Anomaly – Things Of Interest Around Vitromasse

And for today’s bonus post, since the players voted for Avrinthos, here are some of the things going on in the area.

  • The Star Treaders. Vitromasse isn’t a major stop for the Star Treaders – unusually for them, most of their usual stock-in-trade is actually less variegated and exotic than what is available locally and nobody really wants their “technology” – but supplies of air and water are basically free, the Gathri may not be all that friendly but they’re willing to sell plenty of food cheaply, and the local Suugken holdings will sell them the occasional outright quasi-miracle. Even along their routes, that’s a rarity. Few of the accessible worlds in their realm have developed the local psychic and material technologies to such a degree. They still stop by every month or two, and are often looking for something they have heard is available on the anomaly – somewhere.
  • The Formless Horrors. Thanks to the Tindalos birthright, it’s all too common in Avrinthos for someone to call up something that he, she, ze, or it, cannot put down. Despite the efforts of the Gaunthounds, it’s not uncommon for something to be missed – and so there will have to be hunts to put down the latest formless-tentacled-horror that’s melting people’s flesh / sucking the blood from people so they rise as some sort of mummy / whispering horrific occult secrets into people’s minds and driving them mad. There are probably two or three aroud the place at the moment.
  • Elkdunar. This village was relatively nearby, (about fifteen miles, along the twisting routes in the mountains about three days travel), but has apparently been destroyed by giant monsters. The current popular rumor is that the Jagurhund Ramperdr forged himself a Masque Of Wrath and wiped the place out. The more sober people are hoping that it’s something else; someone who’d forge a Masque Of Wrath is unlikely to stop at wiping out one village, The locals are currently debating whether or not to send a group to investigate.
  • Sturmkanal (so named due to the regular lightning strikes on it): Perched atop a nearby mountain, this massive (metal?) citadel apparently dates back to a previous cycle. Why it’s still working is an open question, but the usual answer was that it was somehow brought to life millennia past, and so has it’s own Birthright – so it and everything in it’s interior will continue to operate under that Birthrights rules as long as the castle survives. The castle itself is noted for it’s many traps and monsters, it’s digital clocktower, and it’s incredible garishness – but adventurers who go poking about it in all too often come to a bad end. As a rule, however, Sturmkanal keeps to itself; if you don’t go and bang on the walls or go into the place, it’s not a problem.
  • Rilantha. The passes to the south, of course, lead into Rilantha – a realm noted for it’s colossal beasts and savage tribes. Occasional hunting expeditions (Usually Ri’on Huntsmen brought in by the Star Treaders) use Vitromasse as a jumping-off point, and there is always a market for multi-ton logs of ivory, incredibly tough behemoth hide, and similar products of giant beasts. Just as importantly, the local tribes may be a bit barbaric, but they’re generally up for some trading if someone brings along enough firepower to survive the trip.
  • The Olistor River: The riverboat that moves up and down the navigable section of the Olistor (The Tenshi) connects at least fifteen communities (argument continues on how to count logging camps and similar outposts) and is basically a small community in its own right. Rumors, of course, note the presence of water monsters, a mysterious cavern that leads elsewhere, some sort of tree-guardians attacking a logging camp, and the appearance of a Skinwalker that gunned down a gambling group and made off with the pot.
  • Vitromasse General Area: There’s been a good deal of trouble recently with things that come out of the ground – strange, partially-metallic beings riding huge spiders -but they rarely leave a lot of survivors (another reason why the locals been investing in more Guanthounds recently).
  • Vitromasse: A couple of young-adult Suugken are about ready to move out – and their mother (Intimoda, Time/Space Affinity, Exotic Technological Birthright) would rather like someone to keep an eye on them to improve their odds of survival. Unfortunately, while she one of the more formidable defenders of Vitromasse, and can build technical gear beyond most of the other locals skills, it simply wouldn’t be RIGHT to interfere with the kids Hegira directly.
  • Vitromasse: For those with ethics, the fact that most of the Guanthounds are the enslaved results of burning out much of a victim’s mind and involuntarily transforming them may be troubling. Whether or not much can be done about it is an awkward question.
  • Avrinthos: A number of youngsters are showing unfamiliar Birthrights; It is obvious that a Time Of Change began some years ago, and will not be causing increasing disruptions.
  • Far North: There are some tales that the Uruk, piloting a force of massive war machines that work like creatures, are making conquests up that way – but even with the various ways of speeding up travel available in Avrinthos, that area is some thousands of miles away. By the time such news makes it to Vitromasse any details in the stories are at least as likely to have been added along the way as to have been transmitted accurately.

Observations from Space (These are available to several characters):

  • Avrinthos: Most of the other villages that have been spotted on the surveys have at least one (and often more than one) odd phenomena near them – weird pyramids radiating strange energies, odd patches of forest, pools or “roads” of light, paths that go nowhere, and so on. Most such seem to either be considered local resources or are exploiting some other local resource themselves.
  • The surrounding realms:
    • There is crude AM traffic to the (quite arbitrary) north and more distant north east – mostly unencrypted AM. Fortunately, most of the major sources are broadcasting with far more power than a modern station requires, making much of the traffic relatively easy to intercept. For good or ill, however… much of it appears to be military. There seem to be various more-or-less local conflicts going on across Malador, Haldon, Orrort, Ustcheon, and Nichtfel along with a few large constructs moving about. Still, given the size of the realms… there are probably a fair number of peaceful areas as well. Much of the area seems to have a basic Railway Network that extends across several realms.
    • There’s also a lot of much more modern, throughly encrypted, traffic from the Crystalreaches, where something seems obsessed with constructing pylons. There is similar traffic – and some pretty odd energy readings – around Stardock. Given that the peak there seems to extend above the Anomalies atmosphere, and possibly actually extends into the Star Wars universe proper, there is some discussion of putting down a small ship simply to see if it can take off again.
    • Directly to the east, in Nilandar, there seem to be forests and islands cloaked in perpetual darkness. No one is quite sure how that works, but they aren’t quite sure how other places get sunlight anyway. Perhaps they are drawing it from other universes?
    • To the Northeast (in Leros) there appears to be large-scale irrigation, agriculture with at least some mechanized harvesting, and a fairly prosperous semi-industrial civilization – although, oddly enough, there is no radio traffic.

Things of Specific Interest:

  • The locals feel that if you want something REALLY large moved (such as Vanatica’s shuttle), the best thing to do is to call in some heavy haulers from Rilantha. It’s mildly expensive, but they can drag a LOT of stuff about. For faster travel, you’ll want someone with the right Birthright unless there are only a few of you and you can talk Intimoda into teleporting you.
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The Anomaly: Vitromasse Village and it’s peoples – the Gathri, Suugken, and Gaunthounds.

Vitromasse is a hamlet in Avrinthos, located approximately sixty to a hundred miles from the “southern” edge of the realm and perhaps six hundred miles from the lower “western” vertex (the red “X” on the PDF map). The passes to the south thus lead down into the forests/jungles and rolling plains of Rilantha and the rugged Ricible Desert lies to the distant west. Here, the mountainside is interrupted by two layers of extremely hard and durable stone, with softer material eroded away from between and above them – providing an overhanging cliff and a relatively flat and durable foundation extending out to another cliffside below that. To the east a the massive Olistor Gorge cuts through the stone, dropping several hundred feet to the Olistor River – a surprising chunk of which is navigable. Nearby the forested slopes support a variety of tree-crops, predominantly Northern (they only grow on north-facing slopes for some reason) Hestor Nuts. Hestor Nuts are reasonably tasty, if more carbohydrate heavy than oily, and the abundant trees produce a massive yearly crop – a major source of food for Vitromasse’s people, their livestock, and much of the local wildlife. Other local “natural” resources include an Ironwood grove, Firesap Vines, Bronzefruit Lyfaygor trees, and excellent stone. Less “natural” resources include a Star Treader Lightpool from which Iounian Trade-Caravans emerge to resupply and exchange goods several times a year, being an occasional stop for travelers on the Olistor, trade-links with some of the Rilancian Tribes to the south, and having a reasonably good road route through the local mountains based on the same strata of stone that forms the foundation of Vitromasse.

