Underlying The Rules Part IV, Commandment The Fourth: Setting Over Rules

The request was for an article on what I thought of the social dynamics of gaming groups before you get to looking at particular sets of rules. I’m still not sure that I was the best one to direct it to, or whether there will be more – but here’s part IV anyway.

  • Part One in this series – The Social Contract – can be found HERE.
  • Part Two – Adjusting The Spotlight – can be found HERE.
  • Part Three – Making A Group Effort – can be found HERE.

This entry has taken a lot of time (admittedly, mostly spent awaiting inspiration), and is once again more than a bit rambling – but here it is at last; Part IV – Setting Over Rules.

A part of the social bargain that’s specific to role playing games is a tacit agreement that the game master will present a reasonably coherent setting and that the players will accept that their characters live in it. A part of this pretense is normally pretending that the setting exists beyond the player characters; it has a long history before they arrived and that things go on in it that they are not involved with. That is only a pretense of course – but it’s very important for the role-playing part. Good characters need cultures, traditions, and regions to come from, histories to give them depth, and events to react to and to make it seem like the world is alive when they’re not watching it.

Sadly, the fact that this is specific to role-playing games means that a lot of players aren’t very clear on it – and so this bit probably causes more arguments than anything else so far.

The first step in accepting that your characters live in the setting is making one who could plausibly have come to exist in it. Unfortunately… there are a lot of ways to refuse to do this.

  • There’s “I want to be of a species that doesn’t exist in the setting/is always the enemy/cannot communicate/makes no sense as a player character”.

For example, thirty years ago it was fairly common to hear “I want to play a Predator!”no matter what the game setting was. Now I did allow Ri’al The Huntsman – who was pretty much the same thing (albeit with a detailed racial and technological background) – but that game was an open setting with creatures and items potentially being brought in from across the multiverse. That character – and his starship and support staff – really wouldn’t fit into, say, The Forgotten Realms. Similarly, a cheerful singing whale-bard will not work in Dark Sun. We managed to squeeze a Runequest Elven Mage and a Barbarian with a magic sword into Call of Cthulhu – but that was because the game master wanted to swap from Runequest to Call of Cthulhu and the final Runequest scenario involved some of the characters staying in the Call of Cthulhu setting to seal the gate through which Lovecraftian Horrors were oozing into Glorantha. (hey had some reliable magic and were used to monsters, but needed sanity checks for things like high-speed car chases and didn’t understand all the technology… they did give the party a much wider range of options than usual in Call Of Cthulhu though).

But if you’re playing Legend Of The Five Rings… somebody who insists on playing a pistol-packing cowboy, or a Star Trek Gorn with a phaser rifle will not fit in. If you’re playing in the Atheria setting or World Tree – where the universe is entirely made up of structured magic – then demanding to play a totally nonmagical character simply will not work. Some of those players got quite upset when told that it simply was not possible to play such a character, but that they could be delusional if they wanted to – but what they were asking for simply did not work in the setting.

The setting does not have to accommodate any creature you want to play – and you should not be asking it to do so. Asking that the setting to be redesigned just to suit your idea… is being a greedy, selfish, !@#$%^&*. You’re demanding that the game master devote a lot of extra time to fitting everything around YOU.

On the personal-background level there’s “I want to be from a culture that doesn’t exist in the setting/I have been psychotically murderous and have dealt with every situation by charging into battle to the death since I was a small child (or am otherwise suicidally insane)”/”I insist on being hunted by enemies who do not exist for reasons that would not apply in the setting“/”I wish to build my character around being trained from youth to in an ancient art using equipment that does not exist on the setting”/and even “I am a force-sensitive who goes into berserker rages at the drop of a hat, but have made it to age forty without a problem” (but who falls to the dark side without managing to get through an entire in-game week in actual play).

That’s another “no”. Admittedly, in the case of the Star Wars game it became “you may not make force-sensitive characters any longer” since the player was more or less incapable of showing any trace of restraint and had his characters respond to any frustration by going berserk (You! Street Merchant! I need clothing!” “Ur… I sell fruit drinks… There’s a shop that sells used clothing two blocks dow… Ow! AAAAGGHHHHHH!!! Burble…. Die” (character falls to the dark side, player has them try to kill the entire population of the planet in a mad rampage through the streets, gets overwhelmed and killed by the rest of the party) – but your character history needs to make sense in the setting too.

On the other hand, it’s up to the game master to try and accommodate the unusual. Player characters are OFTEN lost heirs to ancient kingdoms, have stumbled across mysterious bits of ancient lore, possess strange powers and talents, have mysterious mentors, are the subjects of cryptic prophecies, and employ strange arts – and that’s just fine. Game settings really should be large and varied enough to have plenty of room for all kinds of oddities lurking in the corners. The more of this stuff that the players some up with, the more fodder for adventures, discoveries and plot twists the game master will have.

The trick here is that it the players shouldn’t demand that this sort of thing have any game effect. So the character is actually a young dragon, utterly transformed by some powerful curse and with amnesia? And the transformation is so powerful that only a game master plot device can detect or undo it and – barring that – the character is in all ways a normal elven child? And no one knows about this?

That’s interesting, and can inspire odd plots and strange mysteries – but it only matters if the game master feels that he or she can fit it in. Most game masters will fit those weird details into the game given time. Juicy plothooks like that are hard to pass up. Still, if the party never goes on the proper quest, and so never finds the ancient crypts that will open only to the hand of the lost heir… than that bit won’t make any difference either, and no one should be upset about that.

Step two is accepting the setting around your characters.

The most blatant form of this is insisting that rules from elsewhere apply to the setting.

The most stubborn examples of this that I’ve ever encountered were (and are) weapons enthusiasts of one kind or another – although the players who want to bring in secondary sources from things like the Star Wars Expanded Universe (all the books and such) come in a close second.

Yes, you may have build a crossbow expert who specializes in sniping for the d20 game – but d20 is intentionally designed to avoid easy, repeatable, one-hit-kills against major targets (such as player characters), to allow characters to confront their attackers, and to have all kinds of countermeasures to various attacks. Insisting that your sniper should be able to pretty much control a battlefield, take out opponents instantly with headshots, and that crossbow bolts are extremely lethal because you think that’s “realistic”… is attempting to apply an only-in-your-head version of real-world rules about sniping (and not even a very good model of those rules) to a setting where they simply do not apply – and rage-quitting because other people said “Wall”, “Wind Wall”, “Protection from Arrows”, “There are no rules for called shots and I’ve got enough hit points to take twenty of your shots”, “Invisible”, and so on… gets you nowhere.

OK, it produced a very dramatic (if totally irrational) rant, but it still got nowhere.

Similarly, in a setting where Dragons were spirit-beings who reinforced and animated convenient masses of rock as “bodies” like a puppeteer – and so could only be briefly inconvenienced by mere physical force, no matter how enormous – complaining that “This is bull! The hydro-static shockwave from that missile hit will have turned that dragons insides to mush even if it’s scales are some kind of handwavium super-tough stuff!”meant absolutely nothing.

The outbursts along those lines from that particular military-enthusiast player got quite tiresome. It was his privilege to have his characters dislike “magic”, or “psionics”, or whatever reality-bending was called in the settings that he played in, but it was NOT his privilege to insist that his opinions about how destructive weapons were override the rules of the setting. Similarly, the rest of the game was NOT obligated to relegate the settings special abilities to a ghetto of “a few guys can do weird shit, but I don’t have to pay attention to it” just to oblige him

The players who insisted that – because an expanded universe book said so – forensic analysis would not be able to tell a hundred small explosions from one big one, or that they wanted to use the Sun Crusher, or that the Ancients sourcebook for Traveler said that “Black Globe Generators” existed and that therefore they could buy one, were being just as silly. No you may not have Stormbringer just because it was listed in the first edition Deities and Demigods book (even if I do have a copy with it in there), Similarly, you may not have psionics in a no-psionics setting just because it has a section in the SRD.

There are a lot of other ways – ranging from dragging in political, economic, or military ideas that do not work in the setting, refusing to admit the existence of pre-human intelligences in settings that feature such histories, refusing to admit the existence of problems with your favored plans, insisting that you can so make gunpowder (and that it will be revolutionary) in settings that either don’t include it or use locally more-effective methods, but they’re all the same basic strategy. They’re “I don’t like some feature of this game – so rather than running my own game, or asking “why” and accepting the answer, or trying actual persuasion, I’m just going to try and blackmail the rest of the group into changing it by being as disruptive as possible until I’m placated” – one of the most direct possible ways of being a greedy, selfish, !@#$%^&*.

You have to play the same game that everyone else is playing. Of course, that’s incumbent on the game master too. If the game master has some group of non-player characters doing something that is popularly believed to be impossible – and which the players were not offered the opportunity to be able to do – then the game master MUST give the players enough clues to let them figure out how it’s done within the rules of the setting – and must also provide BOTH a chance for the player-characters to learn to do it if they wish AND a reason why the trick, whatever it is, isn’t commonly known or used. Suddenly solving the problem with a super-invention, or dropping a Green Lantern into your Call of Cthulhu game, or revealing that the reason that Sherlock Holmes and Company could not solve the case was because the murder was committed with a voodoo doll… is just as much a cop-out as “it was all a dream!”.

Sure, you can do that sort of thing once in while, but you need to set it up in advance. “One gift I can give… Once every century the Dreamstone of Ithlia can grant a Questing Dream. If you can accomplish your task in the dream… then it shall become real. If you fail… then you will re-awaken here, and may attempt the task waking. Beware though! This gift I cannot grant again until the full century has passed!”.

Then send them to the Tomb Of Horrors. Maybe they can get far enough in the dream to help them pull it off on their second, “real”, try.

The other major form of this particular problem is extreme gamism – often known as “breaking the game”. It usually appears when someone wants to “win”(despite the fact that – in a RPG – this is actually losing) instead of socializing and cooperating on building a narrative. In Stormbringer it may manifest in creating a Noble Melinobonean character with massively powerful demon armor, a demon weapon, and a dragon steed while everyone else is making young kingdom mercenaries. In d20 you find infinite wish loops, hulking hurlers doing more damage than there are atoms in the universe, and – thanks to their being so many sourcebooks – hundreds of other “I Win!” buttons.

Sometimes it’s accidental. In Nephelim I gave my character loads of past lives (an idea I found irresistible, given how many time periods I found fascinating) – and found that that meant having most of your skills at “master” and knowing almost all the spells and systems of magic in the game. Sure, you lost raw magical power and host quality with each life and so she was a weak caster with a lousy social position to start with – but you got to roll for a power increase with each relevant casting and the character had spells for pretty much everything. Her power grew at a monstrous rate with no need to even adventure, while characters who started off with fewer lives, but much more raw magical power, gained strength very slowly since they rarely had a relevant spell to use and didn’t have a lot of skill with either magic or mundane abilities.

