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.

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The Batmen Of The Eclipse

And for today, it’s a question…

The Rules for creating superheroes leave me a little ofput (unsure?) about how to create some archetypes.

How would you create a version of Batman that could have his level of success in his superhero career while remaining on concept?

How would you create someone like Iron Man, who uses modular powers (something I got the impression was more difficult and silly on unlimited usage abilities)?

I am also curious as to what those example characters sheets would look like.

-Jirachi

Of the two, Batman is the most awkward – so the first segment will be about him.

The really awkward part about Batman is that Batman doesn’t stay true to his concept to begin with. He didn’t even consistently progress from one concept to another even before the New 52 apparently turned him into an ancient supernatural being of some sort.

So what are some of the major Batman concepts? Well, first up we have…

Pulp Crimefighter Batman:

This is the original Batman – a Pulp Hero along the lines of Doc Savage, the Spider, Zorro, or (especially) the Black Bat. He used a wide variety of gadgets, his secret wealth, martial arts skills, and (depending on the writer) some body armor to fight fairly normal crooks. Taking a look at his personal rogues gallery we find…

The Falcone, Maroni, and other Crime Families, Boss Thorne, Mayor Hill, Commissioner Pauling, assorted mobsters, The Joker. The Riddler. Two-Face. The Penguin. The Mikado. Copperhead, Catwoman. Hush. the Scarecrow. Professor Hugo Strange. The Black Mask I and II. The Mad Hatter. The Ventriloquist and Scarface (his doll). The Red Hood. Mister Zsasz. Firefly. Harley Quinn. Catman. King Tut, Killer Moth. Abbatoir. Anarky, and many more.

Looking them over we see that the vast, VAST, majority of Batman’s villains from his own books have no special powers beyond criminal tendencies, questionable sanity (or sometimes a complete lack thereof), an affection for particular themes, and occasional unique gadgets. Quite a few of them don’t even have the “theme” or “gadget” part; they’re simply ruthless mobsters with plenty of money, guns, and thugs.

I’m not sure whether Mister Freezes tolerance for cold (and dying if he gets warm), Rag Dolls double-jointed flexibility, or Deadshot being a REALLY good shot, count as super-powers, but even if they do they’re certainly not very impressive ones.

A much smaller subgroup started popping up after Batman’s victories over normal people and normal-people-with-some- weird-gadget got a bit too expected. They’re villains with relatively minor super-strength and / or animalistic abilities, such as Amygdala, Bane, Killer Croc, Man-Bat, and so on – sufficiently superhuman to fight a really skilled human with some gadgets on fairly equal terms without having a lot of training and gadgets themselves.

At other times, they gave Bats an inexperienced kid to protect – allowing Robin to be a point of vulnerability – but that’s more of an editorial decision than an attribute of Batman’s.

A very, VERY, few of his usual rogues have actual superhuman powers – Poison Ivy (Toxin Immunity and Plant Control), Clayface (Shapeshifting – athough there have apparently been at least eight different Clayfaces), Solomon Grundy (basically a golem), the Ratcatcher (controls rats), Orca (turns into a “killer whale”, generally in the water), The Mortician (makes minor zombies), and so on. He also seems to draw a lot of Vampires and the occasional Werewolf, but they’re rarely very powerful ones – and it’s not like playing Buffy the Vampire Slayer requires a lot of power by superheroic standards. Most vampire and werewolf hunters are normal people with a grudge.

You’ll note that – at least if he was ruthless enough – you could give The Flash a list and a knife and expect him to search the city and virtually eliminate Pulp Crimefighter Batman’s entire rogues gallery in about ten seconds. That’s also why Batman soon started to be against guns, knives, and similar weapons; if he used lethal force he’d run through his villains far too fast – and he’d soon become the Punisher rather than a detective type.

That’s not a problem in games by the way; games won’t have nearly as many sessions as Batman has comic book appearances, and so games can afford to let the characters kill off most of their villains.

In Batman-centered comics, there are lots of fairly ordinary humans who are better than Batman in particular fields, or who put up quite a struggle in the battle of wits. or who are fabulously good at martial arts, or who sometimes beat him for a while – and they quite often succeed in killing quite a few of the people that Batman is trying to protect. At this end… Batman fails or gets wounded a lot.

Pulp Crimefighter Batman is remarkably skilled, fights really well (but not so well that a group of decent thugs can’t put up a good fight against him), has a rather limited range of weird gadgets, a very strong will, and puts a lot of emphasis on being sneaky and scary. For this kind of character I’d probably just use the Advanced Pulp Hero Template (Advanced Pulp Powers, More Advanced Pulp Powers, Drugs, and Archetypes, Vehicles (for the Batmobile), and Narrative Feats) – perhaps trading out the boost with Guns for a boost with Batarangs. Give him a couple of levels focusing on detective work and martial arts, a few gadgets (if you want him to be able to pull out a gadget to suit the situation take either Equipage with Purchasing OR a couple of Inherent Spells / Greater Invocation (see The Practical Enchanter) / Technological Effects I and II, and a few bonus uses OR Foresight and Dream-Binding. Any of those will let him pull stuff out that he never mentioned getting and very likely will never pull out again. Throw in Privilege (Wealth) and a Sanctum (The Batcave) and you pretty much have the build.

Pulp Crimefighter Batman doesn’t actually need the Superheroic World Template or continuous / unlimited use powers – although they do make it easier to bump him up above the civilians

It doesn’t take great intellect to tackle street crime. Luck and timing are the operative skills. No, what interests me…is the fact that he functions as a lightning rod for a certain breed of psychotic. They specialize in absurdly grandiose schemes, and whatever the ostensible rationale–greed, revenge, the seizure of power…their true agenda is always the same: to cast Batman in the role of Nemesis. Hence the puns, the riddles, the flagrant clues they scatter in their collective wake–daring their foe to penetrate the obvious. He always triumphs. If he failed, they’d be bereft. The Pas De Deux would have no point. Like naughty children, who tempt the wrath of a stern, demanding father… they seek only to shock him by the enormity of their transgressions. It’s the moment of acknowledgment they crave. Thus “good” conquers “evil”. True evil seldom announces itself so loudly. The dangerous ones set their subversive goals, and achieve them, bit by bit…invisibly, inevitably. They have no taste for theater. While Batman busies himself with petty thieves and gaudy madmen, an abyss of rot yawns even wider at his feet.

-Henri Ducard

Next up, however, we come to…

Action Movie Batman:

Action Movie Batman tends to appear in low-level team books. where Batman gets surrounded by people with low-level powers and (as by far the most famous and iconic character), inevitably, becomes the leader of the team if he didn’t form it in the first place. Action Movie Batman almost never fails at disarming a bomb or analyzing some weird substance, or tracing a vehicle, or anything else when it’s really critical, he’s prepared for any eventuality, and he’s a skilled enough martial artist to take down small armies of thugs and midrange superhuman combatants. He knows everything he really needs to, he almost never misses a clue, and he has all kinds of vehicles and things.

This version of Batman builds on Pulp Crimefighter Batman with – in d20 terms – two or three more levels. He definitely has the “pull stuff out” trick, and almost certainly has some Luck, an extra Pulp Feat or two, and a bit of extra damage on his martial arts (although he usually chooses to do nonlethal damage). He may even have gone past the Pulp Narrative Feats to buy Narrative Powers or have a bit of Innate Enchantment to add some low-grade continuous boosts to his skills and attributes.

If the world is using the Superheroic World Template – a street level heroes game certainly does not have to be – he might have a selection of more powerful boosts. On the upper end of this range he might even have the Double Enthusiast and Create Relic combo to let him build special “mad science” gizmos to meet unique problems. That’s a bit much for most games though.

In any case, Action Movie Batman has often graduated from solo adventures to joining a party and has moved on to more powerful enemies. He’s still not overtly superhuman – but no real human being has ever been that good at that many different things.

In a lot of ways, this is the “Best” Batman, at least from a gaming point of view and – at least according to the reactions I’ve seen – in the comics. He’s a creditable hero, shows that (at least given the kind of training and gear you can get in a superhero universe) a relatively normal human can still have an impact, remains focused on a reasonably comprehensible stage (usually a city or small region with occasional trips beyond that), and still has room for useful input from a supporting cast of normal people. He can still afford to get hurt and even lose sometimes, so his victories are not entirely foregone conclusions. Not too surprisingly, this is the version of Batman that shows up in most of the movies that focus on him.

And that is why you should take a look over HERE.

 The Ultimate Batmen:

When it comes to high-level team books – like the Justice League – we see three basic variations on Batman. There’s I-Have-A-Bat-Plan Batman, Cosmic Narrative Batman, and the Ultimate Two-For-One-Combo-Deal Batman.

