This little essay dates back quite awhile – to the early 90’s in fact – but most of the material is still quite accurate for the Champions game: it works well, so there’s never been a reason to change it.
The Astral Realms :
The Astral Plane is the psychic / spiritual level of reality – a realm of pure thought. Movement there is at the speed of thought – fast enough to reach anywhere on a normal planet as a half-move or anywhere in a particular solar system in a turn or two. Interstellar travel is at the discretion of your GM, as is the possibility of getting “lost” and winding up in some weird “imaginary realm”. A detailed discussion of the astral plane and it’s exotic realms may be found in the Ultimate Super Mage. A glance through this sourcebook is probably in order if you’re going to make extensive use of astral space.
The astral plane and it’s residents, may be affected by all ego based powers and by magical powers that affect “desolids”. It is very difficult to affect the astral plane with “physically”- based powers; this requires the use of both the Affects Desolids and TransDimensional (+.5) advantages.
In general, the Astral Plane co-exists with physical reality, but also extends beyond it, allowing access to fantastic imaginary realms, the dreamzone, and the realms of various spirit-entities. While all such realms are, in theory, accessible to everyone, the ease of entry is strictly dependent on the character’s mindset. A mystic might quite readily gain entry to the realms of legends and gods, but might have a hard time with the realms of pure mathematics and “cyberspace”. Children are generally out of place in “philosophical” realms, but can readily get into the Marvelous Land of Oz. Psychics are good at dreams, the realms of the dead, and projecting themselves around the physical universe – but are generally unable to reach more “mystical” realms. On the other hand, if you can’t get somewhere, you can’t get lost or stuck in it, so maybe it’s just as well.
Such realms may have any kind of “natural laws” that you can imagine. One of the most common effects is to supply “physical” “bodies” equvilent to their visitor’s usual bodies, with similar “arrangements” for permanent inhabitants (Also making it much easier to GM).
Residents of the astral plane include ghosts and other spirits, “thought-forms” (Whether animate or inanimate) created by powerful emotions, massed beliefs and fears, by intensive concentration, or simply out of folklore and tradation (Such things can endure long after the source from which they sprang has been forgotten) and “visitors” such as dreamers, people using astral projection, and any aliens, or emissaries from “higher” (Or “lower”) realms which happen to be kicking around. While on the astral plane, all of these are basically spirits (QV).
Astral Projection can be represented in a variety of ways. Common approaches include Desolidification with a “Leaves physical body behind” limitation (-1), a huge – and very limited – Clairsentience power (As described in Mystic Masters), Extra-Dimensional Movement (leaving the physical body behind is optional with this method), and various Transformations. Given the definition of the Astral Plane as a place in it’s own right – independent of any individual character’s “special effects” – using extra-dimensional movement or a transformation normally represents it best. A character who retains “physical” characteristics in “astral form” (EG; Desolidification, specially-modified transforms or extradimensional movement) is only “partially” in astral space – and is thus limited to more-or-less normal movement. He/She cannot reach the exotic realms of the “Deep Astral”. It is not uncommon for various forms of “astral projection” to be restricted to the “Lower Astral” – the astral “regions” associated with the physical realms the user happens to be occupying at the time.
Characters employing astral projection are generally subject to some “special” character disadvantages while using the power. The points usually go to buying astral senses and other necessities (See below).
As a note, if you’re using “Desolidification” as the base for your astral projection, adding “Persistent” is a -.5 LIMITATION, since you no longer get that “instant getaway” effect. GM’s may allow characters to further modify this power with a “+0” “astral” advantage. This permits extremely rapid travel through the lower astral realm, renders the user throughly invisible, and provides “full life support”. Sadly, this also prevents the user from communicating with others, keeping track of his or her body, and means that “something else” could move into his or her body while the user is “out”. The power must already be persistent to add this ability.
Spirit Lore :
Spirits are simply lifeforms without bodies. While there have been attempts to buy this is a “power”, this is probably the wrong approach; they are much easier to design using limitations, as noted below. People using various forms of “Astral Projection” often pick up some of these disadvantages as well – although they get no points for such temporary restrictions.
