Granny Part III – Witchery, Poisons, and the Ruinous Powers

I’ll get you and your little dog too!

-The Wicked Witch Of The West.

Granny has 126 CP left with which to buy other special abilities – which, given how much she still has to buy, is going to call for some optimization. That isn’t really traditional for NPC’s in most games, partially due to their game masters lack of time and partially because in most games noncombative NPC’s don’t really need detailed writeups – while combative ones are simply there to lose. For such NPC’s optimization is undesirable. After all, if they have any serious chance of winning, sooner or later the dice will give them a victory – and you’ll have a total party kill that ends the game. Granny, however, can safely be optimized out the wazoo because she’s not really there to fight – and a win for her usually means steering the party into a more suitable adventure.

Witchery (45 CP).

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

-Macbeth

Poppies! Poppies!

-The Wicked Witch of the West

The Subtle Arts: Witchcraft III with the Secret Order: Provides all 12 basic abilities and 17 Power. Her powers have a base Save DC of 23, usually using Will (24 CP).

As Within, So Without: Advanced Witchcraft Abilities (33 CP): Aegis (6 CP), Leaping Fire (6 CP), Mouth of the Earth (6 CP), Venomed Touch (Specialized for Double Effect/requires 50 GP worth of alchemical catalysts per use, 6 CP. A 2d12 immediate attribute damage poison with save DC 23 can be pretty useful), The Dark Flame (Specialized for Increased Effect; Only to affect the DC’s of saving against her powers, 6 CP. In effect, she can pay 1 Power to boost the DC of saves against her Charisma-based abilities by +6 for ten minutes), and Weathermonger (Specialized; requires dramatic gestures and a 100 GP focusing talisman, 3 CP).

Pacts (-24 CP): Guardianship (the Crypts of the Haunted Forest), Rituals (Solstice and Equinox Celebrations), Souls (Granny must sponsor and encourage covens of lesser witches), and a nasty Susceptibility to Holy Water (while it’s only one point, and the reaction to small amounts is easily concealed, large quantities could do her serious harm – which is why she’s made sure that the “Melting!” story involved mopwater).

Visions of the Hidden Spheres (8 CP): Cha-Based Rune “Magic” (Psionics): Clairsentience, Casting (Manifestation) +4 SP (4 CP) and Mastery +1 SP (1 CP) +7 (Int) +10 (Cha) +3 (Path) = +24 (Caster level 12) Manifestation, +21 (allowing effects of up to L5) plus And Magician (Charisma, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Power gained can be used for Witchcraft, as well as Rune Magic (Psionics)) / user gains bonus generic Power for their effective Caster Levels, rather than from all bonus spell slots, user is restricted to a list of (Int) specific effects, although they may trade out two per level, 3 CP)

  • L0) Conceal Thoughts, Detect Psionics, Prophecy (allows any stray prophecies or visions that may be floating about to manifest through you), Seance (allows the user to open a link for the dead to communicate over. There is no compulsion involved).
  • L1) Commune with “Birds” (Squirrels and such will do too), Cultural Adaption, Inevitable Strike, Psychic Tracking.
  • L2) Caught In Crystal (As per Improvisation, but provides Insight bonuses rather than luck bonuses), Inevitable Save (as per Inevitable Strike, but applies to a save and can be used as an immediate action), Interview (gives a very good evaluation of someone’s nature and talents after a brief interview),Savored Instant (You may take up to (caster level) mental rounds to experience even the most fleeting sensory impression. While no other actions are possible, you may read a lengthy missive at a glance, get a detailed description of each of the people charging you, carefully evaluate a fleeting expression, or stretch out the savor of a fine wine or an orgasm. If this is ever relevant – say when wine-tasting, or trying to spot if someone is carrying a hidden weapon at a glance – use of this effect provides a +4 circumstance bonus. Activating it does not count as an action and can be done at any time).
  • L3) Arcane Sight, Akashic Communion, Pulse of the Realm (allows an instant Gather Information check), See Beyond.
  • L4) Blood Biography (Greater; can also evaluate targets within short range and provides quite a lot of family details), Detect remote Viewing, Remote Viewing, Trace Teleport
  • L5) Akhasic Map (provides a mental map of the local area, including many details, such as traps and secret doors), Pierce the Veils, Prying Eyes, Twisting Fates Threads (as per Ruin Delvers Fortune, but provides Insight bonuses instead of Luck).

All right; this isn’t strictly Witchcraft, but it seemed to fit in here better than under skills. It’s also a way to get more Power and access to some handy abilities – but the three I really wanted to give her were Seance, Savored Instant, and Pulse of the Realm. Being able to take out a few moments to think no matter how rushed you are, and being able to gather information without it taking up a lot of time, are both invaluable talents for a ruler. (The ability to hold seances is just for flavor of course).

I Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff: Rite of Chi with +(Cha Mod) Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only to restore Power, only takes effect at a maximum of 2d6 points per hour (4 CP). Across a day Granny will regain about 40 power – enough to casually use her psychic abilities for conveniences sake without worrying about tracking every point of Power.

Granny is a pretty powerful witch, but her obvious specialties are biomanipulations and poisons – often used out of combat. After all, she can easily create a contact poison that does 2d12 damage to a chosen attribute (or twice that to an attribute for a specific purpose), has a save DC of 29, and can be given a delayed effect (hours or days). Go ahead, make someone Suggestible (-4d12 Wisdom, only to reduce Will saves), Unable to Strike (reduce Str for melee attack purposes), Dexterity for Movement Purposes, Constitution for Hit Points/Level, Intelligence for Languages (guess what! With Int 0 for that purpose you can no longer communicate!), Intelligence for Skills and Feats (if it drops to 0 for such purposes, you lose access to skills and feats), Charisma for the purposes of Channeling, or a Casting Stat for Spellcasting. Granny has dozens of ways to cripple an opponent with a single touch, dart, or attack – and can provide such poisons for her henchmen and agents.

Combining this with Dominion and her Power Words (Below) will let her poison massive areas – or she can use her Chaos Magic to add effects like Venomfire or Increase Virulence. This is pretty powerful – but it’s an ability that she rarely uses; it affects a massive area, has no provision for making exceptions, and – since she’s generating actual, physical, poisons, that won’t just vanish afterwards – can easily wind up poisoning innocent people later on, rather like the ongoing problems resulting from the use of “Mustard Gas” in World War II.

Does the Venomous Touch poison act again one minute later if the initial save fails? Given that it was essentially based on the Poison spell, it was indeed meant to – but I didn’t note that in the actual description since, at the time, that was the default for all poisons and I was trying to keep the page count down to something manageable. Later material provided a lot of more complicated poisons using other options, so I probably should update that. On the other hand, that leaves it open for game master, which is also reasonable.

Invoking The Ruinous Powers (40 CP):

Granny calls on Dark Gods, Archdevils, and Lovecraftian Forces that frighten even them to grant her terrible powers. Not surprisingly, this has certain problems…

  • It’s blatant dark magic. It backlashes against good or neutral people who attempt to use it, attracts enemies and other troubles, and sometimes lets noxious entities from beyond ooze into reality if used without proper preparations. Even for those who are evil and use it only in secret… it will occasionally attract various problems or foul up their lives.
  • It forces her to show those powers respect, perform bizarre rituals in their honor, make various minor and occasional greater offerings to them, perform occasional services for them (although there are usually many possible tasks to pick from), or have to deal these powers malfunctioning and/or turning against her.
  • These powers are difficult (it costs twice as many uses, three times as many if both apply) to use against the truly innocent or upon holy ground.
  • She must maintain an altar to the ruinous powers and a stockpile of noxious ingredients – virgin’s blood, graveyard mold, vicious toxins, gibbering mouther slime, and so on – to use these powers. This may even require keeping a troublesome menagerie of monsters – and if her supplies are all destroyed or all her altars are desecrated, these powers will not work until she can fix that.