I-Have-A-Bat-Plan-Batman is the version that justifies ideas like “Batman’s biggest power is an area effect no normal defense intelligence drain”. You ever notice how, when he’s surrounded by literal super geniuses who can think thousands of times faster than a human… he so often gets asked one version or another of “What shall we do Batman”? And how even the most cunning opponents suddenly start acting like idiots when they’re up against him?

This is the version that takes Batman up to near omniscience, lets him analyze incredible alien super-technology and rebuild it to adapt it to his needs in in minutes or hours, gives him plans to take down pretty much any possible target (including his allies) that will all work properly, and has him giving directions to everyone because they apparently wouldn’t have any idea of what to do without him. He always wins in the end because everyone else is inexplicably incompetent.

After all, he has to. When the cost of losing often ranges from vast destruction to the total annihilation of the Earth… it’s not like having the bank robbers, drug pushers, or minor villains getting away. Losing would drastically alter the setting – making it very difficult to write and sell next months comic books. And when you don’t actually have the power to affect events directly, all you can do is provide plans, press buttons, and build gadgets.

The only way to really buy this is to give him a few Occult Senses – “How to Win” and “How to Make This Work”, Reality Editing (to provide setups and backups as needed), and to use Mana from the Superheroic World Template (pretty much a given for this Batman) to allow him to pull out whatever he needs to make his plans work.

Sadly, while this sort of character can be fun to read about – as you watch the plans unfold and marvel at the (writers) cleverness – in game terms this version of Batman has pretty much got an “I Win!” button built into his utility belt. Even worse, in a game this leaves nothing for the player to do except listen as the game master describes how the characters win. I’d really recommend against trying to play this version of Batman. Sure, you can build it – but why bother?

Cosmic Narrative Batman is the blatant Mary Sue / Marty Stu Batman – because when a story is focusing on fight scenes with cosmic villains then Batman has to be right in there mixing it up with them or he might as well not even be in the book. Trouble is, if one of those cosmic villains ever lands a real attack on him… he’s vapor. Ergo, for one reason or another they don’t take him seriously (despite the blatant stupidity of that given his track record), or don’t target him, or just keep missing, or he has some secret gadget that lets him live, or he has super power armor on today. He aces skill-based tasks because that’s his special power just like Hercules has Strength and has ways to target everyone else’s weaknesses because if he didn’t… he wouldn’t be able to contribute, much less co-star. He provides superb plans using other people’s powers because otherwise there are a lot of villains he could not reasonably do anything about.

What confirms his Mary Sue / Marty Stu status is simply that Batman is still alive after MANY such confrontations, instead of being dead like the tens of thousands of other well-trained, driven, well-equipped, intelligent, but essentially normal heroes that obviously would have gone up against each of those cosmic menaces before him. Superman may be the near-unique last son of a seriously exotic world, but pulp heroes show up all over the place.

To make this work… you want everything that Action Movie Hero Batman has plus a MASSIVE dose of Narrative Powers and Reality Editing. Enough to pretty much bend any situation until it revolves around him and his inevitable victory, no matter how nonsensical that is.

Or, of course, Batman can be inserted into a story due to editorial decisions in an attempt to use a popular character to boost sales and have the writers on his side, but – in a game – that’s the same thing as a massive dose of narrative powers.

And once again… this can be fun to read about (although I think that the inevitability of the outcome undermines things considerably) – but it’s incredibly boring when you’re playing a game.

Finally, of course, the Two-For-One-Combo-Deal “Ultimate” Batman just takes everything that the other versions have and combines it, thus obtaining ultimate boredom.

These versions do blend into each other along the scale – but a hero who gets shot up by thugs, or has a hard time with Firefly (a pyromaniac with an insulated suit and incendiary weapons), The Mad Hatter (a nut with a hypno-hat), or The Penguin (and his trick umbrella) really has no business fighting cosmic menaces – whereas characters who can put up a good fight against those cosmic menaces should not have a hard time with mortal idiots. After all… if a skilled commando-type is a serious danger to Batman, and Batman is a serious danger to Darkseid, then a commando-type should have a small chance to take out Darkseid. Yet despite Darkseid being a major target for half the universe… he’s still around. This does not work.

Nebezial, on Deviant Art, probably summed this up best…

I COULD write up a character who functioned like generic Batman – giving him or her some base abilities, plus some more Corrupted (only usable when opponents are low-grade superhumans or better), some more Specialized (only usable when opponents are mid-level superhumans or better), and even more Specialized and Corrupted (only usable when opponents are high-end superhumans or better) so that pretty much any level of opponent can be a challenge but virtually nothing is overwhelming – but it would be incredibly complicated and there really isn’t any point. If a game is going to feature opponents of a particular level of power it’s much simpler and more efficient to just build a character to suit – and if it’s going to feature opponents of wildly differing power levels and the game master still wants them to be on roughly even terms with the characters… it’s much simpler to just build all the characters normally, leave the statistics alone, and vary the description of what’s going on to suit the current effective power level.

Now, for some more-or-less Batman-like characters to swipe bits from we have…

If you have something in particular in mind do let me know – but defining what your desired version of Batman is has to come before trying to build it! Next time around it will be Iron Man – although Doctor Wrath, above, already covers a good deal of that.

Eclipsing Cable – A.K.A. Nathan Christopher Charles Summers Dayspring Askani’son

Cable’s arrival pretty much marked the end of the New Mutants. The book would go on for a bit longer, and the team name is still hanging on – but the original concept of “a group of kids growing up while learning to deal with each other, their powers, incipient adulthood, and the often hostile marvel universe outside” fell away in favor of the usual “superhuman strike team” with a side-dose of “mysterious mentor with secret goals” AND “grizzled veteran sergeant takes command”. Now the “kids” idea had been subverted from very early on – basing things in the X-Mansion made it impossible to effectively isolate the New Mutants from the semi-permanent warfare of the rest of the marvel universe – but it had heavily influenced things. That would no longer be the case, the group of friends turned into a full-blown military unit, and a number of the more emotionally awkward, childish, or socially-focused characters were quickly written out.

Cable was REALLY popular for a while, but I’ve never quite been able to tell from the artwork if he was a human character or an unusually mobile fortification. While it varied with the artist, people’s bodies are just not designed to look like walls – or to have arms and thighs big enough to smuggle multiple normal people in – and his was often drawn that way. The fact that he was a Mutant / Psychic / Cyborg / Military Guy / Time Traveler (who changed his parents lives well before he was born) / Techno-Organic Virus Victim / Refugee / User of Super-Advanced Alien Technology / Black Sheep of the Summers Clan / Mastermind / Gadgeteer / Heir to the Goblin Queen / Alternate-Dimensional visitor / Mentor with more guns and gadgets than you could squeeze into a truck and wildly varying levels of power and foreknowledge / Destined Messiah / Resistance Leader / Evil Clone Victim / Host to a Celestial AI would certainly help make a case for their being more than one guy in there.

Tongue-in-cheek humor aside, Cable really did have enough origins and power sources for three or four hero teams all by himself. Plenty of characters have gotten along with just being a Cyborg or a Time Traveler with some gadgets, or having a single mutant power. Throwing in all that suff was just overkill. Perhaps fortunately, most of the weird stuff rarely came up. Most of the time he was basically just a mysterious tough-as-hell mercenary with lots and LOTS of guns and a big reputation – even if it was developed entirely in retcons.

And then we come to his Techno-organic Virus, which was killing him (although, apparently, it also raises the dead), although he was holding it back with his telekinesis and/or telepathy, which was why his mutant powers were so weak. When he had to use his powers the virus tended to advance, when he could focus on the virus again he could push it back… Wait, what? A virus isn’t a spring; an infection gets WEAKER as you reduce the affected area, not more able to resist you. So if he could “push it back” and stabilize it, why couldn’t he cure it? And how is this related to the almost-identical seeming Transmode virus? And since it had affected and enhanced every cell of his body, and his entire skeleton, his organs, and his central nervous system… wasn’t it already everywhere? And he could reconfigure his cybrenetics with his mind?

Oh never mind. There’s just no getting around it; even by comic book logic there are parts of Cables existence that make no sense – so I’ll go with that. As with many of the more experienced, complicated, or higher-powered characters, THIS build only covers a portion of his abilities. It does offer a reasonable (for Cable anyway) set of base attributes though.

“Cable”, A.K.A. Nathan Christopher Charles Summers Dayspring Askani’son.

Level Eight Cyborg Mercenary Timejumper and Part-Time Mutant Messiah

Four Color Package (24 CP):

  • This includes Superheroic Physics, Superheroic Durability, Superheroic Build, Rapid Recovery, Minor Conventions (Ready for Inspection, Comics Code, It’s Sufficient, Heroic Will, Heroic Rally, Coincidental Catch, Heroic Health, and a Minor Benefit (see below).

Pathfinder Package Deal (Free).

