Eclipse – Adventures On The Anomaly

And it’s a bonus post, because we’re going to be starting up a new campaign…

True Megastructures are impractical in most universes. They tend to demand impossible materials, or require the ability to sustain stresses strong enough to tear apart atoms, or violate laws of thermodynamics or conservation. There are plenty of “they are so possible!” theoretical responses – but those tend to demand enormous amounts of near-perfect maintenance to ensure that the millions of ultra-precise high-energy systems that maintain the structures dubious “stability” all keep running smoothly. After all, in most designs… a major failure will lead to a chain reaction of catastrophe and a terminal collapse.

And how do you build it in the first place when all those parts need to be working before it can hold itself up? And why bother when you’re wasting most of what advantages there are on your maintenance budget?

About the only things that actually work are the “swarm” concepts, where you basically have a whole lot of independent lesser structures that just happen to be near each other – or are even linked with each other if you throw in a more reasonable amount of machinery again. While those aren’t true megastructures, they can accomplish much the same thing with a more efficient use of materials, can be built up gradually as energy and materials become available, include a LOT more system redundancy, are not nearly so vulnerable to single catastrophic events, and are relatively easy to actually design and build.

That’s why most civilizations find it quite a shock to encounter the Anomaly.

The Anomaly manifests as a megastructure of some sort – but one that’s even more impossible than usual. It shows a conventionally habitable landscape, which acts a great deal like a planetary surface on the small scale – but that landscape changes, often has a day-night cycle independent of any local stars, and DRIFTS across the structure. If the Anomaly is manifested as a ringworld… the landscape will slowly drift across the ring, sliding “off the edge” and into elsewhere on one edge, while new landscape – and creatures, and cities – slides in from the other edge to replace it. Worse, creatures on that surface can move back and forth across that boundary with no apparent difficulty or even awareness that it exists.

If you watch the Anomaly long enough it will show at least three regular cycles (or perhaps higher-dimensional rotations) – one 25.7 hours long that seems to provide a day-and-night cycle (most of the time; some areas seem to have either perpetual day or night), one that requires 281 of those “days” and seems to represent some sort of “year” (and apparently provides access to a modest cluster of somewhat-related universes), and one that requires several millennia and seems to govern universes joining or departing the “yearly” cluster. There may be longer cycles, but if so they’re difficult to observe in any reasonable time.

If and when you land… you find that the place has it’s own laws of nature and that individual creatures often seem to have different ones on a personal level. And depending on where you are in a cycle and how far you travel… departing the structure can take you to different universes.

The best guess available is that the Anomaly is a possibly-infinite artifact, a Megastructure that bridges multiple Tier-4 universes (if it doesn’t qualify as one itself, which might make questions about it’s origin meaningless in a Tier-4 Multiverse framework) and “rotates” within that framework – tapping into the natural laws of different dimensions to stabilize itself in a fashion that any rational physicist says ought to be impossible. All that extends into any individual universe… is a minor subaspect.

Regardless of that, it has it’s own “compromise” reality, is strongly life-affirming, and – somehow – allows it’s visitors and inhabitants to continue operating under most of the laws of their home universes regardless of their current location. What natural laws apply to creatures born there appears to be determined by what universe they were being exposed to when they physically separated from their parent(s).

The Anomaly is more or less an Eclipse experiment. Most campaigns limit the characters to a particular setting, the laws of that setting determine what abilities they can take and how they can be used and it’s world laws apply to everyone. On the Anomaly… characters from many different worlds can interact, each accessing at least a limited subset of their home dimensions rules – and the opposition is likely to be just as varied – rather like “Rifts” in some ways.

The Anomalies Known Laws include:

  • Characters remain linked to their home realms. While this allows them to use powers and items from their worlds without excessive difficulty, the further they try to extend their dimensional link, and the greater the power demand of whatever they are attempting, the more difficult it becomes. Transforming yourself will work nicely. Transforming a small item that you are holding is slightly more difficult, and may require a minor fortitude save to avoid fatigue (even if you are normally immune to fatigue). At high levels you can become exhausted (again, whether or not you are normally immune to that condition), injure yourself, or even overload your link and have to rest and wait for the connection to reestablish itself. Note that this means that – for example – the Superheroic World Template grants a mana pool and some ability to renew it, but the limitless font of power that template provides would overload the link – and so does not transfer fully.
  • Anomaly encourages life; the effects of level zero and first level healing effects are doubled, while higher level healing effects have their effective levels reduced by one (or, if not level based, are increased by 50%). Even creatures with extremely exotic metabolisms can survive when cut off from their home universes. Crops mature in only 75% of the usual time, natural healing proceeds at twice the usual rate, aging past adulthood proceeds at one-half the usual rate, and all saves against diseases and poisons are made with a +2 bonus.
  • Major Weapons and Effects – nuclear or antimatter bombs, planet-crackers, high level spells such as Unrelenting Glacial Advance, and similar items – do not function under Anomalies rules, and so can only be used if someone is using their own personal link to power them. That’s vaguely possibly, but attempting to channel power on the scale needed to seriously damage the Anomaly is often fatal – and even when it isn’t it is better known as “asking for it”. Similarly, Godfires passive effects apply, but it cannot be actively used.
  • All characters are subject to a version of the Low-Level Adventurer Template. The effects include:
    • A -3 penalty on unskilled skill checks.
    • Slow level advancement, by direct session-based character point awards rather than experience points. Succeeding in goals helps, but killing things and taking their stuff does not.
    • A +3 bonus on five skills which suit their backgrounds and training. Sadly, this cannot be applied to active psionic or magical skills. These are, however, considered to be natural skill ranks.
    • Extra hit points equal to [12 + (2 x Con Mod)].
    • Two minor special talents or “knacks” appropriate to their home universe – one Class-A (roughly equivalent to the effects of a first level spell or power) and one Class-B (roughly equivalent to the effects of a cantrip). (There’s a list of Sci-Fi knacks over here).
  • Characters will be using the Condensed Skill List, complete with the various skills special functions. These may, however, be adjusted for world or origin; Sci-fi characters rarely spellcast, but often have other special talents. Skill Checks are normally made on 3d6, and characters may “take 15” instead of “20”. They are normally assumed to get a “5” for passive checks, such as to notice something in passing.
  • The Anomaly enables a low-level compromise reality. Even if your home universe doesn’t allow magical devices, or psionic abilities, or advanced technologies (especially the fictional ones that rely on some other universes internal rules), anyone there will be able to learn to use little stuff – Charms and Talismans, basic Occult Talents, Ceremonial Magic, basic Firearms, and small items can generally be gotten to work for you, at least in limited quantities.

The current set of requested universes includes…

Battletech

The Battletech Universe is basically “Junkyard Wars” writ large. Very small forces of giant robots piloted by mercenaries and scions of noble houses fight the wars, while the vast majority of the populace and the industrial base remains totally uninvolved. Why? Because they live on thinly-terraformed alien worlds. Allowing the infrastructure to get involved leads to mass death – leaving nothing to fight over and a population with nothing left but looking for (or at least buying) revenge before they die.

So the noble houses frantically scavenge for the parts needed to keep their war machines running, focus on controlling the few remaining factories that can produce new parts or war machines, and claim to rule – while having little impact otherwise.

Its World Laws include:

  • Scrounging: Battletech characters may purchase the Armory, Gadgetry, Logistics, and Weaponry skills – although high-end Armory purchases become large, clunky, war machines (Specialized) and Weaponry installed in such machines is also considered Specialized. No matter how through the destruction, Battletechers will soon manage to put their equipment packages back together again.
  • Resourceful: Battletech characters may add another attribute modifier to their Intelligence Modifier when computing their skill points for levels up to level four. In general, Pilots add Dex, Techs add Con, and Politicians add Cha – but the effect is pretty much the same regardless.
  • Hyped: Battletech characters are considered to have Witchcraft I for free, giving them (Str + Dex + Con)/3 Power. While most never put this ability to use, hot pilots, brilliant politicians, and such often have access to a personal boosting ability or two – making them impossibly clever, lucky, fast, or whatever their own little edge is.
  • Battletech is entirely non-magical; there are no magic items, no charms or talismans, no spells, and fairly little psionics save for flashes of insight and minor witchcraft knacks. Similarly, it has little Biotech. Magical and psionic items and powers beyond the minor stuff that the Anomaly itself enables generally won’t work for Battletechers.

Star Wars:

The mysterious powers of the Force and Codex touch everyone, binding some together and separating others. This makes the entire galaxy just a bit… cinematic. Incredible coincidences are to be expected, rather than being rare and unusual.

Unfortunately, that same binding and loosing tends to lead to overblown loyalties, cults of personality, short-lived personal empires, fanaticism, various forms of obsessive insanity that boost your personal powers, tightly-bonded “cultish” social systems, and near-endless cycles of wars. It’s a fine place to adventure in, but not all that stable a place to raise a family.