While this would be more than enough to support a sizeable town in many of the Anomalies other realms, the numerous – and utterly unpredictable – hazards of Avrinthos tend to keep most settlements relatively small.

Central Vitromasse is nestled against the north-facing cliffside, and often under the overhang, but the farms and the secondary center around the Lightpool are further scattered – in both cases to the east, where the Olistor Gorge offers additional protection from wandering horrors. It is primarily inhabited by Gathri, Suugken, and (Transformed) Gaunthound Guard-Slaves, with a scattering of Oleri (small avian folk, generally not too clever and not tool users – which makes them poor player characters) and occasional other types.

Gathri (31 CP / +0 ECL):

Gathri are humanoids, but are somewhat shorter, more lightly built, and more agile than baseline humans, tend towards more angular, “fey”, features, and usually have swarthy green, light blue, violet, or blue-white colorations. They prefer well-constructed (and often fortified) hamlets and villages in cool climates and forested terrain and are extremely clannish, often having little use for (and a great deal of suspicion directed at) outsiders. Sadly, while they do tend towards large families, children are a group effort – and those who are disruptive, excessively questioning, don’t fit into the clan well, or are simply redundant. are commonly traded to other clans, sold as slaves, or otherwise used for the benefit of the clan as their differences cause them to be instinctively classified as “outsiders”. They tend towards worshiping ancestor and local spirits, extending their clannish tendencies to their deities. Adventurous Gathri are rare; most of what few do leave their communities behind for a time are usually simply attempting to deal with some threat to it, and will return to settle back in after that task. True wanderers tend to be regarded as renegades and madmen, and are often regarded with even more suspicion than members of other species.

  • As medium-sized humanoids, their baseline movement, attributes, equipment, and similar qualities are quite typical.
  • Attribute Shift: +2 Dex, -2 Str (6 CP).
  • Adept: May buy Craft, Perception, Profession, and Perform at half cost (6 CP).
  • Racial Skill Bonuses: +4 to any one Adept Skill, speak their Clan Dialect (3 CP).
  • Four levels of the Wilder Progression (Charisma Based), Specialized and Corrupted / provides no actual psionic powers, Power can only be spent to use Hedge Magic Disciplines, not for other purposes (8 CP), This gives them an effective Caster Level of Four and (17 + 2 x Cha Mod) Power.
  • Hedge “Magic”, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / does not include the ability to make Conjures (4 CP). As psionic disciplines it costs 1/2 a point of Power to use a “level zero” effect, one for a “level one effect”, and three for a “level two” effect.
  • Innate Enchantment, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only for practical, utilitarian, effects, only 2500 GP total value, requires external foci items to function (2 CP). While the “items” available are fixed early on (generally focusing on the user’s choice of Adept skills), a Gathri will have various bits of practical (psionic) “magic” about – primarily drawing on the lists of Conjures under Hedge Magic and the Industrial Wights and Magic series. Enhanced tools, perpetual water fountains, high-speed looms, and ways to easily accomplish laborious tasks are their stock in trade. Questions like “who inherits the shop?” among them start off with narrowing things down to “the ones with appropriate attunements to use the facilities” – whether or not that happens to be one of the original owners kids. It is not uncommon for some esoteric shop to be simply left open – if a youngster with the ability to use it is born, or marries into the clan, it becomes theirs by default.
  • Immunity to Aging (Uncommon, Major, Trivial, 2 CP). Their psionic abilities tend to keep the Gathri vigorous and healthy. While they don’t actually live more than 20=25% longer than a normal human on the average, they do age very well, remaining healthy and vigorous well into their old age.

Gathri are rarely one of a regions great powers – they do not organize well beyond the local level of a few reasonably friendly clans – but they are exceptionally industrious and productive, usually have a great deal of leisure time and strong storytelling, theatrical, and musical traditions, and can defend themselves competently enough. They can be found occupying comfortable enclaves in a considerable number of the Anomalies realms.

Suugken (31 CP / +0 ECL):

Suugken are a quasi-reptilian species of “Lizard Men” that are born strongly attuned to one or another elemental force – with a fairly broad definition of what an “elemental force” is. Fire, Earth, Air, and Water are common, yes – but Suugken attuned to Time and Space, or Gravity, or any of many other forces have been encountered. Their glowing eyes may offer a clue as to what force they are attuned to, but the pattern is not entirely reliable. Overall, the fact that their flesh is partially made up of elemental energy neatly counteracts their tendency to consume metals and deposit them in their teeth, scales, and claws – becoming fairly well armored while retaining an overall neutral buoyancy in water. Their color patterns vary, but tend to be strongly influenced by the metallic portion of their diet. By human standards they tend to be tall and well-built – which is often somewhat on display, since their armor-plated metallic scales protects them well enough that only temperature extremes call for protective clothing.

Suugken are egg-layers, but have some difficulty producing offspring – a possible consequence of elemental mismatches between the mother and the embryonic offspring. Youngsters are treasured, and carefully protected, but adolescence is usually a period of wandering, during which young adults seek out other groups of Suugken, usually settling in one in need of someone with their particular elemental focus. They usually settle in jobs that exploit their considerable elemental prowess. For example, an expert with Fire may be a smith or potter, a warmage, specialize in catalytic effects, or a steam engineer.

Elder Suugken reportedly occasionally begin to increase in size, develop a greatly extended lifespan, and learn to adjust the elemental content of their flesh, developing the ability to adjust their average density enough to “swim” in the air – but this appears to be a very rare occurrence; the vast majority of them age and pass on normally. Most Suugken claim that on upon their physical deaths they merge with the force to which they are attuned, but any such “religion” is informal and entirely personal.

  • As medium-sized humanoids, their baseline movement, attributes, equipment, and similar qualities are quite typical.
  • Energy Infusion (6 CP). Suugken are born with a random Energy Infusion. While this is most commonly Elemental. Alignment and Planar infusions are reasonably common, the Forces show up occasionally, and there have even been extremely rare reports of Cosmological infusions.
  • Adept, Specialized for Double Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for two skills – Wisdom-Based Rune Mastery and Rune Casting for their Energy Infusion Type, does not apply past their racial skill bonus (4 CP).
  • +3 SP (Effectively a +12 bonus) for each of their Adept skills, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only becomes available gradually; Infants get no bonuses, Children get +4, Youths get +8, and Adults get the full +12 (4 CP).
  • 3d6 Mana, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for Rune Magic, only for their specific Energy Infusion field (6 CP),
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to recover Mana for the Rune Magic field above, requires at least one hours rest per die (4 CP),
  • Innate Enchantment: Specialized for Increased Effect (abilities are considered extraordinary, not magical) / all abilities are blatant permanent physical changes. All Spell Level One, Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated, x.7 Personal-Only where relevant (6 CP).
    • Aspect Of The Lizard (Swim 30′, +3 Natural Armor, d8 Fangs and Claws, +4 on Stealth, 1400 GP).
    • +2 Constitution (1400 GP).
    • Produce Flame with +0 Metamagical Adjustment: Energy Type matches the user’s Energy Infusion (2000 GP).
    • Cure Light Wounds, 2/Day (heals self for 1d8+1 damage, 560 GP).
  • Speaks Draconic (1 CP).

Gaunthounds (36 or Zero Point Acquired Template):

Gaunthounds are people – most often slaves – who have been subjected to the Nightmare Binding ritual. Slaves are usually also subjected to curses of obedience, domestication, and subordination through the Dreambinding Ritual – although there are occasional volunteers who skip that part. Sadly, while the Nightmare Binding can provide a good deal of power, nothing is free: the new powers are paid for by reducing the victims mental attribute. Attributes of 12+ yield 6 CP per point given up, those of 10-11 yield 6 CP for being reduced by two, and those of 7-9 can be reduced by three to gain 6 CP. Attributes already at six or below cannot be further reduced to any profit, although one that was at seven can be reduced to four.