Pathfinder Human (Free)

Basic Attributes: Str 16 (+4 Eq +6 Enh = 26), Int 12 (+6 Enh +2 Eq = 20), Wis 12 (+6 Enh +2 Level = 20), Con 14 (+6 Enh = 20), Dex 15 (+6 Enh +2 Eq = 23), and Chr 12 (+2 Human +6 Enh = 20). 25-Point Pathfinder Point Buy.

Cable is actually a mostly skill and equipment based character – and so we’re going to start with:

Skill Boosts:

  • Adept (Legendarium, Expertise (Mercenary), Perception, and Technology, 6 CP)
  • Adept (Rune Magic, Mastery and Casting for Telepathy and Telekinesis, 6 CP)
  • Augmented Bonus (Adds Int Mod to Cha Mod for skill totals, 6 CP)
  • Augmented Bonus, adds (Con Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skills, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / Rune Magic Only, Telepathy, Telekinesis, and Transmutation Only (6 CP).
    • This is INCREDIBLY cheesy. Tripling the effect of Augmented Bonus works well in a superhero setting, and for powers that are limited otherwise – but I’d be very cautious in allowing it in a normal game.
  • Fast Learner Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (6 CP)
  • Finesse: May use Intimidation in place of Deception, Specialized and Corrupted/only to use Intimidate to Feint in combat (2 CP).
  • Journeyman for Skills, Specialized and Corrupted, Only for Rune Magic, only for Telepathy and Telekinesis (2 CP)
  • Mastery (6 CP): Mastery allows you to select (Int Mod x 3, 3 Minimum) skills in which you can “take 10″ even under stress. With an Int Mod of +5 and only thirteen skills which are normally ever rolled, Cable may simply “take 10″ on any of them.
  • Upgrade Human Fast Learner to +2 SP/Level (3 CP)

Level Eight Available Skill Points: 55 (Int Mod x 11) + 44 (Human and Purchased Fast Learner) + 24 (Purchased, 24 CP) = 123 SP

Skill Purchases:

The Destined Savior: Access to an Occult Skill (Legendarium) (3 CP), +3 SP to convert it to a “relevant” skill (3 CP), Professional (Legendarium, 6 CP), Skill Emphasis (Legendarium, 3 CP), Skill Focus (Legendarium, 6 CP). Net Total: 11 (6 Skill Points) +4 (Professional) +2 (Skill Emphasis) +3 (Skill Focus) +5 (Charisma) +5 (Intelligence) +3 (Specialty in Belt of Magnificence. 1 SP) = +33 (326,700 GP Net Value). Specialized for Double Effect/ must respect item slots normally (in effect, this simply pays for item-equivalents normally).Minor Privilege / as a time-traveler he may have up to 2000 GP worth of “future tech”, in his Legendarium abilities (3 CP)

It’s often left in the background – but Cable is a major religious figure, the prophesied savior who would defeat Apocalypse, the chosen one who’s return was awaited for two thousand years. And he did it twice – destroying Apocalypse in the future and then doing it again two thousand years before that, possibly making his previous victory and his own past into something that never happened at all. In any cast, the power of his legend pays for:

  • Armor Enhancements (applied to his Boost Armor, Below): +1 Heavy Fortification and Nimbleness (49,000 GP). Also, a Restful Crystal (+250 GP)
  • Belt: +6 Belt of Magnificence (200,000 GP). +6 to all attributes
  • Face: Goggles of Foefinding (2500 GP): Ignore your targets Cover bonuses to AC.
  • Head: Scout’s Headband (3400 GP)” +2 to Perception, 3 Charges/Day. He usually uses Mana to augment those charges.
  • Ring of OakHeart: +24 + (4 x Con Mod) HP (6000 GP)
  • Ring of Bodysliding: Greater Teleport (Spell Level Seven x Caster Level Thirteen x 1800 GP Unlimited-Use Use Activated x.2 (one use/day) = 32,760 GP). He usually uses Mana to power this.
  • Shoulders: Banner Of The Storm’s Eye (15,000 GP).
  • Torso: +4 Vest of Resistance (16,000 GP).
    • Future Tech:
  • Boost Armor with Gravlight (Max Dex +1, Armor Check -2), Improved Defense III (+3 Armor), and Increased Range of Motion I (+1 Max Dex), Rigid (+1 Armor Check Penalty). Total +7 (+3 Improved Defense +1 Magic = 11) Armor, +4 Max Dex (+1 IRoM, +1 Nimbleness = +6), Armor Penalty 3 (+1 Rigid -2 Gravlight -2 Nimbleness = 0), Speed +10, +4 Str, +2 Reflex Saves. (1000 GP).
  • Neural Computer Link (450 GP). Computer Use and Research checks become free actions.
  • Enhanced Punch: Concussion Rod: 2d8, Crit 20/x2 (45 GP)
  • Grow Blades: Chainsword: 2d8, Crit 19-20, Slashing (45 GP)
  • Universal Communicator with Satellite Datalink (5 GP): Send and receive audio, visual, and digital information
  • Cyberware: Subcutaneous Body Armor, Medium: +5 Natural Armor. DC 25 (100 GP)
  • Cyberware: Neuron Booster I (+2 Int, 75 GP)
  • Cyberware: Twitchfiber I (+2 Dex, Miniaturized/does not count against implant limit, 175 GP).
    • Net Future Tech: 1895 GP.

This leaves 1000 GP and 117 Skill Points to go

Omega-Level Mutant Psychic (32 SP):

  • Rune Magic (Int): Telepathy Casting +12 (6 SP Adept) + 5 (Int) +15 (Con Mod x 3) = +32
  • Rune Magic (Int): Telepathy Mastery +12 (6 SP Adept) + 5 (Int) +15 (Con Mod x 3) = +32
  • Rune Magic (Int): Telekinesis Mastery +12 (6 SP Adept) + 5 (Int) +15 (Con Mod x 3) = +32
  • Rune Magic (Int): Telekinesis Casting +12 (6 SP Adept) + 5 (Int) +15 (Con Mod x 3) = +32
  • Rune Magic (Int): Transmutation Mastery +4 (4 SP) + 5 (Int) +15 (Con Mod x 3) = +24
  • Rune Magic (Int): Transmutation Casting +4 (4 SP) + 5 (Int) +15 (Con Mod x 3) = +24

Sadly, for all of Cable’s incredible potential power – Level Eight Effects at Caster Level Sixteen for Telepathy and Telekinesis and Level Six Effects at Caster Level Twelve for Transformation – he can only spare two points of mana a round to actually use those abilities, effectively restricting him to second level effects with relatively low caps. If he should somehow be reborn as a natural part of the timeline his power would soon grow to immense levels – at least until he started causing paradoxes again. It’s hard to believe that he would manage to kick the time-travel habit.

Other Skills:(85 SP)

  • Askani Kung Fu (Dex) 9 (+15):
    • Askani Kung Fu Techniques: Defenses +1, Attack +1, Strike, Weapon Kata (Cyberweapons), Mind Like Moon, Prone Combat, Combat Reflexes, and Inner Strength.
    • Honestly, I can’t see Cable not knowing a martial art. On the other hand, I haven’t really looked at the character in many years, and about all I can recall seeing him use are weapons and powers. Ergo, this is pretty generic.
  • Athletics 2 (+10)
  • Deception 5 (+10)
  • Expertise (Soldier/Mercenary) 10 (5, Adept) (+15)
  • Expertise (History) 5 (+10)
  • Expertise (Law) 5 (+10)
  • Expertise (Sciences) 5 (+10)
  • Insight 5 (+10)
  • Intimidation 10 (+15)
  • Investigation 6 (+10)
  • Perception 11 (5, Adept) (+15)
  • Speak Language +5 (English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Askani, other future tongues).
  • Stealth 4 (+10)
  • Technology 10 (5, Adept) (+15)
  • Vehicles 9 (+15)

Total 123 SP.

Primary Powers:

Paradoxical Existence: Additional Form of Inherent Magic: Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect; only to maintain his own awesome existence (6 CP). Cable is a walking time paradox. He altered his own parents lives before he was conceived without splitting the timeline. He has stopped the future he grew up and trained in from coming to pass and yet remains. He is infected by a virus that makes no sense and must constantly keep it under control with powers wholly unsuited to the task but cannot eradicate it. His history is retroactive and entirely of his own invention, involving people who never before existed, He should be dead, has died, and yet lives. He SHOULD NOT and CANNOT be, but IS, and he doesn’t have enough accursed antediluvian blasphemous effulgent loathsome non-euclidian squamous tentacles to meet the qualifications for being a Lovecraftian blasphemy against all reality normally.

Constantly telling reality to roll over and play dead that way takes a LOT of power.