The game didn’t last very long anyway (no one could really find a reason to go out and do things instead of sitting in the library doing magical research) – but the game was obviously broken by the third session, even if no one really cared.

The principle here is pretty simple. It’s Setting Over Rules. If the setting says that Dragons are terrible avatars of destruction and almost unstoppable – but the rules say that a combination of three cheap and common items/powers/spells/whatever (likely from three unrelated sourcebooks since that sort of rules interaction accumulates as more stuff is published) can, if combined cleverly, take out any dragon with ease… then either those items do not exist or their interaction does not work that way. If the setting has a lengthy “history”, then – no matter WHAT the rules say – there are no quick and easy routes to infinite personal power or vast wealth or other silliness because they would be in common use. Similarly, you cannot accidentally destroy the world with common effects or it wouldn’t be there to adventure in.

Sure, the player characters are always special – but if they really want to achieve cast cosmic powers, or destroy the world, or defeat evils that were old when the current universe was young, or some such… they will, at the very least, have to work on very hard within the setting. If it was EASY they wouldn’t be the first.

This one applies to the game master and the players equally; if some application of the rules would leave the setting making no sense… then it doesn’t matter what the “rules” (or an optimization thread or handbook) says; the game does not work that way. There won’t be any special exemptions for the villains, just as there won’t be for the player characters. EVERYONE has to work for things.

If there is a fifth installment on this… it may be devoted mostly to examples. This is approaching the point at which things start to get game-specific – which is a bit beyond the intended scope of this series. On the other hand, if I think of something, or someone asks a question that requires extensive explanation… then there may be a fifth segment yet.

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Champions – Junior Lt. Ulrich “Firestorm” Grant

Junior Lt. Grant is a bit of an odd case; he’s very talented with personal boosting “C’hi Powers”, deadly accurate, as fast as greased lightning, able to manage a flight harness, and can handle a more-than-maximum equipment loadout – but he’s got a woeful tendency to follow his own judgement, jumps into situations, and the usual special forces powers and training are beyond him. He simply doesn’t fit into most of the usual Afrikans military slots.

On the other hand, being assigned as a glorified babysitter to weird idiots seems a bit beneath him – not that he’ll open his mouth about THAT.

Lt. Grant is a splendid example of “I have things that go BANG” as a character concept – a fairly normal, if well-trained and fairly high end special forces, human with a plentiful supply of military gear. He’s built as a starting character for the Apex setting, and thus at the peak end of what you can expect any normal organization to field. He doesn’t do much except combat of course, but – for his job – he doesn’t really need to. He’d be right at home in a lot of action movies. He’ll usually be running at OCV and DCV 9, with three levels to switch between them in ranged combat. Of course, since he wears a flight harness, he can usually avoid hand to hand quite readily. 

Junior Lt. Ulrich “Firestorm” Grant

Value Characteristic Points
18/38 STR 8
18 DEX 24
13 CON 6
10 BODY 0
10 INT 0
11 EGO 2
15 PRE 5
12 COM 1
6 PD 2
6 ED 3
4 SPD 12
7 REC 0
16 END -5
26 STUN 0
Total 58

 

Points Powers END
0 Afrikans Racial Package
(20) Physical Limitation: Elemental Powers Only. Afrikans can create and maintain advanced “conventional” technologies (which do indeed require a bit of magic to keep working in the face of supernatural resistance) and can manipulate the various elements, the states of matter, and the elemental forces of life and death (Frequently, Fully)
20 Normal Characteristic Maxima
(20) Psychological Limitation: Pyramidal Psychology. Afrikans form large organizations easily, but have difficulties handling internal feedback within those organizations and with understanding systems involving it. Dominant leaders thus tend to hear only what they want to – and so less-dominant subgroups resort to factional infighting to advance their ideas. Groups of Afrikans have been known to obey obviously stupid orders simply because they came from the top – and may select very poor leaders and then follow them blindly. (Very Common, Strong)
(15) +3 level w/Ranged Combat
(15) 30-Point Equipment Allowance; An equipment allowance is spent on more-or-less conventional gear; each point invested in the equipment allowance allows the purchase of two points worth of equipment, bases, or vehicles – up to a normal maximum of 15 points invested. Beyond that, you can use an Aid effect to boost your equipment allowance and Afrikans characters get a racial boost.

Atlantean characters with an equipment allowance normally have at least half of it invested in weird magical stuff, but the effects are much the same.

Titans and Demi-titans normally cannot buy an equipment allowance.

18 Advanced Afrikans Warrior Multipower (40-pt reserve); Variable Limitations: -1½, -¾; Generic Limitation (All powers must be 0 End Cost and work on Charges): -½
u-1 2d6 Packing A Full Kit: Aid to Equipment Allowance (Fade/week, Max. 24); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power, +0; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Charges: 12, -¼ 0
u-1 2d6 Second Wind: Aid to All Damaged Attributes (Fade/turn, Max. 12); Range: 0; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Restore Only Lost Characteristics and Powers: -½; Charges: +8, -½; Trigger (4 Body or less): Set, +¼; Trigger (Unconscious): Set, +¼; Generic Limitation (Only works for the user, not others): -½ 0
u-1 Lightning Reflexes: +4 Speed; Only for taking extra movement in each phase, -1.5.; Charges: 6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Activation: 15-, -¼
u-1 Forced March: +4 Speed; Only for making an extra attack each phase, -1.5. The Special Effect is usually a weapon in each hand; Charges: 6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev; Activation: 15-, -¼; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼
u-2 Adrenaline Rush; Charges: 6, +0; Must allow at least an hour to pass between uses.: -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev
(8) +20 STR; Doesn’t Affect Figured: -½; Generic Limitation (Only for combat purposes; cannot life massive weights, rip apart entangles, etc.): -½ 0
(13) Force Field (5 PD/5 ED); Invisible (Sight and Hearing. Detectable by Medical and Mystical Senses): Two Sense Groups, +¾; Hardened: ×1, ¼ 0
15 Equipment Allowance (30 + 24 Boost +30 Race = 84)
9 Hard Training: Modified Characteristic: STR; Reduced END: Half, +¼
6 Marathon Running (+2″, 8″, NC: 16″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 6; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
9 Enhanced Perception (all) (+3 to PER)
63 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
15 +3 level w/Equipment Multipower
9 +3 level w/Flight Harness
1 French (Basic Conv.); Literacy: Standard, 0
1 German (Basic Conv.); Literacy: Standard, 0
3 Combat Driving 13-
2 Professional Skill: Military 11-
5 Stealth 14-
3 Professional Skill: Bodyguard 12-
5 Tactics 12-
1 Active Duty Military ]Passport
3 Basic Strike (OCV +1, DCV +0, 9½d6)
4 Martial Block (OCV +2, DCV +2)
4 Martial Dodge (OCV –, DCV +5)
3 Martial Grab (OCV -1, DCV -1, STR 48)
59 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

Cost Equipment
15 Equipment Multipower (45-pt reserve); Variable Limitations (Various Obvious Accessible Foci): -1, -½; Conventional Equipment Only: -1; Full Power Only: -¼; Gestures (Must be able to use gear): Instant Power, -¼
Heavy Pistols
u-1 9d6 Physical Energy Blast (Rubber Bullets) 0; Range: 225; Versus: PD; Charges: +8, +0; Clips: 4
u-1 4d6 NND Energy Blast (Gas Pellets) 0; Range: 200; Versus: ED; No Normal Defense (Vrs Need Not Breathe): +1; Charges: +8, +0; Clips: 4
u-1 4d6 Entangle (Glue Pellets) (DEF 4) 0; Range: 200; Charges: +8, +0; Clips: 4
u-1 3d6 Killing Attack (RKA) (Depleted Uranium Slugs) 0; Range: 225; Charges: +8, +0; Clips: 4
Grenades
u-1 6d6 Incendiary Grenades: Fire Energy Blast 0; Range: 225; Versus: ED; Explosion (Extended Area +0″/DC): +½; Charges: +16, +0
u-1 Smoke Grenades: Darkness (Radar, Sight, 1″ radius) 0; Range: 225; Area Effect (Radius): 4″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×2, +¼; Charges: +6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev
u-1 2d6 Fragmentation Grenades: Killing Attack (RKA) 0; Range: 225; Explosion (Extended Area +0″/DC): +½; Charges: +16, +0
Flare Pistols
u-1 Fired into Air: Change Environment/Light (2″ rad.) 0; Effect: Fixed, +0; Area Effect (Radius): 250″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×250, +2; Charges: +6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev
u-1 9d6 Fired Into Something: Flame Energy Blast 0; Range: 225; Versus: ED; Charges: +8, +0; Clips: 4
u-1 3d6 Fired into a Hex: Visual Flash (Normal Sight) 0; Range: 225; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Charges: +8, +0; Clips: 4
Other Devices
u-1 Extending Staff: Hand-to-Hand Attack (5d6, Total 12½d6) 0; Range: 0; Reduced END: Zero, +½
u-1 1d6+1 Combat Knife: Killing Attack (HTH) (Total 2½d6) 0; Range: 0; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Armor Piercing: 1, +½;
u-1 Bugs/Tracers: Radio Listen and Transmit ; Ranged: +½; Usable Against Others: ×1 mass, 1; Charges: +8, +1½; Continuing Charges: 1 week, -8 lev; Transmits Only: -1
u-1 Binoculars: Telescopic Sense (Sight, +7 to PER) ; Extra Time: 1 turn, -1; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½
u-1 Demolitions Kit 19-
u-1 Survival Pack (Survival Skill) 17-; Charges: 1, +¼; Continuing Charges: 1 week, -8 lev
u-1 Lockpicking Kit: Lockpicking 19-
u-1 Security Systems Kit 19-
u-1 Breaching Charges: Tunneling (2″ through DEF 12) 0; Charges: +8, -½; Tunnels: Left Behind, +0
u-1 4d6 Thermite Pencils: Energy Blast/Fire 0; Range: 200; Versus: ED; Explosion: +½; Time Delay: +¼; Trigger (Radio Signal): Set, +¼; Charges: +8, -½
u-1 2d6 Knockout Drugs: Energy Blast 0; Range: 200; Versus: ED; No Normal Defense (vrs not ingesting or being injected with it, alien metabolism.): +1; Continuous: +1; Charges: +12, +1; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 lev; Extra Time: full phase, -½
u-1 Wrist Grapnel and LIne: Swinging (+23″, NC: 46″) 2; Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 68; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Reduced END: Zero, +½
8 Flight Harness Multipower (30-pt reserve); OIF (Flight Harness): -½; Requires a minute or so to strap the thing on: -¼; Limited Fuel Reserve: 2-3 hours straight flight, half that much dogfighting. No long-range flights.: -¼; Restrainable: Must have room to extend the wings: -½; Will not work underwater, in vacuum, etc.: -¼; Flight powers only: -1
u-1 12″ Flight (NC: 24″) 1; Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 36; Reduced END: Half, +¼
u-1 5″ Flight (NC: 160″) 1; Non-Combat Multiplier: ×32, +20; Non-Combat (MPH): 238
2 Elemental Control: Advanced Uniform (5-pt reserve); Focus: Obvious Inaccessible, -½; Conventional Technology Only: -1
a-8 Armor (8 PD/8 ED) ; Hardened: ×1, ¼; Always On: -½
6 Sensory Enhancements
(5) Infrared Vision
(5) Ultraviolet Vision
(5) Radio Listen and Transmit
4 Shielded Senses
(5) Flash Defense (Sight, 5 pts)
(5) Flash Defense (Hearing, 5 pts)
67 Total Equipment