An average person – with 10’s and 11′ for mental attributes – can thus gain 36 CP by reducing their mental attributes by five each. This is not generally a good deal, which is why it’s usually only inflicted on slaves. The basic Guanthound Package costs 36 CP and includes:

  • Durability Of Nightmares: Grant Of Aid with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP). With their bodies bound to the energies of a dream-hunting monster, Gaunthounds can endure a great deal of damage with no lasting consequences.
  • Bestial Form: Shapeshift, with the Dire, Hybrid, Clear Speech (corrupted/only reasonably clear), and Attribute Modifiers options, Specialized and Corrupted / the user cannot actually switch forms, but is stuck as a Dire Wolf hybrid, does not gain size modifiers (8 CP). +1d0 Hit Die, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only to qualify for the Dire Wolf shapeshift (4 CP).
    • This is the usual shapeshift cheese to replace your original races physical attribute modifiers with those of another creature – and even downgraded to Medium Size those of a Dire Wolf are pretty good; This provides Str +6, Dex +6, Con +2, Scent, Low-Light Vision, 1d6 Natural Weapons, and +3 Natural Armor. Of course, it also means being a hulking, dire, carnivorous beast, needing great quantities of meat, having to have everything special-fitted, and generally being regarded as a socially-unacceptable animal.
  • Nightmare Guardian: Witchcraft III with Seize The Wandering Soul, Specialized for Reduced Cost / the user is subject to a powerful dose of canine instincts (12 CP): This provides Power equal to (the sum of the user’s physical attributes/3) and seven basic witchcraft abilities with a Save DC of (13 + Cha Mod). This usually isn’t very good – only Seize The Wandering Soul is the only one of their basic witchcraft abilities to offer a save at all, and it’s usually a group effort.
    • The Adamant Will, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (the user gains a passive +6 bonus to Will Saves to avoid being diverted from his or her duties) / has no other applications and makes the user’s emotions easy to read (+6 to Sense Motive checks against him or her).
    • Dreamfaring, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Grants continuous awareness of adjoining dimensions and the user may spend 3 Power to be able to interact with such things for one minute) / not usable for other purposes, allows creatures in other dimensions to perceive the user, user is subject to sensory distractions from other dimensions and is sensitive to dimensional disturbances.
    • The Inner Eye, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (the user can sense malignant intent without expending power) / offers no other functions. While there is no save, pretty much any form of mental shielding will result in “no reading”.
    • Glamour, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect ( The user gets a +6 bonus to attempts at Intimidation and may share tactical considerations with other packmembers instantly at ranges of up to sixty feet at no Power cost) / can use no other abilities.
    • Healing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (the user is immune to negative effects of drugs and intoxicant at no Power cost) / offers no other functions.
    • Hyloka, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (time spent on guard duty counts as sleep) / offers no other functions.
    • Witchsight, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Provides a +6 bonus to Perception and Survival at no power cost) / offers no other functions.

Optionally, a Guanthound who had high stats to start with can be given one or more of…

  • Nightbred: Add The Umbral Form and Nightforge (12 CP). Nightbred Gaunthounds can become shadows and turn shadows into adamantine forms – at least temporarily.
  • Warbred: Add Dismissal and Wrath Of The Sea (12 CP). Warbred Guanthounds can attempt to banish extradimensional forces and can augment their own strength, often to superhuman level.
  • Pitbred: Add Bones Of Iron and Leaping Fire (12 CP). Pitbred Gaunthounds can accelerate their movement, attacks, and healing and augment their physical toughness in a variety of ways.
  • Huntbred: Double Damage versus Nightmares, Lovecraftian Horrors, and creatures of the outer dimensions (6 CP) plus Track (Wilderness). Huntbred Gaunthounds are used to track down and eliminate the truly esoteric horrors that are far too often unleashed by people with the Tindalos Birthright.

Jagurhunds: On rare occasions a ritual victim will either find sufficient character points (whether unspent or by draining no-longer applicable talents) to avoid any major drain of his or her mental abilities or will start off with mental attributes so high as to remain fully functional afterwards. In such cases the usual curses of obedience, domestication, and subordination either do not stick or turn into a drive to give orders, run wild, and dominate, Such individuals are often fertile as well – and will usually try to gather a pack of subordinate gaunthounds and claim a territory of their own. They are often – albeit not always – more than a bit angry about their transformations.

Stealth and Safehouses

And today it’s another question…

I am curious how you might create subtler stealth / warding effects. For example, what would a spell look like that made people around you find you unimportant or beneath consideration or whoever they expect to see most? Or warding a building so that only people who don’t wish the residents harm can find it?

-Jirachi

There are a lot of different ways to accomplish such things – some effective, and others less so.

A spell that convinces people looking at you that you aren’t important could be a mind-affecting effect (allowing a save), or a complex illusion, or a way to extend the Bluff skill. It has an advantage over Invisibility in that you won’t give away your presence by opening doors and such.

Using Bluff:

Extending the Bluff skill is slightly tricky. There aren’t any existing spells that work this way that I’m aware of, but you can build it using Eclipse and The Practical Enchanter. The basic effect is simply “You get to make a Bluff check when people see you to make them think that you’re harmless and too unimportant to pay attention to”. That’s equivalent to the Eclipse Opportunist ability – a Complex Mental Feat. The Surprising Mastery spell template in The Practical Enchanter can be set up to bestow that; the base will be level three, for one minute per level. Getting a nice big bonus on that specific check is basically the Glibness spell, also at level three. So this spell will be level four (likely for a Bard) or five (Likely for a Sorcerer/Wizard), depending on how well your game master thinks that the effects go together. Both base spells are Transmutation, so it will be too, it will last one minute per level, it will take a Standard Action to cast, and it will have Verbal and Somatic Components. Since it only directly affects the caster, Saves and Spell Resistance don’t apply – but all the usual methods of dealing with someone Bluffing will.

This general spell build is interestingly versatile. Go ahead; build a similar spell that uses Disable Device, or which fires every Wand in the area with Use Magic Device (although attended ones will get a save), or some such. I usually use Specialized Witchcraft to build effects like that, since they’re best for skillmasters who aren’t entirely focused on magic – but there’s no reason why you can’t build them with standard spells.

Using Disguise:

When it comes to disguises… there are a lot of easy ways to craft an actual disguise, but the problem here is that you’ll need to make one that every observer you encounter will consider unimportant – and while a generic servant or bum will pass in a LOT of places, you never quite know what exactly you will need to be disguising yourself AS.

The game master may let you get away with imitating Terry Pratchett and disguising yourself as a “Sweeper” or “Mendicant Monk” or “Bum” (which only works when people expect to see such types around; if it’s a top secret lab cleaned by Roombas, a “Janitor” will be VERY suspicious) or (if you are INCREDIBLY lucky) as “someone of no importance” – but there are likely to be really big penalties on that last check if you don’t have some detailed inside information on just what, in your current situation, is going to be considered “unimportant” by the people who are going to see you.

So there are at least two approaches here are 1) coming up with enough bonuses to overcome whatever absurd penalty the game master applies (a job for stacking different types of bonuses or a specific skill enhancing spell of whatever level turns out to be necessary) and 2) finding out what disguise is appropriate – which strikes me as a job for a level six to level seven specialized version of the Metafaculty effect. It may not sound all that tricky – but it’s still determining who you are likely to meet, what each of them is likely to dismiss at a glance, and how to disguise yourself in a way that simultaneously satisfies each such set of conditions.

Using Mind-Affecting Powers:

The mind-affecting version already exists as a level two Psionic Power. It’s called Cloud Mind, and is more or less exactly what you’re looking for. The problem here is that it only has close range, starts at level two, and has to be bumped up to level six to hit one target per level. I probably wouldn’t bother imposing a penalty for converting the effect to a spell; the fixed, and rather limited, nature of the effect seems like enough of a penalty compared to the original power. That would give us a level six Illusion (Phantasm, Mind-Affecting) spell – but it would only affect the original targets, not anyone who came near you. That’s a major vulnerability.

A simpler version – basically a specialized and shorter-term version of Mass Suggestion (“There’s nothing of interest about these people or going on here”) might be only level three or four depending on the spell list. It would be handy for – say – getting your party versus a group of guards. The problem here is that every one of them gets a save, and that your range and number affected is still pretty limited. Secondarily, of course, spending a fourth level spell slot on this is usually not a good investment unless you’ve restricted your spellcasting a lot to make it cheaper.