For Cable, maintaining his own existence is a Major (3 Mana) Reality Edit each and every round. This does, however, allow him to throw in a few extras – never running out of ammo, having unreasonable amounts of gear and weapons on him, bulking up or slimming down from moment to moment, and so on. For +1 Mana he can opt to “take 20″ on a save, maximize one of his attacks, ignore a minor condition (stunned, dazed, nauseated, etc), or automatically confirm a critical hit. For +2 Mana he can “take 20″ on an attack or check, take an extra action, minimize the damage from an attack on him, or shrug off most conditions (stunned, frightened, etc). Fortunately, none of this requires actions and can be done even if he’s unconscious or OUGHT to be dead.

If, however, he fails to maintain his own existence… things start to go very wrong. His body may start to twist and distort, he can start rapidly losing hit points or otherwise weakening, or he can even start to fade out of existence – and it will take a lot of extra editing and general misery to get back to what passes for normal.

Returning (6 CP): Cable is even more difficult to get rid of than most heroes, since unless you do something about all the time traveling he will just write his own death out of the timeline and pop up again sooner or later.

Flashback: Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted (very limited applications) for Reduced Cost. Cable may spend Mana to temporarily insert minor details into his backstory. This does not count as an action (2 CP).

  • For one Mana he gets to have made (IE: instantly make) a Gather Information check against an individual or organization – getting a capsule summary of their reputation on a success, adding in their general abilities at success +5, evaluating their comparative power level at success +10, and throwing in their usual tactics and current activities at success +15.
  • For two Mana he can add “Oh, I learned how to do that” to his backstory for a little while, giving himself five effective ranks in a skill long enough for a single roll.
  • For three Mana he can temporarily add a bit of history with someone (either a specific NPC or a general type of person who could plausibly be found in the vicinity) to his backstory. While this is always potentially useful, the description of that bit of history is up to the game master. Reality will usually put up with this a few times per session – but tends to bite back when pushed too far, and abruptly turning “Generic Guard #22″ into “Rivan the explosives expert who’s on a vendetta against you because you killed his youngest son in a prior adventure” isn’t always a good deal even if you get some useful information out of it and now know some of his weaknesses.

Internal Systems: Empowerment, Specialized for Unlimited Use, Corrupted for Increased Cost, only to power his Scout’s Headband and Ring of Bodysliding enchantments with Mana (4 CP).

Deep Reserve: 1d6 (4) Mana, Specialized and Corrupted/may only use one point per round to supplement his normal flow of Mana, may not use more than three points in any one-hour period, causes him to show ominous signs of existence failure, use requires a DC 15 Fortitude Save to avoid Fatigue (2 CP). Cable can occasionally push his limits a little bit – but it’s always a strain.

Deep Reserve: Rite of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to refill the supplementary Mana pool purchased above, requires at least an hour of relative inactivity or meditation per die, cannot be used while Fatigued or Exhausted (3 CP).

Minor Powers:

  • Man of Iron: Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus: Adds (Str Mod) to (Con Mod) for HP purposes (18 CP).
  • Attack/Defense Expertise (BAB/AC, 6 CP).
  • Attack/Effect Expertise (BAB/Effect, 6 CP).
  • Human Shield: Opportunist: May take an attack for any target within normal movement range once per round, Specialized and Corrupted / the attack automatically hits the user and this will not work against attacks that do not require rolls to hit (2 CP).
  • Quick Draw Artist: Reflex Training / may draw or change weapons as a free action (6 CP).
  • Battle Hardened: Immunity/Fear (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP).
  • Sanctum (Graymalkin): Corrupted for Increased Effect; Cable doesn’t gain extra abilities in his sanctum, the sanctum itself has some abilities – and those can be pressed into service by someone else if they capture the place. Ergo, this is Corrupted for Increased Effect (6 CP, Graymalkin has 36 CP worth of abilities).

Graymalkin:

Automated Systems: Leadership (Exotic, Constructs), Specialized/only exotic constructs (6 CP).Graymalkin comes with a crew of maintenance/repair/light security robots, various automated systems that deliver items and provide small services, and “Professor” – a fifth level AI who operates the place.

Some of Professors points go into providing exposition (Lore/Mission Briefings and Lore/Record Searching, Specialized in providing game master exposition, 12 CP), a Stipend (1200 GP/24,000 Credits/Dollars monthly – enough to maintain an arsenal of personal gear, but major vehicles and stuff will require either salvaging parts from elsewhere or additional supplies/money, 12 CP), and advanced medical care (Immunity to the normal limits of medical treatment, Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only to “take 60″ on medical checks, 12 CP). The Professor also has a Displacement Core capable moving itself or others across time and space (4d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only to move Graymalkin or other willing creatures across time and space with GMO difficulties (24 CP) plus Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to recharge the Displacement Core, requires four hours per die, 6 CP). Under the usual rules for a Stipend, Graymalkin starts off with a net value of 12,000 GP or 240,000 Credits/Dollars:

Onboard Manufacturing: Equipage, with Purchasing and Returns. Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: technological items only, minor modifications are possible but relevant designs must be available, may require hours or days depending on the scale of the order (6 CP). Onboard systems and minor asteroid mining operations provide the equivalent of a Stipend of 1200 GP or 24,000 Dollars / Credits per month to work with (12 CP). The armories and stores thus start off with a net value of 12,000 GP or 240,000 Dollars / Credits – enough to keep even Cable thinking that he has enough guns.

Reconstruction: Shapeshift with Elemental Forms and Variants, Specialized / only to take on station forms suited to the environment and modify it’s internal layout (6 CP). Graymalkin is usually a space station, but it can be a floating island, a massive aerial platform, or an installation, and can add, remove, or modify it’s rooms and layout pretty much at will. Given that changing to an appropriate form covers all the environmental stuff, positioning thrusters, and similar details, we’re basically only interested in the stuff that’s relevant to characters working there or breaking in.

Cloaking: Specialized for Increased Effect (Graymalkin simply blends into it’s environment, and so can take the form of a massive orbiting base without attracting global attention) / this blurring effect does not work against observers who are reasonably nearby. A ship which comes within a thousand miles or so will – if looking – be able to detect the presence of Graymalkin and its cargo or occupants fairly readily (6 CP).

Physical Structure: Note that the various Rooms are considered Specialized for half cost; they don’t yield downtime earnings; they simply provide facilities for the characters/crew. Thanks to Graymalkins shapeshifting abilities, the various rooms adjust as needed.

  • Airlock (Drawbridge, 160 GP).
  • Armory (Two, 390 GP). There are plenty of guns, armor, and station-defense missiles available.
  • Bar (125 GP),
  • Bath (65 GP),
  • Bedrooms (Four, 600 GP),
  • Bridge (Guard Post, 160 GP), Actually Professor pretty much runs the place, but there are some relatively clunky manual controls here if anyone wants to use them.
  • Cells (Two, 180 GP). These are reasonably restraining, but any serious metahuman will require additional measures.
  • Cerametal Plating (Hardness 30 hull and external doors, 2500 GP).
  • Chaff Launcher (100 GP).
  • Common Room (150 GP).
  • Communications: Multichannel Digital Broadcast and Reception System (150 GP)
  • Damage Control System (Medium, repairs 3d10 with DC 15 Expertise (Technology) check, 750 GP)
  • Danger Room (Dojo, 155 GP) What with internal shapeshifting, this provides the usual highly-realistic combat simulations – and is reinforced with the cerametal plating just in case.
  • Dock (160 GP). Depending on Graymalkin’s current form thse may be spacedocks, facilities for planes or boats, or whatever.
  • Galley (Kitchen, 80 GP). Actually most food and drinks are obtained via “Purchasing”, but some people do like to do their own cooking.
  • Hull / Defensive Walls (270 HP per 10 x 10 section, 1560 GP)
  • Hydroponics (Two Greenhouses, 300 GP).
  • Instruments: Class II Starship Sensor Array (750 GP)
  • Laboratories (Two, 390 GP), Thanks to Shapeshifting, these will work for almost any relevant skill.
  • Laundry (60 GP)
  • Lodging (215 GP). Crew / Agent quarters.
  • Medical Bay (Infirmary, 185 GP).
  • Meditation Room (Sanctum, 95 GP).
  • Multimedia Library (230 GP). In a modern setting this is a general +2 to relevant skills as well as an entertainment center.
  • Observation Dome (220 GP). The Professor has something of a hobby in astronomy. Watch out if he asks you to deliver a package; by now it may be his fourth or fifth pass through any specific year, and he occasionally meddles by mail.
  • Office (60 GP).
  • Portal Generator (Escape Route, 180 GP). It’s hard to say where you’ll wind up if you use this, but Graymalkin DOES use a gate-generating system as it’s main drive. Wherever you wind up is usually better than being aboard a failing space station though.
  • Sitting Room (240 GP). The common areas are pretty nice.
  • Storage (x4, 240 GP).
  • Trophy Room (125 GP)
  • Vault (150 GP).
  • War Room (150 GP).
  • Water Recycling (Reservoir System, 200 GP).
  • Weaponry: Missile Launchers (Four, 400 GP)
  • Workshops (Three, 540 GP). Thanks to Shapeshifting, these will work for almost any relevant skill.