Its World Laws include:

  • Cinamystics: “Star Wars” characters have free access to their choice of one of the following three sets of Action Skills – and may purchase Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only to substitute Mana for the temporary drain resulting from using Action Skills (2 CP per 1d6).
  • Heroes and Villains: All characters have the Karma ability (6 CP). They may also spend a Karma Point to freely combine their Cynamystic skills for a brief period.
  • The Galactic Union: Star Wars characters always seem to be able to understand each other, use other civilizations tech, and pilot various vehicles. They enjoy an Immunity to the penalties associated with dealing with different races, technologies, and cultures, reducing them by six.
  • Star Wars characters have access to a wide variety of advanced equipment using the D20 Modern and Future systems, but it tends to be almost as expensive as buying magical devices in “normal” d20 – usually several times the base price. They do not have access to advanced magical devices or abilities and rarely show any true psionic abilities.

Star Trek

The Star Trek universe… is a mess. They throw around “technologies” that have all kinds of implications, and then ignore them. There are compounds that can be injected to provide vast telekinetic powers or the ability to move faster than light (without affecting your ability to see or move around a ship without destroying things). They show off multiple, mutually-contradictory, theories about how time works. There’s even a plentiful supply of godlings with vast (and quite undefined) reality altering powers. Even restricting myself to the original series and what immediately comes to mind… I remember Charlie-X, Squire Trelane, Apollo, Mitchell and Dehner (after going through the barrier at the edge of the galaxy), the shore leave planet, the Organians, and some sort of rock (or possibly magma) creatures.

That’s partially a symptom of multiple authors and too many rewrites of course, but the point remains; the Star Trek universe is made of silly putty. It can be stretched to cover anything, has no consistent form, and readily takes impressions from pretty much any source.

Well, I can work with that.

Its World Laws include:

  • Technobabble: 1d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Only for Reality Editing, only to make things work (or fail to work) despite all logic, requires some sort of “believable” explanation, requires a DC 15 Will Save to avoid some form of backlash when used – usually in the form of some inexplicable troublesome event. Used en mass it tends to adopt a compromise reality when conflicts occur, causing the local reality to reflect each worlds popular culture (6 CP).
    • Technobabble lies at the root of most of the Star Trek universes peculiarities, The prime directive? Causing a reality clash with a primitive culture usually means that the Starship Crew is heavily outnumbered – and so all kinds of things go wrong (like a statue of a snake-god actually acting like one). The Transporter splitting people into good and evil halves or sending people to other dimensions, or just not working? Backlash or the operator is just out of Mana. Warp Drive? Holodeck program coming alive? Crack in the event horizon? Never running out of shuttles? Replicators and Synthesizers? Inexplicable post-scarcity economic model that sometimes has money, sometimes doesn’t, and contradicts itself? None of that stuff actually WORKS. It’s just that a lot of people believe in it locally – and so reality bends to match.
  • Compatibility: Shapechange, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only to allow visitors to adapt to the local planetary environments, food, and drink, and to be attracted to, and have sex and children with, aliens. Corrupted for Increased Effect / as a side effect causes characters to see the vast majority of other races as being only slightly different from themselves but does let the “user” speak their languages effectively (3 CP) – plus Melding, Specialized for Reduced Cost, reliant on the Shapechange Effect, prevents the uesr from providing an accurate report on the local culture since he or she will perceive it as being analogous to some familiar historical or fictional culture (3 CP).
  • In My Shirtsleeves: For some reason the only form of “protective gear” that seems to have really caught on in the Star Trek universe is easily-torn shirts. No one ever seems to wear armor, hazmat gear, or much of anything else except – on rare occasions – something to provide an atmosphere in space, and half the time that’s just a little belt module that projects some sort of life support field. This would normally be quite insane – but the local rules make it possible. That’s Innate Enchantment (5000 GP Value, 6 CP): Force Armor I (1400 GP), Force Shield I (1400 GP), Resist Energy (10 Points, 1400 GP), and Resistance (+1 Resistance Bonus to Saving Throws, 700 GP).
  • Star Trek characters can learn to use almost any kind of gear or power – and it usually works very well at first – but then becomes erratic or starts failing at the worst possible moments, until they go back to their reasonably-reliable star-fleet issued equipment for a while. That’s because most of the alien stuff only works because the aliens in question believe that it does – so when you leave the area it soon starts to fail (In an effect bound to enrage economists, the same rule applies to interactions with alien cultures that use money; a few points of Mana will allow a reasonable level of participation in their economic system – but the rules will break down as soon as the Star Trek character goes somewhere else. A Star Trek character can normally be assumed to have all the relevant gear needed to do his or her job, as well as various personal items without worrying about anything so mundane as “costs”.