 

100+ Disadvantages
10 No Code Versus Killing (Common, Moderate)
15 Always Obeys Orders of Superiors (Very Common, Moderate)
20 Honorable (Common, Total)
10 Public Identity
10 Reputation: Special Forces Soldier (11-)
15 Watched: Superiors (14-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
15 Active Service Duties (Common, Strong); Situation: Common, +10; Intensity: Strong, +5
10 Phys. Lim. Terrible Liar (+5 bonus to anyone trying to spot it) (Frequently, Slightly)
15 Phys. Lim. Only good at personal boosting magic, nothing else. (Infrequently, Fully)
120 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
58 + 122 = 180 220 = 120 + 100

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
6 6 4 0 19/13 19/13 3, 6, 9, 12

Height: 179cm (5’10”), Weight: 64kg (141 lbs), Sex: Male, Age: 22, Race: Afrikans

 

Champions – Professor Moriarty

Creator of Americas Unlimited, Engineer of a dozen freeware secure peer-to-peer encrypted communications networks, Enabler of Social Protest, Father of Spam, Inventor of the Pop-Up Ad, Patron of LOLCats, Financier of TVTropes, Designer of Denial Of Service Attacks, Data Harvester, Hacker Extraordinaire, Trans-humanist…

The charge was Computer Hacking. Many people thought that it should have been an awards ceremony instead. Others felt that the charge should have been Crimes Against Humanity.

But when they came to take him to trial, Professor Moriarty was dead in his cell – smoke rising from where some sort of implant in his skull had turned itself into a piece of slag.

Despite the ever-multiplying rumors of murder, and coverups, and thefts of the Professor’s secret technologies… the death was ruled a suicide, and most of Moriarty’s secrets apparently died with him.

But within the digital seas, Professor Moriarty’s uploaded consciousness swam, riding the datastreams around the world.

Special orders were placed. Backups were created. Automated systems hummed to life – and soon enough the Professor had a new “body” – and opened his now-digital eyes upon the physical world once again.

Professor Moriarty’s Digital Wizardry is no stronger than it ever was – but now he can make all of it work in the physical world and he possesses the flashing speed of a computer to back his skills. His spells may be weak, but he can unleash five of them every phase – and can take an extra phase to cast defensive spells up to twice a turn whenever he needs it. If some massive attack is coming in… well, five layered Force Walls can often take a lot of the sting out of it. Personally, he’s hard to hit anyway, since a lot of attacks will go right through his holographic “body” (if the +6 DCV for “shrinking” would cause them to miss) without causing him any trouble at all.

Professor Moriarty is seriously stretching the rules in a number of places. As far as the setting goes, his Digital Wizardry might fall under “technology” – but it might be necessary to consider him a “priest” of a rather strange Titan. Similarly, he’s really pushing the limits of what fits into an Equipment Allowance; those are supposed to be for more-or-less “normal” equipment – and his Holoemitter is pretty obviously not very conventional. Duplication is not supposed to be set up to completely cover it’s own cost,  allowing an endless stream of duplicates. Finally, of course, putting “autofire” on a multipower so as to use a bunch of extra effects each phase – and buying triggered extra phases to use with it – is a pretty weird build.

On the other hand, his spells are fairly weak and ARE explainable. The setting – where even stone knives are partially products of magic, gadgets quit working in the hands of people who haven’t got a large enough “equipment pool” to empower them, and major weapons and systems are limited by their operators abilities – hasn’t really got a good definition of what “normal” equipment is. He’s only using the “duplication” to build the classic computer-character “if you don’t get all my backups, I’ll be back!” ability – which is not only very classic (just ask Ultron/Mechannon) but is also fairly useless since comic book characters rarely die or stay dead anyway. The triggered actions is to build another classic comic wizard bit – throwing up a shield before the big attack hits, even if it was by surprise (writers let them do this because otherwise comic book magicians tend to be normal humans – so if a big surprise attack actually hits, they’ll be a smear on the wall and the story will be over) – and if it’s good enough for Dr Strange, Dr Fate, and Zatana, it’s good enough for Moriarty. Finally, the autofire multipower… The effect makes sense, but the only other way I can think to build it is to buy an enormous boost to speed (well above what the game allows) and throw all kinds of limitations on it – creating a convoluted mess.

Overall, I think he’d be fun – which is, of course, the entire point of playing, and so what’s really important.

 

Professor Moriarty

Value Characteristic Points
13 STR 3
18 DEX 24
13/25 CON 6
10 BODY 0
18 INT 8
14 EGO 8
15 PRE 5
13 COM 1
3 PD 0
5 ED 0
4 SPD 12
8 REC 0
16 END -17
30 STUN 0
Total 50

 

Points Powers END
0 Afrikans Racial Package
(20) Physical Limitation: Elemental Powers Only. Afrikans can create and maintain advanced “conventional” technologies (which do indeed require a bit of magic to keep working in the face of supernatural resistance) and can manipulate the various elements, the states of matter, and the elemental forces of life and death (Frequently, Fully)
20 Normal Characteristic Maxima
(20) Psychological Limitation: Pyramidal Psychology. Afrikans form large organizations easily, but have difficulties handling internal feedback within those organizations and with understanding systems involving it. Dominant leaders thus tend to hear only what they want to – and so less-dominant subgroups resort to factional infighting to advance their ideas. Groups of Afrikans have been known to obey obviously stupid orders simply because they came from the top – and may select very poor leaders and then follow them blindly. (Very Common, Strong)
(15) +3 level w/Ranged Combat
(15) 30-Point Equipment Allowance; An equipment allowance is spent on more-or-less conventional gear; each point invested in the equipment allowance allows the purchase of two points worth of equipment, bases, or vehicles – up to a normal maximum of 15 points invested. Beyond that, you can use an Aid effect to boost your equipment allowance and Afrikans characters get a racial boost.

Atlantean characters with an equipment allowance normally have at least half of it invested in weird magical stuff, but the effects are much the same.

Titans and Demi-titans normally cannot buy an equipment allowance. Not being material beings to start with, they have problems with material gadgets.

101 Digital Wizardry
(13) Multipower (30-pt reserve); Variable Limitations: -½, -¼; Requires Skill Roll: -½; Side Effects (Usually a 3d6 Stun Drain, but all sorts of weird things can happen.): 30/Half, -½
u-1 1d6 TVTropes / Transform Air to Steel (Major, Limited Class); Range: 130; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
u-1 2d6 Dazzling Graphics / Energy Blast; Range: 150; Versus: ED; No Normal Defense (Flash Defense 6+, Blindness): +1; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½ 0
u-1 2d6 Pop-Up Ad / Flash (Normal Sight); Range: 150; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
u-1 Firewall / Force Wall (2 PD/2 ED); Range: 150; Width: 6″, +0; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Variable Special Effects (PD, ED, MD, PD, FD): Certain Group, +¼; Uncontrolled: +½; Hardened: ×3, ¾ 0
u-1 3d6 Restore Function / Standard Healing; Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
u-1 2d6 Lolcats / Entangle (DEF 2); Range: 150; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
u-1 Antivirus / Force Field (6 PD/6 ED); Usable By Others: Power Lost, +¼; Hardened: ×1, ¼; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Uncontrolled: +½ 0
u-1 Computer Graphics / Images versus Sight (Normal Sight, 1″ radius); Range: 150; Observer PER Penalty: 0, +0; Usable Against Others: ×1 mass, 1; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Uncontrolled: +½ 0
u-1 Denial Of Service / Superleap (+5″, versus clinging, not being mobile); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×4, +5; Non-Combat (MPH): 30; Usable Against Others: ×1 mass, 1; Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
u-1 10″ IP Masking / Teleportation (Long Range 10″); Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
u-1 Virtual Reality / Images versus Physical Sensations (Detect, 1″ radius); Range: 150; Observer PER Penalty: 0, +0; Usable Against Others: ×1 mass, 1; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Uncontrolled: +½ 0
u-1 Images: The Primary Target (Mental Awareness, 1″ radius); Range: 150; Observer PER Penalty: 0, +0; Usable Against Others: ×1 mass, 1; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Uncontrolled: +½ 0
u-1 IP Tunneling (3″ through DEF 3); Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Tunnels: Left Behind, +0

This makes instant pits. Sadly, it only works where the ground is reasonably soft.

0
u-1 1d6 Echo Chamber / Transform: Air to Whipped Cream (Minor, Single Object); Range: 150; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Area Effect (Radius): 4″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4, +½ 0
u-1 ½d6 Script Kiddie / Transfer: Body to End Battery (Returns 5/turn, Maximum: 3); Range: 150; Affects: Single Power, +0; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Ranged: +½; Penetrating: +½; Armor Piercing: 1, +½
u-1 1d6 Wyrm / Transform (Modify Behaviors / Programming, Minor, Limited Class); Range: 110; Cumulative: +½; Active Points: 22; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
u-1 Virtual Machine / Need Not Breathe; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Uncontrolled: +½; Ranged: +½
u-1 Bot Flood / Darkness (Normal Sight, 1″ radius); Range: 150; Usable Against Others: ×1 mass, 1; Uncontrolled: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½

This can effectively put a sphere of darkness around someone’s head and eyes.

0
u-1 2d6 Encryption / Suppress Language; Range: 150; Affect: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Uncontrolled: +½; Invisible (To Hearing and Sight): Two Sense Groups, +¾

Yes, this changes it so that everything the target tries to say or write is gibberish, but at the same time fixes it so that no one can see or hear this. They will say apparently-reasonable things, but those things will have nothing to do with what they intended to say. Don’t think about that too hard.

0
u-1 2d6 Spam / Ego Attack; Reduced END: Zero, +½

Only Moriarty can defeat his foes with ads for cheap viagra, penis enlargement, and Nigerean Princes…

0
u-1 2d6 CPU Hog / Aid to All Physical Attributes (Fade/turn, Max. 12); Range: 0; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2 3
u-1 2d6 Ebay / Aid to Equipment Allowance (+36 net Points) (Fade/day, Max. 18); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power, +0; Charges: +16, +0 0
u-1 Computer Programming; Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 19-
u-1 Demolitions; Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 17-
u-1 Google Maps / Combat Driving; Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½

It is really annoying to have Moriarty take control of your vehicle during a high-speed chase.