Thanks to these limitations, the entire package counts as being Specialized for Reduced Cost. This may result in double-specialization if combined with restrictions on applicability or usage.

  • Negative Energy Channeling: 1 + 2 x (Cha Mod) uses per day at +2 Intensity, Corrupted/may not command the undead (10 CP). This gives Granny a minimum intensity of 8 (10 Hit Dice +2 Purchased -4 if she rolls a “1″) – which is generally enough. If you don’t want to roll, just assume a “5″ and give her a standard intensity of 9).
  • Shadowmaster, Specialized for Reduced Cost/only for use with the Shades spell, below. (At her current level and up, this effectively makes the effects produced by Shades 100% real – saving the game master any number of headaches over partially real effects. 3 CP).
  • 1d6+2 (6) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only to reduce the effective level and boost the casting level of her Conversion effects, only one mana point may be spent on each when doing so (9 CP).
    • This allows Granny to boost her effective level to 13 (hit dice + 3) (or 15 after her Tttoo) for conversion purposes (high enough to use sixth level effects safely) and bring her ninth level effects down to level six so that she can use them at the cost of 2 Mana. In effect, she can use three of her great spells per encounter.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost/only to recharge the Mana in her Spell Enhancement pool, above (4 CP).
  • Conversion (To a set of four sixth level spells – although they’re actually ninth level, and so she must spend Mana to reduce their level to actually cast them, 15 CP). Such spells have a save DC of 29.
  • Malignant Tongue of the Harridan: L9 Greater Invocation (Maledictions) / creates any one effect of the Malediction spell template of up to L8.

Here we have the signature power of a wicked witch; the ability to lay all kinds of curses – ranging from troublesome to catastrophic – on people, places, and groups. Granny’s eighth level curses can be removed with a Wish or Miracle or some equivalent, (but not lesser spells and effects), through Godfire, by heading to Nine Hells and confronting and dealing with the (invariably major) entity powering said curse, and through whatever release conditions are built into the curse. They can usually be suppressed to some degree by remaining on holy ground due to the “increased cost on holy ground” modifier (although Granny might have anticipated that, and doubled up to avoid it). Granny can use curses to transform people into obedient monsters, but their CR will count against her Leadership score. When cursing the land – perhaps to make fields of magical poppies that put people to sleep – Pathfinder’s Curse Terrain spell effects (Horror Adventures) are easy references.

Granny is capable of using her Chaos Magic to remove curses of up to the sixth level – but she has no way of removing her most potent curses. Fortunately, she’s intelligent enough to restrict herself somewhat if there’s any real chance that she’ll want to undo a curse later on.

  • Call Of The Twisted Forest: Summon Natures Ally IV, Amplify +1 (Templated; the creatures may be given 32 CP worth of extra abilities – normally from among the ten minor templates listed below), Persistent +4 (24 Hour Duration), Amplify +1 (Linked; the summoner is aware of that the creatures learn and do and may communicate with them at ranges of up to ten miles), Amplify +2 (Increased numbers, starting from the effective base of sixth level – allowing the user to summon 1d4+1 creatures of the same type from the Summon Natures Ally IV list, 2d4 creatures from the SNA III list, 3d4 from the SNA II list, or 4d4 from the SNA I list), -3 (7+ levels of built-in Metamagic) = L9.
    • The available templates are Aerial, Aquatic, Armored, Chthonic, Dire, Flaming, Forestal (for intelligent summons only, provides fey knight powers), Ghostly, Noble (an exceptionally fine specimen, suitable for a king), Plague-Ridden, Primal, and Venomous. Yes. Granny can indeed summon up 2d4 Aerial Apes to go forth and do her bidding – or, for that matter, a pack of 4d4 plague-ridden wolves, or 1d4+1 dire bears, or 4d4 flaming eagles/firebirds, or 2d4 Ghost Lions, or any of six-hundred-odd other combinations.
  • Whistle Down The Wind: Greater Invocation of Weather Magic (allowing effects of up to L7)
    • Granny is generally much better at making troublesome and dangerous weather than she is at making nice days – but what can you expect of a wicked witch? She can also use her Weathermonger ability to specifically target weather effects – calling down lightning on someone’s head or steering a tornado through an oppressive rulers palace.
  • Shades.
    • Thanks to her Shadowmastery ability, the effects she calls forth are 100% real.

This is a very powerful set of spells – although, as noted earlier, Granny can only use three of them before taking a break to recharge since she needs to spend a point of mana to bring their spell levels down to six and another point to get her caster level up to where she can safely cast a sixth level spell. As a general rule Granny will cast Call Of The Twisted Forest each morning so as to have a set of sentinels out (and she’ll do it again if she needs some minions), control weather (and a little witchcraft to guide it) will help hold up any assault, the Malignant Tongue of the Harridan lets her weaken attackers (usually through familiars). She’ll usually reserve Shades to escape with since it covers both teleportation and a wide variety of barriers and diversions.

Hatred’s Weal Path:

  • Dark Awakening, Specialized for Reduced Cost / The Undead Creation function can only create immaterial undead that Granny can fit into her Leadership allotment (3 CP). As a rule, Granny much prefers living servants – and so her only real use for this ability is as another option for coming back if she gets killed.
  • Shadow Casting, Corrupted for Reduced Cost, Specialized for Increased Effect (each shadow has a base level of 2 without an XP cost and saves 100 XP if a higher level is desired. They gain the Mystic Link ability with Granny with the Communications, Power, Summons, and Travel options) / The user may only create (Cha Mod) Shadows at any one time and may only have them possess normal animals or magical beasts, if without a host they can do nothing but return to their summoner to be re-embodied (4 CP).
    • Granny will pretty much invariably have one standing by to pull her out of any jam. They’re also her stand-ins and her primary method of long-range attack; she has one go near her targets and channels one of her major spells through – possibly having the familiar project a witchcraft-illusion of her (or perhaps someone else entirely) if she wishes to communicate or make an impression – but she will never expose herself to danger if it can be avoided. Granny hasn’t survived some twenty generations of adventurers coming against her by being stupid.

This is a major disconnect in many games. They’re often set in worlds with thousands of years of backstory, lurking elder evils that were old before the rise of civilization, and ancient mysteries – all of which a group of player characters will shred within a few years. Now I’m willing to give the player characters some credit; they probably really are the chosen ones or something – but that still tells us that those ancient mysteries and evils have survived thousands of years of non-player character adventurers trying to get rid of them. So even conceding something special about the current player characters that makes it possible, it seems appropriate to make pulling off those victories really, REALLY, difficult – and that’s “plan, gather resources, prepare, and do a lot of work” difficult, not “tough encounter” difficult.