Safehouses:

Using spells to protect an area or structure is tricky because you want the effect to last. When it comes to spells, that generally means either a cheap spell with a long duration, a permanent (or “instantaneous”) effect, or a magical item using such spells. There are a few decent ones for that – most notably Anticipate Teleportation (L4, 1 Hour/Level), Mages Private Sanctum (L5, one day), and Psychic Poison (L4, one hour/level). Honorable mentions go to Detect Scrying (L4, one day, good to let you know you’re being watched but does nothing to actually prevent it), Scry Trap (the damaging version, L5, one hour/level. I personally would encourage the use of Scrying Guardians – on the theory that, Scry Trap can do 15d6 damage – the cap for a fourth level single target damaging spell. Ergo, add +1 level to a spell and you can cast it as a trap that will affect anyone who scrys on you. Go ahead; have some summoned monsters show them the error of their ways or something), Teleport Trap (L7, one day per level, may be made permanent, but is somewhat expensive) and Dimensional Lock (L8, but lasts for one day/level), all of which are good but situational and – at least for Teleport Trap and Dimensional Lock – rather high level. False Vision (only l5, but expensive and may be vulnerable to True Seeing) generally isn’t worth bothering with. Guards and Wards (L6) can annoy intruders, but usually annoys defenders just as much and does nothing for privacy or to stop teleportation. Hallow can have some good defensive options attached, but using dedicating the place to a particular god as a security system may be a bit off-color. Screen lasts for a full day and isn’t expensive – but it’s eighth level, takes ten minutes to cast, and may still be penetrated by True Seeing. Again, it’s probably not worth it. Some of the spells from the “City On A Hill” article might help as well.

The trouble here is that all of these – and most other methods – are vulnerable to effects like Commune, Contact Other Plane, Hypercognition, and Metafaculty. There isn’t anything below the epic level which will completely frustrate information-gathering effects – and for good reason; since the player characters are usually on the offensive, they’re usually the ones trying to figure out where to attack. Putting in a way to completely block that off simply stops the game until they come up with something else or get frustrated.

Overall, if you just want a reasonably well concealed spot… Mages Private Sanctum is your best bet. If you want to hide from unwanted visitors, Mirage Arcana (L5, one hour/level) works for a building – although it’s probably easier to just build underground and hide the entrance. To be cheap, “lead sheeting” blocks scrying and some other divinatory effects, and thick stone walls block some other effects – so simply tacking up sheets of lead all over the walls, floors, doors, and ceilings (and then I would hope adding paneling or paint) would work against many divinations. It doesn’t help with too much else though.

A character could buy the ability to boost the duration of a few such spells very easily, since it is a highly specialized field – but if you’re going to spend character points, you might just as well invest a few points in a Sanctum, or Ritual Magic (specialized and corrupted in privacy rituals only), or Cloaking a radius, or something similar,

On the “Item” front, a Ward Major (from The Practical Enchanter) is expensive – but if you want to protect a large area, powers like Forgotten, Veiled, and Otherworldly are just the ticket.

On a smaller scale, given that d20 makes it very easy to create extradimensional spaces, the simplest way to set up a short-term “safehouse” is to use Rope Trick at level two – or the “Mirror Hideaway” variant (also at level two), or just use the Spacewarp Spell Template from The Practical Enchanter to design your own space – and there you are; you’re immune to anything that doesn’t cross planes and have an invisible door. Go ahead. Add Hide Campsite (Ranger 2) and add another huge margin of safety.

For a longer-term effect… use Spacewarp with Barriers (allowing you to close the portal) and a duration of one day per level is merely level four. Go ahead; add some more options at +1 spell level each (Supplies, Furnished, or Hidden are all very good choices for a safehouse). In theory you could make an item capable of casting the fourth level version once a week after being given a command word at a cost of a mere 5000 GP.

For an all-in-one solution you can use either a Rod Of Residence (39,000 GP) or a Rod Of Security (61,000 GP).

For a lower-level, and more versatile, solution you could try the Panic Rune:

Panic Rune:

This simple bronze doorknocker portrays a sleeping gargoyle. It is only when it is pressed against a surface (a wall, tree, or similar) that it awakens – sinking into the surface and, after a minute or two, creating an invisible secret door with no magical aura (Spacewarp, Create Door on the inside of the portal, Magic Aura to conceal the magical aura of the portal, Arcane Lock to improve its security). Spotting it without the aid of the Panic Rune requires Detect Invisibility (to perceive the door at all) and then a DC 24 Perception check. The door itself has a Break DC of 35 and the Lock is DC 35. Neither Dispel Magic nor Knock nor ordinary magical methods of detecting secret doors will have any effect, since the door is just beyond a dimensional portal that such spells will not cross.

Beyond the door is a spacious hall, with private nooks, tables, comfortable furnishings, enough decent-quality food and drink for eight medium-sized creatures (renewed daily), and plenty of blankets and cushions. Sadly, the various furnishings vanish if they are taken out of the hall and no more than 120 pounds of additional material may be stored in the hall when the Panic Rune is inactive. As the hall is an extradimensional space, it is secure against divinations and other effects that do not cross the dimensions. The hall will always remain pleasantly scented, neat and clean, and well-organized (courtesy of Prestidigitation and the Handy Haversacks organizational effects). Residents will also be cleaned up within the limits of Prestidigitation. While there is a peephole to look out of in the door, the knocker itself maintains a tireless watch and will warn those inside of disturbances or creatures outside (while it’s Perception Roll is only +0, it does have 60′ senses and Darkvision). A Panic Rune can function up to twice a day, each activation lasting for up to 18 hours – a duration which it will simply overlap if left active for longer periods. When it deactivates, everything taken inside over the 120 pound weight limit, and any living creatures left inside, will be dumped into the area around where the portal was.

Obviously enough, the Panic Rune is generally a party item; whoever is carrying it slaps it onto a surface and everyone takes advantage of a place to rest that may not be absolutely safe, but is about as safe as you’re going to get for a few thousand gold per character until much higher levels. It’s Alignment and Ego are generally irrelevant given that it’s only active when no one is actually carrying it and it’s major interest is in keeping whoever is using it (and their friends) safe while they’re inside.

The Panic Rune is built as an Intelligent (+500 GP) Handy Haversack (2000 GP, caster level nine, holds up to 12 cubic feet or 120 pounds of material). Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10, Ego 13 (0 GP), Speech (500 GP), 60′ Senses and Darksight (1000 GP), (Basic) Spacewarp 2/Day (4800 GP; items inside the Haversack wind up on shelves inside the warp when this function is used), Prestidigitation at Will, Only inside the Spacewarp (x.5) = 500 GP), Magic Aura 2/Day (Only to conceal the spacewarp doors aura, x.5 = 400 GP). Create Door (2/Day, Only to install a door on the Spacewarp x.5 = 400 GP), Arcane Lock 2/Day (Only on the conjured door on the Spacewarp x,5 = 400 GP), plus Field Provisions Box function (minor variant: provides food for eight instead of fifteen, but it’s much tastier and you get juice and beer instead of water, 2000 GP) – for a Grand Total of 12,500 GP.

  • If you want an immobile version to use as secret headquarters or some such you can slap the “Immobile, x.5) modifier on the entire thing – taking the cost down to a mere 6250 GP.

Luxury versions add more functions.

  • A Hearth (as per a Fireblock with the Immobile Modifier) adds a happy little smokeless fire to cook or otherwise work on for a mere 90 GP.
  • Add a quartet of Ioun Torches, for Light (+300 GP. These can be taken outside if necessary).
  • Upgrade the Sensory Range to 120 feet (+500 GP).
  • Give it a +5 on it’s Perception Rolls (+2500 GP, +1 Ego).
  • Add Hide Campsite 2/Day (+4800 GP, +2 Ego). Now no one is likely to get close enough to try and spot your invisible door when you’re camping in the wilderness.
  • Give it a Healing Belt (+750 GP) function.
  • Add a Stable Annex (A Supply Pouch, +3300 GP, +1 Ego).
  • Give it more 3/Day first level spells at 1200 GP and +1 Ego each. Alarm, Ventriloquism, and Restoration – among many others – all have obvious uses.
  • Or just add Mages Private Sanctum on a command word once per day (+16,200 GP, +2 Ego) and move every few days and it will be very hard for anyone to pop in on you.