Graymalkin has its limitations, but it’s still a base of operations capable of traversing space, time, and dimension and supporting a small rebellion anywhere it goes. That’s a pretty good base for almost any group.

Basics:

  • BAB: +6, Corrupted/Does not provide iterative attacks (24 CP).
  • Hit Dice: 8 (L1d8, 4 CP) +32 (L2-8d6, 14 CP) +24 (Ring of Oak) +60 (Con Mod x 12) +96 (Str Mod x 12) = 220. Mutants & Masterminds: Toughness 16.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude +4 (Purchased, 12 CP) +5 (Con) +4 (Res) = +13
    • Reflex +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +2 (Eq) +4 (Res) +6 (Dex) = +13
    • Will +4 (Purchased, 12 CP) +5 (Wis) +4 (Res) = +13
  • Proficiencies: Proficient with all Simple, Martial, and Exotic Weapons (15 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +10 (Armor) +5 (Nat) +6 (Dex) = 31 (32 in Melee).
  • Attacks
    • Melee: +15 (+6 BAB +8 Str +1 Martial Art), Damage 1d4+8 (Basic), 2d8+8 (Concussion Fist) or 2d8+8 Slashing (Extruded Blade). (Mutants & Masterminds: Basic +8, Concussion Fist or Blade +11)
    • Ranged: +12 (+6 BAB +6 Dex), Damage varies. Cable may be equipped with virtually anything from the d20 future books with the option to maximize the damage. In most cases, 3d8 to 3d12, with missile launchers inflicting up to 8d6. (Mutants & Masterminds: generally +7 to +13).

Overall Point Costs:

  • Four-Color Package: 24 CP
  • Skill Boosts: 43 CP
  • Skill Points: 24 CP
  • Messanic Traits: 24 CP
  • Paradoxical Existence: 23 CP
  • Minor Powers: 50 CP
  • BAB: 24 CP
  • Hit Dice: 18 CP
  • Saves: 27 CP
  • Proficiencies: 15 CP

This comes to a total of 272 CP.

Available Character Points: 216 (Level Eight Base) +10 (Disadvantages: History, Accursed (with unstable reality), Hunted (various enemies), Obligations (Destroy Apocalypse) + 16 (Duties to the Askani) +30 (Human, L1, L3, L5, and L7 Bonus Feats) = 272 CP

Remaining Details:

  • Minor Four-Color Abilities: Stabilize (Cable always stabilizes when dying) and Air Bubble (Cable can hold his breath an unreasonably long time).
  • As an eighth level character, Cable can carry around 33,000 GP – or 660,000 credits or dollars – worth of gear.
    • Feet: Great Big Boots (Vanguard Treads, 3100 GP): Cable ignores difficult or slippery terrain and gets +8 to resist Bull Rushes and +4 to resist grappling attempts to move him into another square.
    • Tool Belt: Travelers Anytool (250 GP).
    • Advanced Medical Pouch (Slotless Healing Belt, 1500 GP)
    • Regeneration Stimulator (Rod of Bodily Restoration, 3100 GP).
  • That leaves 25,000 GP – or 500,000 Credits / Dollars – worth of gear. In general, that’s enough to let him carry all the guns, explosives, missile launchers, and minor military gear (as a casual time traveler, he’s free to shop at any progress level) that he could possibly want – and given that he doesn’t use external armor, doesn’t usually bother with a vehicle when he can “Bodyslide” (Teleport), and doesn’t need a lot else except clothes… Cable has no reason NOT to carry a small mountain of weaponry.

The usual rule for d20 is that levels 1-2 are for normal people, level three is for highly-trained experts, elite military types, brilliant scientists, and so on. levels four and five are for pulp heroes, levels 6-10 are for superheroes, levels 11-15 are for demigods, and level 16+ is for classical gods – but throwing the Superheroic World Template (free mana for everyone, every round!) into play upgrades everything by at least one rank – putting Cable into the high-end superhero/minor god range.

Random List: Keeping the party together

And it’s a guest post from Editorial0…

Keeping it Together

As every GM knows, the worst, most terrifyingly awful event which can ever occur is for the party to split up.  This is so terrible and nightmarishly bad that brave men have been known to set themselves on fire and leap off mountains and things just to make it stop.

Losing his sons was bad n' all, but it just *wrecked* his campaign.

Not many realize that Denethor was a GM. Losing his sons was bad, but it just *wrecked* his campaign.

Pretty much the only alternative is to shave your head and retire to a monastery, where at least you may be able to find inner peace and/or train white guys to steal primetime slots from Bruce Lee.

Yes, that's a David Carradine joke

Yes, that’s a David Carradine joke

But, let’s say you aren’t a broken shell of man and somehow summon the will to game on. No – we both understand how ludicrous this statement is, but hear me out. Though no one has yet demonstrated this kind of will, the ever-evolving Nietzschean Superman may one day emerge, a bitter husk of a man who might somehow find the strength to carry on in spite of a splitting party. It won’t be easy, but the iron soul of a scarred and bitter giant, towering over other men by dint of sheer force of personality, might just do it. And on that day, these ideas may somehow aid him in his quest to bring order to humanity and discipline to the party.

He's the hero Ponies deserve.

He’s the Goddamn Batman you deserve.

Without Further Ado – Here’s the Top Ten Countdown in no particular order for… Keeping it in the Party

(10) Fiat

Who says your players a choice, huh? They don’t want to stick together? Make them! They’re your pawns, to be crushed underfoot as you see fit! I am guiding you to glorious times! Those who stand with me I shall honor but any who stand against me I shall crush underfoot! I am the alpha and the o-hmigosh. *Ahem*

May have gone a little overboard there. But that’s the point: fear! terror! sow obedience through the crushing of their spirits!

(9) Curse

Let’s face it, the average adventurer pisses off six gods before breakfast, and by lunch usually manages to offend enough townsfolk to fill an entire cathedral. If anyone can get away with laying annoying curse on the party, they will. Most of the time these aren’t all that dangerous, but for the adventurer in question they can be quite unpleasant.

A well chosen curse or two can keep the party together handily. The key is to make sure the curse really annoys the player, and can be mitigated by staying near the party. Perhaps a party member’s talent means the character doesn’t have to sleep – or the character falls asleep when separated too far for everyone else. Sure, it won’t last forever, but in the meantime you get a little peace and can think of something else.

(8) Threat

When the party’s being hunted by their numerous enemies, they won’t want to split up too often. And what adventurer *doesn’t* have a grotesque number of foes, who’ve all sworn eternal hatred and undying vengeance? When they’re on the prowl, the party likely won’t scatter for fear of being attacked. They don’t actually have to do anything too hostile – just make sure that the players knows they’re present. Of course, eventually the enemies have to hatch *something*. But make sure it’s incredibly roundabout and obnoxiously cruel so the players never see it coming.

(7) Mistrust

Paradoxically, party members often stick together if they fear each other. If they can’t trust one another, they’ll work very hard to make sure the others are never alone and able to hatch evil schemes. Of course, sowing this level of suspicion without inducing complete paranoia takes great skill and cunning; you have to manipulate the players into seeing each other’s characters as the enemy, while making sure they all believe it to be their own idea.

Or just start passing various secret notes around. Just ask players to occasionally leer at each other and smile evilly. Works wonders.

(6) Bribe

If you want a reputation as a nice, popular GM, you can always try giving your players a dirty, stinkin’ reward for sticking together. You can give the players food, longer sessions, or some external reward to the game. Y’know, if you want to be a spineless pushover.

(5) Cheese

A more organic solution is to give the party some powers or bonuses that they can only use while they stick together. Players will often stick like glue for fairly small bonuses.

This has an additional advantage in that it lets the party pick up any new characters – obviously, new party members are the ones with the same special abilities.

(4) Attention

Nothing says you have to pay attention to splitters. If some players go off to do something unimportant, then tell they succeed (or roll some dice or whatever) and then get back to the sensible things.

(3) Danger

If a player finds his or her character in the throes of immediate danger, they’ll either go berserk and try to kill everything (hopefully limited to the game world) or run to get some help (also hopefully in the game world) – and probably stick close to the party for a while (could go either way if you’re fine with codependency).

(2) Death

As we all know, killing players is illegal.

Shockingly, however, a legal loophole has existed for decades allowing you to kill their characters with no repercussions whatsoever. Although authorities don’t spread this around, there is indeed no law against killing characters any way you please. It can be cold blooded murder – even conspiracy if you like. And there are no rules on how you do it either – slow torture, fire, dismemberment, or even repeated episodes of Barney.

Helpfully, this can also be an abject lesson in why you won’t screw with the GM. Once you horribly kill a player character, the others truly begin to understand that you rule! That terror and obeisance should follow all the days of your life, that you hold absolute power of life and death over them – that your eyes are fire and your heart ashes! Now you are become Death!