  • Call Inner Demons, Specialized for Increased Effect (Construct Level = Intensity) / The summoner does not gain any bonuses when the construct kills something and cannot manifest a construct of above level eight (6 CP).
    • While a construct that lasts for ten minutes can be a fairly effective tool or minion, Granny tends to make one with the Class-C Enveloping modifier if she’s expecting a confrontation. Picking up an extra 118 HP, +19 Natural Armor, two slam attacks at +25 for 1d10+16, 10′ Reach, Str 39, and seven additional abilities – perhaps Flight, Semisentient (to carry her away if she is somehow incapacitated), Tunneling, Boosted Flight (to 60′), +2 Slam Attacks, Fast Healing II, and one Class-C ability – perhaps Dimension Slide as a move action, or Natural Invisibility, or the ability to become Ethereal at will – is pretty good.

Hand of Darkness Path:

  • Shadowmastery: This is pretty simple. You turn out the lights and gain Shadowsense. Thanks to Circle of Power, below, this affects a 55-foot radius (6 CP).
  • Fearspeaker, Specialized/only affects those who know at least some of the legends of the Dark Enchantress (3 CP).
    • Granny doesn’t usually bother with this very much; if she’s making a public appearance in her Dark Enchantress persona, usually with various grim special effects, any sensible lower-level types in the area will probably be terrified anyway – just as they probably will be in the presence of any other obviously excited-and-dangerous higher level warrior or spellcaster.
  • The Dark Veil. The passive ability to conceal her true identity and keep that separate from the persona she projects with her Method Acting disguise skill trick is the real prize here – but being able to intervene and then make people forget all about you is wonderfully useful (6 CP).
  • Nightmare, Specialized/only for Phantasmal Killer. Sharing her nightmarish visions of the dark powers that lurk beyond the gates of reality is too much for most minds to bear (3 CP).
  • Vanishing Shadows. Selective memory erasure that makes people suggestible. Pretty much the perfect way to deal with any inconvenient questions. What politician could resist? (6 CP).

The Boundless Realms Path:

  • Circle of Power (Specialized and Corrupted, Only for Hand of Darkness powers, only for Shadowmastery (Calling Down the Dark), The Dark Veil (Oblivious Wave), and Nightmare (Nightmare Storm Technique), 2 CP).

With a base cost of 80 CP, Invoking The Ruinous Powers costs a total – after Specialization – of 40 CP. That’s a lot of power for 40 CP of course, but then it is a limited set of highly specific abilities with serious backlash issues.

Next up: Granny’s Rulership, Miscellaneous Abilities, and Equipment.

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Do-It-Yourself Charms and Talismans

Basil and Lord Henry survey the portrait of Dorian

Yeah. Watch out for these things.

Some time ago I was asked to take a look at some suggested Charms and Talismans to add to those in The Practical Enchanter. It’s taken some time to get to it, but here we go!

Charms and Talismans are the occult equivalents of basic hand tools – channels for ambient and personal magic just as hand tools are channels for the user’s skills and muscle power. When you compare them to full-fledged enchantments… you see the difference between a blacksmith’s hammer and an automatic hydraulic drop forge capable of exerting 425,000 pounds of pressure.

As tools, Charms and Talismans are not, in themselves, much more magical than any random rock. In fact, with a little work, the occasional random rock makes a perfectly functional charm (“Wellstone”). There aren’t any feat requirements for making them either – although the game master may require you to spend a few skill points on knowing the equivalent of a “book of formulas”. To quote the rules from The Practical Enchanter

Charms are straightforward: they’re made using the Spellcraft skill as a craft skill. The base cost is normally 100 silver pieces, the DC is 15, and there usually are no special requirements. A skillful charmsmith can turn one out in a few days if he or she knows the formula. Talismans are trickier: they require minor special materials, have a basic cost of 250 SP, a Craft DC of 20 (with a relevant craft skill) to make, and require a DC 20 rite to empower. Most talismongers will need a week or two to make one unless they subcontract the crafting part – which usually cuts it down to three days.

Thus, given that basic lack of power, Charms usually have level zero effects and are either constant or operate a few times per day. A few are “charged”, and can have up to fifty charges. Talismans can have effects of up to level one or even level two in rare cases – but those with active effects are often a strain to wield, often temporarily draining one of the user’s attributes (inflicting “ability damage”) to provide the power. They normally take several hours to attune, and so can’t be traded around quickly. In either case, their user’s can normally only power a few of them. Some worlds make Charms and Talismans available naturally, or through the use of the Practical Enchanters Wealth Templates. In others, you can buy the ability to use them at the cost of six character points (in Eclipse) or one Feat (in standard d20). That will buy you…

Talismanic Magic: Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for increased 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).

The Practical Enchanter includes quite a list of Charms and Talismans – but here’s a list of homebrew suggestions from Brett. I suspect that I’ll be cutting a lot of them back a bit – but that happens a lot with suggestions.

Trail Boots: While using overland movement always treated for self as if having a Trail and drastically lowers the likelihood of encounters with animals etc. Favored by ranger and scout types, gives mobility bonus for those attuned to the ‘wilds’ – Brett.

Well, “Guide My Feet” – a zero-level spell that lets you move through “trackless” terrain as if you were on a trail for a bit seems pretty reasonable. Throwing in that it helps you avoid normal animals while engaged in long range travel shouldn’t really break anything, however convenient that spell would be for a party with unlimited use of it at low levels. As for the “Mobility Boost” – well, that could mean movement rate, but a movement-booster – even if it is wilderness only – starts getting into “must have” territory, which really isn’t what Charms and Talismans are all about. Still, the power level is relatively low and if you’re using Eclipse getting yourself a small movement bonus in a limited environment is going to be pretty cheap anyway.

(Revised) Trail Boots: The wearer moves through Trackless Terrain as if on a Trail. If he or she would normally have a random encounter with an animal while engaged in overland travel, he or she may make DC 15 Survival Check. On a success, he or she may opt to go around the animal instead. Talismanic versions might come in a variety of styles. Pick any one of:

  1. Talismanic Trail Boots provide an additional +5′ to movement while in the wilds. Simple, straightforward – and a very easy choice for any wilderness game.
  2. Talismanic Trail Boots allow the wearer to duck and weave through the obstructions of a natural wilderness environment; the user gains a +2 to his or her armor class to evade attacks of opportunity in such environments and is immune to the Entangle spell.
  3. Talismanic Trail Boots grant their user exceptionally sure footing, granting a +4 bonus to rolls made to maintain their balance, climb up rocks, and otherwise avoid slips and falls in such terrain.

Boots of the Canopy: Give roughly the benefits of the spell Branch to Branch from the Spell Compendium; +10′ run along tree branches +10 Climb on trees. They’re used by elven warriors to enhance their home field advantages – Brett.

Well, that’s very situational, which fits – but the power level really calls for a Talisman. Ergo;

(Revised) Boots of the Canopy (Talisman): These soft, gripping, boots grant a +10 bonus to the wearer’s attempts to climb trees, run along tree branches, and jump from branch to branch.

Living Phylactery: Preserves the body (to various degrees, usually cosmetic or aging only (but versions abound) in a manner similar to the portrait of Dorian Gray. This is the singular most common type of demonic or devilish ‘corrupting gift’ as it costs little effort and strongly encourages the lower pursuits that draw one to further corruption – Brett.