New Spells:

Mage’s Comfort (Bard I, Sorcerer/Wizard I, Illusion (Shadow), Casting Time 1 Minute, Components V, S, Area: Special, Duration Two Hours Per Level, Saving Throw None (Harmless), Spell Resistance No).

  • Mages Comfort makes an area (campsite, apartment, extradimensional space, etc) pleasant to stay in – with blankets, cushions, comfortable chairs, endtables, beds with nice mattresses, and other “real enough” furnishings. Anything removed from the area will, however, vanish instantly and none of the items can be effectively used as weapons, restraints, or for purposes other than comfort.

Create Door (Cleric 1, Sorcerer/Wizard II). Conjuration (Creation), Casting Time: One Minute, Components V, S, M (a model door), Area: One arch, doorway, or portal, up to 3 feet x 6 feet, Duration: Instantaneous, Saving Throw None (Harmless), Spell Resistance (No).

  • Creates a strong wooden door with a lock and a wooden bar up to fill a space of up to 18 square feet. AC 3; hardness 5; hit points 22; Break DC 25 when barred or locked (Lock: Disable DC 25, Hardness 15, 30 HP). The caster may opt to make it a Secret Door, with a perception DC of (15 + Level, to a maximum of 25).

Anomaly – Local Regions

And for today (and for the convenience or the local players) it’s a bonus post – a “Map” showing the general layout of the local regions of the Anomaly. Sadly, given that the layout covers about two and a half times the area of the Earth (with a much higher percentage of land, at least in this general area), actual terrain features are generally too small to be a concern. Fortunately, most “hexes” have reasonably consistent terrain, environment, and weather. There is, of course, no way that this could work naturally – but it’s hard to get much more unnatural than the Anomaly. And for the convenience of anyone who wants a better look, Anomaly Local Regions I.

Anomaly – Avrinthos and its Birthrights

While no one is entirely sure of why, the Anomalies realms tend to be laid out in hexagons. It’s hard to be sure how precise that is, since the borders are not always easily detected, some realms seem to occupy more than one hexagon, and the hexagons themselves seem to be roughly 4280 miles across. There are fairly often geographical features that form natural boundaries – but at that scale it’s hard so say if it’s a coincidence or not.

Avrinthos is a mountainous realm, a place of valleys, towering peaks, and hidden places. The climate is generally cool and temperate, and much of the area is heavily forested. Few of the many waterways are navigable for any great distance; there are far too many waterfalls, rapids, and gorges. The occasional great lakes / inland seas, and the rivers feeding them, are the only major exceptions; those often support small kingdoms where the water offers easy access. The highest peaks are often frozen year round and a few even host small glaciers at high altitudes.

Scattered through Avrinthos – often clustered around a way-locus (a place where the barriers between realms are thin) – are many small villages, usually connected only by rough forest tracts. Most host several species, but virtually all of them are heavily defended, fairly primitive by most standards, and extremely insular – suspicious of strangers and with little organized government and “rights” for outsiders. That’s because Avrinthos has been – at least for the last six or seven millenia – a realm of paths and gates, where the dimensional barriers are easily penetrated and a host of other worlds touch upon the “reality” (such as it is) of the Anomaly. Not only are there an atounding number of ways to get on and off the Anomaly there (if only rarely to anywhere you actually want to go), but there are an incredible number of weird creatures that pop up out of the various linked dimensions. It’s likely that nowhere else within many hexes has quite such a random assortment of menaces to deal with.

Currently the characters have found themselves near Vitromasse – a small town near the “southern edge” of Avrinthos – in fact, beyond the southern mountains is another realm, a place of terrible beasts. The village primarily trades in items brought in from Ioun through the Light Pool nearby and employes a good many Gaunthound Slaves to protect itself with.

Common Birthrights – and thus commonly accessible universes – in Avrinthos include:

The Dreaming Thunder, via the Slumbering Gates.

This universe allows easy access to the realm of dreams – allowing those in distant locations to communicate easily, for dreamers to visit the dream-realms of alien worlds, and for a thousand fantasies to walk free. Dreamers may be able to contact the denizens of certain other worlds in their dreams, and have been known to trade for “alien” objects, but it’s very hard to tell if their contacts are actually “real” or if they are simply manifestations of dream. Dreaming Thunder Birthrights can weave illusions, enter the realm of dreams, and tap into the powers of nightmares.

  • Cloak Of Dreams: Those attuned to dreams may tap into some of the aspects of dream in the real world, often surviving things that they would normally have no right to survive and becoming slightly more idealized versions of themselves. Innate Enchantment (up to 5500 GP Value, 6 CP): Healing Belt (MIC, 750 GP, x.7 Personal-Only = 525 GP. +2 Competence Bonus to Heal, Spend 1/2/all 3 of its daily charges to heal 2d8/3d8/4d8 damage as a standard action). Amulet of Tears (MIC, 2300 GP, spend Spend 1/2/all 3 of its daily charges as a swift action to gain 12/18/24 temporary hit points), +2 Enhancement Bonus to any one attribute (Personal Only x.7 = 1400 GP), Lesser Force Shield (+2 Shield Bonus to AC, 700 GP), and most of the remainder as “mundane” gear suited to their favored dream-role.
  • Dreamchilde: Witchcraft II (12 CP), 3 Basic Abilities: Dreamwalker (Dreamfaring, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/the user physically enters the realms of dreams when he or she falls asleep, returning when they awaken no more than a few feet from where they fell asleep. They will effectively experience a double life, but have no way to control this and lack other Dreamfaring abilities beyond being able to interact with dream-entities while awake), Infliction (Nightmare Strike), and Net Of Dreams (Elfshot, Specialized for Increased Effect / the user may expend 1 Power to inflict a Greater Dirty Trick effect lasting 1d4+2 rounds on any target within 30′ who fails to save – or may spend 3 Power to target everyone within a 10′ radius).
  • The Inward Shadow: Ritual Magic, Specialized in Dream Magic (3 CP), plus (Int Mod + 3) Minor Rituals (Dreamsending, Dreamwarding, Fair Dreams, Waking Trigger, Prepared Illusion, etc, 1 CP) and two Major Rituals: Nightmare Binding (twists the reciepient into a monstrous form and permanently trades in Attribute Points for Bonus Feats, gaining bonus feats worth 1/2 the cost of buying the attributes traded in back up. Most resulting creatures are sterile, but this is not always true, 1 CP) and Dreambinding (inflicts powerful curses on a helpless victim, often used to help compel obedience, 1 CP).

Gyfara, via the Straight Ways.

While little is known of Gyfara proper, it is believed to be a place of great instability and of mutable space and time. Gyfara Birthrights possess an innate ability to locate swift routes – moving in a flash and accomplishing journeys far more quickly than can be rationally explained. Most trading groups employ at least one Gyfara Aspect guide.

  • The Straight Ways: Immunity / Travel Time (Very Common, Minor, Major, 12 CP). Gyfara can take a 5′ step as an immediate action, move their movement as a swift action, run / take a full move as a move action. take three full moves as a standard action, or take five full moves as a full-round action. When traveling longer distances they take only one-fifth of the normal time. They are quite capable of taking a ten day train trip and disembarking from the train at the destination eight days early – long before the train arrives as far as anyone else is concerned. They can also share this with others (Improved Blessing, Specialized and Corrupted / only to share this specific immunity with a group, only for long-distance travel purposes, only works when they are leading the way, 4 CP), +3 Speciality to Knowledge/Geography/figuring out where you are (1 CP), +3 Speciality to Survival/identifying directions (1 CP).
    • Like so many natural-law immunities, this is flatly unreasonable and potentially game-breaking.
  • Bonded Steed: Companion (Mystic Mount variant, 6 CP).