And if they don’t stick together, make them Become Death, too. And make sure to laugh evilly while doing it.

(1) Ask

While on general principle we object to lowering yourself to the level of mere players, from time to time it may possibly coulda perhaps might occasionally sometimes now and then be wise to just… ask.

I mean, if it causes a problem when parties split, then it’s reasonable to suggest you can’t do as good a job. So, just ask. Point out it’s an issue, and if they want to divide things it will cause players to wait around.

Granted, this is the weak man’s way out, but it often works. You wuss.

XI: Yea, Thou Shalt Honor Thine GM With Pizza and Beer

XI: Yea, Thou Shalt Honor Thine GM With Pizza and Beer

Yseult Shadowrun – The Great Doors

The Chamber of the Sphinx

      For a little more detail on Yseult’s current puzzle, here we have the layout of the Chamber of the Sphinx, from the great, mystical symbol-inscribed, doors on the left to the collapsed stairs to the right.

   Perhaps sadly, Yseult gained entry to this set of chambers through the tunnel left where “Apep” had passed through the lower annex (and left quite a trail burned into the floor). That’s really too bad, since once there was quite a collection of scrolls and tomes there, but the entire room was lightly spattered with Apep’s incredibly-corrosive acid, and even the stone door is half gone. A few scraps might eventually be salvaged, but it’s likely to take years if it’s even possible.

   The statues of Set (The Night Sky) and Ra (The Day) guard the mystical doors, while the circle of posts and niches contains the statues of Thoth (God of Wisdom and Records), Osiris (God of Ressurrection), Ptah (The Opener of the Ways), and Nepthys (The Guardian-Nurse of the Pharaoh), and the statues of Isis (Goddess of Magic) and Hathor (Goddess of Birth, she who welcomes the dead into the next life). Horus is – oddly enough – missing, but Horus was often identified with the Pharaoh in any case.

   The forty-eight niches and posts may not be quite accurately depicted; the dots are a bit oversized. There is plenty of room for a man to pass between them in the actual room, regardless of whether or not it looks that way on the diagram.

   The top (at least on the map) annex contains jars and boxes of food, drink, clothing, ornaments, and other minor necessities of life – apparently an offering to the powers of this place. For a pile of material that is presumably better than three thousand years old, it looks to be in pretty good shape. Of course, it’s always possible that the place was in use considerably more recently than that.

   At least according to the mapping drones, another of Apep’s tunnels approaches the chamber, but reaching it would still require digging through ten or twenty feet of solid rock. Hopefully no huge sliding blocks of stone will cut off Yseult’s current retreat.

 

Yseult Shadowrun – Dust of Ages Part III

   For anyone who was wondering, yes – this investigation involved Earthdawn elements being carried over into Shadowrun. History doesn’t just vanish – and there was more than one route to survival.

   The Tomb of Ramesses the Great (what was the matter with these people? Just because it was a translation of a three thousand year old name, why should three or four different spellings all be considered valid?) was fairly impressive.

   OK, maybe her supply stockpile, and assorted preparations went a bit into overkill – but the way this case was going, she wasn’t going to swear that the tomb wouldn’t prove to be a gateway to a month-long trip through the Egyptian underworld.

   That didn’t keep Nassor, her newly-assigned government liaison, from giving her some sidelong looks.

   Well, given that the upper levels of the tomb were subject to regular groups of tourists, and that the whole thing was pretty well explored, he did have a certain amount of justification. Still, she really didn’t expect to find anything on the upper levels. If there was anything, it would be down in the lower levels – the areas that had been opened last, and so were less investigated.

   Still, Ramesses (or Ramses or whatever) the Great had a hundred or so children, and had lived to close to a hundred – and he’d buried an awful lot of kids and grandkids in his family tomb. The archeologists hadn’t even finished digging out the hundreds of rooms and corridors until 2048, and some of the lowest levels were still partially flooded – and apparently incomplete.

   It was a BIG tomb.

KV 5, as known around 2005. Digging is continuing today.

KV 5, Upper Levels

   Nassor reported that there were still psychic traces of grief after all this time… Of course, Ramses was a very strong personality, and he buried fifty or sixty of his kids here, and a hundred or so grandchildren. Who knew? Perhaps being worshiped as a god had given him some special power – or at least let him leave one hell of an impression. He’d certainly left enough of one on history, why not on the astral plane?

   Those traces were oddly mixed by current-day standards – but of course the ancient egyptians had some very strong beliefs about the afterlife. Still, that was nothing that others had not discussed and analyzed before.

   Yseult headed for the lower levels. They were partially flooded, although it was rarely more than a few inches on the floor, and had mostly been where the grandchildren went… The treasures had almost entirely been looted long ago of course, but most of the remains had been left alone.

   Unlike in reality, mummies were mostly left undisturbed in Shadowrun history. They never were really worth anything; the thefts were for gold amulets and such in the wrappings. Those weren’t usually used in Shadowrun history – and there were a lot more rumors of actual potent curses.

   Searching miles of corridors and several hundred rooms took a long time. There didn’t seem to be anything that had been recently disturbed – but one of the back rooms, carefully tucked away down a side corridor, was a little odd. The emotional aura there showed a lot of fear and panic instead of grief – but the room seemed to be unfinished, and looked as if it had never been used. Why such an aura? There didn’t seem to be anything in the place, and there was no reason for it.

   Hm. No hidden doorways, no apparent false walls, no traps – the archeological records showed nothing but a few bits of scrap material, probably washed in by the water, and a partial version of the usual book of the dead texts showing heavy damage. This last section of the tomb had apparently never been finished, and the burials had stopped when the construction had – probably after the death of Ramses.

   Nassor stated that there was a distinct impression of sealing charms and such – actual old magic. That was rare to legendary, since magic was pretty nearly impossible at the time. The room dated back to the lowest point of the magic cycle. Laying actual sealing spells would have taken a vast investment of the caster’s personal life energy. What could have provoked that?

   Inside, the aura was even stronger: panic, grief, guilt, relief, fear… all mixed together. The guilt was the worst though.

   There were hieroglyphics all over the place, although it looks like the painting was unfinished and damaged.

   Fortunately she’d picked up the skill programs to let her read them easily.

   There was plenty of real damage – but the underlying pattern of the areas that had been totally blotted out seemed oddly selective for simply not being finished. This inscriptions were missing the negative confession, the words for passing the gates of the underworld, and the words for opening the gates of life. According to the Egyptian beliefs – or at least the version she had on her skillsofts – if someone had been buried here, those texts would have led him or her into the underworld to be trapped there forever, denied eternity in the fields of the gods.

   There was no reason why anyone would have noticed that before of course; the hieroglyphs were repeated in every room, so who’d look closely at an unfinished set?

   There were a few chips of stone on the floor… Calcite, not matching the rest of the room, a bit heavy to wash into a dead end with water, one side polished and curved, bits of a jar or vase?

   Chips from a canopic jar? Had someone been buried here?

   Someone… feared or cursed enough to have been hurriedly encrypted, sealed with actual magic at dreadful expense, to have had the workers leave such an aura, and to have been condemned to eternal darkness – and yet someone who’d been formally mummified and buried in a royal tomb, even if it had been abandoned shortly afterwards?

   Oh, surely Hitoshi couldn’t have turned loose something out of those old “Mummy” movies could he?

   No, the archeologists had been in this room, and found nothing except the chips (which had been left in situ to await proper cataloging), long before Hitoshi had dropped by. The only thing that they might readily have been missed would be the psychic traces.

   She had another look for sealed pathways, false walls, or traces of a body. There were some bits of paint on the wall near the end of one text (just after the bit on spells of peace and comfort in the afterlife) that reminded her a bit of that pre-egyptian writing style from the crypt – but that was really reaching. It was only a symbol or two at best, and then only if you did a lot of mental reconstruction of damaged paint. As she’d more-or-less expected, there really wasn’t anything at all substantial.

   She had Nassor examine everything really closely as well.

   Outside of the magical traces being remarkably strong for their age and very distinctive (as might be expected from magic powered by personal life-force due to the low magic levels at the time, they carried a powerful personality-imprint of the mage who’d laid them) there was no more to be found. No magical concealment, seals, or anything else – not that any was likely after three thousand years with no active source of magic. There were faint residues of the usual curses and such throughout the tomb – but grave robbers, and thousands of tourists, had worn them to nothing long before the awakening. They might have been potent once, but the priestly curses of ancient Egypt were no threat these days.

   The other, nearby, rooms in the unfinished section showed no magical traces and few emotional ones. Evidently they really had never been used. No concealed walls there either; the rooms were carved out of solid rock – and the archeologists used some pretty sophisticated instruments these days anyway.

   Hm. Really distinctive magical traces. Missing body.