Malavon World Laws:

The Malavon setting started out as a first edition game, but soon drifted over to Continiuum II as the rules got rewritten. Overall it supported about eighteen years worth of games that wandered across several million years of history, numerous planes of existence, several sub-campaigns, and visited rather a lot of other planets. Overall? It’s probably most comparable to the early (pre-third edition) Forgotten Realms.

It’s World Laws include:

  • Flux Tapping: Characters from Malavon do not need sleep or rest to replenish their abilities: they can tap into the energy flux from hyperspace, or into subspace, that occurs at dawn or dusk. They tend to be limited by how much power they can store and handle, rather than by how much is available to tap into. In d20 that’s Immunity/The need to sleep or rest to recover “daily uses” of powers and abilities (Common, Minor, Grand, 12 CP).
  • Literary Magic Items: Characters from Malavon can use Charms and Talismans without having to learn to do so (Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive (and thus limited by wealth and lifestyle) and take some time to attune for use (6 CP)), Artifacts, and Relics – although they normally need to invest their personal CP in Relics if they wish to use more than a few of them. This initial allowance can be purchased as Double Enthusiast, Specialized in Relics for Increased Effect (6 CP). That lets any inhabitant of Malavon “attune” a total of 4 CP worth of Relics – which is enough for them to have a pretty potent item or two.
  • Malavon doesn’t offer direct access to any Occult Skills – although you can certainly buy access to some if you wish – but it does offer free access to pretty much every system of magic, psionics, spiritualism, reality alteration, metabolism, or technology that exists. Pretty much any independent gadget that they pick up can be expected to work in their hands.

K’aresh

K’aresh (named by player vote) was invaded by bizarre lovecraftian horrors – but, remarkably enough, managed to drive them off. Unfortunately, they left behind a new problem – the Withering. It is unknown if the Withering was some weapon deployed by the invaders, or if their presence alone was enough to infect the world. What is known is that the Withering spreads into any solid unliving matter – poisoning, draining, and eventually consuming any living beings within its domain. Massive barriers of life energy were set up to contain the Withering – but while those barriers are holding for now, the Withering constantly strains against the barrier, growing stronger by feeding on its cage. All too soon the containment will inevitably fail and the Withering will be free to fulfill its mindless purpose.

Even the massed sages and adventurers of K’aresh could find no solution other than escape – and so the scouts went forth. Even the unfinished war golems left over from the war – no longer needed as relentless machines of destruction – were repurposed, modified, and sent forth. Either a cure for the Withering or a safe haven to rebuild in WILL be found. The mortal scouts and – especially – the repurposed war golems will accept nothing less.

  • Mystic Mechanisms: you may build and take the equivalent many items of of d20 Modern and Future (Tech Level 6) Gear as equipment, at the usual 1 GP = 20 Credits equivalence.
  • Power Storage: May store (Con) generic spell levels, using them to either power equipment or to power quick spells.

Arda

Middle-Earth is the manifested Vision of Ilúvatar – a low-level world of subtle magic – and one that is subject to a great deal of predestination thanks to the Music of the Ainur. It is a world that is doomed to slow decay, where wonders are made but once – and the makers power passes into them – and so may not be made again. Thus the One Ring, the Two Trees, the Three Silmarils, the Chain to Bind Melkor. all created once, all a fearsome drain upon their creators, and all never to be duplicated within the circles of the world. It is a world where exercising the power that is given to you by your nature or which is freely available is safe enough – but where tapping into sources and powers beyond those is a dangerous and corrupting act.

  • Oaths: Arda is subject to something similar to Oathbinding – but the effects are more subtle, and more pervasive. Worse, while minor oaths are reasonably safe, great oaths – by their very nature – are sworn upon powers beyond your own. If that power freely approves of that oath, all is well. If not. they you are drawing on powers beyond your own, and both you and the oath will be corrupted.
  • Skills: Not surprisingly, Middle-Earth offers no technologically advanced skills or equipment – but it does offer free access to the three Action Skills of Erudite Focus, Narrative, and Sensitive, as well as to Arcana and Religion.
  • The Subtle Path: Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive and take some time to attune for use (6 CP). Residents of Arda can employ the natural magical properties of various materials and items, employing the simple, subtle, magics of Charms and Talismans – which most of them use to make themselves more comfortable. In general, however, they do not create or employ other magical items. Occasional powers do make Relics – things like the Silmarils or the Great Rings – but it is, as always, wiser not to meddle with powers beyond your own.
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One Response

  1. […] The Anomaly – A description of the Anomaly itself, local world laws, and the world laws of a number of universes the Anomaly is currently intersecting […]

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