There are supposed to be a few routes that lead from the Anomaly to Gyfara proper – but, if so, they are either well-hidden or unstable or both. There certainly isn’t any regular traffic.

Ioun, via the The Light Pools of the Star Treaders.

Ioun, the Realm of the Star Treaders, is one of the few otherworlds that is directly accessible from the Anomaly without actually leaving it’s surface. In Ioun the local version of “hyperspace” manifests as something like the classic “Gravity Table” – a plane of twinkling points of light who’s surface is distorted by mass in the underlying space time. It’s also much smaller than the space it reflects; light years translate to a few miles each – and light-pools (generated through psionic effects but then self-maintaining) can allow an easy transition from normal space to hyperspace and vice versa. Unfortunately, unshielded matter in hyperspace soon drops back into normal space as a scattering of elementary particles, so it is airless.

Star Treaders (creatures vaguely resembling a rhinoceros, but with crystal-encrusted hides) can easily make the transition, pulling along and protecting enough mass to handle the rest of their herd – or a sizeable caravan. They can “hold their breath” for weeks or months, although they will require a few hours in a breathable atmosphere to renew their reserves between trips. Taming the Star Treaders has allowed the local sapients to reach the stars using little more than airtight wooden wagons and carved crystals. Since repeatedly-used routes tend to become brighter and more “substantial”, navigation is relatively easy as long as you stick to the common routes.

Star Treader Birthrights can focus psychic energy through crystals, preform preemptive maintenance, and improvise low-tech solutions to small-scale high-tech problems.

  • Focused Starlight: Innate Enchantment: 1 CP (pays the base cost only, provides no abilities), Double Enthusiast with Adaption, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect on Double Enthusiast, and for reduced cost on Adaption / only usable to purchase Innate Enchantments, must have appropriate focusing crystals for the desired effect (generally worth about 10 GP for a L0 effect, 25 for a L1 effect), active crystals glow and, if not fastened down somehow, orbit the user like little stars, 7 CP), and Immunity/The experience-point cost of Innate Enchantments (Common, Major, Trivial (covering level zero and one effects only), Specialized in Innate Enchantments paid for with Enthusiast (1 CP).
  • Master Tinkers: Immunity/Malfunctions (Very Common, Major, Major, 15 CP). An Iounian’s gear almost never breaks down. Rationally, an Iounian Star Caravan – a wooden vessel much like a slightly-oversized Gypsy Caravan, but bound with iron hoops, heavily varnished inside and out, and fitted with small windows and double doors forming a crude airlock (with a wooden pump) could not reasonably be expected to hold an atmosphere for long. It should leak madly around the hand-carved fittings, the varnish should give way, weak points in the wood should burst, the axles should sieze up as the lubricant evaporates, the cold should shatter the iron tires, the little boxes of airplants should not be able to keep up with the oxygen requirements, and the less said about the hand-sewn leather “spacesuits” and space-goggles the better – but for the locals it all works. For them, any low-tech solution that could conceivably work (even very badly) for a little while will work just fine indefinitely.

The Etheric Seas via the Mingled Waters.

In this universe the cloud-seas and drifting islands of the Etheric Plane support distant voyages, who’s length is measured more by drama than by actual distance, but inhibit high technology – and so the crews and ships of a thousand worlds sail the Etheric Seas as explorers, traders, fishers (of some very strange creatures), sea-miners (extracting alchemical catalysts from the Ether), pirates, military forces, or all of those at once in an endless voyage across the galaxies.

The Etheric Seas universe does not touch on the Anomaly directly, but – for whatever reason – some of those with it’s birthright can navigate between dimensions, sailing their ships across the gap between the Etheric Seas and the waters of Avrinthos.

Etheric Sea Birthrights carry the shifting power of the Etheric Seas within their very blood. They can imbue items with a variety of alchemical effects and can store and produce items from the Ether.

  • Adept: Pays half cost for Acrobatics, Athletics, the Burning Powder Martial Art, and Profession/Sailor (6 CP).
  • +2 Template Bonus to their four Adept Skills (4 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Adept Skills (all are automatically bought up to HD+3) (6 CP).
  • Immunity/normal limits on skills, Specialized and Corrupted/only applies to the Adept skills in this template, only allows two special tricks per skill, tricks are usually DC 20 where relevant (Very Common, Major, Minor, 3 CP).
    • Acrobatics Tricks: Erratic Movement (may charge over hindering terrain, turn while charging, or even swing on ropes and such while executing movement-based maneuvers), Evasion (may attempt a check after a successful reflex saving throw for half effect; a success negates the effect entirely).
    • Athletics Tricks: Aerial Combat (may roll to fight without penalty while balancing on spars, hanging from one foot, swinging from ropes, or on wildly rolling decks) and The Flynn Effect (may roll to find a rope ready to hand when he or she needs one to swing on, avoid falling, or tie something up).
    • Burning Powder Tricks: May select Block (Melee) and Weapon Kata (All Napoleonic Era Naval Weapons) as martial arts techniques.
    • Profession/Sailor Tricks: Shipboard Accident (when aboard a ship may roll once per round as a free action to cause an opponent to get entangled in a rope/get in the way of incoming missile fire/slip or trip on something on the deck/get hit by a boom/whatever) and Dimensional Piloting (DC 40 to pilot a ship into another dimension within their local group, or through the plane of shadow past a terrible storm, or some such).
  • Innate Enchantment (up to 10,500 GP Value, 11 CP). In general, all abilities caster level one, spell level one, unlimited-use use-activated, personal only – for a base cost of 1400 GP. Note that these are Etheric Powers, not “magic”; they can be blocked or limited by dimensional barriers and such, rather than by dispelling and antimagic.
    • Handy Haversack (2000 GP). Etheric Sailors can store their stuff in the etheric plane; searching them is generally a waste of time.
    • Etheric Alchemy: Call Item at 100 GP or Less (L2 / 3 Power, Manifestor Level 3, x 2000 GP for unlimited-use use-activated x.4 only to produce alchemical items, x.6 for 3/day = 2880 GP)
    • Burning Black Powder/Produce Flame (Corrupted, requires a “Flintlock” for a focus, 933 GP).
    • Flashing Parry/Force Shield I (Corrupted, requires that the user have either a Dagger or Rapier in hand, 933 GP).
    • Rugged Metabolism. Sailors are healthy and recover very very quickly: Fast Healing I for 18 Rounds 2/Day, Relieve Illness 1/Day, Relieve Poison 1/Day, and Lesser Restoration 1/Day. From the Hedge Wizardry list on this site and The Practical Enchanter (1400 GP).
    • Inspiring Word. +1 Morale Bonus to Attacks, Weapon Damage, Saves, and Checks. They always have great morale, 1400 GP.
    • Equipment: Masterwork Alchemists Lab. Etheric Sailors can mix up alchemical items, brew up exotic alcoholic beverages, and otherwise make trouble at a +4 on their rolls with nothing more than a few ingredients and a wooden bowl or two (250 GP).
    • Advance Pay: Etheric Sailors get some 1400 GP worth of assorted equipment, but this is Specialized for Reduced Cost (700 GP effective) – it must actually be taken out and used, and must be replaced if lost, damaged, or expended. This does, however, mean that the list can include expendable items.
  • Birthright Disadvantages: Broke (Sailors tend to spend money when they’ve got it, although they may opt to stash it in awkward hiding places to spend later when they get a lot, -3 CP) and Accursed (Call of the Etheric Seas. People with the Etheric Seas birthright are, at the least, obsessed with ships, travel, and the seas, tend to move near the sea, want to live on boats, and are easily recruited for distant voyages, -3 CP).

Burning Powder Martial Art (Dex):

Some people aren’t happy with fighting sensibly. They want to swing on ropes while hacking at each other with swords, fight duels on pitching decks during raging storms, and otherwise act like they’re in a really bad movie.

This is Eclipse; never let it be said that you can’t do what you want.

Burning Powder is Specialized for Double Effect (one technique per skill rank)/the user cannot wear anything beyond leathers, is spectacularly obvious as a flamboyant rogue, and will find himself or herself drawn into insane adventures on a regular basis. It’s normally taken for use with the Burning Powder ability.