For comparison, a Grace of Miravor Charm prevents most illnesses including arthritis, incontinence, and the various infirmities of age – but not aging penalties. A minor variant that simply prevents the infirmities of age while providing the appearance of youth (but no actual extension of lifespan) is entirely reasonable – especially as a Black Magic Charm. A Wardstone Charm can easily eliminate aging penalties to attributes since the amount of wear and tear on the body in any given day is minuscule, but such stones are rare, simply because actually benefiting from one requires essentially giving up a charm slot perpetually – and other options tend to be far more attractive at any given time. Just as in reality, people know that self-discipline may pay health dividends later – but how many of them actually give up all those unhealthy foods now? Even the ones who intend to do it tend to say “well just one more won’t hurt…” – and the harm done by using a different Charm for a few days is even more subtle. Ergo, since a Black Magic Talisman is stronger than usual but always has some sort of price, this can become…

(Revised) Living Phylactery (Black Magic Talisman): While this seductive talisman comes in a variety of forms – dolls, portraits, statuettes, and even “autobiographies”, it always takes on the image of it’s owner. While it does not extend the user’s lifespan, it does prevent physical aging while it’s attuned – and provides DR 1/- versus physical damage. Unfortunately, like all Black Magic, such a talisman does exact it’s price. Such a talisman reflects the one point of damage it prevents from each physical injury, and if it is ever de-attuned or destroyed, will return that damage to the user all at once. More subtly, a Living Phylactery draws power from it’s owners youthful excesses; if the user reduces their sexual indulgences, use of drugs and intoxicants, and recruitment of others into such activities for long, the aches and pains of aging will return, as will the damage that has accumulated in the Phylactery. This does offer an escape – a few months of self-denial, pain, and catching up on your aging will bleed off the damage stored in a Phylactery and allow the user to de-attune it safely – but few of those who would attune a Living Phylactery in the first place are so inclined.

Silverskin Armor: A reserve of a psyoreactive liquid metal that replicates a small range of gear, usually leather armor, light shield and the adjustable choice of a dagger, whip or lasso (change as ‘drawing’ a weapon). Also provides a single THP and a ‘Field’ effect that prevents actual physical contact with a substance, usually to limit disease or poison exposure. The field is extant as long as the THP is present, if damaged lose the THP first as normal, at the start of the turn the THP returns, if that same THP is present at the next turn the field is reestablished. This was developed by the Synod as a means of limiting exposure to the glistening oil it also provides protection from more mundane poisons and diseases – Brett.

Now this one is a bit over the top. The Flux Iron Charm is essentially a reserve of metal that the user can mentally reform, but allowing it to emulate leather and rope as well as metal would definitely make it a Talisman. Throwing in the ability to become several items at once makes it even more powerful – and putting in a once-per-round temporary hit point and protection against poisons and diseases would make it even more powerful. I’m afraid that this will have to be split up;

The Bracers of Force Charm creates minor force fields – capable of withstanding one point of damage, and of warding off physical contact by rain and bugs and similar annoyances. A minor variant – perhaps the “Ward of Sekhmet” will do.

(Replacement) Ward of Sekhmet (Charm): This useful charm creates a low-grade force-aura around it’s user. The aura can absorb only one point of damage before collapsing, but will restore itself one round later. While the field cannot prevent the passage of gases or massive applications of liquids (such as corrosive breath weapons, being engulfed in slimes, and similar troubles), it can hold off rain, splashes of dangerous liquids, casual contact with slimes, toxins, infectious body fluids, and a variety of similar hazards.

(Replacement) Crafter’s Belt (Charm): This broad belt gives protection equivalent to heavy leather without it’s encumbrance. While this does provide the wearer with a +2 Armor Bonus, it also wards off thorns and itchy plant saps, splinters, sparks and embers, and similar annoyances, making such a belt a favored accouterment amongst farmers, gardeners, craftsman, and others. As a side-benefit the user may simply touch items to the belt and have them “stick” to it, as well-secured as if they had been hung on a loop or tucked into a pocket. A Crafter’s Belt will also obviate any need for suspenders, trusses, or weight belts*.

*Not that d20 characters ever actually need any of those. Of course, considering some of the outfits that players describe their characters as wearing, some sort of charm may be needed to hold them up and together.

And finally…

(Replacement) Assassin’s Bracer (Talisman): This light bracer unfolds into a light steel shield on command – and will reveal, on it’s back, holders for a variety of light weapons which the user may exchange as if simply drawing a weapon. Sadly, no individual weapon may weigh more than two pounds and it cannot hold more than ten pounds of weapons in total.

Diamond Kaleidoscope: Usually built more as a chandelier though many forms exist. Gives multiple ‘Mage Hand’ level servants that take simple instruction, usually used to staff a location in the manner of simple servants and go-fors. Such servants have a range of 300′ or the building, but in the later the boundaries of the building need to be marked by some inexpensive powders to attune the kaleidoscope. This provides the not uncommon situation of making actual servants expensive ostentatious luxuries and allows for many more creative uses – Brett.

Hmm… Well, this has much greater range than a normal Mage Hand spell, doesn’t require concentration, and can perform simple services on it’s own – basically an Unseen Servant effect. The Warding Cartouche Charm maintains a specialized Unseen Servant effect for the user – but only one (maintaining a limited version of a level one effect). This one pretty much comes down to “too big a scale even for a Talisman” – and there’s no easy way to break down the effects either. Now if you could hook some much more powerful source of magic into the effect, or amplify the magic, or handle the effect elsewhere…

(Replacement) Star Stone (Charm): This crystal feeds a tiny trickle of magic into something else (and glows with ever-shifting colors while it does so). They’re usually combined with Applied Spellcraft (Practical Enchanter, Page 120) Power Amplification (+1 or +2 to a Specific Spell) and Runic Formula effects to allow them to empower a level zero (amplification +1) or even first level (amplification +2) effect every 1d4 rounds. Sadly, unless the application also includes a Caster Level Increase, the effects are only “cast” at caster level one. Talismanic versions may convert the user’s personal energies into magic; the user may expend 2d4 hit points to produce a L0 burst of magic or 1d4 Constitution points (ability damage) to produce a L1 burst of magic.

There. With a Star Stone set into an appropriate Runic Diagram (1’st level spell formula (DC 10), Amplify Specific Spell +2 (DC 15), Combined DC 20. Setting this up in paint – probably on the ceiling to reduce the chance of damaging it – will require about fifteen days) you can readily spawn enough Unseen Servants to look after your entire mansion and any parties you may throw.

To be continued…

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.

The Initiates of the Arcane Forge

English: Wizard with a spell.

Oh not you guys again!

The secrets of the Arcane are dark, and terrible, and were never meant for mortals to wield. Those who dabble with such forces without exercising the utmost precautions, and engaging in long purifications before and after doing so, become something other than human. At the very least, they are strange, and distant, and cold. At the worst… they are twisted mockeries of their original selves, their very flesh ravaged by the forces they channel and their lives supported in their withered husks by unnatural energies instead of healthy flesh and blood.

That’s a common, and fairly popular, fantasy trope. The problem with trying to bring it into a game is that most games that allow player characters to have magical powers at all treat them as just another set of skills that adventurers can have; the only real “cost” to studying mystic lore, poring over dusty tomes, and learning eldritch secrets… is that you aren’t spending your time learning to swing a sword, maintain a fusion engine, fire a missile launchers, pick locks, or whatever else the game and setting allows.