   Well, Hitoshi had apparently found SOMETHING that had led him to the crashed ship – and the only unusual clue she’d found had been the magical traces. It was a guess – but there weren’t that many areas of the tomb that hadn’t been examined by mages yet, and Hitoshi was a mage, not an archeologist or detective. Time to start a search of the area for odd magical traces – and to search the archeological records for unusual stray bodies and for areas that had yet to be examined.

   OK… The general opinion of the archeologists was that work on the tomb had stopped shortly after the death of Ramses; it was presumed that new tombs were started elsewhere, especially since the new ruler apparently didn’t feel obliged to make sure that each uncle and cousin got a burial in the valley of the kings. Some of the records from the period stated that with the death of Ramses, the tomb had become cursed, with a lost soul wandering it. The priests had supposedly intervened to lay that soul to rest, but the tomb was still sealed. Related areas nearby included a mummification workshop and a selection of several hundred minor tombs for deceased workers – most of them still unexcavated, since they were all pretty much alike and there was still much more exciting work to do elsewhere. Some were officially being preserved intact in case new and improved techniques were available later.

   Ramses successor, Merneptah, was said to have started his reign by disposing of a possessing demon, which had seized a young prince. No further records were found in that particular sequence had been found – but there were lots of fragmentary records from the period. Ramses had apparently had more than seventy sons, and about as many daughters, and had made funeral arrangements for almost all of them through his nearly 70-year reign.

   Hm. A “Demon”. A possible reason for a panicky burial, and sealing spells? And for the burial? A prince would deserve his burial, even if a “Demon” could not be permitted into the fields of the gods. Classical “Demons” might not – probably didn’t – exist, but presumably something bloody odd had happened.

   OK. If the missing body had been mummified there might be more traces in the mummification workshop – and it might be worthwhile checking the workers tombs as well. That would certainly be the easiest place to hide a spare body. Meanwhile, he could run a comparison search for any more specimens of the pre-egyptian text; the archaeologists had compiled a ridiculously massive database of scanned and photographed inscriptions.

   Nassor did find a few matching traces of ancient blood-magic in the mummification workshop – and was amazed that they had lasted so long. That should not have been possible! Millennia of no magic should have wiped such traces clean – just as should have happened in the tomb really.

   They started with the newest workers tombs. They’d have been open and easy to get into during the last days of work on KV 5, but were the furthest from the tomb proper – and so had mostly been left undisturbed. The nearer workers tombs had mostly yielded up what little information such tombs could give.

   There were indeed stronger traces at one of the last of the workers tombs. Even stronger than the traces in the tomb itself. It was unexcavated – but there was a crack about six inches long at one end.

   There wasn’t much to be seen in the dark – but the crack did look like it might go all the way through into the little workers crypt – and there were a couple of paw-prints, like some small animals had been in and out fairly recently.

   Fox pawprints. Hitoshi’s little pet again. Too bad teleportation spells were myths; one would have been so convenient…

   She had to settle for getting Nassor to use a shapeshifting spell on her. It meant leaving most of her gear behind, but at least her essence-bonded cyberware would shift – even if it would only be to normal flesh.

   They slipped in one after the other – even if it did take a lot of attempts to get the shapeshift to work on her.

   Dry and dusty, several ancient bodies long gone to bits of bone, apparently simply wrapped and put into the crypt. There had been no fancy embalming for the common workers. Basic human skeletons, fairly modest damage given the age, it looked like fairly robust specimens for the most part, mostly adult males, two children, three maybe-women.

   Well, most of the workers would have been unmarried males, so the demographics fit. Dying on the job was presumably something of an honor, since they were digging tombs for the pharaohs. Nothing there that hadn’t been in a hundred previous reports.

   But, carefully hidden away in a niche back behind the bodies of the workers, there was one small royal mummy-case (child-sized, and probably a boys judging from the face styling – with several sealing spells upon it), some calcite canopic jars (one chipped), and several scrolls of crumbling ancient papyrus. The mummy case looked sturdy enough, although the scrolls were obviously pretty fragile (making them a job for professional help or magic). The mummy case didn’t seem to have been opened or disturbed, although it wasn’t fastened down or blocked in.

   From the footprints and disturbed dust on the floor, a fox and a human had spent some time by the mummy case – apparently just looking, although it was possible that the scrolls had been disturbed a bit. If so, whoever had done it had abandoned physical investigation when the edges had started to crumble.

   Fortunately Nassor had a short-range clairvoyance spell (if was often handy in his job with the antiquities department; funny – it was often handy for Shadowrunners too). He could transcribe what was on the scrolls without touching them, and look in the mummy case in the same way – although he wasn’t a specialist in hieroglyphics, and couldn’t easily read them.

   What little he could make out was interesting indeed – and it looked like it would be safe enough to take a peek into the mummy-case. Nassor said that it was where the traces of old magic were coming from – definitely sealing and binding spells, along with an old curse – but that the spellwork was nothing but traces now.

   She stood back on guard while Nassor lifted the lid. He was was very careful not to damage anything doing it of course; he was with the antiquities department – but he wouldn’t have joined them without a big bump of curiosity of his own.

   One small mummy – but a very strange one. The head was badly distorted, it seemed to be hunchbacked, the legs were twisted, the hands were taloned, the arms… were just ODD. The feet seem to have claws as well. It looked like it had been mummified hastily; it was a bit of a sloppy job on the bandages.

   Well, Nassor’s reaction might be informative. In his job he’d probably seen a lot of mummies.

(Yseult) “Nassor? Is there anything odd about this other than appearance of this mummy?”

(Nassor) “Uhrm… What isn’t? The mummy case shows a human boy; this is anything but. The name’s been chiseled away. The mummification process looks royal, but who would dare do a sloppy job on a royal mummy? Why isn’t it where it belongs, down in the tomb – and the spell-traces do match. What’s it doing here instead of there? Who would have gone to this much trouble and then cursed this creature – whatever it was – to an eternity condemned to the underworld? Why are their small pawprints all over and some footprints from before us?”

(Yseult) “Do you think this is actually Egyptian?”

   Nassor didn’t hesitate there.

(Nassor) “Yes. It’s in a tomb from the right era, it’s in a classical, period, mummy case, it’s been mummified in the classical way. The creature may have come from somewhere else perhaps, but the preparation was definitely classical Egyptian – and it wasn’t like mummifying nonhumans was rare. They mummified cats and bulls and all kinds of sacred animals by the tens of thousands.”

(Yseult) “How should we pass this little nook on to the department? Right away, or keep it secret until we’re done investigating? This really might cause some trouble and I’d hate to be chased away from the trail now.”

(Nassor) “Tell the department? Hell yes! A nonhuman mummy from ancient Egypt? What a booster for book sales, museum admissions, and general tourism! Still… It can wait a day or so. I wouldn’t want to be interrupted now either – and the more we find, the bigger the reward and the more famous we’ll be!”

   Well, the idea of fame obviously attracted him. It probably would attract an academic.

(Yseult) “Would you rather be famous or rich?”

(Nassor) “Both – but famous is better. Once you’re famous you can GET rich.”

   Well, specialist mages made decent money anyway. She offered to let him have all of the publicity in exchange for more of the reward. He could take full credit for finding it – and she could stay out of the spotlight. She didn’t need media attention in her job.

   Nassor cheerily went for that.

   As for the scrolls… Transcribing would take forever when she had a perfectly good expert program to read the things. With Nassor’s mending and preservation magic to help it should be safe enough to (very carefully and gently) open and read them.

   It was…

  • Scroll one was professionally scribed, and quite expensive – a full copy of the book of the dead, suitable as guidance into the afterlife.

(Yseult) “That is odd. The book on the walls of the little guy’s original tomb was incomplete, but this is a full copy.”

  •  Scroll two was a special blessing from a priest of Anubis, promising a terrible curse upon whomsoever disturbed the rest of this mummy. It was a lesser version of the curses that were supposed to protect the full royal tombs – and a lot of trouble to go to.
  • Scroll three was an apology to the gods, apparently from a woman, for disturbing the tomb her grandfather had built for his family. She could not bear to leave her son there, to be condemned to eternal darkness, simply because some curse had come upon him – so she broke the seals, and took his body, and placed it in a workers tomb, with a true copy of the book and a true blessing. She took all responsibility upon herself, and asked that any curses that befall apply to her alone.

   Well, that was sort of sad.

  • Scroll four was a testimony from a priest, who had helped preside at the funeral of Ramses. Ramses surviving family had gathered at the appointed place – the “Eye of Ra”, where the next pharaoh would be chosen. One had received the blessing of Ra – but another, most unfortunately, was cursed and changed. His twisted body was, of course, taken from the Eye of Ra immediately, and screamed for a long time before he died. Still, the priest agreed, that whatever young Amon-Skor’s sin – if it was not the work of some demon and no fault of his at all – at age four it could not be so great as to deserve to be eternally cursed. No matter what his frightened father had said, death in torment was surely punishment enough. For the demon-touched there was an ancient script, which he had included – and there were several lines of pre-egyptian lizard-folk symbols next.