  • Requires: The “Burning Black Powder” ability.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Defenses 4, Strike, Toughness 2, Synergy/Acrobatics, Synergy/Athletics, and Synergy/Reflex Saves.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Combat Reflexes, Sneak Attack I, Mighty Blow and (Combat) Expertise.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x2, Light Foot and Touch Strike.

A specialized martial art is always iffy, but this one shouldn’t be TOO bad. Other, similar, arts are possible – but the majority of the Etheric Sailors on the Anomaly have this one.

Hyperborea via the Forgeways:

Hyperborea only touches on Anomaly through the occasional Iron Paths – sections of strange, and nigh-indestructible, metallic road which cause strange mental disturbances in those who touch them and which transmit a bitter cold. Attempting to follow such a path usually runs into walls of ice – but if those are broken through the roads vanish into a frozen wasteland where unknown perils lurk. The sun there is weak and pale, and no signs of civilization have ever been reported.

  • The Hyperborean Birthright is regarded as strange, ominous, and dangerous – and brings echoes of terrible, ancient, beings into the world. It simply consists of the basic Bokor package, although the usual ritual for summoning and channeling an entity is involves donning a mask representing the entity and allowing it to merge with the user’s face for the duration. A very few Hyperborean Birthrights learn to call on the Discordant Powers – but that is, in general, a very bad idea.

Tindalos, via the Angled Spaces.

Tindalos… may have more or less “normal” worlds in it somewhere, but what touches upon the Anomaly is a realm of twisted space, distorted time, and impossible cosmic forces, sometimes malevolent, more often utterly indifferent, and completely alien.

It is said that Tindalos Birthrights can call on truly strange and terrible creatures, but often go mad when they tap into their powers. Tindalos Birthrights often study ways to duplicate the tricks of another aspect well enough to pass as one of THEM, rather than using their own powers.

  • Hysteria (Magical Abilities), Specialized and Corrupted / only to get a +6 to the user’s effective caster level, only for Hexcrafting (2 CP).
  • 1d6 (3) Mana, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power Hysteria (2 CP).
  • Rite of Chi, Specialized and Corrupted / only to restore the Hysteria Pool, only works overnight (2 CP).
  • Hexcrafting: Six Narrowly-Themed Cards (Cthulhu Mythos Cards), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: such spells are blatant black magic, cause strange environmental disturbances, each card expended reduces the user’s base will save by one for 1d4 days (if it falls to zero he or she will become confused, if it goes negative he or she will become dangerously insane), results of the “Major” level and above are not fully controllable, cannot use any cards at all until basic language skills are well developed, cannot use more than one card at a time until achieving level two (12 CP).
  • +2 to base Will Saves (6 CP).

Tindalos Birthrights are believed (or hoped) to be rare – but every so often someone will choose to study those terrible forces (buying up the Hysteria to Double Effect, picking up a little more Mana and bonus recovery, and picking up some more cards and Base Will) – and try to use them for their own purposes. This rarely works out well.

Malavon, via the Alfar Roads.

Malavon seems to be a fairly classical everything-goes fantasy medieval kitchen sink setting – but with the interstellar and interdimensional Alfar Road Network active, it touches upon many other realms in an ever-expanding network of trade and adventure.

Malavon Birthrights can draw power directly from the dawn or sunset and are highly adaptable – capable of using devices from many different sources and realms.

  • 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. That’s modeled as Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only to buy the ability to use other realms special equipment (6 CP).

Álfheimr, via the Fey Rades.

Álfheimr is apparently a bronze-age world of fey magic and strange demigods fighting an endless war against the uncontrolled powers of nature incarnate. Each year heros must defeat the avatars of the seasons to keep the year turning, pilot the sun, and ensure that the rains come and the crops grow, and so much more. Not surprisingly… heroic oaths, and mighty heroes, are pretty common.

Fortunately, the Anomaly is far less demanding – allowing Alfheimr Birthrights to turn their hands to other things.

Alfheimr Birthrights can bind oaths, employ a magical system of runes, and perform minor mystical ceremonies.

  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Increased Effect, Corrupted/only to keep Birthright skills maxed out at (Level + 3) (4 CP).
  • Adept (Bullet Time, Ceremonial Magic, Craft, and Dream Binding, 6 CP).
  • Oathbinding (6 CP).
  • Access to Occult Skill / Bullet Time (3 CP).
  • Access to Occult Skill / Dream-Binding (Via scribing mystical runes on things, 3 CP).
  • Access to Occult Skill / Ceremonial Magic (3 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Illiterate. For an Álfheimr Birthright all runes and symbols are magical, potent, and dangerous. They must train carefully to use them for something as mundane as communication.

Eclipse – Distant Divination or Spooky Action At A Distance

And this time around it’s a question…

Are there any ways to engage in long-range detection, communication, information-gathering in Fantasy d20, ideally on a (semi-)perpetual basis without having to layer on heaping helpings of metamagic? I ask because the tactical nature of most d20 magic means that you’re typically limited to, at most, a few hundred feet for the (typically short-term) duration of the spell(s) in question.

The result is that any sort of magical “alert” system is either limited to small-scale things like alarm spells, or being able to throw around epic-level effects in order to cover a kingdom. There’s no other way to, for example, instantly be aware when demons intrude upon the realm, or when an army marches across the border, or when a town is razed to the ground. Meanwhile, d20 Future allows for starship sensors to work at “battlefield range” (which for starships is something like 500 ft. per square, which is easily a few miles at the very least) for the equivalent of a few hundred gp. The best Fantasy d20 can seem to do is an item that perpetually casts animal messenger.

Notwithstanding taking Dominion, what’s a good answer for something like this?

-Alzrius

Good communications runs directly counter to several classic fantasy tropes – the messenger making a heroic effort to get a vital message through, the city or fortress which has not been heard from in weeks (and has probably fallen to some horror), the first news of the dragon attack being carried by exhausted refugees, and many more. If there are good communications, you’re going to miss out on having the Beacons of Gondor lit in warning or finding the lost journal chronicling the fate of the expedition and it’s final, dreadful, warning.

Similarly, despite Dr. Strange and the Orb of Agamotto, fantasy heroes generally don’t hear about an intrusion by elder horrors or the opening of some terrible gate until it’s done a lot of damage. Showing up carrying a load of gear specifically designed to banish the horror and doing so before it’s had a chance to do anything much takes most of the drama out of it.

That’s not to say that you can’t have such things – this IS Eclipse after all – but it’s important to note that they’re going to have quite an impact on the setting and on the kind of adventures that will work in it.

So here are some things you could buy!

Omen Mastery:

On the personal scale, continuous detections are mostly used to avoid being surprised. That one is fairly easy: just buy:

  • Occult Sense / Attackers. You are always at least vaguely aware of when something is coming to attack you. When actually attacked you cannot be caught flat-footed and are always considered to have just had three rounds to prepare (6 CP).

If you add a bit of specialized Blessing – or just take a free action to yell a warning – and you can probably alert your entire party in time to avoid any unpleasant surprises such as scry-and-die tactics. It’s important to note that – unless you spend another 6 CP on “Improved” – this doesn’t tell you much of anything about what’s coming. That didn’t matter much for Granny – who had a fairly limited set of preparations for meeting attacks – but it might matter a lot to characters with more combat flexibility.

For Those With Eyes To See:

There are plenty of other possible Occult Senses of course – you could be sensitive to pollution, or to demonic incursions, or to threats to the realm. The tradeoff is generally that they aren’t all that useful in combat. Do you live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of radioactive dust? Well, “Sense Radiation” will be a lot of help – and most of the time you won’t care if it’s a relatively minor source nearby or a major source further away; you don’t want to go that way in either case.

  • As an example, if you buy Occult Sense / Unnatural Disturbances (perhaps you “hear” the complaints of the natural world at such intrusions) or some such, you can opt to have it work like hearing; the greater the disturbance or “louder the noise”, the further away you can “hear” it. Someone summoning a minor demon? You might hear strange whispers from a few blocks away. Someone opening the Greater Gates of the Abyss to let an infernal invasion ravage the nine lands of the world and usher in ten thousand years of darkness? That’s more like Krakatoa going off – a noise that was clearly heard three thousand miles away and was still detectable on it’s fourth trip around the world.