There is one way to do it though. Sure, any character can study magic – but those who are willing to take it into themselves, to become a suitable vessel for it’s unnatural power, and to risk the lures of still greater powers and transformations… gain greater power. You offer the players a choice; take the power and the transformation, or settle for mortality and somewhat lesser magics. That way your serious roleplayers will treat magic as something fearsome even if their only actual “trial” is to say “I’m not taking that option” and the ones who feel that they (or their characters) want power at any cost can take it – even if the increase is only modest.

Thus we have the…

Rad’Egion – Initiates of the Arcane Forge

(61 CP / +1 ECL Race or +2 ECL acquired template).

Most mystics study magic.

Some few seek to become it.

An Initiate of the Arcane Forge may have started life as a human, elf, or some similar creature – but once they are done ritually infusing themselves with the blazing inner fires of arcane magic, they are reborn, no longer a common mortal but a being with blood of silver fire, attuned to the very pulse of magic. Their new modifiers replace their original racial modifiers, and they will be as if they had been Rad’Egion from the very beginning, made over in the image of magic.

Rad’Egion are marked by the fires that flesh was never meant to hold; they tend to be thin, to have dry, pallid, parchment-like, skin, and to be prematurely gray (when they are not colored entirely unnaturally). Their eyes are often a solid gray or silver, and their touch is often cold – and they tend to have trouble relating to others. It is rare for a Rad’Egion to marry, even rarer for them to bear or father children. Many will have disturbing stigmata or transform even further as their powers advance.

Rad’Egion Racial Modifiers:

  • +2 Intelligence (12 CP).
  • +2 to any single characteristic other than intelligence (12 CP).
  • Immunity/Aging (Uncommon, Major, Major, 6 CP): A Rad’Egion may expect to live for several millennia – presuming that nothing goes wrong.
  • +1 Base Caster Level, Specialized in Wizard Spellcasting (3 CP).
  • +1 level of Wizard Spellcasting (14 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Spells (+2 per level, starting at Level Minus One) (6 CP).
  • Any two Metamagical Theorems (12 CP), with two levels of Glory, Specialized and Corrupted/can only be used three times per day each, only with wizard spellcasting, use must be declared during the casting, if the spell is disrupted, counterspelled, or otherwise fails the chance to use this ability is lost as well (4 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Detect and Analyze Magic (6 CP).
  • +2d4 Generic Spell Levels (bought as Mana), Specialized for Increased Effect (4d4 (10) spell levels)/must be bound into prepared wizard spells to supplement those otherwise available to the character using known formula (6 CP).
  • +2 on Saves versus spells (3 CP).
  • +2 on Saves versus mind-affecting spells or effects (3 CP).
  • +2 to Concentration, Knowledge/Arcana, and Spellcraft (6 CP).

That comes to a total of 93 CP – which would normally make the Rad’Egion a +2 ECL race. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the entire package is Corrupted. The Rad’Egion are creatures of magic, and they…

  • Take damage from Dispelling and Antimagic – suffering 1d6 damage per two caster levels when exposed to such effects with no save.
  • Must spend at least an hour a day after they awaken meditating and channeling magic into themselves or they will lose access to all of their racial abilities other than their longevity, their boosted intelligence, their skill bonuses, and their limitations, for the day.
  • Are seriously obsessed with magic; the GM may call for will saves to resist offers of new spells or occult lore, meddling with dangerous magical spells, effects, and devices, attempting to use magic to resolve every situation, or even (occasionally) going to bed with unexpended spells.
  • Are obviously unnatural; the lack of the red of natural blood makes them look odd, they radiate a strange magical aura, and most other people find their obsessions disturbing. In general, they will suffer a -2 on social skill checks.
  • Can easily be spotted with Detect Magic effects, even if otherwise well hidden.
  • Are very, VERY, likely to become Liches after death if they’ve made it to a high enough level (after all, half their life is based on magic anyway).
  • Perhaps worse, many find it very hard to resist the temptation to take and abuse the Compact metamagic – often warping and twisting themselves with variations on Black Magic (another easy route to lichdom, see Arcanum Minimus in The Practical Enchanter), or taking on excessive debts to magical beings, or otherwise falling to the lure of easy magic. At the least, this gives them a questionable reputation.

That brings the net cost down to 62 CP – a +1 ECL race.

OK… the Rad’Egion pretty much have “Wizard!” stamped on their foreheads, and gain quite a few useful advantages in being wizards – to the point were it would be pretty silly in a conventional game NOT take some levels in Wizard unless you just wanted to meet the requirements for some prestige class. In Eclipse taking some Wizard Casting Levels is virtually mandatory – why else would you any player select this race? Still, while they’re more powerful than most +1 ECL races those racial disadvantages can really come back to bite them.

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. If you want, there are some reviews.

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.

D20 – Mass Combat Made Simple

English: http://www.mfr.usmc.mil/4thmardiv/4th...

Yes, Lizard Men would be great at this, wouldn’t they?

A common complaint in d20 games is that there’s no mass combat system.

Fortunately, that’s actually pretty easily fixed – although, as usual, the first step is in figuring out what cases your rules actually need to cover.

  • If the PC’s are not involved in the battle you don’t need any rules. You simply narrate whatever result seems reasonable – perhaps modified with the result of a few die rolls to see if something unlikely happens.
  • If the PC’s are running one side or the other from a command position, but are not getting involved directly, you can have them make a few skill checks, let those results modify your notion of what seems reasonable and narrate the results. If you want to get elaborate you can give the players a few decision points – when to advance, when to retreat, and some basic tactics to pick from – and base your narration on that. Once again, in this case you don’t need any rules. It’s not like they’ll really be able to micromanage anyway – and if they CAN, we no longer have “they are not getting involved directly”.
  • If the PC’s are operating as special forces against small groups of opponents… the standard combat system handles that very nicely indeed. That’s what it’s for. You don’t need any mass combat rules here either.
  • If the PC’s are in direct battle with – or beside – mass-battle sized groups of near-equal, equal, or superior individuals… Then you don’t need rules. Their options are basically limited to 1) run away, 2) cash in a plot coupon, 3) come up with something so incredibly clever that the GM gives it to them, or 4) dying – heroically or not at their option. You can just narrate the result again.

So; the only time you actually need “mass battle” rules is when the player characters are up against large numbers of much weaker creatures that are organized enough to still be threatening. (If they’re not organized you can just use the Swarm rules…).

So lets reach back, back beyond d20, back beyond AD&D, back beyond the original edition… back, in fact, all the way to one of the older editions of Chainmail and a little page of fantasy units in the back of the booklet.

Hm. It looks like heroes and wizards and such count as military units. Their mighty heroism and magical power makes them equivalent to sizeable groups of normal soldiers, capable of competing directly against military units on the field of battle. Of course current RPG’s tend to focus on the individual heroes, start them off well before “name level” – and forget all about that “equivalent to military units” stuff. (Except for the occasional threads about “Can an army of 10,000 peasants and a midlevel warlord take down the 20’th level wizard in his tower? And no sending out the Iron Golems!”.)

So; there are your rules. Powerful heroes are equivalent to military units. Ergo, for combat purposes, Military Units can be reasonably represented… as powerful individuals.