19-
u-1 Autopilot / Combat Piloting; Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 19-
u-1 Cryptography; Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 19-
u-1 Electronics; Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 17-
u-1 Forgery (Digital); Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½

Want to swamp Youtube with forged videos of your enemy doing something reprehensible? Here’s how!

17-
u-1 Gambling (Online); Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½

The “Good” Professor is quite capable of bringing internet gambling directly to you! Complete with the horrendous house odds and ability to charge your credit card directly.

17-
u-1 Professional Skill: Internet Research; Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 24-
u-1 Security Systems; Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 19-
u-1 Systems Operation; Ranged: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 19-
(10) Autofire on Multipower; Variable Limitations: -½, -¼; Requires Skill Roll: -½; Side Effects: 30/Half, -½
(8) +2 Computer Reflexes / SPD; Trigger (Only to respond to an attack): Set, +¼; Generic Limitation (Only to use Multipower): -1; Generic Limitation (Only for defensive applications): -1

Twice per turn, Moriarty can interrupt an incoming attack to cast five defensive spells – most often Force Walls, but sometimes life support, or force fields which will persist for a while to boost him and his allies, will be a better choice.

(12) +8 level w/Multipower Attacks; Generic Limitation (Only to allow each multipower use in an autofire burst to be rolled independently, without penalty.): -1
(7) Duplication: Reloading From Backup (1 180-point forms); Generic Limitation (Only one duplicate actually exists at a time): -4; Extra Time: 1 week, -4; No Conscious Control: -2
(5) Mind Link (The Internet); Minds: One Specific Mind, +5; Number of Minds: 1, +0; Distance: Single Planet, +0; Dimension: Current, +0; Link with: Anyone, +0
(13) Digital Wizardry (Control Skill). In general, each slot requires a check at -3 – although his focusing crystal generally makes up for that. 18-
101 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
10 +2 level w/Multipower
10 Money (Wealthy)
6 +2 level w/Flight
3 Conversation 12-
29 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

Cost Equipment
6 Elemental Control: Holoemittter (12-pt reserve); Always On: -½; Focus: Inobvious Accessible, -½

The Emitter is usually concealed within Moriarty’s “body”.

a-25 Shrinking-3 (DCV +6, Height 19¼ cm/8″) 0; Mass: 0.1210938 kg/0.27 lbs; Knockback Increase: 9; PER Bonus: -6; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Invisible (Sight): One Sense Group, +½; Generic Limitation (Does not modify perception checks).

The holoemitter is fairly small. The quasi-physical “body” it creates is not. This leads to many apparent hits on him going right through with no effect.

b-6 Buy off “No Physical Body” Limitation
c-6 Armor (8 PD/8 ED). It’s a tough little gadget.
d-12 12″ Flight (NC: 24″) 0; Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 36; Reduced END: Zero, +½
e-6 +12 CON
5 +3 level w/Focusing Crystal: Digital Wizardry; Focus: Inobvious Inaccessible, -¼
66 Total Equipment

 

100+ Disadvantages
25 Phys. Lim. No Physical Body (All the Time, Fully)
10 Public Identity
10 Reputation (11-)
15 Distinctive Features: Hologram Traits; Concealability: Not Concealable, 15; Reaction: Noticed and Recognizable, +0
15 Overconfidence (Very Common, Moderate)
10 Prankster (Common, Moderate)
85 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
50 + 130 = 180 185 = 85 + 100

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
6 6 / 12 5 0 11/8 13/8 3, 6, 9, 12

Original Attributes: Height: 154 cm (5’1″), Weight: 62 kg (136 lbs), Sex: Male, Age: 42, Race: Afrikans

All right; Professor Moriarty here wasn’t at all what I was intending to post – but for some reason I just couldn’t get him out of my head until I put him online. Maybe he’s a bit more “real” than I originally intended…

 

Apex – The Playable Races Part II; Ethereals, Titans, Priests and Titanspawn, Monsters, and Relics

The Ethereals – popularly, if possibly wrongly, classified as Australopithecus Astralus – apparently rose to full sapience on the minor continent of Mu (the remains are now known as New Zealand) roughly 1,100,000 years ago. Less than 150,000 years later Mu was obliterated in a catastrophe of unknown nature* – leaving behind only ghostly astral echoes of its people and lands to haunt thousands of square miles of unstable reality. Given that the nature and appearance of those traces seems to be highly observer-dependent, the Ethereals may remain something of a mystery for a long time to come.

*Despite it being popularly described as an “explosion”, whatever the Ethereal Catastrophe was it apparently obliterated most of a minor continent. While there were undoubtedly explosive elements, a simple explosion large enough to do so would have been at least as catastrophic as the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event – and would not have left the matter in the area infused with reality-altering astral forces (they must be anchored to the planetary crust somehow, since the area moves with the planet). More importantly, in the less than one million years since the Ethereal Catastrophe at least four species (even if two are presumed extinct and one nearly went extinct) have risen to full sapience – yet there is no apparent evidence of sapience during the previous three hundred million years. Evidently something changed – and the obvious dividing line was the Ethereal Catastrophe. Whether that disaster it was the result of an attempt to expand the borders of an overly-restrictive astral overlay (they never managed to expand much beyond Mu), an attempt by the Ethereals to transcend into some facsimile of immortal godhood or to merge astral and normal space into a more “obliging” configuration, or some sort of an experiment that went out of control, it seems likely that it changed the rules for sapience somehow. After all, the Hyperboreans achieved full sapience less than two hundred thousand years later – an eyeblink in evolutionary time.

(Minor) Titan Racial Package

The Titans are primarily astral entities, and are known to be simultaneously empowered, limited, shaped, and bound to the physical world by the stories, beliefs, and wills of the various material sapient races. As such, they commonly appear as “Gods”, “Nature Spirits”, and similar mythic entities. Their abilities are wide ranging, and they may possess both massive personal power and the ability to manipulate events on a wide scale – but Titans vary greatly in both their individual power level and in their individual themes.

Thanks to their astral nature and the resulting lack of physical traces, the earliest known evidence of the Titans existence comes from the quasi-mindful artifacts of the Hyperboreans – and at that point the two were already hostile. It is widely speculated that the Titans origins are tied to the Ethereals or the Ethereal Catastrophe – whether they are transformed (“ascended”?) Ethereals, creations of the Ethereals (perhaps their talents allowed them to create astral entities to focus their powers and carry out their wills?), simply survivors, ascended ideas given independence in the catastrophe, or accidental creations of the disaster depends on who is speculating today and how drunk they are.

Given the widespread worship of the Titans it’s very impolitic to point it out – but the Titans fought the Hyperboreans and apparently drove them to extinction, say very little about the fate of the Lemurians but certainly didn’t help them out, apparently encouraged or caused the geological disasters which nearly exterminated the Atlanteans, and have created a variety of monsters to plague the Afrikans species. It’s actually pretty difficult to avoid concluding that a lot of them are downright hostile towards sapient material life forms. Whether that is something innate, because they dislike being shaped and bound by a bunch of mortals, or because of any of a thousand other possible reasons, remains unknown.

  • Physical Limitation: Shaped By Belief. Titans may be powerful in their fields, but they are limited to a single, and invariably fairly straightforward, domain. A Spirit of Invention makes gadgets and – possibly – provides grants and teaches. Similarly, the spirit of Memorial Day is a formidable soldier, has lots of weapons, and can operate military vehicles – but that’s about it (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Mental Characteristic Maxima of 15 (-20 Points). People never really think that their “gods” are really much smarter, or more perceptive, or whatever, than they are – no matter what their theme is. The God of Knowledge may have a lot of knowledge skills, but he or she normally won’t actually be much smarter than the average person. If there’s any one thing that the Titans find annoying about their relationship with mortals… this may be it.
  • Psychological Limitation: Themed. Titans aren’t even CAPABLE of getting seriously off-theme. A war god won’t be negotiating, the healing goddess won’t be building gadgets, and the god of justice won’t be letting criminals go, no matter how necessary it may be (Common, Total, -20 Points).
  • Divine Immortality: Regenerate From Death (Requires one week, 12 Points) plus Life Support/Immune to Aging (3 Points). Titans are basically living ideas; their physical forms aren’t especially vital to them. Barring very special violence inflicted with astral weapons (or personal weaknesses) they are functionally immortal.
  • Domain: +15 points worth of abilities appropriate to their domain. Most will have a multipower with assorted special abilities in it. Larger-scale influence is usually best represented as a Fringe Benefit or Contact, since it tends to be both subtle and to have very little effect on actual play.
    • Half-Titans are all too common – but given the “shaped by belief and expectations” nature of the Titans, are generally simply members of the other parents species (always Afrikans or Atlantean as far as is known) with “Shaped by Belief” (basically limiting their special powers to a particular theme) replacing the usual racial power-type restriction.

It is theorized that a major driving force in the war between the Hyperboreans and the Titans was that the Hyperboreans wanted to “obtain the power of the gods” – who were effectively massive foci of pure mental energy – enough to fuel any kind of artifact that the Hyperboreans could possibly want.

Major Titans use the same basic package, but have a lot more points to play with. They aren’t playable characters simply because most of them are thousands of years old and you can’t afford to build one on a starting characters point allowance.

The Titanspawn and Priests are fundamentally much the same; they’re what happens when a Titan infuses a bit of its power into a material lifeform. Interestingly, this is hereditary if it’s done to non-sapients, but is not in sapient beings. Presumably their existing astral link interferes somehow.

  • A Priest simply replaces their racial power restriction with Physical Limitation: Patrons Powers Only. A priest may have take up to three domains as contacts – perhaps “Battle”, “Rage”, and “Storms” – and work magic within those domains and request large-scale, if relatively subtle, favors of them. On the downside, they must offer regular worship, sacrifices, and service to their patrons (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • A new Priest may convert any previously-existing racial magical abilities into magics that suit his or her domain, and may, optionally, gain ten extra points worth of such abilities. These probably come with 20 points worth of strings though.

Titanspawn vary wildly, from unique monsters to minor races. In general, an animal infused with a Titan’s power gains sapience, magical powers derived from the Titan who granted them their power and an extended lifespan.

  • Physical Limitation: A Titanspawn may use magic (or have special powers) drawn from up to three domains, at least two of which must fall within their species creators purview (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Psychological Limitation: Animal Instincts. Titanspawn are very strongly driven by the instincts of the original animal – and are further driven by mortal stereotypes of monsters and the role for which they were created (Very Common, Strong, -20 Points).
  • Distinctive Features: In general, not concealable and with a strong reaction. As a side effect, any character who recognizes their type is likely to know a good deal about their abilities (Always Notices and Major Reaction, Not Concealable, -20 Points).