Common Spirit Limitations :
No physical body (Physical Limitation, -50. This is about as physically limited as you can get. Spirits get no Str, Con, Body, PD, ED, Rec, End, or Stun, and can’t “sell them back”. Such attributes are simply irrelevant to pure spirits. Com is purely a matter of self-image, rather then something you can “buy”. It’s irrelevant as well. Obviously enough, spirits are generally immune to the things that bother physical bodies – such as aging, most environments (hostile astral environments are very rare although, for example, the site of a concentration camp might be real trouble for a spirit), most attacks, ordinary barriers, distances, and so on. Spirit powers and senses work normally on other spirits, but must buy the “Affects Real World” advantage to interact with the physical realms. They, in turn, can be affected by any ego-based power, by mystic powers that affect desolids, or by purely physical powers with both affects desolids and transdimensional (Astral plane, +.5) advantages.
Spirits may be detected using “mental awareness”, or certain other enhanced senses, but are otherwise fairly undetectable. Correspondingly, a spirit must take the “Affects Real World” advantage on at least some of it’s senses if it wishes to percieve the real world.
If it should somehow be relevant – say somebody buys a magical force wall which affects desolids and uses it as a container – a spirit’s Ego takes the role of Str and Body, while Pre takes the role of Con and Com. Mental Defence acts as (Resistant) PD and ED if it should ever come up. They can be permanently “destroyed” by attacks which reduce their Ego’s too far. They may also attack other spirits “physically”, using their Ego’s as Str, and employing psychic “combat maneuvers”. These are based on ECV, but are otherwise pretty much equivalent to the physical ones. Unfortunately, since there is no “mass” on the astral plane, there is no equvilent to the “Move By” and “Move Through” maneuvers. Similarily, “Brace” and “Set” are irrelevant. “Strike” and “Haymaker” maneuvers are equvilent to “ego attacks”, although any spirit may buy a +1 “does body” advantage on it’s ego score. Note that, unless the target is subject to “Disruption” and/or “Repercussion” (QV) these will have little effect. On the other hand spirits can be “grabbed”, reducing their defensive ECV, “stuffed into” spirit traps, carried off into nasty astral realms, and so on.
Spirits may affect the real world by buying relevant powers with “Affects Real World” (Sometimes with a body as an obvious inaccessible focus), by having the ability to “manifest” themselves (Treat this as a “multiform”), by possessing a body (This may be a follower/automation that obeys commands via mindlink, a mind control bought to affect the real world, a transformation that creates or takes over a body, or a massive mind control capable of affecting the real world), or by buying the “Affects Real World” advantage on their Ego’s (+1 for being able to affect the minds of material beings by “contact”. A spirit with this handy ability can communicate, “Block” ego-based powers, “Disarm”/”Possess” people (An Ego vrs Ego struggle for control of their “focus”/body), “Grab” /Paralyze people, and weild a psychic “Haymaker”/”Strike” (“Ego Attack”) against solid beings). Spirits who wish to affect physical bodies and objects may buy their Ego with the +2 “Affects Real World” advantage, and use it as an effective “strength”. Spirits who can only affect specific targets (EG; the accursed descendents of their killers, their old body, or whatever) are common, and get a limitation as usual). Such an immense psychic effort is, however, energy-intensive – and would normally cost End as per the effective strength. Since spirits don’t have any, other arrangements (0 End Cost, End Reserves, or Charges) must be made.
Disruption (A Physical Limitation; Infrequent/Fully, -15) is a common – but not universal – limitation among spirits; a spirit with this limitation can be “stunned” by attacks which would have inflicted stun in excess of it’s presence score. A “disrupted” spirit is instantly scattered across astral space – and will take a good deal of time to reform itself. Spirits with physical anchors (Bodies or foci) reform there in moments, but will have to “stay there” for a similar length of time. In either case, the experience is painful, weakening, and quite a shock – effects which take hours (or days) to wear off. This is a common (or standard) limitation for magicians and psychics who engage in astral projection. Unlike pure spirits, their presence in astral space is tenuous. The points usually go to buying an “Endurance Reserve” (100 End, Rec 20. Can be used in place of normal End (+.5), Only in astral space (-1), Only up to the limits of the user’s physical End and Rec (-.5), OIF (Your body. This power ceases to work if your body dies, gets possessed, is transformed, or otherwise shuts down, -.5).
Repercussion (Physical Limitation; Infrequent/Great, -10) is an arcane result of the link between a spirit and it’s (living) body – when such a spirit is subjected to any attack which would physically harm it’s living body the consequences of that attack are transmitted through to it’s body. The bodies defenses do – however – apply. This is a common (or standard) limitation for magicians and psychics who engage in astral projection. Unlike pure spirits, they are subject to BODY damage from (strange) ego-based attacks and magical attacks that affect desolid targets. In this case the points usually go to buy the “Affects Real World” advantage on Sight and Hearing.