OK. We’ll give them a few special rules;

  • They are disrupted – and effectively vanish – when they hit zero hit points, just like summoned creatures. There will be lots of broken survivors who will run away. Actually “killing” them will require chasing down the majority of the individual fleeing creatures. It’s usually not worth the bother.
  • Looting them gets you lots of lesser gear, rather than the higher-level equivalent items that they combine to represent.
  • The scale is bigger. How much bigger? It really doesn’t matter much; the player characters can simply be presumed to be moving about on a larger scale, spending time picking out good targets from among the mass instead of just blasting away, and a few characters can effectively man that city wall. Time and distance are stretched out proportionately – and so don’t actually change anything. The only major effect here is that – if you want to add mounts or supplies to your military group out of your personal resources – you’re going to need a lot of them.

If you must guess the CR – instead of just making it reasonable for the group (remember, you don’t need rules for “an easy victory” or “too strong to fight”) – divide by five or so. Groups just aren’t as well organized as individuals.

So you have a peasant militia with 120 CR 1/2 members being organized by a sixth level fighter?

OK: that gives us… three wings of 40 guys each. Divide by five. 8 CR 1/2 characters is… a fifth level equivalent.

So; build them as three fifth level characters – probably fighters. They’ve been taught to dash in and out? Mobility feat. One wing was taught to strike mighty blows? Power attack for that one. One wing includes a bunch of novices from the temple? Build that one as a cleric; the novices massed efforts can approximate a few higher level spells. They include some creatures with weird abilities? Give the units you’re building some. That’s easy in Eclipse, but there are ways to do it in most d20 systems.

You’re modeling a swarm of demons? Use the statistics for a few more powerful ones and simply describe the seething mass of lesser creatures as they combine their powers to launch a few more powerful attacks.

The nigh-invincible United Armies of the Hundred Cities might be built as a quartet of eighteenth level characters. Sure, there are things out there that can take them out – but their well-trained massed forces of the dozen cities that actually contribute much, with all their minor priests, magicians, and mystics, and their field fortifications, catapults, and other defenses, say that it isn’t going to be easy unless you’re a high epic level type yourself.

This also has a subtle advantage; you can use masses of lower-level opponents quickly and easily to oppose those high-level PC’s – rather than having to have massively powerful creatures and opponents lurking around every corner. That way you don’t have to answer questions like “where were all these guys when we were low level?”, or “how do the normal peasants survive?” or “how can the world still function when it’s full of people who can warp it, twist it, and overthrow it at whim?”.

Now, if a player wants to command a military unit, or the services of a temple full of novices and underlings, or some such… let them take Leadership and apply the same principle. Use the statistics of a single, higher-level, character to represent the massed efforts of many lower-level ones.

No, this isn’t a perfect simulation of a mass battle – but it’s quick, simple, workable, and works in the game. If it still worries you, just remember; d20 is full of high-order abstractions already. What will one more hurt?

Federation-Apocalypse Session 200b – Markov versus Marty

Meanwhile, Markov had been trying to track down that fat mage who’d snatched Tokif – and apparently a few more of his enslaved offspring – right out of coalition territory! He’d called him fat! He needed to be tracked down and eaten!

He burst in on the young slaves he’d gotten from that “Kadia” place – they were good with the computer networks and things – and demanded that they start working on tracing, or searching, or whatever-it-was they did to find people! With magic, and technology, and whatever else they had!

That left them looking more than a little befuddled…

(Thrall) “But… Master… Isn’t that… you?”

(Markov, with some shock) “Wait… argh! You’re right! And I was looking forward to a delicious meal too… Hey, what would happen if I ate myself?”

(Shocked Thrall) “Urm… You might die? Eat me instead! I’m tasty!”

The master was a little odd today!

(Markov) “Nah, not enough meat on you. And I don’t like eating hatchlings. I don’t know… oh, wait, I do! Let’s arrange a hunt!”

(Relieved Thrall) “What shall we hunt master?”

(Markov) “Well, what’s in the area? And, more importantly, is it tasty?”

(Thrall) “There are mammoths a bit to the north! A couple of whites hold that territory, but they can easily be either bribed or enslaved!”

(Markov) “Well, let’s attempt to bribe them into the coalition first. If they refuse, THEN we can enslave them.”

The master wanted whites? Most of them were VERY stupid! Oh well! They could still recognize overwhelming draconic force when it was flapping it’s wings overhead, and the coalition certainly had it… Combined with a bit of bribery, that brought the pair into the coalition easily enough…

They didn’t bring any hatchlings with them though. This pair didn’t bother with creches; they just clutched every six months or so and scattered the clutches around at random!

Ah, white parenting! It reminded Markov of his primary self’s childhood for a bit…

Then it didn’t as Marty considered matters… ENTIRELY on their own? From birth? While trapped in glacial mountains surrounded by more powerful dragons, and with parents who would gladly kill them holding most of what hunting territory there was? No friends, no resources, no conversation, no emotional support at all, and nothing but an arctic wasteland to live in? Good gods… that sucked even WORSE than being subject to parental whims in a creche! At least most dragon parents gave their children something to eat besides each other!

Anyway… as members, the whites were not only quite willing to let everyone hunt Mammoths, but they didn’t mind them hunting any white hatchlings they ran across without sense enough to hide from more powerful dragons… It wasn’t like most of them didn’t die or get enslaved anyway! Any anyone could catch obviously weren’t tough or clever enough.

Markov found that more than a little… unsettling! If he hunted down and enslaved their kids, it would be a… wonderful present that would vastly improve their lives. If he killed them slowly, it would probably STILL be a kindly act of mercy! That was just wrong! How could you be properly evil when there was nothing you could possibly do to make a situation any worse?

He caught about thirty of them anyway… It was just too easy to resist!

He tried to distribute them among the coalition members before going out on the hunt – but most of the other nine members weren’t even especially interested… Whites mostly made rather incompetent slaves, they were weak and stupid and they were usually too scrawny to even be worth eating! If you needed to leash some guard animals somewhere, they were good at that!

Markov wondered for a bit… He hadn’t thought that most of his coalition members normally ate hatchlings… Ah; hyperbole “they aren’t even any good as MEAT!”.

Eating hatchlings mostly went with being extremely old and powerful – at the point where hatchlings seemed… almost nonsapient by comparison.

Oh well! Guard pets it was! On the off chance there were some less stupid ones in the mix, he set up the glacial areas as a free range where they could roam, fight, and possibly get enslaved. It wasn’t like the glaciers were any good for anything else after all!

The mammoth hunt was a lot of fun though! Mammoth steaks were big enough to satisfy even a dragon’s appetite!

Well, relatively young ones like Markov and his friends anyway.

Offworld, Marty tuned out the bloody feasting, and considered… It looked like Tokif could go back if he wanted; Markov had canceled the sale, and guaranteed that he wouldn’t sell hatchlings without REALLY good reasons – but it would still put him in a good deal of danger.

Tokif elected to think about that for awhile first. Everything he knew was in the Dragon Empire – but in Kadia… well, no one was after him!

Markov, having found out that Tokif was an item-creator, wanted him back too… Marty wasn’t so sure that was a good thing, although Tokif seemed to find it so. Was the boy still after his father’s approval? Marty could see how it would be hard to put a human in Markov’s place.

Tethen, however, wanted to go… Since he was a hatchling, and had escaped, it could be argued that he was no longer a slave (although it was a thin argument, since he hadn’t escaped before processing, or unaided – and that rarely flew without major support) – and he wanted a chance to beat up his old master and some of that hatchlings brothers…

Well, those were Vrysylin’s hatchlings, not his – and Vrysylin wouldn’t much care.