Sample: Centaur Package

Centaurs were a joint project of Hera and Zeus, and are the results of infusing their powers into horses. They were apparently meant to be fast skirmishers (and occasional kidnappers) to harass Afrikans settlements and traveling groups. Thanks to their access to the Family domain they are one of the more prolific Titanspawn types, and have a number of actual tribes. Modern centaurs mostly exist on the fringes of society and are more or less at peace with the Afrikans-Atlantean alliance – if only because, at this point, they would be readily exterminated otherwise.

  • Elemental Control: Equine Powers. 5 Point Reserve, -.5 limitation: equine powers only.
    • Growth x 3, 0 End Cost, Always On, Physical (-.5) = 7 Points
    • Running +3″, Noncombat x4, Half End Cost, Four Legs; Not usable if ground obstructed (-.5) = 4 Points.
    • 4d6 Hand To Hand Attack (Hooves) = 5 Points.
    • +4 to All Perception Rolls = 5 Points.
    • Hardened Damage Resistance, 10 PD and 10 ED = 5 Points.
  • All Centaurs have an instinctive familiarity with the Survival skill = 1 Point.
  • Base Attributes: Str +3, Dex -2, Con +3, Ego -2 (0 Points).

Centaurs may select three domains from among Archery, Wind, Stars, Strength, Speed, Family, and Knowledge – an unusually wide array of choices for a Titanspawn (five options to choose from, or just having three fixed domains, is more typical).

Monsters are modified members of the basic sapient species – these days, they almost exclusively have an Afrikans base. The Atlantean (and the presumed Hyperborean and Lemurian) monsters are pretty much extinct – although there could always be a survivor hanging on somewhere even after hundreds of thousands of years. Magic is like that.

Werebeast (Afrikans Variant) Racial Package:

Werebeasts were meant to lurk within Afrikans tribes and disrupt the unity that was their major survival mechanism. Unfortunately for the Werebeasts, this turned out to be a poorly chosen tactic; the Afrikans tribes proved to be quite good at detecting the predators in their midst (So mortals weren’t pretty much indistinguishable after all! Who knew?) and rapidly pushed the uncooperative ones out into the wilderness – or at least to the fringes of society. Even worse in some ways, the same instability that let them shapeshift led to some Werebeasts adapting to function socially and to others becoming linked to animal types that were quite unsuitable to their intended role. Werecervines and Werebeavers simply were not very threatening compared to the original wereleopards, weretigers, werewolves, etcetera. (Modern tales of weredinosaurs have yet to be confirmed as anything more than an urban legend – thankfully).

Modern Werebeasts tied to larger predators still lean towards their original terroristic purpose, although a few (for example, many werefoxes) do function socially – but when serial killers or multiple disappearances pop up the local Afrikans populace and authorities are quick to become suspicious that a werebeast is involved.

  • Physical Limitation: Shapeshifting and Life/Death Powers Only. Werebeasts have lost their connection to most of the Elemental Powers – and to Technology – in favor of the ability to enhance and transform their physical bodies. This was a better deal back before technology because so prevalent and so powerful, but can still be passed down to offspring. It tends to be a bit random however, and a Werebeast may unexpectedly appear in a family that merely has a werebeast as a distant ancestor (Frequently/Fully, -20 Points).
  • Normal Mental Characteristic Maxima (-10 Points).
  • Psychological Limitation: Animalistic Instincts. While these depend a good deal on the Werebeast’s animal affinity, they’re always troublesome – and may require checks to avoid reacting instinctively. They also mean that Werebeasts are never found in groups past the pride/pack/flock/whatever – and thus cannot develop any form of civilization (Common, Strong, -15 Points).
  • Physical Limitation: A Werebeast shows more and more signs of whatever his or her animal affinity is as he or she uses more of his or her special powers (Frequent, Slightly, -10 Points).
  • Accidental Change: Circumstances vary, but all Werebeasts show at least an 8- chance to change under some circumstances even if they aren’t using their special powers (-5 Points).
  • Elemental Control: Werebeast Powers (5-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (All powers involve some shapeshifting, and will give away the user’s nature. ): -½ (3 Points).
    • Regeneration (1 BODY/Turn) (3 Points). Many Werebeasts are more powerful than this – some can even rise from the dead unless slain by silver – but even at it’s base this is a major advantage.
    • Damage Resistance (10 PD/10 ED), Not versus silver weapons: -½ (2 Points).
    • +8 STR; Reduced END: Half, +¼ (3 Points)
    • +4 DEX; Doesn’t Affect Figured: -½ (Basically only for calculating OCV and DCV) (3 Points)
    • +5 CON; (3 Points).
    • Enhanced Perception (all) (+4 to PER) (5 Points).
    • 2d6 Aid to an Animal-Based Martial Art (Fade 1 Point/5 minutes, Max. 24); Personal Only -1/2, Increased Endurance x2 (4 Endurance) (8 Points). This ability allows a werebeast to draw on the instinctive combat skills of its animal aspect – picking up a “martial art” specific to its animal type given a few seconds to shift. At least for the predator affinities that often includes Killing Strike (4 Points), +2 DC (8 Points), +1 Level with Killing Strike (2 Points), Fast Strike (4 Points) and six points worth of maneuvers of choice. (Yes, Werebeasts generally take a several-second long transformation sequence to reach their full power).

This is actually a pretty cheesy elemental control – half the things in it really don’t belong in that structure – but “boosted hand to hand fighter” is rather less important than it used to be in the face of modern military technology.

Vampire (Afrikans Variant) Racial Package:

Like Werebeasts, Vampires are pretty classical; they are undead corpses which have returned to feast on the blood/flesh/life force/souls/whatever of the living. They are cold, ruthless, predatory, and quite uncooperative. A few old and powerful ones may control lesser vampires, but for the most part the natural size of a coven of vampires is one. As Afrikans “tribal” groups have grown to absurd size, vampires – with their tendency to fight with each other over territory and to haunt lonely wilds between cities – have become less generally menacing. Still, an elder vampire can perform feats of magic that few can match.

  • Physical Limitation: Sorcerous Powers Only. Vampires display a wide variety of mystical abilities, but all of them are active effects, drawing on energy stolen from others. While they are cut off from natural sources of power, vampires are thus capable of some unusually potent effects (Frequently/Fully, -20 Points).
  • Psychological Limitation: Deathly Predator. Vampires are severely anti-social, predatory, have an extremely hard time with social relationships, and tend to view everyone else as being beneath them – perhaps because it makes it easier to act as a ruthless predator. They generally do not tolerate rival vampires (Common, Strong, -15 Points).
  • Normal Mental Characteristic Maxima (-10 Points).
  • Physical Limitation: Undead. They do not heal naturally (they need to use a healing spell on themselves), cannot eat, and so on (Frequent, Slightly, -15 Points).
    • Many Vampires are vulnerable to Sunlight and Silver or to other classical problems, but they vary a great deal beyond the basics. Such vulnerabilities seem to be based on their own beliefs. They all have at least -20 points worth of such problems however – usually paying for a selection of multipower slots, invariably including the aforementioned healing spell.
  • Elemental Control: Basic Vampire Powers. 10 Point Reserve, all powers Visible and Well Known (-.5 total) (7 Points).
    • Sorcery Multipower Reserve: 20 points. This may be added to to exceed the usual setting limits by 20 points – raising the basic forty point limit to sixty points or even sixty-five for very old and experienced vampires (7 Points).
    • Endurance Reserve, 220 Points (8 Points). This powers everything in the Multipower and their Life Support ability.
    • 1 Pip HKA (1/2d6 with strength) linked to 2d6 Aid (restores 4d6 End to the reserve if the user’s attack inflicts at least one point of damage), both at 0 End Cost (8 Points). Note that this is not always painful; being drained of vital energy by a Succubus can be extremely pleasurable – but it is still death by vampirism.
    • Total Life Support: Requires 4d6 End per day to maintain activity despite this power, if it is not maintained the Vampire will sink into a coma for many years (-,5) (10 Points).

That Elemental Control is also a bit cheesy – but I suppose that’s a defining characteristic of monsters.

“Relics” are archaic non-sapient Hominidae species ancestral to the genera Homo found in various locations around the world – most notably Australopithecus and Paranthropus. While they do possess such advanced skills as use of fire, boat making, and limited language, these all appear to be largely instinctual behaviors on some level and not evidence of true sapience (which, at least in the setting, involves mental access to the Astral Plane). It is theorized that, while sapience is dependent on intelligence, intelligence does not appear to be dependent on sapience. Relics – like other primates such as Chimpanzees, Bonobos, and Gorillas – are not playable. Occasional crossbreeds have been created however (usually thanks to a Titan meddling). Those which survive, and are truly sapient, can simply be treated as members of the other parents species, albeit likely ones with a few odd knacks, an odd attribute distribution, and an excuse for any number of disabilities.

Apex – The Playable Races Part I; The Hominidae

Apex is an experimental setting focused on exploring very different types of intelligence – races which simply do not think like humans do. That’s somewhat awkward – it’s hard to properly play characters who don’t think like you do – but it seems worth considering. The game is set up using Hero System Rules (4’th Edition) for the moment because Spellweaver – who’s been writing it up – finds that easier to work with.

Afrikans – the youngest of the current fully sapient races – evolved in Africa, and spread to the rest of the world with surprising speed. They’re currently dominant because most of the other races became extinct or near-extinct long ago and are basically the local version of Homo Sapiens – as Homo Sapiens might be if full sapience was dependent on a link with the Astral plane that limited the spread of sapient species but which can also be tapped into to power magic. Unfortunately, the nature of the magic available to any given race is strictly limited by the underlying structure of the minds using it – meaning that each race can only use a limited selection of abilities.

  • Physical Limitation: Elemental Powers Only. Afrikans can create and maintain advanced “conventional” technologies (which do indeed require a bit of magic to keep working in the face of supernatural resistance) and can manipulate the various elements, the states of matter, and the elemental forces of life and death (Frequently/Fully, -20 Points).
  • Normal Characteristic Maxima (-20 Points). As fairly normal humans, Afrikans characters have attributes in the normal human ranges.
  • Psychological Limitation: Pyramidal Psychology. Afrikans form large organizations easily, but have difficulties handling internal feedback within those organizations and with understanding systems involving it. Dominant leaders thus tend to hear only what they want to – and so less-dominant subgroups resort to factional infighting to advance their ideas. Groups of Afrikans have been known to obey obviously stupid orders simply because they came from the top – and may select very poor leaders and then follow them blindly. (Very Common, Strong, -20 Points)
  • +3 Levels with Ranged Combat (15 Points). Afrikans have explored a unique evolutionary niche as projectile predators (originally rock-throwers) – hunting considerably larger and stronger prey while remaining out of their effective reach. This has driven a massive evolutionary expansion in their brain, simply because the precise timing required for accurate throwing requires averaging across extremely large numbers neurons – since, as individuals, neurons are extremely inaccurate timers.
  • Basic Equipment Allowance: 15 Points (15 Points). Even if they start with nothing at all, an Afrikans character will very soon have at least the basics – being easily capable of turning rocks, sticks, hides, and fiber into weapons, protective armor, and other gear. That isn’t that hard even without their natural magic, and is remarkably easy with it.
  • Afrikan NPC’s have baseline attributes of 8, for -25 Points. This pays for basic skills and things.