“Dissipation” occurs if/when a spirit’s Ego score is somehow reduced to (-Ego). It destroys the astral form and sends the soul “onwards”, whether to reincarnation, nirvana, a union with the godhead, some final realm, or whatever. In any case, the character is out of the game on an essentially permanent basis. Please note that the various commonly-recognized “Afterlives” – ranging from the Abyss of Hell to Valhalla’s Halls – are not “final” destinations; characters traipse in and out of them all the time and their inhabitants can “die” a second time.
Advantage Notes :
Affects Real World; Allows the character to employ a power against normal targets while remaining desolid or astral. +2 For most powers and/or attributes, +1 for ego- based or purely sensory powers (Senses, Clairsentience, Darkness, Flash, Images – and occasionally even “Change Environment”, depending on what it does). Sadly, it’s a lot harder to reach OUT of the spirit realms then it is to reach INTO them.
-As a note, while Desolidified characters get to use their senses without “paying” for the privilege, astral characters do not. They must pay five points per sense group (Sight, Hearing, Taste/Smell/Touch) to be able to sense the real world. For a more detailed discussion of the “normal” senses, see “Champions Minus II”.
Affects Desolids; +.5 normally. +0 (IE; no advantage is needed) to affect astral and desolid characters with sensory powers if they have a relevant sense “exposed”. (IE; A character who can see into the normal world will be affected by visual Images, Darkness, Flashes, and so on), and +1 (Basically add “Transdimensional, at +.5) for physically-based powers and attributes to affect astral beings. Ego-based powers will affect most astral and/or desolid characters normally, without requiring any more advantages. Any power which may ONLY be used against a spirit is usually eligible for a -1 limitation.
Spirits And Bodies; Most spirits want a body. Being a disembodied mind has it’s advantages as far as purely intellectual endeavors are concerned, but even the most ardent scholar tends to get “just a bit” bored with the immaterial way of “life” after a few centuries. Quite a few find homes in astral realms which provide them – or at least a reasonable simulation. Spirits unfortunate enough to be trapped in lower astral realms are often a bit desperate. Note that a spirit that manages to move into a genuinely empty body and take up full residence is no longer a spirit; it’s become a “normal” being, and may not be able to readily return to it’s prior state. On the other hand, it can now use it’s powers in the “real world” without any special advantages.
Basic Devil Lore :
There’s something quite fundamental that’s been left out of most Champions “Devils”. “Classical” demonology is based on the idea that “devils” are beings which are being punished by a higher, or at least greater, power. They can be summoned, and bound, not because the summoner possesses any actual power, but because they are forced to submit to the authority of certain symbols, rituals, seals, and invocations, as a part of their punishment.
Summoning and commanding devilish forces is a matter of knowledge, patience, and skill – not power. Each is an unique, individual, entity, with it’s own magics, lore, personality, and traits. Each will/must serve in certain ways, respect particular bargians, and come when called by the appropriate rite (These usually involve specific times, places, and foci. Many are entitled to demand some gift or price for their services. Devils are notorious for resenting being forced to serve lesser beings – and often take it out on a careless or unprepared summoner. Evil characters usually do better with them, since they can make bargians no decent individual would consider).
Standard Devilish Limitations :
Physical Limitation : May be summoned, “bound” – and dismissed – by appropriate symbols and rites. (Frequently / Greatly, -15).
Physical Limitation; Must respect relevant pacts and boundaries as set by said “higher powers” (Frequently / Greatly, -15).
Physical Limitation : Defences will not work against attacks employing the devils true name (Infrequently and Greatly, net -10).
Susceptibility : 2D6 Stun/Phase from invocations of the “higher” authority which punished them – whether in the form of words, relics, “holy ground”, holy powers – or whatever seems appropriate. (Common, Per Phase, 2D6, net -25).
Extreme Reputation 8-, only among mystics (-5, for a net limitation of -5).
Unluck : 4D6 (-20).
Vulneribility : 1.5x Stun and Body from Holy / Light Powers (Fairly common in this racket, a total of -20).
Watched, 8-, by said “Higher Power” and it’s minions (More Powerful, Extensive NCI, 8- and Watched; net -10. Said Higher Powers tend to intervene subtly to restrain overly-successful devils.)
Total, Standard Devilish Limitations; -120
Standard Devil Powers :
Immortality. Demons can only be truly slain if they are faced in their own realms – where they have all the advantages. Truly destroying a devil is not easy (10).