Far more importantly, Tethen had acquired a soul and was now a Thrall. It would be good if he was there to recruit Felan – and any other hatchlings who acquired souls – as Thralls. That was the only way Marty could think of to actually ensure their safety.

Blast it! Kevin didn’t even KNOW about this identity, or situation, and was in no way involved – and he had, yet again, managed to be the lesser evil!

Could that really be because he wasn’t evil at all? He certainly LOOKED evil…

Still… Thralls were GUARANTEED to live, and have children, and to be free, and to enjoy themselves – all the things that Hatchlings in the Dragon Empire were so desperate for, and had so little chance to actually attain. He LIKED the idea that his children would get to realize their dreams!

Especially when their dreams were mostly so small compared to those of other children.

Well, they could have bigger dreams later!

Markov was a bit startled as he considered the curious possibility that Tethen might show up intact again, off the leash, and wanting to move back in… That was funny! A proven loser would be a universal target! He dragon-laughed at the thought… The boy would be welcome to try again! He’d make it a hundred to one that he’d be back in a processing machine, or on a slave-processing rack, within a week!

Marty sent Tethen back anyway; Thralls were pretty good at taking care of themselves…

Markov was half right; Tethen’s old master, and four of his various allies sons, promptly tried to put Tethen back on a leash where he “belonged”. Surprisingly to Markov, if not to Marty, that left Tethen with five fine new slaves trotting along at HIS heels.

Felan tried to introduce him to his slave-creating art, and was surprised to find out that he seemed to be immune to the conditioning effects…

Still, at least the irritation was good for getting the remaining kids in Markov’s creche to start working together. In fact, he shortly got in a group of the free hatchlings asking if he’d authorize Felan to simply take and keep another sibling.

Marty considered that… Were they trying to bypass competing? But why would a group ask for a single slot? Trying to set a precedent? Well, he’d try to get Markov to explain that “chief aide” WAS a reasonable job, but that they’d have to hold a little friendly competition to find out who was best suited to the job – and the winner would get to be Felan’s new addition.

For once, for a few moments, Markov was absolutely speechless. Were they all crazy? They were a part of the target group of siblings and Felan still had authorization to simply pick one of them and have them done!

Then he realized (with some relief; mass insanity in his first group of Hatchlings would NOT be a good omen for later ones) that THAT wasn’t what they wanted at all!

That jarred Marty out of his battling business mindset… Oh yeah! The “position” that Felan had open was “slave” after all.

For once united, they both probed. What the hell did the hatchlings think they were up to?

It seemed that… the kids found having Tethen around really unfair and embarrassing – and felt that it ruined their own chances… He’d been defeated, mystically bound, fixed, and was another hatchlings property in another creche – and then he’d vanished, and came back with a lot more powers (they were pretty sure that THAT was unfair somehow too) – and Markov had let him back in! And he’d beaten up his old master, and four other young dragons, and taken them as slaves – and was being very powerful and dominant for free and it was no fair! It made them all look inferior to a slave! And all those extra powers meant that challenging him was a sure trip into a processing machine and slavery – and Felan wouldn’t just have him processed because he wanted to hold his authorization to just point and have the slaves process a sibling for him in reserve as a trump card! So they wanted Markov to authorize an extra so that Tethen could be properly enslaved again!

They hadn’t wanted to try to protesting directly, since they’d gotten the impression that Tethen was pretty favored – if only because Markov HAD let him back into the creche!

Now they’d be willing to put up with Tokif; he had a talent that helped them, wasn’t a big threat, had almost escaped on his own – and had never been formally enslaved, while Tethen had spent six months trotting around at its masters heels as an eunuch slave.

Marty… didn’t know what to do (outside, perhaps, of sending Tokif back; the Dragon Empire WAS his home after all). It had never occurred to him that the other hatchlings would see Tethen as a threat! But… they did, and he seemed almost invincible to them – and likely to get them ALL killed or enslaved – and so they… were willing to risk Felan choosing one of them instead to try to regain SOME chance of getting to grow up free!

But he’d been fixing that! They were ALL going to get better chances! He was arranging things so that… And they didn’t know that. Well DAMN.

Markov couldn’t say that the kids wanting to get rid of Tethen was unexpected – he’d known that letting him back in was going to upset them – but he’d expected one or another of them to simply defeat and enslave the boy; he’d already demonstrated that he was a loser… Still, all those extra powers the boy had somehow acquired had put a fang into THAT plan – and he had to admit that they really were an unfair advantage that none of the other hatchlings had any chance to match.

What was a shock was that the remaining hatchlings were willing to trust Felan on the topic… Sure, Tethen WOULD be a valuable slave for him, but coming to him, and asking him to allow Felan to simply choose another one of them? If he HADN’T been able to read them he might well have simply had the entire little committee slave-processed for being blatantly stupid!

Were they that desperate?

By all social standards they were right of course. Tethen had been a slave, and would have, and should have, stayed a slave – except for that weird wizard’s interference.

Marty pondered… Should he recall Tethen, or perhaps have him take a different dragonform if his presence really bothered the other hatchlings? And the kids were… trusting Felan. Was it simply that he was holding out a little extra shred of hope?

Meanwhile, Markov was considering who to consult… Philsantias was a disaster when it came to handling kids. His partner? The red girls? Tethen himself? The slaves?

He settled on the concubines first, since it WAS a creche matter.

Somewhat unexpectedly… all of them could see the hatchlings point. Even Tethen’s mother was more worried about Markov himself. She’d known that Tethen was lost of course, and while it WAS nice to have him back, she was quite sure that he was loyal to someone else! And with so many new powers… Was he he a danger to Markov? To her other and future children? “Free Power!” ALWAYS had a hook in it!

Felans mother was all for simply having Felan enslave Tethen; it was good for Felan – and that took a high priority since Markov favored him – let Felan keep a threat to hang over the others, got him a powerful slave, and defused a possible threat to Markov AND his coalition AND them!

Tethen… had no objections. As a Thrall he was property anyway, and if his master wanted him to wear a collar and serve someone else, so be it!

Besides… He was a telepath too now – and, as a Thrall, he was guaranteed as many chances as he needed or wanted. He WOULD get to live, and to father children, and to adventure, and to be free, and so many other things – while many of his siblings might well get… only one chance, and it was already small. They were terrified and desperate because they believed that HE might be taking even that away from them – as if they needed any more fear or stress. If comforting them, and correcting that error in judgement, called for him to be slave-processed – well, that was what ought to be done! It wasn’t really permanent for a Thrall anyway. HE would have more chances.

THEY might not.

Markov had to wonder if processing Tethen would make that annoying fat mage come back though. Still, if the bothersome mage snatched Tethen again, that also solved the problem! The risk was small!

Markov took that risk. He called in Felan and told him that he was free to claim Tethen at any time, without having Tethen count against his quota.

Marty sighed. The other kids did have a point; if Tethen was a threat to them he did need to be processed – and his very presence had been sort of saying “Defeated rivals may come back at any time! You will NEVER be safe!”. Moreover, Thralls were happy to do their owners’ bidding, and it WOULD be simply temporary. And a Thrall-slave would be VERY useful to Felan.

One quick-and-easy enslavement and serenity returned to the harem – and Tethen returned to trotting at a masters heels. He might even be able to try and recruit Felan and any others who acquired souls from that position anyway.