Atlanteans are closely related to the Neanderthals, and reached full sapience amidst the World Tree forests on the subcontinent of Atlantis (an uplifted section of the mid-Atlantic ridge). As melee pack hunters and gatherers, their drive to intelligence was slower and more erratic than that of Homo Sapiens; improved pack tactics have a less direct link to increasing brain capacity. Their development of full sapience was thus a genetic quirk amongst a rather small isolated group. With their new access to psionic abilities, including the generation of energy weapons and personal protections, these “True” Atlanteans rapidly assumed near-total control of their subcontinent – but their relatively small and concentrated population remained extremely vulnerable to natural (and unnatural) disasters. After narrowly evading extinction, the remnant Atlantean population is expanding rapidly in partnership with Afrikans.

  • Physical Limitation: Symbolic Powers Only. For Atlanteans, names, symbols, and concepts carry a reality of their own, rather than, as they are for the other races, being something who’s “reality” exists strictly within their heads. As such, they may employ psionic abilities, manipulate symbols to empower rituals and sorceries, and employ memetic and nymic effects – most famously, altering the properties of materials by naming them. Sadly, this leaves them unable to effectively work with “independent” forces that lack symbolic aspects. (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points)
  • Normal Mental Characteristic Maxima, Physical Characteristic Maxima are increased by 50%: (-15 Points). Thanks to subtle psionic enhancement of their physical forms, Atlanteans can achieve routinely achieve levels of strength, speed, and durability that Afrikan individuals can only reach with the aid of powerful boosting effects – and can use their own temporary boosting effects to go well beyond those levels.
  • Psychological Limitation: Patterned Mentality. Atlanteans think in complex interacting patterns, rather than linearly. They organize themselves in complex networks of semi-independent clans and – amongst may other social effects – this leaves them unable to clearly separate products from their creators, making the idea of an assembly line or multistage manufacturing incomprehensible to them. This effectively limits their technology to what can be personally crafted (peaking at about the level of Imperial Rome) and their large-scale organizations to being personally run by unusually dominant groups. Worse, persistently disruptive elements are considered existential threats, rather than annoyances, leading to genocidal wars (Very Common, Total, -25 points).
  • Pattern Dance: When working with systems that involve many interacting factors – and ONLY when working with such systems – Atlanteans gain the benefits of two Overall Levels (EG: Not for Acrobatics – unless, perhaps, to make up for penalties from trying to perform in a ships rigging in a storm – or for breakfall, climbing, computer programming, concealment, contortionist, etc. They are, however, generally usable in melee (but rarely ranged, and certainly not for target shooting or sniping) combat, Oratory (and other performing arts), and for things like ecosystem dynamics, weather prediction, medicine, genetic manipulation, magneto-hydro-dynamics, neural network tuning, and other similarly complex or chaotic systems that prove to be difficult to adequately model with a reductionist mindset (-.25 limitation, 16 Points).
  • Attribute Bonuses: Str +5 (5 points), Con +3 (6 points), plus Damage Reduction 3/3 on PD/ED (3 points).
  • Atlantean/Afrikans Crossbreeds are possible (especially with a bit of Atlantean genetic meddling). Such individuals may swap out the physical limitation in their package and one of their two secondary benefits, but otherwise lean towards one race or the other. Such individuals are usually sterile with either parental species barring additional genetic meddling (which generally results in offspring typical of the other parent’s species, if often with genetic flaws), may face racism from both parental species, and are very, very, rare, with the oldest just now coming of age since it took some decades to work out how to make it possible in the first place.

Lemurian Racial Package (Reconstructed, Presumed Extinct):

The semi-aquatic Lemurians appeared on “Lemuria” (the exposed, and somewhat larger, Kerguelen Plateau) during an active uplift event and a severe global sea level minimum. Their rise to sapience was apparently triggered by a pressing need to adapt to a very rapidly changing landscape and shifting climate, favoring active thought over instinct. Unfortunately, with most of the Kerguelan Plateau currently deep under the arctic ocean and only a few of what would have been the most desolate peaks exposed as arctic islands, information on the Lemurians is very hard to come by. It is generally believed that the Lemurians went extinct when rising sea levels and subsidence left their microcontinent underwater and uninhabitable.

  • Physical Limitations: Harmonic Manipulation Only. Lemurians possessed the ability to gradually mold the world to their desires, patiently reshaping it’s landscape and species to suit their needs. While this is a broad-ranging and potent ability, it is anything but fast. Secondarily, it allows the user of Megalithic Magic, shaping the ley lines of the Earth into potent effects via massive stone constructs (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Normal Physical Characteristic Maxima (-20 Points). The Lemurians were apparently fairly normal primates physically and did little or no “hunting” – unless you count fishing, clamming, and other forms of riverine and shoreline aquiculture.
  • Physical Limitation: Asymbolic. Lemurians are incapable of even comprehending advanced symbolism; they do not and cannot have a language as the current races understand them, They view their world as a series of unique events, rather than by sorting things into categories and narratives. For them, “consistency” was a feature of personalities and of their own works, not of the natural world (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Harmonic Shaping: 1d6 Cumulative Minor Transformation, to any (natural-seeming) variation desired, affecting up to a 4″ radius, no range, requires one week per die roll (7 Points).
  • Telepathy, 3d6, Half (0) End Cost (+.25), Only to communicate images, emotions, and gestalt impressions (-1) (9 Points). An augmented function of already-enhanced mirror neurons, the Lemurians possessed empathy at the telepathic level.
  • Swimming, +3 (3 Points).
  • Immunity/Needing to Breathe more than once every few minutes (2 Points).
  • Immunity/Penalties for functioning in water (2 Points).
  • Immunity/Requiring basic implements. Lemurians were capable of giving temporary form to liquids, allowing them to serve as effective tools (3 Points) – making it easy to fish without nets, fish spears, lines, or even coracle-like “boats” since such things could simply be shaped from the water around them. (This could also be bought as a highly limited transformation ability, but it really isn’t worth the trouble).
  • Immunity/requiring records to transmit their cultural information. The Lemurians possessed a limited “racial mind”, and needed little education to function (2 Points).
  • Whether the Lemurians are actually extinct remains unknown; given their abilities, it is entirely possible that some decided to adapt to the ocean depths, or escaped into artificially-generated pocket dimensions or environments. Similar abilities have occasionally been observed in “defective” Afrikans specimens, although never to the full extent of the abilities listed here. Unfortunately, such individuals are invariably incapable of effective communication.

Hyperborean Racial Package (Reconstructed, Presumed Extinct, A.K.A “Giants”, “Jotun”, “Golden Lords”, “Bridge Builders”, etc):

The Hyperboreans (possibly a derivative of Paranthropus Robustus?) arose on the arctic landmass of Hyperborea (corresponding to the Lomonosov and Alpha Arctic Ridge systems, with some elements of the Mendeleev Ridge and the Chukchi Plateau, mostly forming a ring around the Makarov Basin) when geothermal activity gave rise to a local northern temperate climate. They had a morphology resembling a gracile gorilla, but were far more massive – averaging between ten and twelve feet tall. Socially, they were apparently extensively influenced by their instinctive competitiveness, uniting only under particularly dominant individuals and operating in roving bands when not under such control. Oddly enough, a Hyperboreans effective mental capacity is highly variable: while they can use their connection with astral space to “supercharge” their neural structure – potentially gaining vast intelligence in short bursts – their neural structure is poorly organized when not so supplemented, leaving them somewhat apelike much of the time. If a Hyperborean declares that “The Time For Debate Is Passed!” he or she probably really, REALLY, means it.

  • Physical Limitation: Materialism only. Hyperboreans are capable of manipulating the physical properties of matter and of imbuing it with mental energy (given a sufficient source), but they cannot access other powers. Such imbued constructs range from simple talismans imprinted with knowledge, energy, and possessing minor powers based on the material up to full-scale golem-style automatons – something well beyond the abilities of the other races. Secondarily, they can create and maintain midlevel technologies, such as steam engines (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Mental Characteristic Maxima of 25, Physical of 15. Their great size provides some inherent benefits, but it also places considerable stress on their biological systems (-15).
  • Physical Limitation: For Hyperboreans mental energy is a very limited resource that they must spend to theorize, engage in complex debates, design structures, or otherwise perform mental labors – and their supply is relatively limited and slow to recover. Treat this as an Endurance Reserve, with a maximum reserve of (Con x 10) endurance and a recovery rate of 5/hour, 10-20 per hour in the presence of a Titan, depending on power level. The exact cost of various mental labors is up to the game master, but their mental energy is always a resource that must carefully managed. As a side effect, Hyperboreans tend towards very direct and simple solutions (regardless of how much physical effort they may involve) and their mere presence is troublesome for Titans, who find them quite draining. More skillful Hyperboreans can focus their energy reserves into simple astral blasts, shields, and weapons – making them quite effective (if very swiftly exhausted) when fighting astral entities.
    • This may in fact be a self-protective adaption, developed after the Ethereal cataclysm – allowing a Hyperborean to shut down vulnerable higher mental processes in the face of astral disruptions and to operate effectively outside of the areas with the astral overlays that allow full sapience.
  • Growth, 3 Levels, 0 End Persistent Always On and Physical (-.5); it cannot be turned off, means needing a lot of food, creates massive physical stresses (as noted above), and so on (15 Points).
  • Materials Manipulation Variable Power Pool (12 Points), Only to take on the properties of various materials or to imbue them with psychic energies (-5), must have a source for psychic energies (-.25), must touch the material to be affected or to copy its properties (-.5). requires a full phase to change (-.25) (14 Points), +1 Point towards the Control Skill (8- Base. 1 Point).
  • It is quite possible that some Hyperboreans are still around – whether having transferred their minds into golems, having taken on the nature of stone and entered stasis until conditions improve, or still surviving clustered around deep sources of geologic heat. Given their tendency to suppress thought and curiosity in the areas about them, they would be extremely easy to overlook.

Champions – Jann Shadowborne

Jann Shadowborne (well, James Anders, but that would never do for a stage name) always saw things a bit… differently. Even more so than a knack for small magics could explain. His imaginary friends occasionally did things, and one taught him a handful of songs from a hundred and twenty years ago – and then one autumn day led him down a dirt lane which wasn’t there, to a burning farmhouse where his suddenly-vanished friends voice was calling frantically from inside as someone else inside screamed and pounded on the door.

