exceed the usual setting limits by 20 points – raising the basic forty point limit to sixty points or even sixty-five for very old and experienced vampires (7 Points).
    • Endurance Reserve, 220 Points (8 Points). This powers everything in the Multipower and their Life Support ability.
    • 1 Pip HKA (1/2d6 with strength) linked to 2d6 Aid (restores 4d6 End to the reserve if the user’s attack inflicts at least one point of damage), both at 0 End Cost (8 Points). Note that this is not always painful; being drained of vital energy by a Succubus can be extremely pleasurable – but it is still death by vampirism.
    • Total Life Support: Requires 4d6 End per day to maintain activity despite this power, if it is not maintained the Vampire will sink into a coma for many years (-,5) (10 Points).

That Elemental Control is also a bit cheesy – but I suppose that’s a defining characteristic of monsters.

“Relics” are archaic non-sapient Hominidae species ancestral to the genera Homo found in various locations around the world – most notably Australopithecus and Paranthropus. While they do possess such advanced skills as use of fire, boat making, and limited language, these all appear to be largely instinctual behaviors on some level and not evidence of true sapience (which, at least in the setting, involves mental access to the Astral Plane). It is theorized that, while sapience is dependent on intelligence, intelligence does not appear to be dependent on sapience. Relics – like other primates such as Chimpanzees, Bonobos, and Gorillas – are not playable. Occasional crossbreeds have been created however (usually thanks to a Titan meddling). Those which survive, and are truly sapient, can simply be treated as members of the other parents species, albeit likely ones with a few odd knacks, an odd attribute distribution, and an excuse for any number of disabilities.

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