Markov still tested the committee… Not for slavery, but for powers and physical capabilities, handing out a variety of minor magical baubles from his personal stores as prizes along the way. They had been pretty unhappy, and they had been brave and clever about their approach.

Lets see now… He had a magic absorber/storer, shamanic spirit adept, one who talked to almost anything at all, a luckmaster, an at-will short range teleporter, an equipment absorber / self-cyberer, a relic master, a just-getting-started theurgist, a potion maker, a spell amplifier (who boosted her own breath weapons), a minor speedster, and couple of combat monsters… Nothing nearly as broad-scale useful as Felan, but still impressive specialities for Hatchlings – and Theurgy could be quite potent!

The speedster was one of the green boys – the one who’d defeated a blue sibling and who had been winning quite a lot in the dominance-fights – and was the most physically adept out of them. He – like most of them – hadn’t been displaying his full special powers in the dominance-matches. Better to have secret reserves.

That was quite sensible too! He got a good prize!

Markov did keep a discreet eye on the theurge though. That might come in very useful later on!

Exalted – Aden, The Lost World, and Mardi Gras

Aden is known for its boat-oriented stamps. Mu...

No, not THAT sea!

Specific areas within Aden include…

The Lost World: This high plateau contains ten waypoints (slightly more than 7000 square miles), is surrounded by virtually unscalable cliffs (Charles would suggest taking the underground monorail network if you want to visit the area instead), and is broken up by several additional natural barriers (dramatic chasms, rivers of lava, etc) to provide more local biomes. Naturally enough, and in memory of the Creation-That-Was, it’s centered on a pair of waypoints with their demesnes aspected towards Earth, which are surrounded by pairs of waypoints aspected towards Fire, Air, Earth, and Water. Those provide a certain amount of elemental upheaval that goes with the theme – while the manses are dedicated in pairs to (1) maintaining and observing the local species and environment, and (2) to historical records and libraries, including projects such as using the reports from Earth’s Small Gods and thaumaturgic divination to recover lost artworks, books, and similar materials from the history of civilization.

While Charles does not yet want to risk creating intelligent beings from scratch, he’s quite willing to let his realm populate itself with animal life according to the environment – and to use thaumaturgy to make genetic adjustments. While you may not be able to resurrect people, making new examples of extinct species, or changing species, is easy enough – and so the Lost World is full of dinosaurs and such from various eras, with underground seas to accommodate the ocean-going forms. If any Dragon Kings want to visit, their are appropriate accomadations on hand, and the environment should be comfortable and accurate enough; Charles consulted them on designing the area.

The Sea of Chaos: Deep beneath the surface of Aden, in the hollow center of the world the Sea of Chaos waits.

OK, it might actually be on the outside, depending on whether or not the waypoints of Aden proper are currently arranged on the inside or the outside of a sphere. After all, between the cosmetic displays, the distorted geometries, and the fact that Aden is more made up of a series of spheres linked together than an actual space-filling sphere, it’s hard to tell.

Anyway, there the sea of chaos waits, bordered by six middlemarches waypoints, forming either the shores of an island or of a lake. The subsurface routes that pass through the shores are dangerous to use since they are exposed to the energies of the Wyld – but through that unclearly defined space you can reach anywhere else in Aden with a relatively brief trip.

While the Sea of Chaos and it’s middlemarch “shores” are impervious to grandiose shaping that would fix it’s nature (substituting an immunity to that for the weather control and some of the conveniences that otherwise prevail across Aden), and so cannot be purged of it’s chaotic energies, you can enter it and draw on it for wyld-questing and lesser shapings. In most places few do so.

The Wyld Carnival sprawls across a sizeable chunk of those middlemarch shores – the result of the Mardi Gras Manse.

Mardi Gras Manse (Earth *****):

Rank-5 (ten Creation Points) +1 (one given-up Hearthsone level) +9 (booster artifacts) = 20.

Hearthstone (****): A Grace Stone. While it appears to be a simple stick of chalk, the Grace Stone can be used to congeal portions of the target’s aura into Graces – the usual set of four, either individually or all together. In either case, the user may provide the target with graces rated at (the appropriate virtue +1).

  • Integrated Amplifier Artifacts (-9): Since pure chaos was quite handy, Charles opted to spend a little time fitting this manse with a full set of nine unique, self-powered, rating-five, booster artifacts as a proof-of-concept test – giving the Mardi Gras an extra nine manse construction points to work with.
  • Immutability (1) and an Extended Zone of Influence (4): The manse holds it’s own structure and geomancy constant, and shields the local area against the random influences of the Wyld – but it does NOT protect other creatures in the area from shaping effects. Here visitors are safe enough from unfiltered power of the Wyld – but they can play out almost any scenario, train in exotic disciplines, and tour historical simulations without danger.
  • Pasiap’s Buried Whiskers (1). The manses senses are excellent – and extend throughout it’s Zone of Influence.
  • Sentient (5): The Manse is intelligent, skilled, dedicated to helping Charles and entertaining his guests. Since it also – courtesy of it’s own hearthstone – has Graces, it can engage in the usual Raksha shaping, weaving of fantasies, and shaping combat (although, thanks to it’s Immutability, it’s immune to shaping damage).
  • Bound Guardian Force (4): Mardi Gras maintains a force of some three hundred noble Raksha – or at least creatures very like Raksha, if far more friendly (they’re built as Noble Raksha, but get +1 to each virtue, +2 essence, and can respire normally in Creation).
  • Integrated Utility Artifacts (3): Heart of Rakastan (*****). This low-end “reality engine” adds great power to the user’s shaping – effectively duplicating most outwardly-directed Raksha charms and making the manifestations of the user’s fantasies and shaping attacks quite “real” – capable of existing under the rules of creation and thus capable of penetrating most anti-shaping barriers. Gossamer Loom (**, produces 10 Gossamer each time Mardi Gras fulfills a fantasy), and a multi-tracking booster allowing the manse to operate many fantasies at the same time (***).
  • Archives (2): Mardi Gras maintains a vast archive of movies, fiction, fantasies, and related material – all of it used as a basis for more fantasies.

Remember the “Shore Leave” planet on Star Trek? Yes, here we have the equivalent in a manse – albeit with allowances for a few more practical features. If you need something from the Raksha, Martid Gras should almost certainly be able to provide it. Otherwise, just have fun!

Indexing Updates; Player Blog Links

Flag of the Isle of Wight The registered Isle ...

Faster! Watch out for leaping jellyfish!

Here we have a selection of crosslinks to articles by one of the player/game masters who is currently involved in the Federation-Apocalypse (Eclipse d20), Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice (Exalted), and d6 Star Wars campaigns. As they say, better late than never – and this is definitely somewhat overdue.

Exalted – The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice:

d20 – The Federation-Apocalypse Multiverse Campaign

Star Wars d6:

  • The Dusk Gryphon – Alys Nere’s personal vessel.
  • Jarim Edar – a Codifier Observer from the Codifier Galaxy, and a man who grew up as a colonist aboard a decrepit Star Destroyer.
  • The Kira the Kat show is a (sadly, in-game only) cartoon based on the activities of the player-characters Most recently we have the Episode Summaries for Season II and Season III.
  • Dispatches from the Hyperdriveless Galaxy part III. This one’s kind of late to crosslink – I linked to parts I and II long ago – but what’s a tale without an ending?
  • An updated character sheet for Alys Nere.