You’ll still want to add “Improved” if you want a little more detail though.

Heart Of The Realm:

On the scale of a city-state, but still on a purely personal level, you just need to be able to make instant “Gather Information” checks. There are several characters on the list – Granny (who uses a third level telepathic effect) and Cable (who uses a bit of reality editing on his own timeline) who already do that – but if you want to do it a LOT, you will want something like…

  • Immunity/the time normally required to make Gather Information checks. (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP). (This could also be done with Opportunist or even with Occult Sense (Detect what information I would have gotten if I’d actually had time to make the skill check normally) for the same cost).

That will allow you to find out quite a lot of stuff – at least as long as it’s more or less public events. You’ll miss out on the deep secrets, and that some long-forgotten gate to the underworld is opening, and so on though. On the other hand, this is entirely under your control; you can make a quick check to determine what you’ve been able to find out about someone whenever you want to – or at least until the game master throws a book at you.

The Rite Of Askente:

For a general-purpose way to get some questions answered – finding out if the Tomb of the Arch-Lich remains sealed, or where the original Necronomicon is hidden, or some such – you can go with…

  • Inherent Spell, Specialized for Increased Effect (Contact Other Plane) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP) / Requires an occult laboratory and a variety of special props, plus Luck, Specialized and Corrupted / only for the check to avoid a reduction in Intelligence and Charisma (2 CP).

Now, while Contact Other Plane is normally a pretty lousy spell (just get the Cleric to use Commune if it’s worth 500 GP or you actually want to be sure), this package does let you pull out all kinds of exotic information. It’s not exactly unlimited use or ideal for asking about current events, but it IS a great way to prepare for adventures. Do you need the secret rituals contained in the Lindhorm Manuscript? “Where is the Lindhorm Manuscript?” “Waterdeep”. “What guards it?” “Dragons”. “What kind of dragons”? “Blue”…

Even if you’re now out of questions for the day – and won’t really be sure you got the right answers (there’s only an 88% chance per question) until you ask confirming questions and cross-check them – that’s STILL an enormous advantage. Information really is power.

Rulership By Divine Right:

For a god-king or priest-king it’s hard to get too much more classical than having supernatural powers advising you. To get that, just take…

  • Favors (The Local Gods), Corrupted for Increased Effect (the Gods provide you a daily briefing on upcoming major events that will affect the realm you live in – or, for that matter, your life) and will only ask for things in return that a powerful mortal might reasonably do – having a temple built, supporting the state religion, routing out a heretical cult, driving off that demonic invasion they warned you about, and so on. Unfortunately, they will make such demands quite regularly and will never take any actual action on your behalf – limiting themselves to sending you daily prophetic dreams / messengers / scrolls to read at breakfast or whatever other form they opt to provide the information in (3 CP). This could also fit in as a minor privilege (also 3 CP).

I’m not so sure that this is a good power for a non-adventurer – for THEM I might count it as the “Accursed” disadvantage since they will often have no use for such information and will find the “requests” near-impossible – but for an adventurer it basically amounts to “I get a daily newspaper and an advance briefing on my next adventure”.

Intelligence Services (A.K.A. the Royal Collegium Of Astrologers, the Diviner’s Guild, or any of many other names):

To be entirely classical on a larger scale buy…

  • Leadership, Specialized and Corrupted / Only to provide operatives who provide information about what is going on in the realm and quick and easy communications between their posts and with a small number of VIP’s. They do NOT provide other magical services or go on adventures. As relatively low-level mortals, however, they have a hard time dealing with impulsive actions by individual powerful entities (3 CP, but often taken as part of a Sanctum package).

Now this presumes a lot of NPC hustle and bustle behind the scenes, but it’s not like that’s particularly unreasonable – and “has good communications and knows what is going on” is a pretty reasonable use of Leadership. Of course, this also takes the setting from a medevial fantasy basis, where towns may be out of contact for weeks, massacres pass unreported, and where you may attempt to outflank an attacking army only to find that a secondary force has occupied the towns you’d hoped to warn, to a Victorian level – where you may get hourly reports on the progress of a siege and a final message telling you that the attackers have brought in a dragon, the defenses are collapsing, and “this may be my last report”.

Now there are several ways to set up quick communications between individual characters, but for a really general system you’ll want a Heartstone from The Practical Enchanter and to set up an agent Package Deal (probably a bit of Witchcraft Training focused on investigative powers and a version of the Heartstone Attunement feat that skips “Scribe Scroll” in favor of reduced requirements). That lets even a low-level Stone serve as a communications hub and provide some special benefits for your agents. Go ahead; put it in your Sanctum too.

Alternatively, you can use a Magical Business (taking the x.5 modifier for an immobile magic item) – lets call it a Network Hub – using Mindlink (the L1 Psionic Power) with the Renewal option. You’ll have to make it an intelligent item, since the link will be between it and everyone else – but that’s useful in it’s own way; it will have no need to sleep. There will have to be schedules and emergency protocols since the Network Hub will be sustaining hundreds of links and won’t be able to talk to everyone at once – but this setup can maintain one hundred links per caster level and can be thrown together for less than 10,000 GP. The major limitation is that the links are very vulnerable to being dispelled, while a Heartstone Attunement is an undispellable feat. Still, a Network Hub provides a fair approximation of a telegraph or very limited phone network.

That can get you an excellent intelligence and communications network for a few points and some gold. Of course, you are now essentially running a sub-campaign of “Her Majesties Secret Service” or “The Great Game” – but it can be left in the background of a more traditional game easily enough. Just as importantly, while Intelligence Services are most often seen as the province of governments, you can use exactly the same setup to run a network of underworld informants and contacts, magical researchers, or whatever suits your interests.

Mastermind:

Of course, mere information isn’t enough to run a realm. You need to make sure that your orders make it to threatened areas in good time to actually help. For that you will want…

  • Access to the Occult Skill of Foresight (3 CP plus some skill points, once again often taken as a part of a Sanctum package), Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (can take realm-scale actions) / ONLY for realm-scale actions, only with access to Intelligence Services (as above), points are only recovered on a weekly or monthly basis, even if the passage of that much time requires several sessions.

With this talent you can decide that you “had done” something retroactively. Did the game master just inform you that some fool has opened a gateway to the lower planes in the peaceful little town of Stavropoleos? Then you can knock down your current Foresight skill by two or three points and announce “But fortunately, I had the 7’th division and the anti-demon specialists moved to that city just last week! They should be able to maintain the defenses long enough for us to get there!” (The realm-scale equivalent to having a squad of bodyguards just where you need them). This, of course, is in many ways BETTER than good communications. You not only react to the news quickly and effectively, but you started doing it a week before you even got the news. You’re just THAT good.

The Daily Briefing:

This is a secular and personal version of Rulership By Divine Right. It’s more expensive, but you don’t get all those bothersome demands with it. Just buy:

  • Deep Sleep, Specialized / only as a prerequisite (3 CP) and Cosmic Awareness, Specialized for Increased Effect (provides a daily briefing on major events for the day) / Cannot be voluntarily activated and only tracks major events (6 CP). Once again, both are often taken as part of a Sanctum package.

The Daily Briefing provides you with a list of the major events of the day – often somewhat in advance. You will be warned of declarations of war, major supernatural incursions, the reappearance of a Dark God, a major Dragon and some lesser minions moving in, and so on. On the upside, this isn’t too likely to miss anything major; prophetic cosmic awareness usually doesn’t. On the downside, it isn’t too likely to pick up on anything of minor importance. A nearby supernova? Definitely. A border skirmish or a bridge collapsing? Not likely.

It’s worth noting that – like the political influence system and most of the other “half the players aren’t going to be interested in this” items – the “run a realm efficiently” stuff is relatively cheap.

There are other ways of course – these are just the first set that came to mind – but hopefully that will be enough to get you started. Do let me know if you had something more specific in mind; questions are an excellent diversion from being stuck on something (or short of time).

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.