The charm seven-year-old James used for getting into the pantry to get sweets sufficed to unjam the door – but the scene faded away as his soot-covered coughing friend and his mother stumbled out.

James never saw that particular “imaginary” friend again – but in a crumbling nearby graveyard, the blurred inscriptions on two century-old graves shifted, one adding three and the other six decades to the date of death – and one changed from a simple child’s stone to a memorial to a long life, well lived.

James is fundamentally a channel. He is drawn to unbalanced energies, the restless dead, and similar disruptions of the natural order to draw their energies into focus, bind and regulate them – and ultimately restore balance. Wherever he goes, those forces flood into him – filling his mind with strange lore and ancient imperatives and his body with echoes of powers long faded He (and even his companions) can even be drawn into the pocket-realms of those echoes – or across time to intervene in the originating events. A small part of that excess power amplifies his knack for music – expressing and offering catharsis for the unbalanced concerns or sorrows of a crowd, releasing the lingering echoes of an ancient battle in a martial pean and perhaps bringing peace, and easily learning and performing music long lost. The rest he has learned to control by focusing it into a “medicine bag”, which allows him to control how it is released – making him a mid-level spellcaster as well, even if his magic is more than a bit unstable. Perhaps most importantly, he can earn and claim occasional favors from the spirits of the Land, Sea, Sky, Beasts, Plants, and the Dead – although this is a very limited resource and may have it’s own exotic consequences, given their tendency to see him as an odd-jobs contractor.

By the time he was eleven, his musical career was well underway – although his (primary?) career as an occult investigator attracted far less public notice.

James is one of my favorite character types; he comes with a limitless number of built-in plot hooks, is an open channel for games master exposition, may be called on by mysterious forces for all sorts of exotic jobs, lets the entire party be sucked into all kinds of weird situations that they need to solve before they can easily leave, and – while he is a fairly powerful and versatile mage – can easily be shut down temporarily and has the potential for causing magical accidents when you need a bit of a complication. He has a reason to travel, and can have a comfortable lifestyle anywhere – but can’t just throw money at problems (in his case because he’s underage, and so it’s held in trust for when he becomes a legal adult). He does want to improve the world – but doesn’t have overriding specific goals because characters with goals like that tend to get a bit focused on them when they see a chance to move towards them (which is often pretty awkward in group play).

Jann Shadowborne

The Voice Of Ancient Sorrows

Value Characteristic Points
15 STR 5
17 DEX 21
23 CON 26
10 BODY 0
10 INT 0
14 EGO 8
15 PRE 5
10/36 COM 0
6 PD 3
6 ED 1
4 SPD 13
8 REC 0
36 END -5
30 STUN 0
Total 77

 

Points Powers END
8 2d6 40-Point Equipment Allowance Aid (Fade/month, Max. 40); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Extra Time: 1 hour, -2½; Only activates in armories, labs, or between outings: -1½; Personal Only: -1; Difficult to Dispel: ×4, +½; Increased END: ×10, -4; This allows a character to haul along 40 CP worth of customized gear. 30
15 Bardic Talents
(3) Well-Connected
(2) Immunity to looking less than marvelous.; Frequency: Fairly Common
(2) Immunity to the need to compose or practice his music; Frequency: Fairly Common
(2) Immunity to the need for fellow performers and staff to have backup vocals, instrumentals, and basic special effects.; Frequency: Fairly Common
(2) Immunity to not having Groupies and a Butler around.; Frequency: Fairly Common
(2) Immunity to not being heard when singing. He needs no amplifiers and cannot be drowned out.; Frequency: Fairly Common
(1) Immunity to being out of style; Frequency: Rare
(1) Celebrity Legal Privileges
3 Elemental Control: Bardic Powers (6-pt reserve); Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼; Generic Limitation (Dimensional Vulnerability: User can be attacked from the Astral Plane without any special modifiers.): -½; Generic Limitation (User will attract spirits with problems and will be expected to undertake various missions for the great spirits): -½
a-3

2d6 Aid: Channel Of The Unsettled Past (Fade/week, Max. 12); Range: 0; Generic Limitation (His knowledge generally comes in the form of symbolic visions, odd prophecies, and vague warnings.): -2; No Conscious Control: -2; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Generic Limitation (Visions and premonitions are often rather overwhelming.): -1; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼; Generic Limitation (Dimensional Vulnerability: User can be attacked from the Astral Plane without any special modifiers.).

In most places, the past lies quiet.The distant echoes of a farmers tread, of a tryst in the orchard, of a mighty storm… all blend quietly into the song of the earth. Even death and violence fade. A man slain in a duel, the blood of both predator and prey… echo but faintly.

But sometimes the past stirs. Where things are undone, and might reawaken. Ghosts who yet attempt to accomplish some task, echoes of terrible powers, those slain with lives unlived… may stir, and rise, and walk. Things, places, and times may all host such forces.

Jann Darkborne is a channel for those echoes, a call to awaken, and a chance for them to speak and discharge the forces that hold him. Through him come final farewells, ancient warnings and calls to battle, and the final flowering of powers that cannot rest.

And even channeling a lot of the raw power into his Spirit Pouch, that can be quite a bother – and a chance to offer rest.

3
b-6 2d6 Aid: / Spirit Favors (Fade/month, Max. 36); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Extra Time: 1 day, -3½; Increased END: ×4, -1½; Generic Limitation (May only accumulate six points worth of favors each with the spirits of the Land, Sea, Sky, Beasts, Plants, and the Dead. ): -½; Generic Limitation (Must do favors for the spirits – making small offerings, spending time playing or singing at appropriate locations, etc. ): -1; Generic Limitation (Spirit Favors cost a base of three points each. With the Well-Connected modifier, this means he can have three with each group): -1; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼; 12
c-2 Mental Defense (15 pts); Add to Total; Always On: -½; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼;
d-3 Detect Occult Phenomena (+1 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼.
e-5 Astral Senses; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼
(4) Astral Sight (+0 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Always On: -½; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼
(4) Astral Hearing (+0 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Always On: -½; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼
f-2 Power Defense (12 pts); Always On: -½; Generic Limitation (Only versus magical and spirit attacks): -½; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼
g-2 Extra-Dimensional Movement; The Astral Plane; Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel: None, +0; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Carrying Mass: None; Extra Time: 1 turn, -1 10
h-3 +26 COM (Ethereal Good Looks); Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼
52 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
30 +3 level w/Overall Level
4 Musician 13-
2 Gaelic (Fluent Conv.); Literacy: Standard, 0
2 Area Knowledge: The Spirit Realms 11-
3 Scholar
1 Knowledge: Magic 11-
1 Knowledge: The Astral Realms 11-
1 Knowledge: Literature 11-
1 Knowledge: Spirits 11-
1 Knowledge: Psychic Phenomena 11-
1 Knowledge: History 11-
1 Knowledge: Occult Literature 11-
1 Knowledge: Music 11-
1 Professional License: Occultist
1 Passport
51 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

Cost Equipment
22 Pouch of Echoes; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1; Generic Limitation (Removing the pouch will soon cause him to start generating weird magical effects as his excess power discharges through him at random. ): -½
(3) END Reserve (60 END, 2 REC/turn) ; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1;

The power of the restless past channels itself through Jann – but the energies of minor disturbances and unsettled nature need little attention; they need merely be stored, to dissolve into pure power once more.

(18) Multipower (80-pt reserve); Activation: 15-, -¼; Side Effects (Weird Stuff Happens – or Drain 3d6 Stun and apply 6d6 healing to an opponent who is attuned to whatever unbalanced forces are in the area.): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (No spell may exceed 40 active points): -½; Variable Limitations: -½, -¼; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1
u-1 2d6 Aid: Adding Multipower Slots (Fade/day, Max. 24) 2; Range: 0; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼
Commonly Added Multipower Slots
Offensive Spells
u-1 1d6+1 Athame: Killing Attack (HTH) (Total 2d6); Range: 0; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Affects Desolidified: +½ 1 End
u-1 3d6 Chains Of Sythil: Entangle (DEF 3) 1; Range: 185; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 1 End
u-1 4d6 Invoke The Storm: Energy Blast 4; Range: 200; Versus: ED; Variable Special Effects: Any, +½; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½ 4 End
u-1 4d6 Psychic Blast: Ego Attack  4 End
u-1 11d6 Word Of Dismissal: Dispel Magic 4 End
u-1 2½d6 Lance of Winter: Killing Attack (RKA) 4 End
Defensive Spells
u-1 Ward of Gaia: Force Wall (10 PD/6 ED) 4 End
u-1 Air Sphere / Need Not Breathe ; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Uncontrolled: +½
u-1 Feywarding: Force Field (15 PD/15 ED); Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev; Trigger (Appropriately attacked when not up): Set, +¼; Charges: +6, +0
u-1 Invisibility (Hearing, Sight); Reduced END: Half, +¼ 1 End
u-1 Deep Trance; Charges: 1, +1; Continuing Charges: 1 year, -11 lev; Generic Limitation (You cannot do anything save astral projection and meditation and such while maintaining the effect.): -2
(2) Doesn’t Eat, Excrete or Sleep
(1) Immune to Aging ; Charges
(1) Immune to Disease
(3) Need Not Breathe
Mobility Spells
u-1 10″ Eagles Wings: Flight (NC: 320″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×32, +20; Non-Combat (MPH): 476 2 End
u-1 Lightning Speed
(7) Running (+10″, 16″, NC: 32″) 0; Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 30; Reduced END: Zero, +½
(2) Clinging (Clinging STR +0)
Utility Spells
u-1 Atherium Lens; Detect Magic (+5 to PER) ; Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory): +5
u-1 Sorcerer’s Will: Change Environment (8″ rad.); Effect: Variable, +1 4 End
u-1 The Deep Lore: Change Environment (2″ rad.) 0; Increased Area: ×1, +0; Effect: Variable, +1; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Uncontrolled: +½; Difficult to Dispel: ×2, +¼; Increased Area (Maximum radius of 4″): ×2, +¼

Common uses for this include illumination and air conditioning, keeping off the rain, and minor effects – but they can also include things like shutting all the doors and windows and turning on the alarms (or the reverse), making the area holy, or even “Casting The Circle”.

“The area within the ritual circle is set apart from the world. Within it the world is no longer a place of science (or the normal rules of Champions and it’s predictable, calculated, power). It is a place of wonder and wild magic, where runes, herbs, mantras, and all the rest of the occult paraphernalia actually have power. Within the circle… the wild magic of intuition and guesswork reigns, true love’s tears may wake the dead, omens and visions appear, and spirits move through dreaming realms. Here, where wonder and horror lurk at every turn and a child’s illness is not influenza but his spirit gone wandering, is an animalistic world of spirits, not of logic. In short, it’s magic driven by roleplaying rather then character points. It’s never the same twice – but it is fairly easy to get away with little stuff.”

u-1 Lesser Phantasm: Images (Hearing, Sight, 4″ radius); Range: 175; Observer PER Penalty: 0, +0; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 1 End
u-1 Hand Of The Mage: Telekinesis (STR 15); Range: 200; Manipulation: Fine, +10; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 1 End.
u-1 8d6 Grace of The Waters: Healing 4 End
u-1 Deep Sight
(4) N-Ray Vision (Not through force barriers)
(4) Detect Traps (+5 to PER) ; Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5
u-1 2d6 Lesser Conjuration: Transform (Major, Limited Class) 4; Range: 185 4 End

This produces a large variety of minor tools and items – a crowbar, a bundle of torches, some rope, and so on.