   Enough for the (very very limited) translation index she and her companions had compiled so laboriously at the crypt-city to get something out of. Some sort of blessing or well-wishing, something about the eternal light of the sun and endless skies.

   Well, that made sense for a winged quasi-reptilian species – but how had anyone remembered that across ten thousand years? Why would it be considered appropriate for the “demon-touched”?

   The symbol database did show two strong correlations: the pre-Egyptian symbols showed a match with the remaining bits of symbols from the monolith with the skulls under it at the site of the fallen ship in eight out of twenty-seven positions, with three partial matches where symbols were so badly worn that only a few scratches remained, and no mismatches; everything else was so worn that nothing could be determined.

   Secondarily, quite a few of the individual symbols matched up with untranslated symbols that were attached to some of the oldest versions of the ceremony of the Opening of the Mouth – a bit of ritual magic intended to allow the spirits of the dead to return to earth. A bit of magic out of legend – and Hitoshi had uncovered evidence linking it to a culture from the last age of magic and to the site of the crashed ship. Evidence that there might actually be something to it – or at least to an older tradition.

   Well, that explained why he might have gone after it. That kind of knowledge would be a lure for any ambitious young mage.

   The trouble was, it didn’t tell her much about where Hitoshi might have taken that information; she needed to know more about what the ritual might require – and about what had led him to KV 5. Oh well. Hitoshi had come to KV 5 from a temple near the Great Sphinx – so it was clear where the next stop after this would be if she didn’t turn up anything else.

   There weren’t any more matching symbols though; just standard hieroglyphs. No secret doors or sealed off areas or anything either – not that she’d really expected anything in a workers tomb.

   Nassor thought that the note about the “curse” during the ceremony at the Eye of Ra was bizarre – but the evidence of the warped body of some poor kid was right in front of them. Of course, there were a lot of bizarrely warped bodies and deaths during Goblinization – which this somewhat resembled – but it would take exposure to massive amounts of magic to do that, and there was no source of magic like that anywhere on earth during the ancient Egyptian period.

   Yseult only had a single word to add to that – KNOWN source of magic…

   Back into the databases to try and find out something about the “Eye of Ra” during the reign of Ramses the Great.

   Hmm… The “Eye of Ra” was supposed to have been in one of the older temples, associated with the Great Sphinx – but the location was now lost, possibly buried under sand or accessed through the catacombs under the sphinx. According to some records, the Eye had once been a part of the burial ceremonies for an old pharaoh and ascension ceremonies for a new one. It had been believed to judge those who were worthy and unworthy to stand before Ra. It was one of the primary gateways to Manjet, the Barque of Ra, and thus a way for the Pharaohs to ascend directly to immortality upon the boat of a million years.

   Well, that certainly sounded important – if a bit metaphysical. Still, they were dealing with ancient magic. It was time for more investigation.

Twilight Isles – Maps

   First up for today, it’s a (very) basic set of Twilight Isles maps – hopefully enough to get everyone oriented.

   To forestall the inevitable silly question, the lettering is not actually a part of the landscape. For the maps with grids on them, each square is fifty by fifty miles. They’re at a higher resolution than will fit into this column though, so the actual players are encouraged to take a closer look.

Twilight Seas Overview
Twilight Seas Overview Map

   White – no surprise – indicates the more-or-less livable islands. The vast majority of these are volcanic, and of relatively recent origin. A few islands seem to be made of older rock however, and there have been a few reports of sunken ruins in various oceanic locations. Thanks to the fact that the light of the Jav-Sabok seems to be very good for plants, the islands tend to be luxuriant and highly productive, despite the relative thinness of the new soil.

   Black indicates Sieltufan – columns of rock which rise out of the ocean and ascend straight to the Jav-Sabok. Their true height is unknown, as is what’s on the top. They are conduits for massive flows of elemental energy, apparently derived form the Jav-Sabok, and are quite dangerous to approach; doing so is like sailing directly in to a permanent magical storm. Their near-vertical sides are rough, jagged, overrun by plant life, and often host dangerous magical wildlife. They are, however, astoundingly rich in magical materials – so occasional foolhardly adventurers do try to visit and exploit them.

   Blue, naturally enough, indicates water. The light of the Jav-Sabok encourages plant growth in the seas just as well – if not better – than on the land, leading to features such as the Sea of Weeds (where the light is especially intense), and to quite a variety of small “islands” which consist of either masses of floating plants or are actually tree-like plants rooted in the seabed and growing to extend well above it. Such “islands” are, however, usually too small to show up on the large-scale map. Perhaps more importantly, the vast abundance of phytoplankton support equally vast schools of fish and many larger sea creatures – making the seas both dangerous and a primary source of food and protein for the inhabitants of the Twilight Seas.

   The Seas of Darkness are pretty simple: over these regions, the Jav-Sabok fades into occasional sparkles of light. The areas are predominantly cold and barren, extending for unknown distances. Some explorers have reported masses of ice, others have reported barriers of Sieltufan, and most of those who have made it back have reported terrible monsters and swarms of undead. It is popularly believed that beyond the Seas of Darkness all existence fades into a formless sea of chaos. This is probably wrong.

   Hann is a tiny cluster of small islands inhabited by an equally diminutive race – albeit one with a powerful talent for commanding animals, including the creatures of the sea. For the most part, the Hann are left undisturbed; their small territory simply isn’t particularly attractive to others and their defenses would be formidable even if they weren’t so isolated. Perhaps unsurprisingly due to their positioning between the Fire Sea and the Pillars of Ice, the Hann climate is wildly variable.

   The Sea of Mists steams beneath the full power of the Jav-Sabok, which raises dazzling streams of mist from the heated waters. The area is poorly explored, and may well host a considerable number of usable islands – however, the storms here are especially intense, and spawn exceptionally large numbers of monsters. Between the heat, the navigational difficulties, and the monsters, most sailors prefer to give the Sea of Mists a wide berth, especially since it’s also rumored to be the usual home of the Great Beasts.

   The Sea of Weeds grows where the light of the Jav-Sabok is intense, but not yet great enough to raise clouds of vapor – an ideal growing situation for seaweed, which drifts here in great masses. According to legend, many ships have been lost here forever, with their crews reduced to skeletons animated by unnaturally-active strands of seaweed – but outside of the fact that ships do go missing here with slightly greater frequency than they do elsewhere there’s no real evidence to support the tales.

   The Pillars of Ice are iceburgs which break off from a solidly-glaciated area of the Seas of Darknes, and are kept from melting too rapidly by the cold winds that blow from those same seas to replace the columns of heated air rising from the Sea of Mists. The area is dangerous, bitterly cold, and – as far as anyone knows – quite useless. What land there is is so buried under ice that it is nearly impossible to tell it apart from the iceburgs. A few hidden tribes are supposed to live in this area, but the reports are pretty scattered.

   The Asimtagh Cliffs rise near-vertically at least three thousand feet from the sea, in the darkness, and are coated with ice from the bitter cold. Atop them is a plateau – or at least so it’s said – where the ruins of some ancient civilization can be found, along with any number of elder horrors.

   The Fire Sea has a considerable number of highly-active volcanic vents, which produce magma, blasts of superheated steam, and toxic or flammable gases, in roughly equal measure. The area is extremely dangerous and little-explored.

Twilight Seas Overview 50 Mile Grid

   Ishorin is dominated by the Shadow Elves. It’s the largest archipelago, and nation, in the known world. It does have a few Ikam Dzer and Thunder Dwarf settlements in the mountains of the larger isles however, as well as occasional Veltine mercenaries, raiders, and slaves. Free Veltine rarely settle in Ishorin however, they tend to find it’s semi-tropical climate too hot and humid for comfort.

   The characters are currently based on Valear, a small island on the upper left.

Twilight Seas Ishorin

Twilight Seas Ishorin 50 Mile Grid

   Ra’Vatan is populated primarily by the Thunder Dwarves and Ikam with a scattering of Shadow Elves and Veltine occupying the shoreline. While it’s a considerably smaller archipelago than Ishorin, it’s also far more tightly grouped and includes a larger number of islands made of non-volcanic stone. The climate is generally temperate, although quite rainy.

Twilight Seas Dwarven Realms

Twilight Seas Dwarven Lands 50 Mile Grid

   Khundare is a small archipelago populated almost exclusively by the Veltine, although a few outposts of the other races can be found here and there. For the most part, the Shadow Elves, Thunder Dwarves, and Ikam find the local climate is uncomfortably cold at best, and prohibitive at worst. Oddly enough, Khundare has fewer dangerous creatures than most of the other regions; the Veltine tend to be more than a match for simple predators – although it’s not too uncommon for them to try to visit the nearest Sieltufan – which they call Nardrasyl – to prove themselves and seek adventure.

Twilight Seas Veltine Lands

Twilight Seas Veltine Lands 50 Mile Grid