Vocal Powers
u-1 1d6 Song Of Catharsis: Transform: Induce spiritual catharsis and release (Minor, Limited Class); Range: 200; Area Effect (Radius): 16″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×16, +1; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Cumulative: +½ 2 End
u-1 2d6 Tongue Of Angels: Aid to Acting, Conversation, Oratory, Persuasion, Seduction, and Musician (Singing), (Fade/hour, Max. 12); Range: 0; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2 2 End
u-1 2d6 Song of Sleep: Energy Blast; Range: 200; Versus: ED; No Normal Defense (Deafness, Earplugs, Hard Helmets): +1; Area Effect (Radius): 32″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×16, +1 4 End
8 Armor / Tough Leather Clothing (4 PD/4 ED) ; OIF (Leather Clothing): -½
9 1d6+1 Automatic Pistol: Killing Attack (RKA) 0; Range: 100; Charges: +8, +0; Clips: 4; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1
1 High-End Smartphone (0kg)
40 Total Equipment

 

100+ Disadvantages
10 Public Identity
15 Reputation: Boy Band Bard (14-)
10 Underage (Infrequently, Greatly)
10 Dependent NPC: Current Girlfriend (Normal, 8-); Skills: Normal, +0
15 Overconfidence (Very Common, Moderate)
15 Feels compelled to help out restless spirits (Very Common, Moderate)
15 His presence occasionally triggers the formation of vortex-gates, pulling him and anyone in the area into some historical situation, pocket-world echo of reality, or astral plane that makes it hard to escape back to normal reality without undertaking some sort of fix-it quest. (Infrequently, Fully)
10 Watched: The Authorities (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
100 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
77 + 103 = 180 200 = 100 + 100

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
6 6 5 15 25/19 25/19 3, 6, 9, 12

 

Height: 165 cm  (5’5″), Weight: 54kg (119 lbs), Sex: Male, Age: 15

Appearance: Jann is an late adolescent young man, slightly thinner and shorter than average for his age, and with an ethereal, idealized, quality. He usually wears fringed leather, for a slightly wild-boy look.

 

The Battle Sage

Christopher West – or at least the Australian gamer Christopher West that had a gaming store and blog – seems to have disappeared from the internet, and even the wayback machine doesn’t have most of his Eclipse builds. It does have some though, and I have a few more – so, as time permits, I’ll see what I can reconstruct. Since there was a request for the Battle Sage, this build is up for reconstruction first – even if I do only have partial notes on it and so will be filling in quite a bit.

The Battle Sage is a medium-duty combatant who can call forth a weapon designed to work against a particular opponent – presuming that he or she knows enough about said opponents history to summon the appropriate opposing powers. Secondarily, he or she can help his companions coordinate their tactics against particular opponents.

That wasn’t a bad idea at all; a scholar built as something other than a primary spellcaster is a lot of fun – and, according to his notes, Mr West was indeed enjoying himself with it.

Our sample Battle Sage is level three, and is thus built on 96 (L3 Base) +6 (Duties to his order) + 6 (Disadvantages) +12 (L1 and L3 Bonus Feats) = 120 CP.

Basic Abilities (64 CP Total): BAB +3 (18 CP), Hit Dice: 3d8 (12 CP), Saves Fort +2, Ref +1, Will +2 (15 CP), Proficient with Light Armor (3 CP), Shields (3 CP), all Simple Weapons (3 CP), and a limited set of Martial Weapons (Longsword and Bows, 3 CP), and 7 Skill Points (7 CP).

Special Abilities (56 CP):

  • Vengeance Of The Long Fallen: Ranged Spirit Weapon with Exotic Appearance (Yaun-Ti Serpent Bow, appearance varies with the opponent), Specialized for Reduced Cost/Requires a History Check at DC 15 (+2 for each additional time it is called forth in a day), and only lasts for one minute per level when summoned (6 CP).
  • Breath Of Legends: Focused, Versatile, Improved, Imbuement, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effects (Gains an extra +1, the effects of a weapon crystal of choice (although this does not decrease the enhancement bonus necessary to use more powerful crystals), and may use Versatile to reallocate the plusses each time the weapon is summoned). Requires it’s own History check after the “Vengance Of The Long Fallen” is called forth to empower it, can only be used with the spirit weapon, not with a normal Yaun-Ti Serpent Bow – and so cannot be used very often. So when a battle sage summons his or her weapon it has an effective bonus of (1 + Level/3) (12 CP).
  • Armor of Myths: Innate Enchantment: Specialized for Reduced Cost/only active when the Spirit Weapon ability is active. 6600 GP effective value, 4 CP.
    • Master’s Touch (x.5, only for Yuan-Ti Serpent Bow and the Armor in this package, 1000 GP).
    • Force Shield I (x.7 Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Mithril Breastplate (+5 AC, Max Dex +5, ACP -1, ASF 15%, Move 30, 4200 GP).
  • Ward Of Legends: Focused, Versatile, Improved, Imbuement, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effects (Gains an extra +1, the effects of an Armor or Shield crystal of choice (this does not decrease the enhancement bonus necessary to use more powerful crystals), and may use Versatile to reallocate the plusses each time the armor is called upon). Requires it’s own History check after the “Weapon Of Legends” is called forth to empower it, can only be used with the Armor of Myths above and so cannot be used very often. So when he summons his armor he gets a bonus on it of (1 + Level/3) (12 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Double Effect, Corrupted / only to keep Adept skills maxed out (4 CP).
  • Adept: Knowledge/History, most likely a Martial Art, and two other skills of choice (6 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Psychometry. This effectively combines Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions, Object Reading, and Blood Biography (Pathfinder) (6 CP).
  • Rally the Legions/Presence. The user and all allies within 10′ gain the Legionary Feat, but if they leave that radius they loose the beneft and cannot regain it for the rest of the encounter. (6 CP).

At this point the Battle Sage’s primary advantage is fairly obvious. When your third level party desperately needs a +1 Undead Bane Ghost Touch weapon they are not likely to have one handy – unless the group contains a Battle Sage. At which point said Sage can spend a round making knowledge checks, and suddenly be wielding one – along with some armor with just the right protective effect on it. While a Battle Sage is still a one-trick pony at this level, many third level characters are – and it is a fairly good trick.

What to buy at higher levels? Well, here are some possibilities:

Classics Of War (12 CP): Mystic Artist (Knowledge / History) with Echoes, Specialized for Double Effect, Corrupted for Reduced Cost: Only to employ the inspiration abilities that grant positive levels, only to provide bonuses in combat against specified enemies, requires that the player provide some tolerably plausible directions. Unfortunately, such device is always fairly specific; the user cannot simply provide directions against “orcs”, it must be something like “They are fighting in a version of the Keldian Style! Such variants are weak against…”.

“Serinican Iron Golems? Strike at the joints in the legs: they are weakest there and have a hard time defending them!”

Giving some of your allies two positive levels for the purposes of fighting those iron golems provides them with 2d10 (+2 x Con Mod) hit points, +2 to their BAB, AC, and Saves against them, and 12 CP worth of special benefits. At the simplest… how does Augment Attack (+4d6 damage versus Iron Golems, 12 CP) sound?

This does require a +9 or higher (Skill + Attribute Bonus) in Knowledge/History – but that shouldn’t be any problem by level four or five.

Chains Of History (12 CP): 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (Minor Edits cost 1 Point, Notable Edits cost 2, Major ones cost 3, and Grandiose ones cost 4). Requires a History Check at DC 15/18/24/36 for Minor/Notable/Major/Grandiose Edits, only for Reality Editing, only to “recall” convenient “facts” that can be used against a particular enemy, allows a Will save at a DC of (14/18/22/26 + User’s Int Mod) to resist, may only spend 4 mana on Chains of History per encounter. Plus Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only to refill the Chain of History Mana Pool.

  • Minor: “Call upon the Light of Ixion when you cast! She will empower your spells to pierce his cloak of darkness!”. Reducing an opponents effective Spell Resistance can be quite helpful.
  • Notable: There is a bare patch on his left breast! Aim there and your arrows will sink deep!” At this level… you get a bonus to hit and extra damage. As a minor edit, you might just get a small bonus to hit.
  • Major: “His Crown! Much of his power lies within his Crown! If you destroy much of his magic will fail!”
  • Grandiose: “But I know your true name, Ramthonosiderin Of The Seventh Abyss, and by it I command you to return to the Darkness from which you came!”

With this trick you can make an enemy vulnerable to particular types of attacks, force them to engage specific enemies (he goes berserk if you insult his…), and hamper them in many other ways. Of course, there is always the dreaded “I made my save!” “Foolish Scholar! Did you think that I would not have taken measures to counter such attacks when I knew that my weakness against them had been discovered?”.

Voice Of History (12 CP): This one is simple: take Breath of Legends to Specialized for Double Effect instead of Half Cost (12 CP) and double up the bonuses.

Armor of Inevitability (12 CP): Take Ward of Legends to Specialized for Double Effect instead of Half Cost (12 CP) and double up the bonuses.

Digging Up The Dirt (6 CP): Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/only for Favors, may cause serious resentment if used incautiously. Given a few hours to check around, the Sage can find enough blackmail material on individuals or groups to extract two Minor or one Major favors from them – and need not ask about being asked for favors in return since the connection will soon cease to exist.

Unleash The Hounds Of War (6 CP): Inherent Spell/Summon Nature’s Ally III with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost / can only summon Dire Wolves and Wolves. Later Inherent Spells can include things like Legend Lore and other divinatory or battlefield effects.

March Of History (6 CP): Advanced Blessing (Affects up to (Cha Mod individuals plus the caster), Specialized for Reduced Cost / can only “share” the benefits of Vengeance Of The Long Fallen, Breath Of Legends, and Master’s Touch abilities – allowing much of the party to share in the benefits of suddenly having a nifty weapon customized to suit the opponent.

Overall, the Battle Sage is reasonably effective – and often very convenient to have around – in a fight. Unless they broaden their ability set, however, their out-of-combat options are a bit thin. Still, the real fun in playing one lies in being able to make stuff up, be a know-it-all, and have it actually work. Even just their basic weapon-and-armor setup invites you to add names, a history of mighty battles, and tales of enemy defeats to things – all justified because those things are now empowering your weapon!